Our rankings of every Seahawks draft in the team’s history concludes with some classes that maybe were graded as C’s at the time — or, in one infamous case, even given an F — but have stood the test of time to rank as the best since Seattle entered the league in 1976.
Key players: RB Curt Warner, LB Sam Merriman.
Comment: Can one player make a draft class? The Seahawks tested out that theory in the first draft for Chuck Knox in 1983, trading first-, second- and third-round picks to move up six spots — from nine to three — to grab running back Curt Warner. Houston got one great (Hall of Famer OL Bruce Matthews) and one good (safety Keith Bostic) player out of what Seattle gave up. But in Warner the Seahawks got a player who revived the franchise after three down years (and when the NFL itself was in a little bit of a post-strike funk) and helped lead the team almost overnight to its first great moment, the 1983 AFC Championship game. Merriman was a popular special-teams specialist during that era.
Key players: OT Steve August, G Tom Lynch, LB Terry Beeson, LB Pete Cronan, C John Yarno.
Comment: Seattle trading back in the draft didn’t start with John Schneider, even if he might have taken it to a whole ‘nother level. In Seattle’s second draft ever, the Seahawks faced a tough choice with the number two pick — take running back Tony Dorsett, who had made it clear he didn’t want to play for the Seahawks, or try to work out a trade. Ultimately, a deal was struck with Dallas getting the pick to use on Dorsett and Seattle getting Dallas’ pick in the first and three in the second. The deal was mostly panned at the time. But the four players Seattle got included three players who would all go on to be keys in the 9-7 squads of 1978 and 1979 that helped cement the love affair between the team and the city: offensive linemen Steve August and Tom Lynch and middle linebacker Terry Beeson (Seattle also got receiver Duke Fergerson out of the other pick). Interestingly, Dorsett’s career approximate value as judged by Pro Football Reference is 105. And of the four players Seattle go return? It adds up to 106. Yarno, taken in the fourth round, went on to start at center for five years and seventh-round pick David Sims led the NFL in TDs with 14 in 1978 before a neck injury ended his career.
Key players: OL Steve Hutchinson, WR Koren Robinson, S Ken Lucas, OL Floyd Womack.
Comment: This was a tough one to rank since the legacy of Hutchinson is colored greatly by his ugly departure and Robinson is mostly remembered for unrealized potential. The counterpoint is that the 2005 run to the team’s first Super Bowl almost certainly doesn’t happen without Hutchinson, and while the Robinson pick at ninth overall turned out to be one filled with a lot of regret (among receivers taken not too shortly afterward were Reggie Wayne at 30 and Chad Johnson at 36), he did enough to show why the team was compelled to take him where it did. There were also some good late-round picks in Womack (who played eight years for Seattle and gave us an unforgettable nickname) in the fourth, and special-teams demon Alex Bannister in the fifth.
Key players: DB Keith Simpson, LB Keith Butler, S John Harris.
Comment: All three of the above emerged as mainstays of the Seattle defense well into the ‘80s. Simpson was the ninth overall pick and was a starter through the 12-4 season in 84. But the real gems were second-round pick Butler — who went on to be the leading tackler in team history until Bobby Wagner broke his mark two years ago — and Harris, a seventh-rounder who teamed with Easley to give Seattle as good of a safety duo as there was in the NFL for about three or four years in the ‘80s.
Key players: RB Shaun Alexander, WR Darrell Jackson, LB Isaiah Kacyvenski.
Comment: Maybe one can argue the Seahawks should have just kept Ahman Green and didn’t need to draft Shaun Alexander. But at least Seattle didn’t miss with Alexander. Jackson is rated by PFR as the ninth-most productive player ever taken at number 80 overall, teaming with Alexander to help guide Seattle to its first Super Bowl. And fourth-rounder Kacyvenski was a productive player for six seasons.
Key players: S Kenny Easley, RB David Hughes, G Edwin Bailey.
Comment: Kenny Easley or Ronnie Lott with the fourth pick? Seattle couldn’t really go wrong and didn’t, getting Easley (though if you want to pick nits, Lott, who went eighth to the 49ers, obviously had a much longer career), who manned a defense that in 1984 forced 63 turnovers, a team record that might stand forever. Hughes was a serviceable fullback/running back for five years. Bailey, an offensive lineman taken 114th overall, actually has the third-best Career Approximate Value via Pro Football Reference of any player ever taken at that spot (Herschel Walker is number one).
Key players: LT Walter Jones, CB Shawn Springs, TE Itula Mili.
Comment: You want moving up in the draft, you got moving up in the draft in 1997 as Seattle pulled two huge deals to get the third and sixth picks in the draft to take Springs and Jones, respectively. Seattle entered the draft with the 11th (which it acquired from the Bears for Rick Mirer) and the 12th (its own) and packaged each with other picks in that draft to move up. Jones’ contributions hardly need stating. Springs didn’t reach the lofty hype but he did make a Pro Bowl in his second season and started 88 games during a pretty rocky time in franchise history. Because of the trades Seattle had only three other picks. But Mili, who fell to 164 due to concerns about his knee, hung around for nine years.
Key players: DT Cortez Kennedy, RB Chris Warren, LB Terry Wooden, S Robert Blackmon.
Comment: You can’t say trading up hasn’t worked out pretty well for Seattle. The Seahawks in ’90 traded the eighth and 10th picks (one of which they had gotten for Fredd Young) to the Pats to get the third pick and take Kennedy. Wooden, taken at 29 with a pick from the Kennedy trade, Blackmon (34) and Warren (89) were taken with the next three picks and all paid off, too — each ranking among PFR’s top 30 in career approximate value for that draft. Sorta makes it hard to figure the downfall that was to follow (or, instead, reinforces the value of having a quarterback to go along with it).
Key players: LB K.J. Wright, OL James Carpenter, CB Richard Sherman, LB Malcolm Smith, CB Byron Maxwell.
Comment: OK, now we are to the three historic classes that might forever rank as the gold standard of Seahawks drafts and which built the team’s first Super Bowl title team and one of the greatest defenses ever. It should maybe just be a three-way tie. But, forced to choose (which was sort of the point of this) we’ll start here with the middle class, which hit its stride from the fourth round on — Wright, Sherman, Maxwell and Smith taken in rounds 4-7. Throw in Doug Baldwin as a UDFA, and this class looks even better. Even Carpenter might be better than remembered (and is still in the league). Not that people thought much of it at the time: ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. gave it a D-plus, in large part for passing on QB Andy Dalton to take Carpenter.
Key players: LT Russell Okung, FS Earl Thomas, WR Golden Tate, SS Kam Chancellor, DB Walter Thurmond.
Comment: The first Pete Carroll/John Schneider draft gets a slight nod on the 2011 group for yielding two stalwarts a key positions — left tackle and free safety — as well as a fifth-round gem in Chancellor. In a story Schneider has told often since, the key for Seattle was taking Okung at six and gambling that Thomas would slide to 14. When that worked out perfectly, the seeds of a future Super Bowl champ were sown. Even the critics loved this class: Kiper had it at the top of his 2010 ratings at the time, giving it an A.
Key players: QB Russell Wilson, LB Bobby Wagner, DE/LB Bruce Irvin, OL J.R. Sweezy.
Comment: As good as 2010 and 2011 were, they were topped by this class, when Seattle got what are likely two future Hall of Famers at positions as vital as any in football — quarterback and middle linebacker. Some panned it at the time for reaching on Irvin in the first round (one Bleacher Report writer gave it an F while Kiper gave it a C-minus) and using a third-rounder on Wilson when they’d just signed Matt Flynn to a big contract. Some also thought Seattle could have waited longer than 47 to get Wagner, who hadn’t performed at the combine due to pneumonia and also had some questioning if he was big enough at 6 feet, 242 pounds to play middle linebacker in the NFL. Two Hall of Famers from one class wouldn’t be an NFL record: The Steelers memorably drafted four in 1974. But it makes it the best draft in Seahawks history.