Seattle Seahawks’ Feeling a draft

The Seahawks could “cost” themselves about 10 spots in the draft by winning Sunday’s regular-season finale, which would put Seattle in the playoffs but also mean it could choose no better than No. 21 overall in the first round. Right now, only 10 teams have a worse record than the Seahawks.

But the whole idea of “costing” yourself draft position is a peculiar notion. After all, playing in the Super Bowl “costs” you draft position, but no one with the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals was complaining about holding the second-to-last choice of the first round after playing in the Super Bowl.

Sunday’s game isn’t an accounting exercise to determine whether this season will be written down as 4-12 or 5-11 in the team yearbook. It’s for a playoff berth.

But still, is there something to this idea that a team is better off in the long run getting better draft position, presumably getting to choose better players. Does it pay dividends down the road?

I spent entirely too much time looking at that today after tracking down — through the league — the original draft order from the previous 10 seasons. Why 10? Well, that’s what the league had available.

We don’t include how the teams that held picks in the 2010 draft fare because the season isn’t over. The sample size is too small to draw sweeping conclusions, but it is interesting to look at how the teams that held the No. 21 draft choice originally fared in the subsequent season vs. those that held the No. 11, No. 12, No. 13 and No. 14 picks.

Wins that year Wins next year
Team drafted No. 21 9.4 9.9
Team drafted No. 11 6.6 8.3
Team drafted No. 12 6.9 7.8
Team drafted No. 13 7.2 6.1
Team drafted No. 14 7.5 7.8

Now, those averages are based on the team that originally held the pick, which is to say owned that pick strictly based on finish and not reflective of trades that were made previous to that season or subsequently. So it’s not who used the pick, but who originally owned the pick.

And I can’t say I’m terribly surprised to see that the teams that drafted No. 21 fared significantly better in the following year — on average — than those teams that picked earlier in the first round.

But that’s also a pretty narrow margin to evaluate upon, isn’t it? I mean, we’re not talking about a one or two-year window here with Pete Carroll in Seattle. We’re talking about a multi-year administration here, and besides, it takes more than one year to evaluate the returns on a draft choice. It should take three, right? So let’s broaden the time frame and look at how those same teams fared in the second and third years after the draft.

Wins that year Wins next year 2 years later 3 years later
Team drafted No. 21 9.4 9.9 7.9 8.6
Team drafted No. 11 6.6 8.3 7.9 9.6
Team drafted No. 12 6.9 7.8 6.4 7.8
Team drafted No. 13 7.2 6.1 6.4 7.4
Team drafted No. 14 7.5 7.8 9.2 7.6

The results aren’t entirely shocking. Those teams that had better first-round picks tended to show an upward trend two and three years later while those teams that chose No. 21 on average performed worse two years after holding that pick.

And taken on a broader scale, those teams that held the No. 11 pick in the draft averaged 8.6 wins over the three years that followed that selection. What did those teams that held the No. 21 pick average in the three years following the selection: 8.6.