NFC West: Jeff Blackshear

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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