Clayton: Why Seahawks have found success with draft-day trades

Apr 20, 2020, 12:20 PM | Updated: 12:30 pm
Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett...
The Seahawks traded up to draft Tyler Lockett in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. (Getty)

Remember the days when NFL drafts were considered the best when teams took the best players available?

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In the first 15 to 20 picks in the first round, taking the best player available works. Most of the Pro Bowl prospects usually go in the top 10 picks, which is fitting. The worst teams get the higher picks. That helps the competitive balance of the league.

What we’ve watched since 2015 is that there are more successes in the second round of the draft than the final 12 picks in the first round. Picks 21 to 32 are awarded to the playoff teams. But for Seahawks fans who want general manager John Schneider to sit there with the 27th pick and take the best player available, don’t hold your breath.

In his time with the team, Schneider has more often than not traded down from the Seahawks’ first-round pick given to them based on their record from the previous season. In doing so, he’s built two Super Bowl teams and is trying to build for his third trip to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks could get a defensive end with the 27th pick, but history shows why it’s better for a perennial playoff team to trade down and get more picks.

As I wrote last week, there have only been five Pro Bowl players who have emerged from picks 21 to 32 in the last five years. Whether it’s because of the increase in the number of underclassmen (more than 100 a year) turning pro or not, the lower third of the first round hasn’t been productive.

From the 2015 draft, only three of the 12 selections are still with their original teams and signed extensions – Bud Dupree with Pittsburgh, D.J. Humphries with Arizona and Shaq Thompson with Carolina.

From the 2016 draft, Kenny Clark of the Green Bay Packers, Will Fuller of the Houston Texans and William Jackson of the Cincinnati Bengals are the only first-rounders still with their teams, but none have received second contracts. Because there were only 31 picks in the first round that year, the other eight are gone from their original teams, including Germain Ifedi, and four others who were only able to command minimum salary jobs on other teams. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who was the 29th overall pick by the Cardinals, doesn’t have an NFL job.

Over the weekend, I tried to study the 25 draft-day trades by Schneider and how it has helped in building the team. Go back to 2016: The Seahawks traded down from No. 26 to 31 and took Ifedi. They were able to trade back then traded up, landing Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson in the second and fifth rounds, respectively.

Sitting at 26 and taking Ifedi would not have netted the Seahawks two starting defensive linemen that year. Trades down and trades up have netted the Seahawks their starting two wide receivers (Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf), linebacker Bobby Wagner, cornerback Jeremy Lane, punter Michael Dickson, running back Chris Carson and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, as well as seven extra picks from last year’s draft.

That might not be the Seahawks’ current core group, but it’s a pretty good portion of it.

General managers usually have 18 to 20 players who they have given first-round grades. Those players usually go in the first 20 picks. After that, teams have 35 to 40 players with second-round grades, which is why it’s hard to pin down what a team will pick in the final 12 selections of the first rounds.

But let’s go back to 2016 for a second. Study the success stories there in the second round – linebacker Jaylon Smith (34th), tight end Hunter Henry (35th), linebacker Myles Jack (36th), defensive tackle Chris Jones (37th), cornerback Xavier Howard (38th) and running back Derrick Henry (45th). Hunter Henry, Derrick Henry and Jones were all franchised this year. You can’t say that for any of the players taken by teams who stayed with their picks in the final 12 picks in the first round that year.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton on Twitter.

More Seahawks draft coverage

Hawks Mock Draft: What if top RB D’Andre Swift is still available at 27?
Will the Seahawks trade down? Draft expert Tony Pauline thinks so
• Moore: Seahawks should draft Jalen Hurts to back up Russell Wilson
• What can the Seahawks do in the draft to maximize Wilson’s talent?
• Seahawks Draft: What do you want them to do and what they do need?

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