John Schneider must acquire more picks (insert your own caveat), so kiss that second-rounder goodbye
Scroll up. A very pretty picture awaits. It was chosen intentionally. Stare at it until it stares back at you.
In the photo, picks 47, 64 and 75 from their respective drafts congratulate one another on some random job well done, though frankly they should be accustomed to positive results, shouldn’t they? After all, we’re looking at two future Hall of Famers and
a pretty decent quarterback the most exciting young receiver in the game.
With pick 56 in this year’s draft, John Schneider can be counted on to hit something between a double and a home run. I’ve taken the liberty to rank the 12 selections he’s made between 2.45 and 3.75, a rather narrow one-round range, by impact they’ve had here and elsewhere. (Note: I excluded the 2020 picks because it’s only been one season, gosh.)
Go up and down the list, and tell me if you don’t see six stars, three pretty valuable starters, and three questionable selections, depending on how you feel about C-Mike’s stay, Moffitt’s longevity or lack thereof, and Blair’s future.
When granted a pick in his sweet spot, Schneider is the best drafting GM in the business. Nobody finds value at the end of the second and top of the third quite like him. Frank Clark, a premier edge rusher, is maybe the sixth-best selection he’s made between 45 and 75. That’s insane. DK Metcalf’s the fourth. Preposterous. Schneider has nine hits in 12 swings, many for extra bases.
So what’s the hang-up? Make the pick this Friday, acquire the probable star, pass elbow bumps all around the draft room, call the lucky rookie, have the press conference, let Pete Carroll take his shirt off once or twice, smile, profit. Well, the problem is Schneider can’t responsibly use 2.56 on a single player this year, and when the Seahawks complete their trade-down(s) on Friday, the 45-75 sweet spot will shrink, and maybe vanish altogether. Yes, I said when and not if. No, I have watched this team draft before.
It’s several degrees of foolish to predict “THE SEAHAWKS WILL DO X” before a draft. Yogi Berra, and life experience, would counsel us to wait until after the draft’s conclusion to make any predictions. Usually. 2021’s different, though. This time, Seattle’s front office has boxed itself into a draft corner quite unlike any other, quite outside of its usual comfort zone, and in quite stark conflict with responsible stewardship of the future. Three pedestrian draft picks sit in the holster:
Going from the draft value chart over at pro football reference dot com, which is based on the fabled Jimmy Johnson chart, it becomes swiftly and abundantly clear the only way to acquire any decent picks at all is to deal 2.56 to a team willing to jump up. Why? Because a) 7.250 can’t really be traded down from and b) 4.129 is only worth 43 points. That’s enough to net roughly a late fifth and a late sixth. Not exactly a bonanza.
If the Seahawks choose to sit on their second-rounder, they’ll be stuck on four or five picks, max, unless they choose to dip into 2022 capital. And next year’s draft doesn’t even have a first-rounder in it, due to the awesome-gruesome Jamal Adams trade. Do they really want to go into 2022 without a first OR a second? Chalk one up in the hypothetical yikes column.
OK, so what does 2.56 get you? Dropping to 3.66 nets 70 chart points gained, or the equivalent of a mid-fourth. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but still only gets you to a 3/4/4/7 portfolio. Make another trade with one of the fourths and now the draft fills out a little more evenly with 3/4/5/6/7. That’s correct. It takes trading back a ways from the second rounder and the fourth rounder just to reach five picks, which would still be by far the smallest draft class of Schneider’s tenure. More on that in a sec.
Here’s how comfortable I am with the prediction they’ll trade down.
If the Seahawks make their pick at 2.56 I’ll post a video of me eating a stick of butter
— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) April 26, 2021
Good thing I won’t have to. Instead I’ll spend my worries on how the lack of capital could push Schneider out of his wheelhouse and into the 76-106 range, where his track record is… not the same.
Shaquill Griffin and K.J. Wright were plucked there, but they’re flanked by Cody Barton, Rasheem Green, Lano Hill, Nazair Jones, Amara Darboh, C.J. Prosise, Nick Vannett, Rees Odhiambo, Jordan Hill and Robert Turbin. It’s not the same quality list as above, to say the very least.
I submit to you: the Seahawks are going to trade back three times this weekend, more if the phones and the partners allow, because coming away with only five drafted rookies is irresponsible. You’d like to have youth injected into the squad every spring. Only this spring you need it more than ever. Carroll and Schneider can’t afford to settle for a small draft class — it would not only jeopardize the immediate season, but would also complicate the task of adequately developing players in advance for 2022 to replace Duane Brown, Bobby Wagner, plus whichever cornerbacks play themselves off the team.
What about using the UDFA process as an extension of the draft, you’ll ask? And let me say, as Marshawn would, thanks for asking, because the query shows shrewdness. The Seattle front office has spent a decade cultivating a culture that values the undrafted, that gives overlooked and hungry players a real chance to compete immediately. With success stories like Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Jeron Johnson, Ricardo Lockette, and DeShawn Shead, it makes a ton of sense to lean on UDFAs this year more than most. If there was ever a year for our favorite franchise’s reputation to bear fruit, this would be it, when you’ve built the brand already and a pandemic spent the last year ravaging college football and thus launching even more uncertainty into the draft.
Only… you can’t count on getting all the people you want in undrafted free agency, since you’re fighting 31 other teams for the rights. It’s much safer to stockpile seventh-rounders and use them like early UDFA selections. I’d be much more excited about Seattle flipping a newly acquired fifth round asset for a sixth and two sevenths (yes, it works on the JJ chart) than anything they attempt to do in the post-draft chaos. Bryon Maxwell and Jeremy Lane were sixth-rounders; Malcolm Smith and Chris Carson were found in the seventh.
The last piece of my argument has to do with volume. Under the current administration, the Seahawks have never — never! — exited a draft with fewer than eight selections. They’ve entered with as few as four (2019) but they’ve always prized sheer numbers. More darts on the dartboard, the saying goes. There’s a track record here, and to see Schneider deviate from it by going home with only four or five players would be far more surprising than a single weird-ass pick. Which they’ll still manage to do, of course.
Not sure how much more needs to be said when after 11 drafts, the process always yields between eight and 11 new Seahawks. Always. Could that change this year? Sure. But not to the tune of a half-size draft class. That just sounds so… unlikely.
Unlikely is a synonym for “count on it,” in Seahawkese, isn’t it? Every time we (and I do mean the larger blogger-journalist-commentator-fan “we”) dictate the Seahawks must make a specific draft-day decision, it’s almost like they take it upon themselves to zag in the other direction. Out of spite as much as good sense.
But it’s just so damned hard to see how anything but a trade back at 2.56 works to replenish a roster that still contains far too many unknowns, both in the long term and the short. Just make sure, Johnny Schneids, you don’t drop so far you miss the next star.