JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: Seahawks always face tough road in draft as perennial playoff team

Apr 13, 2020, 3:58 PM
Seahawks GM John Schneider...
Seahawks GM John Schneider is entering his 11th NFL Draft with the team. (AP)
(AP)

It’s hard to believe this is Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s 11th NFL Draft.

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While it’s very difficult to figure out who he is going to draft, it’s easy to follow the way he drafts. He has an amazing ability to find starting defensive backs in the middle rounds. He’s a master of making draft day trades, particularly trading down in the first round or even out of the first round to accumulate more picks.

Schneider realizes teams often become victims of their own success. Drafting well causes cap problems because the really good draft choices can command high salaries that often can’t fit into the salary cap. If they get big money in free agency, Schneider gets compensatory picks the following year.

Perhaps the biggest thing he realizes is that being a perennial playoff team puts the Seahawks in a tough position, drafting between the 21st and 32nd picks in the first round. And Schneider takes unfair criticism that he doesn’t get Pro Bowl players in the first round.

Here is the reality. In the last five drafts, only five players league-wide made it to the Pro Bowl after being drafted between the 21st and 32nd picks. Basically, only one player a year from that spot in the draft makes it to the Pro Bowl. In 2015, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones was the only Pro Bowl player taken in the final 12 spots of the first round. In 2016, Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark became a Pro Bowler. Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt was the only 2017 Pro Bowler in the final 12.

There were two in 2018: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. None made it from last year’s draft although Las Vegas Raiders halfback Josh Jacobs was close to making it.

Where that is important is if a first-rounder doesn’t make the Pro Bowl, it’s hard to justify the cost of keeping him on a fifth-year option. What ends up happening is that teams start trading or cutting the first-rounder by the third year of their four-year contract.

The Seahawks have been to the playoffs eight of the 10 years Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll worked together.

Under Schneider, the Seahawks have drafted six players in the first round – six players in 10 drafts. He started out taking Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the top 10 in 2010. In 2011, after a 7-9 season where they missed the playoffs, he took James Carpenter with the 25th pick. Bruce Irvin was the 15th pick in 2012.

After Irvin, Schneider took Germain Ifedi with the 31st pick in 2016, Rashaad Penny 27th in 2018 and L.J. Collier with the 29th pick last year. Ifedi wasn’t great but he started for four years. Before blowing out his knee, Penny was playing behind Chris Carson but showed flashes of being a good back. Collier didn’t play much as a rookie but he has a chance to star in his second year.

Don’t hold your breath that the Seahawks will use their draft choice with the 27th pick in the first round next week. First, Schneider has to take care of the Jadeveon Clowney issues, either signing him or replacing him. Second, Schneider will most likely trade down to the second round.

The Seahawks have seven draft choices this year. Schneider has had 41 draft choices in the past four drafts, a little more than 10 per year. He’s averaged 8 1/2 in his 10 years as GM. And the Seahawks can land a good defensive tackle or an offensive tackle in the second round.

Another thing to remember about drafts is some years they just aren’t good. Ifedi signed for the NFL minimum in free agency this offseason. Wide receivers Josh Doctson and Laquon Treatwell and cornerback Artie Burns also signed for the minimum. Quarterback Paxton Lynch is at the NFL minimum with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s five first-rounders from the 2016 draft taken between 22 and 31 that signed minimum deals.

Get ready for the 11th Schneider draft.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton on Twitter.

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