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False Narratives: You need a top-20 pick to get a ‘premium’ offensive lineman

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “Seattle never picks in the Top 20 so they can’t get a premium (insert player position here).”

Sounds super familiar, right?

Perhaps you have even thought (or written) those words yourself.

But is it true?

Or is it a case of perception and reality not aligning?

Today I am going to try to convince you, my fellow 12s, that this is a false narrative.

In the process of doing so, I will ignore the urge to point out that Seattle “never” has a top-20 pick because they consistently field a Top-12 team.

Note: I phrased it that way because while it used to be that if you made the playoffs, the highest you could pick was #21, the league’s decision to expand to 7 playoff teams in each conference now means that Seattle could be a playoff team and pick as high as #19.

I will also ignore the current regime’s historical tendency to trade back in the first round and pick up additional picks and/or to simply trade away their first round pick(s) to acquire the aforementioned “premium” talent.

Instead, what I would like to focus on is whether a team can get a “premium” player after pick #20.

__________

For today’s piece, I am going to be looking at offensive linemen.

I chose the O-line because I was already doing some research on the topic - “2 birds, 1 stone” is an efficiency-geek’s mantra after all.

Another reason I chose O-linemen is that there have been 48 of them selected in the top-20 since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took the reins of our beloved Seahawks. That’s an average of 4 per year.

And with 20% of all the top-20 picks over the last 12 years having been O-linemen, it eliminates the “small sample size” concerns.

The year-by-year breakdown, 2010-2021:

(A tip of the cap to cortone for originally providing these numbers in another thread.)

...

There were a couple of other considerations as well ...

  • With fewer “glamour” stats than the “skill positions” (QB, WR, RB, TE), there is likely to be less debate about “what matters” when determining “premium”-ness.

  • There is a semi-related narrative that says Seattle doesn’t spend draft capital on offensive linemen.

...

That last bullet is NOT the focus of today’s piece - in part because it is a very subjective narrative that depends far too heavily on what some might call “strawman arguments.”

For instance, is the the fact that Seattle has drafted at least 1 offensive lineman in 11 of the 12 drafts led by the current regime enough to disprove the narrative?

Or would someone counter with the fact that 10 of the 18 O-linemen drafted by PC/JS have been Day 3 picks and that only the first one (Russell Okung, #6 overall) was drafted higher than #25?

No thanks!

__________

Note: The draft info is per Pro Football Reference and a complete list of the offensive linemen that Seattle has drafted since 2010 is in the Bonus Coverage section at the end of this article.

__________

Today is just about TOP-20 versus NOT-TOP-20, both from a numbers perspective and how that shakes out on a league-wide scale.


The 2021 NFL Draft

Y’all know that I like to take you on a journey, so to speak, so let’s start this one with what I like to call “pure speculation” - aka, the crapshoot that is the NFL Draft.

Offensive linemen selected in the top-20:

...

The other offensive linemen chosen on Day One:

  • OT Christian Darrisaw, #23, Minnesota Vikings - this was originally Seattle’s pick

...

Offensive linemen selected on Day Two before Seattle was on the clock:

...

Offensive linemen selected on Day Two after Seattle selected WR D’Wayne Eskridge:

...

Obviously, we don’t yet know which of these players will turn out to be “premium” offensive linemen … or even how many will end up as long-term starters. But it’s a pretty safe bet that the Hawks could have used at least one of them. And it seems reasonable to think that it won’t just be the 4 top-20 players that have a shot at earning a Pro Bowl selection or being named to an All-Pro team at some point.

Let’s talk about something else though ...

Seattle didn’t use a draft pick on an offensive lineman this year until Round 6. We can speculate all we want as to why that is, but the simple truth is that the team’s priorities don’t always align with the fans’ priorities.

Sometimes teams pass on “sure thing” players at one position because they have a need at a different position or believe that a different player is a better fit or more attractive or ... whatever ... and we, as fans, almost never get a clean look into the why.

That said, as someone who was hoping we might grab an offensive lineman (or 2) in this year’s draft, seeing both our 2021 R1 and our 2021 R3 used by the Vikings to select offensive linemen ... SIGH.


NFC West Starters

I will include the complete list of projected starters for the other 28 NFL teams in the “Bonus Coverage” section at the end of this article, but in the interest of “de-cluttering” the article itself, I am only going to focus on the NFC West right now.

The following projected starters are based on ESPN’s current depth charts.

Seahawks

...

49ers

* Some sites are projecting the rookie, Aaron Banks, as the starter at RG.

...

Cardinals

* Murray is an OT that would be moving to Guard; Brian Winters is an 8-year vet.

...

Rams

...

Fun Fact: League-wide, 6 offensive linemen who got their start in Seattle are projected to be Week 1 starters in 2021; two of them here in Seattle and 4 for other teams.

That is the top number in the NFC West. The 49ers’ number is 3, Arizona’s is 2, and the Rams’ is 5.

__________

NFCW starting offensive linemen picked in the Top 20:

  • Seattle: 0
  • San Francisco: 2 – both starting tackles
  • Arizona: 1 – their left guard
  • Los Angeles: 0
  • Division totals: 3 out of 22 *

* See previous notations as to why the # is 22 instead of 20.

__________

Looking past the NFC West, here are the numbers for the league’s other 28 teams:

  • Number of projected starters: 140 (5 per team)
  • Number selected #1 to #20: 29
  • Number drafted #21 and beyond: 95
  • Number that were undrafted: 16

Note: As mentioned, the complete list of projected starters for the other 28 NFL teams is in the “Bonus Coverage” section at the end of this article.


Measuring “premium”-ness

One could obviously argue that “starter doesn’t equal ‘premium’ player.”

Admittedly, I have argued that point myself more than a few times --- mostly when I was comparing Germain Ifedi to a bear on roller skates.

That said, I think most would agree that Pro Bowl nominations and/or being named to an All-Pro team IS a legitimate way to measure premium-ness.

So let’s take a look at what which offensive linemen made the most-recent Pro Bowl and/or were named to the 2020 All-Pro team.

__________

2020 Pro Bowl roster

AFC Squad

Starters:

...

Next Man Up:

...

NFC Squad

Starters:

...

Next Man Up:

...

2020 Pro Bowl offensive linemen picked in the Top 20:

  • AFC: 4 of 8 --- 50%
  • NFC: 3 of 8 --- 37.5%
  • Combined: 7 of 16 --- 43.8%

__________

2020 All-Pro team

This is the cream of the crop right here!

First-team All-Pro

...

Second-team All-Pro

...

2020 All-Pro offensive linemen picked in the Top 20:

  • First-team: 3 of 5 --- 60%
  • Second-team: 3 of 6 --- 50%
  • Combined: 6 of 11 --- 54.5%

__________

Combined numbers

Between the 2020 Pro Bowl rosters and the 2020 All-Pro teams, there were 27 slots available for offensive linemen.

  • 13 of the 27 went to players who were drafted in the top-20 --- 48.1%
  • 14 went to players drafted outside the top-20 --- 51.9%

There’s a problem with those numbers though ....

Three of the players elected to the 2020 Pro Bowl were also a first-team All-Pro. Those three players were LT David Bakhtiari, LG Quinton Nelson, and RG Brandon Scherff.

That means that we counted each of them twice ... which skews the numbers.

If we only count each player once, that means we’re looking at 24 “unique” players and the results end up like this:

  • 11 of the 24 were drafted in the top-20 --- 45.8%
  • 13 of them were not --- 54.2%

Summary + Conclusion

As a 12, I understand the lamentations.

I share the concerns and the frustrations about the offensive line ... about the team’s approach to it, about their success rate with their draft picks, etc.

Like everyone else, I suffered through the Cable years.

But saying that Seattle’s issues on the offensive line are because of the Seahawks’ lack of top-20 picks ... ?

That’s a false narrative.



“Bonus Coverage”

As promised, here are the projected starting lineups for the other 28 NFL teams, per ESPN’s current depth charts.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

  • LT Dion Dawkins, 2017, R2.63
  • LG Jon Feliciano, 2015, R4.128 (Raiders)
  • OC Mitch Morse, 2015, R2.49 (Chiefs)
  • RG Cody Ford, 2019, R2.38
  • RT Daryl Williams, 2015, R4.102 (Panthers)
  • Chart

...

Miami Dolphins

  • LT Austin Jackson, 2020, R1.18
  • LG Solomon Kindley, 2020, R4.111
  • OC Matt Skura, 2016, UDFA (Ravens)
  • RG Robert Hunt, 2020, R2.39
  • Jesse Davis, 2015, UDFA --- originally with Seattle
  • Chart

...

New England Patriots

  • LT Isaiah Wynn, 2018, R1.23
  • LG Mike Onewenu, 2020, R6.182
  • OC David Andrews, 2015, UDFA
  • RG Shaq Mason, 2015, R4.131
  • RT Trent Brown, 2015, R7.244 (49ers)
  • Chart

...

New York Jets

  • LT Mekhi Becton, 2020, R1.11
  • LG Alijah Vera-Tucker, 2021, R1.14
  • OC Connor McGovern, 2016, R5.144 (Broncos)
  • RG Greg Van Roten, 2012, UDFA
  • RT Morgan Moses, 2014, R3.66 (WFT)
  • Chart

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AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

  • LT Ronnie Stanley, 2016, R1.06
  • LG Ben Cleveland, 2021, R3.94
  • OC Bradley Bozeman, 2018, R6.215
  • RG Kevin Zeitler, 2012, R1.27 (Bengals)
  • RT Alejandro Villanueva, 2014, UDFA (Eagles)
  • Chart

...

Cincinnati Bengals

  • LT Johan Williams, 2019, R1.11
  • LG Xavier Su’a-Filo, 2014, R2.33 (Texans)
  • OC Trey Hopkins, 2014, UDFA
  • RG Jackson Carman, 2021, R2.46
  • RT Riley Reiff, 2012, R1.23 (Lions)
  • Chart

...

Cleveland Browns

  • LT Jedrick Wills Jr., 2020, R1.10
  • LG Joel Bitonio, 2014, R2.35
  • OC JC Tretter, 2013, R4.122 (Packers)
  • RG Wyatt Teller, 2018, R5.166 (Bills)
  • RT Jack Conklin, 2016, R1.08 (Titans)
  • Chart

Worth noting: 3 of Cleveland’s 5 starting O-linemen were named to the All-Pro team in 2020. Jack Conklin was 1st-team; Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller were 2nd-team.

...

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • LT Chukwuma Okorafor, 2018, R3.92
  • LG Kevin Dotson, 2020, R4.135
  • OC Kendrick Green, 2021, R3.87
  • RG Trai Turner, 2014, R3.92 (Panthers)
  • RT Zach Banner, 2017, R4.137 (Colts)
  • Chart

__________

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

  • LT Laremy Tunsil, 2016, R1.13 (Dolphins)
  • LG Max Scharping, 2019, R2.55
  • OC Justin Britt, 2014, R2.64 --- originally with Seattle
  • RG Marcus Cannon, 2011, R5.138 (Patriots)
  • RT Tytus Howard, 2019, R1.23
  • Chart

...

Indianapolis Colts

  • LT Eric Fisher, 2013, R1.01 (Chiefs)
  • LG Quenton Nelson, 2018, R1.06
  • OC Ryan Kelly, 2016, R1.18
  • RG Mark Glowinski, 2015, R4.134 --- originally with Seattle
  • RT Braden Smith, 2018, R2.37
  • Chart

...

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • LT Cam Robinson, 2017, R2.34
  • LG Andrew Norwell, 2014, UDFA (Panthers)
  • OC Brandon Linder, 2014, R3.93
  • RG A.J. Cann, 2015, R3.67
  • RT Jawaan Taylor, 2019, R2.35
  • Chart

...

Tennessee Titans

  • LT Taylor Lewan, 2014, R1.11
  • LG Rodger Saffold III, 2010, R2.33 (Rams)
  • OC Ben Jones, 2012, R4.99 (Texans)
  • RG Nate Davis, 2019, R3.82
  • RT Dillon Radunz, 2021, R2.53
  • Chart

__________

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

  • LT Garett Boiles, 2017, R1.20
  • LG Dalton Risner, 2019, R2.41
  • OC Lloyd Cushenberry III, 2020, R3.83
  • RG Graham Glasgow, 2016, R3.95 (Lions)
  • RT Bobby Massie, 2012, R4.112 (Cardinals)
  • Chart

...

Kansas City Chiefs

  • LT Orlando Brown, Jr., 2018, R3.83 (Ravens)
  • LG Joe Thuney, 2016, R3.78 (Patriots)
  • OC Austin Blythe, 2016, R7.248 (Colts)
  • RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, 2014, R6.200
  • RT Mike Remmers, 2012, UDFA (Broncos)
  • Chart

...

Las Vegas Raiders

  • LT Kolton Miller, 2018, R1.15
  • LG Richie Incognito, 2005, R3.81 (Rams)
  • OC Andre James, 2019 UDFA
  • RG Denzelle Good, 2015, R7.255 (Colts)
  • RT Alex Leatherwood, 2021, R1.17
  • Chart

...

Los Angeles Chargers

  • LT Rashawn Slater, 2021, R1.13
  • LG Matt Feiler, 2014, UDFA (Texans)
  • OC Corey Linsley, 2014, R5.161 (Packers)
  • RG Oday Aboushi, 2013, R5.141 (Jets)
  • RT Bryan Bulaga, 2010, R1.23 (Packers)
  • Chart

__________

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

  • LT Tyron Smith, 2011, R1.09
  • LG Connor Williams, 2018, R2.50
  • OC Tyler Biadasz, 2020, R4.146
  • RG Zack Martin, 2014, R1.16
  • RT La’el Collins, 2015, UDFA
  • Chart

Worth noting: The Cowboys are one of only 3 teams that originally selected (or signed) all of their projected O-line starters. The other 2 teams are the Saints and the Falcons.

...

New York Giants

  • LT Nate Solder, 2011, R1.17 (Patriots)
  • LG Shane Lemieux, 2020, R5.150
  • OC Nick Gates, 2018, UDFA
  • RG Zach Fulton, 2014, R6.193 (Chiefs)
  • RT Matt Peart, 2020, R3.99
  • Chart

...

Philadelphia Eagles

  • LT Andre Dillard, 2019, R1.22
  • LG Isaac Seumalo, 2016, R3.79
  • OC Jason Kelce, 2011, R6.191
  • RG Brandon Brooks, 2012, R3.76 (Texans)
  • RT Lane Johnson, 2013, R1.04
  • Chart

...

Washington Football Team

  • LT Charles Leno Jr., 2014, R7.246 (Bears)
  • LG Wes Schweitzer, 2016, R6.195 (Falcons)
  • OC Chase Roullier, 2017, R6.199
  • RG Brandon Scherff, 2015, R1.05
  • RT Cornelius Lucas, 2014, UDFA (Lions)
  • Chart

__________

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

  • LT Teven Jenkins, 2021, R2.39
  • LG James Daniels, 2018, R2.39
  • OC Cody Whitehair, 2016, R2.56
  • RG Alex Bars, 2019, UDFA
  • RT Germain Ifedi, 2016, R1.31 --- originally with Seattle
  • Chart

...

Detroit Lions

  • LT Taylor Decker, 2016, R1.16
  • LG Johan Jackson, 2020, R3.75
  • OC Frank Ragnow, 2018, R1.20
  • RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai, 2016, R5.164 (Eagles) --- say that name 5x, fast
  • RT Penei Sewell, 2021, R1.07
  • Chart

...

Green Bay Packers

  • LT David Bakhtiari, 2013, R4.109
  • LG Elgton Jenkins, 2019, R2.44
  • OC Josh Myers, 2021, R2.62
  • RG Lucas Patrick, 2016, UDFA
  • RT Billy Turner, 2014, R3.67 (Dolphins)
  • Chart

...

Minnesota Vikings

  • LT Christian Darrisaw, 2021, R1.23
  • LG Dakota Dozier, 2014, R4.137 (Jets)
  • OC Garrett Bradbury, 2019, R1.18
  • RG Ezra Cleveland, 2020, R2.58
  • RT Brian O’Neill, 2018, R2.62
  • Chart

__________

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

  • LT Jake Matthews, 2014, R1.06
  • LG Matt Gono, 2018, UDFA
  • OC Matt Hennessy, 2020, R3.78
  • RG Chris Lindstrom, 2019, R1.14
  • RT Kaleb McGary, 2019, R1.31
  • Chart

Worth noting: The Falcons are one of only 3 teams that originally selected (or signed) all of their projected O-line starters. The other 2 teams are the Cowboys and the Saints.

...

Carolina Panthers

  • LT Cameron Erving, 2015, R1.19 (Browns)
  • LG Pat Elflein, 2017, R3.70 (Vikings)
  • OC Matt Paradis, 2014, R6.207 (Broncos)
  • RG John Miller, 2015, R3.81 (Bills)
  • RT Taylor Moton, 2017, R2.64
  • Chart

...

New Orleans Saints

  • LT Terron Armstead, 2013, R3.75
  • LG Andrus Peat, 2015, R1.13
  • OC Erik McCoy, 2019, R2.48
  • RG Cesar Ruiz, 2020, R1.24
  • RT Ryan Ramczyk, 2017, R1.32
  • Chart

Worth noting: The Saints are one of only 3 teams that originally selected (or signed) all of their projected O-line starters. The other 2 teams are the Falcons and the Cowboys.

...

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • LT Donovan Smith, 2015, R2.34
  • LG Ali Marpet, 2015, R2.61
  • OC Ryan Jensen, 2013, R6.203 (Ravens)
  • RG Alex Cappa, 2018, R3.94
  • RT Tristan Wirfs, 2020, R1.13
  • Chart



2020 All-Pro team - the complete team

Just to expand this beyond offensive linemen, here are the complete All-Pro rosters for the 2020 season with some number crunching after that.

Spoiler alert: On offense, it’s only O-linemen and 2nd-team QBs that tallied Top-20 selections. And one of the offensive All-Pros was a UDFA.

First-team, offense

  • QB Aaron Rodgers, 2005, R1.24
  • RB Derrick Henry, 2016, R2.45
  • WR Davante Adams, 2014, R2.53
  • WR Stefon Diggs, 2015, R5.146
  • WR Tyreek Hill, 2016, R5.165
  • TE Travis Kelce, 2013, R3.63
  • LT David Bakhtiari, 2013, R4.109
  • LG Quenton Nelson, 2018, R1.06
  • OC Corey Linsley, 2014 R5.161
  • RG Brandon Scherff, 2015, R1.05
  • RT Jack Conklin, 2016, R1.08

...

First-team, defense

  • EDGE T.J. Watt, 2017, R1.30
  • EDGE Myles Garrett, 2017, R1.01
  • DT Aaron Donald, 2014, R1.13
  • DT DeForest Buckner, 2016, R1.07
  • LB Fred Warner, 2018, R3.70
  • LB Bobby Wagner, 2012, R2.47
  • LB Darius Leonard, 2018, R2.36
  • CB Xavien Howard, 2016, R2.38
  • CB Jalen Ramsey, 2016, R1.05
  • S Tyrann Mathieu, 2013, R3.69
  • S Minkah Fitzpatrick, 2018, R1.11
  • S Budda Baker, 2017, R2.36

...

First-team, special teams

  • K Jason Sanders, 2018, R7.229
  • P Jake Bailey, 2019, R5.163
  • KR Cordarrelle Patterson, 2013, R1.29
  • PR Gunner Olszewski, 2019, UDFA
  • ST George Odum, 2018, UDFA
  • LS Morgan Cox, 2010, UDFA

__________

Second-team, offense

  • QB Josh Allen, 2018, R1.07
  • QB Patrick Mahomes, 2017, R1.10
  • RB, Alvin Kamara, 2017, R3.67
  • WR DeAndre Hopkins, 2013, R1.27
  • WR Justin Jefferson, 2020, R1.22
  • WR Calvin Ridley, 2018, R1.26
  • WR DK Metcalf, 2019, R2.64
  • WR Cole Beasley, 2012, UDFA
  • LT Garett Bolles, 2017, R1.20
  • LG Joel Bitonio, 2014, R2.35
  • OC Ryan Kelly, 2016, R1.18
  • OC Frank Ragnow, 2018, R1.20
  • RG Wyatt Teller, 2018, R5.166
  • RT Ryan Ramczyk, 2017, R1.32

...

Second-team, defense

  • EDGE Khalil Mack, 2014, R1.05
  • EDGE Za’Darius Smith, 2015, R4.122
  • DT Chris Jones, 2016, R2.37
  • DT Cameron Heyward, 2011, R1.31
  • LB Devin White, 2019, R1.05
  • LB Demario Davis, 2012, R3.77
  • LB Lavonte David, 2012, R2.58
  • LB Roquan Smith, 2018, R1.08
  • CB Jaire Alexander, R1.18
  • CB Tre’Davious White, 2017, R1.27
  • S Jamal Adams, 2017, R1.06
  • S Jessie Bates III, 2018, R2.54

...

Second-team, special teams

  • K Justin Tucker, 201, UDFA
  • P Jack Fox, 2019, UDFA
  • KR Andre Roberts, 2010, R3.88
  • PR Jakeem Grant, 2016, R6.186
  • ST Matt Slater, 2008, R5.153
  • LS Luke Rhodes, 2016, UDFA

__________

To summarize that list, here are the numbers of top-20 picks that were All-Pro in 2020.

First-team:

  • Offense: 3 of 11 (27.27%) --- all 3 were offensive linemen
  • Defense: 5 of 12 (41.67%)
  • Special teams: 0 of 6 (0.00%)
  • Total: 8 of 29 (27.59%)

...

Second-team:

  • Offense: 5 of 14 (35.71%)
  • Defense: 5 of 12 (41.67%)
  • Special teams: 0 of 6 (0.00%)
  • Total: 10 of 32 (31.25%)

...

Combined totals, both teams: 18 of 61 (29.51%)

...

As a reminder, here were the numbers for just the offensive linemen:

  • First-team: 3 of 5
  • Second-team: 3 of 6

...

That means that all the other offensive positions combined accounted for:

  • First team: 0 of 6
  • Second-team: 2 of 8 (both of them QBs)

__________

And here are the numbers of UDFAs that were All-Pro in 2020:

  • First-team, special teams: 3
  • Second-team, offense: 1
  • Second-team, special teams: 3
  • Total: 7 (11.48%)

* None of the 2020 All-Pro offensive linemen were UDFAs.



Draft capital expended by Seattle on O-linemen since 2010

2010: Russell Okung, R1.06

2011: James Carpenter, R1.25; John Moffitt, R3.75

2012: none

2013: Ryan Seymour, R7.220; Michael Bowie, R7.242

2014: Justin Britt, R2.64; Garrett Scott, R6.199

2015: Terry Poole, R4.130; Mark Glowinski, R4.134

2016: Germain Ifedi, R1.31; Rees Odhiambo, R3.97; Joey Hunt, R6.215

2017: Ethan Pocic, R2.58; Justin Senior, R6.210

2018: Jamarco Jones, R5.168

2019: Phil Haynes, R4.124

2020: Damien Lewis, R3.69

2021: Stone Forsythe, R6.208