The Seattle Seahawks are one of the youngest teams to ever win the Super Bowl, and that must be a terrifying thought for the leagues 31 other franchises.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Think about it. The team that embarrassed the high-powered Denver Broncos on Sunday with a youthful, dominant performance similar to the one the 1992 Dallas Cowboys put forth in their 52-17 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII only stands to get better next season.
And much like that Cowboys team ― which went on to win three championships in four years ― the Seahawks have some strong drafts to thank for it.
Since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over in 2010, Seattle has absolutely crushed the draft, and its not necessarily about the volume of contributors they have from those drafts, but rather the quality of their contributions.
Consider this: 20 Seahawks who were drafted by Seattle since 2010 contributed this season, and their combined Pro Football Focus grade is a robust 89. Meanwhile, the Chiefs ― who went 11-5 ― had 19 contributors who they drafted during the same span. Their combined Pro Football Focus grade? Just 34.1.
Thats an enormous difference, one that hints at Seattles ability to finde value in the draft, and that is the most valuable commodity in todays NFL. Seattle is talented, young and deep, and its a remarkable achievement because Carroll and Schneider did it in a league that is now designed to keep teams from assembling dynasties like the 1990s Cowboys.
Of course, it remains to be seen if the Seahawks can become a dynasty. Its very difficult to repeat, and I tend to believe the disease of more once explained by Pat Riley is a real thing. Part of the reason Seattle has built depth is because mid-round picks such as cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson delivered superstar performances for bottom-barrel prices.
Those two are hardly the only gems Carroll and Schneider have unearthed in their first four years in the Pacific Northwest, but they are perhaps the greatest example of why general managers throughout the league ― John Dorsey of the Chiefs, included ― regularly tout the importance of building through the draft. Its the only way to get great players on the cheap, and considering the Chiefs could be strapped for cash this offseason, thats why I believe the next draft could be the most important of Dorseys tenure.
Lets face it: several expensive veterans, such as linebacker Tamba Hali (30 years old) and receiver Dwayne Bowe (29), are getting older. Those two boast 2014 cap numbers of $10 million or more, as does another high-paid veteran in cornerback Brandon Flowers (27).
Thats not all. Quarterback Alex Smith, 29, will be a free agent after the season and will command a big contract to retain, while the Chiefs will soon have to come up with the funds to pay safety Eric Berry (who is set to earn nearly $20 million the next two seasons) and two burgeoning stars who are currently dirt cheap in nose tackle Dontari Poe (free agent after 2015) and linebacker Justin Houston (free agent after 2014).
You cant pay everybody. And because its hard to imagine a scenario in which the Chiefs would ever let two legitimate cornerstones in Poe or Houston hit the market, that means the Chiefs will be forced to replace some of the veterans youve come to know and love. Maybe not this year, but soon.
Hence the importance of the 2014 draft, which must produce better dividends than Dorseys first draft. Last years haul produced two major contributors in tackle Eric Fisher, who struggled, and running back Knile Davis, who showed flashes but broke his leg in the playoff game. Ive also heard good things about tight end Travis Kelce, safety Sanders Commings and defensive end Mike Catapano, but none of them contributed significantly because of either injuries or a lack of playing time. Theres still hope for fourth-round linebacker Nico Johnson, but injuries hampered his development some and he needs a big offseason.
Of course, its far too early to write any of these guys off. Doing that after one year is ridiculous. But as Seattle proved this season, the best way to assemble a deep roster is through the draft, and because of their cap situation, the Chiefs will need some players from Dorseys first two draft classes to pan out if they want to build on all the good things they accomplished in 2013.