Analysis: Breaking Down Seahawks' Two Draft Day Trades

This was an NFL Draft like no other. Matty F. Brown studies the 2021 Seahawks experience, analyzing the value general manager John Schneider earned from his draft-day trades.
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Another Seahawks draft took place, although 2021 was a draft like no other. It wasn’t just COVID-19 making the event stranger. Yes, John Schneider traded down. However, despite holding just three draft selections heading into the event, the Seahawks still only picked three times. 

Most analysts - guilty - expected the front office to increase their picks. While Seattle’s GM did move down to initially add to his small total, Schneider stuck with the surprises by achieving this in the fourth round rather than the much-predicted second. He then used the pick added by this maneuver to trade up from the seventh round to the sixth for Florida offensive tackle Stone Forsythe. So, after all that, just three picks were made.

Like 2020, when the Seahawks took the promising Jordyn Brooks, drafting D’Wayne Eskridge in the 2021 second round was not the initial plan. For a consecutive draft a Seattle trade-down deal fell apart. The 2021 Seahawks, letting the clock tick down to the very last second, ended up taking the best player available on their draft board. Two trades took place later on.

Let’s focus on the value John Schneider’s Seahawks created in these draft-day moves. Did Seattle get fleeced? Did the team plunder rival franchises? Or did the Seahawks execute fair deals? To analyze this, we’ll use the work of Drafttek.com and Pro Footballl Focus's Brad Spielberger. Both of these sources utilize models that assign value to each draft pick. 

Trade No. 1: Fourth Round Trade Down

The Seahawks held pick No. 129 in the fourth round and traded it to Tampa Bay for picks No. 137 and 217. 

Drafttek.com tells us the Seahawks gave the Buccaneers a deal worth 43 points on the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart and received 40.5. The website also features Rich Hill’s 2018 chart, which accounts for compensatory selections and attempts to predict how NFL teams value picks. Seattle traded 21 points for 20 per that chart.

Spielberger’s model incorporates slightly different Johnson and Hill values, along with the Spielberger-Fitzgerald model and PFF’s take. The Spielberger-Fitzgerald model, devised by Brad Spielberger and Jason Fitzgerald, attempts to “use NFL salary data to retroactively grade every draft selection from 2011 through 2015 following the conclusion of their rookie contracts, and to use that data to better project the value of each future draft selection.” Between the models, the deal was valued as a 2-2 tie.

By moving down, the Seahawks missed out on Robert Rochell, a long cornerback who was taken by the Los Angeles Rams the very next pick at No. 130. Rochell, coming out of Central Arkansas, attended the 2021 Senior Bowl—an event with obvious importance to the Seahawks. He met every traditional Pete Carroll-Schneider cornerback measurement asides from his height being just short of six-foot.

Seattle’s eventual pick wound up being Oklahoma corner Tre Brown. 

“If he was 6-foot-2, he’d have been picked in the top 10,” John Schneider stated afterwards. “We could have gone back even further after we worked with Tampa, to see if we could get Tre a little bit later.”

It was more than the vision of Brown which prevented the Seahawks from extra trade-down thinking. 

“We just decided that was not the thing to do,” Schneider described. “We needed to just pick Tre—but with the thought of acquiring another pick to go up and try get Stone.”

Trade No. 2: Sixth Round Trade Up

By “Stone,” Schneider was referring to offensive tackle Stone Forsythe—the Seahawks’ sixth-round - and final - pick. 

“It seemed like forever we waited for Stone, we tried trading up forever to get him,” Schneider revealed. “I wanna say it was in the 190s that we tried. ... It literally seemed like two hours, forever—it seemed like forever.” 

This was the late-rounder the Seahawks had to have.

“I don’t know who was more nervous there for a while, like Pete [Carroll] or [Steve Hutchinson],” Schneider later added. “And I’m like, ‘Man, you guys need to stop, like, cruising around in front of the table... they’re making me dizzy.’”

The Seahawks traded No. 250 in the seventh round in addition to No. 217 (the pick acquired in the trade-down with Tampa Bay) to the Bears for No. 208. Drafttek has Jimmy Johnson’s model valuing this as the Seahawks giving 4.0 points and receiving 6.6 back. Rich Hill’s model on Drafttek charted Seattle as sending 3.0 points and getting back 3.0 points.

Spielberger’s numbers again differed from Drafttek, but agreed three-to-one that the Seahawks came off slightly worse in the trade-up move. (With the picks, the Bears took RB Khalil Herbert out of Virginia Tech and DT Khyiris Tonga from BYU).

What the draft pick valuation models are unable to account for is each front office’s confidence in their team’s selection. It was obvious that Forsythe was the guy the Seahawks organization desperately wanted on their team. 

“He’s a really unique player,” Head Coach Pete Carroll evaluated. “He really brings a great level of potential.”

The later rounds of the draft start to be viewed as priority free agency. Most NFL teams have around 150 players on their draft boards and the draft goes well beyond this point. Schneider has loved a late-round trade-up during his tenure with the Seahawks, presumably because he wants to secure a late-round guy who Seattle doesn't feel confident enough in recruiting in free agency or they're one of the last remaining names on the board, or both.

In the case of Forsythe: most draft analysts were shocked the Florida product was still available. He plays with lots of excellent pass protection traits yet, given the college offense he played in, was unable to display the run game ability most teams would like to see from a higher selection. Brandon Thorn, offensive line expert and one-time colleague, projected Forsythe as a second-round pick largely due to his pass protection. On The Athletic’s Arif Hasan’s big board, Forsythe was aggregated as the No. 118 draft prospect.

Asked to explain why Forsythe slid down the draft, Schneider highlighted personality rather than tape. 

“He’s just kinda quiet,” the GM assessed. “Pretty quiet, not like a real vocal guy. ... I would think, if you wanted to nitpick: you’ve got offensive line coaches that are gritty and tough and they want the guy that’s got a big old chew in.”

Seattle was able to alleviate potential character and/or personality concerns from draftniks; employing Seahawks’ consultant Steve Hutchinson, who spent considerable time with Forsythe. This was clearly a big deal. Hence, Schneider traded up to go get Seattle’s man.