I think the Seattle Seahawks really need a good draft this year.
That statement either seems obvious or oblivious, depending on your perspective on my intelligence, but I think I can back it up. Despite the fact that Pete Carroll and John Schneider wonder-team-activated this franchise from zero to hero over their first three drafts, the truth of the matter is that they haven't zero dark thirtied (a term I use for "found") clear talent in either of the last two drafts.
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In 2010, 2011, and 2012 they drafted immediate starters at key positions:
Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and Russell Wilson. Others would prove valuable eventually, like Golden Tate, James Carpenter, and Bruce Irvin, while Byron Maxwell hid in the bushes for almost three years, but it was clear that the Seattle front office was so very right, and Mel Kiper was so very wrong. That's not so clear anymore, and I'm sure that fact secretly pisses off any Kiper haters out there.
(Okay, so there aren't any Mel Kiper haters. Everyone LOVES Mel Kiper. By the way, on a completely unrelated note, if you're looking for an article with sarcasm, look elsewhere bub. This isn't a joke.)
Yes, the Seahawks have bypassed the first round in each of the last two years, and did so again in 2015, but was the first round really their bread-and-nutella? Not really. We can't hail their late-round drafting strategy as "genius" one day and then a "fluke" the next, because if they had secret knowledge that led them to Sherman and Chancellor once, they ought to be able to do it again.
It's true that in many of these cases they exploited oversights and transformed how teams view the physicality of corners and safeties, as well as the proper height of a "franchise quarterback," but if they exploited before why can't they exploit again?
I don't know, but they haven't.
Thus far, the 11 picks from 2013 have yielded Jordan Hill, Tharold Simon, and Luke Willson. Christine Michael continues to play "never 'boo' peak-a-boo," Jesse Williams is supposedly on the team(?), and the rest almost certainly are not. Including Chris Harper, a fourth round pick who didn't make it past the preseason.
The 2014 draft has given us Justin Britt (hold your applause-- well, okay, give him some applause) and a shitload of "maybe's."
Maybe Paul Richardson will be okay. Maybe Kevin Norwood can become Bobby Engram. Maybe Kevin Pierre-Louis can replace Malcolm Smith, which would make him the consummate backup linebacker that might have one extremely lucky day in his life. Maybe Cassius Marsh will stay healthy. Maybe I'm amazed like Paul McCartney that they actually drafted Jimmy Staten.
Let's not forget Garrett Scott, a sixth round pick that was waived almost immediately after the draft due to a heart condition that the team was unaware of. That's bad luck perhaps, but now would be a great time to turn that luck around.
Seattle is facing a the loss of Irvin, rumored to be traded since the team apparently doesn't want to pick up his fifth-year option, as well as the losses of Brandon Mebane, Russell Okung, J.R. Sweezy, Robert Turbin, and the money they'll want to save in order to lock up Wagner and Wilson. You need cheap second-year players in order to not have to retain million-dollar backups.
Now that we've got some negativity out of the way for the Seahawks GM, let's shed some darkness on the GM for the San Francisco 49ers.
It turns out that the 49ers have had similar problems in the draft recently, but their issues date back even further than 2013. I took a closer look at their very recent draft history and as bad as you thought it was ...
Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers
Date started: Took over GM duties, unofficially, prior to 2010 draft
By the numbers: 48 players drafted, four Pro Bowlers, three All-Pros, eight players to have at least "one season" as starter.
Now, "one season" is defined as starting at least nine games in any given season. For example, inside linebacker Chris Borland started eight games last year and didn't pick up an official season as a starter. However, it's fair to say he had one of the biggest impacts of any rookie in the NFL last year.
Then again, one has to wonder what Baalke and the 49ers didn't pick up on when evaluating Borland that perhaps another GM might have picked up on in regards to his decision to retire after only one season. Maybe there was nothing at all to pick up on -- we have no way of knowing -- but was Borland a good pick? I honestly have to say that at the end of the day, it was not.
Some guys stick around the NFL and pick up a paycheck even though just like Borland, they don't want to play football, and then they don't do very well. They "bust." But Borland isn't the type of person that would ever play a football game with less than 100-percent intensity. That's admirable and it's the type of quality you look for in a football player, but unfortunately, Borland didn't want to play football bad enough. Not for longer than a season, at least.
Moving on from Borland just as Borland moved on from us, let's look at the hits.
Overall it looks as though Baalke has done a good job because there are four Pro Bowl players and three worthy of the coveted All-Pro spot but a closer look should be much more worrisome for a fanbase that basically just saw their GM push out their head coach. The Pro Bowl players are:
- Mike Iupati, 17th overall in 2010
- NaVorro Bowman, 91st overall in 2010
- Aldon Smith, seventh overall in 2011
- Eric Reid, 18th overall in 2013
Well, Baalke didn't take over GM duties until March of 2010, and until then, Scot McCloughan played a large part in juicing up the information they had going into the draft. This is largely the draft class that put them on the map from 2011-2013, thanks to Anthony Davis, who went 11th overall and has been a great right tackle from day one, Iupati, who has made the Pro Bowl three times, Bowman, who has made the All-Pro list three times, and fullback Anthony Dixon, a sixth rounder.
Also consider that Baalke passed on Earl Thomas at 11, then draft Taylor Mays -- a guy that many thought Pete Carroll would "obviously" draft due to his USC connection -- 49th overall. Mays was in San Francisco for only one year.
Okay so everyone has some bad picks but Baalke is killing it again in 2011, right?
They got Smith in the first, Colin Kaepernick in the second, Chris Culliver in the third, Kendall Hunter in the fourth, and Bruce Miller in the seventh. That's great picks up top and then excellent value afterwards. But could it have been better?
Let's not forget that 2011 was one of the greatest edge-rusher-drafts of all-time and Smith went over J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn. What did they miss in the evaluation of these three prospects that led them to believe Smith wasn't a character concern, at least not enough of one to pass over for Watt? Okay, there are 10 teams that passed on Watt (for mostly good-to-great players) but what even is the future of Aldon Smith now after four years?
Culliver didn't become a starter until 2014, Hunter is a nice career backup a la Robert Turbin, and Miller is a guy you like to have on your team and excellent value for round seven but not gonna tilt the field much.
Then there's Kaepernick, who in many ways should be Baalke's shining light. (Would they have done the same if Andy Dalton hadn't popped off the board one pick earlier?) If you find any QB that's flashed as much as Kaepernick has at pick 36, then pat yourself on the back. Maybe in many ways Kaep was the wedge between Baalke and Harbaugh, because Harbaugh stuck with Alex Smith for almost two years before being forced to make a change after injury and then stick to it when Kaepernick played too well and was more exciting.
We will see what the future holds for Kaepernick, who seems to be on the edge of "great" and "great to see you, bye bye now," but let's be fair and say that in his first official year as GM, Baalke had a good draft. He did it.
He sure as hell hasn't done it since ...
The 49ers have made 30 picks in the last three years. Now let's go by the numbers again:
San Francisco drafts since 2012: 30 players, one Pro Bowler, one guy who has started at least one season.
Out of the last 30 picks, Reid is the only guy to start more than eight games for San Francisco. They also selected cornerback Marcus Cooper in the seventh round in 2013, but cut him before the year and he's become a nice role player for the Kansas City Chiefs, including 10 starts.
Their first and second round picks in the last three years have been Reid, A.J. Jenkins, Jimmie Ward, LaMichael James, Tank Carradine, Vance McDonald, and Carlos Hyde.
Jenkins and James are both off the team. Jenkins had zero catches on one target, while James carried the ball 41 times in a little over two years. Carradine was drafted as a guy they knew they would redshirt in 2013 because of a torn ACL and he played sparingly in 2014. McDonald, a tight end, has 10 catches in two seasons. They traded up for him but are seeking a tight end in the draft this year because he's done nothing to solidify the position for them.
They also traded up for Hyde, who we still don't know much about yet.
Of the other 23 guys they've drafted in the last three years, Borland would be their easy, slam dunk, "see, we don't suck at drafting!" example, but he's gone. So is Cooper. They took shots in the fourth round on receiver with Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington, and they've combined for eight career catches. They took another shot at a running back with Marcus Lattimore, who is now retired, which many thought was a possibility but didn't stop San Francisco from using a fourth on him too.
Lattimore was a good "name" prospect, but he went ahead of Denard Robinson, Joseph Randle, Zac Stacy, Latavius Murray, Andre Ellington, and Mike James.
Their only remaining player from the 2012 draft is fourth round guard/center Joe Looney, currently fighting for a spot along the offensive line, but who was kept inactive late last season. They are one fringe lineman away from having nobody left from a draft that was just three years ago.
(They also traded up for Looney.)
In 2013, after Reid, Carradine, and McDonald, they took:
- OLB Corey Lemonier, third round, lost backup job to Dan Skuta and Aaron Lynch.
- Patton, nearly gone.
- Lattimore, Latti-no-more
- DT Quinton Dial, fifth round, no playing time as rookie, moderate in 2014.
- LB Nick Moody, sixth round, no playing time as rookie, moderate in 2014.
- QB BJ Daniels, seventh round, in a better place now.
- OL Carter Bykowski, seventh round, gone.
- Cooper, with the Chiefs.
So the remnants of 2013 are Reid, Carradine, McDonald, Lemonier, Dial, and Moody. Which is one starter and a couple of guys that will compete for playing time in 2015. Which means that the 2012-13 draft classes in total make up one starter and a few guys that are competing for a spot on the roster, the best of which are probably Dial and Carradine.
The 2014 draft for Baalke looks like a minor return to form in 2011, but barely.
Ward was terrible as a rookie. Out of position or out of his league, there isn't a nice way to say it. He looked like he didn't belong in the NFL. Maybe that will change next season, it's not fair to place too much emphasis on a rookie year, especially under those circumstances, but there's nothing good to say about his play yet.
Hyde averaged four yards per carry and is probably going to make a good complement to another running back, but never the main guy.
Center Marcus Martin was picked in the third round and started eight games. He is probably a good bet to stay there for awhile.
Borland went seven picks after Martin, crushed it all-game, every-game, practically, and then proclaimed he'd prefer to live a long and healthy life, for some reason that we're not sure of yet.
Also going in the third round, the 49ers took guard Brandon Thomas who was expected to miss all of 2014 with an injury, which he did. Will he pay off? Who the hell knows. Then there was Ellington in the fourth round, as well as cornerback Dontae Johnson, who played in all 16 games plus three starts. Lynch is a potential steal in the fifth round, and he had six sacks as a rookie.
He was followed by corners Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker, neither of whom played a game in 2014. The seventh round had defensive end Kaleb Ramsey and fullback Trey Millard, also two guys who have not played yet.
Overall grade: C+
"Oh shit! A C-plus! What does that mean?!?!"
Umm, I don't know? It seemed apt. Anyone that tells you that their grade means anything more than a hunch is a liar. Just like my ninth grade teacher Mr. Shifton. Yeah right I got a D, Shit-on! Screw you, buddy, that grade was only a hunch!!!
A C-plus means that I think there are a few obvious positives here but there's a reason that the 49ers had a bad season and seem headed for significant repairs, if not a full-on rebuild. Also, we need to point this out as well:
Iupati is gone. Culliver is gone. Dixon is gone. Smith is a walking disaster. Kaepernick is expensive as hell, if he pans out, or cut (and therefore not very good) if he doesn't. There isn't so much to see here as far as evidence for Baalke's greatness, at least when it comes to the draft, and a really poor season could get him fired. That seems far-fetched given that they just fired Harbaugh and went with Baalke, but if San Francisco won three or four games in 2015, even with a rookie head coach, how much blame is Baalke going to get? Especially since they'll be playing with more and more of "his" guys.