The Seattle Seahawks, if you look at their history, have found a lot of gems late in the NFL Draft. The annoying aspect of this reality for Seahawk fans in the 20th century was that these unexpectedly good players made their careers with other teams. They blossomed only after leaving the Pacific Northwest.
In the 21st century, NFL Draft steals stayed in Seattle. That, in short, is a big part of why the Seahawks became a successful franchise, making Super Bowl XL in the 2005 season and winning Super Bowl XLVIII in the 2013 campaign.
When considering the five best NFL Draft steals the Seahawks have ever had, the prominence and importance of the Super Bowl runs in the Pete Carroll era have to be given extra weight.
The Seahawks produced quality players from the back end of the NFL Draft before they rose to the top of the NFL, and those players’ names will be mentioned here. However, not all of those earlier players made the final cut. Super Bowls matter for a franchise which didn’t reach a single Supe in its first 28 seasons of existence.
Let’s mention the honorable mention selections very quickly:
Chris Warren gave the Seahawks eight productive seasons as a running back in the 1990s. He was a No. 89 pick in 1990 who produced nearly 10,000 all-purpose yards for Seattle.
Josh Brown was a placekicker taken at No. 222 in the 2003 NFL Draft. He was an important part of the 2005 team’s Super Bowl run. He kicked a 58-yard field goal as a member of the Seahawks.
Edwin Bailey was a No. 114 pick in the 1981 NFL Draft who gave the Seahawks 11 seasons as an offensive lineman. He played for several playoff teams, including the 1983 team which made the AFC Championship Game.
J.R. Sweezy was taken at No. 225 in the 2012 NFL Draft. He played defense in college but was converted to an offensive lineman. He gave the Seahawks the O-line stability they have lacked in recent years. A solid offensive line was a centerpiece of the 2013 and 2014 Super Bowl teams.
Byron Maxwell was picked at No. 173 in the 2011 NFL Draft. His work in the secondary with his more famous teammates propelled the Seahawks to greatness.
Now, to the top five:
5. Rocky Bernard
The defensive tackle was taken at No. 146 in the 2002 NFL Draft. He was a monster in the middle for seven seasons in Seattle, notching two sacks in the 2005 season’s NFC Championship Game blowout of the Carolina Panthers, giving the Seahawks their first Super Bowl appearance. Bernard lost Super Bowl XL as a Seahawk, but he would win the Lombardi Trophy with the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI six years later.
4. Malcolm Smith
Though not as great a linebacker as Bobby Wagner, Smith will live forever in Seahawks lore as the man who caught Richard Sherman’s tipped pass from Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 season’s NFC Championship Game, delivering Pete Carroll’s Hawks to their first Super Bowl. Smith also attained NFL immortality by notching a pick-six in Super Bowl XLVIII against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, winning the game’s MVP award.
Not bad for a No. 242 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
3. Michael Sinclair
The No. 155 pick in 1991 gave the Seahawks 11 distinguished seasons, reaching three Pro Bowls and becoming the NFL sack leader in the 1998 season. Sinclair stood tall for the franchise in a difficult decade, carrying it through rough times to the beginning of its renewal under Mike Holmgren at the start of the 21st century.
2. Kam Chancellor
The heart of the Legion of Boom is Chancellor, the most fearless hitter and the glue in the locker room. One of the most selfless Seahawks of all time, Chancellor sacrificed his body as few others have. Many Seahawk fans think he, not Malcolm Smith, deserved to be MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII. His pick-six of Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers in a divisional playoff game in the 2014 season was a mountaintop moment.
Chancellor forged his storied career from humble beginnings: He was the No. 133 pick, a fifth-round selection, in 2010.
1. Richard Sherman
If Chancellor was the heart of the Legion of Boom, Sherman was the soul.
It is hard to believe he was a No. 154 pick in Round 5 of the 2011 NFL Draft.
His swagger filtered through the whole team. Sherman was the on-field extension of his coach, Pete Carroll, his energy radiating through the defensive huddle and his teammates on the sidelines.
Sherman’s ability to cover his half of the field made life easier for Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and the rest of the Seahawks’ defense. He might not be the greatest Seahawk ever (though he is in the discussion), but for many Seattle football fans, his attitude defined Seahawk football in the franchise’s proudest moments… and we might have mentioned that yes, he did tip the pass which beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
He had a few things to say to Michael Crabtree with Erin Andrews.