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There’s so much more to their drafts than first-round picks
Thirteen mock drafts. Ten players, at four positions, targeted for the Seahawks with the 25th selection in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.
With the Super Bowl a nine-day glance into the rearview mirror, and the start of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis still 10 days away, which teams might select which players at which positions is providing much of the substance for this first gap in all things NFL.
General manager John Schneider and his staff and coach Pete Carroll and his staff are spending most of their days in meetings to discuss the 2013 Draft Class and, yes, which players can most help the Seahawks improve on their 11-5 regular-season record and split of two playoff games during the 2012 season.
A look at the players on the Seahawks' 53-man roster for their divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons who entered the League as late-round draft choices or undrafted free agents:
Fourth-round picks (6): LB K.J. Wright (2001), DE Red Bryant (2008), RB Robert Turbin (2012), and DL Jaye Howard (2012), who were drafted by the Seahawks; and FB Michael Robinson and KR/RB Leon Washington, who entered the League with other teams.
Fifth-round picks (5): CB Richard Sherman (2011) and SS Kam Chancellor (2010), who were drafted by the Seahawks; and OT Breno Giacomini, OT Frank Omiyale, and DE Patrick Chukwurah, who entered the League with other teams.
Seventh-round picks (6): LB Malcolm Smith (2011), DE Greg Scruggs (2012), OG J.R. Sweezy (2012), who were drafted by the Seahawks; and QB Matt Flynn, DT Clinton McDonald, and OT Mike Person, who entered the League with other teams.
Free agents (15): WR Doug Baldwin (2011), S Jeron Johnson (2011), WR Jermaine Kearse (2012), OL Lemuel Jeanpierre (2010), OG Rishaw Johnson (2012), TE Sean McGrath (2012), DB DeShawn Shead (2012), LB Allen Bradford (2011), and LB Mike Morgan (2011), who were signed by the Seahawks; and P Jon Ryan, CB Brandon Browner, S Chris Maragos, LS Clint Gresham, LB Heath Farwell, and K Ryan Longwell, who entered the League with other teams.
Carroll is on record as wanting to improve a pass rush that improved from generating 33 sacks in 2011 to 36 in 2012 – either in the draft, free agency or both. The team did that last year by signing rush-tackle Jason Jones in free agency, but only to a one-year contract; and selecting rush-end Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick in the first round of the draft. Irvin led all NFL rookies with eight sacks during the regular season and then added a ninth in the wild-card playoff victory over the Washington Redskins.
Leo end Chris Clemons remained the Seahawks’ best and most-consistent pass-rusher with 11.5 sacks, but he had reconstructive surgery after damaging a ligament and meniscus in his left knee against the Redskins.
So the various mock-drafters have the Seahawks selecting LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery with the 25th pick this year. Or Texas’ Alex Okafor. Or BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah.
In addition to Jones, Alan Branch also is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, so the Seahawks could have a hole at the three-technique spot in their base defensive line, as well. So some of the mock drafts have the Seahawks scratching that itch by selecting Ohio State D-tackle Johnathan Hankins. Or Alabama’s Jesse Williams. Or LSU’s Bennie Logan.
The emergence of Russell Wilson as the franchise quarterback during his rookie season has others seeing a need to give last year’s third-round draft choice even more options in the passing game. So some mocks have the Seahawks using their first-round pick to take Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen. Or Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins.
And the one mocker who passes on a receiver, a pass-rusher or a tackle for the middle of the D-line? He likes Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker.
But if Schneider and Carroll have displayed anything during their first three drafts together, it’s that you should expect the unexpected when it comes to their selections in the first round – the Pro Bowl duo of left tackle Russell Okung and free safety Earl Thomas in 2010; road-grinding blocker James Carpenter in 2011; and Irvin last year.
A better exercise is focusing on what the Seahawks will do on the third day of April’s draft. That’s when Rounds 4-7 will be conducted, and also when teams can begin signing those players who go undrafted as free agents.
That’s also been the day when Schneider and Carroll have “hit” on All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman (fifth round 2011), strong safety Kam Chancellor (fifth round 2010), linebacker and second-leading tackler K.J. Wright (fourth round 2011) and 2011 leading receiver Doug Baldwin (free agent that year).
In fact, the Seahawks’ 53-man roster for their divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta included 17 players selected in the first two days of the NFL Draft – either by the Seahawks or another team – and 36 players who entered the league in either the fourth through seventh rounds or as a free agent (see chart).
This bottom-heavy roster was skewed somewhat because the Seahawks promoted from their practice squad to replace players lost to season-ending injuries late in the process, but it’s significant nonetheless.
When your philosophy is to build through the draft and augment with unrestricted free agents, it’s a definite plus when you can uncover a building-block player in the later rounds and especially after the draft process has been completed.
Carroll is on the lookout for players with unique qualities – in case you haven’t heard – and Schneider and his scouts have done an exemplary job of finding them long after you would expect they would be able to. But the third-day success of their first three drafts has created problems for this year’s draft class.
“What’s going to be hard is for the 10 guys that get drafted to make this team,” Carroll said. “That’s what I think the challenge is, and that’s how much I believe in these guys. I think they’re going to come back ready to go.
“I think we’re stepping into a great time for us. It all comes down to how we play next year though. It all means nothing until you start playing. Everything is lined up for us to be on it.”
Even if those lines to make the Seahawks’ 2013 roster might seem a little longer, and definitely will be a lot deeper.