The Seahawks and niche drafting

By Jared Stanger

Over the last 4-5 years that I’ve been studying the Seahawks and their draft practices, I’ve sort of had this subconscious sense that they tend to draft towards the positional strengths, or niches, of each draft season. Today I thought I would try to lay that out as a more fully-formed presentation. We will go year by year since the Pete Carroll and John Schneider regime have been in town, and we’ll look at how the draft classes look in hindsight nationally, and how Seattle played along with those classes. The theory is that Seattle will draft from each year’s position(s) of greatest talent/depth in the top 2 rounds.

2010

37 Pro Bowlers – 1 OC, 3 CB’s, 4 DE’s, 3 DT’s, 1 OG, 3 LB’s, 3 OT’s, 0 QB, 3 RB’s, 6 Safety, 4 TE’s, 6 WR’s.

So hindsight tells us 2010 had greatest volume of high-end talent at Safety and Wide Receiver. Seattle’s 1st and 2nd round picks that year: OT, FS, WR. Seattle actually double-dipped at Safety that year, drafting both Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.This may also be a thing.

And, though 2010 didn’t produce the top number of pro bowl talent at Tackle, the three named-Pro Bowlers (Trent Williams, Russell Okung, Zane Beadles) were also joined by the likes of Anthony Davis, Bryan Bulaga, Jared Veldheer, and J’Marcus Webb.

2011

26 Pro Bowlers – 2 OC’s, 2 CB’s, 8 DE’s, 2 DT’s, 0 LB’s, 0 OG, 1 OT, 3 QB’s, 2 RB’s, 0 Safety, 3 TE’s, 3 WR’s.

This is the lone outlier year where Seattle seemed to not follow strategy, and instead drafted hard for NEED. They didn’t make a 2nd round pick, so the only player that fell within 1st-2nd was James Carpenter. Had Seattle followed strategy, the pick at #25 should have been DE Muhammad Wilkerson.

2012

20 Pro Bowlers – 0 OC, 1 CB, 1 DE, 2 DT’s, 1 OG, 3 LB’s, 1 OT, 4 QB’s, 2 RB’s, 2 Safeties, 0 TE, 2 WR’s.

Obviously, this was the best QB year of the last decade, probably, and Seattle considered taking Russell Wilson in the 2nd round, but instead played long-game, took their LB (from the second-strongest position group), and then came around and got QB in the 3rd.

As for Seattle’s first round pick…it was DE Bruce Irvin, and though the DE’s from 2012 haven’t contributed at Pro Bowl level in numbers, the class did yield five 1st-rounders, and names like: Irvin, Chandler Jones, Whitney Mercilus, Vinny Curry, Olivier Vernon, Malik Jackson.

Even though outcome hasn’t been what was expected of the DE class, it was still a class at the time that was believed to be very good.

2012 also marked two more instances of Seattle double-dipping in the deep position groups: 2 DE in Irvin and Scruggs, and 2 LB in Wagner and Toomer.

2013

16 Pro Bowlers – 1 OC, 2 CB’s, 1 DE, 2 DT’s, 1 OG, 1 LB, 0 OT, 0 QB, 3 RB’s, 1 Safety, 2 TE’s, 2 WR’s.

Let us first acknowledge that 2013 was the worst draft we’ve seen in 10 years. Across the board.

This was a year that Seattle traded away their 1st round pick. We now can safely assume to know why: Why bother with this dreck?

So what did Seattle do with their 2nd rounder? RB Christine Michael. AND…Seattle double-dipped at RB, picking Spencer Ware in the 6th round. Fourth instance of double-dipping in four years.

2014

13 Pro Bowlers – 1 CB, 2 DE’s, 1 DT, 2 OG’s, 1 LB, 2 QB’s, 1 RB, 3 WR’s.

Many believe that it takes three years as pro’s to really have a sense of a draft class, so this is the point where the data is probably too thin to rely on. We’re kind of basing the next few years on pre-draft reputation.

Again, no 1st rounder for Seattle. But the earlier 2nd rounder went to WR Paul Richardson. And the double-dip went to Kevin Norwood (5th time).

I’m not sure how to interpret the data for the other 2014 2nd rounder; Justin Britt. He’s now on his 3rd position. If we consider him among the OT (his rookie position), it wasn’t a deep group. If we consider him at OG, he’d be with Zack Martin and Trai Turner. If we consider him at OC, he’d be with Weston Richburg, Travis Swanson, Bryan Stork, Russell Bodine.

If we consider Britt at OT, then we find another double-dip (Garrett Scott in the 6th).

2015

We can really only go on reputation for this year, but it was supposed to be a very good year for DE’s: Dante Fowler, Arik Armstead, Shane Ray, Preston Smith, Danielle Hunter, Vic Beasley, Bud Dupree, Hau’oli Kikaha, Randy Gregory, etc.

A third consecutive year for Seattle to pass on drafting in the 1st round, but they take DE Frank Clark with their 2nd round choice. And they double-dipped with DE Obum Gwacham in the 6th round.

2016

The biggest buzz all of the 2015 college season was how good and crazy-deep the 2016 class of Defensive Tackles would be. It’s entirely too early, and many of the 2016 DT have been hurt, but Seattle did draft Jarran Reed in the 2nd round, and then double-dipped with Quinton Jefferson in the 5th.

As for the 2016 Seattle 1st rounder…I’m, again, not sure how to classify him. Drafted as an OT, installed as the immediate starter at RG, but consistently mentioned as a future RT; what do we consider him for this exercise?

I tend to lean toward calling him a Tackle a) because that is the reported plan for him, b) it would help Seattle’s 2017 draft to move Ifedi to RT, c) it furthers my theory for this article (wink).

If Ifedi is an OT, he joins the ranks of Ronnie Stanley, Jack Conklin, Laremy Tunsil, and Taylor Decker…all of whom have seemed to show well so far as rookies. (I don’t think, however, I can get away with claiming an OT double-dip for Rees Odhiambo. I expect he will primarily play OG as a pro.)

2017

So what does this mean moving forward? If the theory holds, and if my sense of the 2017 draft class is tracking correctly, I would guess the first 2 rounds would go: DE then RB.

RB will probably be the deeper of the two groups, but I think it’s the position less prioritized in drafts league-wide; so you can push it to the 2nd (much like in 2016 when OL was prioritized over the more-fungible DT).

The wildcard this year, however, is that I’m starting to sense the 2017 CB class might be pretty special, too. That would raise a question: which of Seattle’s demonstrated draft patterns (not drafting a CB before the 4th round, or drafting along with positional depth in the top two rounds) would win out in that case?

We’ll find out in April.

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3 thoughts on “The Seahawks and niche drafting

  1. Interesting pattern.

    Also worth noting that Seattle tends to alternate when they double dip. If that also holds true, then it seems unlikely that we’ll double dip at RB, when we triple dipped just this past year.

    If anything, I’d expect them to reward Michael in a similar fashion to how they’ve retained in house guys like Lane, Shead and Wright. Seattle is pretty good at keeping their guys with ‘dog’ in them. And naturally the storyline of Michael making good on his career would be a good example for the development guys down on the roster currently. I get the sense that Seattle really regretted being in a position to lose Tate who was a similar kind of Seahawk. And we’ve seen how they keep guys like Baldwin/Kearse/Lane/Shead etc. in the fold. I think Michael firmly fits in that niche right now based on how effusive Carroll is every time he talks about Michael.

    Keeping Michael at what should be a fairly efficient contract (if we expect the market for vet RBs to be cool based on positional draft strength), alleviates the need to address RB in the draft and allows for us to take advantage of positional strength at DB.

    I’d expect us to go DE/CB in this draft and try to in that order and reward Michael for his efforts. Double dipping on either or both. It’s been a couple years since we double dipped at DE and DB — outside of late round/UDFA projects. And we do need to buttress the succession plan for Avril and Bennett who are on the wrong side of 30 right now.

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  2. The Seahawks traded their 2017 Rd. 4 pick as part of the Quinton Jefferson deal with the Patriots. They were also stripped of their Rd. 5 pick for OTA violations. They do get Carolina’s Rd. 7 in recompense for Kevin Norwood. Additionally, they may lose their Rd. 7 pick to the Raiders based on their Dewey McDonald deal. That leaves the team with:
    Rd. 1
    Rd. 2
    Rd. 3
    Rd. 6
    Rd. 7
    Rd. 7 (maybe?)

    To me, this is insufficient volume based on past history. Considering Schneider’s proclivity for trading out of Rd. 1, I expect to see this happen again this year. As such, other than Mixon and Chubb, are there any game-changing, high-upside talents that you think will likely be available mid-late Rd. 2?

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