On the January day of his hiring in 2010, The Seattle Times headline read “John Schneider is Seahawks surprise pick as GM.’’
The story noted that the then-38-year-old Schneider was so relatively unknown he didn’t even have his own Wikipedia page (longtime NFL general manager Floyd Reese had been considered by many as the favorite to land the job).
Nine years later, Schneider not only has his own Wikipedia page but a Super Bowl ring and a contract thought to make him among the highest-paid general managers in the NFL.
He also is the longest-running GM in Seahawks history — next week’s draft will be his 10th with the team.
Schneider is hardly alone in this, of course — coach Pete Carroll has significant say in everything (he essentially hired Schneider) and the two have portrayed themselves as equal partners when it comes to adding personnel.
But if anything in the NFL is most-specifically identified with a GM, it is the draft.
And how important is the draft?
“That’s probably 80-70 percent of our acquisition,’’ Schneider said this week.
That the Seahawks have the fourth-best regular season record in that time at 89-54-1 (behind only the Patriots, Steelers and Packers), and have made the playoffs seven times (only the Patriots have made it more often) speaks loudly in terms of the overall grade the Schneider/Carroll era has earned since taking over in 2010.
But if there have been a lot of big hits, there have also been a few misses.
So, as Schneider and Carroll enter their 10th draft, it seems a good time to look back, reviewing the nine that have come before it, ranking the overall classes as well as some of the individual picks.
Started from the bottom, now we’re here
Rating the draft classes themselves, from the ground up.
9. 2013 — If the 2012 draft (Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner) is the gold standard of Schneider/Carroll drafts, this is the “lost penny on the floor of a bar’’ standard. True, it was a bad draft class all around, which was one reason the Seahawks traded their first-round pick for Percy Harvin. And after three straight elite classes, a little regression to the mean was in order. But Seattle reached for Christine Michael with its first pick in the second round and didn’t get much reward, and another reach for receiver Chris Harper in the fourth round also proved disastrous. Of 11 picks, the only player to emerge as a consistent starter for Seattle for as much as a season was fifth-round pick Luke Willson.
8. 2014 — Following the Super Bowl win against Denver, Seattle decided to trade out of the first round to acquire more picks later and took receiver Paul Richardson at No. 45 overall. Richardson made some flashy plays before signing with Washington as a free agent, and fellow second-round pick Justin Britt has been solid. But all the picks Seattle acquired in later rounds didn’t amount to much — of seven other picks, only DE Cassius Marsh and LB Kevin Pierre-Louis ever played much for the Seahawks.
7. 2015 — So here’s a year that presents a challenge in how best to judge a draft — with the picks at the top, or the depth overall? Seattle had eight picks, and the top two have turned out well — Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. But of the other six picks, five combined to play only five total games for Seattle and are all currently out of the NFL. The only one still on a roster is OL Mark Glowinski, who finally blossomed with the Colts.
6. 2017 — So it may still be too early to really judge the 2017 and 2018 classes, but we will anyway, while giving each some hefty benefit of the doubt. Seattle again traded out of the first round and ultimately took Malik McDowell. Who knows what might have been there, and to be fair to the Seahawks, who knew he’d get in an ATV accident? But aside from that, only two of the other 10 players have yet to really become consistently solid contributors — cornerback Shaquill Griffin and running back Chris Carson, though others such as David Moore and Tedric Thompson have shown promising signs. How this class is judged will ultimately rest on the progress of safeties Thompson and Delano Hill.
5. 2016 — The jury isn’t all the way in on this class just yet. Second-rounder Jarran Reed’s emergence last season, and Germain Ifedi appearing to find his footing, helps the class’ perception quite a bit. But this was another year when Seattle made trades to add picks, and of the eight other picks, only two have done much for the Seahawks — tight end Nick Vannett and DL Quinton Jefferson. Third-round picks C.J. Prosise and Rees Odhiambo proved disappointments (though Prosise has a year left to change that narrative).
4. 2018 — OK, so maybe this is too much benefit of the doubt given to this class, which led off with the controversial pick of Rashaad Penny, who may never be able to do enough to convince a lot of people that his selection made sense. The next pick, Rasheem Green, didn’t do much as a rookie. But punter Michael Dickson was an inspired pick, as was cornerback Tre Flowers, while DE Jacob Martin came on late in the year. And Will Dissly showed lots of promise before his injury while OL Jamarco Jones also appeared on the rise before a training camp injury.
3. 2011 — Each of the first three Schneider/Carroll classes rank among the best in team history. This class looks even better if you include undrafted free agent receiver Doug Baldwin. The top pick — James Carpenter — has maybe had a better career than many realize, having just signed another big contract with Atlanta. But what made this class were mid-round picks K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman, with late-rounders Byron Maxwell and Malcolm Smith also proving key parts of the Super Bowl title team.
2. 2010 — The first draft started out about as well as could have been hoped, Seattle taking Russell Okung to solidify the left tackle spot (and despite a few ups and downs, he started 72 games in six seasons) and Earl Thomas to beef up the secondary. Then came the picks of Golden Tate and Walter Thurmond, each key parts of the Super Bowl-winning team. But what really made this class was the selection of Kam Chancellor in the fifth round.
1. 2012 — Some might argue the 2010 draft was better than 2012 given its overall impact. But getting likely Hall of Famers at two of the most important positions — QB Russell Wilson and MLB Bobby Wagner — sets this one apart. First-rounder Bruce Irvin also was a vital part of the legendary 2012-15 defenses while mid-to-late-rounders Robert Turbin, Jeremy Lane and J.R. Sweezy filled key roles well enough. Add free agent signees Jermaine Kearse and DeShawn Shead and this has to rank among the better overall hauls any team has had in one year in NFL history.
10 best picks
1. Russell Wilson (2012, third round) — Set aside whatever doubts people may have had about Wilson coming out of college (and there were a few analysts, such as Jon Gruden, who lauded the pick). Simply getting a Hall of Famer at the most important position in the game at No. 75 overall is enough to make this maybe the best pick in Seahawks history.
2. Richard Sherman (2011, fifth round) — As Sherman was never shy of reminding everyone, 24 cornerbacks were taken in 2011 before he was. The only one who maybe deserved it is Patrick Peterson.
3. Kam Chancellor (2010, fifth round) — The quintessential Schneider pick. The Seahawks decided they wouldn’t worry about what position he played in college, figuring they’d find a way to make the most of his talents.
4. Bobby Wagner (2012, second round) — A lot of people liked Wagner coming out of college, but some wondered if his size meant he couldn’t hold up in the middle in the NFL. The Seahawks then held their breath while waiting in hope that Wilson would still be available in the third round.
5. Earl Thomas (2010, first round) — Thomas was pretty much a consensus mid-to-high first-rounder going into the draft, so maybe you’d say Seattle deserves only so much credit. Conversely, a lot of people at the time thought the Seahawks would take the bigger Taylor Mays, who had played for Carroll at USC. But the pick showed things like college loyalties weren’t going to unduly influence Carroll.
6. K.J. Wright (2011, fourth round) — Wright, taken 99th overall, went about where many expected. Still, you’ve got to make the pick, and the Seahawks did.
7. Frank Clark (2015, second round) — It may be easy to forget that, aside from the legal issues that saw him get kicked out of Michigan his senior season, there were also questions about just how good of a player he was. Here’s what NFL.com wrote about Clark before the draft: “Clark has mid-round talent, but his arrest and prior indiscretions make it unlikely that teams will be willing to draft him. If he gets everything sorted out, he has a shot at getting into a camp.’’ Four years later, he has more sacks than all but one player taken in that draft (Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter).
8. Malcolm Smith (2011, seventh round) — Carroll did rely on college ties for some late-round and undrafted free agent picks in his early Seahawks years, and none turned out better than Smith, taken 242nd overall in 2011 and Super Bowl MVP less than three years later.
9. Tyler Lockett (2015, third round) — Lockett was taken 69th overall in 2015, when Seattle made the rare move to trade three picks and swap another to move up in the draft. He’s proven more than worth it with a breakout 2018 season in which Wilson had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when throwing his way.
10. Chris Carson (2017, seventh round) — The silver lining in the McDowell fiasco was that Seattle got four other picks in trading down. One of those was Carson, who was taken at 249 overall. Through two seasons he has 1,359 yards on 296 carries. Leonard Fournette, taken fourth overall that year, has 1,479 yards on 401 carries.
10 worst picks
1. DL Malik McDowell (2017, second round) — Is it unfair to penalize the Seahawks for McDowell suffering an off-field injury that appears to have ended his career before he ever played a down? Probably. But there were lots of questions about McDowell’s maturity coming out of the draft, which is why he slipped to 35. The four other picks Seattle got for moving down — including Hill, Thompson and Carson — soothe the blow, and maybe in a few years will change the legacy.
2. RB Christine Michael (2013, second round) — The 2013 draft will go down as one of the worst in NFL history, so there were going to be more misses than hits picking at 62. But running back was hardly a need at the time, and with a loaded roster Seattle could have just gone with the best player available. Among those taken later were Travis Kelce — who went with the next pick — as well as two-time Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford (65) and Tyrann Mathieu (69).
3. OL John Moffitt (2011, third round) — Moffitt was the one big stain on the otherwise glorious 2011 class. Taken No. 75 overall, he was out of the NFL by the end of the 2013 season having played just 19 games. Only four players drafted ahead of Moffitt have played in fewer NFL games.
4. WR Kevin Norwood (2014, fourth round) — Following the loss of Golden Tate in free agency, the Seahawks hoped to dip into a deep receiving class to replace him. Richardson at No. 45 proved serviceable enough. But Norwood, taken 123, made just nine catches and hasn’t played in the league since 2015. Seattle traded the 111th pick to get the 123rd, which it used on Norwood, and 199, which it used on OT Garrett Scott, who never played a down. One WR taken around the same spot is Martavis Bryant, taken at 118.
5. OL Terry Poole (2015, fourth round) — Maybe it’s unfair to pick too much at mid-round selections. But Poole is sort of indicative of the issues Seattle had for much of the middle part of this decade trying to add depth to the OL. Poole, taken at 130, has yet to play in an NFL game, while Shaq Mason, taken at the next spot by the Patriots, has started 55 games at guard for the Pats the last four seasons.
6. WR Chris Harper (2013, fourth round) — As acknowledged, the 2013 draft was a rough one for everybody. But Harper, taken 124th overall, was such a bust he was waived before the 2013 season, the second-highest player drafted not to make it to opening day.
7. DL Jimmy Staten (2014, fifth round) — Staten, taken 172nd overall, never played in an NFL game — only eight others taken above him can say that. Among productive DLs who went later are Shamar Stephen, a Seahawk last year, and Devon Kennard.
8. LB E.J. Wilson, (2010, fourth round) — The defensive end out of North Carolina played two games in 2010, recording one tackle, before being cut. Wilson signed with the Buccaneers for 2011 training camp and ruptured his Achilles tendon in Tampa’s second preseason game and never played again.
9. RB C.J. Prosise (2016, third round) — Prosise has flashed undeniable talent when healthy. But he simply hasn’t been able to stay on the field — just 16 games in three seasons. Graham Glasgow, who has started 43 games on Detroit’s OL the past three years, went five picks later.
10. OL Rees Odhiambo (2016, third round) — Maybe Odhiambo should be a package pick with Prosise — Odhiambo was taken seven picks later at 97. A Boise State graduate, Odhiambo arrived with durability concerns and played just 16 games and last year was on the roster for three different teams.