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Hypothesizing Seahawks 2023 draft picks and order
Seaside Joe 1164: The trap of thinking you know what's best for the team
For a long time, I’ve been fighting that instinct that most humans have called, “I know what happens next.” Because humans are so bad at making predictions that entire industries are built off of the unwillingness that most of us have to admit that we can’t see the future. Alexandra Ossola broke down one such example for a piece on QZ.com called “Why are humans so bad at predicting the future?”
If you have a few thousand dollars to spare and tire of investing in index funds, you might try something a bit more speculative: the futures market. Here, investors can use their money to buy a commodity (say, gold or coffee) at a future date at a pre-arranged price. If the price goes up between the initial investment and that date, the investor keeps the profits; if it goes down, they lose the money they started with.
Simple, right? Except for one big factor: Humans are terrible at predicting the future.
Futures markets exist (and have existed for millennia) because it helps producers gauge the price of their commodities and to stabilize the market that could otherwise be turned upside down by random events like weather or the discovery of a new vein of a desirable mineral.
But for investors, putting money into futures markets can be pretty risky. Turns out that individuals simply aren’t that good at looking at how much a commodity cost and anticipating how it could change (though as more people invest in futures markets, the more stable those markets—and more reliable those predictions—become).
Countless people throughout history have bet their entire lives on the belief that they know what’s going to happen in the future, and if casinos are any indication of success, most of them have lost to the house.
For a long time, I told myself that my mission as a sports writer was to find out how teams find championship success. If I could do that, perhaps then I could predict which teams would next become champions. Then after reading “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, I gave that up. Once it became clear that humans were worse at making predictions when using their experience and knowledge in a given field as opposed to, say, wearing a blindfold and throwing darts at a rotating corkboard, I changed course to something more like, “Make money, put food in my dog’s bowl, don’t completely suck ass in a highly competitive market.”
Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, broke down some of those experiments in a piece for Vanity Fair titled, “The King of Human Error.”
When you wander into the work of Kahneman and Tversky far enough, you come to find their fingerprints in places you never imagined even existed. It’s alive in the work of the psychologist Philip Tetlock, who famously studied the predictions of putative political experts and found they were less accurate than predictions made by simple algorithms. It’s present in the writing of Atul Gawande (Better, The Checklist Manifesto), who has shown the dangers of doctors who place too much faith in their intuition. It inspired the work of Terry Odean, a finance professor at U.C. Berkeley, who examined 10,000 individual brokerage accounts to see if stocks the brokers bought outperformed stocks they sold and found that the reverse was true.
Finally, I ceded my desire to control the future and stopped trying to accurately “predict” which of my decisions would be right because I felt, as I’m sure we all have before, that far too often experiences that I thought would be good turned out bad. Experiences that I thought would turn out bad, turned out good.
So then what’s the point of anxiety if I don’t know how the future will unfold?
Sometimes you may think that losing your job is the worst thing in the world, but then perhaps after it happens, you finally pursued the dream you’ve always had and have never been happier?
Who hasn’t dreamt of getting that job or career you worked so hard for? How many horror stories have we heard or experienced when someone finally says “I made it” only to realize that this isn’t actually the place you thought it would be?
The lottery winner who is in ruins only a few years later. The convict who gets released and thanks prison for saving his or her life.
I cede control, I’m free of anxiety. You can’t have anxiety if you are living in the present. You can’t change what has already happened, just as you can’t experience something that hasn’t happened yet.
You also can’t separate your innate biases to want good apart from a reality that is an unpredictable future, an uncontrollable universe, so you will inherently always lean towards making predictions that benefit you. From Carolina Beaton’s article “Humans are bad at predicting futures that don’t benefit them” for The Atlantic:
Psychology research indeed suggests that the more desirable a future event is, the more likely people think it is. When the sociologists Edward Brent and Donald Granberg studied wish fulfillment in U.S. presidential elections between 1952 and 1980, they found that 80 percent of each of the major candidates’ supporters expected their preferred candidate to win by a ratio of around four to one. “People distort their perception of an election's closeness in ways that are consistent with their preferences,” a later paper concluded. Likewise, after the 2008 election, researchers analyzed survey predictions from 19,000 Americans and found that Democrats tended to think Barack Obama was more likely to win, while Republicans assumed John McCain would.
And it’s not as simple as boiling this desire down to optimism.
Unrealistic optimism is thinking that good things are more likely to happen to you than to other people, whereas bad things are less likely. It’s not outright denial of risk, says Weinstein. “People don’t say, ‘It can’t happen to me.’ It’s more like, ‘It could happen to me, but it’s not as likely [for me] as for other people around me.’” People predict that they’re less likely than others to experience illness, injury, divorce, death, and other adverse events—even when they’re exposed to the same risk factors. For instance, someone might think she’s less prone to diabetes than others, even if she weighs the same, eats the same, shares similar family history with, and has the same lifestyle as the people she's comparing herself to.
People may think their odds are better than average because they don’t know what the average really is.
January 2, 2011 was one of the few days in franchise history that there may have been more Seahawks fans rooting against the team than for them. Seattle, 6-9, was hosting the St. Louis Rams, 7-8, for the right to win the NFC West and host the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the wild card round of the playoffs.
The Rams lost 16-6, but there was somehow a belief that this was good for the franchise. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who went 1-15 in his first season with the team, was retained for a third year. St. Louis got the 14th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, whereas the Seahawks would have to settle for a pick in the 20s despite having an identical record to the Rams.
St. Louis would pick defensive end Robert Quinn, a coup for a team that didn’t have a top-10 pick in one of the heaviest top-loaded draft classes in history, as Quinn posted 62.5 sacks in seven seasons with the Rams and nearly won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
In that same draft, the Seahawks selected James Carpenter with the 25th overall pick, then subsequently had to pick ~10 spots after the Rams in every round.
Sure, you’d rather have Robert Quinn than James Carpenter. You’d rather have an earlier draft pick at every opportunity. You’d rather have an advantage over your division opponents whenever leverage was coming into play.
But you’d also rather—win football games.
If the Seahawks lose that game, then they never play against the Saints in the wild card round. They never take a 34-30 lead in the fourth quarter. They would have never been facing 2nd-and-10 from their own 32-yard line and Matt Hasselbeck would have never handed it off to Marshawn Lynch in that situation.
It is true that the Seahawks picked a worse NFL player in the first round of the 2011 draft, just as it is true that they didn’t even have a second round pick that year and that third rounder John Moffitt turned out to be a bust. It is also true that Seattle selected Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Byron Maxwell, and Malcolm Smith that year.
It is also true that the Seahawks won a playoff game that year.
It is also true that Marshawn Lynch became a fan favorite that day after a season in which he had zero 90+ yard games.
It is also true that the Rams went 2-14 the following season and fired Spagnuolo. It is also true that their “solution” was to hire Jeff Fisher. It is also true that the Rams LEFT THEIR CITY in 2016.
And it is also true that the Seahawks were back in legitimate contention by 2012 and won the Super Bowl in 2013.
Does that happen if Seahawks fans had gotten their wish on January 2, 2011?
I no longer wish for anything other than that which is most logical: Getting the W. Winning begets winning and as we’ve seen with the NFL’s consistently hapless franchises, losing only seems to lead to more losing.
I see so many of my colleagues who have those same predilections for predictions that I gave up long ago. It is baked into every tweet about analytics, every overly-confident keyboard coaching advice, every draft grades article, and every gambling site holding a carrot on a stick. But after seeing the Cincinnati Bengals reach the Super Bowl, after seeing Matthew Stafford win his first (four) playoff games after 13 seasons in the league, I’m as confident as ever that we should not be confident.
Not in our predictions.
Instead, I offer you, some hypotheses.
It’s good to have an imagination and to use it as often as necessary. Your imagination should be somewhat within your control, but that hindrance could also serve as a blockade towards getting to the possibilities that you couldn’t comprehend were even there. A good example is mock drafts: They’re not accurate. They’re not predictive. And most of them lack imagination.
But considering every possibility—and learning who the possibilities are—should help us gain context to the what and the why after we know the true outcomes.
This is not a 2023 mock draft today. Instead, I was curious what picks Seattle could have in the 2023 NFL Draft. So far, we know what rounds the Seahawks will be picking in, and we also know that Seattle is not in line for any compensatory picks. (If Sean Desai, Clint Hurtt, or another minority candidate is hired as a head coach or GM, the Seahawks should receive 2023 and 2024 third round comp picks.)
I want to hypothesize potential 2022 win-loss records for the Seahawks and Broncos, then see how that might shake out for Seattle in next year’s draft. Should you be rooting for the worst possible record? Maybe! The point here is not to tell you to root to win (that’s my philosophy, it doesn’t have to be yours), it’s to lay out that rooting for any outcome may not result in what you expect in the future.
“Good”? “Bad”? I don’t know that either of those exist.
What if the Seahawks finish with a record of 6-11 and the Broncos finish with a record of 10-7, winning a wild card game over AFC South champion Colts, then losing in the divisional round to the Kansas City Chiefs? What if?
There was only one 6-11 team last season, the Bears, and they were awarded the 7th overall pick—though it belonged to the Giants because of Justin Fields.
The Bills, Titans, Bucs, and Packers lost in the divisional round, receiving picks in the 25-28 range.
This might be Seattle’s 2023 draft pick chart:
1.25 (from DEN)
2.57 (from DEN)
5.154 (from PIT)
This would give the Seahawks nine picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, including four of the top-57 and five of the top-71. Seattle owns Pittsburgh’s fifth rounder in the Ahkello Witherspoon deal, and sent their seventh rounder to Houston for John Reid.