Seattle Seahawks' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade
Though their success may feel recent, the Seattle Seahawks have actually been one of the NFL's most successful organizations for the best decade. Like most franchises, the Seahawks have had their occasional dips since 2004, but with six NFC West titles, their consistency has been underrated.
Part of Seattle's success stems from their solid draft record. Cost-controlled talent like Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman constitute the foundation of the current Super Bowl champions, allowing Seattle to compile loads of talent while also maintaining a healthy salary cap.
Of course, the end of the Mike Holmgren era necessitated that new foundation, as the Seahawks suffered four consecutive losing seasons between 2008 and 2011. Examining their draft track record from the years before that, it is clear that a few early-round whiffs fostered a dearth of talent in the late 2000s.
The Seahawks may be on top of the football world at the moment, but as the past has shown, effective drafting is the only method to retain their lofty perch. Using the last decade as the time frame, here's a look at the best and worst Seahawks' draft picks.
5th Worst: David Greene, 3rd Round, 2005
When the Seahawks drafted Georgia quarterback David Greene with the 85th overall pick, it seemed reasonable to expect that he might mature into Matt Hasselbeck's successor. Hasselbeck was already 30 years old at the time, and with just two full seasons as a starter under his belt, Seattle made a prudent move to select some potential insurance.
However, Greene disappointed over his unhappy two-year stint in Seattle. Following a game in the 2007 preseason, Mike Holmgren expressed his dissatisfaction with Greene's lack of progress, per Jose Romero of The Seattle Times. The team would cut him before the regular season, as he never surpassed Seneca Wallace to become Hasselbeck's backup.
Greene subsequently bounced around in the NFL wilderness for two years, making stops in New England, Kansas City and Indianapolis. However, after he failed to catch on with the Colts in 2008, Greene retired from the game in 2009 without ever playing a regular-season snap.
Quarterbacks drafted outside the first round have been a fairly poor proposition, especially since the turn of the century. Greene is not alone in the graveyard of mid-round busts, but that does not make his selection any less of a waste.
5th Best: Lofa Tatupu, 2nd Round, 2005
Lofa Tatupu may have only played six seasons, but for a short time, he was one of the league's premier middle linebackers.
His peak came early in his career. From his rookie season of 2005 until 2007, he compiled 262 tackles, eight interceptions and 6.5 sacks. Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, the only other players to reach those benchmarks in that time frame were Brian Urlacher and Keith Bulluck.
Indeed, Tatupu was one of the game's best all-around linebackers during his rookie contract, making him an absolute steal at 45th overall. Seattle recognized this and gave him a six-year contract extension following the 2008 season.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed a promising career. A torn pectoral muscle in 2009 led to diminished returns in 2010, and Tatupu was subsequently released after he and the Seahawks failed to agree upon a re-structured deal. An attempt to revitalize his career in Atlanta never materialized, as he suffered another torn pectoral muscle that led to his release before he ever played a game for the Falcons.
But while the end of his career came prematurely, Seattle received excellent value during his three-year peak. For that, he gets the nod as the best steal of the pre-Pete Carroll era.
4th Worst: Chris Spencer, 1st Round, 2005
First-round offensive linemen are typically low-risk propositions, as they are among the most projectable commodities in the draft. However, despite receiving consistent starting opportunities, center Chris Spencer never turned into a long-term fixture for Seattle.
Selected with the 26th overall pick in 2005, he inherited the starting center job from the retiring Robbie Tobeck in 2007 and held the position until his departure after the 2010 season. In those five years, here were his annual overall blocking grades: plus-3.5, minus-8.7, plus-3.1 and minus-7.5.
Spencer's game-by-game grades read like a seismograph, and it's no surprise that the Seahawks grew frustrated by his inconsistencies. He has played sparingly over the past two seasons with the Bears and Titans, never translating the flashes of talent into weekly production.
The Seahawks could have selected David Baas, a longtime starter who went seven picks later, or uber-versatile All-Pro guard Logan Mankins, who was selected 32nd that year. Instead, Seattle received six years of alternating productivity and frustration.
4th Best: Earl Thomas, 1st Round, 2010
It's tough to label any first-round pick a true steal, but with the 14th overall pick, the Seahawks received a transformative presence that serves as the template by which every free safety is compared.
In today's spread-oriented pass-heavy NFL, Earl Thomas is the perfect counteractant to halt record-breaking offenses. His ranginess and instincts allow the Seahawks to play an aggressive single-high man defense, one that teams around the league are trying to copycat.
Richard Sherman receives the majority of the headlines as the critical component of Seattle's famed secondary, but in reality, Thomas may be the most irreplaceable cog. Last year, opposing quarterbacks threw two touchdowns compared to five interceptions when targeting Thomas. Moreover, with just 68 yards after the catch, receivers were unable to do much damage when they did make the reception.
An important shutdown corner remains the most important piece on a defense, but a premium free safety is not far behind. Thomas is a luxury that few other teams in the league have, which means that he has exceeded his already high value.
3rd Worst: Marcus Tubbs, 1st Round, 2004
Injuries are an unfortunate variable of the game, and it's a shame that defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs never stayed healthy enough to fulfill his Pro Bowl potential. Tubbs, drafted 23rd overall in 2004, played three injury-plagued seasons in Seattle before hanging up his cleats after the 2006 season.
He played a respectable 24 games his first two years, missing time with ankle and knee injuries, but it was a torn ACL that truly derailed his career. The 325-pounder never recovered from the injury he suffered in the middle of the 2006 season and was eventually released shortly before the 2008 season.
Tubbs was not entirely unproductive during his brief time on the field, notching 5.5 sacks in 2007 and providing a stout interior presence. In that season, he started 11 of the 13 games he suited up for and appeared likely to become a fixture in the Seattle defense.
It didn't turn out too badly for the Seahawks, however. In need of extra depth without Tubbs, Seattle spent mid-round picks on defensive ends in both 2007 and 2008, selecting Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant. Both turned into excellent durable starters, with Mebane serving as an underrated anchor on last season's championship squad.
3rd Best: Kam Chancellor, 5th Round, 2010
Though secondary mate Earl Thomas gets more publicity as the league's best safety, Kam Chancellor ranks ahead of him on this list based on value. The 133rd overall pick in 2010, Chancellor has emerged as the league's premier strong safety, which makes him one of the best steals in recent memory.
His value is not immediately evident when looking at the surface stats. In four seasons, he has just seven interceptions and five forced fumbles. However, opposing quarterbacks threw just a single touchdown when targeting Chancellor in 2013, compared to three interceptions. Moreover, he was one of the league's best tacklers, missing just eight tackles in more than 900 snaps.
When teams talk about imitating the Seahawks secondary, they point to the need for a big strong safety who is an imposing hitter over the middle but also agile and aware enough to cover tight ends. However, at 6'3" and 232 pounds, Chancellor is truly an inimitable presence, as there are no regular safeties with a similar build who can play multiple roles effectively.
Thus, he has given Seattle a weapon that no other team in the league can boast. The 2010 draft was the first of the Pete Carroll era, and selecting Thomas and Chancellor immediately provided an enviable foundation.
2nd Worst: Lawrence Jackson, 1st Round, 2008
In selecting Lawrence Jackson, the Seahawks envisioned a stout run defender who could serve as a long-term anchor on the edge. However, he lasted just two disappointing seasons in the Pacific Northwest before being flipped to the Lions for a sixth-round pick.
Before the draft, scouting reports warned that Jackson was "one of the streakiest players" in the draft. Instead of turning into a run-stuffer, he finished with the sixth-worst run-stop percentage among 4-3 defensive ends in his rookie season. Subsequently, he played just 228 run snaps in 2009, as the Seahawks stripped him of the very duty they drafted him for.
Jackson actually became a better pass-rusher than envisioned, accruing 4.5 sacks in limited snaps in his second season. However, his skill set was never going to turn him into an edge-rushing specialist, and after three more disappointing seasons in Detroit, he was out of the league following the 2012 season.
The 2008 defensive end class was fairly weak, as the only true impact players were Calais Campbell and Cliff Avril. The Seahawks possess one of the most stacked defensive line rotations in the league, but Jackson was a memorable whiff.
2nd Best: Russell Wilson, 3rd Round, 2012
It's tough to decide between Russell Wilson and a certain loquacious cornerback, as the foundation of this Seahawks team consists of two mid-round hits. While Wilson may not top this list, there is little arguing his status as one of the biggest steals in recent draft history.
Wilson's critics will deride him as a game manager, pointing to average surface statistics as evidence that he is somehow overrated. While having the league's best and most innovative defense is an obvious asset that buoys the offense, a closer look reveals that Wilson is indeed one of the game's brightest stars.
In 2013, his 48.3 accuracy percentage on deep throws (passes traveling 20 or more yards) led the NFL. Moreover, deep throws constituted 14.7 percent of his passes, the fifth-highest mark in the league. Consequently, those who point to his low turnover rate and portray him as a risk-averse checkdown artist are far off base in their analysis.
As one of the best improvisers in the league, Wilson fits the ideal mold of the new-age quarterback, possessing a blend of intelligence, accuracy and mobility. Given the rave reviews about his leadership, the Seahawks have a pillar to build around for the next decade.
Worst: Aaron Curry, 1st Round, 2009
Aaron Curry represents one of the biggest NFL busts of the past decade. Ironically, many viewed him as "the elite" prospect of the 2009 draft class—a can't-miss prospect who would turn into an anchor in the middle of the defense.
The Seahawks felt similarly, handing Curry a six-year, $60 million contract with $34 million guaranteed, the most guaranteed money to any non-quarterback rookie in NFL history. Despite early struggles, the Seahawks stuck with him, allowing him to start 28 games from 2009-10.
Consequently, he became one of the league's worst regular players. The uber-prospect graded out as the third-worst 4-3 outside linebacker his rookie year and the 11th-worst in 2010. Curry's hip fluidity and smooth movement skills were supposed to make him an asset in coverage, but in 2009, opposing quarterbacks completed 51 out of 57 passes when targeting him, making him the worst coverage linebacker in the league.
Seattle finally cut bait and traded Curry to Oakland for a seventh-round pick and another conditional choice. The former Wake Forest product never caught on anywhere else and retired shortly before the start of the 2013 season.
It's astounding that Seattle missed so badly on a heavy draft and financial investment yet still turned its defense around shortly thereafter. It's a testament to the team's ability to unearth mid-round gems—none of whom was more valuable than the final name on this list.
Best: Richard Sherman, 5th Round, 2011
Say what you will about his talk, which can appear excessive and self-aggrandizing at times. After a 2013 season in which Darrelle Revis spent the year in the obscurity and dysfunction of Tampa Bay, Richard Sherman has inherited the title of best cornerback in the game.
Last year, opposing quarterbacks had a putrid 47.3 quarterback rating when targeting Sherman, by far the worst mark in the league. In addition, he allowed a reception just once every 18.3 snaps in coverage, also the best mark in the league. And for those who shun football analytics, his eight interceptions also led the league.
In short, there is little evidence that anyone is playing the position at a higher level than Sherman at the moment. As the league's pass-to-run ratio steadily increases toward the latter, a true man-to-man shutdown cornerback might become the game's second-most valuable commodity.
That the Seahawks found the embodiment of that skill in the fifth round is incomprehensible. Yes, the chip on Sherman's shoulder can feel insufferable at times, but while one can deride his verbosity, there is nothing to criticize about his game.
*All stats via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).