John Schneider isn't a stranger when it comes to transforming limited draft capital into an abundance of new players. Now entering his 12th season as general manager of the Seahawks, this is far from his first rodeo.
Only two years ago, Seattle entered the offseason scheduled to pick just four times in the 2019 NFL Draft after swinging trades for tackle Duane Brown, quarterback Brett Hundley, and safety Shalom Luani during the previous two seasons. This left Schneider with only a first, third, fourth, and fifth round pick at his disposal.
But Schneider had a plan in place to address this issue and began executing it after placing the franchise tag on star pass rusher Frank Clark. After attempting to reach a long-term deal with the veteran defensive end, he wound up dealing him to the Chiefs in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick, a future second-round selection, and a swap of third round selections.
Now armed with two first-round picks, Schneider continued his plan by trading down from the team's No. 21 overall pick, sending it to the Packers in exchange for pick No. 30 and a pair of fourth round selections. Moments later, after using pick No. 29 to draft defensive end L.J. Collier, he traded down from No. 30 with the Giants, acquiring pick No. 37 and two additional mid-round selections. As if that wasn't enough, he then traded down once more with the Panthers to add a third-round pick (No. 77 overall).
At this point, Schneider had turned four draft picks into 10 selections, including three picks on day two. At the tail end of the second round, shortly after drafting Utah safety Marquise Blair, he then flipped the script, dealing pick No. 77 and No. 118 to the Patriots to move up to No. 64 overall to select receiver DK Metcalf.
By the time the draft concluded, Schneider had made eight trades, including sending a future pick to the Jaguars to get back into the seventh round and select Hawaii receiver John Ursua, transforming four picks into 11 new players.
Fast forwarding to the present, the Seahawks once again have only four selections heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. But compared to two years ago, that's truly where the similarities between the two situations cease.
Unlike 2019, Schneider doesn't have a premier pass rusher in the prime of his career that he can dangle as trade bait to add a premium draft pick or two. In fact, his best "tag-and-trade" asset may be cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who has yet to prove himself as a true shutdown corner after four NFL seasons. With teams struggling to create cap space and already releasing overpriced veterans, it may be a hard sell to get anything substantial for him in a trade.
After trading away multiple first-round picks as well as a third-round pick for safety Jamal Adams prior to the start of the 2020 season, Schneider also has just one pick in the first three rounds. While pick No. 56 may still have some trade down value, he won't be bringing in additional day two picks and may be lucky to do much better than a fifth or sixth round selection. From there, trading down becomes far less fruitful, as Seattle isn't scheduled to pick again until the fourth round.
This isn't to say that Schneider doesn't have any options for adding picks. Jarran Reed and Carlos Dunlap both have one year left under contract and carry cap hits around $14 million in 2021. If he isn't able to extend one or both players, he may be able to coax another team into giving up a day three selection. If the Seahawks decided to part ways with Tyler Lockett or even Bobby Wagner, a day two pick might be attainable.
But a team in the middle of a title window won't want to trade stars of the caliber of Wagner or Lockett unless they get an offer they cannot refuse. It's not an ideal set of circumstances for Schneider, who already faces a daunting task trying to improve Seattle's roster with limited cap space and a number of key free agents set to hit the market in March.
Widely renowned as one of the best in the business, if anyone can tackle such challenges, it's Schneider, who has displayed his sorcery over the past decade by masterfully climbing up and down the draft to the Seahawks advantage. If anyone is capable of turning such a mess into gold and finding a way to recoup a bunch of extra picks seemingly out of thin air, he's the one you should bet all your poker chips on.
With that said, the chances of Schneider replicating anything close his 2019 magic remains slim to none, particularly in a year where teams haven't been able to scout players as they have in the past due to the pandemic. Holding only a handful of darts to throw at the dart board and possessing few assets to acquire more of them, it's far more likely Seattle will walk away from April's draft with only a handful of new players.