It’s time for the NFL draft, with the Seattle Seahawks holding five picks following the Frank Clark trade. It will be interesting to see who they select, as they look to strengthen the team for another run at the playoffs and the Super Bowl this coming season.
Among their picks, the Seahawks have the 21st and now 29th selections. The team has an excellent record of drafting well in the opening round, so we thought we would use this as an opportunity to count down their top 10 first round picks in franchise history.
10) John L. Williams
(15th overall in 1986)
The Seahawks have had several quality full backs during their time in the NFL, with the likes of Mack Strong, Leonard Weaver and Michael Robinson. However, the trend of excellence at the position was arguably started by John L. Williams.
After a standout college career with the Florida Gators, Williams was selected 15th overall in the 1986 draft by Seattle. Almost from the word go, he provided an ideal compliment to Curt Warner in one of the better backfields in the NFL.
The two-time Pro Bowler helped his teammate to a career-best year rushing the ball in 1986, while adding 500+ yards of his own on the ground. During his career in general, he was just as effective catching passes out of the backfield, while also being an extremely effective blocker; this spoke volumes about how he was the ultimate teammate and always gave 100 percent effort every time he stepped on the field.
After eight years in Seattle, Williams played his last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and got to finally appear in a Super Bowl. (Albeit a losing effort in Super Bowl XXX.) To give an idea of his impact in the Pacific Northwest — as well as his ability — consider that he is fifth all-time on the Seahawks’ rushing yards list and fourth in receptions.
9) Jeff Bryant
(6th overall pick in 1982)
The Seahawks had one of the best defensive lines during the 1980s. Jacob Green and Joe Nash were joined by Jeff Bryant, who helped they wreak havoc on opposing offenses on a regular basis.
Bryant played his entire 12-year NFL career in Seattle and finished with 63 sacks, which stands as the third-best mark in franchise history. He was also extremely durable, only missing six regular season games.
The Atlanta, Georgia native has said being drafted was the highlight of his career, but you imagine his 1984 campaign must come a close second. He was at the peak of his ability, as he recorded a career-high 14.5 sacks, to go along with two fumble recoveries and a pick.
It is still surprising that Bryant did not receive much recognition around the NFL, with no Pro Bowl appearances or All-Pro selections. However, this does not diminish what he achieved in Seattle, where the fans were more than appreciate for everything he did for their beloved team.
8) Curt Warner
(3rd overall pick in 1983)
In some ways, Curt Warner encapsulated the essence of the Seahawks during the 1980s. You knew he had a lot of talent and often had you marveling at what he did; and yet you still felt somewhat unfulfilled, knowing that he could have achieved even more.
As part of the fabled draft class of 1983, Warner came flying out of the gates with an AFC-leading 1,449 rushing yards during his rookie campaign. He helped power the Seahawks to their first ever Conference Championship game, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Raiders.
The Wyoming County, West Virginia native suffered a frustrating season-ending ACL tear in the opening game of the 1984 campaign. However, he came back to rush for 1,000 yards in three of the following four seasons. (The one year he missed out was the strike-shortened 1987 campaign, but he only just missed out, as he managed 985 yards on the ground.)
Warner’s final season in 1989 with the Seahawks saw mounting injuries begin to impact his play and he retired the following year, after a seven-game stint with the Los Angeles Rams. With two AFC Offensive Player of the Year awards, three Pro Bowls and three Second-team All-Pro selections, he had a fantastic career; and yet there is still a case of what might of been for an individual with the third-most rushing yards in team history…
7) Shaun Alexander
(19th overall pick in 2000)
Speak to a certain portion of Seahawks fans, and they will tell you Shaun Alexander was a fortunate individual, who benefited from being surrounded by excellent talent. They will claim it is no coincidence his productivity declined, when the likes of Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck and Mack Strong started to leave following the team’s first ever Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 regular season.
However, this is an unfair line of thinking – anyone would be less productive if quality players left; indeed, the team as a whole got worse as Hutchinson, Tobeck and Strong departed. In addition, there was the not so small issue of Alexander suffering several injuries, which culminated in him retiring just three years after reaching the pinnacle of his career.
That pinnacle came in a 2005 campaign which saw the 41-year-old win the NFL rushing title with just under 1,900 yards, while also setting an NFL single season record of 28 overall touchdowns. When it was all said and done, he became the first player in franchise history to be named NFL MVP. (It should also be noted that, despite the controversial loss in Super Bowl XL, he had a game-high 95 rushing yards.)
Alexander’s overall resume includes two First-team All-Pro selections, three Pro Bowl nominations and being picked for the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2000s. He also tops the Seahawks’ all-time list for rushing yards and total touchdowns; whether you rate him or not, he still had an extremely productive career in Seattle.
6) Jacob Green
(10th overall pick in 1980)
When you consider everything Jacob Green achieved with the Seahawks, it’s still surprising to think he was only voted to two Pro Bowls during his 12-year career in Seattle. He did manage one selection as a First-team All-Pro however, in 1983. (He was also a Second-team All-Pro the following year.)
That one First-team selection was well-earned, as Green registered a career-high 16 sacks. For many, this was the coming out party for a player who showed his potential with a school record 20 sacks in 1979 for Texas A&M.
Talking of sacks, the Pasadena, Texas native still stands today as the Seahawks’ all-time leader in this category. Officially he has 97.5, but unofficially he has 116. (The NFL did not start officially recording/recognizing sacks until the 1982 season.)
It’s worh noting that Green was a durable all-around talent, who also has the most fumble recoveries and fifth-most tackles in franchise history. Unsurprisingly he was named to the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor in 1995, while also being announced as part of the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class earlier this year.
5) Steve Hutchinson
(17th overall pick in 2001)
Want some idea of just how much Steve Hutchinson was feared by opponents? Consider the comments of Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, who described him as “a monster” and someone who he “didn’t like playing against”.
The single reason Hutchinson isn’t higher up this list, is purely because he only played five of his 12 NFL seasons with the Seahawks. During that five-year stretch though he made his impact felt around the league, resulting in three Pro Bowls, two First-team All-Pro selections and one Second-team All-Pro nomination.
The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native’s peak in Seattle came during the 2005 season, when he helped the team make their first ever Super Bowl appearance. He was part of the best offensive line in team history, while also helping the team score a franchise record 452 points.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, this peak was also Hutchinson’s final season with the team, before he went on to pastures new and continued to excel. However, his team in Seattle will never be forgotten, and it figures to only be a matter of time before he joins the likes of Urlacher in the Hall of Fame.
4) Earl Thomas
(14th overall pick in 2010)
There’s no doubt the way Earl Thomas conducted himself towards the end of his tenure in Seattle was unnecessary. However, there is also no denying his place in team history as an integral part of the first ever Super Bowl championship.
Thomas made an immediate impact during his rookie season, starting all 16 regular season games, snagging five picks and contributing a combined 76 tackles. This was a taste of what was to come over the majority of his nine seasons with the Seahawks.
In the following seven seasons there would be six Pro Bowl invites, three First-team All Pro selections and two Second-team All-Pro awards. Even all these honors only scratched the surface of a player who was arguably the heart and soul of the famed Legion of Boom; sometimes it was hard to believe someone who only stood at 5 foot 10, could cause so much chaos on a football field.
Thomas was cerebral, durable and physical, and there is no denying he will be missed in Seattle. He leaves with the sixth-most interceptions and (officially) the third-most pass defenses* in franchise history; he is a virtual certainty to one day join the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor.
* Pass defenses only became an official NFL stat in 1999
3) Kenny Easley
(4th overall pick in 1941)
You imagine there will be those who argue that number three and four in our list should swap places. Regardless, there is no doubting Kenny Easley’s place as the heart and soul of the Seahawks’ defense for the better part of the 1980s.
Easley’s best period came between 1982-85, when he was one of the top defensive players in the entire NFL. He was named First-team All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl every season during this time.
The strong safety reached the peak of his play during the 1984 campaign, when his 10 picks — two of which were returned for scores — equaled the franchise record for interceptions in a season. He went on to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Season; the first ever Seahawks player to receive this honor.
Easley was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1980s, but his career was unexpectedly cut short in 1988 by a severe kidney disease which forced him to retire. At least this story has a happy ending as, after being nominated as a senior finalist in 2017, he was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2) Cortez Kennedy
(3rd overall pick in 1990)
The late, great Cortez Kennedy’s NFL career didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts. He was unsigned until two days before the beginning of his rookie year, and went on to have a minimal impact during the 1990 campaign.
This was soon forgotten, however, with Kennedy stepping up his game in 1991, recording 6.5 sacks and 73 combined tackles on the way to being voted to his first Pro Bowl and being named Second-team All-Pro. The following season was even more spectacular.
The two-time national champion blazed a trail through NFL defenses during the 1992 campaign, with career highs in sacks (14), combined tackles (92) and forced fumbles (four). He was voted to the Pro Bowl again, named First-team All-Pro and — most importantly — NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
As a defensive tackle, Kennedy was a game-changer for how people of his build could be used on the football field in this position; he was voted to eight Pro Bowls and named First-team All-Pro three times. (He was also twice selected as a Second-team All Pro.) Named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990s, he was quite rightly inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, five years before his untimely death.
1) Walter Jones
(6th overall pick in 1997)
For some people, there will be questions about now an offensive lineman can be the best first round draft pick in franchise history. However — for those in the know — there would be more questions if Walter Jones wasn’t at the top of our list.
Never mind just the Seahawks though; simply put, Jones was one of the best offensive lineman of his generation in the NFL, period. (He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s.)
Manning the crucial left tackle position, the Aliceville, Alabama native was a steadying presence both as a performer and leader during his entire 12-year career – all of which was spent in Seattle. In that time he started 180 games, allowing just 23 sacks and only being penalized nine times for holding; he was the very definition of durability and consistency for the team.
Jones was voted to nine Pro Bowls and named First-team All-Pro four times during his career. (He was also named Second-team All-Pro on two other occasions.) Unsurprisingly, he was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, in 2014.
Do you agree with our selections and rankings? If not, who else would you include, or how would you re-order the list? Let us know in the comments section below.