Heading into Thursday's first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Seahawks weren't sure how the eight picks in front of them would play out, so as things unfolded, they weren't sure if they'd use the No. 9 pick or, as they've so often done under general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, trade back to acquire more picks.
But when the Falcons used the No. 8 pick on a receiver and Mississippi State left tackle Charles Cross was still available, the Seahawks didn't hesitate to turn in their selection.
"We stayed right there at nine," Schneider said. "We felt really blessed—we feel like he fell to us. I think you're going to love this guy."
Schneider referred to Cross, who earned first-team All-SEC honors playing in a pass-heavy Mike Leach offense, as a "phenomenal pass protector," noting that Cross' basketball background shows up in his on-field movement.
Schneider and Carroll also both sounded confident that, despite not doing a lot of run blocking at Mississippi State, he has the ability and attitude to do so in the NFL.
"The guy's a really good athlete, he's going to be able to run and bend, and he can really move in space,' Schneider said. "It was really kind of a scheme deal that they had there with Coach Leach where they threw the ball like crazy, and he did a phenomenal job. Great job against top, top competition playing in the SEC. He had a really nice game against Alabama. We're just really excited that we have a pillar at left tackle."
Said Carroll, "When you're thinking left tackle, you're thinking pass protection, that's really the first thought, And he has had as much work at that as you could have. Mike runs an offense that's going to demand it, and he was out by himself on an island a lot out there just like a guy has to be, and he had no problem with any of the movement. And he is stout enough. He runs really well, he's a fast kid for a tackle. You can just see all that athleticism that goes back to the hoops ability.
"You can see his footwork. I know they had 700 passes last year, but he can run block too, he can really move his feet and get off the ball, and do the cutoff blocks on the backside and the front-side stuff, and get on the second level and stay on his feet and really be agile about all of that. Really, he's just an excellent prospect to be a left tackle, and he's played great competition and held up well."
And as excited as Carroll and Schneider were to land Cross, they were equally concerned a couple hours earlier that he might not be around by the ninth pick. Heading into the draft, the overwhelming consensus was that there were three tackles who would go early in the first round, Cross, NC State's Ickey Ekwonu and Alabama's Evan Neal. After the draft started out with five straight defensive players going off the board, Ekwonu went sixth to Carolina, and Neal went seventh to the New York Giants, meaning the Seahawks had to sweat out the No. 8 pick, which the Falcons used on USC receiver Drake London.
"There were three guys that everybody kind of saw (as top 10 picks), and we feel like we were blessed enough to get one of them," Schneider said. "Pete doesn't get nervous, but yeah, I was nervous. Of course."
Said Carroll, "A couple of things have to happen for that to occur, so we were doing a little cheer leading in there, yeah… Fortunately it turned and we got a shot to get Charles, and that's a big deal. He's a very, very good athlete, an unusually good athlete, so we're fired up about it."
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And with the Seahawks picking in the top 10 for the first time since 2010, Carroll and Schneider's first draft in Seattle, it was easy to see the symmetry between the two drafts more than a decade apart. In that first draft, the Seahawks drafted Russell Okung with the No. 6 pick, and he went on to become a Pro-Bowler and Seattle's starting left tackle for six seasons, and now, 12 years later, the Seahawks again added what they hope will be a building block for their offensive line going forward.
"There's a little irony there, yeah," Carroll said. "I was kind of anticipating you guys might see that. It's a great place to start when you're trying to build an offensive line. That left tackle spot is so crucial in all of that. So it's a nice pick."
Before Carroll and Schneider met with the media, Cross did so via a conference call from the draft in Las Vegas. When he was asked about his best performance at Mississippi State, he pointed to the way he played against perennial powerhouse Alabama. Carroll heard those comments and, prior to his press conference, revisited the tape of that game.
"I thought, 'I'm going to go look at that one more time,'" Carroll said. "So I've already looked at that again. He was right, he was right. He played really well against them."
Of course, that Alabama game was just one of several standout performances that made Cross a no-brainer pick for the Seahawks.
"The guy just checks all the boxes," Schneider said. "When he was still there (at No. 9), it was a big deal."
Said Carroll, "There's just nothing that we didn't like. Really, every aspect of it—the grit that he brings is going to be really a complement to the rest of our guys."
Take a look at offensive tackle Charles Cross throughout his college career at Mississippi State. Cross was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1st round, No. 9 overall, in the 2022 NFL Draft.