One dandy draft

Posted Aug 17, 2010

It’s early, of course, but the Seahawks’ Draft Class of 2010 has been impressive enough to make quite an impression on Lofa Tatupu.

Draft Drama

Since Lofa Tatupu brought it up, which was the best draft in Seahawks history? You make the call:

1978: Keith Simpson, Keith Butler, John Harris

1981: Kenny Easley, David Hughes, Edwin Bailey, Eric Lane

1986: John L. Williams, Patrick Hunter, Bobby Joe Edmonds

1990: Cortez Kennedy, Terry Wooden, Robert Blackmon, Chris Warren

1997: Shawn Springs, Walter Jones, Itula Mili

2001: Koren Robinson, Steve Hutchinson, Ken Lucas, Floyd Womack, Alex Bannister

2005: Chris Spencer, Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, Ray Willis

2008: Lawrence Jackson, John Carlson, Red Bryant, Owen Schmitt, Justin Forsett

2009: Aaron Curry, Max Unger, Deon Butler, Nick Reed

Lofa Tatupu was a surprising second-round pick whose impressive development into a Pro Bowl middle linebacker made the Seahawks’ 2005 draft one of the best in franchise history.

So when Tatupu starts singing the praises of this year’s draft class, it’s worth a listen.

“It’s early, but don’t be surprised if it goes down as one of the best drafts in history here,” Tatupu said Monday, standing in the hallway that leads from the practice field to the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

“All of them – from top to bottom – they’ve all showed it out there.”

That is saying something, and it comes from the best player in a draft which proceeded – and helped propel – the Seahawks’ run to the Super Bowl in 2005, and also delivered center Chris Spencer, outside linebacker Leroy Hill and tackle Ray Willis.

As Tatupu said, it is early – as team prepares for its second preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Qwest Field on Saturday night, and puts the wraps on Bing Training Camp after a practice on Thursday afternoon.

But this year’s draft class also has shown very well in the early stages of their NFL careers. Here’s a rundown on each – from top to bottom:

Russell Okung (first round) – The left tackle from Oklahoma State might have missed the first six days of camp, but the sixth pick in April’s draft didn’t miss much in Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans. He was physical, agile and even a little nasty – all as advertised.

“Russell had a very solid game,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He run blocked really well. He got caught one time on a pass set, where a guy got him pretty good. But all in all, he did very well for his first time out.”

As for that nasty streak, Carroll offered, “He’s a fierce competitor and he loves the game. The more comfortable he gets the more physical he’ll become. He’s got a real streak about him and so we’re really pleased with his progress so far, and just hoping he continues to make good, steady progress up until the opener.”

Earl Thomas (first round) – The free safety from Texas was selected with the 14th pick to provide range and playmaking ability for the team’s last line of defense. Thomas has displayed that. But, as he admitted after Saturday night’s game, “I learned pretty quick that it’s a man’s game out there. The speed, it looked way faster than college because you’re playing against the best and everybody’s good.”

That’s an excellent lesson to realize this early, because the speed of the game will only increase another notch when the regular season opens Sept. 12 with a game against the division rival San Francisco 49ers at Qwest Field.

“Earl was pretty quiet, he didn’t get many chances,” Carroll said after the game.

Golden Tate (second round) – The wide receiver/returner from Notre Dame also had a quiet opener, catching two passes for 5 yards and returning a punt for 8 yards. But his time to shine will come. As quarterback Matt Hasselbeck put it, “He’s kind of electric once he gets the ball in his hands.”

Tate just needs to get his hands on the ball more, which will happen when he gets more comfortable in the offense and improves his route running.

“With Golden, as with a lot of the young guys, just to get him on the field and get out there and nothing really bad happened, it was an accomplishment in itself and we’ll just keep growing,” Carroll said.

Walter Thurmond (fourth round) – That the cornerback from Oregon is even playing at this point is impressive enough, after the major knee injury that ended his 2009 season for the Ducks. Thurmond is practicing and playing with a cumbersome brace on his surgically reconstructed right knee, but it’s not preventing him from making plays.

“He had the best day at the UW scrimmage (on Aug. 8), so there’s nothing to think other than getting him fully healthy,” Carroll said. “He’s just an active, physical kid and he continues to make things happen. So that’s a great sign for us and he’s just another great pick for us.”

Thurmond had four solo tackles against the Titans, to go with his knockout shot on running back Quinton Ganther during the “mock game” at UW and the lunging interception he made on the practice field Monday.

E.J. Wilson (fourth round) – The defensive end from North Carolina missed some practice time because of an injured hand, but he’s back – with a club on his left hand – and throwing his weight (291 pounds) around at a position of need for the Seahawks.

“He’s just another of those young guys who is showing out there,” Tatupu said. 

Kam Chancellor (fifth round) – The strong safety from Virginia Tech has stood out from the first day he walked onto the practice field for a May minicamp because of his imposing size (6 feet 3, 232 pounds). But he’s showing the game to match his physique.

“Kam Chancellor played extremely well,” Carroll said of the rookie intercepting a pass to ice Saturday night’s game and also coming up with two solo tackles. “He was really obvious out there with his tackling.”

Anthony McCoy (sixth round) – The tight end from USC is another player who stood out (6-5, 259) before he started standing out. Against the Titans, he caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Whitehurst and displayed his versatility working in the two-tight end sets that coordinator Jeremy Bates uses so well.

“That was just one facet of all the things he can do,” Whitehurst said of McCoy. “With the way we’re using two tight ends, he has the tools to be a factor.”

Dexter Davis (seventh round) – He was a rush-end at Arizona State, where he collected 31 sacks in 50 career starts. But he’s also 6-1 and 244 pounds. So the Seahawks moved him to outside linebacker in the base defense, but he’s still rushing the passer as an end in the nickel. He had one of the team’s two sacks against the Titans.

“Changing him to linebacker, he could be something special in years to come,” Tatupu said. “I’m just very impressed with the way he plays. And he’s only going to get better with experience and just having the knowledge of getting reps.”

Offered Carroll, “He just kind of had to figure it out, had to learn and he started making progress. He’s been very active. The exciting thing is what he did in practice he did in the game. Real positive.”

With more to come, as Tatupu sees it.

“He’s a versatile athletic. He can do it all. He can cover. He can run. He can hit. He can rush the passer,” Tatupu said. “So you get a threat like that, and in the seventh round, I mean that’s ...”

Tatupu paused in midsentence before adding, “I’ve been impressed by all these guys.”