April Madness: Easley vs. Sinclair

l-r: Elmer Nordstrom, Herman Sarkowsky, Ken Easely, Jack Patera, John Thompson, Leigh Steinberg

Yesterday: Is it time to get hysterical about the lack of historical perspective in this exercise?

For the third time in four days, the more recent draft choice handily dispatched his older opponent — with the lone exception being Walter Jones’ win over Shawn Springs in a matchup of 1997 first-round picks. This time it was guard Steve Hutchinson grabbing 61 percent of the 726 responses, or 442 votes. That left fullback John L. Williams with 39 percent and 284 votes.

Hutchinson was the 17th selection overall in the 2001 draft, while Williams was the 15th pick overall in 1986. Hutchinson went to three Pro Bowls, Williams two. But Williams was a productive player – sometimes the most productive player – on the team for eight seasons. While Hutchinson was the best player in the league at his position in 2004 and 2005, he played only five seasons with the Seahawks before jumping to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency the offseason after the Seahawks appeared in their only Super Bowl.

Today: Michael Sinclair vs. Kenny Easley.

This matchup should reverse the most-recent-is-better trend of the first four days. Easley arrived in 1981, as the fourth pick overall, and nothing was ever the same again – in the Seahawks’ secondary, or in the way the position of strong safety was played in the league.

To call Easley intimidating doesn’t really do justice to way he used what his teammates labeled “The Hook” – Easley’s already formidable forearms taped to an even harder appendage that he would cock and use to clobber opponents. But Easley was more than just might unleashed. He intercepted a conference-leading 10 passes in 1984, when Easley was voted NFL defensive player of the year. He also led the team in interceptions in 1982, 1983 and 1987; and was among the team’s leading tacklers in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1985.

But even more impressive was the way opposing coaches tried to take Easley out of the game – by sending the tight end in motion, all the way to the sideline; by having the quarterback use multiple ball fakes; by trying to run away from him.

In seven seasons, Easley was voted All-Pro three times and to the Pro Bowl five times. His career was cut short when a kidney ailment was detected during a physical after the Seahawks attempted to trade him to the Cardinals in 1988.

Easley ranks fourth in club history in interceptions (32) and third in return yardage (528). He was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2002.

Michael Sinclair

While Easley entered the NFL by kicking in the front door, Sinclair slipped in through the back door – as a sixth-round pick in 1991. He spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad and then played a season in the fledgling World League before developing into one of the most productive pass rushers in franchise history.

In 1996-97, only eventual Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (27½) and John Randle (27) had more sacks than Sinclair (25). What did he do for an encore in ’98? Sinclair led the league with a franchise-record 16½ sacks.

Sinclair was voted to the Pro Bowl three times and left the Seahawks after the 2001 season ranked second all-time in sacks (73½) and forced fumbles (24) – behind franchise leader Jacob Green (116 and 28).

A first-round pick who was dominating from Day One? Or a project player who definitely developed, and then some? You make the call.

Tomorrow: Shaun Alexander vs. Marcus Trufant

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