RENTON — NFL coaches, general managers and scouts often say you need to wait a few years to fairly judge a draft class.
The reality is that sometimes elite draft picks — and classes — declare themselves quickly.
No one needed long to know the Seahawks struck gold in 2010 (Earl Thomas, Russell Okung, Golden Tate, Kam Chancellor), 2011 (Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright) or maybe most notably in 2012 (Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin).
The quick progression of those players might have spoiled Seahawks fans into wanting to make snap judgments about the team’s draft classes since.
Seattle’s 2018 class is beginning to show the risks in making hasty conclusions.
Even a few months ago, it was hard to know what the Seahawks had in its nine-man draft class — of which seven players remain on the roster.
But as Seattle has again hit its trademark second-half surge, the emergence of some of the 2018 draft class’ most notable members has proved key.
Running back Rashaad Penny, Seattle’s first-round pick a year ago, has had his best two-game stretch the last two weeks with 203 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns while also catching a 13-yard pass for another score.
Defensive end Rasheem Green, the Seahawks’ second pick, taken in the third round, has also had his best two-game stretch the last two weeks with six tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles.
Linebacker Shaquem Griffin, the fourth pick, taken in the fifth round, has had his three best games the last three weeks in a new role as an edge rusher on passing downs, with two quarterback hits and helping cause a fumble against the Eagles.
Cornerback Tre Flowers, Seattle’s fifth pick, taken in the fifth round, has had two interceptions in the last two games after having just one in his previous 24 games, compelling coach Pete Carroll to say this week that Flowers is “playing a more complete game.’’
Then there’s tight end Will Dissly, Seattle’s third pick, who emerged not only as a starter this season but as one of the best receiving tight ends in the league before suffering an Achilles injury at Cleveland; punter Michael Dickson, who has rebounded from a little slump early in the season and has downed eight of his last 10 punts inside the 20; and offensive lineman Jamarco Jones, who earned nothing but praise for his effort in two starts in place of injured guard D.J. Fluker in October.
Even one of the two picks no longer with the Seahawks is beginning to come on — defensive end Jacob Martin, who was traded to Houston as part of the Jadeveon Clowney deal and played sparingly early on for the Texans, has become a regular part of the team’s defensive-line rotation over the last month and has 2½ sacks and four quarterback hits in the past two games.
Seventh-round pick, quarterback Alex McGough, who is on Houston’s practice squad, is the only one of the nine picks in 2018 who has not played this season.
Carroll says players such as Green and Penny — who dealt with injuries as rookies — just needed some time to get healthy and find the opportunity to contribute. Same, in a sense, with Griffin, who has been a special-teams regular but wasn’t going to beat out any of the team’s veteran linebackers anytime soon and needed to have a role carved out where he could make the best use of his skills.
“We’ve not questioned the class at all,’’ Carroll said. “We like the heck out of those guys, and they’re getting so much play time now, they’re really in the groove.’’
Having young players find that groove late in the season has been a Seahawks trademark under Carroll and a reason he often points to for the team’s success in the second half — 48-17 in the months of November, December and January in the regular season since 2012, the most wins of any team in the NFL.
Judging classes isn’t just a fan and media thing. Wilson and Wagner often refer to their pride in how the 2012 draft class has proved wrong some of the lukewarm-at-best assessments that were made at the time.
In the moments after Flowers made his interception in the fourth quarter against the Vikings that led to a TD that made the score 34-17, it was on his mind, too.
“He was so jacked about it,’’ Carroll said. “He was talking about that class a little bit when he came off the sidelines there, he was fired up about it.’’
Suddenly, so is everybody else.