By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
Turnabout was fair play for the coaching staff of the Seattle Seahawks.
By the time the interminable NFL Draft rolled to a close Sunday afternoon – they had drafted four offensive players and four defensive players. Sure, four of the first five picks were on the defensive side of the ledger, and they did not take one of the tight ends … but you won't hear any squawking out of offensive coordinator Gil Haskell.
"The draft fell very good for us," Haskell said. "We didn't reach at all. We took players that we had on the board that we really liked."
That's the way they had hoped. Even without a first round draft choice this year following the trade for Deion Branch last fall, there is no question that the Seahawks are a deeper team – particularly on the defensive side of the football.
They drafted Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson in the second round, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane from California in the third round, then in the fourth round added Miami defensive end Baraka Atkins, along with Georgia Tech guard Mansfield Wrotto – a second pick in the round by virtue of Darrell Jackson being traded to San Francisco Sunday morning.
They added Auburn linebacker Will Herring in the fifth round, then drafted a pair of wide receivers – Auburn's Courtney Taylor and Oregon's Jordan Kent – in the sixth round. And finally, they decided on one more guard – Wake Forest All-American Steve Vallos – with their seventh round pick to close out the draft. Haskell conceded they hoped that Arizona State tight end Zach Miller would slip to them at No. 55 – then there would have been a tough decision as opposed to Wilson. But he also insisted they are very happy to have signed free agent veteran Marcus Pollard as their starter. Besides, they were very happy to snag Oregon State's tight end Joe Newton right after the draft as a free agent who slipped through the draft without being chosen.
Still, any way you look at it, defensive coordinator John Marshall in particular has had a banner off-season adding secondary coach Jim Mora, safeties Deion Grant and Brian Russell, and defensive end Patrick Kearney before the draft. And now they'll get help Wilson, Mebane, Atkins and Herring.
"We are very happy to get (the help)," Marshall said. "Right off the top, all four of these (draft choices) bring character and work ethic … and their demeanor is that they love to play football. They like to get in the weight room. They like to watch film. They like to do all of the things that make players play over their head and be very good players. So I am happy to have them. They are high character, hard working, good athletes. Every one of them specifically fills a role for us."
That's precisely the mode in which president Tim Ruskell and vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster like to play ball. It's the style they learned at Tampa from Jerry Angelo and will be the way to continuing building the team here.
They were particularly thrilled to get Mebane in the third round, and then come back with Atkins and Wrotto.
"We are very excited about those guys," Ruskell said. "Usually, you're just looking for guys to fill in and play special teams with those picks. But we think those guys have a great upside. They all have starter ability."
Then came the picks that highlighted the work that the scouts have done all year long. From eastern regional director Mike Yowarsky to western regional director Scott Fitterer, it was all about the focus they had maintained staying on it right until they finished agreeing to terms with 11 free agent rookies Sunday afternoon.
"This is the area scout's day," Webster said. "They have to make out a conviction list for us, and that includes guys who may be low round picks, sixth or seventh round picks, and sometimes they want those guys as much as they want the high draft choices. This is their day, free agent-wise. They are grinding the phones, trying to get the guys they like and really working it, and spending a lot of time on it. This is for them. They kind of go through the first day … and sometimes they may feel like they are not as involved, although we involve them in every pick. But, they get excited about the second day. This is where they make their name."
Neither Herring nor Vallos was invited to the Combine, so it required the work of the scouts and their ability to talk the rest of the staff into their value. Herring was a safety until this season and Vallos played tackle all year but pencils out as a guard. Nonetheless, Herring was an All-SEC safety and Vallos an All-American. Those are the types of moves that feature the extra steps taken that fit right along with the character and work habits they want on the team.
"For you to have the conviction and the gumption to take a guy like that, because you don't get all that information and all that run through in terms of the information, we had to rely on the area scouts to say, do we know enough about this guy, have we done enough, have we talked to enough people, were we there at the workouts? Ruskell said. "All that stuff. To have the conviction to take a guy in the draft, it doesn't happen that often, but we did it with those two gentlemen, purely based on the work that our regional guys and our area guys have done."
Then came Kent, the first three major spot letterman since World War II. They monitored him all season, and then he suffered the indignity of tear ligaments in his foot with 40 seconds to go in Oregon's bowl game. A track star and role player on his father Ernie's basketball team, he didn't even play football until his junior year at Oregon. But at 6-4, 217 and consistently running in the 4.3s – they had him monitored.
So when he said he was ready to run early last week, the staff sent scout Mike Phair down to work him out. They were very impressed with his progress, which was no surprise how hard he has worked to develop pass-receiving skills with so little experience. Ruskell referred to it as a "Cloak of darkness deal," because of the proximity. But in reality it was about doing their homework.
"He comes to football last year, and is very raw," Webster said. "He battles through some things just catching the ball, that type of deal. This year, he made great strides. He is a very hard working kid. He spent a lot of time on the JUGS machine to improve his hands and work on his routes. His toe injury, he has come back from quickly. When he worked out for Mike Phair this last week, he really looked good on the tape, moving and cutting. He's still not quite there yet, but he is very close, and that is a tribute to him, because he has worked extremely hard."
That is the mantra that began prior to the 2005 draft, Ruskell's, first as president of the Seahawks. He has maintained a consistency, and hiring his sidekick from Tampa – Webster – only reiterates they will stay the course of character with overachievers as much as possible.
"They all fit what we are looking for in terms of character fit, and the fit for our team in terms of the scheme," Ruskell said. "Everybody was put through that filter, as we have always done, as we always will do. These are guys that love football, they are tough guys, passionate about the game, with a good work ethic. We put everybody through that, and they passed. Our fans will know that they are getting a hard working that is going to give them everything they've got, and these guys will help contribute as quickly as possible. We're proud of this group, and we are excited about what they potentially can do."
And that includes both sides of the football.
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