Brock and Salk: How far have the Seahawks’ drafts fallen off since 2012?
The Seahawks accumulated an unprecedented amount of talent in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 NFL Drafts, the first three drafts under general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll. In those drafts, the Seahawks drafted potential Hall of Famers like Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, and laid the foundation for a team that would make two straight Super Bowls.
But since those two drafts, the “hits” have been more rare and the team hasn’t reached the Super Bowl or even NFC Championship since 2014.
How much have the Seahawks’ drafts fallen off since those three great classes and why has that been the case? Brock Huard shared some research he did on that matter in the latest Brock and Salk Podcast.
In the last edition of the podcast, NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah said that a team’s goal in a draft should be to get three starters and that one of them should, ideally, be a “blue chip” guy, or someone who is a perennial Pro Bowl candidate.
That was certainly the case in the first three drafts under Carroll and Schneider.
In 2010, “Five starters and three blue chippers. I put (safety Kam Chancellor), (safety Earl Thomas) and (left tackle) Russell Okung as blue chippers,” Huard said.
Huard said that 2011 had five starters and two blue chips, with the “blue chips” being cornerback Richard Sherman and linebacker K.J. Wright.
Then, 2012 happened, which was the key class for Seattle’s run of success.
“2012, arguably the best draft in the history of the Seattle Seahawks, had six starters in that draft, including (linebacker Bobby Wagner) and Russell, two of the greatest to play in the history of your organization,” Huard said. “… I mean that is a remarkable, remarkable draft. I think easily you could argue the best (draft) in the history of the Seahawks and you couldn’t even debate it.”
But since then? Not as great.
“(2013) was rough, you found one starter. (2014) you found two starters … 2015, I found at least three starters and one blue chip – (defensive end Frank Clark), (receiver Tyler Lockett) and (guard Mark Glowinski), who has become a starter and (got) a second contract in (Indianapolis),” Huard said.
Just how different has the success rate been through 2018? (Huard says it’s too early to compare the 2019 class with 2010-2018).
“On average, 2010, 2011, 2012, those three drafts, you found 5.3 starters and 2.3 blue chippers per draft,” Huard said. …”(From 2013 to 2018) you averaged 2.6 starters and 0.33 blue chippers.”
Co-host Mike Salk said Seattle’s poor drafting is the key problem to the team not being able to get over the hump in recent years, rather than Wilson not throwing the ball more, which some argue is the case.
“What it says to me for all of this conversation of ‘let Russ cook’ … that’s not the problem,” he said. “The problem is you don’t have enough talent … At the beginning, you were getting starters and superstar players in the draft and now you’re not. It has nothing to do with if Russ needs to pass more, it has nothing to do with if they hand the ball off too much or if they’re playing too much base defense. They don’t have enough talent. They used to get dominating talent and now they don’t.”
Seattle is known as a run-first team because that’s what Carroll wants to do, and Salk thinks that likely will be the case going forward.
“I don’t believe the answer to drafting poorly is to then do something else that is outside your comfort zone.”
The big question: Why has this dropoff happened?
So, we’ve seen that the drafts haven’t been as successful since 2012, but why is that the case? Huard said there are a few cases that could be made.
“I think a Seahawk perspective would say ‘well, the team, with all those stars, it became so hard to make (the roster),'” he said. “And you add in Marshawn (Lynch) and (Michael) Bennett and (Cliff) Avril, trades and the other acquisitions than the draft, this other acquisition phase of the team build, it was just so much harder to make this team than it was (between 2010 and 2012).”
Another argument could be the team’s draft strategy and philosophy.
“That we’re going to use this acquisition phase of the draft and we’re going to take more risks,” Huard said. “We’re going to take (running back) Christine Michael (in 2013) … We’re going to take more risks and boom or busts. And we know a 13 class may happen where none of them ever pan into much except (tight end) Luke Willson. But we’re going to be able to take that risk because of the foundation that was laid with the roster (beforehand).”
Salk brought up another potential argument, which is that Carroll, who coached college ball at USC until 2009 before joining the Seahawks, isn’t as in tune with college players anymore, though he isn’t sure if that’s the case.
“Do you remember when Pete came into the league and everyone said ‘Pete knows all the players from his time in college and that’s why the Seahawks are hitting on all of these drafts.’ That is the nightmare scenario,” he said. “I don’t know that that one is true. Do you think Pete knew Kam Chancellor was going to be a great player? I don’t know. If they did, they wouldn’t have drafted him in the fifth round. And it was John who had to convince Pete on Russell Wilson. Some of the best picks from the early part of that time, I think you’d give a lot more credit to John and the scouting department than you would to Pete … (But) I don’t believe they were successful then and aren’t successful now because of (Pete’s college ties).”
Why are 2017 and 2019 so important?
If there’s one recent draft that stands out negatively, Salk says it’s 2017’s class.
“It’s the 2017 draft that is the problem. And oddly, you did get two starters out of that draft … that’s the draft that gets you Shaquill Griffin and Chris Carson, but it’s also the (Malik) McDowell, (Ethan) Pocic, (Lano) Hill, Naz Jones, Amarah Darboh, Tedric Thompson, Mike Tyson draft.”
Griffin was a Pro Bowler last year at cornerback and Carson has two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, but only Hill and Pocic remain on the roster, and those are in reserve roles.
That year, Seattle chose not only a player in McDowell who got injured in an ATV accident and never played an NFL down, but four players in the secondary. That was because Thomas and Sherman were approaching the end of their contracts and Chancellor had lengthy injury history and ultimately retired after 2017 due to a neck injury. Salk says that was a huge miss that the team is still recovering from.
“You tried to remake your secondary. It wasn’t boom or bust. You were trying to remake your secondary and went all in on the 2017 draft and picked four guys in your secondary to replace the three Hall of Famers and one other really good player (Byron Maxwell) that were all departing and instead, you ended up with one good player and three complete busts,” he said.
While Huard didn’t want to compare the 2019 class to the first nine draft classes Schneider and Carroll put together, he thinks the class needs to step up as soon as this upcoming season to help alleviate just how poor the 2017 class ended up being.
“(Nickel cornerback) Ugo Amadi has to become a starter. (Guard) Phil Haynes, you kind of forget about him, he should become a starter,” Huard said. “… (Safety) Marquise Blair has got to become a starter. (Receiver DK Metcalf) has got to continue this route to becoming a blue chipper and one of the best (receivers) in the game, and I didn’t even account for the first-round pick (defensive end L.J. Collier), but if he turns into a starter, now you’re looking at five starters and a blue chipper and this is the class. That is the group right there – and I didn’t count (linebacker) Cody Barton and he could become a starter as well – but that’s the group to me that if 2017 just sucked the oxygen out of your lungs, this 2019 crew has got to be the one to fill it back up.”
Listen to the full Brock and Salk Podcast at this link or in the player below.