This year’s draft marks the 45th for the Seahawks since they entered the NFL in 1976.
And to commemorate the occasion, we came up with a simple — if ambitious and sure to be hotly debated — idea to rank each of the drafts that the Seahawks have conducted.
Any rating is obviously subjective, and there’s inevitably some “eye test” stuff that influences things. But in general the emphasis was assessing the overall contributions of the class (Pro Football Reference and its career Approximate Value ratings were a huge help), while also taking a special look at the first-round picks, which more than any others tend to make or break draft classes and generally yield a higher percentage of a team’s future stars than any other.
And while we’d love to do these in orders of 12, the math works out to present this list in four groups of 11.
And since it’s always good to save the best for last, we’ll start from the bottom and work our way up.
So here we go.
Key players: OL Ray Roberts, WR/returner Michael Bates.
Comment: The worst season in team history was preceded by the worst draft in team history. Only one of the 11 players Seattle selected in this draft ever started more than three games in the NFL — first-round pick Ray Roberts, who was taken 10th overall and played nine seasons in the NFL but just four with the Seahawks and three as a starter. Bates, taken in the sixth round, did become a good kick returner but had his best seasons with Carolina. Seattle also traded away second- and fourth-round picks for veterans Keith Millard and Rueben Mayes, former WSU greats who had had good careers up until then but who both were out of the league by 1994.
Key players: QB Dan McGwire, WR Doug Thomas, WR David Daniels, DE Michael Sinclair.
Comment: Did the Seahawks really pass on Brett Favre to take McGwire with the 16th overall pick because Ken Behring overruled Chuck Knox? That was always Knox’s story even though then-president and GM Tom Flores told The Times in 2016 he didn’t remember Knox lobbying for Favre, who went in the second round to Atlanta. Regardless, Seattle sorely needed a QB and with Favre on the board instead took McGwire, who went 2-3 as a starter in his career — one win for every Super Bowl in which Favre played. Thomas and Daniels were also huge washouts as receivers in the second and third rounds. And those misses overshadow that Sinclair, taken in the sixth, went on to have 73.5 sacks in his career and that Seattle also got a good kicker in John Kasay in the fourth (though he played just four years in Seattle).
Key players: RB Christine Michael, TE Luke Willson, RB Spencer Ware, CB Tharold Simon, WR Chris Harper.
Comment: After three of the best drafts in team history to start the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, Seattle put together an 11-man class in the year it won the Super Bowl as ultimately unproductive as any in team history. In fact, via Pro Football Reference’s career approximate value rating, none of the 11 players scored higher than 17, with only Willson and Ware still active. That’s the lowest “high’’ of any Seahawks draft class ever, other than some of the more recent classes where players haven’t played long yet. In Seattle’s defense, few teams got much out of a draft class regarded as one of the worst in NFL history. The Seahawks tried to head that off by trading their first-round pick to the Vikings for receiver Percy Harvin. But that didn’t really go to plan, either.
Key players: RB Owen Gill, WR Danny Greene, OL Ron Mattes.
Comment: So, as with Harvin and 2013, assessing the impact of trades can always make judging draft classes tricky, as is the case with this group, as well. Before the 1983 season, Seattle traded its first-round pick in ’85 for center Blair Bush, a former UW standout who started from ’83-88. Include him and it’s a much better draft. But when considering only what Seattle drafted, there was not much. Gill was the 53rd overall pick but was waived before the season started. Greene, the second selection, played just four NFL games. Of 12 players drafted, only Mattes — who was a fulltime starter at left tackle for three years — ever did anything for Seattle.
Key players: DE Lamar King, QB Brock Huard, DE Antonio Cochran.
Comment: To be fair, this is another year when it was simply not a great draft for most teams: Tim Couch and Akili Smith were two of the top three picks. And Seattle gave up its second-round pick to Green Bay as compensation for Mike Holmgren. So throw that into the consideration and maybe this class deserves some slack. Still, of the seven players picked, only King was a starter for more than a season — and he had only two full seasons as a starter.
Key players: DL Steve Niehaus, LB Sammy Green, RB Sherman Smith.
Comment: Thanks to 17 rounds and the NFL giving them some extra picks to try to stock the expansion teams adequately, the Seahawks got a whopping 25 players in the first draft. In a time when Seattle was in best-player-available mode more than ever, the Seahawks took both a kicker AND a punter in the third round (neither of whom lasted more than three years) with two future Hall of Famers still available: Harry Carson and, well, Steve Largent. Seattle would get Largent a few months later in a trade with Houston after the Oilers had told him he would be released for an eighth-round pick (the Oilers had taken him in the fourth round). That was obviously a significant coup. But of the picks, Smith was by far the best and the only one who was a starter for more than two years. Niehaus, the second overall pick, sadly battled injuries and played just 39 games.
Key players: DE Aaron Curry, C Max Unger, WR Deon Butler.
Comment: That Seattle got Unger, the leader of the offensive line for the team that won the first Super Bowl in team history in the second round, almost saves this group. But the huge disappointment that was Curry with the number-four overall pick is a lot to overcome. And no one else in this seven-man group (Mike Teel, Courtney Greene, Nick Reed) was even still in the league when Seattle won its first Super Bowl barely four years later.
Key players: DL Marcus Tubbs, S Michael Boulware, OL Sean Locklear.
Comment: In hindsight — admittedly 20/15 vision and all that — if Seattle really wanted a safety and a defensive lineman with its first two picks in 2004 it should have taken Bob Sanders in the first round and Darnell Dockett in the second (each available when Seattle picked in those rounds). Instead, the injury-riddled Tubbs is generally considered one of the team’s worst first-round picks and Boulware played just four seasons. Locklear was serviceable, but the only other starter to emerge was punter Donnie Jones — who only did so after being waived and claimed by Miami.
Key players: OL Andy Heck, RB Derrick Fenner, OL Joe Tofflemire.
Comment: Heck, taken 15th overall, played 12 years, though Seattle could have had Andre Rison or Steve Atwater, each taken within the next seven picks, at a time when it had needs at those spots, too. But of the other 11 picks only Fenner — who led the NFL with 14 TDs in 1990 but then lost the starting job the following year — ever really did much.
Key players: DE Lawrence Jackson, TE John Carlson, DL Red Bryant.
Comment: Bryant, a third-round pick, went on to be a team captain for the Super Bowl-title team, so maybe this ranking seems too low. Conversely, Jackson goes down as one of the team’s worst first-round picks, doing little in his first two years and then traded by his former college coach — Carroll — for a sixth-round pick, number 173 overall, barely two years after he had been taken 28th (and far ahead of the likes of Cliff Avril and Calais Campbell, just to name two other defensive ends on the board at the time). That pick, though, turned into Byron Maxwell.
Key players: DE Jacob Green, OL Andre Hines, DE Terry Dion, OL Ron Essink
Comment: Can one great player and one decent one make a class? Green, taken 10th overall, became one of the team’s Ring of Honor members and a standout throughout the Chuck Knox era. And 10th-rounder Essink was the starting left tackle from ’81-85. But of the other 11 picks, only three ever even played in an NFL game.