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The wait for the NFL Draft is almost over, but Seahawks still playing the waiting game

Posted May 8, 2014

As Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks hold the final pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night. And they could go in one of several directions when they’re finally “on the clock.”


COUNTDOWN TO THE NFL DRAFT

What: 79th annual NFL Draft

When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Rounds: First round on Thursday, starting at 5 p.m.; second and third rounds on Friday, starting at 4 p.m.; final four rounds on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m.

Seahawks picks (6): No. 32 overall in the first round; No. 64 overall in the second round; no third-round pick, traded to Vikings last year in the deal to acquire wide receiver Percy Harvin; No. 132 overall in the fourth round; No. 146 overall in the fifth round, from the Raiders in last year’s trade of quarterback Matt Flynn; No. 172 in the fifth round; No. 208 overall in the sixth round; no pick in the seventh round, traded the 247th selection overall to the Raiders for quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Seahawks.com draft series: Today, the defensive backs

Note: The opinions and analysis in this article and accompanying chart are those of the author and others credited, and do not necessarily represent the thoughts and opinions of the Seahawks’ coaching staff and personnel department.

With the 32nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks …

Could do just about anything when the first round finally gets to the Super Bowl champions on Thursday night.

But first, general manager John Schneider and his staff and coach Pete Carroll and his staff will wait. The first day – and first round only – of the NFL Draft begins at 5 p.m. PT, but it will take roughly 3½ hours to get to the Seahawks’ selection.

BEST OF THE DB BUNCH
Rank Play, school Ht. Wt. Projected
1/16 CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St. 5-11 199 1st Round
1/18 FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama 6-1 208 1st Round
2/20 CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma St. 6-0 202 1st Round
2/22 FS Calvin Pryor, Louisville 5-11 207 1st Round
3/23 CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech   6-0 190 1st Round

Rankings (position/overall) and projections by Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com

The word: After the Seahawks led the NFL in interceptions and passing yards allowed last season, the talk at the NFL Scouting Combine was about finding tall, long-limbed cornerbacks – like the Seahawks’ 6-foot-3 Richard Sherman and 6-1 Byron Maxwell. It could turn into a scavenger hunt. There are taller corners available, but they come with later-round projections: 6-3 Keith McGill from Utah (second round); 6-3 Stanley Jean-Baptiste from Nebraska (second or third round); 6-1 Pierre Desir from Lindenwood (second or third round); 6-1 Walt Aikens from Liberty (third or fourth round); and 6-2 Dontae Johnson from North Carolina State (sixth round). Not ideal, but then Sherman was a fifth-round draft choice in 2011 and Maxwell a sixth-round pick in that same draft. The top-rated, but shorter, corners are projected to go to the Detroit Lions at No. 10 (Gilbert), Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 15 (Dennard) and the San Diego Chargers at No. 25 (Fuller) in Rang’s latest mock draft.  

What about? Jean-Baptiste. The analysts at NFL.com can see the Nebraska corner working his way into the first round, even though Rang projects Jean-Baptiste as a second-day pick. Why? Because of Jean-Baptiste’s size, and the success the Seahawks have had playing with taller corners – Sherman, Maxwell and the since-departed 6-4 Brandon Browner. “He's a long corner that fits today's game with an exciting skill set,” Mayock said of Jean-Baptiste. “I could bet on that kind of guy.” Gil Brandt, meanwhile, offered, “He looks like a clone of Richard Sherman.”

Don’t forget about: Desir. Another tall corner who is getting longer looks because of the success the Seahawks have had with Sherman, Browner and Maxwell. And he comes with an intriguing story, as well. Desir began his career at Washburn and then transferred to even small Lindenwood to be closer to his family. Before that, he was 4 when he came to the United States with his parents from Haiti. Desir is about to take the next step in his version of the American Dream. He had 21 interceptions in 21 games at Lindenwood and was a Division II All-American the past two seasons.

Seahawks situation: They not only have the best cornerback in the NFL, they selected Sherman on the third day of the 2011 NFL Draft. They also have the best free safety on the planet in Earl Thomas, who joins strong safety Kam Chancellor to give the Seahawks the best safety tandem in the league. Yes, they lost Browner and Thurmond in free agency, but Maxwell already had replaced them for the final month of the 2013 regular season and responded with four interceptions in his first five games. What about depth? They’ve got that covered, too, with cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon, safety Jeron Johnson and swingman DeShawn Shead. But that doesn’t mean the Seahawks won’t add to the pile – and the competition – if the right player is there at the right time.

By that time, the NFC West rival St. Louis Rams will have made the second and 13th selections – if they don’t trade one of the picks. The division rival Arizona Cardinals (No. 20) and San Francisco 49ers (No. 30) also will have made their selections, and there’s talk that the 49ers are looking to trade up in the first round.

And, of course, 31 of the top players in this year’s deep draft class will have been removed from those available to the Seahawks.

Still, this draft, the fifth under Schneider and Carroll, sets up well for the Seahawks because they’ll have so many options. That’s because of the talent and depth that has been accumulated since Carroll and Schneider arrived as almost a package deal in January 2010.

Among their alternatives:

Trade the pick – This scenario was laid out by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock last week, and it makes sense.

The Seahawks have only six picks in this draft, and Schneider covets draft choices the way Carroll craves players with unique qualities.

“We have a track record where I’ve tried to acquire as many picks as we possibly can,” Schneider said this week.

Trading out of that 32nd spot would allow them to add another pick and still draft one of the players in the same range with one of the top picks in the second round.

The key, as Mayock pointed out, will be what the Houston Texans do with the first pick overall. They need a quarterback after trading Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders. But they could go for another position at No. 1 – South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney; Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack; or one the top-rated tackles, Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews or Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.

That would leave the Texans still needing a quarterback with the first pick in Friday’s second round, which would leave other QB-needy teams that might have passed on a passer in the first round looking to trade ahead of the Texans. And the obvious spot is the Seahawks’ 32nd pick.

“I think they’re in a great spot because of that,” Mayock said.

Select the top-rated player on their draft board – And this could come at any position. Look at last year, when the Seahawks traded their first-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings as part of the deal to acquire wide receiver Percy Harvin. When they got to the 56th pick overall in the second round, they traded down to the final pick in the round.

It seemed the last thing they would do is select a running back. They already had Marshawn Lynch and they had drafted Robert Turbin in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. But sure enough, the Seahawks selected Texas A&M running back Christine Michael.

Why? “Well,” Schneider said at the time, “he was the highest-rated player on our board.”

So it’s not a ridiculous notion that the Seahawks could even select a cornerback, and Mayock has them taking Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste because his height (6 feet 3) and length (41.5-inch vertical leap) plays into the way the Seahawks like to play on the corners – and they lost Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond in free agency.

Address a position where there is a more obvious need – Like the offensive line, where they lost right tackle Breno Giacomini and the versatile Paul McQuistan in free agency. UCLA guard Xavier Su’a-Filo and Virginia tackle Moses Morgan could be options, if available.

Like wide receiver, where they lost leading receiver Golden Tate in free agency and Carroll likes taller targets at the split end position. Florida State’s 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin might be tempting.

Like defensive line, where starting ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons were released and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the versatile Clinton McDonald left in free agency. Defensive ends Jeremiah Attaocha of Georgia Tech, Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame and Kony Ealy of Missouri are possibilities.

Surprise the “experts” – Schneider and Carroll have made a habit of confounding those who do mock drafts and comment on the players teams actually select. It happened in 2011, when they selected offensive line James Carpenter in the first round. It happened in 2012, when the selected linebacker/rush-end Bruce Irvin in the first round and quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round. It happened last year, when a running back was their top pick.

Each of those selections set off an avalanche of “what are they doing?” forehead slaps from the analysts you’ll be watching on the NFL Network and ESPN during the next three days. And that just makes Schneider smile.

“We’re always grading for our team,” Schneider said last week. “We’re not grading for the league. We’re trying to project who’s going to be here, who’s not going to be here, who they’ll be competing with.”

It’s a proven approach that helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, and left them holding the last pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.