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Former Seahawks FS Earl Thomas
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Why should Seahawks trade up in NFL Draft? Look at their last decade of 1st-round picks

Earl Thomas, a Seahawks first-round pick in 2010, has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career. (AP)

The Seahawks haven’t had much success in recent years with their first-round draft picks.

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Seattle has made a first-round selection in three of the past four NFL Drafts, and it’s hard to call any of those picks a success.

Germain Ifedi, who Seattle took with the 31st pick of the 2016 draft, has been a consistent member of the Seahawks’ offensive line, missing only four games and starting all 60 games that he has appeared in over his four-game career. His play has been less consistent, however, and it’s unclear whether he’ll return in 2020 as he’s set to enter free agency this offseason.

Next up is Rashaad Penny, the running back Seattle seemingly reached for at 27th overall in the 2018 draft. Penny struggled in his debut season after working through injury in the preseason, and though he looked to find his stride in 2019, running for 129 yards in Week 12 against Philadelphia and 74 yards the next week vs. Minnesota, his season came to an end with an ACL tear suffered in Week 14.

Then there’s the case of L.J. Collier, the defensive end the Seahawks grabbed at No. 29 in a 2019 draft where there were several pass-rushing options to choose from. Collier had just three tackles in 11 games as a rookie, struggling to find playing time on a defensive line that could have used all the pass-rushing help it could get.

So when 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore wrote earlier this week that the Seahawks should trade up from the No. 27 spot in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s understandable that the idea may have given people some pause.

If the Seahawks haven’t had success in the first round in over five years, why would they trade up?

If you take a closer look, however, it appears that the problem isn’t with the first round as a whole, but rather where the Seahawks have picked in the first round. In fact, the value of a high first-round pick compared to a lower one can be seen in looking at the decade of Seahawks draft picks since John Schneider became general manager in 2010.

Seattle has participated in seven drafts since the last time they made a pick in the first half of a first round. The Hawks made three picks of 15th overall or higher from 2010 to 2012. And those three picks produced one All-Pro, two Pro Bowlers and three players who immediately became key figures for the Seahawks.

Those three players:

• Russell Okung, who was taken sixth overall in 2010, quickly established himself as Seattle’s starting left tackle and made the Pro Bowl in his third year as a pro.

• Free safety Earl Thomas, the 14th pick in 2010, has put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career and was the backbone of the Legion of Boom defense that led the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls.

• Bruce Irvin, the 15th pick in 2012, had eight sacks without starting a single game as a rookie and was an integral part of Seattle’s defense as either a linebacker or defensive end from 2012-15. By the way, eight sacks is twice as many as the total for 2019 Seahawks sacks leader Rasheem Green.

Taking into account the success of those three picks and the lack of effectiveness from the Seahawks’ first-round selections in the years since, I fully agree with Moore’s point that trading up makes all the sense in the world for Seattle.

That’s not to say trading down, which has always been Schneider’s preference in the draft, doesn’t have its place. In a case like 2019, when Seattle was low on draft picks and had several holes in its roster to patch up, Schneider’s ability to add picks through trading proved to be quite valuable. But after an 11-win regular season where the Seahawks were constantly in one-score games, it’s clear that they now need quality over quantity to make a return to the Super Bowl a reality. In 2020, they’ll need players that can make an immediate impact, just like Okung, Thomas and Irvin had in their rookie seasons.

Of course, the Seahawks can make a splash in free agency to address that need. But if they’re going to get a valuable player for the 2020 team out of the first round of the draft in April, trading up is the way to do it.

Follow 710Sports.com’s Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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