With just under 30 seconds remaining in the NFC Championship Game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick lofts a deep pass into the back of the end zone. Since the Seattle Seahawks didn't draft Richard Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, there is no All-Pro cornerback there to tip the pass away (on the bright side, Sherman is not there to break Twitter with his postgame rant). Instead, there is some guy named Chris Rucker who can't make the physics-defying, mid-air adjustment to keep Michael Crabtree from hauling in the pass that sends the Niners to the Super Bowl. Even if Sherman is around, eventual Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith isn't there to make the game-sealing pick off the deflection. Come to think of it, the Seahawks aren't even playing in the NFC title game at all, since an opening-round meltdown by their franchise quarterback, Andy Dalton, knocked them out of the playoffs weeks prior.
Such is the alternate universe where the Seahawks franchise followed the advice of resident NFL Draft experts. We dragged up the mock drafts dating back to 2010 from Scouts Inc., a partner with ESPN directed by well-known draft personality Todd McShay, and retooled the Seahawks' roster based on those projections (and sprinkled in a delightfully bad pick by Mel Kiper Jr., because who doesn't enjoy laughing at Mel Kiper Jr.?).
Sherman is by far the biggest whiff. Instead of taking the league's top cover corner in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, McShay had Seattle drafting Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich. Herzlich went undrafted, and while his tale of battling through cancer to play pro football is as inspiring as it gets, he has served primarily as a special teamer with the New York Giants over the last three years.
In fact, the McShay-managed Seahawks would have almost none of the players in the dominant secondary that came to be known as the Legion of Boom. They would not have used a first-round pick in the 2010 draft to grab All-Pro safety Earl Thomas (though in his defense, McShay had Seattle nabbing dominant Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul instead), and would have passed on his secondary mate, Kam Chancellor, four rounds later. McShay did accurately predict the 2010 selection of reserve cornerback Walter Thurmond.
The most amusing misfire is in Kiper's 2011 mock, which had the Seahawks taking Dalton with the No. 25 overall pick. Sure, Dalton has shown promise during his three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, but he has been notoriously bad in the postseason. He has an 0-3 record in the playoffs, which basically makes him the anti-Russell Wilson.
Speaking of Wilson, he fell to the fourth round of McShay's 2012 mock, landing as a probable career backup to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. With the third-round pick that the real-life Seahawks used to take their Pro Bowl quarterback, McShay had Seattle selecting Brandon Brooks, the current starting right guard for the Houston Texans.
McShay also missed the 2011 seventh-round selection of Smith, the linebacker whose pick-six off Peyton Manning helped the Seahawks break open the Super Bowl and earned him the game's MVP award.
McShay has not been all wrong. In 2012, he had the Seahawks using their top pick on defensive end Chandler Jones, who had 11.5 sacks for the New England Patriots in 2013. Instead, the Seahawks chose Bruce Irvin, who had just two sacks last season. The idea of Chandler and Pierre-Paul bookending the same defensive line is scary. The McShay Seahawks would also have had a nice receiving corps, lining up Randall Cobb opposite Eric Decker. With Cobb on the roster, the Seahawks may not have traded for the similarly explosive Percy Harvin last offseason, saving them a 2013 first-round draft pick. And with Decker around in 2011, they may not make a $41 million blunder on another former Viking, Sidney Rice.
McShay's offensive line selections are somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand, he has the Seahawks taking left tackle Trent Williams -- the Washington Redskins' lone Pro Bowler in 2013 and the highest-rated tackle by Pro Football Focus -- instead of Russell Okung with their top pick in 2010. McShay also nabbed Brooks, although it was at the expense of Wilson. On the flip side, his first-round pick in 2011, guard Danny Watkins, went belly-up with Philadelphia and is now a sparsely used reserve in Miami. The real Seahawks instead used that pick on James Carpenter, who played in all 16 games at left guard this season. McShay also missed the seventh-round pickup of J.R. Sweezy, who started 15 games at the other guard spot.
Just for kicks, here's a look at McShay and Kiper's bizzaro Seahawks offense (note: asterisks denote players that would be on the team anyway, as they were either drafted prior to 2010 or came to Seattle by a means other than the draft).
QB: Andy Dalton
RB: Marshawn Lynch*
FB: Derrick Coleman*
WR: Randall Cobb
WR: Eric Decker
TE: Zach Miller*
LT: Trent Williams
LG: Brandon Brooks
C: Max Unger*
RG: Shelley Smith
RT: Breno Giacomini*
So would McShay's squad have been able to win Super Bowl XLVIII? Outside of the Dalton/Wilson switch, his offense is actually an upgrade over the one that lined up on Super Bowl Sunday, with big-play threats on the outside and a bulked-up offensive line. Hell, given the strength of the defense, even Dalton may have been able to ride their coattails through the playoffs.
But that's the major difference: the defense. While the line would be a bit stronger (though the current unit isn't too shabby themselves), the absence of the Legion of Boom dooms the McShays. Seattle was the top defensive unit in the league last season and limited opponents to 172 passing yards per game. The real-life Seahawks were carried to an NFL title on the backs of a secondary crafted through the draft. And that's where the draft experts fell short.
Here's the complete list of Scout Inc.'s mock drafts since 2010, side-by-side with the Seahawks' actual picks:
|Round||Scouts Inc. mock||Actual Seahawks pick|
|1||OT Trent Williams||OT Russell Okung|
|1||DE Jason Pierre-Paul||S Earl Thomas|
|2||WR Eric Decker||WR Golden Tate|
|4||S Larry Asante||CB Walter Thurmond|
|4||RB Jonathan Dwyer||DE E.J. Wilson|
|5||CB Walter Thurmond||S Kam Chancellor|
|5||OG Shelley Smith|
|6||DT Corey Peters||TE Anthony McCoy|
|7||DE Dexter Davis|
|1||OG Danny Watkins||OT James Carpenter|
|2||WR Randall Cobb|
|3||OG John Moffitt|
|4||QB Ricky Stanzi||LB K.J. Wright|
|4||WR Kris Durham|
|5||OT Derek Newton||CB Richard Sherman|
|5||LB Mark Herzlich||S Mark LeGree|
|6||CB Chris Rucker||CB Byron Maxwell|
|7||DT Martin Parker||DE Lazarius Levingston|
|7||LB Malcolm Smith|
|1||DE Chandler Jones||DE Bruce Irvin|
|2||LB Lavonte David||LB Bobby Wagner|
|3||OG Brandon Brooks||QB Russell Wilson|
|4||WR Nick Toon||RB Robert Turbin|
|4||DT Jaye Howard|
|5||LB Korey Toomer|
|6||S Eddie Pleasant||CB Jeremy Lane|
|6||S Winston Guy|
|7||LB Najee Goode||OG J.R. Sweezy|
|7||DE Greg Scruggs|
|2||LB Sio Moore||RB Christine Michael|
|3||DT Bennie Logan||DT Jordan Hill|
|4||CB Daxton Swanson||WR Chris Harper|
|5||DE Quanterus Smith||DT Jesse Williams|
|5||WR Tavarres King||CB Tharold Simon|
|5||TE Luke Willson|
|6||OT Tanner Hawkinson||RB Spencer Ware|
|7||QB Jordan Rodgers||OT Michael Bowie|