This is the third piece in Seahawks.com's three-part series taking a behind-the-scenes look at the Seahawks' draft process. Earlier this offseason, we spent a day at the NFL scouting combine following co-directors of player personnel Scott Fitterer and Trent Kirchner and other members of the player personnel department from morning workouts to evening interviews. Last week, we took a look at life on the road for an NFL scout, following senior personnel executive Ed Dodds on a trip that scouts in the region refer to as the Louisiana Hayride. Finally, we wrap things up with a look inside the Seahawks' Derrick Jensen Draft Room during a frantic third round when Seattle made four picks in the span of 45 minutes.
Half an hour before the Seahawks made four picks in a span of 45 minutes, a sense of calm filled the Derrick Jensen Draft Room.
The third round was nearly halfway over, which meant the Seahawks were gearing up to draft four players late in the third round, but if there was any nervousness or excitement about what was bound to be the most frantic portion of the draft for the Seahawks, it didn't show.
Maybe the Bob Marley helped.
"Singing don't worry about a thing… 'Cause every little thing… Gonna be all right…"
Yes, there was reggae helping relax the draft room as what figured to be some chaotic moments approached, and the very situationally-appropriate Marley lyrics were the only noise in the room save for a few whispered voices.
"Rise up this morning… Smile with the rising sun… Three little birds… pitch by my doorstep…"
That calm didn't mean nothing was happening as the Seahawks awaited their first pick of third round, the 90th overall selection. College talent evaluation is pretty much a year-round process in today's NFL, but even with the draft underway, the process is never completely over. As general manager John Schneider likes to put it, the work that goes into building a roster "quite frankly, never stops." As mid-round picks came off the board, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was still working, double checking with scouts to make sure everyone felt good about the picks the Seahawks were hoping to make a few minutes later—Is he a personality fit, does he have the right work ethic?
"Singing sweet songs… Of melodies pure and true… Saying, 'This is my message to you-ou-ou.'"
After picking defensive tackle Malik McDowell and offensive lineman Ethan Pocic in the second round of the 2017 draft, the Seahawks added cornerback Shaquill Griffin (90th overall), safety Delano Hill (95), defensive tackle Nazair Jones (102) and receiver Amara Darboh (106) in a 45-minute span that, if those picks prove to be successful ones, could play a big role in shaping the future of the team. And if some or all of those third-rounders become future starters or even stars for the Seahawks, those moments that took place in the draft room Friday night will have been vital, but so too were the moves that put the Seahawks in a position to draft six players on Friday and seven times in the first 111 picks.
Coming into the draft, the Seahawks had only seven picks, a number Schneider wanted to see increase. By moving back five spots from their original first-round pick Thursday, the Seahawks added a third-round pick and a seventh-rounder, then they moved back twice more—still landing McDowell, their top target at No. 26 all along—eventually picking him 35th while gaining a fourth-round pick, a sixth-round pick and a seventh-round pick. So when all was said and done, the Seahawks moved back nine spots, got McDowell and gained four extra picks, setting up a very busy second day of the draft.
"Starting with Thursday night, I think that really set us up for a lot of things that ended up coming to fruition for us," Schneider said.
Added Carroll: "What a great day, this was really fun. It's great to have a chance to just have this kind of day—John, all the options that he had, because of the dealings, just made for a really unique day. I thought he did great, it was awesome."
As that "really unique day" progressed and Seattle's picks grew nearer, something stood out on the Seahawks draft board at the front of the room. During a radio interview after the draft, Schneider would point out that the Seahawks got six players in their first seven picks on whom they had placed a second-round-or-better grade. A skeptic might find that hard to believe, but as the third round went along, there indeed was a clump of players remaining in the second round on Seattle's draft board, most of them defensive backs, the obvious position of value still remaining as Seattle's picks approached.
"We followed the board," Schneider said following the third round. "We spent a long, long time, we spent a lot of long hours in that room building the board, and you have to try to stick with it."
And here's where it's worth pointing out just how different every team's draft boards can be. The Seahawks really did get six players they viewed as second-round-or-better talent with their picks in rounds one through four, but that doesn't necessarily mean every team graded those players the same. Along the same lines, some players the Seahawks saw as late-round picks were coming off the board in the third round, the positive version of the "upsets" Schneider refers to when things go unpredictably in the draft.
"Another upset," someone said as a player the Seahawks graded as a late-round pick was selected ahead of them in the third round. "Huh? OK," someone else mutters. A little later in the third round, a pick elicited a response of, "Major upset. That's good."
It doesn't always go the way the Seahawks hope, however. There were times when a player Seattle liked would come off the board and a collective groan would fill the room. But still, as Seattle's run of third-round picks approached, those second-round graded players still stuck out as great value picks, at least some of whom were going to be alive when the Seahawks started picking in the 90s.
With four picks remaining until Seattle was up, Carroll had a quick chat with defensive coordinator Kris Richard, then stood behind his chair staring at the board. "Come on!" Carroll shouted to nobody in particular, seemingly hoping to will the next few picks to go Seattle's way.
While Oakland was on the clock with the 88th pick, Schneider got up and walked to the front of the room where he stood, arms folded, a few feet from the draft board, giving it one final look before his team would go to work with four picks in rapid succession.
The Houston Texans were up next at No. 89, at which point Schneider walked to another board on another wall, this one breaking down the draft by team. Schneider studied what the Texans had done so far, then moments later, the Texans went with a running back, taking Texas' D'Onta Foreman. Schneider clapped his hands together, relieved that the Texans didn't grab the player the Seahawks wanted at 90. The Seahawks were on the clock, and they were going to get their guy.
"Remember That Joke, Dude?"… "OK, Let It Go."
Almost as soon as the Texans had made their pick, Schneider was on the phone, calling Central Florida cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
Schneider tried to lead off with a joke, saying "Who's taller than your agent?" a reference to one of their first meetings when Schneider, who makes fun of his own height on a fairly regular basis, pointed out that he had the height advantage over Griffin's agent, Buddy Baker.
In the excitement of being drafted, Griffin wasn't catching on right away. "Remember that joke, dude?" Schneider continued. Eventually, Carroll laughed and cut Schneider off, "OK, let it go."
Schneider then asked Griffin, "Do you want to get picked right here at 90, or do you want me to just call somebody else?"
Griffin confirmed that, yes, he would prefer the Seahawks pick him and not call someone else, at which point Schneider handed the phone off to Carroll for a few quick words. As defensive backs coach Andre Curtis took the phone, a visibly-excited Richard walked around the room fist-bumping anyone willing to raise an arm.
Highlights of Griffin played on a TV in the corner of the room, and with the volume up, Carroll noticed when one of NFL Network's analysts referred to Griffin's 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed and shouted a correction: "That's 4.37!"
Carroll walked around the room high-fiving everyone in sight, excited even by his always-pumped-up standards. Looking at special teams coordinator Brian Schneider, Carroll said, "Can you say gunner?"
The room erupted with cheers as the highlights showed Griffin returning an interception for a touchdown, the type of reaction you might expect had the play been live, not one the Seahawks had no doubt seen several times before while evaluating Griffin.
"Way to stay on top!" Schneider said watching Griffin break up a deep pass attempt.
Then, abruptly, the excitement ended and the TVs were muted. The Seahawks were about to be on the clock again.
"We Got Both Of Them. Bang!"
There was a bit of nervousness in the room as the Pittsburgh Steelers were on the clock at No. 94, one selection ahead of Seattle's next pick. The Seahawks suspected the Steelers might also be in the defensive back market there given the talent still remaining, and sure enough, that's the direction Pittsburgh went. Fortunately for the Seahawks, the Steelers took Tennessee cornerback Cameron Sutton, meaning Seattle's target at 95, Delano Hill, was still there. A cheer went up in the room when Pittsburgh's pick was announced, and Schneider wasted little time calling Hill.
Again, Schneider attempted to break the tension with humor, asking Hill, "Did I catch you at a bad time?"
The call ended with a variation of something Schneider said to most of Seattle's draft picks: "Come on in here and kick some ass, all right, brother?"
Carroll, meanwhile, roamed the room looking legitimately surprised that both Griffin and Hill ended up being available late in the third round.
"Gosh dang," he said with a grin. "How 'bout that?"
Curtis was equally surprised and excited, saying to assistant defensive backs coach Ricky Manning, "We got both of them. Bang!"
Already the Seahawks had landed two players they viewed as steals at that stage of the draft, but there was still plenty more to do.
"Is this awesome or what?" Carroll said. "We ain't done yet. We're just getting warmed up."
"We Cheered For Nobody."
Following the selection of Hill, the Seahawks had a short break until their next pick, No. 102. At least one player Seattle liked came off the board during that span, the room reacting with mild disappointment.
At some point, Carroll had wandered out of the room, and Schneider wanted to talk to him, so he asked his youngest son Jack, who was in the room all day, to go out in the hall to track down Carroll. Jack Schneider wasn't sure at first if his dad is serious—it's probably safe to assume there's a fair amount of sarcasm in the Schneider household—but just as he headed to the door, a 13-year-old tasked with fetching a Super Bowl-winning coach, Carroll walked back into the room.
With Pick No. 102 approaching, Schneider had a quick chat with Northeast area scout Todd Brunner. A couple more picks come off the board, the Seahawks reacting more positively to some than others. Next, Schneider called Sam Ramsden, the team's director of player health and performance, to the front of the room.
Nazair Jones, the player the Seahawks would end up taking at 102, suffered from a very rare condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome that in high school left him temporarily unable to walk and caused him to lose 40 pounds. Ramsden reassured Schneider that Jones had been healthy and without issue while at North Carolina, and with the clock running down, Schneider and the rest of the room were ready to make Jones their pick.
At some point while Schneider was handing the call with Jones off to Carroll, the call was dropped. With every pick, Carroll gets the entire room to cheer for the new player while he's on the line, but in this case, when cheers and clapping died down, nobody was on the other end of the call.
"We cheered for nobody," Carroll quipped. Not long after, Jones was back on the line, and this time he heard Seattle's draft room celebrate his selection.
"That Was Fun, Huh?"
There wasn't much time to enjoy the three picks the Seahawks had already made because, once again, they were back on the clock not long after selecting Jones. The Seahawks had already added five players during the second and third rounds Friday, but they still had one left, No. 106 overall and the penultimate pick of third round.
While the board had dictated a defensive-heavy draft up to the that point, the Seahawks' board did still show good value available on offense, and at receiver in particular, so after Pittsburgh selected running back James Conner at No. 105, the Seahawks wasted no time in calling Michigan receiver Amara Darboh.
After Schneider told Darboh, "Get ready to come up here and kick some ass, all right, partner?" Carroll took the phone to not just express Seattle's excitement over the pick, but also to convey a message about what it means to be a Seahawks receiver, a position group that prides itself in doing the so-called dirty work like run-blocking and contributing on special teams.
"It's a great pick" Carroll said. "We're excited about getting you here. We need you, we need you to come in and play tough, we need you to do all you do. We're going to ask you do to a lot of good tough, hard-nosed stuff… Congratulations to you, we're really happy to get this done."
Moments later, the third round came to an end and cheers filled the room. In less than an hour, the Seahawks added four players, all of whom they were very excited about, and they added six players during the course of the day.
At the front of the room, a grinning Carroll pats Schneider on the back.
"That was fun, huh?" Carroll said.
Photos from inside Seahawks headquarters on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft.