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Carroll and Schneider built the Seahawks once in the draft; can they do it again?

John Schneider, left, and Pete Carroll celebrate after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII win. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. – Pete Carroll and John Schneider might be victims of their own success.

The Seahawks’ coach and general manager drafted so well their first three years in Seattle that there weren’t a lot of spots left on the roster for subsequent draft picks. At least that’s one theory.

There have been a number of explanations over the years as to why Carroll and Schneider haven’t been able to duplicate their early drafting success. What’s no longer up for debate, however, is just how good those first three drafts were.

“Based on the legacy of some of the players they drafted in 2010, ’11 and ’12,” Q13 sports director Aaron Levine said, “You have to give them an ‘A’ for all three of those drafts.”

That might be an understatement.

The Seahawks acquired 12 of their 22 starters in Super Bowl XLVIII in those three drafts. Players such as Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson were among those selected by the team.

“The 2010-12 drafts are right up there with some of the great draft classes of all time,” said Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com. “(On par) with the 49ers in the 80s, the Dallas Cowboys in the 90s, the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s.”

Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor were all drafted in coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider's first two seasons. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

This is how Seahawks fans were introduced to Carroll and Schneider, as the world’s ultimate draft geniuses. There was no way the hits could keep coming at such a rapid rate.

Seattle also drafted Russell Okung, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane, James Carpenter, Byron Maxwell and Malcolm Smith in those classes.

Then came 2013 and what may be Seattle’s worst draft under Carroll and Schneider. The only player the Seahawks drafted that made a lasting impact was tight end Luke Willson.

Seattle’s drafts haven’t been horrible since then, just not as good as Carroll and Schneider's first three.

From 2014-17 the Seahawks found several contributors, including Paul Richardson, Justin Britt, Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, Germaine Ifedi, Shaquill Griffin, Naz Jones and Chris Carson.

“It’s not that Seattle suddenly forgot how to draft,” Rang said.

One argument fans and analysts have kicked around over the years is that Seattle benefited early from Carroll’s familiarity with college players.

Coming from USC, he recruited most of the nation's top talent. Even the players he didn’t bring to L.A. he had seen on game film and brought in on recruiting visits.

Levine thinks that might be overstated.

“While it might have helped Carroll, I don’t think it was the end-all be-all to his scouting abilities,” he said. “To give Carroll too much credit for that would also discredit the job Schneider and his scouting staff did those first few years.

“Russell Wilson was John Schneider’s guy. It’s been well noted that Schneider fell in love with Wilson while watching him at Wisconsin.”

The Seahawks drafted quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round in 2012. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Rang also suggested that the rest of the league may have caught on to the Seahawks’ philosophy.

Carroll and Schneider may have had an advantage, he said, because they were evaluating players differently than other teams. Most famously, they looked for tall defensive backs in Sherman, Maxwell and Lane late in drafts.

After Seattle’s success, other teams likely adjusted their evaluating process to align more with the Seahawks', not allowing them to find as many steals.

Most explanations of how Seattle was able to draft so well in 2010-12 also seem to suggest that it would be unlikely for them to duplicate the run of success.  

But Carroll and Schneider don’t see it that way. They said Monday the team is shrinking the number of players on its draft board in an attempt to recapture the magic.

“Our 2010, 2011, 2012 (drafts) we had less numbers, just in general,” Schneider said. “Then for some reason or another we’ve continued to add more players and it’s just too much.”

Carroll said the adjustment should help.

“This time of year we’re always going back to basics and looking for the fundamental aspects of the makeup of the players,” he said.

Rang brought up the stacked roster theory, suggesting the lack of superstars taken by Seattle since 2012 could be due to the fact that Carroll and Schneider drafted so well initially. 

It sounds counter-intuitive, but with so many good players on the team already a logjam was created at many of the positions on the roster, he said.

Chris Carson ran for 208 yards before suffering an injury in 2017. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Schneider echoed the sentiment.

“We were a darn good football team, talented team for a little while,” he said. “It just became harder for some of these guys to make the team.”

Schneider also admitted that sometimes they got away from taking the best player available and instead tried to fill the few holes they had by drafting for need, which might explain the five offensive lineman Seattle has taken in the past two drafts.

Speaking of those two drafts, Carroll and Schneider warned fans not to be too quick to judge those either.

With the team “resetting” as Schneider described it, trading Michael Bennett, releasing Sherman and turning over its roster, there’s an opportunity for younger players to step into more important roles on the team. Something that wasn’t always the case in the past.

“We’ve gone through some periods where it’s been pretty hard to make this football team,” Schneider said.

That may not be the case anymore.

“They drafted four defensive backs last season and we really only know the capabilities of one of them in Shaquill Griffin,” Levine said. “We don’t know what Tedric Thompson can do, we don’t know what Delano Hill can do, we don’t know what Mike Tyson can do.”

The Seahawks appear poised to find out.

Shaquill Griffin started 11 games for the Seahawks as a rookie in 2017. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

“There’s been tremendous excitement around the building,” Carroll said. “There’s an energy about the guys that are here in this locker room that is really exciting. The coaches can all feel it. Everybody in the building can all feel it. In that regard it might feel a little bit like back a couple years ago.”

Only time will tell if the Seahawks' new philosophy and reset of the roster will result in the same success that came in Carroll and Schneider’s first three drafts, but Rang said he wouldn’t count them out.

“You have the combination of a scouting department who’s done it all before,” he said. “A coaching department who’s done it all before - but not only that, they’ve done it together.”

As for Carroll, he’s optimistic. Going into his ninth draft with the Seahawks, the NFL's oldest coach sounded giddy over the possibilities.

“It’s kind of like Christmas, you know,” he said. “We can open up those presents on draft day and see what we got. It’s going to be exciting.”