With receiver Paul Richardson now back on the practice field, Seahawks reporter Bob Condotta examines whether he can help boost the perception of Seattle's 2014 draft class, which also includes Justin Britt, Cassius Marsh and Kevin Pierre-Louis
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter how a successful NFL team is built — draft, free agency, trades or some combination therein — as long as the wins follow.
The draft, though, remains the cheapest and most controllable way to build a winner, as the Seahawks showed when they used the mammothly productive classes of 2010, 2011 and 2012 to construct the heart of a team that went to two straight Super Bowls the last two years, winning one.
Those three drafts still account for nine of Seattle’s regular 22 starters, six of whom have gone to the Pro Bowl.
The jury, though, remains much more in doubt on the drafts since then, which have produced just two players who at this moment could be considered full-time starters — guard Justin Britt and receiver/returner Tyler Lockett. And many around the NFL are watching to see if Seattle will be able to continue to consistently draft as well as it did from 2010-12, regarded as critical to keep the team at an elite level especially now that basically every player from those draft classes has moved off their rookie contracts and is now making big money.
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Just three players remain from Seattle’s 11-man 2013 draft — DT Jordan Hill and TE Luke Willson — each of whom, while valuable, has more of a rotational/backup/complementary role, and cornerback Tharold Simon, now on Injured Reserve for the second time in three seasons. But as we’ve written before, though, the 2013 draft has sort of been bad for everybody, with the Seahawks for the first time in their drafting history in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime unable to buck the odds.
The 2015 draft, remain, can’t yet be fairly judged. Only two players have seen significant time — Lockett and DL Frank Clark — and the long-term legacy of this class will likely be determined by how much the Seahawks get out of the three OLs drafted in the middle-to-late rounds (Mark Glowinski, Kristjan Sokoli and Terry Poole, the latter of whom remains on the practice squad).
Whether the 2014 draft is ultimately judged a success or failure, meanwhile, could well rest with receiver Paul Richardson, who has crossed one big hurdle by successfully making it back to practice following a second ACL injury to his left knee suffered last January against Carolina.
Richardson will be activated to the 53-man roster either by Sunday’s game at Dallas or the Nov. 15 contest against Arizona (the Seahawks have a bye in between) and at that time will become one of four members of that class on the active roster, joining Britt, DL Cassius Marsh and LB Kevin Pierre-Louis. The only other one of the nine players taken in that draft who remains in the organization is LB Eric Pinkins, who is back on the practice squad after having not been on anyone’s roster for about a month.
WR Kevin Norwood is on the 53-man roster of the Carolina Panthers and DT Jimmy Staten is on the practice squad of the Kansas City Chiefs. Two others are already out of football — OL Garrett Scott, a sixth-round pick who was diagnosed with a heart problem after the draft; and FB Kiero Small, now a free agent after being released by the Baltimore Ravens in September.
The career courses of Britt, Marsh and Pierre-Louis are far from set.But none have yet to make the sudden burst to stardom the way just about each of the nine players from the 2010-12 drafts who became starters did. Four of the six of those who eventually made the Pro Bowl did so within their first two years in the NFL (Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Russell Wilson) with two others doing it by year three (Bobby Wagner, Russell Okung — Wagner, though, was also voted Sports Illustrated’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, symbolic of the quick impact he made). The other three players from those drafts now starting are Bruce Irvin, J.R. Sweezy and K.J. Wright. All were full-time starters by at least their second year.
Of course, anybody drafted now has a harder time getting playing time. And Marsh and Pierre-Louis also suffered injuries midway through their rookie seasons. But it’s also too early yet to say each appears on course for future starring roles.
Which is where Richardson comes in. The heaviest spotlight on any draft inevitably falls on the first player pick, which for Seattle in 2014 was Richardson after the team traded down twice into the second round to acquire more picks.
Richardson was selected with Seattle hoping he could add a deep threat to its receiving corps, something the team needed more of anyway but especially after losing Golden Tate in free agency a couple months prior to the 2014 draft.
Richardson had a somewhat halting beginning to his rookie season with one catch in his first four games and then being inactive in the fifth. But then Percy Harvin was traded and he began to come on. His 28 catches after Harvin was traded was tied with Jermaine Kearse for second on the team behind Doug Baldwin (who had 49 of his 66 last year after the Harvin trade).
There are now the added dynamics of Lockett and Jimmy Graham (as well as Chris Matthews), giving the Seahawks what on paper appears as potentially deep a receiving corps as it has had in a while.
But coach Pete Carroll says there is undoubtedly a potentially big role for Richardson.It was interesting Monday that Carroll mentioned the “intricate” routes that Richardson was beginning to have success with near the end of last season.
Richardson also said Monday that while it may be tempting to think of himself and Lockett as similar receivers that he sees Lockett as quicker while he may be faster straight-line, saying he definitely sees ways each can be on the field at the same time.
Which will be interesting to watch unfold both for the future of a Seattle passing offense that can use a boost and the legacy of the draft class of 2014.