Starters Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse went undrafted. Of the reserves, Kevin Norwood is a fourth-round rookie and Ricardo Lockette, Chris Matthews and Bryan Walters went undrafted. Kearse (once), Lockette (three times), Matthews (four times) and Walters (nine — nine! — times) have been released a combined 17 times.
In the other corner, it’s the Green Bay Packers’ cornerbacks.
By percentage, no positions have more first-round starters in the NFL than quarterback and left tackle. Seattle got a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Russell Wilson, in the third round. Green Bay got its excellent young left tackle, David Bakhtiari, in the fourth round.
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Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the Packers and Seahawks will determine the top team in the conference. It’s the most fitting of matchups because these are the best-run franchises in the conference.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson and Seahawks general manager John Schneider are two of the best in the business. Ditto for coaches Mike McCarthy and Pete Carroll.
Thompson and Schneider leave no stone unturned in finding young talent. With a few exceptions — Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers for Green Bay and Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett for Seattle, to name a few of the few — they’ve done it with draft picks, college free agency and a keen eye for the waiver wire.
McCarthy and Carroll are open-minded enough to pour as much time into the last man on the depth chart as they do the first. Because, as Williams and Shields have shown, that last guy on the depth chart might rise to the top.
“We’re taking all 63 with us,” McCarthy said of bringing the 10 practice squad players along with the 53 on the active roster. “I think it’s important for our practice squad players to go along and be a part of this.”
Schneider worked under Thompson in Green Bay but they aren’t clones.
In 2010, Schneider’s first year with the Seahawks, he pulled the trigger on 284 transactions. Pity the equipment guy having to put the names on all of those jerseys. In March 2013, the Seahawks acquired Percy Harvin from the Vikings for first-, third- and seventh-round picks, then handed him a six-year deal that included $25.5 million guaranteed. Barely a month into this season, Schneider said the equivalent of “screw it” and sent Harvin to the Jets for a box of stale sweet rolls. Never mind the financial investment and the lack of firepower in the passing game.
By contrast, Thompson is the Saint of Patience. Derek Sherrod and Justin Harrell are the obvious examples of that. Then again, Harvin is the type of player Thompson wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Both GMs have been rewarded by their approach.
“He has just worked tirelessly to continue to compete, to find guys to make this a healthy, competitive roster,” Carroll said of Schneider this week. “I mean the hundreds of changes in the first year was just trying to find guys. John just continued to battle for it. I don't know how he couldn't be recognized with the drafts that he's had, with the free agency success he's had, with the success of our lower draft picks that have come through. His insight and his ability and really the creativity that he brings couldn't have been more obvious.”
At their hearts, however, they share one key trait. Thompson and Schneider have built championship rosters by continually being on the hunt. The hunt for the next star. The next contributor. The next player with the hunger to take advantage of an opportunity.
That’s why these teams have been built to last. They won last year. They won this year. They’ll win next year, too. Based on Week 17 rosters, the Packers have the fourth-youngest team in the league. The Seahawks are the ninth-youngest. Of the nine youngest teams in the league, the Packers and Seahawks were the only clubs to make the playoffs.
“I’m a scout. That’s what I do, that’s what I enjoy,” Thompson said on July 28 when discussing his contract extension. “As a scout, you’re always looking for that diamond, the so-called diamond in the rough that no one else can find. That’s very difficult to do in this day and age with the communication and the information and the names and that sort of thing. You still are looking to one-up somebody else who’s in your business. I’m still a scout.”email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.