In some ways, Seahawks general manager John Schneider is a victim of his own early success. The Seahawks drafted so well in their first three years under Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll that it's hard not to notice that their more recent draft classes haven't lived up to the lofty standards of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 classes.
"How come that doesn't happen anymore?" Schneider joked when asked about the number of Pro Bowlers selected in his first three drafts. "What's your problem, dude?"
In those three drafts, the Seahawks acquired eight players who would go on to earn at least one Pro Bowl nod—Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate and Kam Chancellor in 2010, Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright in 2011, and Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in 2012—with Thomas, Sherman and Wagner all also earning multiple first-team All-Pro selections. The Seahawks also added another Pro Bowler, Doug Baldwin, as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011.
Mix those players in with numerous other starters and you have a three-year run of draft success that was going to be pretty impossible for Schneider, or any other general manager for that matter, to match over the next three years. The Washington Post recently posted a study ranking teams' draft success relative to the draft capital they had in a particular draft, using Approximate Value (AV), a stat created by the website Pro Football Reference to measure how well an individual player performed in a given season. And according to that study, the Seahawks' 2012 draft was ranked as the best in the league over the past 20 years relative to expected value of their picks. Seattle's 2011 draft was the fourth best on the list.
There are plenty of reasons the Seahawks haven't landed as many star-caliber players in recent drafts as they did those first three years. Most notably, their early success acquiring talent in the draft, trades and free agency made it a lot harder for new draft picks to make the team, let alone earn starting roles. That depth culminated in the Super Bowl-winning 2013 season when 23 different players in Seattle's training camp ended up on other teams' 53-man rosters during the regular season, a list that doesn't include a three-time Pro Bowler, Antoine Winfield, who retired before the start of the season. Seattle's success also has meant picking at or near the end of each round dating back to 2013, and they also traded their first-round picks in 2013 and 2015 to acquire Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham. Despite all of those explanations, Schneider doesn't think he and his scouting department are held to an unreasonable standard by those who want every draft to be like the ones that occurred early in his tenure here.
"No, I think it's truly a reflection of the self-scouting—what mistakes have you made?" Schneider said. "And also, you know, we've really, Dan Morgan and his staff on the pro side have done a great job of bringing in practice squad guys, waiver claims, we've traded for a couple guys, anybody we could possibly get in the mix. I think our level of competition has been raised, and also I think—I forget what year it was but I think we had like (23) guys that were in our camp that played for other people—so it's been hard for guys to make this team. I'm not making an excuse. I think there's a part of that that's reality combined with, 'OK, what was it at this player's core that we weren't real correct on?'"
And it's worth noting that Seattle's recent drafts have hardly been disasters. Yes, only Luke Willson remains from the 2013 draft, but the past four years have shown that to have been a subpar draft league-wide. Paul Richardson, Seattle's top pick in 2014, had something of a breakout finish to last season and seems poised to have a big role this year, while fellow second-rounder Justin Britt was a Pro Bowl alternate last season in his first year at center. Cassius Marsh and Kevin Pierre-Louis also remain from that team and are key special teams players, with Marsh also having a big role in the defensive line rotation last year. The 2015 draft landed the Seahawks an All-Pro return man and starting-caliber receiver in Tyler Lockett, as well as Frank Clark, who had 10 sacks last year. Mark Glowinski, a fourth-round pick, was the starter at left guard last season. It's too soon to make judgements on the 2016 draft, but already Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed have emerged as starters and C.J. Prosise, when healthy last year, looked like a dynamic offensive weapon.
Much of the Seahawks' process for evaluating college talent is the same as it was in those early years, but Schneider and company also know that they need to learn every year from both their failures and their successes, with the hope being that those lessons can help the Seahawks land another star-studded draft class in 2017.
"I think we've changed every year because we self-scout and the way we look at the previous drafts, what's worked, what hasn't worked," Schneider said. "The process has always been the same in terms of the steps along the way, which starts last spring. Our guys are going to be going to meetings here in three weeks for next year's class. The process going all the way through the fall, the all-star game process, the combine, all the interviews, our pre-combine meetings, and then bringing the coaches in too. It's a lot that we put on the coaches right at the end of a long season. We just finished with the coaches this weekend. But making sure you're still using all the tools at your disposal, all the different psychological tests, all the people that have different backgrounds, the different coaches. Yeah, and then at the end of the day getting with Pete in there and having the two of us go through it to make sure we're all set for a smooth process once the weekend starts."
For more on where the Seahawks stand at each position, as well as a look at some of the top prospects at every position, check out our position-by-position draft preview at Seahawks.com:
- Draft Preview: Will The Seahawks Draft an Offensive Lineman Early Again?
- Draft Preview: Could The Seahawks Add More Defensive Line Depth?
- Draft Preview: Do the Seahawks Need More Depth at Receiver?
- Draft Preview: Is This The Year The Seahawks Select A Cornerback Early?
- Draft Preview: Are the Seahawks Set at Tight End?
- Draft Preview: Will the Seahawks Look to Upgrade Their Safety Depth?
- Draft Preview: Is Running Back A Need For The Seahawks After Signing Eddie Lacy?
- Draft Preview: Are the Seahawks Done Adding Linebacker Depth?
- Draft Preview: Is This The Year The Seahawks Finally Draft Another Quarterback?