The Seahawks will be in rare historical company in this year’s draft, becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to go three straight years without a first-round draft pick.
John Schneider’s deal for Jimmy Graham, which cost Seattle its first-rounder and Max Unger, means the Seahawks will become the seventh team in the modern era to go without a first-rounder in at least three straight drafts.
To recap how the Hawks have joined the select club:
–In 2013, they traded a first-rounder, seventh-rounder and 2014 third to Minnesota for Percy Harvin.
–In 2014, they traded down from No. 32 and picked Paul Richardson with the 40th overall selection, also adding a fourth-rounder in the deal with the Vikings.
–Last month, they sent Unger and their first-rounder (No. 31) to New Orleans for Graham and a fourth-rounder.
So is this just a one-time oddity, like the Houston Oilers from 1979 to 1981? Or is Schneider becoming the Bobby Beathard of this era?
Like the Seahawks’ three-year run without a first-rounder, the Oilers used two of their picks to acquire star players and the other to maneuver during the draft.
In 1979, the Oilers moved out of the first round, picking up second-round picks from the Kansas City Chiefs in 1979 and 1980. The Chiefs drafted quarterback Steve Fuller with the Oilers’ pick, No. 23 overall out of 28.
In August 1979, the Oilers traded their 1980 first-round pick, along with a sixth-rounder and cash, to New England for 28-year-old All-Pro left tackle Leon Gray. He was named All-Pro the next two years while playing for the Oilers and also made the Pro Bowl in 1981. He left for New Orleans in 1982.
In October 1980, the Oilers acquired All-Pro tight end Dave Casper from the Oakland Raiders, with Houston sending its 1981 first-rounder and two second-rounders (one of which the Raiders used to draft Howie Long). Casper finished off a Pro Bowl season in 1980 at age 29, but he faded after that and was traded to Minnesota in 1983.
The Seahawks have to hope their trade for an ace tight end goes much better.
With Bum Phillips coaching, the Oilers lost in the AFC title game in 1978 and 1979 and lost a wild-card game in 1980. Phillips was gone after that, and the Oilers didn’t make the playoffs again until 1987.
It’s entirely possible that Schneider’s three-year run is an aberration based on the chance to gamble on great players, as Houston did.
It’s also possible Schneider will continue to trade first-round picks, as Beathard did in Washington and San Diego.
It would be hard to match Washington’s two-decade run though. In a 21-year span under George Allen (1969-77) and Beathard (1978-89), Washington drafted just three first-rounders: Art Monk (1980), Mark May (1981) and Darrell Green (1983).
Allen preferred veteran players, so he always traded away his first-round pick, and Beathard favored trading out of the first round, too. He also sent two first-round picks (1988 and 1989) to Chicago as compensation for signing linebacker Wilber Marshall.
Beathard’s method worked, as the Redskins (coached by Joe Gibbs) reached the Super Bowl four times with players Beathard acquired, winning in 1982, 1987 and 1991.
Because the Redskins were usually drafting toward the bottom of the first round, Beathard preferred to add picks or use his first-rounder for veteran players such as Marshall, George Rogers and Gerald Riggs.
“If there were a lot of good players in the draft, we felt we could afford to trade down a little and take a lower pick in the second round or give up a first-rounder to get more picks,” Beathard told Redskins.com in 2012. “It was a calculated risk; and, for the most part, it worked.”
Beathard used the same philosophy in San Diego. He typically would give up a future first-rounder for an extra second in the current draft. That’s how he ended up with Natrone Means (1994), Terrell Fletcher (1995) and Bryan Still (1996). He helped the Chargers get to the Super Bowl in 1994, although his M.O. didn’t work quite as well as it had in Washington — the Chargers had just two other playoff appearances in his 10 years as GM.
Until Schneider’s Seahawks, no team had gone three years without a first-rounder since Beathard’s Chargers in 1994-97.
Schneider shares Beathard’s philosophy. When Seattle dealt this year’s 31st overall pick for Graham, Schneider said he had only 16 players rated in the first round anyway, so it was like he was trading a second-rounder.
He probably is not going to become the next Beathard — dealing his first-rounder every year — but, as long as the Seahawks are at the bottom of the first round, Schneider probably will always be open to dealing the pick.
THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CLUB
These are the other modern teams that went at least three straight years without a first-round pick:
Minnesota (1989-92): Perhaps the most notorious trade in NFL history was the one in which the Vikings sent Dallas three first-rounders (1990-92) in a 16-player/pick deal that netted them Herschel Walker. That followed a 1989 trade in which the Vikings acquired linebacker Mike Merriweather from Pittsburgh. So, the Vikings went four straight years without a first-round pick. And the Cowboys built a dynasty.
Oakland (1976-79): The Raiders paid first-rounders in 1976-77 for signing Pro Bowl linebacker Ted Hendricks away from Green Bay in 1975. They won the Super Bowl in 1976. In 1978, the Raiders acquired defensive tackle Mike McCoy from Green Bay, sending the Packers their first-rounder, a 1979 fourth and a player. In 1979, the Raiders acquired All-Pro cornerback Monte Jackson from the Los Angeles Rams for a first and two future picks. The Raiders won the Super Bowl again in 1980.
Philadelphia (1974-78): In 1973, Mike McCormack (the future Seattle GM) took over the Eagles and proceeded to mimic his mentor Allen’s moves with the Redskins. In two years, McCormack traded five first-round picks. In 1973, he pulled off a blockbuster, acquiring QB Roman Gabriel from the Rams for Harold Jackson, Tony Baker, first-rounders in 1974 and 1975 and a 1975 third-rounder. In 1974, McCormack dealt the Eagles’ 1976 first-rounder and 1975 sixth-rounder to the Cincinnati Bengals for quarterback Mike Boryla, and Philly gave up firsts in 1977 and 1978, plus a second in 1978, for Pro Bowl LB Bill Bergey, who became the heart of the Gang Green defense. The strategy didn’t work for McCormack though; he was fired after just three years, replaced by Dick Vermeil.