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The Seahawks and the third round, Part one

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

This article is the first in a two part draft-related series.

The NFL Draft is only two weeks away, and Pete Carroll and John Schneider currently hold the fewest total selections of their collective tenure with the Seattle Seahawks. With only three picks at 56, 129, and 250, the front office is preparing for a draft unlike any other. Of course, knowing their history and propensity for stockpiling draft capital, the likelihood seems high that they will make an effort to trade back and stock up. Given that the team’s first pick is currently scheduled for the late second round, a likely scenario could see them dealing this selection and moving back into the third round. Apparently, Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic agrees.

He suggests a scenario where Seattle makes a series of trades which ultimately result in their first selection being the 21st pick of the third round, or 85th overall, where Dugar has them drafting Stanford center Drew Dalman. But rather than hone in on any particular player in this article (come back for that next week), I want to look at something a bit different. If Seattle does end up taking this approach, how likely are they to find a franchise player in the third round? Historically speaking, the answer is roughly one in three. Below is a list of every third round selection since 2010.

Seahawks third round picks 2010-2020

Season Player Position Pick Career AV GS
Season Player Position Pick Career AV GS
2011 John Moffit G 75 6 15
2012 Russell Wilson QB 75 120 144
2013 Jordan Hill DT 87 6 1
2015 Tyler Lockett WR 69 45 71
2016 Rees Odhiambo G 97 3 7
2016 Nick Vannett TE 94 6 33
2016 C.J. Prosise RB 90 5 2
2017 Amarah Darboh WR 106 1 0
2017 Nazair Jones DT 102 3 2
2017 Lano Hill S 95 5 6
2017 Shaquill Griffin DB 90 23 53
2018 Rasheem Green DE 79 6 8
2019 Cody Barton LB 88 4 4
2020 Damien Lewis G 69 9 16

Day two of the draft has been kind to the Hawks. For evidence of this, look no further than Damien Lewis, who was a PFWA All-Rookie last season. Before him there was Tyler Lockett, who just signed a huge extension and catches passes from perhaps the most famous third round pick of all time, Russell Wilson. Shaquill Griffin rounds out the group, and although he is no longer a Seahawk, he was a solid starter during his time in Seattle and just became the 11th highest paid corner in the league, per Over the Cap.

Of course, looking over the list above, Seattle has had its fair share of misses, too. John Moffitt never developed, ditto for Rees Odhiambo. Jordan Hill flashed but didn’t sustain. C.J. Prosise was impressive but couldn’t stay off the injury report. Rasheem Green and Cody Barton are prominent role players and still have potential to improve, but neither has demonstrated the ability to be a reliable starter at this point in their career. Without going through every player that didn’t pan out, it is clear that Seattle has had more misses than hits. But this is to be expected, as finding starters in the draft generally follows a linear trend of declining likelihood with each successful round.

Seattle vs. the League in 3rd round efficiency

In 2015, Forbes reported that only 12.6% of starters in the previous season were formerly third round picks. Similarly, a 2015 article at Arrowhead Pride looked at all players drafted between 2005 and 2014 by position group to determine how many became multi-year starters in the NFL. According to their data, of the nearly 3,000 players drafted across all rounds in this timespan, only 629 of them actually became starters for more than half of their career. As expected, success rate declines with each round for almost every position group, with more pronounced dropoffs for certain positions (QBs, DBs) and less significantly so for others (TEs, DL). Considering this, it makes Seattle’s success with finding Wilson and Griffin, specifically, even more impressive. But how about the other positions? Listed below is a comparison of how Seattle fared by position group relative to the league average from the above article.

3rd round efficiency: Seahawks vs the league

Pos Arrowhead Seahawks Hits/Total Picks
Pos Arrowhead Seahawks Hits/Total Picks
OL 40% 33.33% 1/3
TE 39% 0.00% 0/1
LB 34% 0.00% 0/1
DL 27% 0.00% 0/3
WR 25% 50.00% 1/2
DB 24% 50.00% 1/2
QB 17% 100.00% 1/1
RB 16% 0.00% 0/1
Total: 31%

While Arrowhead’s data is a few years old at this point, I still think we can use these numbers as a baseline for comparison. As you can see, slightly fewer than a third of the players drafted by the Seahawks have become consistent starters. While this might seem like a small number (four out of fourteen players), the four players who became starters are really good. Furthermore, all four were starters for the Seahawks in 2020, meaning that 18.2% of their starting roster was comprised of third round picks. This is higher than the league average of 12.6%, as mentioned above, per Forbes.

Seattle’s success in the third round has been interesting relative to the rest of the league. They haven’t had success at linebacker or tight end, which according to league trends are two of the easier positions to fill on day two, but they have had success at QB, WR, and DB, which are three of the more difficult ones. The sample size is small, so drawing any concrete conclusions is impossible. However, their inability to find a starter along the D-line has me hoping that, if they do make a third round pick this year, they consider trying to find Shaquill Griffin’s replacement rather than Jarran Reed’s.

Trade backs and Mock drafts

Returning back to the tradeback scenario, if Seattle does, in fact, follow Michael-Shawn Dugar’s advice and end up with their first selection being a late day two pick, who are some players they might be considering?

Pete Carroll and John Schneider are well known for bucking conventional wisdom (e.g. every mock draft in existence) with their picks. They draft players who fit the profile they want to see on the team, and aren’t afraid to “reach” when they do so. With this in mind, I wanted to compare where Seattle has selected their third round picks compared to where these players were being projected prior to the draft. I looked at two 7-round mocks from each year for comparison, and the data is listed below. The mocks were pulled from Walter Football and NFL.com.

Seahawks vs. Sea-Mocks

Player Position Pick Walter Football Differential NFL.com Differential
Player Position Pick Walter Football Differential NFL.com Differential
John Moffit G 75 69 (3rd) 6 - -
Russell Wilson QB 75 147 (5th) -72 114 (4th) -39
Jordan Hill DT 87 151 (5th) -64 87 (3rd) 0
Tyler Lockett WR 69 117 (4th) -48 101 (4th) -32
Rees Odhiambo G 97 225 (6th) -128 121 (4th) -24
Nick Vannett TE 94 205 (6th) -111 83 (3rd) 11
C.J. Prosise RB 90 75 (3rd) 15 72 (3rd) 18
Amarah Darboh WR 106 111 (4th) -5 165 (5th) -59
Nazair Jones DT 102 164 (5th) -62 152 (5th) -50
Lano Hill S 95 UDFA -159 183 (5th) -88
Shaquill Griffin DB 90 92 (3rd) -2 93 (3rd) -3
Rasheem Green DE 79 84 (3rd) -5 74 (3rd) 5
Cody Barton LB 88 UDFA -167 120 (4th) -32
Damien Lewis G 69 107 (4th) -38 41 (2nd) 28
Avg Diff -60.0 Avg. Diff -20.4

As you can see, the Hawks have consistently drafted players much higher than they were projected. On average, Walter Football had Seahawks’ prospects projected as going nearly two full rounds later, whereas NFL.com was much closer, but still had players going nearly one round later. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it?), Seattle has still found some of their highest profile players on day two by going against the grain. Considering this, if they do end trading back into the third round, their track record suggests that they will likely do so with their eyes on a player who is considered a 4th or 5th round prospect. And there is at least a decent chance this player could become a long-term starter for the team. So who could be 2021’s Tyler Lockett, or maybe more importantly, who could be their Shaquill Griffin?

With all this in mind, I will be back next week with a deeper look at a handful of players who are currently forecast to be available on day three who may be receiving a surprise phone call from John Schneider on April 30th. And even if they take Tyler’s advice and stand pat at pick 56, some of these players might not even be out of play given Carroll and Schneider’s tendencies to blindside everybody on draft day. Thanks for reading, and if you have any players you see as being a likely Seattle target on day two, leave a comment below!