Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ 2015 draft more productive than expected

Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, right, catches a pass for a touchdown against Cleveland in December. Seattle’s decision to move up to the third round in the 2015 draft and select the Kansas State product turned out to be a wise decision.
Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, right, catches a pass for a touchdown against Cleveland in December. Seattle’s decision to move up to the third round in the 2015 draft and select the Kansas State product turned out to be a wise decision. dperine@thenewstribune.com

The Seahawks’ 2015 draft elicited mixed reviews for talent, and a lot of flak for character judgments.

A year later, the character issues haven’t seemed to cause any of the feared community endangerment, and the bright spots probably turned out brighter than could have been expected.

And at the end of it all, when they collected their share of the undrafted talent, the Seahawks discovered a nugget who might turn into another of their great steals.

After the mother-lode draft of 2012, the Seahawks’ classes of 2013 and 2014 either didn’t have a great deal of room to contribute, or were short on the talent to make much of an impact.

So last spring’s draft deserved the scrutiny.

Many of us didn’t see the wisdom of the Seahawks using their first pick (No. 63) on Michigan defensive lineman Frank Clark, who had been involved in a domestic-abuse charge.

The Seahawks didn’t need to take a risk on somebody linked to such a case, I argued last spring. Clark, they claimed, had his case resolved by the court system, and they pledged to monitor and channel his behavior.

After an impressive preseason, Clark was lightly used, but finished with four sacks, including the postseason. As they promised, he’s versatile, athletic and could become the kind of physical mismatch the Hawks can exploit as they do Michael Bennett.

If he keeps his nose clean and continues to progress, he’ll easily be worth the second-round pick expended.

Tyler Lockett forced the Hawks to break their mold a little, kicking in three extra picks to trade up in the third round to land the Kansas State returner/receiver. At 5-10, 180 pounds, will he stand the punishment?

But he became the Hawks’ most immediately productive pick in the draft as a Pro Bowl returner and the only rookie named to the AP All-Pro team. Toss in his 51 catches and six receiving touchdowns, and his value doubled.

With the offensive line standing as an obvious need, the Hawks addressed the issue with three picks, but not until they took two players in the fourth round and another in the seventh.

Really? There seemed no way these guys could contribute right away.

True enough, only guard Mark Glowinski saw much action, but he looked like a future starter in the game against Arizona when he stepped in for the injured J.R. Sweezy.

Terry Poole and Kristjan Sokoli, the other line picks last season, had what amounted to a redshirt year and must now prove their value, and put in the kind of work that turns potential into production.

The forgotten cost in the 2015 draft was the trade of veteran center Max Unger to New Orleans in the deal for tight end Jimmy Graham.

Graham had 48 catches before going out for the season with a knee injury in the 11th game. That’s a 70-catch pace, which is big for a Seahawks tight end. He’s expected to return and offer more value to the deal.

But in the short term, the loss of Unger, who had been the anchor and mastermind of the offensive front, weakened an already spotty unit. Unger’s absence had an obvious effect on the offense, as replacement Drew Nowak was ineffective in his first two career starts, which contributed to road defeats in the first two games.

The surprise, meanwhile, was a pleasant one, as undrafted free agent running back Thomas Rawls got his chance when Marshawn Lynch was hurt, and before breaking an ankle against Baltimore, Rawls picked up 830 yards in seven starts. His 5.6-yards-per-carry average was the highest in the NFL.

At the end of the season, coach Pete Carroll talked about his excitement to see the progress of some young guys who didn’t get much time last season, like those backup rookie linemen and cornerback Ty Smith.

The reality is that when you have a veteran-dominated team, sometimes you’re drafting for a couple years ahead. And to get a Pro Bowl returner, a promising pass rusher and a potential long-term top-end running back in one draft makes the whole effort a success.

The message for this week’s draft? As much fun as it is to offer grades and knee-jerk reactions, the draft is an endeavor most effectively examined retroactively.

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