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Seahawks hope to cash in on deep draft

RENTON, Wash. — Every few minutes on Tuesday, John Schneider's phone would ding while resting next to him on the table.

Another message for Seattle's general manager in the hours leading up to an important NFL draft for the Seahawks.

Seattle will have nine total picks when the draft begins on Thursday, including the No. 26 overall pick in the first round. After middling draft results in recent years, the Seahawks have needs at a number of positions — most notably on the offensive and defensive lines — that could be solved in the short and long term with a successful weekend of selections.

Since the 2012 draft where the Seahawks landed a bounty of future stars, including quarterback Russell Wilson, Seattle's draft success has fallen off. But that was a transition year when Seattle went from building a championship contender to now trying to maintain its place among the NFL elite. And with veteran free-agent additions and finding a few undrafted gems, simply getting on the roster for players drafted by the Seahawks has become a challenge.

"It's been harder to make our team since the '13 draft, '14 draft," Schneider said. "Some drafts are stronger than others — how many of these guys really have a legitimate chance of making our team? It's been harder for us to figure out who has a legitimate chance to make our team."

Schneider said he views this draft as the deepest since arriving in Seattle in 2010. That means there could be more late-round gems for the Seahawks to unearth and potentially more options among undrafted rookie free agents, an area in which Seattle has excelled in finding future contributors.

But it'll be the early rounds where much of the attention will fall on the Seahawks. Seattle has four selections among the Top 100 picks and that's assuming the Seahawks keep their first-round pick at No. 26. Seattle has not made a pick in the first round since 2012.

"This is our seventh (draft) and this is the most impressive one to us in terms of the sheer number of players," Schneider said.

Most of the attention has fallen on the needs along the offensive and defensive lines after losing some key starters during free agency. Guard J.R. Sweezy and tackle Russell Okung departed from the offensive line, while defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and outside linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin left along the defensive line. And while Seattle has options already on its roster that can fill those spots, coach Pete Carroll's mantra of always wanting to create competition likely means those positions will be addressed during the draft.

"We don't grade for the league, we grade for our team. And when you do that, that represents what your board ends up looking like," Schneider said. "You're going to have specific needs at different positions based on people that you've lost on free agency or if a guy that you drafted isn't coming through at a specific position. It's really a combination of the two."

The 2012 draft was good to the Seattle Seahawks, who picked up, among others, quarterback Russell Wilson. Subsequent drafts have not been as successful. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS