Why Ex-Seahawks First Round Pick Germain Ifedi Doesn't Deserve Bust Label
As part of a substantial period of transition for the Seahawks offensive line, the inevitable happened on Wednesday with right tackle Germain Ifedi departing in free agency.
Officially joining the Bears on a one-year deal, Ifedi's four-year tenure in Seattle proved to be a rocky one. After being selected with the 31st overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, he struggled with penalties and consistently battled technique issues in pass protection, failing to develop as hoped.
Even as Ifedi made noticeable improvements in all facets of his game under the guidance of line coach Mike Solari the past two seasons, he continued to draw the ire of fans who expected more from a first-round selection. Clearly, the Seahawks didn't see the growth they wanted through his first three seasons, choosing to decline his fifth-year option.
But while it's easy to criticize Ifedi for his penchant to draw flags and occasional whiff in pass protection, does he really deserve to be classified as a bust?
In recent years, it's been far more difficult for NFL teams to find pro-ready offensive linemen. Several factors have played into this, including decreased offseason practice time in pads and the rise of spread offenses at lower levels of the sport.
When the Seahawks traded back in the first-round and eventually chose Ifedi, they rolled the dice on a physically gifted, yet unpolished prospect. Revisiting his NFL.com draft profile, current Raiders general manager Mike Mayock applauded the selection but did question his technique and viability as an NFL tackle.
From the outset, Ifedi opened his NFL career playing right guard, starting 13 games after returning from a high ankle sprain. Then, coach Tom Cable quickly shifted him out to tackle for his sophomore season and he remained there throughout the rest of his time with the team, starting 60 out of 64 total regular season games.
"Well, he couldn't have started more games, I don't think," coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He did just a fantastic job of being durable and being there for us, and all that. He's been really steady. He's been kind of a fixture at right tackle. I mean, I don't know how much more you could hope for from a guy you drafted first round. He did it."
Emphasizing the fact Ifedi was available without offering much else in terms of praise, it's easy to see why Carroll and the Seahawks decided to move on rather than extend the former top pick. But when comparing him to his peers from recent draft classes, the team actually got decent results given his draft position.
First, let's look back at the 2016 NFL Draft. Selected at the end of the first round, Ifedi was the fifth tackle taken off the board. Three of the four tackles selected before him have played in a Pro Bowl, while Ronnie Stanley and Jack Conklin have earned one First-Team All-Pro selection.
However, those three players were all top-15 picks and there's no question Laremy Tunsil would've been selected much higher if not for a leaked video of him wearing a gas mask and smoking from a bong going viral on Twitter on the night of the draft.
Comparing him to the four tackles drafted ahead of him, Ifedi gave up the most sacks and committed the most penalties, though Tunsil gave him a run for his money in the flags department. In terms of approximate value per Pro Football Reference, he's been comparable to Decker and Tunsil starting a similar number of games.
Only one player selected after Ifedi started at least 40 games over the past four years, and ironically, it's Brandon Shell, who Seattle recently signed to a two-year deal as Ifedi's replacement. Jason Spriggs, the next tackle drafted after him, has only started nine games and performed poorly in limited opportunities.
Digging even deeper by adding in the 2017 and 2018 draft classes to the equation, Ryan Ramczyk has easily been the best draft choice among tackles during that span. Selected by the Saints at the end of the first round in 2017, he was named a First-Team All-Pro last season and received an approximate value of at least 15 each of the last two seasons.
But aside from Ramczyk, Mike McGlinchey, and Ravens 2018 third-round selection Orlando Brown, a strong argument can be made that none of the other tackles selected in those two seasons outperformed Ifedi. And they certainly weren't as durable.
Even more interestingly, Raiders tackle Kolton Miller and Broncos tackle Garett Bolles were taken earlier in the first round than Ifedi in their respective drafts. Per Pro Football Focus, Miller surrendered 16 sacks (gulp!) as a rookie, while Bolles has struggled with penalties and dealt with his own issues in pass protection.
The point? As much as Seahawk fans have loved to pile on the criticism on Ifedi over the years, could the organization really have gotten better value at the end of the first round?
Yes, Seattle could have picked Ramcyzk instead of trading down multiple times to select Malik McDowell in 2017. But at the time, selecting an athletic defensive tackle seemed like the right move and Ifedi had been selected just one year earlier. That's for another discussion entirely.
Considering the players who were drafted before and after the No. 31 slot in 2017 and 2018, few options have panned out, painting a vivid picture about how difficult it is for NFL teams to find quality tackles these days. Even if Ifedi never approached being beyond average at his position and letting him walk makes sense, the Seahawks received more value from him than most are willing to admit.