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The Seahawks’ unwavering commitment to a new philosophy in the NFL Draft

Talent wins out, now.

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks do not care about you.

In fact, over the 13 years under John Schneider, perhaps the one thing that’s been the clearest is that they don’t really care much about what anybody else thinks.

What we’re witnessing now, however, is a radical shift from one extreme to the next in draft philosophy, that has often left fans just as bewildered and frustrated as before.

Yet for two years, Seattle has maintained an ironclad commitment to this new draft philosophy. In fact, I’d argue that last year was almost a practice run; and that if anything, they approached last weekend with even greater dedication this go-around.

We are of course, talking about the idea of Best Player Available.

When it all got started

It’s hard to say whether the change fully cemented in 2021, because they had three picks and their first wasn’t until No. 56.

It could have been formulating in 2020 - hard to say with the Jordyn Brooks pick - but it absolutely wasn’t in play in 2019.

Back in 2010, ‘11, ‘12, and I imagine what they were trying to do for a short while after that, the Seahawks somewhat revolutionized the league by going after specific and unorthodox traits. That’s largely how the biggest and fastest defense in America came together.

But that didn’t work forever, and actually it never worked when targeting offensive players.

So that was then, this is now, and Seattle has two full drafts of such a strong dedication to BPA that ironically it results in some of the same head-scratching as before. It’s just a different approach.

Why it happened

Because the old way stopped working, and either Pete Carroll and John Schneider finally cared, or new owner Jody Allen made them care.

From the 2019 class, only DK Metcalf has a weighted career Approximate Value (AV) of over 10. He is good. The next best cumulatively successful player from that class is Cody Barton, with a 4-year AV of 10.

Tariq Woolen received that last season.

Obviously that’s oversimplified, but it is immensely hard to change a significant philosophy that has made someone successful, short of being fired. Pete and John have done it.

Now, what’s it mean?

Why Best Player Available makes you mad

The earliest reports of Jalen Carter to the Seahawks began the day he was born immediately after the first mock drafts started coming out.

But he’s not here. Carter is not the best example of BPA hard at work, because Pete & John clearly decided that the character concerns were not worth the risk. Justifiable. But Devon Witherspoon is the perfect example.

Did Seattle need a cornerback? Well yes, in the way that outside of QB and OL starters, a team can use as many of each position as they wish if they’re creative. But where would you have put CB on the needs list, pre-draft? Fourth? Fifth?

So instead of trading down, taking Tyree Wilson or anybody else on the D-line that was a consensus “good player” but not special, they stood firm, did what like two out of a thousand mock drafts suggested, and took Witherspoon.

Witherspoon is three things at No. 5:

  • The best cornerback in the draft
  • Widely regarded as someone the Detroit Lions would have taken next
  • A culture fit; see literally anything Pete & John have said since

And so while corner is technically a premium position, the front office did not overvalue for need. They did not overvalue for positional value, which only would have been quarterback or D-line anyway. If you were personally hoping

The two running backs serve as the second good example of why this newfound philosophy still frustrates people.

It’s not as simple as this guy would have you believe:

Ben Baldwin says running back = F, and has done so for quite a while. What he means by that, is there are rules that should be build into Best Player Available by which the Seahawks do not abide. In this case, that a lower value should be placed on RB because of (1) positional value and (2) smaller discrepancy among later options.

Disagreement over the Zach Charbonnet pick then, comes from either belief that he isn’t talented enough for the selection, or that another rule should come into play, such as previously mentioned devaluing based on position. The other strong candidate would be to overvalue based on need.

Which would bring us back to Witherspoon real quick. If you personally believe that need should add a great deal of value, than you were likely disappointed because Corner wasn’t that high on the list. Not high enough for them to take a less talented player at a greater position of need.

But the Seahawks did not do either of those things. They indeed had Witherspoon at No. 5 and Charbonnet as the best guy they could target at 52, not anticipating he’d still be there.

Why you can like it anyway

The simplest explanation is the best here; because the Seahawks are drafting really good players.

The risks are two-fold: without any rules, the team could easily end up with something crazy like nine safeties (which they did anyway) or a massively defunct position group (which they have anyway). Okay, so we’re taking some risks.

But on the other side, all over the place, Seattle is acquiring high-end talent, and in November nobody cares where a guy was drafted when somebody makes a high-end play.

At the end of the day, I firmly believe this risk-reward approach far outweighs the previous risk-reward approach. This time, their strikeout rate is much lower, and they are more likely to end up talented if imbalanced, as opposed to balanced but untalented.

It’s not even a question which is better.