Welcome to the Hunger Games, or at least the NFL's version of it.
RENTON — Welcome to the Hunger Games, or at least the NFL’s version of it.
General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll wrapped up their fourth draft together on Saturday, the theme of which clearly stood out.
While many other teams spent the draft weekend trying to plug dire needs, the Seahawks maneuvered to bolster an already-competitive roster.
After taking a running back and defensive tackle with their first two picks Friday, the Seahawks grabbed a wide receiver, another defensive tackle, a big cornerback, a tight end, a fullback, a linebacker and three offensive linemen during the draft’s final day.
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None is expected — or needed — to start right away.
Carroll and Schneider spent time on Friday emphasizing that their approach to the draft hasn’t changed over the years. Competition is still king, the old iron-sharpens-iron philosophy applied to the football field.
Then Carroll caught himself.
Sure, the Seahawks wanted a defensive tackle or two to fill what Schneider called a “hole.” But they didn’t have any glaring gaps. They didn’t need a Russell Okung to step in right away at left tackle or an Earl Thomas to slide in at safety, as they did in 2010.
“Let me say this: It does feel different,” Carroll said Friday. “We look at the roster now, and it’s hard for guys to come in here and say, ‘Hey, I can go in here and start a game for these guys.’ And that’s a really good thing.”
Case in point: Schneider said it was more difficult trying to sign undrafted free agents this year than ever before. Agents and players saw what a glance at the roster underscores. In Seattle, guys don’t just have to fight for a job, but they have to fight to even make the 53-man roster.
“That means we’re going in the right direction,” Carroll said Saturday. “The whole idea is to make this roster as competitive as possible. So that means it’s hard for these guys to make it, but also the quality of guys we were able to draft and attract here in free agency makes it hard for the guys to keep their jobs.”
The Seahawks once again looked for uniqueness on the final day of the draft. They took 6-foot, 234-pound Kansas State receiver Chris Harper in the fourth round. Harper, a former quarterback at Oregon, had a knack for going up and snagging jump balls at K-State.
Trent Kirchner, the Seahawks’ assistant director of pro personnel, said that was one aspect of Harper’s game that stood out most. He will join a crowded receiving unit that includes new acquisition Percy Harvin and returners Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.
“He’s different than the guys that we have,” Carroll said. “The dimension was unique for us. He’s a very tough, physical kid, so we really like that element he brings that’s different than the rest of our guys.”
Schneider and Co. then drafted 6-foot-4, 325-pound Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams in the fifth round, just one day after drafting Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill in the third round. But where Hill is more of a pass-rushing option at defensive tackle, Williams is more of a run-stuffer. He was considered, at one point, a likely second-round pick.
The Seahawks added Rice tight end Luke Willson in the fifth round. Carroll sees Willson as a possible deep threat down the middle while also being big enough to be a solid blocker. He will join returning tight ends Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy.
Seattle also added LSU cornerback Tharold Simon in the fifth round. Simon, who at 6 feet 2, 200 pounds fits the large mold Carroll and Schneider want for their corners, is physical and has a nose for interceptions.
But he also had off-the-field problems. According to reports, Simon was arrested Thursday night and charged with public intimidation, resisting arrest and unnecessary noise in his hometown of Eunice, La. “Tharold Simon Day” was scheduled to take place on Friday in the town.
The Seahawks already have the established tandem of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner at cornerback and added veteran Antoine Winfield in free agency.
“I know they like tall, physical corners, and I’m a tall, physical corner,” Simon said. “Get up there and press, I know that’s what they like to do. I know I fit in there.”
What the Seahawks didn’t do in the draft was also telling. They didn’t draft an outside linebacker until the seventh round, meaning they’re comfortable with the players they have. Carroll said Malcolm Smith has the inside track to take over Leroy Hill’s old outside linebacker job.
They didn’t draft an offensive lineman until the seventh round, meaning they’re likely going with who they have.
“Our coaches love our current players,” Schneider said. “It’s all about trying to improve our depth at every position.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org