DRAFT COUNTDOWN: 7 days. As the draft approaches, we look at draft-related topics involving the Seahawks.
This is just the second time in four years John Schneider has gone into the draft with his first-round pick, and it appears he is planning the same strategy as last time.
In 2014, he dropped from No. 32 to 40 and then moved down again before selecting wide receiver Paul Richardson with the 45th pick.
Based on his comments last week, it is clear he wants to follow that strategy again. This draft is the deepest since 2010, he said, and he wants to take advantage of it.
It’s interesting that the Seahawks have some of the same top needs they had in 2014: offensive line, defensive tackle and linebacker. Receiver was their third need that year, but it was such a great class of receivers that they felt inclined to take Richardson with their top pick.
Their moves down netted two fourth-round picks and a seventh (they gave up a fifth as well), and they drafted Cassius Marsh, Kevin Norwood and Kiero Small with those bonus selections.
This is a deeper draft, so similar moves down should net better players.
Last year, with 11 picks, Schneider was in a trade-up mood. He reportedly tried to move high up in the second round, then gave up three picks to move up in the third to get Tyler Lockett. He also reportedly tried to move up in the fourth round, but he apparently didn’t have enough ammunition after the Lockett deal. His eight picks in that draft were his fewest in the six years he has run the show for Seattle.
The Hawks have nine picks in this draft, and the roster could stand to add some talent on both lines, at linebacker and perhaps at running back, safety and tight end.
Seattle has looked at tons of offensive linemen, but they seem to be focused on defensive linemen with their first pick — whenever it takes place.
They reportedly have hosted four top D-linemen: Florida’s Jonathan Bullard, Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler, Clemson’s Kevin Dodd and Mississippi State’s Chris Jones. They also brought in Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland.
Considering almost all of Schneider’s second-round picks have made pre-draft visits to VMAC (e.g., Bobby Wagner, Christine Michael, Frank Clark), it seems likely the Hawks are indeed targeting one of those five players — with perhaps a couple of unknown wild cards — after a move down.
Of course, as Schneider told KJR last week, “You always have to find a partner, and that can be somewhat difficult throughout the day and throughout the weekend. But this is one of those drafts (that make you want to move down).”
Considering the Seahawks have a pick at 56, Schneider probably doesn’t want to drop out of the 40s, especially since he should be able to get one of those defenders in that range.
As usual, the definite first-round grades end at around 15-20, meaning the second round effectively begins before the Seahawks pick at 26. That and the depth of the draft make trading down very appealing to Schneider.
Then it just comes down to which teams want to come up to get a player they really want. In 2014, Minnesota jumped from 40 to 32 to get Teddy Bridgewater.
In the wake of a blockbuster move out of the No. 1 spot this week, Tennessee has three picks in the top 14 of the second round. The Titans could end up wanting to get back into the bottom of the first round (consider the fifth-year control that comes with it).
The Seahawks could drop from 26 to 38, if Jacksonville wants to move up. That could net them a high fourth-rounder. Then they could drop again, perhaps to Tennessee’s spot at 43, which could add a high fifth-round pick. That would give Seattle a top-five pick in both the fourth and fifth rounds and eight picks through five rounds.
And the Hawks would still likely be in position for Bullard, Jones or Dodd in the second.
As much as everyone wants them to, the Hawks seem unlikely to take an offensive lineman until their second pick or even the third round. It wouldn’t be surprising if they picked defenders with their top two picks, still leaving them O-liners such as Connor McGovern, Joe Haeg or Joe Dahl late in the third.
One way it could work: Bullard (43), safety Keanu Neal (56), linebacker Jordan Jenkins (90), Haeg (97), tight end Nick Vannett (103), Dahl (124), defensive tackle Willie Henry (140), linebacker Travis Feeney (171).
So, to recap, here’s the strategy we expect from Schneider and company:
1) Trade into the 40s, picking up another pick or two
2) Draft a defender first (and possibly second)
3) Pick up O-linemen starting in the third round
If it all falls the way Schneider seemingly wants it to, they should fill all of their top needs and then some by the fifth round.
After six drafts, Schneider’s strategy has become pretty clear:
**The obvious one is that he likes to trade down at least once in the first or second round. That typically nets him another player on Day 3.
**If he is not taking linemen, he loves speed — pure and simple. He especially loves it in the first two rounds, where he has found Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Chris Michael and Paul Richardson.
**He has a 50 percent chance of hitting a home run in the third round. Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett were stellar picks. John Moffitt was not. Jordan Hill will show his worth for good in 2016.
**He almost always goes defense in the fifth round (eight out of nine picks) and loves defensive backs there (five).
**He also likes defensive backs in the sixth round (four out of nine).
**He goes for athletes and conversion projects in the seventh.
FOURTH AND SHORT
Schneider has a reputation as a wizard in the middle rounds, but he actually has performed almost no magic in the fourth. In six drafts, he has picked 12 times in the fourth and has found one nugget: K.J. Wright.
Walter Thurmond and Robert Turbin were solid backups for a short time, but Schneider whiffed on E.J. Wilson, Kris Durham, Jaye Howard (became a key player for Kansas City instead), Chris Harper and Kevin Norwood (traded to Carolina).
There is still hope for the rest of the 2014-15 fourth-rounders. Cassius Marsh turned into an excellent special-teams player last season, and Mark Glowinski is expected to replace J.R. Sweezy at right guard this year. Kevin Pierre-Louis needs to stay healthy, and Terry Poole has a lot of work to do to prove he was not the reach he appeared to be last year.
While we grade Schneider at A’s and B’s in the second, third and fifth rounds, we give him a C-minus in the fourth. To improve that grade, he will need Glowinski, Marsh and KPL to step up. And he will need to make good use of his expected two fourth-rounders this year, too.
DON’T TALK TO SCHNEIDER ABOUT REACHES
Schneider doesn’t want to hear other people’s opinions of his picks.
In Seattle’s draft room, they have TVs turned to ESPN and NFL Network, but they listen to music rather than to the talking heads.
Schneider said former owner John Nordstrom likes to come into the draft room every year, and the GM doesn’t want guests to hear people criticize Seattle’s picks. “I don’t want him hearing that,” Schneider told 710 ESPN after the 2014 draft.
“I remember that happened with Carpenter. (Critics said) ‘Whoa, this is a total reach,'” Schneider said. “Look — for us at the time, for where we were — he was the highest-rated player. Sorry. If you don’t like 340-pound guys who can knock people off the ball, I get it. Sorry.”