NFC West: Dennis Norman

2011 NFL draft: Value of seventh pick

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
10:45
AM ET
This is the second in a series of items revisiting relatively recent NFL trades involving first-round draft choices in the slots NFC West teams occupy this year.

The ongoing NFL lockout prevents trades involving players, but teams can still trade draft choices. Primarily for that reason, I've excluded from consideration trades involving picks and veteran players.

The seventh pick boasts a colorful recent history featuring three of the four teams currently in the NFC West. My apologies in advance if any of these trades revive painful memories.

The pick: Seventh overall

Held by: San Francisco 49ers

Most recent trade involving only picks: 2008. The New England Patriots sent the seventh and 164th choice to the New Orleans Saints for the 10th and 78th selections. This trade was close to even on paper, according to the draft-value chart. The seventh and 164th choices add up to 1,526.8 points. The 10th and 78th selections add up to 1,500. The Saints used the seventh choice, which originated with San Francisco, for defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. They drafted guard Carl Nicks with the 164th choice. New England came away with linebackers Jerod Mayo (10th) and Shawn Crable (78th).

Bill Walsh, Mike Holmgren and the 2001 draft: The Seattle Seahawks were one year away from joining the NFC West when the Walsh-run 49ers acquired the seventh overall choice from Holmgren's Seahawks. The value chart agreed with the deal. Seattle gave up picks worth 1,516 points for picks worth 1,533.6 points, a wash. The 49ers drafted defensive end Andre Carter in the seventh slot and defensive tackle Menson Holloway at No. 191. The Seahawks drafted receiver Koren Robinson ninth, fullback Heath Evans 82nd and center Dennis Norman 222nd. Carter, Evans and Norman remain active for different teams. Robinson flamed out prematurely. Holloway never played.

Mamula, Sapp and the 1995 draft: The Philadelphia Eagles moved up five spots to draft linebacker Mike Mamula seventh overall. This was bad move for the Eagles even if Tampa Bay hadn't drafted defensive tackle Warren Sapp with one of the picks from Philly. The Bucs did get Sapp, however, and Mamula didn't last. The trade-value chart says the Eagles gave up picks worth 1,946 points for picks worth 1,730 points. Philadelphia got the 72nd pick, used for defensive tackle Greg Jefferson, who became a starter. Beyond Sapp, the Bucs received the 43rd choice, used for safety Melvin Johnson, and the 63rd choice, used for guard Shane Hannah. Johnson became a starter.

The Bryant Young deal: The Los Angeles Rams were in full retreat during the 1994 draft. Having already traded back two spots into the seventh overall slot, they moved back eight more spots to No. 15 in a deal that helped the 49ers' defensive line. San Francisco used the seventh choice for Young, who became a second-team all-decade selection for the 1990s. The Rams landed the 15th choice, used for durable offensive tackle Wayne Gandy, plus the 56th (defensive end Brad Ottis) and 100th (linebacker Ernest Jones) picks. The trade chart says the Rams gave up 1,500 points for picks worth 1,490 points -- pretty much a wash. Gandy was a starter in 14 of his 15 NFL seasons.

The price of an elite cornerback: The 49ers could be in the market for a cornerback with the seventh overall choice this year. They'll be fortunate to fare as well as the Washington Redskins fared in the 1999 draft when they moved up five spots to No. 7 and drafted Champ Bailey. Chicago commanded the 12th (quarterback Cade McNown), 71st (receiver D'Wayne Bates), 106th (linebacker Warrick Holdman) and 143rd (tackle Jerry Wisne) choices, worth 51.5 points more than the seventh choice on the value chart. The Redskins also threw in a third-rounder in the 2000 draft (tight end Dustin Lyman). Quality trumped quantity in this exchange, something the 49ers will have to weigh if one of the top cornerbacks is available in the seventh slot this year.

Moving on up: Cleveland sent the seventh and 37th choices in the 2004 draft to Detroit for the sixth pick, which the Browns used for tight end Kellen Winslow. The Lions drafted receiver Roy Williams seventh and linebacker Teddy Lehman at No. 37. The value chart says the Browns spent 2,030 points to receive a pick worth 1,600 points. The 430-point difference equated to the 47th overall choice. A decade earlier, Indianapolis sent the seventh and 83rd choices to the Rams for the fifth pick, a wash on the value chart. The Colts took linebacker Trev Alberts fifth. The Rams kept dealing.
Receiver Ben Obomanu returned to the Seattle Seahawks' wild-card playoff game Saturday after suffering a dislocated shoulder.

If all goes to plan, Obomanu will return for at least three more seasons with the team.

Seattle has announced a three-year extension for Obomanu, who scored four touchdowns and averaged 16.5 yards per catch this season.

The team recently signed fellow receiver Mike Williams to a three-year extension. Both players have taken advantage of opportunities after Seattle released T.J. Houshmandzadeh and traded another veteran wideout, Deion Branch.

Obomanu is one of several seventh-round success stories among Seattle draft choices. Tight end Cameron Morrah (2009) made a key 39-yard reception against New Orleans. Justin Forsett (2008) has played extensively at running back. Several others over the past decade -- Dennis Norman, Josh Brown, Donnie Jones, Steve Vallos and Courtney Greene -- remain active elsewhere despite their last-round status.
Danny O'Neil's item about the Seahawks not drafting a first-round tackle since 2000 sent me back through past Seattle drafts for a closer look at the offensive linemen.

The centers, guards and tackles Seattle drafted from 1994 through 1998 -- the Randy Mueller and Dennis Erickson years -- have combined to start 818 regular-season games. Three of the five long-time starters from that era left Seattle relatively quickly, opening spots on the line for future Seahawks draft choices. But the 15 offensive linemen Seattle has drafted since 1999 have combined to start only 460 regular-season games, 132 by Steve Hutchinson.

What to make of this disparity? A few things:

  • Quite a few of the players drafted more recently aren't finished. They'll rack up lots more starts. Hutchinson, Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Max Unger and possibly Steve Vallos could combine for hundreds of starts over the next five seasons.
  • Four of the five primary starters drafted from 1994 to 1998 -- Kevin Mawae, Pete Kendall, Walter Jones and Todd Weiner -- were selected among the top 47 overall choices (27.5 on average). The five most promising active linemen from the more recent group -- Hutchinson, Locklear, Spencer, Sims and Unger -- were drafted 61st overall on average.
  • Chris McIntosh, the 22nd player chosen in 2000, suffered a debilitating neck stinger early in his career. His early retirement was a freak occurrence costing the 1999-present group quite a few starts. McIntosh wasn't necessarily impressive early in his career, but it's reasonable to think he would have started for years and improved.
  • It's important for Seattle to find another long-term starting tackle in this draft. Seattle holds the sixth overall choice, a slot once used to find Walter Jones. It's unrealistic to think Seattle could find a tackle of Jones' caliber with the sixth pick this year, but it's reasonable to expect any tackle taken that early to start a lot of games.

The charts rank these two groups of Seattle draft choices by most games started.

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