If there’s been one constant during the John Schneider era, it’s been the Seattle Seahawks penchant for trading out of the first round of the NFL Draft.
Since Schneider took over in 2010, Seattle has only drafted in its original first-round slot twice, using two first-round picks on tackle Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the 2010 NFL Draft and selecting guard James Carpenter with the No. 25 selection the following year.
After his first two drafts, Schneider and the Seahawks began to habitually auction off their first-round selections as a means to acquire established talent or stockpile additional draft picks. Most notably, Seattle dealt away first rounders in separate deals in 2013 and 2015 to acquire receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Jimmy Graham.
With only four picks heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, there’s a better chance President Donald Trump will permanently give up tweeting than the Seahawks sitting pat and selecting a player with their No. 21 overall pick in April.
The problem? While there’s never been a time where trading down in the first round has been more essential for the Seahawks with Schneider at the helm, trying to receive sufficient compensation in return could be an arduous task for a couple of reasons.
For starters, teams that typically try to trade up or back into the first round tend to be looking for quarterbacks. Only a few years ago in the 2016 NFL Draft, Seattle swapped first rounders with Denver and netted an additional third-round pick as the Broncos moved up to draft quarterback Paxton Lynch.
This year’s class of quarterback prospects offers some intriguing names, but the group isn’t as highly regarded as last year’s crop that yielded five first-round selections. The best ones could be off the board in the first 10 picks, making a deal similar to the one Seattle reached with Denver less likely.
Looking at the teams who will select after the Seahawks, the vast majority have established starting quarterbacks that should remain under center for years to come. Among the few exceptions, the Chargers and Patriots could potentially have interest in moving up to find the future successor for Philip Rivers and Tom Brady.
Secondly, teams value draft picks more under today’s collective bargaining agreement than ever before. Veterans continue to be recycled on the waiver wire in favor of younger players under club control, making trading up in the draft far less enticing unless a franchise quarterback or elite pass rusher remains available.
According to the NFL Draft Trade Value Chart on DraftTek, which stems from the classic model of former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, the Seahawks’ selection is worth 800 points. While I won’t go into specific deals in this instance, Schneider should be able to net an additional third round pick while swapping first rounders based on the model.
With a mediocre quarterback class and a deep, talented defensive line group that could push first-round talents into later rounds, receiving that kind of haul may be more difficult.
This isn’t to say it’ll be impossible for Seattle to swing a quality deal. All it will take is one team falling in love with a specific player and deciding not to risk losing the chance to select him by sitting idly. Plenty of deals have happened over the years to trade up for elite players at other positions under such circumstances.
Maybe a team like the Packers, who have two first-round picks after a trade with the Saints last year, will use their extra ammunition to move up and fill one of their several holes on the roster. Or the Raiders, who have three first-round selections, could have interest in swapping picks, especially if they’re no longer sold on Derek Carr as the franchise quarterback.
Other teams could be in play, as the entire draft process is as unpredictable as an unstable radioactive atom. Nobody has a clue when players will be selected or which teams will make mid-draft trades, adding to the allure and popularity of the event.
Among the few things that seem close to guaranteed come draft weekend, the Seahawks will surely trade down at least one time, if not more. Finding a trade partner shouldn’t be difficult, but with the lack of top quarterback prospects and few teams looking for signal callers in general, getting adequate value in return won’t be a slam dunk.