Pop quiz: How many players from last year’s Super Bowl winning Seattle squad were on the Seahawks roster before Pate Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010?
Four. Just four players from last year’s team were holdovers from the previous regime. Admittedly three of those four-Brandon Mebane, Max Unger, and Red Bryant-played major roles in the team’s success (and one could even argue that the fourth, punter Jon Ryan, did as well), but it’s still an eye-opening statistic. In just three full years in charge before the start of last season Carroll and Schneider had almost completely overhauled the roster that was in place before them. As their Super Bowl XLVIII victory illustrated, that was the right approach for the franchise, a franchise that appears to be loaded with talent moving forward.
So what has been the key to Seattle’s success? How have Carroll and Schneider built this team? Brandon Browner, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett were notable free agent signings while the trades for Chris Clemons, Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin have paid incredible dividends. All that being said, the draft is where this team was truly built, with Carroll and Schneider finding crucial talent in rounds one through seven.
Certainly Seattle isn’t espousing a theory from left field. Sports betting site: http://gambling.com describes the draft as “make-or-break for a team’s season,” and perennial contenders like the Steelers, Patriots, and Packers (where John Schneider worked prior to taking over at the Seahawks GM) have committed to building their teams through the draft.
Seattle has done the same, getting at least one start out of eight players on offense and 11 on defense that were drafted by the team. Of those 19 starters, only four were drafted in the first round-Russell Okung, John Carpenter, Bruce Irvin, and Earl Thomas. Max Unger, Golden Tate, and Bobby Wagner were all selected in the second round, but the other 12 players that were both drafted by the team and started at least one game were all selected in rounds 3 through 7.
And those late rounders aren’t just bodies taking up space on the field. All-Pro defensive backs Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were fifth round selections in back-to-back drafts, while Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson went 75th overall in the third round. In addition to the superstars, important role players like J.R. Sweezy (2012 7th round), Mike Bowie (2013 7th round), Byron Maxwell (2011 6th round), and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (2011 7th round) have all come to Seattle through the final rounds of the draft and become significant contributors. All of this is a testament to the eye for talent the front office possesses, as well as their ability to develop that talent.
Going in to the 2014 draft the Seahawks have lost players like Tate, Thurmond, Brandon Browner, and the popular Red Bryant. Wide receiver and both the offensive and defensive lines could use work, with many feeling that Seattle will address those needs with their earliest picks.
If that is the case there is every reason to believe that Carroll and Schneider will get players they can use in those first few rounds, and that fans should get excited about them. Just make sure not to ignore the players the team nabs in the later rounds, because the Seahawks sure won’t.