Reasonable Expectations For Jaxon Smith-Njigba

People are very excited about Jaxon Smith-Njigba. I know I am! I like to think I have a sixth sense about wide receivers that the Seahawks draft. I was a HUGE fan of Tyler Lockett, even before he turned pro. I loved the D.K. Metcalf selection, both for value and potential. I remember being pretty high on Golden Tate, and even though he took a while to fully blossom, it was all worth it in the end.

And I’m very firmly in the camp of the Jaxon Smith-Njigba believers.

But, I think people – especially fantasy football people – need to temper expectations a little bit, especially in his rookie season. There’s a reason why the Seahawks are considered to have one of the best wide receiver rooms in the league. That’s because D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett were already one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. Now you add Smith-Njigba to the mix, and this has the potential to be an extremely dynamic passing game.

That being said, there are only so many targets to go around. Even in the most pass-happy offenses, how much production does the third receiver get? Who was the guy in Kansas City after Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce (before Hill’s trade to Miami)? In 2019, it was Sammy Watkins with 90 targets (52 receptions). In 2020, it was Mecole Hardman with 62 targets (41 receptions). In 2021, it was Hardman again with 83 targets (59 receptions). Going around the league, can anyone even name the third receiving option for the Bills? How has Tyler Boyd fared with the Bengals the last couple years? The Rams of late can barely field a SECOND receiving option after Kupp, let alone a third.

Now you have to factor how much the Seahawks like to run the ball. Some people would say they’re run-heavy. Others would say they’re balanced. I would liken the Seahawks to a slow-it-down sort of offense that prefers to limit possessions and bleed opponents with a thousand cuts. Not that I’m the first person to make than distinction, I’m sure.

The point is, third receivers already get overlooked by design. Now you want to put him on the Seahawks?

I don’t see Smith-Njigba as a viable fantasy option in 2023 whatsoever. Maybe take a flier on him late in the draft and bank on an injury to Metcalf or Lockett. If you’re in a dynasty league, I think there’s a little more meat on that bone, but you don’t want to go into this season wanting to depend on production out of him.

I’m guessing Smith-Njigba will have somewhere around 45 receptions for 512 yards and 3 touchdowns. Even in PPR, that’s nothing. That’s less than 7 fantasy points per game. But, for dynasty purposes, Lockett isn’t getting any younger, so I could see those numbers grow considerably in the next 2-3 years.

But, let’s put fantasy football aside now. What does he mean from a team-building perspective? As a Seahawks fan, did we use our draft capital wisely?

I say 100% yes! If Jaxon Smith-Njigba is as talented as he projects to be, the value of a high-quality third receiver is immeasurable. That’s one more elite athlete a defense has to worry about. If the best opposing cornerback is going to clamp down on D.K., you can interchange Lockett and Smith-Njigba in the slot or on the other side and create tons of mismatches. You can line them all up in a bunch formation and wait for the defense to make a coverage mistake. If teams double D.K. and Lockett is covered, then you’re talking about the 4th-best corner trying to keep up with Smith-Njigba.

Every time he makes a huge catch on third down, every time he moves the chains, that’s one more feather in the cap of Smith-Njigba being a great draft pick for this team. On top of everything else: the need for depth, injury insurance, and so on.

I think Seahawks fans are going to be elated to have Jaxon Smith-Njigba on their team. But, fantasy football players might not be super thrilled, as is our lot in life.

But that brings up a broader point: how good are the rest of the Seahawks for fantasy purposes?

It still blows my mind that Geno Smith was a value-add to a playoff team in the NFL. It blows my mind even more that he was also a Top 5 fantasy quarterback. Granted, I would say there’s a significant drop-off from the Top 4, but still, that’s impressive.

I guess it depends on where you get them, but if Seahawks players are going to be undervalued, there’s definitely an argument to be made that stacking these guys – Geno Smith, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Kenneth Walker, and Zach Charbonnet – while keeping Smith-Njigba as a late-round insurance pick, could be a recipe for success. You might not get as many touchdowns from Geno as you’d like, but he’s also going to limit turnovers with the best of ’em. You know where his targets are going. I’m keeping Walker in my dynasty league without hesitation, but I think it might be wise to handcuff him with the rookie just in case. Given how the Seahawks have suffered with running back injuries since Beastmode left town the first time, it’s just a fact of life at this point.

I think I’ve long lived under the impression that the Seahawks’ passing game is to be avoided in fantasy. Oh sure, Russell Wilson was great, but going after his receivers felt like a fool’s errand with the way he spread the ball around. But, these Seahawks go target heavy on the top two guys, which is right where you want it. Give your best players as many opportunities to make plays as possible!

Pay That Myan Hees Munny: D.K. Metcalf Gets A Contract Extension

When in doubt, listen to Teddy KGB.

3 years, $72 million, with $30 million of that as a signing bonus, and just over $58 million guaranteed. It’s the highest signing bonus of any wide receiver in NFL history, but that’s mostly due to the way the Seahawks like to do business, with no second year guarantees built in.

So, we’ve got D.K. Metcalf through the 2025 season. He’ll still be a relative bargain – assuming he stays healthy – for the next two seasons. Then, in 2024, the contract starts to balloon, and we’ll assume after that the economics of the NFL will come into better focus. Either he’ll have earned another contract extension, or he’ll be cut because maybe he gets hurt or the Seahawks go on a rebuild, or maybe he just plays it out and we see what happens.

I’ll be very interested to see what the wide receiver market looks like after 2024. As we’ve seen this offseason, contracts for wide receivers are exploding. Some of them are downright stupid. What we’re seeing, though, is an unprecedented collection of young, elite wide receivers coming up for deals and getting paid accordingly.

It feels like a bubble, though, right? Every year there are more and more elite young receivers entering the NFL. The rules of the game today make it safer than ever to be a receiver and extend your career. At what point does the NFL unlock the magic system where teams start to realize they don’t need “elite” wide receivers? They just need some good ones, under reasonable contracts. When will Moneyball come to the NFL in regards to this wide receiver gold rush?

In the late 90s and early 2000s, the Denver Broncos showed the rest of the NFL that you could generate a quality running game with pretty much whatever running back you had on hand. If the scheme is right, and your linemen are capable, then it doesn’t totally matter who’s handling the rock. In the years since, we’ve seen running back contracts hit a definite ceiling. You have to be superman Derrick Henry to really set any kind of bar (or you have to have a senile old man running things, in the case of Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys). Running backs are now largely considered to be disposable and interchangable. Teams would rather have a collection of cheap, competent runners – making the lives of fantasy football owners miserable in the process – because of what I stated above, combined with the likely injury risk every running back faces.

In short, the running back bubble burst. I think that’s coming for the wide receivers next.

What we know for a fact is that the quarterback bubble is never going to stop expanding. It’s like the universe itself; it’s just going to keep going and going until the end of time. The quarterback bubble is going to likely expand at a greater rate than the NFL salary cap as a whole expands. So, teams are going to have to find a way to cut costs somewhere. Receiver seems like the most likely best option.

So, I guess, what I’m trying to say is good for D.K. Metcalf! Good on him for being drafted at the right place, at the right time in NFL history! Good for him being so elite!

Now, he’s gotta catch balls from the likes of Geno Smith or Drew Lock. Now, he’s gotta suffer through an uncertain quarterback future where a likely rookie takes over in 2023. Now he’s gotta try and help us bridge the gap between Russell Wilson and whoever our next elite quarterback ends up being.

My guess? D.K. Metcalf won’t be here the next time the Seahawks have an elite quarterback. That’s just playing the odds, though.

TL;DR, do I like the move?

This is one of those I struggle to have a strong opinion about. The pure, raw, emotional fan in me likes having D.K. Metcalf in a Seahawks uniform because he’s so damn fun to watch. I’ve been on him since the day we drafted him, and he’s yet to let me down. And, as we enter this period of shaky quarterback play, I know for a fact that this offense is going to be a fucking bummer to watch week-in and week-out. Give me SOMETHING to look forward to. If football is supposed to be entertainment, then from a pure entertainment perspective, there’s no one else like D.K. Metcalf on this team. His bigtime catches, his bruising playing style, his ability to get under the skin of opponents: inject it all into my veins.

The rational, analytical fan in me, however, wonders what the point is. Are we rebuilding or not? The team would never admit to such a thing, but it seems clear with the quarterbacks we’ve got on the roster that we’re not REALLY playing for 2022. It’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that – unless they make a deal for Jimmy G – the plan is to use a high draft pick next year on our quarterback of the future.

So, what we’ve done is effectively signed D.K. Metcalf through his prime years. He’s never going to be much better than he is right now. He might be smarter, more savvy. But, the combination of athleticism and speed is never going to be better than it is right now. For one of those prime years, he gets Geno/Drew throwing somewhere in his vicinity. For another of those prime years, he gets a rookie (who will likely be playing with training wheels, like Russ did for much of 2012). Then, we’ll see, but we know for sure that half of his remaining years here will be a struggle.

How will that affect his psyche? How will he respond on the sidelines? I don’t care who you are, when you make a name for yourself in the NFL and start getting paid at near the top of the market, you get a big head. It happens to everyone. And wide receivers are fucking divas, man. That’s just the way it is. When will he get disgruntled and start making scenes because he’s not getting the ball enough? You know it’s going to happen. Is this all going to be pointless, because he’s never going to be part of the next great Seahawks team, whenever that ends up being?

And, of course, the dynasty fantasy football owner of D.K. Metcalf is annoyed because his value is effectively decimated. I just have to hope that he gets enough TD opportunities throughout the years to make up for his dearth in actual receptions.

Overall, though, I think I’m more happy that he’s here and I get to continue watching him every week. I also do see the value in not totally bottoming out from a talent perspective. Having guys like D.K. around keeps everyone else engaged and trying hard. It shows that – in spite of our terrible QB situation – we’re still interested in turning things around and ultimately winning it all. It’s just going to require some patience.

That having been said, my philosophy hasn’t changed either. If I had my druthers, we’d be constantly running it back with the likes of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Golden Tate. Give me mid-tier guys with good hands and clean route running over a monster #1 receiver. What’s good for fantasy football isn’t always good for winning NFL games.

Thankfully, I don’t expect the Seahawks to win too many of those over the next year or two. So, the least we can do is have some fun watching D.K. Metcalf make opponents’ lives miserable.

Looking At The Best Seahawks Wide Receiver Duos Of All Time

In reading through the Seattle Times sports section last week, I came upon an interesting question in one of the mailbag articles asking something to the effect of, “Is D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett the greatest wide receiver duo in Seahawks history?” That’s a bold statement (in the form of a question) after just a year and five games, but I think it’s worth exploring more fully.

I think, without question, the potential is there for this duo to be the best and it not even being all that close. The greatest Seahawks receiver of all time is Steve Largent; he’s a hall of famer and once held every significant receiving record in NFL history before Jerry Rice broke them all. Based on athleticism, you could argue Joey Galloway was the most talented receiver the Seahawks have ever had. But, I don’t think he will ever make the NFL Hall of Fame, and he only played in Seattle for five years before being traded away.

Regardless, based on the whole package, on top of his rapport with Russell Wilson (it always helps to have a future Hall of Famer throwing to you in both of your primes), I think D.K. Metcalf could blow away any and all wide receivers the Seahawks have ever employed. When you factor in Tyler Lockett’s all-around versatility – deep threat, short and intermediate god, great hands, great coordination with his feet near the out-of-bounds lines, can play outside or in the slot, durable, consistent – I mean, this is a monster pair! This is, like, Randy Moss/Wes Welker!

Anyway, let’s go backwards and look at all the great Seahawks duos and see how they match up.

Immediately preceeding this one, we have Lockett and Doug Baldwin (who was the consensus #2 best Seahawks receiver all time, until Metcalf overtakes him); they played together from 2015-2018. I would argue Lockett didn’t really make a leap until 2018, which coincides with an injury-plagued final year for Baldwin, so that’s a tough hang.

One that gets a little overlooked is Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. Boy those were the good ol’ days! They played together from 2011-2013, but Tate didn’t do much in 2011, and Baldwin was largely injured in 2012. However, that magical 2013 season was something to behold! From a talent standpoint, both players were pretty elite and fit our scheme and quarterback perfectly. They’d be pretty high on my list.

I was discouraged – when I read the Times article – that Bobby Engram was nowhere to be found. His time with the Seahawks was quietly pretty special! In 8 years, he put up nearly 5,000 yards, largely out of the slot, and for some really good Seahawks teams. Nate Burleson overlapped with Engram from 2006-2008, with the 2007 season being their peak as a duo. Darrell Jackson, though, overlapped with Engram from 2001-2006, which is really THE duo from the Mike Holmgren era. D-Jack had three seasons over 1,000 yards, plus another 956 in 2006. Engram was largely a complementary player in those seasons, but no one was more of a go-to on third down. I rank D-Jack and Engram pretty high as well (and don’t even talk to me about Deion Branch, because I’m pretending he never existed).

I guess you also have to include Koren Robinson and D-Jack, who overlapped from 2001-2004 (with 2002-2003 being particularly elite), but Robinson had D.K.’s level of talent, only unrealized due to substance-abuse issues. There’s less of a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart for this duo.

If you want to talk about a forgotten blast from the past, look no further than Sean Dawkins and Derrick Mayes! They were the guys for just two years, from 1999-2000, but we rung in Y2K with a combined 1,821 yards between them!

What I’m finding is, through the 90’s and much of the 80’s, there were a lot of good 2-season runs (Joey Galloway with some guy, Brian Blades before him with some other guy, and so on) but no really great extended run for any particular duos. Also, to be fair, the Seahawks were largely terrible for the 90’s, but that’s neither here nor there. Even through the 80’s and the Largent years, it was mostly a one-receiver show. You’d be hard-pressed to find a good second option until you get to Sam McCullum, who overlapped with Largent from 1976-1981. McCullum had a couple of decent years where he caught over 700 yards apiece, but Largent was really doing the heavy lifting in this tenure.

And that’s pretty much it! So, outside of D.K. and Lockett, here are my rankings:

  1. Golden Tate & Doug Baldwin
  2. Darrell Jackson & Bobby Engram
  3. Steve Largent & Sam McCullum
  4. Doug Baldwin & Tyler Lockett
  5. Sean Dawkins & Derrick Mayes
  6. Bobby Engram & Nate Burleson
  7. Joey Galloway & Whoever
  8. Brian Blades & Whoever
  9. Koren Robinson & Darrell Jackson

If I had to place D.K. Metcalf & Tyler Lockett in that list right this minute, I’d probably put them fourth and bump everyone else down a peg. But, give me another year and a half and you could EASILY see this duo in the #1 spot! I can’t wait to see every minute of them together!

Are The 2020 Seahawks Better Than The 2019 Seahawks?

I’m having difficulty getting a read from the fanbase when it comes to their overall thoughts on the 2019 Seahawks; is that team considered a disappointment, or did they make the most of what they had? It’s easy to forget – knowing that was a Wild Card team who was ultimately thrust from the playoffs in the Divisional Round – but the 2019 Seahawks started out 10-2, among the best teams in all of football by record at the time. We lost three of our last four regular season games (all to divisional opponents) to lose our handle on the divisional title and a chance at a top two seed in the NFC, then we beat a decimated Eagles team before losing like we usually do on the road in the Divisional Round (by falling into a deep hole early and not having enough in the tank to come all the way back late). When you factor in a generational talent like Russell Wilson being in his prime, once again falling short of the Super Bowl, that feels disappointing to me. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I don’t know what to tell you.

The 2020 Seahawks are 4-0 right now. With the way our schedule is shaping up – among the easiest in football – not only do I see a reasonable path to at least matching our 10-2 start from a season ago, unless things take a dramatically dark turn, I’d be shocked if we’re not 12-2 as we head into the final two weeks of the season. 13-3 is not only on the table at this point, but should be the FLOOR. I don’t think a perfect season is happening, but one or two losses? I’m not throwing that out of bed for eating crackers!

When you think about how much we’ve obsessed over the quality of the defense to date – rightfully so, I might add – I can’t help but question whether or not this team is actually better than the one we saw a year ago. Are we better, or is our schedule just easier?

Well, let’s get the simple question out of the way: the schedule is unquestionably easier. The 2019 AFC North was much more difficult than the 2020 AFC East; give me those Ravens over these Bills, those Steelers (when we played them, with a healthy Big Ben) over these Patriots, those Browns over these Dolphins, and even those Bengals over these Jets. The 2019 NFC South was much more difficult than the 2020 NFC East; there’s no point in even going through the teams (we’ve seen this NFC East for many seasons continue to underwhelm at every turn). The 2019 Eagles and Vikings were superior to the 2020 Falcons and Vikings, no contest. And, I would argue the 2019 NFC West was much more difficult than the 2020 version, based on the 49ers being decimated by injuries and clearly not living up to the standard they set last year. We might’ve overrated the Cardinals in Year 2 of the Kyler Murray regime, and I think the Rams are about equal to what they were a season ago (Jared Goff will never take the next step as an elite quarterback, I’m sorry).

So, let’s look at the first question: are the Seahawks better?

On paper, just looking at the roster alone, the offense doesn’t look a whole lot different. Same quarterback, mostly same receivers, same starting running back, many of the same tight ends and offensive linemen, and even the same offensive coordinator. Obviously, everything is being made about Letting Russ Cook, but what is so remarkable to me is that there doesn’t seem to be any drop in efficiency. That was the knock against letting Russ cook in the past: we were winning games, mostly because he was the most efficient quarterback in football. He did more with less (attempts), and the only reason why he wasn’t among the MVP finalists is because he didn’t have those attempts, or total yardage numbers, that dazzle the eye and cloud the brain. Russell Wilson has always had high passer ratings, low interception numbers, and high yards per attempt averages. And, obviously, we’re looking at a quarter of the normal sample size in any given year, but he’s blowing all of those numbers out of the water so far!

You would think more attempts = more opportunities for mistakes. Or, more attempts = more short passes, for a lower yards per attempt average. Again, it’s the opposite! Last year, his passer rating was 106.3 (his career high in any season was 110.9 in 2018); this year his rating is 136.7 (out of a possible 158.3). Last year, his yards per attempt were an even 8.0 (his career high in any season was 8.3 in 2015); this year it’s 9.4. He’s not just dinking and dunking and checking down to running backs and tight ends; he’s throwing deep as he always has and still connecting on these beautiful arcing rainbow balls!

In short (no pun intended), I think many of us (myself included) thought we’d seen the best of what Russell Wilson has to offer, but he’s continuing to soar to new heights (ditto) and it’s incredible to witness.

There’s also a very credible argument to be made that these are the best weapons he’s ever had. That is a BOLD statement! Remember, he’s had guys like Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller … and sure, Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin. But, would you rather have those guys, or Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, David Moore, Carlos Hyde, Jacob Hollister, and Freddie Swain? They’ve all come up big in the early going, and we still have Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Rashaad Penny waiting in the wings! Even when you just compare the 2020 group to 2019, I think you have to factor in the improved development of guys like Metcalf and Moore, as well as the rookie Swain who is already better than any fourth/fifth receiver we had last year.

Even though so many of the pieces are similar to what they were a season ago, this offense is unquestionably leaps & bounds better than it was (and better than it’s ever been, in the history of this franchise).

That brings us back to the defense.

So … yeah, the pass defense isn’t great. The pass rush was never thought to be anything above the bottom quarter in football, but the secondary has been atrocious as well. We’re still giving up over 400 yards passing per game, which is easily worst in the NFL. However! The run defense is only giving up 75.8 yards per game (third best); in 2019, the Seahawks gave up 117.7 rushing yards per game (11th worst). In a way, that makes sense, because our offense is so good, teams have to throw more to keep up and/or catch up with what we’re doing. But, it’s not like our 2019 offense was a turd sandwich or anything; we were in the top ten in yards and points. I do believe there is a drastic improvement in the quality of our run defense, which is further helping us force opposing offenses into being one-dimensional. Think of it this way: don’t you think every single team that faces the Seahawks wants to do whatever it takes to keep Russell Wilson on the sideline? Wouldn’t you think – that being the case – that teams would do their best to get a running game going against us? The fact that they’ve mostly failed in that endeavor is pretty telling.

I also want to look at turnovers, because I like what I’ve seen from this part of our defense so far and I don’t think it’s getting enough credit. The Seahawks are +5 in turnover ratio right now, tied for second (and, as we all know, one of those Wilson interceptions went right off of Greg Olsen’s hands, so we really should be tied for first at +6). The offense should always limit turnovers based on our quarterback and our coaching staff’s emphasis on taking care of the rock, so that ratio is always going to be in our favor. But, the defense alone has generated 8 turnovers, good for a tie for second (the Browns lead the NFL with 10). Of those 8 turnovers, 6 are via the interception, which I think is huge (the Browns, by contrast, only have 4 interceptions). Fumbles are largely a byproduct of luck. Most fumbles are 50/50 propositions; it’s an anomaly if one team is particularly good or bad at recovering them. Sure, teams can be good at FORCING them, but the name of this particular game I’m talking about is turnovers. Getting the ball back. If we’re not going to sack the opposing quarterback (six in four games, tied for sixth-worst), then we better be good at generating turnovers if we’re going to contend for a Super Bowl.

Last year, the Seahawks were tied for third in turnover differential at +12. We had 32 takeaways, also good for third in the NFL. Of those 32, it was an even 16/16 split between interceptions and fumble recoveries; 16 interceptions is pretty good (tied for fifth in the NFL last year), but the 16 fumble recoveries were tied for second most, which is a pretty remarkable feat and difficult to match from year to year. However, if you project a decrease in the number of fumbles our defense can recover in 2020 (which I do), while acknowledging that even a moderate increase in interceptions MIGHT be in play, can we really expect to have a drastically improved turnover differential? I would say absolutely! Because remember, that factors in the number of times our offense gave away the football. The Seahawks in 2019 were tied for the third-most lost fumbles (many of them thanks to Chris Carson’s butter fingers, which improved dramatically as the season went on); the odds of the Seahawks losing that many fumbles on offense in 2020 seem low to me. Partly because of regression in fumble luck, partly because we’re just not running the ball as much, and partly because Chris Carson is in a contract year (and fumblers don’t get max-money deals).

I don’t see a path where our sack numbers improve from where they were a season ago (we were tied for second-worst in 2019, which feels about right for 2020), but I do very much see a path to an increase in interceptions, given the level of talent in our secondary (which will get better as they get used to playing with one another; those communication breakdowns will be eliminated, I’m sure of it) as well as the fact that most teams will be forced into throwing the ball more than they’re used to (thanks to our offense putting up tons of points, and our run defense stuffing the everloving shit out of the line of scrimmage).

All of that combined, I think, points to this 2020 Seahawks team being much improved over the 2019 incarnation. Tack on the easy schedule, and the top seed in the NFC is very much in our sights.

We just need the Packers to lose a few games and we’ll be all set!

The Top Ten Biggest Seattle Sports Disappointments

It’s a cloudy-ass day in July and we haven’t had any sports that I give a shit about in over three months, so why not kick off the month with a big ball of negativity?!

Once again, in the absence of any decent sports news, I take inspiration from the Brock & Salk podcast, where one of the listeners asked the question of who is on your Seattle sports Mount Rushmore for biggest disappointments? I’m clearly unable to limit my disgust to just four individuals, so you get a Top Ten from me (with an extra Honorable Mention – FREE OF CHARGE – because these disappointments are like my babies, I can’t leave any of them out!).

Being a Sports Disappointment is obviously a nebulous concept with lots of different definitions, so here’s mine (for the sake of today’s argument): these are people who we expected to be great when they came here, and ultimately totally sucked. How they got here is irrelevant, so I’m not factoring in (as heavily) if it was a lopsided trade, a high draft pick, or an inflated contract (with the basis that all of these players were terrible for their respective Seattle sports teams, one would assume a poor trade, draft slot, or contract is a given anyway). Similarly, this can’t be based on someone else that our team passed on in the draft, because there would be inherent disappointment already built into that selection.

Malik McDowell, for instance, doesn’t qualify for this list. He’s certainly one of the most damaging draft picks of the last decade for the Seahawks, but as a second rounder, I don’t think expectations were astronomical that he’d be anything truly amazing. Likewise, trading away Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice doesn’t qualify, because I would like to think most people noted that right away to be a terrible deal, and as such I can’t imagine there were great expectations for ol’ #0.

Without further ado, let’s get to our Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero. The Mariners traded for the former #1 overall baseball prospect early in 2012 from the Yankees. Given Michael Pineda’s career since he left Seattle, this is one of those infamous Lose/Lose deals. Nevertheless, the next ten guys I talk about must’ve been REALLY bad, because Montero was as mediocre as it gets. The main reason why he’s on the outside looking in is because by the time he came to Seattle, there was already a building consensus that he wasn’t long for the catcher position. He just didn’t have the build, the skills, nor the presence with the pitching staff for his defense to measure up. The hope was that maybe he could land at first base with some practice, but ultimately I think most saw him as a future DH. Regardless of that, there was NO QUESTION that his bat would be what provided the bulk of his value, and when you’re talking about those Mariners squads from 2008-2013, a hulking power bat from the right side of the plate was our white whale. Montero was SUPPOSED to be our cleanup hitter for the next decade; instead he hasn’t been in the Majors since 2015, and is more known for his ice cream sandwich fight than his “prowess” on the baseball diamond.

#10 – Danny Hultzen (Mariners)

This is the only real draft bust on the list (not to say there aren’t some REALLY BAD draft picks going forward, but at least those guys played a little bit!). Hultzen was a #2 overall draft pick, considered to be the safest starting pitcher prospect of the 2011 draft, and appeared to be on the fast track to make it to the Major Leagues within 2-3 years. Even if there was a question of his stuff – and his high-ceiling/ace potential – if his arm injuries didn’t totally derail him, we WOULD HAVE seen him pitch for the Mariners relatively early in his career. We’ll never know how disappointing that might’ve been, but I remember being really high on this guy when we got him, and it’s one of the great What If’s in recent Mariners history.

#9 – Justin Smoak (Mariners)

He’s sort of in that Jesus Montero realm, in that he was formerly a very highly-rated prospect, with the bloom starting to come off the rose by the time the M’s were able to acquire him. Oddly enough, when we made the deal in 2010, it’s reported that the Mariners turned down a proposed offer from the Yankees which would’ve included Montero! What did we do to get so lucky as to end up with BOTH when all was said and done?! Again, we’re talking about the Dead Ball Mariners of 2008-2013 or so; Smoak was really the first bite at the apple of trying to turn around our moribund offense. Switch-hitter with power, elite first base defense, good eye at the plate, and a proven minor league track record to hit for average, get on base at a high clip, and impress with his power to all fields. That ended up translating to the Bigs as Warning Track Power, someone who couldn’t really hit from the right side at all, a very LOW batting average, and someone who would consistently roll over on pitches instead of hitting to all fields as advertised. While his defense played, and he had an okay eye for taking walks, he also struck out a ton and didn’t start figuring out how to play at this level until he left for Toronto, where he was an All Star in 2017 (with 22+ homers in the last three seasons, the high being 38 in that aforementioned All Star season).

#8 – Aaron Curry (Seahawks)

As a #4 overall draft pick in 2009, you can certainly point to any number of linebackers taken after him and lament Tim Ruskell’s poor decision-making. BUT! I said we’re not doing that here! So, instead let’s just look at the situation at the time: the Seahawks were coming off of a pretty abysmal 2008 season where the defense just had NOTHING going for it. The offense looked like it MIGHT be salvagable with our aging veterans, but the defense needed an injection of youth and explosiveness. Curry was famously the “safest” pick off the board, as someone who could come in, play right away, and play at a high level. Even then, though, his game started getting picked apart pretty quickly. We soon learned there wasn’t much of a pass-rushing threat to his game, which made him ostensibly a coverage linebacker. The Seahawks have long prided themselves on quality linebacker play, so that checks out. Except, as it turned out, Curry couldn’t even do THAT well! He did, in fact, nothing well, and two years later we traded him to the Raiders in the middle of the 2011 season for draft picks (one of which would turn out to be J.R. Sweezy, which wasn’t too shabby of a return, all things considered).

#7 – Dustin Ackley (Mariners)

Speaking of #2 overall draft picks, welcome to the first pick of the Jack Zduriencik Era in 2009! I wrote pretty extensively on the topic of Dustin Ackley over the years, to the point where the rest of my list today SERIOUSLY conflicts with that post I just linked to. But, I would argue the parameters of the argument today are a little different. I’m trying to eliminate all outside factors and just focus on the players themselves. Yes, Ackley was VERY disappointing! He was supposed to be a guy who hit for a very high average, with enough pop/speed/defense to make him a regular All Star for his Major League career. Instead, he was middling at best and hasn’t cracked a Major League roster since 2016. I would also put part of the blame on the Mariners’ front office, as they continuously dicked around with him. He was a primo first baseman in college, with some experience in the outfield. What did we do? We made him a second baseman, which almost certainly stunted his development. Then, when that failed, we tried to make him a centerfielder, even though he really didn’t have the range or ability to cover that much ground (especially in Safeco Field at the time). And yet, the bat never showed up in Seattle, so that’s ultimately why he’s such a disappointment.

#6 – Chone Figgins (Mariners)

You really, REALLY hate to see it! This was the first big free agent bust of the Jack Zduriencik Era: four years, $36 million in December of 2009. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for this signing! By this point, we’d long realized that Safeco Field – with its configuration, and with our Marine Layer in Seattle – would be death to home run hitters. Guys like Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, among others, tried and ultimately failed to replicate their prior glories in Seattle. But, Figgins was the opposite of that! He was an undersized Jack-Of-All-Trades type of Swiss Army Knife you could plug in at nearly EVERY position on the field, with zero power hype to speak of whatsoever! And, most importantly, he’d hit for the Angels in a big way (.291 average & .363 on-base percentage in Anaheim across 8 seasons before signing with the Mariners). Slot him in at third base (his preferred position) and at the top of your batting lineup, and watch him hit .300 and steal 40+ bases! He somehow reached that stolen base plateau in his first year here, but his average dropped about 40 points overnight. He couldn’t get along with the Mariners’ management (and, presumably, some of the players) and was deemed the very worst signing of Jack Zduriencik’s career. Smarter baseball people than myself probably saw all this coming, but I’ll admit it was a rude awakening for me.

#5 – Percy Harvin (Seahawks)

If this were a list of my own personal Most Loathed Seattle Sports Athletes, Harvin would probably rank higher. I have no problem invoking his name among the greatest all-time Seahawks blunders because he is SO unlikable (the peak being him punching out Golden Tate before our Super Bowl victory in the 2013 season). Why he doesn’t rank higher here is the fact that we DID win that Super Bowl (mostly in spite of him), on top of the fact that I think most of us realized – when the deal was made – that it was too high a price to pay for ANYONE, even with his ability (at the time). Still, he had proven in his career with the Vikings to be a lethal gadget player on offense, and one of the best return men in the Special Teams department. While we could see the cost in draft picks and contract compensation was stratospheric, it was hard not to dream big about what this offense could be with Harvin in the fold. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, AND Percy Harvin?! Come on! And, then he immediately got injured upon arrival, and didn’t really end up making any impact whatsoever until we reached the Super Bowl. The highlight of his Seahawks career was the kickoff return for a touchdown against the Broncos. Some thought he deserved consideration for the Super Bowl MVP, but we were already up 22-0 at the time, so I mean. The bottom line is, Harvin dogged it in 2014 – taking himself out of games, refusing to play through anything more than a hangnail – and was traded in the middle of the season for whatever we could get. So much wasted money and potential.

#4 – Erik Bedard (Mariners)

Everyone points to the lopsided deal – that sent the Orioles a ton of quality baseball players – but the true crime is just how bad Bedard became as soon as he got here! He was a bona fide Ace-type pitcher for Baltimore – so much so that he was deemed to be the #1 over Felix Hernandez in his first year here – and the expectation was that our rotation would lead us back to the playoffs with Bedard in the fold. Instead, he was a consummate Five-And-Dive artist who both stunk AND couldn’t stay healthy. Why he’s not higher on this list is because all of those Mariners teams were VERY terrible and would have been regardless, with our without Bedard. Still a bitter pill to swallow.

#3 – Rick Mirer (Seahawks)

The bigger disappointment here is the fact that the Seahawks had the #2 pick at all, and not the #1 (which would’ve guaranteed us Drew Bledsoe). In that Dustin Ackley piece, I had Dan McGwire among the biggest draft pick disappointments in Seattle sports history, but that largely hinged on who we DIDN’T get in that draft – namely: Brett Favre – but I don’t think anyone REALLY expected greatness out of McGwire (except for the inept Seahawks ownership group at the time). Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was very highly regarded. Even if he wasn’t the ideal QB of that draft, he wasn’t supposed to be a bad fall-back option. But, he was worse than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. He nearly destroyed my standing as a Seahawks fan for the rest of the 1990’s! The saving grace for Mirer is the fact that we were able to flip him for a first round draft pick in 1997.

#2 – Jeff Cirillo (Mariners)

I just remember LOVING this deal so much! In December of 2001 – coming off of the Mariners’ 116-win campaign – we were looking at one of the most complete teams in the Major Leagues. One of our main weak spots was third base, where we employed the pedestrian David Bell. Cirillo, on the other hand, had a remarkable 10-year career to that point with the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies, where he hit over .300, had an on-base percentage over .450, hardly ever struck out, and played a quality third base! I mean, on a team with Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, Edgar, Cameron, Wilson, Guillen, McLemore, and the rest, Cirillo was only going to put us MORE over the top! That’s when we got our first big taste of what happens when guys come over from Colorado: the thin air they play in made hitting at home a breeze. Meanwhile, in Seattle, even for someone like Cirillo – who wasn’t a natural power hitter by any means – it seems like Safeco just got in everyone’s heads if nothing else. He hit for a miserable .234 across two partial seasons, and his on-base percentage plummeted to a ridiculous .295! To add insult to injury, those two seasons coincided with two of the most frustrating years to be a Mariners fan, where both teams won 93 games, yet failed to make the playoffs because baseball is dumb and only had one Wild Card team at the time. To add even more insult to even more injury, we traded him away in early 2004 and got essentially nothing back in return.

#1 – Vin Baker (Supersonics)

You don’t see a lot of Sonics on this list, because for the most part – until the bitter end – we were a pretty well-run organization. Sure, you can point to the litany of failed centers we drafted in the 2000’s, but I would argue most fans saw through those duds the minute their names were called. Similarly, everyone wondered why someone like Jim McIlvaine was given such a high-money contract, so to be “disappointed” would mean you’d have to have high expectations for someone who had hardly done anything in his career to that point! Vin Baker, on the other hand, was a multi-year All Star in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. I almost didn’t want to include Baker on this list, because for some reason I have memories of more good times than actually existed. The truth of the matter is – upon trading for him when Shawn Kemp forced his way out in a 3-team deal, justifiably, because McIlvaine – the Sonics only enjoyed ONE quality year out of Baker. The first year here, the 1997/1998 season, when he maintained his All Star streak and led the Sonics to a semifinals appearance in George Karl’s last go-around in Seattle.

He then immediately fell off the cliff. The strike-shortened season saw Baker’s alcoholism creep in, resulting in a ballooning of his weight that drastically reduced his effectiveness on the court. For some reason, in spite of his fall-off, the Sonics rewarded him with a 7-year, $86 million deal. Yet, he was never the same, with three increasingly-mediocre seasons to follow before we were able to trade him to the Celtics for a bunch of role players. There’s a lot of unfair resentment towards Baker for tanking his career the way he did, but I think mostly people just feel sorry for him. No one in Seattle wanted to see Shawn Kemp leave; indeed Wally Walker & Co. did a remarkable job of destroying a championship-calibre squad. But, I can’t tell you how happy I was that we were able to get Baker here initially! His game – if maybe not his personality – fit this team PERFECTLY! He had a better post-up game than Kemp, could shoot from long range better than Kemp, and overall you didn’t have to worry about the ups & downs. Baker was a steady 20/10 type of guy when he got here, night-in and night-out. Which makes his post-1998 years SO disappointing! His wasn’t the type of game that should’ve deteriorated so quickly. Kemp’s game was more raw athleticism; Baker’s game was fundamental basketball prowess. Yet, when it’s all said and done, two of the great basketball tragedies to come out of that lockout season were Baker and Kemp, both succumbing to being out of shape and never ultimately recovering.

How Many Starters Have The Seahawks Drafted In The Previous Ten Years?

On the Brock & Salk podcast this week, they were talking to Daniel Jeremiah who made an interesting point about the NFL Draft. He said that every team’s goal should be to select three starters in every draft, ideally with one of those players being true blue chippers. You can define “starter” and “blue chipper” in any number of ways; I think as you’ll see, I’m pretty generous.

For example, I would count Nickel Corner among the “starters” because they play such a high percentage of snaps (usually). I would also count #2 tight ends, because the Seahawks value that position so highly (I would not, however, count #2 running backs, oddly enough; so you won’t see Robert Turbin on here). I’m also not counting players the Seahawks drafted who would go on to have more successful careers elsewhere (so, no Mark Glowinski or Spencer Ware among my picks); if they weren’t starters for the Seahawks, then I’m not interested. I don’t care about “hit rate” unless it applies to the team I love.

The discussion, of course, centers around how GREAT the Seahawks were at drafting from 2010-2012, contrasted with how TERRIBLE they’ve been from 2013 onward. So, without further ado, let’s a-DO this!

2010-2012: The Good Years

2010

  • Russell Okung (LT)
  • Earl Thomas (FS)
  • Golden Tate (WR)
  • Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Kam Chancellor (SS)

2011

  • James Carpenter (LG)
  • K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Malcolm Smith (LB)

2012

  • Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • J.R. Sweezy (RG)

What a murderer’s row! That’s not even factoring in such quality starters/blue chippers as undrafted free agents Doug Baldwin, DeShawn Shead, and Jermaine Kearse! You can see why this team went to back-to-back Super Bowls; those are three drafts that produced 15 starters, with 8 of them being real blue chippers (Okung, Earl, Tate, Kam, K.J., Sherm, BWagz, and Russ) on top of, again, blue chipper Doug and two more starting-calibre players.

Now, you can nitpick, of course. Malcolm Smith might be the biggest stretch, but in base defense as a strongside linebacker he made some impact plays (and, of course, was MVP of the Super Bowl, so give me a break!). Lane and Thurmond were both nickel corners. And, some of these guys took a couple years before they developed into starters. Nevertheless, all of these guys made significant impacts on the Seahawks’ success for our glory years.

2013-2016: The Bad Years

2013

  • Luke Willson (TE)

2014

  • Justin Britt (C)

2015

  • Frank Clark (DE)
  • Tyler Lockett (WR)

2016

  • Germain Ifedi (RT)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)

That’s truly NOT GREAT! Frank Clark is arguably the best player on this list, and he’s not even on the team anymore because we didn’t see him as worthy of a contract at the top of the market. Lockett is probably the guy who panned out the best for us, given that we were able to extend him to a reasonable second contract (that he continues to out-play every time he steps on the field). Luke Willson is a HUGE stretch, because he’s only been a de facto #1 tight end when the guys ahead of him got injured; otherwise he’s at-best a #2. Britt and Ifedi you could argue were overpaid busts. Reed is still around, but obviously wasn’t able to capitalize on his one great year due to being suspended for domestic violence.

2017-2019: The We’ll See Years

2017

  • Shaquill Griffin (CB)
  • Chris Carson (RB)

2018

  • Will Dissly (TE)
  • Tre Flowers (CB)
  • Michael Dickson (P)

2019

  • D.K. Metcalf

Before we talk about these guys, I have one holdover from the 2016 draft – Joey Hunt – who became a starter for a large chunk of the 2019 season, but I’m hesitant to want to elevate him on my list unless he wins the center job out of camp in 2020. That might make the 2016 draft look marginally better, but still I don’t know if anyone expects Hunt to be here long-term.

Anyway, it’s pretty early to make definitive proclamations about the 2017-2019 drafts, but it’s encouraging that I’ve listed the same number of players here that I did for the FOUR drafts preceeding them. Griffin and Dickson have already made Pro Bowls (though, Dickson almost feels like cheating since he’s a punter). Dissly looks as good as any tight end in football when he’s healthy, as does Carson among running backs. And, D.K. really broke out as a rookie last year, looking like a stud for many years to come.

You can probably close the book on the rest of the 2017 draft; none of the guys I left off look like they’ll be anything of note for the Seahawks. There’s marginal hope for a couple others from 2018. Rasheem Green has the highest upside, and figures to get a lot of playing time this year along the defensive line. He’s sort of a default starter for the Seahawks; we’ll see if he’s able to do anything with the opportunity. Tre Flowers – while it looks like he’ll lose his starting job to newcomer Quinton Dunbar (assuming he’s formally acquitted of robbery charges, AND isn’t suspended by the team/league) – still figures to be well involved in the defense. Also, if he can stay healthy and play well, Jamarco Jones has a higher ceiling than we might’ve originally expected.

As for 2019, there are a lot of hopefuls. L.J. Collier will get a long look this season. Marquise Blair hopes to win one of the starting safety jobs (and could also figure in the Big Nickel package, against the more difficult tight ends on our schedule). Cody Barton could eventually start at one of the outside linebacker spots if he plays his cards right (looking less likely, of course, with who the Seahawks drafted last month). Phil Haynes might win a starting spot on the offensive line in his second season. And, with a VERY outside chance, who knows? Maybe John Ursua takes over as this offense’s primary slot receiver!

As for the 2020 draft, all we can do is speculate. Jordyn Brooks figures to be a starter one day soon. Damien Lewis might be a starter from day one. And, everyone hopes Darrell Taylor gets a lot of play early at defensive end. Also, Colby Parkinson will have every opportunity to be this team’s #2 tight end as early as 2021.

So, it’s been a real rollercoaster over the last decade! Here’s hoping things are finally trending back in the right direction over the last 3-4 drafts. The one thing that worries me is the lack of blue chippers since 2013. From The Bad Years, I count only two from those four drafts (Clark & Lockett). From The We’ll See Years … again, we’ll see. D.K. seems like the safest bet. Griffin, I guess, you have to put in there (though, compared to blue chippers of seasons past, he doesn’t quite live up). Dickson, again, feels like cheating, but okay he counts. Carson and Dissly are definite blue chippers when healthy, but they both feel like incompletes.

The argument from 2013-2016 was that the Seahawks had so many great players from the previous three years that it was exceedingly difficult for younger guys to break through. That has, decidedly, not been as much of a problem over the last three seasons, particularly on defense where it’s been trending downward for half a decade. 2020 will be VERY interesting, because I don’t see too many sacred cows on this roster (again, particularly on defense). What I think is interesting is that the Seahawks don’t seem to be NEARLY as concerned with the defensive line as the fans are, which leads me to wonder what they know that we don’t. We have lots of stats and anecdotal information at our disposal, but they’re obviously embedded with these players fairly intimately. They get to see what these guys are capable of in practice, as well as talk to them and get into their heads.

Long story short: the team almost always knows more than the fans and “experts” do. So, maybe they’ll be right. Maybe we don’t need someone like Clowney because guys like Green, Collier, and Taylor will take huge steps forward! I remember fans being similarly up in arms in the early years of this regime, when a lot of the younger guys in the secondary won their jobs over established veterans. We were freaking out, but the Legion Of Boom proved us all to be pretty foolish. I hope we’re in for something like that again!

Will Stefon Diggs Be In The Seahawks’ Future?

I’m usually loathe to even READ blog posts talking about possible free agent or trade targets for my favorite teams, because they seem like the definition of a waste of time, so you can imagine my disdain when it comes to writing something on my very own blog. But, God dammit if it isn’t a big ol’ dead season for Seattle sports, and I’ve got this nasty hunch that the Seahawks will be a Two-Diggs team in the near future.

Have the Seahawks learned nothing when it comes to acquiring ex-Vikings wide receivers? Sure, Nate Burleson was fine, but he was the obvious short end of the spite stick when it came to losing Steve Hutchinson; but Percy Harvin was a God damn disaster, and this possible move sure as hell feels a lot like that one.

Three draft picks (including a 1st and a 3rd) along with a boatload of money (ultimately costing us the opportunity to extend Golden Tate; whether he would’ve wanted to stay here is another matter entirely, though) for a guy who ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in a Super Bowl we won by 35 points. Not exactly tremendous bang for the ol’ buck.

The cool thing about trading for a receiver who already got his big-money extension is that (in this case) after the 2020 season, you can get out from under the rest of his deal with little-to-no dead money. The Vikings take the accelerated salary cap hit as soon as they move him. That’s a good and bad thing, because obviously when you’re talking about a player like Diggs – who’s arguably a Top 10 or 15 talent at the position – the draft pick compensation in return is likely to be as substantial as what we gave up for Harvin.

I mean, unless Diggs can be a big, loud problem for the Vikings, who might be enticed to make a desperation move in the name of locker room chemistry. But, then again, is that the type of personality we’d want to bring into our environment?

And, that’s ultimately the deal with the devil you make. Diggs has repeatedly complained – both in the media and to the coaches & players on the Vikings – about not getting the ball enough. So, we’re talking about bringing that guy onto the team that throws it among the fewest times in the league? On a team that already has Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf? With a quarterback who likes to spread the ball around with the best of ’em?

Furthermore, we’re talking about a team with holes a-plenty on defense. We’re likely to make a hard push to keep Clowney, and on top of that we’ll need these resources to bolster our defensive line in other ways. From 2020-2023, Diggs is earning between $10.9 million and $11.4 million per year, plus roster/workout bonuses, plus possible incentives. That’s a significant chunk of change for a team already paying beaucoup bucks to the likes of Wilson, Wagner, and Brown. Also, not for nothing, but I was kinda hoping the Seahawks – if they’re going to trade away draft capital for superstar veterans – they’d use those resources for a prominent pass rusher.

But, hey, I get it. Russell Wilson has his heart set on a productive third receiver. Anyone who saw Malik Turner drop that perfect pass in the Green Bay game has all the argument you ever needed to bring in someone like Diggs. Can you imagine this offense with that trio of receivers, plus Chris Carson at running back?

Again, though, what’s the point if he’s going to average 4-6 catches a game? Couldn’t we put that money to better use?

I’m all for bringing in more talented targets on offense, but I’d rather not break the bank – both in salary cap and draft picks – just to take some disgruntled crybaby off of another team’s hands. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.

And, by writing this post and putting it out into the world, I hope I’ve sufficiently jinxed any legitimate talk of this coming to fruition.

The Most Indefensibly Bad Seahawks Draft Pick Of The John Schneider Era

In the wake of the 2019 NFL Draft, the world at large has run through just about everything you can talk about, so we ultimately turn to manufactured arguments. On the Brock & Salk show recently, they were talking about (I don’t remember specifically) the worst Seahawks draft picks of the Schneider/Carroll era. It might have actually been the worst first player selected in each draft, but my mind immediately went to one player.

Before we get to that, I should back up and mention that every team has bad draft picks under their belts. I’m not picking on the Seahawks because I think they’re bad drafters; on the contrary, I think this crew is very GOOD at drafting. Yes, they often find themselves “reaching” in the eyes of the experts, and they go out of their way to trade down (and even out of the first round) to acquire extra picks later on. But, I believe this front office more than any other (except maybe the Patriots) finds the best value in later rounds to round out its roster with quality players.

Beyond that, the Seahawks do an excellent job of blending Best Player Available with Team Needs. You’re not going to see this team draft a quarterback in the top half of the draft because that would be a waste; if you ever do see that, you’d know that player is probably someone who fell further than they should and bank on him being destined for greatness. Those players experts cite as a “reach” are more often than not guys the coaches are able to build up into effective starters. There’s a method to the Seahawks’ madness that keeps this train a rollin’.

If you had to narrow down the absolute WORST pick this group has made, I think you have to start with guys who’ve never played a single down in the NFL. There have been a handful (certainly more than I remembered before I started writing this post), with the worst of the bunch being the guys who cost us the highest draft capital:

  • Mark LeGree (2011, 5th round)
  • Jared Smith (2013, 7th round)
  • Jesse Williams (2013, 5th round)
  • Jimmy Staten (2014, 5th round)
  • Garrett Scott (2014, 6th round)
  • Terry Poole (2015, 4th round)
  • Zac Brooks (2016, 7th round)
  • Kenny Lawler (2016, 7th round)
  • Justin Senior (2017, 7th round)
  • Malik McDowell (2017, 2nd round)

It’s not fair to go beyond the 2017 draft, although Alex McGough spent all of 2018 on the Practice Squad before jumping ship to the Jags, where you have to believe he’ll at least get a shot at some serious playing time as a backup (that Brett Hundley deal continuing to pay whatever the opposite of dividends are). Of that ignominious group I listed above, I completely understand the urge to say, “Malik McDowell is the worst Seahawks draft pick of all time,” and call this post a day.

There is a GREAT argument behind that sentiment. He was a 2nd round pick, and the first pick of our 2017 draft (after trading out of the first round). He was brought in with the thought process that he’d play right away in a rotation that featured Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Cliff Avril, and Jarran Reed, among others. You could play McDowell on the outside on base downs, and bring him inside on passing downs, while allowing him to learn behind some all-time greats. Then, presumably, when the season was up, the team could move on from the likes of Avril and Bennett, and McDowell would’ve had a full year’s worth of experience under his belt to move into one of the starting roles.

We all know what happened instead: McDowell got injured before Training Camp even started, Avril was out of fooball a month into the season, Bennett was still in peak form (though just starting his slide; he’d be traded after the season), and we had to make that awful trade for Sheldon Richardson (who had very little impact on the field, and cost us yet ANOTHER second round pick, this time in the 2018 draft). So, not only did McDowell not produce for us, but he actively crippled this franchise for the next three years (we’re still being hurt by this deal, as we’ve had to spend high picks in the last two drafts – and probably another one next year – to fill the pass rushing void).

But, that’s not the premise of this post. Yes, the selection of McDowell was atrocious, but it is wholly defensible.

The argument against that has to do with him being a knucklehead who crashed on an ATV and broke his skull, but I mean, come on. Who could reasonably predict that? The knock against him heading into the 2017 draft was that he wasn’t necessarily the hardest worker in college. He took downs/games off. The talent was there, when he wanted it to be, and that’s why a high first round talent fell into the second round. If you want to be mad at anything, be mad at the fact that the team traded out of the first round in the first place; that’s the REAL crime here. But, there’s a lot we don’t know. Maybe the defensive lineman we liked was already taken, so it made sense to trade down and get more picks. You also have to factor in the players we were able to draft because of those trades, of which there are a number of contributors (including Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Chris Carson).

Regardless, the reasoning behind taking McDowell was sound. And, for that reason, I have a hard time placing too much blame on a front office that was struck by some of the worst luck you can imagine. If he wasn’t an idiot, we might be talking about an integral part of this year’s defense right now. We were able to turn Frank Clark around after a suspect college career, it’s not crazy to imagine we could’ve turned McDowell around if we’d actually gotten him into the program.

If you wanted to go away from these types of players who made zero positive impact on the club, you could talk about guys who the Seahawks DID play, and who were actively terrible (arguably providing a net-negative value by virture of their performances on the field). This would include guys like:

  • James Carpenter (2011, 1st round)
  • John Moffitt (2011, 3rd round)
  • Mark Glowinski (2015, 4th round)
  • Germain Ifedi (2016, 1st round)
  • Rees Odhiambo (2016, 3rd round)
  • Ethan Pocic (2017, 2nd round)

Some of these aren’t totally fair. Carpenter was a first round reach, no doubt about it, and it took this team a couple years before they finally figured out where his best fit was on the line. But, once he got past some injury issues and settled in, he’s made a nice career for himself (his last year in Seattle was pretty good, but mostly he’s been a workhorse elsewhere). Glowinski also was a dud in Seattle, though he’s been pretty solid in Indy (and just earned a nice little raise this offseason). Moffitt was an outright bust, in every sense of the word, and a total misfire of a 3rd rounder. Odhiambo has been pretty awful (though, again, I’d argue he’s been thrust into roles he’s not suited for, like left tackle – before we brought in Duane Brown – thanks to injuries and poor planning). Ifedi has been this fanbase’s whipping boy from day one, though his 2018 season was a huge step in the right direction (I would bet some other team pays him a pretty penny once he leaves after the 2019 season); and Pocic has been my own personal whipping boy nearly every time he’s seen the field in his short professional career.

I don’t think these guys really qualify as the most indefensibly bad pick of this era, so much as it simply being indefensible that this team left Tom Cable in charge for as long as they did, when he was better at molding crappy players into eventual quality starters for OTHER teams. A guy like Cable is fine if you have all the time in the world to develop diamonds in the rough; but this team was going cheap on its O-Line (to pay stars at other positions) and needed guys to step in RIGHT AWAY; in that sense, you get what you pay for. The defense behind picking these guys is simple: there’s always a need for offensive linemen, and the Seahawks took more swings at this than anyone else in football. The sad fact is that we simply swung and MISSED more than anyone else, which is why this team fell apart after its Super Bowl run.

All of this is preamble for what I’m going to tell you is, without a doubt, the worst and most indefensible draft pick of the John Schneider era:

  • Christine Michael

We were coming off of an all-time great run of drafts, not just for the Seahawks, but for any team in NFL history. You can’t rehash this enough, and I’m more than happy to go over it with you:

  • Russell Okung – 2010
  • Earl Thomas – 2010
  • Golden Tate – 2010
  • Walter Thurmond – 2010
  • Kam Chancellor – 2010
  • James Carpenter – 2011
  • K.J. Wright – 2011
  • Richard Sherman – 2011
  • Byron Maxwell – 2011
  • Malcolm Smith – 2011
  • Doug Baldwin – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Brandon Browner – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Ricardo Lockette – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Bruce Irvin – 2012
  • Bobby Wagner – 2012
  • Russell Wilson – 2012
  • Robert Turbin – 2012
  • Jaye Howard – 2012
  • Jeremy Lane – 2012
  • J.R. Sweezy – 2012
  • Jermaine Kearse – 2012 (undrafted)

That’s just clinically insane. So many All Pros and Pro Bowlers and starters and role players just in that group alone, who contributed to this team’s championship run in 2013. You could easily say this group was playing with house money.

So much of it, in fact, that we traded the farm (including our 2013 first rounder) to acquire Percy Harvin.

You could also argue that the 2013 NFL Draft was one of the worst of all time. Bust after bust after bust among this group; teams even in the top third of the FIRST round couldn’t count on drafting anyone worth a damn; so why am I all up in arms about a second rounder?

Because, motherfucker!

We as Seahawks fans are used to saying, “HUH?” whenever we see who this team ends up picking. In the early going – particularly in 2012 – we were made to look the fool at this way of thinking, as those guys ended up being some of the best players we’ve ever seen. We have that reaction because the guys the Seahawks take aren’t the guys the national pundits spend all offseason talking about. We don’t KNOW those guys; we know other guys who we think are better, but they might not necessarily be good fits for this team. But, at the very least, we could always rationalize WHY the Seahawks took the guys they’ve taken. There are always clear needs, and the Seahawks tend to focus in on those needs just like the rest of us.

As I mentioned before, the 2013 Seahawks were playing with house money. This was a team – in 2012, particularly in the last month of the regular season, on into the postseason – that was already a Super Bowl contender, as is. A bad start in Atlanta in the Divisional Round prevented us from what could’ve been back-to-back-to-back NFC Championship Games and even possibly back-to-back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. No team in December 2012 was playing as well as the Seattle Seahawks – including the eventual NFL Champion 49ers, who we clobbered in that closing stretch – so that 2013 NFL Draft was wide open to do what this team has never been able to do: really go after the Best Player Available.

Think about it, that team had NO HOLES. We were stacked from top to bottom, and as deep as any team in the league has ever been. We CUT guys who would go on to Pro Bowls for other teams, simply because there wasn’t room for them on our 53-man roster!

And yet, as we all know, no team is without holes. We could’ve filled in around the margins; maybe gone after Travis Kelce (taken with the very next pick; can you imagine? Never having to endure the Jimmy Graham debacle?), or the Honey Badger, or Keenan Allen, or any number of third rounders in that draft who are still kicking around the league. Instead, we picked Christine Michael.

And, for the first – and really only time that I can remember – Seahawks fans all said, “HUH?” not because we didn’t know the guy, but because we didn’t know WHY in the FUCK the Seahawks – with inarguably the best running back in all of football – drafted a third running back.

Remember, this team had Robert Turbin from the 2012 draft. While he never developed into a superstar, he was more than fine as a backup. A nice change of pace, someone who took care of the ball and could spell our starter, someone with good hands out in space and fit our zone blocking scheme to a T. Maybe in a different universe, Turbin could’ve been a 1,000-yard back somewhere! When he left Seattle, he succumbed to injuries that kept him from really breaking out, but you never know.

What we DO know is that Marshawn Lynch was Beastmode, and 2012/2013 was right smack dab in the middle of his PRIME! I mean, this seriously made no sense. It was as if the team was trying to push out the best player on its offense for no good God damned reason!

And maybe that was the plan. All I know was that there wasn’t any serious inkling of Lynch retiring, or otherwise leaving the organization at that time. In an ideal universe, maybe Michael sits as the third stringer his rookie year, then takes over in Year Two. But, obviously, we know how things really shook out. Lynch had two of this three best seasons in 2013 & 2014; he was FAR from done! So far, in fact, that the team signed him to an extension in 2015 (which, of course, immediately preceeded him getting injured, then retiring, then being traded to the Raiders for a nice Oakland swan song).

Meanwhile, Michael was terrible, both on and off the field. He didn’t work on his craft, he didn’t have that will to be great; I guess the best thing you can say is that he didn’t get into trouble off the field. But, even in college people questioned his work ethic, hence (again) why a first round talent fell to the bottom of the second round.

Christine Michael was the total antithesis of what the Seahawks sought out in their players under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. And yet, here we were, blowing our first pick on this guy, where there was absolutely no need whatsoever.

There’s no defending the Christine Michael pick, which makes it the most indefensibly bad pick of the John Schneider era.

What I Would Like The Seahawks To Do In The 2019 NFL Draft

Thanks to a number of unfortunate or ill-advised trades, on top of a number of unfortunate or ill-advised free agent signings, the Seahawks were reduced to a total of 4 draft picks for this week’s draft, and 0 compensatory picks. That number increased by 1 with the trade of Frank Clark, so now we’re looking at the following:

  • First Round (21)
  • First Round (29)
  • Third Round (92)
  • Fourth Round (124)
  • Fifth Round (159)

So, not ideal, but interesting. It’s ALWAYS interesting to have two first round picks, even if both of them are in the 20’s.

Heading into the Frank Clark deal, it was a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks would do everything in their power to trade down from 21 to acquire more picks. What’s now up for interpretation is the fact that the Seahawks could actually Stick & Pick at 21, then maybe use 29 to trade down. I would argue it’ll probably be EASIER to trade 29, since it’s a lesser value, while at the same time holds a lot of power because it’s so close to the second round. So, if there’s a quarterback-needy team at or near the top of the second, who’d like to move back into the first to preserve a possible 5th Year Option, that 29th spot could be a turkey shoot.

My guess is that there won’t be any guys the Seahawks truly LOVE at 21, so they’ll trade down maybe 3-4 spots and get a nominal return in extra picks, and then select someone at 24 or 25. But, all bets are off for 29; I could see the Seahawks dropping all the way to 40 (Buffalo) or 41 (Denver), maybe even 46 (Washington) or 48 (Miami). For that, they should get a HAUL. I’m talking the second, a high third, and maybe even a fourth! Pick number 29 should be open season, going to the highest bidder.

Regardless, tomorrow’s first round coverage went from being nominally interesting to Must See TV for Seahawks fans.

Getting back to the point of this post, here’s what I’d like to see the Seahawks do:

  • I want that first selection to be a defensive end
  • I want the second selection to be Best Player Available

A lot of people are talking about a wide receiver. I’m willing to concede that’s a position of bigger need than I originally thought, what with Doug Baldwin’s injury issues and increasing age. I still love Tyler Lockett, and I think David Moore is going to bounce back from a subpar second half of last year, but this would still be a good position to shore up for the long haul.

But, with wide receiver, you have to be SURE. And this team’s track record with receivers in the first four rounds is a little suspect. Aside from Lockett, there’s Amara Darboh (done nothing in two years), Kevin Norwood (total bust), Paul Richardson (injury prone, had only one really good year), Chris Harper (total bust), Kris Durham (total bust), and Golden Tate (legitimately great). I would argue this team is better at finding receivers among the late rounds or undrafted than they are up high (Baldwin, Kearse, Moore).

If the team is sure, I guess I’ll take their word for it, but I would much rather have the team go after a safety with the second pick. Hell, even if they took a second defensive end, I’d be just fine! Or a run-stuffing D-Tackle. Maybe a quality nickel corner who falls. In an ideal world, both of the first two picks will be on the defensive side of the ball.

As for the later rounds – depending on how many extra picks we’re able to trade for – I’d probably look for a receiver there. I also think this team is destined to pick up another linebacker for primarily special teams purposes (could Ben Burr-Kirven be an option late?). It also might not be the worst idea in the world to grab a backup QB, so we can stop riding this rollercoaster of backups on 1-year deals. It’s just a waste of money and, like last year, resources in our lost 6th rounder for Brett Hundley.

One spot I actually DON’T think the Seahawks need to concern themselves about too much is the O-Line. Maybe take a project late, but I think we’ve got rock solid depth up and down the line. I might not even waste the draft pick, but instead go after a lineman among the undrafted.

I also don’t think tight end needs to be a huge priority. And, while I’ll always welcome extra cornerback help, I don’t think that’s a direction this team is going to head down (unless, again, it’s a cornerback who’s also a special teams stud).

The Seahawks did a remarkable job filling a lot of holes last year. Aside from maybe a new wide receiver project, I think the entire offensive side of the ball is set. We got a kicker and punter for many years to come, but bolstering our coverage units should be a high priority. Our linebacker room is probably the best it’s ever been (assuming the veterans stay healthy). Our secondary still has a lot to prove, but is otherwise young and hungry.

Ultimately, while I’d try to get a stud safety/nickel corner, I think the overwhelming majority of the focus this week needs to be on the defensive line, both for pass rushers (early) and run stuffers (late, ideally). Take multiple shots, because not everyone is going to pan out, so play the numbers game.

The Seahawks Need More Stars

Brock and Salk had an interesting conversation recently about the Seahawks and how close they are to contending for another Super Bowl. My takeaway (I tend to agree with Salk here) is that the Seahawks are short on stars. There are a lot of good players on this team, but not necessarily a lot of GREAT players. So, I decided to quickly do a comparison between the 2018/2019 Seahawks against the 2013 Super Bowl Champs.

Offensive (and Special Teams) Stars

Now

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Chris Carson – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Duane Brown – LT
  • Michael Dickson – P

Then

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Marshawn Lynch – RB
  • Golden Tate – WR
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Russell Okung – LT
  • Max Unger – C
  • Jon Ryan – P

Right there, you’d have to say pretty comparable. Beastmode is better than Carson, the receivers are pretty close to the same, and 2018 Russell is better than 2013 Russell. Where we start to see some breakaway is on the other side of the ball.

Defensive Stars

Now

  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Jarran Reed – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • (K.J. Wright – LB)

Then

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Earl Thomas – FS
  • Kam Chancellor – SS
  • Richard Sherman – CB

I’d say the Seahawks have a good start here, but I’d also say the combo of Bennett & Avril were better than the combo of Clark & Reed. Now, there’s obviously still room for both of the younger guys to grow, so in theory they could be even more dominant than they were in 2018, but as it stands right now that’s where we’re at. 2018 Bobby is better than 2013 Bobby, and while 2018 K.J. is better than 2013 K.J., the 2018 version was also injury prone, and is far from a lock to be re-signed to this team in 2019.

Then, there’s the secondary. The 2013 Seahawks not only had 3 superstars in the secondary, they had 3 ALL TIMERS. The 2018/2019 Seahawks don’t have anything CLOSE, and that’s ultimately their biggest hole to overcome (I won’t say “fill”, because I think we’re pretty much stuck with the guys we’ve got, which means we have to compensate in other ways defensively and as a team as a whole).

So, digging down further, let’s list the players who are just good starters/role players.

Now

  • Mike Davis – RB
  • Rashaad Penny – RB
  • All our Tight Ends
  • Justin Britt – C
  • Both starting Guards
  • Poona Ford – DT
  • Mychal Kendricks – LB
  • Justin Coleman – CB
  • Tre Flowers – CB
  • Shaq Griffin – CB
  • Bradley McDougald – SS

Then

  • All our Tight Ends
  • Sidney Rice – WR
  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Chris Clemons – DE
  • Tony McDaniel – DT
  • Clinton McDonald – DT
  • Brandon Mebane – DT
  • Bruce Irvin – LB
  • Byron Maxwell – CB
  • Walter Thurmond – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB

I think our running back room now is stronger than it was then (but it didn’t matter in 2013 when Beastmode was all you needed). I think our offensive line as a whole is better now than it was then, even though the 2013 version was more top-heavy (Sweezy in 2018 is MUCH better than Sweezy in 2013, for instance; Fluker is better than Carpenter; and I would argue Ifedi is on par with Giacomini). I think both tight end rooms are a wash. But, as you can see, while the Seahawks of today have a so-so secondary, the BACKUPS in 2013 were on par with what we have now (and, I would argue, probably a little better). And, the other big difference is up front. Look at all the beef we had on the D-Line in 2013 compared to today! It’s no contest!

Also, not for nothing, but a few of those guys I listed might not be back in 2019, which is yet more work for the Seahawks to do this offseason.

As you can see, the talent disparity is pretty big. I wouldn’t say it’s insurmountable, but you have to wonder where we’re going to pick up the slack. With 4 draft picks and a bunch of our own stars we need to extend, it’s not like we have unlimited resources.

The good news is, the Seahawks of 2019 don’t need to beat the Seahawks of 2013. I would argue the 2013 Seahawks were one of the most talented teams of all time (especially on defense); we won’t see anyone like that in the NFL in 2019. We just have to get past the Rams and the rest of the NFC, then let the chips fall where they may.

It would HELP if we could develop a couple of those good starters into superstars, but this draft and free agency period will be pretty big. No whiffing, lest we middle our way to another Wild Card finish.