Clayton: Just 4 draft picks? That won’t be a problem for Seahawks GM

Feb 14, 2019, 2:54 PM
The Seahawks were able to draft Shaquill Griffin in the third round by trading down in 2017. (AP)...
The Seahawks were able to draft Shaquill Griffin in the third round by trading down in 2017. (AP)

Even though the Seahawks have only four picks in this year’s NFL Draft, don’t think they are handcuffed as they look ahead to free agency and the draft.

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General manager John Schneider is one of the best – if not the best – in making draft day trades that give him the ability to load up on good, young players. For the last couple of days before a draft, he’ll lock himself in his office and try to think through how he can move back, acquire more choices and still get quality players.

Since his second Seahawks draft in 2011, Schneider has ended up with eight to 11 draft choices on draft day. Normally he plays the compensatory pick game; a team can get as many as four additional draft choices if they lose more free agents than they sign.

But the 2018 season was a turnaround year for the roster. The Seahawks moved away from some of their higher-paid players, so Schneider couldn’t play the compensatory pick game because he needed starting bodies to replace departing stars.

Schneider could have had two fourth-round choices for losing Jimmy Graham to Green Bay and Sheldon Richardson to Minnesota, a fifth-round choice for Paul Richardson going to Washington and a seventh-round choice for Luke Willson signing with Detroit. But Pete Carroll needed starters, so Schneider gave him linebacker Barkevious Mingo, defensive lineman Shamar Stephen, offensive lineman D.J. Fluker and tight end Ed Dickson, plus a solid No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver in Jaron Brown.

That means no compensatory picks in the 2019 draft, but it paid off as those players helped get the Seahawks back to the playoffs.

This year, the Seahawks have 14 free agents. It’s not out of the question for them to be in position to get 2020 third-round compensatory picks if Earl Thomas and K.J. Wright go to other teams for more than $10 million a year. Running back Mike Davis, Stephen and a few others could net sixth- or seventh-round picks.

What Schneider has to decide is if he wants these compensatory picks next year or if he needs to do the same as last year. The advantage of getting compensatory picks is they can be traded, so a third-round compensatory pick in 2020 might be able to get a fourth-round pick in 2019. And that might make sense, as the Seahawks don’t have picks in the second, sixth and seventh rounds this April.

The other thing Schneider can do is trade back. The Seahawks have the 21st pick in the first round. Moving back in the first round could add a third-round pick and maybe a sixth or a seventh depending on how far back they move. They could get an additional fourth-round pick if they move back into the second round.

Look what happened in 2017. The Seahawks started with the 26th pick in the first round, traded with Atlanta to move back five spots in the first round and gain picks in the third and sevenths rounds that turned into cornerback Shaquill Griffin and halfback Chris Carson – two starters. In another trade, Seattle moved back to No. 34 overall and gained a fourth-rounder that ended up being Tedric Thompson, who started at free safety in 2018. Finally they moved back one more spot from 34 to 35 and acquired a sixth-round pick that ended up being defensive back Mike Tyson.

What was unfortunate was that with the No. 35 pick they drafted Malik McDowell, who never played due to an ATV accident that happened before his first camp. But Schneider still had something to show for all of his moves, ending up with three starters taken with picks acquired through trading back nine spots.

Don’t forget the 2016 draft, either. The Seahawks traded back with the Denver Broncos from No. 26 to 31, where they drafted offensive lineman Germain Ifedi, and picked up a third-round choice that turned into tight end Nick Vannett, who proved last year he’s good enough to be a starter. The Broncos, meanwhile, drafted Paxton Lynch, who failed as a quarterback but ended up signing with the Seahawks on a one-year deal at $645,000 last month.

Schneider might see a defensive player he can’t resist picking at No. 21 in the first round this year, but he could also make two trades that could gain third- and fourth-round picks.

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