The NFL Draft has been called a crapshoot by experts and fans alike and there's plenty of truth to this classification. Teams can typically help their cause by doing their homework with film evaluations, medical checkups, and prospect visits, but ultimately, there's some luck that goes into the process.
Case in point? Midway through day three of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Seahawks did not have a fifth-round pick. But general manager John Schneider and the scouting department had zeroed in on Iowa tight end George Kittle, believing they could get him if they traded up into the early portion of the round.
Schneider continued working the phones, calling several teams holding fifth round selections. Per a source with understanding of the situation, a deal was in place to move all the way up to No. 148 overall, which belonged to the Jaguars, positioning the Seahawks to be able to draft Kittle.
According to Matt Verderame of Fan Sided, Kittle's agent called him to inform him Seattle would be trading up to pick the tight end. But as this call took place, Kittle's own phone rang simultaneously and general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan were on the other end of the line, informing him San Francisco had selected him with the 146th pick.
"Literally, I'm on the phone with my agent - he was on my dad's phone - and I got a call from the bay area," Kittle said on the Stacking the Box podcast. "And I was like 'hey I'm getting a call from the bay area' and he's like 'hang up on me and answer that' and I'm like 'alright, sick.' Next thing I know, I'm talking to John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan saying they're drafting me."
This meshes well with Schneider's personal account, as he told reporters Seattle "missed [Kittle] by a minute" in 2018.
Landing with a bitter NFC West rival, Kittle instantly became one of the NFL's best all-around tight ends due to his elite inline blocking skills and receiving prowess. He caught 43 passes for 515 yards as a rookie and then emerged as a Pro Bowler in 2018, posting 1,377 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The ensuing season, while his overall receiving yardage totals dropped a bit, he earned First-Team All-Pro distinction as the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl.
Unable to snag Kittle as they hoped, the Seahawks have been left playing musical chairs at the tight end position over the past four years. After scoring 10 touchdowns during the 2017 season, Jimmy Graham fled for the Packers in free agency and the team looked to replaced him with Ed Dickson and incoming rookie Will Dissly. Both players battled injuries, playing in a combined 20 regular season games during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Last year, Seattle signed Greg Olsen to a one-year deal shortly after the Super Bowl and used another fourth-round pick on Colby Parkinson. Injuries were again a major issue, as Parkinson opened the season on the Non-Football Injury list and dressed for only six games, while Olsen's chronic foot issues resurfaced late in the season and he finished with just 24 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown before announcing his retirement in February.
With Olsen hanging up his cleats and Jacob Hollister fleeing for the Bills in free agency, the Seahawks underwent further changes at tight end this offseason. While Dissly and Parkinson remain on the roster, the team reunited Gerald Everett with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who served as his position coach and passing game coordinator with the Rams during his first four NFL seasons.
It's always easy to look back at past drafts several years later in hindsight. Kittle is far from the first talented player that slipped through Seattle's grasp over the years and it was simply an unfortunate turn of events that didn't fall in the franchise's favor.
But with only two players (Ethan Pocic, Chris Carson) still on the Seahawks roster from a disappointing 2017 draft class, the fact Schneider came up two picks short of landing Kittle and he ended up with a division rival instead makes this an especially painful miss in retrospect. One is only left to wonder how different things would look if he was catching passes from Russell Wilson instead.