As the Seahawks have begun to lose some key players in free agency, the opportunities for younger players to step into the lineup should be greater this year and beyond.
John Schneider was 39 when he came to Seattle in 2010, then the third-youngest general manager in the NFL.
On Thursday night, he’ll team with coach Pete Carroll to lead his seventh NFL draft with the Seahawks, a development Schneider playfully referred to this week as a “Catalina Wine Mixer.’’
That’s a reference from the movie “Step Brothers” for something that, according to Urban Dictionary, is alternately unexpected and awesome.
When: First round, 5 p.m. Thursday. Rounds 2-3, 4 p.m. Friday. Rounds 4-7, 9 a.m. Saturday.
Thursday’s TV: ESPN, NFL Network.
Seahawks: Nine picks overall in the draft, including No. 26 in the first round (then 56, 90, 97, 124, 171, 215, 225, 247).
Certainly, seven years is a healthy tenure in a league whose initials are jokingly referred to as Not For Long. No Seahawks general manager since the team’s first — John Thompson — has led as many drafts as Schneider.
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Schneider’s first six drafts can be neatly divided in half with the 2010, 2011 and 2012 groupings having turned out — in “Step Brothers” parlance — unquestionably awesome. But the jury remains out on the past three drafts.
Consider that Seattle’s regular starting lineup last year featured 10 players from the 2010-12 drafts, including quarterback Russell Wilson, cornerback Richard Sherman, safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. All those players will be considered among the best in franchise history if not already there.
But of the three drafts since then, just one player has emerged as a regular starter — offensive lineman Justin Britt from 2014.
Schneider noted this week that a loaded roster has made it difficult for players since then to break into the lineup.
“It’s been harder to make our team since the ’13 draft, ’14 draft,’’ Schneider said. “Some drafts are stronger than others — how many of these guys really have a legitimate chance of making our team? It’s been harder for us to figure out who has a legitimate chance to make our team.”
It’s also true that some of the players drafted the past few years could emerge, such as defensive lineman Frank Clark and offensive lineman Mark Glowinski. Both were 2015 draft picks who are ticketed for bigger roles in 2016.
But as the Seahawks have begun to lose some of those recent draft picks in free agency — 2012 first-rounder Bruce Irvin signed with Oakland this offseason — the opportunities for younger players to step into the lineup should be greater this year and beyond.
And with each free-agent departure that dents the lineup that led the team to two Super Bowls, the urgency increases for the Seahawks to add young, cheap talent.
The Seahawks shouldn’t lack for chances to add players capable of filling roster spots this year. Schneider said this week that the team considers the depth and talent available in this draft class the best since 2010.
The Seahawks are well-positioned to take advantage, holding nine picks. That includes four in the top 97 — the most since 2002 when they had four of the first 85.
That largesse begins with the 26th overall pick in the first round.
As might be expected given the team’s history, though, speculation persisted Wednesday that the Seahawks would be amenable to trade down and get more picks later in the draft.
The Seahawks traded out of the first round in 2014, and in 11 draft-day trades since 2010 they have traded down to acquire more picks nine times.
Schneider said deciding whether to trade out of the first round depends in part on how many players the team views are worthy of being taken in the first round. Teams can exercise fifth-year options on players taken in the first round before their fourth year, which also can play a role.
“It’s just where you are picking in the round and how you value those picks,’’ Schneider said. “Those selections, a lot of times, history will tell you that on average the 20th player to the 40th player you are going to get about the same level of participation. … So it’s just a matter of what that specific draft looks like. Last year, with being able to acquire (tight end Jimmy Graham for their first-round pick), it was knowing we had only 16 guys (graded as being worth being taken) in the first round.’’
The Seahawks had the 31st overall pick last year.
If the Seahawks use their first-round pick Thursday, it would be the first time since 2012 when they took Irvin 15th overall.