Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll held their annual pre-draft press conference a week ahead of their 14th draft together, and as is always the case, they outlined, in detail, the team's plans for the fifth overall pick and their other nine draft picks.
OK, so that didn't really happen. But while Schneider and Carroll weren't going to give away the team's draft plans, there were nonetheless plenty of interesting nuggets that came out of Wednesday's press conference. In addition to a few injury updates, here are five things we learned from Carroll and Schneider on Wednesday:
1. What the next week will look like for Schneider, Carroll and company.
While the draft evaluations are mostly put to bed at this point, the work isn't done just yet for those involved in the draft process. As Schneider explained, there are still important meetings that will take place over the next several days.
"We're getting together with the coaches on Friday and Saturday," Schneider said. "Sunday is a really cool kind of gathering of all the information that you just heard and kind of a reset with the scouts and trying to figure out the input from the coaches and what that means to the front board. We'll get with Jody on Tuesday night and show her what it looks like and tell her what we're thinking and what our process has been and the way we think it's going to go, all the different scenarios. Sometimes when I tell her the different scenarios, I think she looks at me like I'm crazy, like okay, I don't know, we have 12 different things that can happen. But we'll do that with Jody. Then Pete and I will have a good day, afternoon just the two of us. Like I said, speaking to other teams, speaking to agents, getting as much information in the final prep as we possibly can and then closing the doors and just getting ready for Thursday night to let it rip."
2. The No. 5 pick makes things "way more exciting" but there's more to like about this year's draft that just that pick.
For most of Carroll and Schneider's tenure in Seattle, the team has picked late in the first round, or on a few occasions, not at all in that round. While plenty of good players can and have been selected by the Seahawks after the first round, there is still an added level of excitement and expectation that comes with picks near the top of the draft, and with the fifth overall pick, which was acquired in last year's trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver, the Seahawks have their highest pick in 14 drafts under Carroll and Schneider, and just their third in the top 10. Previously, Schneider and Carroll picked sixth overall (Russell Okung) in their first draft together, and ninth overall (Charles Cross) last year with a pick also acquired from Denver.
"I would say way more exciting," Schneider said when asked about the difference of picking fifth. "There's so much more research that goes into it. Last year obviously picking where we picked, but there's levels all throughout every round, and obviously in the first round there's specific levels every year. You have to evaluate the classes, and every class is completely different. Being up there with a fifth pick, I think, is just really exciting, and you have way more coverage and accessibility to all the prospects."
Schneider joked that having the fifth pick does come with a few more opinions from people around the building, however.
"Everybody is very excited about the fifth pick, so we have a lot of general managers in this building right now, and head coaches," he said. "But everybody is really excited."
And that excitement doesn't stop with the fifth pick; the Seahawks will have a shot to add another really good player later in Thursday's first round with the 20th overall pick, then they have two more picks in the second round, one of which also came from Denver, as well as a third rounder, giving them five picks on the draft's first two days.
"What I think is exciting about this one is you get the first challenge coming up at 5 and then we've got a whole other one at 20, and day two we come right back again," Carroll said. "Those three big events of those early picks, it kind of comes back at us in a hurry, makes it really fun and a challenge, and a lot of scenarios, more so than normal. That keeps us just active and functioning and having fun doing it. The whole thing is pretty cool."
Added Schneider, "Five of the top 83 is probably the one thing that really stands out. OK, we're getting a pretty good feel for what it looks like and now, how do we go execute our game plan?"
3. There's still a lot of mystery about how the top of the draft will play out.
When picking near the back of the first round, as the Seahawks often have, it's nearly impossible to predict what will happen leading up to that pick. At No. 5, however, it should in theory be a lot clearer what the Seahawks' options will be when they're on the clock. With different scenarios in play involving quarterbacks, and with rumors of trades ahead of Seattle's pick, things aren't as clear as one might think for the team picking No. 5, however.
"You would think so, right?" Schneider said of the idea that it should be more predictable. "It doesn't feel like it, no… You're constantly trying to paint pictures and scenarios of what you think will happen and what other teams will do what. We're getting into—we finished yesterday with the scouts going back over the board, through their spring, and how everybody performed in the spring. Now we're getting into, we'll have the coaches in this weekend and then we'll get into heavy, heavy scenarios, talking to other teams, speaking with agents, and trying to figure out how and where we can acquire these guys."
Asked if the top of this draft is harder to predict than others, Schneider said, "I would say yes, compared to last year I would say yes, besides that, I don't really know. I think there's just a ton of variables up there, a lot of different scenarios, a lot of different ways we can go."
4. A "cleaned up" draft board paid dividends last year and hopefully will again.
Back in 2018, Schneider and Carroll talked about cleaning up the draft evaluation process, having fewer players on their final draft board. A big part of that, they explained at the time and again on Wednesday, was that with fewer overall players on the board, they could do a better job of really getting to know the players as people and competitors to know how they'd fit with the team.
"We've changed some grades towards the bottom of the draft, and then rookie free agency, we've tried to clean that up," Schneider said. "We went through a period where we had a lot of guys on the board. We had more guys, we thought that was more opportunity, which became more cluttered, and then really the last several years we've really, all right, who are the guys who are true Seahawks?"
Added Carroll, "I think that's maybe the biggest clear difference is zeroing in on the personnel, the people really. That's why we have a fewer number to pick from. We've really kind of circled the wagons in a way that it's about the guys and who they are and as much as we can possibly figure that out. It seems like it gives us the best insights to what we're doing."
Those changes really seemed to pay dividends last season when the Seahawks nailed the 2022 draft, getting seven players who made significant contributions last season, including finalists for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year in Kenneth Walker III and Tariq Woolen, the latter of whom also made the Pro Bowl after tying for the NFL lead with six interceptions, as well as starting tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas. All of those players, as well as Boye Mafe, Coby Bryant and Dareke Young, were able to contribute because of their talent, but also because they fit into Seattle's culture and proved to be the types of competitors who could thrive under Carroll's leadership.
"They put together a great group of guys coming to us," Carroll said. "So many guys were so clearly able to handle the process and the pressure of jumping in and playing. They took full advantage of the opportunities, and they had huge contributions last year. It's got to be our biggest class we've had in terms of plays from that class. That just gives us the sense of excitement going forward with them as well as the next guys. If we can come close to matching that up, it'll be a great couple years back-to-back."
Later, Schneider was asked if there had been a common denominator in the team's successful drafts over the years, and said, "Yeah, the competitors and the people. We can all sit and evaluate the strengths and deficiencies of prospects and debate that, and the film kind of is what it is, and then knowing who the person is and not trying to push players based on specific needs."
5. Trades talks to move up or move back won't really heat up until next week.
In case you somehow have missed the past 13 drafts under Carroll and Schneider, the Seahawks have a tendency to make a decent amount of trades during the draft, and in particular Schneider has shown a propensity for moving back to acquire more picks. That could happen once again, either with the fifth pick or a different one, but if a trade involving the Seahawks were to happen, that's not the kind of thing that would be sorted out yet.
Schneider said there can be "kind of periphery stuff" going on when it comes to trade talks, but that things don't really heat up until the days before the draft, or after the draft has already started.
"That stuff really gets pretty intense I'd say next Tuesday, Wednesday," he said. "Those are really the two days that people kind of set up broad parameters for moving up, moving back at different spots, and then you have to be really pliable once it starts because if you've moved, you've got to be able to move to the other spots or move up. You have to be ready to roll."
The Seahawks kicked off workouts with the start of the NFL's voluntary nine-week offseason program on April 17, 2023.