Again not picking in first round shows Seahawks’ draft confidence

May 1, 2015, 6:40 AM | Updated: Apr 8, 2016, 10:50 am
Confidence in their ability to find good players later in the draft allowed the Seahawks to trade a...
Confidence in their ability to find good players later in the draft allowed the Seahawks to trade away their first-round pick for the third straight year. (AP)
(AP)

The Seahawks’ confidence in their draft proficiency is what enabled them to trade away a first-round pick for a veteran Pro Bowler.

That sounds like a contradiction, right? So does the fact that a team that values the draft as much as Seattle does would choose to trade away its first-round pick for a third consecutive year.

Seahawks 2015 NFL Draft section

Yet no team has gotten more out of the draft in the past five years than Seattle, and the reason for that is tied to the rationale that led the Seahawks to trade away their first-round pick and center Max Unger for tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round choice.

Seattle is not afraid of moving down. The Seahawks embrace it, they seek it out even, and that’s not because they fear those early selections won’t pan out but rather they believe so strongly that they’ll make the most of those later-round picks.

Moving down will cost you good players. General manager John Schneider admitted that bluntly when discussing his strategy the year he arrived in Seattle. But the belief is that getting more picks later will result not only in a deeper roster, but more chances for the team’s acumen in identifying players to net more future contributors.

The easy explanation for Seattle’s trade of this year’s first-round pick is to say that Graham is better than any player the Seahawks would have chosen No. 31 overall. And that’s true. There wasn’t a tight end chosen in the first round of the draft – the first time that has happened in three years – and the Seahawks acquired a Pro Bowler at that position who is 6 feet 7, has caught more than 80 passes in four successive seasons and averaged more than 10 touchdowns in that time.

But giving up a first-round pick for a player who’ll turn 29 this season and is making $8 million is generally the action of a team seeking to win now, not one with an eye toward replenishing its cupboard with the one endlessly renewable resource the NFL affords. That would be the draft, and the Seahawks not only traded away their most significant chip in that annual job fair, they did it for the third successive year.

That has never happened in franchise history. In fact, the Seahawks had never gone back-to-back years without a first-round pick until they traded their first choice in 2013 as part of the package to acquire Percy Harvin and then traded back from the No. 32 overall pick into the second round last year, choosing Paul Richardson.

Seattle is the first NFL team to go three straight years without a first-round selection since the Chargers did it from 1994 to 1997.

The only reason the Seahawks felt confident in doing that is the belief that they can continue restocking their roster with later choices. It’s a confidence earned in drafts that have seen Seattle find Pro Bowl defensive backs in the fifth round like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor and a starting guard in the seventh by converting defensive lineman J.R. Sweezy.

No team will wait longer to pick than the Seahawks this year, scheduled to choose No. 63. No team will have more choices than the Seahawks, who hold 11. So while Seattle bided its time on Thursday, sitting out the first round for a third successive year, it’s not because the Seahawks don’t value the draft. The fact they value their later picks so much that they felt comfortable trading away the first-round pick for a game-changing player like Graham.

He is better than anyone Seattle could have chosen with the 31st overall choice on Thursday, but it was only because of the Seahawks’ belief that they will still find capable players – stars even – in those later rounds that allowed them to trade their first-round pick for a third successive year.

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