A few weeks ago I wrote a column defending what seemed like a lack of action from the Seahawks during this NFL free-agency period. I noted how the franchise brass has built a reputation for making splashes in just about any month of the year, and that there was little need to worry if there was no big haul in March.
I highlighted impact players such as Jadeveon Clowney, Duane Brown, Sheldon Richardson and Quandre Diggs, all of whom joined the Seahawks either just before the season or in the middle of it. Then I wrote this:
“And I haven’t even mentioned the draft, in which (general manager) John Schneider and (coach) Pete Carroll have consistently hauled in some of the league’s top talent.”
This caused some readers to shake, rattle and troll.
“I would disagree that Schneider and Carroll have consistently done well in the draft,” wrote one reader. “They had a nice little run for 2-3 years followed by a stinker that last 3-4 years. Really bad.”
Wrote another: “Take a look at their recent drafts … not good. Reason why they have to keep signing other teams’ castoffs. Do your homework, Calkins.”
It’s possible that second comment came from a parent writing under a pseudonym, but I digress.
Clearly, Schneider’s and Carroll’s first three draft classes paved the way for the team’s back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in the middle of the past decade. They nabbed Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Russell Okung and K.J. Wright over that stretch, all of whom have made the Pro Bowl since.
But have the ensuing drafts been bad? I’m not so sure about that.
I’ll admit that they haven’t been great — particularly if we’re talking about their top picks.
Last year’s first-rounder, defensive end L.J. Collier, looks like a bust. Their 2018 first-rounder, Rashaad Penny, has been solid when healthy but is also someone they probably could have picked later in the draft. Defensive tackle Malik McDowell never played and likely never will play an NFL down, but he was also a second-round selection the Seahawks made after trading down.
The truth is, when you’re always picking late — the ever-successful Seahawks have been doing so the past several years, and they have the 27th overall pick Thursday night — it’s harder to hit home runs in the first round. That’s why Seattle trades down, to get as many at-bats as possible.
That’s what the Seahawks did in 2015 when they drafted Frank Clark with the 63rd overall pick and watched him rack up 10 sacks one year, nine another, and 13 in 2018. Six picks later they drafted Tyler Lockett, who blossomed into the team’s indisputable No. 1 receiver.
A year later they used their second-round pick on defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who had a double-digit sack year in ’18. They picked up Pro Bowler Shaquill Griffin in the third round of the next draft, then starting running back Chris Carson four rounds later.
Starting cornerback Tre Flowers went in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, as did Pro Bowl punter Michael Dickson. And last year, receiver DK Metcalf joined the Seahawks via a late second-round pick, then went on to torch teams throughout his rookie campaign.
Even much-much maligned tackle Germain Ifedi, the Seahawks’ first-round pick in 2016, managed to start 60 out of 64 games. In fact, his career approximate value — Pro Football Reference’s metric for productivity — is 20th out of everyone taken in 2016. Meaning, as the 31st pick, he might have been a steal.
There is no doubt that the 2010, ’11 and ’12 drafts were Carroll’s and Schneider’s finest work. And there is no doubt they have had some noteworthy misses since.
But we’re talking about a team that no longer has Thomas, Chancellor, Sherman, Okung and a number of other stars that helped drive it to glory, and yet the Seahawks are still in the playoff picture every season. Part of that is due to their drafting ability.
A co-worker made an analogy that if a baseball team starts 42-0, then goes 60-60 the rest of the year, it still finishes with 102 wins. The Seahawks haven’t had an other-worldly draft in a while, but they’ve sufficed.
Impassioned fans have every right to hold Schneider and Carroll accountable for their failures. But fair fans should also recognize their success.