Seattle Seahawks Draft Preview: The Case for Trading Down

Feb 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Ah, the NFL draft. You know a league is popular when their draft has a level of hype that rivals the championship game. Our beloved Seattle Seahawks do have a first-round pick this year (for now), but is that the key to their future success? Not necessarily.

At the moment, the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles are receiving most of the media attention because they are rolling the dice on a couple of unproven college quarterbacks that will hopefully be more Aaron Rodgers than Ryan Leaf. Why is the draft so popular? It is because the draft is much like the old Wide World of Sports tagline. Thrill of victory, agony of defeat.

There are plenty of people who work for football franchises, television networks, media outlets and a bevy of websites. All of them have opinions on who will succeed in the NFL. None of them really know. Much like the weather, we accept a level of failure when it comes to draft analysis. Some of these players look amazing on (college) film. When some of them step onto the NFL field, the decline begins almost immediately. It is a head-scratching reality, which is why executives in draft war rooms probably waffle between confidence and sheer terror on draft day.

Teams are best served by stockpiling options.

Want some examples? Tom Brady has remained the poster boy for draft miscues, having been drafted in the sixth round and then going on to be one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time. Fans of the Seahawks are hoping that Russell Wilson will eventually have similar accomplishments, and continue the argument that the draft ultimately boils down to guessing.

On the other end of the spectrum are the names that represent draft busts. I mentioned Mr. Leaf. You can also add JaMarcus Russell, Tony Mandarich, Tim Couch, Akili Smith and our very own Rick Mirer, Dan McGwire and Brian Bosworth. Sorry to bring up those names. It is draft season, after all.

So did the Rams and Eagles make the right decision when they gave up a huge package of picks to move up into the top two spots? Only time will tell, but Seahawks fans can celebrate the fact that Seattle is not in a position where they have to take that kind of risk. The Seahawks have certainly gambled in the past, but in the last few years you could argue that they built a team by patiently scouting and looking for value up and down the draft. You need a good quarterback in the NFL, but putting all your picks into one selection has not always proven to be the best strategy.

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Let me suggest that in today’s NFL, teams are best served by stockpiling options. You can watch college film for hours, analyze guys in spandex run through cones and ask a bevy of probing interview questions. All of that data helps, but in the end you just don’t know how they are going to perform until they get on the field.

I’ll sum up with a theory that when it comes to the NFL draft, you want to have as many picks as possible. Certainly there are marquee college players who are definitively better athletes than others. These are the people that are drafted in the higher rounds and they cannot be ignored. However, if you have some time on your hands, look through the Seahawks roster and see where some of these guys were drafted. There are a lot of late-round picks that are stars on this team, included a few players that went undrafted.

The reason that multiple picks are helpful goes back to the reality that you just don’t know what you have until you get some of these guys into camp and onto an NFL field in preseason. Only then can you see whether their strength, speed and personality will translate to the rigors of the National Football League. Unfortunately, by the time some teams figure this out, it is too late to go back.

High draft picks in the first round are fun, and generate a ton of speculation. However, the Seahawks have shown that you can build a championship-caliber team with a lot of picks from the second day of the draft. That pair of fifth-round picks from Stanford and Virginia Tech may not make for exciting television, but aren’t you glad the ‘Hawks grabbed Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in consecutive years? Your starting running back (Thomas Rawls) went undrafted, as did your most reliable receiver in Doug Baldwin.

If the Seahawks start trading down again this year, don’t be bummed. Think of it like raffle tickets. The more tickets you have, the greater chance that you are eventually going to win something.