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Even at Super Bowl, draft preparation continued

Posted Feb 19, 2014

Even with the Seahawks sequestered in New Jersey for the Super Bowl, it didn’t stop John Schneider, Scott Fitterer and the scouting department from doing their prep work for the NFL Scouting Combine.


INDIANAPOLIS – Could the Seahawks possibly select a cornerback with the 32nd pick in the first round of the NFL Draft?

Yes. And here’s why: In an offseason that already has been anything but usual, because of the Super Bowl-winning effort on Feb. 2 and Super Bowl-worthy parade through the streets of Seattle on Feb. 5, it has been business as usual when it comes to the NFL Draft.

The phrases that continued to be heard as general manager John Schneider and his staff and coach Pete Carroll and his staff prepared to spend the next week examining the Class of 2014 during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium were “drafting for the future” and “best available player.”

The latter is not new, as the Seahawks have long tried to adhere to the best approach when it comes to the draft – selecting the highest-rated player on their board, as opposed to drafting for need. The “future” talk, however, is something new as Schneider and Carroll have compiled a deep, talented roster since arriving in January 2010.

That’s why the possibility of selecting a cornerback is not out of the question on May 8. Or any other position for that matter.

SEVEN DAYS IN FEBRUARY

The schedule for the players at the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins today:

Today: Medical pre-exams, psychological testing and interviews with teams for kickers, special teams players, offensive linemen and tight ends

Thursday: Measurements, medical exams, media session and team interviews for kickers, special teams players, offensive linemen and tight ends; medical pre-exams, X-rays, orientation and team interviews for quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs

Friday: Workouts for kickers and special teams players; bench press, psychological testing and team interviews for kickers, special teams players, offensive linemen and tight ends; measurements, medical exams, media session and team interviews for quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs; medical pre-exams, X-rays, orientation and team interviews for defensive linemen and linebackers.

Saturday: On-field workouts for offensive linemen and tight ends; psychological testing, bench press, team interviews for quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs; measurements, medical exams, media session and team interviews for defensive linemen and linebackers; medical pre-exams, X-rays, orientation and team interviews for defensive backs.

Sunday: On-field workouts for quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs; psychological testing, bench press and team interviews for defensive linemen and linebackers; measurements, medical exams, media session and team interviews for defensive backs.

Monday: On-field workouts for defensive linemen and linebackers; psychological testing, bench press and team interviews for defensive backs.

Tuesday: On-field workouts for defensive backs.

Just look at what happened last year, when the Seahawks’ initial pick was in the second round because they had used their first-round pick as part of the trade to acquire the multitalented Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks already had franchise-back Marshawn Lynch, who was coming off a career-best 1,590-yard season. The year before, they had selected Robert Turbin in the second round to give them a physical counterpunch to Lynch.

So when they got to the 62nd pick overall, the selection was …

Texas A&M running back Christine Michael? Yes, because he was the highest-rated player on the Seahawks’ meticulously stacked draft board.

As for the talk of drafting for the future, Carroll touched on that during his season-ender news conference.

Asked what his No. 1 priority was this offseason, Carroll offered, “Well, the priority for us is to get back to work and work really hard again. That’s going to be really important. It’s not something that’s going to be something from the outside of us. We have what we need; we just need to get back to work when the time comes.”

That also was the case in the draft last year, after the Seahawks had addressed Carroll’s stated priority – improving the pass rush – with the free-agent signings of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, who topped the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense with 8.5 and eight sacks.

Carroll said it would be difficult for the 2013 Draft Class to have an impact. Michael was inactive for six games and finished with 79 yards on 18 carries. Tight end Luke Willson, a fifth-round pick, finished sixth on the team with 20 receptions. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill, a third-round pick, was inactive for 12 games. Lineman Michael Bowie, a seventh-round pick, started seven games at right tackle while Breno Giacomini was injured, and another at right guard for a concussed J.R. Sweezy. Injuries ended the seasons of defensive tackle Jesse Williams (fifth round), cornerback Tharold Simon (fifth round), running back Spencer Ware (sixth round) and offensive lineman Jared Smith (seventh round).

The players who will comprise the Seahawks’ Class of 2014 won’t find the playtime coming any easier. But that doesn’t mean Schneider, Carroll and staffs will approach this draft with any less zeal. While Carroll and his coaches where putting the players though their practice paces at the New York Giants’ facility the week of Super Bowl XLVIII, Schneider and his staff were holding draft meetings in a room at the team hotel.

“It doesn’t change for us,” director of college scouting Scott Fitterer said before the Seahawks’ contingent left for the Combine. “This is a year-round process, we have our schedule and we stick to it.”

Regardless of how Super the season might become, and the fact that the pre-draft meetings that usually are held at Virginia Mason Athletic Center were conducted at the Westin Jersey City.

“We made some slight adjustments with the Super Bowl, but for us it’s an ongoing process and we try and stay on schedule,” Fitterer said. “The focus is the draft, and we can’t fall behind there. So we have to stay on schedule.”

And not just the 2014 schedule, when this Seahawks team will experience something no other Seahawks team has – being the defending Super Bowl champions.

“We’re drafting for now, and we’re drafting for the future,” Fitterer said. “So we’re going to grade these guys the same way and when we get to it we’re going take the best available player who fits our team and can help us next year – and two years down the road, three years down the road.”

The proof is in the production, and not just with the first-round picks. The Seahawks’ Super Bowl roster was loaded with productive players who were selected in the later rounds – from All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman (fifth round in 2011) to linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (seventh round in 2011); and quarterback Russell Wilson (third round in 2012) to All-Pro strong safety Kam Chancellor (fifth round in 2010); and linebacker K.J. Wright (fourth round in 2011) to cornerback Byron Maxwell (sixth round in 2011).

“We grind through it pretty good, as far as evaluating players,” Fitterer said. “And then we take players who fit out scheme, and then our coaches do a great job taking these players and developing them. So it’s a nice process of identifying talent on our end, the coaches developing them and then the coaches trusting them and putting them in positions to make plays.

“It’s just kind of our thing.” 

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