First round shows why Seahawks traded for Jimmy Graham

Apr 30, 2015, 10:47 PM | Updated: Apr 8, 2016, 10:50 am
The first round of the draft supported the Seahawks' belief that they wouldn't have been able to get a player of Jimmy Graham's caliber with the 31st pick. (AP)

RENTON – Midway through the first round of the NFL Draft, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll poked his head inside the media workroom at the team’s headquarters at cracked a joke.

“Don’t tell anyone but we’re taking a tight end,” he said.

Seahawks 2015 NFL Draft section

Of course, that “selection” was made more than a month ago when Seattle used its first-round pick as part of a package to acquire Jimmy Graham from the Saints. That made for an uneventful Thursday night for the Seahawks, who were relegated to spectators with no realistic chance at moving back into the first round. Not that anyone in their draft room minded all that much considering both the player they already acquired in Graham and the difficulty they would have had finding anything close to him had they kept the 31st overall pick instead.

That’s not to say that trading for Graham was without its drawbacks. At 28 years old, he has a shorter remaining shelf life in the NFL than a rookie in his early-20s. He’s also significantly more expensive, set to make an average of $9 million over the remaining three years of his contract. And acquiring Graham meant parting with Max Unger, a Pro Bowl center.

But unlike any of the players the Seahawks could have chosen had they kept that first-round pick, Graham is a proven commodity. He’s a 6-foot-7 matchup nightmare who has scored 51 touchdowns in five NFL seasons and figures to help the Seahawks’ red-zone offense, their third-down efficiency and in theory their running game, too.

“We didn’t feel like we’d be able to get a player of Jimmy’s caliber with the 31st pick,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said last week.

It’s easy to see why based on what happened Thursday night. Six wide receivers came off the board in the first round, meaning the pickings might have been slim for the Seahawks had they set their sights on an offensive playmaker. No tight end was chosen, supporting the widespread belief that this year’s draft is particularly weak at that position.

The Seahawks’ assessment of the available options in the draft heavily influenced their decision to trade for Graham, just like it did two years ago when they made a blockbuster deal for Percy Harvin after concluding they couldn’t get a receiver as explosive and versatile with the 25th pick. The strength – or lack thereof – of each position group in each draft was a major factor in both instances.

“It’s 80-90 percent of it,” Schneider said. “It’s enormous.”

And even if trading back into the first round had some appeal to Seattle, it was likely out of the question given what would have been an exorbitant cost to move up from No. 63.

So instead, the Seahawks were content to sit back and watch Thursday night knowing they have a league-high 11 selections over the final two days of the draft not to mention one awfully good tight end.

2015 NFL Draft

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First round shows why Seahawks traded for Jimmy Graham