By the time NFL prospects start showing up on the NFL Network late in the week, running and jumping in what has grown into a prime-time event, the Seahawks, just like every other NFL team, will have already gathered some of the most important information they came to Indianapolis to learn.
Because as much as the on-field events like the 40-yard dash and vertical leap will get the attention of fans, and as big of a media event as the NFL scouting combine has become with head coaches, general managers and prospects all holding press conferences, what matters most at the combine is what led to the creation of this even in the first place: the medical evaluations that started on Monday and will continue throughout the week.
"Every combine, the No. 1 thing is the medical, so we can figure out who we can have and who we can't have as players," said Seahawks senior director of player personnel Matt Berry. "So that's the No. 1 priority for anybody going there, then secondly, it's continuing to interact with the prospects."
After the medical evaluations, the next biggest part of the combine, from an evaluation process, isn't the on-field work but rather continuing the process of getting to know prospects as people and as fits for an organization. Thanks to events like the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Bowl and other college football all-star games, teams have already met with a lot of prospects, and will also be able to do so at on-campus pro days throughout the spring, but what makes the combine particularly important in this regard is the fact that underclassmen and some top prospects who didn't take part in the all-star games are in Indy. And with 319 of college football's best draft-eligible players all in one place for a week, there is no better chance to spend time with more prospects in a short time than at the combine.
"We'll get to talk to some of these juniors and underclassmen for the first time," Berry said. "So we kind of start our process with those guys—getting to know them, then it's the second opportunity to talk to the guys we already talked to at all-star games. Watching them work out confirms or raises more questions about where a guy is, but it's really the continued interaction with the players that is most important for us through this week."
This is a unique draft for the Seahawks in terms of capital, with 10 total picks including four in the first two rounds, and the No. 5 overall pick via last year's trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver. After hitting a home run with last year's draft class, the Seahawks have another opportunity to strengthen the roster for 2023 and for the future. This week is not just a chance to equate players who might end up in Seattle with those picks, but also for decision makers like general manager John Schneider to lay the groundwork for possible draft trades, which the Seahawks have made a lot of over the years.
"For John (Schneider), this is a dream opportunity here," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's pumped about it. We've had enough experience together with our guys in our system that we are wide open of what the options could be whether it is the players at the top or whether it's the opportunities to move or whatever it is. We've done all of it to some extent. We've never chosen this high, but we were pretty close way back when, in the first year. We're ready for this and he's so steeped into it right now when the time comes. We'll be listening. We'll be listening, looking and watching, and we'll never turn down a competitive opportunity as you know, so we'll be in on everything. I'm excited to see John do his thing… I'm pretty fired up about it. I know John is too and we've been in those conversations. We were watching where the picks were going to show throughout with hopes that we were really going to do something. The first four picks are enormous opportunities for us. So, we will see what we can make of that. Very positive."
But while having a Top 5 pick and two first-rounders is new to the Carroll and Schneider-led Seahawks, picking that high doesn't change how they evaluate a draft class. Even when they've had picks late in the first round, the Seahawks have made a point to evaluate even the top prospects, because you never know when something unexpected can lead to a draft day slide, or when an unexpected opportunity for a trade could come up, and the last thing a team wants to do is be unprepared should something like that happen.
"So you have to be strategic about who you talk to, but most of the time we're talking to the top guys regardless, just because you never know what's going to happen," Berry said. "You're always trying to figure out who the guys are, where they're going to end up going, where they fit in the class, where they fit within their position group, all those type of deals. Every now and again something happens, and you have to be prepared for why a player fell. If you don't do your due diligence, you can get caught off guard."
And whether it's the on-field work or the interviews, what the Seahawks and other teams are doing at this point is usually either confirming what they thought or finding out information that leads to them digging deeper on a prospect. It's rare at this point for a team to drastically change it's view on a player after so much work has been done on the 2023 class dating back to last spring.
"When you go to the combine, you have your initial board set, you've done all the work in the fall," Berry said. "Really what you're trying to do at the combine is, you have an opinion on a player, and you're trying to challenge that opinion to see if what you think of the player holds up after they work out. When they work out do they look like the same player? Or does who they are as a character and cultural fit standpoint match who they seem to be when you interview them? So that's how we use the event, it's just another marker on the schedule where you're trying to see if what you think on a player matches up to the reality of that moment."
One other way the Seahawks and other teams gather information this week is by having coaches and scouts involved in on-field work. As has been the case in other recent combines, the Seahawks will have a couple of scouts serving as group leaders who help a particular position group navigate the week. Area scouts Josh Graff and Todd Brunner will be on the field, Brunner as a 40-yard dash timer, and Graff to measure the broad jump, and they'll be getting an up-close look not just at how players perform, but also at subtler things like how they're handling the pressure of the week, or if a player emerges as a leader among his group. The Seahawks also have coaches on the field to lead drills.
"We pride ourselves on having people work at the combine," Berry said. "We have coaches that do drills, two group leaders, we have Todd who is one of the official 40 times, then we have Josh doing the broad jump. We want to be around players as much as we can be in as many different positions as we're allowed to be. It's a big advantage for us in the process."
Before they were selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Draft, they were hopeful prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine. Take a look at current and former Seahawks players participating in their Combine events.