The Seahawks have not had much luck with their top draft picks under John Schneider, and their most recent three are continuing the tradition.
The top picks from the last three drafts are off to horrible starts this year, suffering from the results of their bad judgment, and it makes us — and surely team brass — wonder whether these guys are destined to follow in the footsteps of previous top picks.
Malik McDowell, this year’s initial draftee, is obviously the biggest concern. Pete Carroll said he has no idea whether McDowell will be part of the team this season, and word is the defensive lineman could miss at least half the season with the unspecified injuries from his ATV accident.
McDowell hasn’t even had the chance to debunk the scouting reports that say he is an on-field attitude problem. Even if he returns to the field, it’s hard to imagine the Hawks would be able to get much out of him if he really does fold when adversity strikes.
Meanwhile, the top picks from the 2015 and 2016 drafts have missed three days of practice since Frank Clark clocked an unhelmeted Germain Ifedi in the face.
Neither of these guys is a stranger to conflict and controversy — Clark faced allegations of domestic assault in college and Ifedi has been a constant presence in the middle of team fisticuffs during his year-plus in Seattle.
The Seahawks clearly are sending an extended message to those two and the team: Stop fighting and start playing football.
Of course, injuries could be part of the reason they remain out. Clark has worn a brace on his knee ever since the day of the fight. And Ifedi’s face might be in worse shape than it seemed. Tom Cable did not shed any more light on it Sunday, saying only, “We’re handling that with our people here and letting our medical people and our coach decide what to do.”
Assuming neither injury is a big deal, though, and the guys get back in the mix soon, they need to turn into productive players and stop being attitudinal drags on the team.
Clark had 10 sacks as a rotation player in 2016, and he needs to keep up that contribution while also avoiding acting like an ass (as he did when he made some ill-advised comments to a reporter on Twitter this offseason).
Ifedi needs to nail down right tackle and play it much better than he played right guard last season. If he can’t do that, he’ll end up on the bench — a first-round bust.
The Seahawks have a pretty poor track record with their top picks. Russell Okung (first round in 2010) and Bruce Irvin (first in 2012) had their moments but ultimately were allowed to leave after their rookie contracts were up because they were not considered core Seahawks. James Carpenter (first round in 2011) had trouble settling into a spot on the line and staying healthy, and he was gone after his rookie deal expired, too.
Christine Michael (second round in 2013) and Paul Richardson (second in 2014) did not turn into starters or major contributors, as second-rounders should. Michael’s attitude issues and playing style didn’t impress coaches through two stints.
Richardson has shown flashes and still has one more shot to become the first of Schneider’s top picks to earn a second Seattle contract, but that seems likely only if he can oust Jermaine Kearse this year.
Clark (second in 2015) has shown the talent but not the maturity to merit another contract. At this point, it sure looks like he is headed down the same road as the rest — to another team in 2019.
Ifedi (first in 2016) and McDowell (second in 2017) clearly have some growing up to do as well — in addition to proving they can actually play.
It certainly is possible all three of those recent first picks can redeem themselves and ultimately become the core players their top-pick predecessors were not, but they’re off to pretty poor starts in 2017.