A really cool place to pick

Posted Apr 19, 2012

After addressing the glaring needs in their first two drafts together and free agency, GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll are prepared to “take the good players that come to us” in next week’s NFL Draft.

During John Schneider’s first draft as general manager of the Seahawks, the team’s need for a left tackle was as obvious as Mount Rainier on a sunny spring day.

To label it “glaring” didn’t come close to describing just how dire the situation was at the pivotal position where the team started four players in 2009 after a knee injury forced Walter Jones to the injured reserve list and eventually retirement.

“When we got here, when we had those two high picks, we needed a left tackle. Everybody knew that,” Schneider said Thursday, when he met with reporters who cover the team to discuss next week’s NFL Draft.

The Seahawks got that left tackle by taking Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung with the sixth pick overall and then added Earl Thomas, who has blossomed into a Pro Bowl free safety, with the 14th pick.

At No. 6, Schneider knew the team would take Okung, Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams or, if neither was available, Tennessee safety Eric Berry.  Williams went to the Washington Redskins at No. 4 and Berry to the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 5, so Okung it was at No. 6.

After getting Okung, Schneider was expecting to trade back from the No. 14 spot to add more picks.

“We wanted to move back for sure. Like, ‘We’ve got to go back. Let’s go back. Gotta go back to get more picks,’ ” Schneider said. “That was the mentality. But it was like, ‘Dang, here’s Earl. He made it here. We’ve got to take him.’ ”

It was a double dip of good moves, and good luck.

Things have changed as Schneider and coach Pete Carroll finalize the preparations for their third draft as the tip of the Seahawks’ player-evaluation iceberg.

“We’re definitely in a different place,” Schneider said. “From the areas in free agency that we’ve addressed, I think it has put us in a position to just let the draft kind of come to us and not feel like we need to move around or do anything that would put the organization in jeopardy at any one position.”

The Seahawks hold the 12th pick in the first round of the draft next Thursday, and are set up to go in a number of ways – with a number of players at a number of positions.

“Now we’re in a position – especially at 12 – I look at 12 like at 11, 12, 13 there’s a little bit of a ledge there – there’s a little bit of different players,” Schneider said. “So if we want to stay and pick, I think it’s a really cool place to pick.

“If somebody does something that’s really attractive, then we feel comfortable with the way we’ve prepared that we can go back, too. We feel like we’ve covered some things so we can go ahead and just take the good players that come to us.”

Who that player at 12 might be is the million-dollar question, and won’t be determined until those teams sitting at 4-11 make their selections. Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are all but locks to go 1-2 to the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins. But at No. 3, the Minnesota Vikings are reportedly deciding between tackle Matt Kalil, wide receiver Justin Blackmon and cornerback Morris Claiborne. So things already are in a wait-and-see mode for the Cleveland Browns at No. 4.

Carroll is on record as saying he would like to improve the team’s pass rush, especially off the edge. Schneider reiterated that the team remains interested in adding a young quarterback to a mix that already includes incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson, just-acquired Matt Flynn and brimming-with-potential Josh Portis. But there are so many other ways they could go – again, depending on just who’s there.

Schneider was asked specifically about Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. After searching for the right words, he cracked a smile and offered, “It’s fun to talk about, but he’s not going to be there.”

The Seahawks are coming off back-to-back 7-9 seasons, but also “headed down the right track,” as Schneider put it – an assessment shared by many in the league.

Another strong draft will only enhance the collection of uniquely talented players Schneider and Carroll already have assembled.

“We’re in a position now where we’ve kind of covered ourselves a little bit where we can just be prepared,” Schneider said. “We’ve got good input from the coaches. The scouts have been out busting their tails. The preparation is in place. Our process is pretty much winding down.

“We can just sit and take players.”