Filling needs with unique players

Posted Apr 27, 2012

The Seahawks continued Friday what they started Thursday, by selecting linebacker Bobby Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson in the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft.

After addressing several situations in free agency, the Seahawks entered the NFL Daft with three needs – or itches, if you will.


Second Round

Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State

Pick: 15th in the round, 47th overall, after the Seahawks traded down from the 11th spot with the Jets.

Pertinent information: 6-foot, 241 pounds. … He was sick, so did not attend the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but compensated with a strong Pro Day workout that included running the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and popping an 11-foot broad jump. … Also was the defensive MVP in the Senior Bowl after making seven tackles and intercepting a pass. … Did not begin playing football until his junior year at Colony High School in Ontario, Calif., because “I thought I was going to be the next Michael Jordan,” Wagner said. … Will graduate on May 5 with a degree in business entrepreneurship. … Born June 27, 1990.

What he brings: A productive player at a position where the Seahawks need depth – and possibly a starter – after losing leading tackler David Hawthorne in free agency. Wagner was a four-year starter, working at inside and outside linebacker in Utah State’s multiple-front defense, and produced 115 tackles in 2009, 133 in 2010 and 147 last season. He also had a career-high four sacks last season.

Where he fits: The Seahawks will put him at middle linebacker, but he also has the versatility and skills to move outside because he can rush the passer, drop into coverage and “run like the wind,” as assistant director of college scouting Eric Stokes put it.

What they’re saying: “First and foremost, he’s a big-time upgrade athletically. His speed and his range are going to be very impressive. Then you’re getting a guy who’s very physical. It’s going to be a natural adjustment to middle linebacker.” – Stokes

What he’s saying: “Coming up, they were telling me there was only a one-percent chance of me making it to the NFL and I should focus on school, but I’m here to tell them I’m that one percent.” Who was telling him that? “Teachers, coaches, family.”

Third round

Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin

Pick: 12th pick in the round, 75th overall; the only quarterbacks in franchise history that were drafted earlier were Rick Mirer in 1993 (second pick in the first round) and Dan McGwire in 1990 (16th pick in the first round).

Pertinent information: 5 feet 11, 206 pounds. … Played one season at Wisconsin, completing 225 of 309 passes for 3,175 yards and 33 touchdowns in leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. … Played at North Carolina State prior to that, passing for 3,563 yards and 28 TDs in 2010 and 3,027 yards and 31 TDs in 2009. … Was 30-20 in 50 career starts. … Left NC State because of his desire to continuing playing baseball. ... Also selected in the MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies and played two seasons of minor league ball, including a stint in Pasco. … His father, the late Harrison Wilson III, played football and baseball at Dartmouth and was on the San Diego Chargers’ preseason squad. … His older brother, Harrison IV, played football and baseball at Richmond. … Born Nov. 29, 1988.

What he brings: Experience in the West Coast offense from his days at NC State, as well as the play-action game from his season at Wisconsin. Not to mention off-the-charts athletic ability and confidence.

Where he fits: A fourth QB, with a lot of potential, in a group that already includes incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson, who was signed in free agency last year; Matt Flynn, who was signed in free agency this year; and Josh Portis, who was signed as a rookie free agent last year. Who fits where? “We’ll figure that out in time,” coach Pete Carroll said.

What they’re saying: “His feet and his natural ability to find passing lanes. He’s live in the pocket. He’s got long arms. He’s got big hands. He’s extremely talented and he gains the trust of everyone around him. He can tilt a room.” – general manager John Schneider, on how Wilson compensates for his lack of prototypical height

What he’s saying: “I’ve played in two pro-style offenses. At NC State I was in the shotgun – West Coast style of offense, which is what the Seahawks run for the most part in terms of terminology. Then being at Wisconsin, I think that really helped me because I was under center more and the play-action game I think is something I definitely excel at. I think that’s one of the strengths of my games and something I always work on. But it all depends on what you have around you. You’ve got to have great players around you and that’s what I’m fired up about because I know the Seahawks have so many threats.”

They have scratched off – and scratched – each in the first three rounds. And in order.

Think about it. Coach Pete Carroll needed a speed pass rusher for a defense that ranked ninth in the league last season, and got an explosively quick one by selecting West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin in the first round on Thursday. Carroll and general manager John Schneider wanted to add speed at the linebacker position, especially if that player could possibly fill the void in the middle created by the departure of leading tackler David Hawthorne in free agency; and a young quarterback with the potential to be the long-term future at the pivotal position.

That’s why they selected Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson in the second and third rounds on Friday.

“We’re pleased with the way it’s gone so far,” Schneider said.

But to Schneider, the draft is a what-have-we-done-to-help-ourselves-lately exercise. So he’s also excited about the final four rounds on Saturday, when the Seahawks will have seven picks thanks to the trades Schneider worked in the first and second rounds – adding picks in the fourth and sixth rounds on Thursday by moving down three spots before taking Irvin; and picks in the fifth and seventh rounds on Friday by moving down four spots in the second round before taking Wagner.

“We’re pleased to be able to do some of the things we’ve done so far, but we’re just kind of turning the corner,” Schneider said. “So we’re not done yet.”

But addressing three need areas with their first three draft choices, and picking up four extra picks in the process, is definitely a good way to set yourself up for a successful Saturday – the rounds that have delivered Pro Bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor, starting linebacker K.J. Wright, starting cornerback Richard Sherman and the promising quintet of wide receiver Kris Durham, cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell, tight end Anthony McCoy and pass rusher Dexter Davis in the team’s first two drafts under Schneider and Carroll.

That’s also putting the potential before the procured.

The Seahawks know they have Wagner and Russell, to go with Irvin, and that’s a good start to any draft for a team looking to improve on back-to-back 7-9 records and also continue to build for the future.

“Great second day,” Schneider said. “Just couldn’t be more ecstatic. Worked out great for us.”

Because they acquired hard-working players who arrive with chips on their shoulder – much like Irvin.

For Wagner, he has been hearing since he was in high school to forget about being a professional athlete and concentrate on school. From who? Everyone from his family, to his teachers, and even his coaches.

“They were telling me there was only a one-percent chance of me making it to the NFL and I should focus on school, but I’m here to tell them I’m that one percent,” Wagner said during a telephone interview from his parents’ home in Ontario, Calif. “The funny thing is I’m that one percent and I graduate on May 5 from my college.”

Wagner is heading to the NFL, and will be given a chance to win the job that opened when Hawthorne signed with the New Orleans Saints, because he is ridiculously talented and has been ridiculously productive.

A four-year starter at Utah State, he had triple-digit tackles the past three seasons, including a career-high 147 last year.

“This guy has had hundreds of tackles in his career,” Carroll said of Wagner, who finished that career with 445 tackles in 46 starts. “He can play all three linebacker spots, if we want him to. We’re going to put him in the middle and see how he does.

“Great athleticism. Great explosive athlete. And the fact that he’s been so consistent with his production. And he’s got a chip on his shoulder, too. And we like all that about him.”

Wilson, meanwhile, has grown up hearing that he’s too short (5 feet 11) to make it in the NFL – despite the fact that he produced impressive numbers in two pro-style offenses at Wisconsin and North Carolina State.

“They’ve been telling me that my whole life,” he said during a telephone interview from Virginia. “From my perspective, I think the main thing is I have all the other tools. I have big hands, long arms and I think the main thing is I have a big heart.

“You’ve got to be able to compete at the highest level. I played in two great conferences in the ACC and the Big-10, and I’ve shown that I can play at the highest level and be very productive with the football.”

Has he ever. After two seasons of passing for 3,000-plus yards and 31 and 28 touchdowns in the West Coast-style offense at North Carolina State, Wilson had 3,175 passing yards and 33 TD passes last season at Wisconsin.

“With Russell, this is such an incredible athlete that has had extraordinary historic success – done some things that people have never thought of doing before,” Carroll said. “The fact that he is also such an extraordinary kid, he can handle all the pressure he’s going to be under and all the scrutiny that he’s always had.

“More than anybody else that was alive in the draft, this guy gives you a chance to have a great player. It’s going to be really exciting to see what he can bring.”

Did the Seahawks do their homework before deciding to take the supposedly too-short QB in the third round?

“Frankly, I called Bud Grant. He’s an old friend and mentor,” Carroll said of the former coach of the Minnesota Vikings. “I talked to him about Fran Tarkenton. To me, it was really an interesting conversation. We had a long talk about how did Fran do it? How could he be so extraordinary?

“It just gave me a sense to support what John had seen in person and studied over the years.”
Is there a common denominator in the three players the Seahawks have added the past two days?

“One, they’re all really fast,” Carroll said, unable to hold back a slight smile. “But these are guys we think are special.”

And they just happen to fill needs, too.




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