Grading the draft

By Jared Stanger

After spending a week digesting the 2018 Seattle draft class I am now ready to give you my thoughts.

I think it’s an okay draft. I like the upside of some picks, I see some big redflags on others, and we can grade how we got to each, plus the gaps along the way.  Grade-wise; I think you have to put the Seattle 2018 draft straight down the middle as a ‘C’ grade. Here’s how I get there:

Rashaad Penny- I don’t think this is the huge problem that the national media think it is. It’s a good player that you got maybe 5-13 picks earlier than I would have liked. If what John Schneider said in his presser was true: that “a few teams walked away from potential draft trades”; picking Penny at #27 may not have been their perfect scenario.

Maybe they wanted to get to New England’s pick at #31 or Cleveland’s pick at #33 and those teams balked when Derwin James was taken by the Chargers at #17. Either way Seattle may have been forced into taking the Packer trade, and then not wanting/finding a second trade back from #27.

The bigger problem with Penny at #27 is that the trade only gave Seattle an added 3rd rounder, with no 2nd. Not having a 2nd is a HUGE minus to Seattle’s draft grade that most Seattle fans are ignoring. Drafts aren’t always who did you get, but sometimes who DIDN’T you get (like not getting Xavier Rhodes in 2013 because you gave up the exact pick for Percy Harvin). And Seattle didn’t get ANYONE in the 2nd round that I believe had a ton of really good talent.

Keep in mind, John Schneider is deeply aware of his past mistakes and prone to overcorrect. So if he traded back too much in 2017, he’s going to make sure he doesn’t trade back past Penny in 2018, and be more okay with “reaching”.

That brings us to the 3rd round where Seattle takes, in my opinion, the biggest hit to its grade by selecting Rasheem Green. Contrary to the national media that dislike the Penny pick and like the Green pick; I think the opposite. In general, I prefer reaching on a guy you like than scooping up a guy that has fallen down the draft for all 32 teams.

Between the rumored injury issues and what I’ve observed to be talent and confidence issues; Green is the pick that I am the most frustrated with and skeptical of. At the very best, I think he will take three years to adapt to the NFL, but if I’m being totally honest I think he’s like a CJ Prosise pick: nice athlete, good production, some injury history, but mostly a general softness to his play and his personality.

In the 4th round, Schneider again is compensating for the mistakes of 2017. Last year it was pretty well reported that Seattle missed on the tightends at the top of the 5th round. So this year, John made sure to draft his TE in the 4th. Even though the guy they got this year would probably be available in the 5th. So a slight downgrade for misreading the room and a slight reach on Dissly, but it’s very slight because it’s better to reach than catch a faller.

This 5th round is basically going to determine the longview opinion of Seattle’s 2018 draft. If you hit on 2-3 it completely changes the complexion of everything. But you’re counting on a linebacker with one hand, a safety that you’ll move to a new position, a punter, and a backup tackle with pretty awful athletic testing. You need 2/4 to become pro bowl talent. With the exception of Dickson at punter; you’re probably looking at three backups in their rookie years, then wait-and-see. So that’s a ‘C’ for the 5th.

I know people are going to want to argue in favor of (especially the 5th round) players’ “upside” as reason to grade them higher. But that’s EVERY PLAYER ON EVERY DRAFTBOARD. They’re all upside/projection picks for each respective team. Baker Mayfield is an upside/projection pick. Saquon Barkley is an upside/projection pick.

Every draft class is an “A” for the team that drafted them. Just ask…they’ll tell you the same. Nobody is aiming for a “C” grade. And no fanbase is objective in evaluating theirs. For me, I don’t think we wave a magic wand and think Seattle’s 2018 5th round picks are the unicorns they once-upon-a-time found in the ghost of 5th rounds past. It’s been six years. At some point you stop getting that benefit of the doubt.

Certainly, in terms of class grades, the upside of the 5th round doesn’t overpower a small 1st round reach, no 2nd, and potentially a bust of a 3rd rounder. At best, you hit on two of your 5th’s and that creates a “push” with the day two problems.

The 6th round, to me, is a solid pick for Seattle. Jacob Martin is an above average athlete with good intangibles and decent college production that falls in the draft because he’s undersized. This is what a 6th round pick looks like.

Similarly, Alex McGough in the 7th is a very good athlete, with good size, that falls in the draft because of iffy production at a small school. I would have preferred JT Barrett, but Seattle has previously used 7’s on fullbacks that didn’t even make it out of camp, so there isn’t and shouldn’t be tremendous expectations here regardless of the player or position.

These last two picks, however, do bring us to an interesting dialogue: how DO we grade a pick? If our expectation of a pick in a late round is that we find a ‘C’ player, and you get a ‘C’ player, is that a ‘C’ grade? Or is the idea that we grade on a curve in the late rounds, and hitting the maximum expectation of a pick in that round gets an ‘A’? But arguably an ‘A’ in an easy class should not register the same impact on your GPA as an ‘A’ in a 300 level class.

So, even before talking about draft grades, we really should have talked about how we’re grading. Zach Whitman and I had a brief conversation on twitter this week centered on 5th rounder Tre Flowers, and who he would represent in my “Seattle’s 2018 draft is symbolically analogous to their 2011 draft” thread. Zach contends that Flowers approximating Byron Maxwell would be great value. My intention/effort is more to find the “Richard Sherman” from every pick. Is either right? Not something I’d aggressively fight for or against.

I had another conversation this week with Aaron Levine who was arguing that Rob Rang was giving Seattle a fairer grade than the national media because Rang is local and gets what the team is doing better. First of all, being closer doesn’t make one more objective; it’s literally the opposite, especially if any part of your job requires access. But second of all, evaluate the evaluator. Rang has given Seattle between a B- and a B+ in every draft since 2013 (that I could find). So, for him, we need to either convert the entire scale to between B- to B+, or we need to convert up or down a full grade, or something.

Does his “B+” become his “A” and his “B-” is really his “D”.  Or is his “B+” really his “C+” and his “B-” really a “C-“?

Using the former conversion, these would be his Seattle grades:
2017- B becomes C
2016- B+ becomes A
2015- B- becomes D
2013- B becomes C

Using the latter conversion, his grades would be:
2017- B becomes C
2016- B+ becomes C+
2015- B- becomes C-
2013- B becomes C

Do either of those groupings look more fair with hindsight? Ultimately, we need the context of what a “B” grade means to someone.

And it’s also interesting that different personalities have different thoughts pre- and post- draft. I tend towards idealism pre-draft, and realism post-draft. Others may go realism pre-draft, and idealism post-draft. And the grades will differ reflective of that. First, “what is your expectation of the draft?” and then “did you accomplish those expectations?” My expectations are VERY high, and I haven’t felt they were accomplished immediately following a draft since 2012.

And lastly, “did you evaluate the individual players accurately?” Which will take three years to know. Or does it?