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Matt Calkins: Most important Seahawks’ draft? You bet, and the team can’t afford any errors

UPDATED: Thu., April 5, 2018

Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider stands on the field after  a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dec. 3, 2017, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider stands on the field after a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dec. 3, 2017, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Sometimes the NFL draft is for pure entertainment purposes. You know your team is already stacked with young talent, and though you’d like to see the front office add quality, you’re confident you’ll be contenders for years to come.

Like the 2014 Seahawks.

Other times, the draft is one part fun and equal part anxiety. Your Pro Bowlers have been paid, cap space is thinning, and though Vegas still sees you as a Super Bowl contender, you need to add depth.

Like the 2016 Seahawks.

And then there are the drafts in which you’re on the brink of desperation. Half of your Pro Bowlers have been released or traded or out with career-ending injuries. There’s still enough talent to sneak into the playoffs or possibly compete for the division, but only if the decision-makers have an A+, 500-foot home run of a draft.

Like the 2018 Seahawks.

The joke in our office Wednesday was that the annual consensus is that “this is the most important draft the Seahawks have had in years.” Perhaps it’s a sensational premise, but can you really argue against it this time around?

A year ago, Seattle was coming off its fifth consecutive season in which it had at least 10 wins and a playoff victory. In addition to a slew of other All-Pros, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham, Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor were all returning to a team with more defensive prowess than anyone in the league.

Now, however, Sherman, Bennett and Graham are gone, while neck injuries may keep Avril or Chancellor from playing again. But given how Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Doug Baldwin and Earl Thomas are still on the roster (for now), pundits would be foolish to dismiss the Seahawks’ playoff chances outright.

The difference between now and before, though, is that there is zero margin for error when the draft comes around at the end of this month. If Pete Carroll and John Schneider have another ho-hum effort, this squad will be stuck in the muck and mire of mediocrity.

That’s weird to write, because it wasn’t long ago that Carroll and Schneider were considered scouting royalty. As far as dominance went, their drafts from 2010-12 were akin to a Michael Jordan-led Bulls threepeat.

Russell Okung, Thomas and Chancellor in ’10? Wright, Sherman and Byron Maxwell in ’11? Wilson, Wagner and Bruce Irvin in ’12? It was like hitting on a 10-game parlay at the sports book.

Since then, unfortunately, there have been a series of snake eyes in the crap shoot that is the NFL Draft. The Seahawks haven’t picked a position player who’s made the Pro Bowl since 2012.

Sure, Frank Clark has been a productive pass rusher, Shaquill Griffin has been a quality cornerback and Tyler Lockett was among the most dynamic returners in the league before his gruesome ankle injury. But in terms of trying to build an offensive line, beef up the D-line rush or establish the running game, the Seahawks have barely managed to hit the rim.

Granted, there are still players with the potential to develop. You can’t dismiss draft classes with just one or two years of experience. But the Seahawks’ recent inability to select a top-tier, high-impact player has made this year’s draft especially significant.

Las Vegas generally isn’t stupid. Seattle’s odds of winning the Super Bowl rising to 28-to-1 is a reflection of all the talent that’s disappeared from its roster.

This franchise hasn’t been in this position in years – mainly because of Carroll and Schneider’s genius drafts in their early years with the organization.

They have to rediscover that golden eye later this month. Adding a pass rusher to an alarmingly thin defensive line is imperative. Shoring up an offensive line that rarely protected its litany of running backs last year is, too. And when you lose Sherman and Chancellor, the secondary becomes an obvious concern as well.

Come the fall, expectations might be lower for the Seahawks than they’ve been since before the 2011 season. But that doesn’t mean their performance can’t outshine the predictions of pundits.

They can still be good once September comes around. But only if they’re great at the end of April.

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