How Hawks are handling ‘wild, wild West’ draft

NFL draft“We’re trying to figure out how to whip the other guys, get better information, more intel and all that.” — Pete Carroll on preparation for the virtual draft

As the NFL gets ready for what Pete Carroll called “a one-time-only situation” and “really unique” virtual draft, this is an opportunity for the Seahawks to show they are still one of the league’s most tech-savvy franchises by taking advantage of less-prepared franchises.

The Seahawks have been a pretty bad drafting team since 2013, but John Schneider has an experienced personnel crew, established connections around football and a franchise that became cutting edge under the late Paul Allen. That all should help the Hawks where other teams might fail in this virtual format.

“It’s the wild, wild West a little bit,” Carroll recently told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We’ve all got guidelines and rules and everything, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways in there that you can’t figure out how you can get what you need to get. Johnny is prepared knowing that he’s not going to have as much as normal and they won’t have the normal process that he would have. But we’re going to try and max that out in every way we can.”

The technology

The Seahawks have been prepping for weeks.

On his “Flying Coach” podcast with Golden State coach Steve Kerr, Carroll said, “Thank goodness for Zoom. We’ve been Zooming everywhere.”

Carroll said he will have Zoom channels for offensive staff, defensive staff and personnel, plus a channel for him and Schneider. And a couple of backup “hot lines.”

Carroll said Schneider’s draft room, which obviously will be Seattle’s control center, has been in the works for weeks, so the GM should be as organized as anyone for this.

Kerr asked Carroll about the possibility of another team hacking Seattle’s communications. The coach cracked, “There’s an old saying: You’re either competing or you’re not.

“We’re tuned in. The league has done a really extensive job to eliminate that as much as they possibly can. We will have people on call for all of that. The security is very extensive.”

The NFL will conduct a practice draft Monday to make sure all systems work well for each team. The NFL has built in redundancies in case connections are lost and teams cannot communicate picks or trades. That includes the option to stop the clock to help resolve a team’s troubles.

Information issues

Because Pro Days were canceled, teams really have only the information they gleaned from the Senior Bowl, the Combine and whatever else they can scrape up from college coaches and other connections. The lack of information means this draft is likely to be pretty unpredictable (you know, like the Seahawks typically are).

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Media’s top draft analyst, tweeted: “I believe we’ll see less groupthink in the draft this year. At pro days, coaches and scouts (from different teams) spend so much time around each other and they end up forming a consensus on players. Not the case this year. Some will be shocked at how high/low these guys go.”

Schneider and his top personnel guys — Trent Kirchner, Scott Fitterer and Matt Berry — are good at feeling out others, but how much have they been able to get in this environment? They had early intel at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, but it has been a lot different since then.

Teams have been able to chat with prospects online, and they surely have prodded some of them to find out which other teams they have talked to. That’s a standard ploy to match teams and player interest, but there might be a lot more of that going on this year. Teams likely are using connected NFL reporters, agents and college coaches even more for the same kind of intel.

Schneider and his guys also will get a feel for some teams as they make advance calls to set up possible trades over the days leading to the draft.

Draft trades

Speaking of trades, we already know the Seahawks are hoping to move down from 27. They reportedly rank only 16-17 players as first-round talents, so there is no reason to pay first-round money to second-round talent.

Despite the virtual nature, it could be a wild trading draft — with some teams perhaps getting jittery about where a favored player might be taken and not sure how many other teams might be eyeing him.

A bunch of teams in the middle of the first round reportedly are considering moving down, if possible. New Orleans (24), Tennessee (29) and San Francisco (31) all apparently are interested in moving out of the first round, too. So those are clubs the Hawks will be contending against in their effort to move out.

Established relationships will be big, and Schneider has many of those (he is one of the top draft-day traders in the league).

Schneider and his guys have been together for a long time, which should help. Can they take advantage of some teams with less cohesiveness?

Cleveland, the Jets and Washington are among the clubs with new general managers, and there are other GMs that have proven easy marks. In the last year alone, Schneider has made winning veteran trades with Houston (Jadeveon Clowney), Detroit (Quandre Diggs) and Washington (Quinton Dunbar). The New York Giants, Carolina, Jacksonville and Chicago all have GMs who might be flustered by this virtual draft.

In his chat with SiriusXM, Carroll described the anatomy of a typical draft-day trade: “We have a lot of guys that are talking to other clubs and they’re gaining information and there could be a pick coming up where you have four or five teams … that you’re talking to about wanting the position you’re choosing at.

“There’s kind of a chart that we work from — and not everybody uses exactly the same thing — but all of that has to be added up and totaled right at the moment. You’re looking across the table at a guy who’s talking to the other club, and he’s scribbling down the numbers and he hands them across to John and we’re sitting there looking, ‘OK, which way are we going? We’ve got three cards. Which one are we going with?'”

In this virtual draft, trades could be more complicated. But, as mentioned above, the league is willing to pause the clock if any issues arise in completing deals.

On his podcast, Carroll made it clear the Seahawks would be as open as ever to moving around the draft.

Undrafted free agents

One part of the draft that many have expressed concern about is the undrafted free agents — both the lack of information and the complications in trying to sign them in those made minutes after the seventh round.

Many of those guys, such as former Seahawk Doug Baldwin, are discovered at Pro Days. So a bunch of those guys will get overlooked this year.

“Just think of Doug Baldwin,” Carroll told SiriusXM. “He had a glorious career. We might not have seen that (during a lockdown like this). We might not have known about Doug and he (would have) missed out on the chance to do all the wonderful things he did.

“There are thousands of guys like that, I guess,” Carroll said. “Just missing the opportunity, missing the chance (for the team) to be a little bit better, missing a chance to give a guy an opportunity to make his life different. Those things will be lost somewhat in this process.”

Typically, the Seahawks are among the teams that use a bunch of their 30 allowed pre-draft visits to recruit players who are not expected to be drafted. They obviously could not do that this year.

The Hawks also used to send out recruiting brochures; Schneider wrote a personal letter recruiting Baldwin in 2011. But, if they are still doing that, the mailing list likely is much shorter this year.

Schneider and company are usually pretty organized about recruiting UDFAs. They have a good track record in that department, and their reputation as a UDFA haven could come in very handy this year.

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