STACY ROST

Rost: Seahawks’ future still relies heavily on previous draft classes

Apr 29, 2024, 12:46 AM

Seattle Seahawks Riq Woolen Devon Witherspoon...

Riq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon of the Seattle Seahawks during an Oct. 29, 2023 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

What makes a draft class a success?

A Pro Bowl nod for your first-round pick? Two contracts out of a player? An All-Pro every four years? Two to three starters?

What experts are saying about the Seattle Seahawks’ draft class

What if you get a multi-year starter and a few Pro Bowls from your first-round pick, but your fifth-round pick is a dud? You’d probably shrug and say, “Well, that’s just fine… a third-day choice is taking a chance on somebody with more red flags.” Now imagine the reverse were true. You’d still have the accolades and the star player, but would it be quite as easy to shrug off missing entirely on a greater investment?

Most big-picture draft evaluations are entirely subjective, and that’s what makes the evaluation of any class so fun – or infuriating, depending on how successful your team has been. (Apologies to Bears fans who have long lamented skipping Patrick Mahomes for Mitch Trubisky. Caleb Williams seems promising enough to bring plenty of hope.)

Draft weekend is fun. It’s full of hope and fanfare, touching videos, surprise phone calls.

But don’t forget that the second half of drafting is developing. And it’s why, when you wonder how the Seattle Seahawks can make their way back to a Super Bowl, the name on the draft board at the end of the night is only half the story.

It’s also why any conversation about the Seahawks’ improvement needs to focus just as much on the classes of ’22 and ’23.

Let’s start with 2024, though. On Day 3 of the draft, Seattle added a pair of corners (Auburn’s Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James), offensive line help (Findlay’s Michael Jerrell and Utah’s Sataoa Laumea), linebacker depth (UTEP’s Tyrice Knight) and a tight end (Michigan’s A.J. Barner). But the real story was adding to the trenches with their first two picks: Texas defensive lineman Byron Murphy II at No. 16 overall, and UConn guard Christian Haynes in the third round. Seattle had one of the worst rushing defenses in football and struggled with health all season along the offensive line. For those two selections alone, you’d he hard-pressed to not give the Hawks an A.

You know what makes a draft class especially impressive, though? When that high grade sticks around. More than a decade later, any NFL fan would still give Seattle’s 2012 class an A for the return they got from Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, the latter of whom is sure to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the former of which gave them 10 years of stability at the most important position in football. You’d say the same for a 2011 class that found both K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman on Day 3, and for a 2010 class with Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, and Kam Chancellor. Because you know what all of those players did? They took their starting jobs in Seattle and didn’t give them up.

To this you might be thinking, “Well, Stacy, let Byron hit the field first.” But I’m not saying there’s pressure on this class to develop immediately. Instead, what I’m saying is that Seattle’s best bet at improvement in 2024 is to get continued development out of the pick for whom they’ve already been praised.

That’s right. This year’s review of the 2024 draft is really a call for a renewed focus on past classes (I know, it’s a tease, I’m sorry! But it’s also important).

Take Seattle’s 2022 draft class. Cornerback Riq Woolen, a fifth-rounder, surprised everyone with Defensive Rookie of the Year-caliber play, but he took a small step back in 2023. Second-round running back Kenneth Walker III became a 1,000-yard rusher in his first season, but Seattle’s run offense struggled a bit more (mostly behind offensive line injuries) in 2023. The team looked like it had found its franchise tackles of the future with first-rounder Charles Cross and third-rounder Abraham Lucas, but both saw sophomore slumps (the latter mostly due to time missed with injury).

And all of that is OK. Success and growth is not always linear.

But that stamp of approval on any class only matters so long as it keeps showing up. These are the players – Walker, Woolen, Boye Mafe, Zach Charbonnet, Cross, Lucas, Devon Witherspoon – upon whom the spotlight should be when the Hawks enter camp. Their continued growth makes Murphy’s more possible; so too does it make the path to the playoffs for Seattle an easier one to walk.

It’s also why the second half of this year’s Seahawks draft story is really about what new head coach Mike Macdonald can do not with the young, promising Murphy, but with the players who are making a return to the VMAC this summer.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks ’24 NFL Draft Breakdown: A look at all eight Seattle picks
Seahawks’ 8-player draft class brings wealth of college experience
Seahawks 2024 UDFA tracker: UW Huskies TE among signings
Draft Reaction: Seahawks ‘taking care’ of trenches with Christian Haynes
Rost: Seattle Seahawks did what they needed in first round — just with a twist

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