Thursday marked the third straight draft in which the Seahawks did not pick in the first round. They’re just not into late first-round picks, it seems.
RENTON — Pete Carroll poked his head into the media room Thursday night and pretended to let out a big secret.
“Don’t tell anyone,” the Seahawks coach said. “We’re taking a tight end.”
It was a joke and a reminder that the Seahawks had a darned good reason for again not using their first-round pick in the NFL draft. In March, the Seahawks packaged their top draft asset and center Max Unger to make a blockbuster trade with New Orleans for star tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round pick. The Seahawks believe they made great use of the No. 31 overall selection, and if it meant another quiet start to the draft, well, they should be experts at handling that by now.
Thursday marked the third straight draft in which the Seahawks did not pick in the first round. They’re just not into late first-round picks, it seems. In 2013, they were slated to pick No. 25 overall, but they included that selection in the infamous Percy Harvin trade. Last season, the Seahawks had the No. 32 pick, the last of the first round, and they traded down twice before selecting wide receiver Paul Richardson in the second round at No. 45 overall. And in this draft — don’t tell anyone — Graham is the Seahawks’ surrogate first rounder.
Every year, we talk about the atypical approach of Carroll and general manager John Schneider. They’re different, and all they’ve gotten out of it is a 36-12 record the past three regular seasons, back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and one championship. Because of that track record, it’s foolish to condemn any of the Seahawks’ methods. But it’s interesting to examine how they’re using their early draft assets and ponder how fruitful the approach will be.
In most cases, it wouldn’t be wise to go three straight drafts without selecting in the first round. The Seahawks’ situation is unusual, however, because of the impressive depth on their roster and the fact that Schneider employs the league’s most comprehensive approach to the draft.
Conventional draft wisdom says that a team must nail its draft picks in the first three rounds and hope to get lucky the rest of the way.
Under Schneider, the Seahawks have found talent in all seven rounds, as well as mining the undrafted free agents. Everything counts.
With the Seahawks looking at the entire draft pool and feeling confident that they will find good players, it changes their perspective on what’s possible. It allows them to be aggressive and take calculated risks to acquire veteran talent that they’ve been unable to find in the draft.
Opting out of the first round isn’t some new Schneider strategy. It’s an accidental trend. He’ll tell you that every situation is different, that every trade opportunity must be evaluated on its own and that most every decision is made according to the current state of the Seahawks’ fluid roster.
It’s quite understandable why the Seahawks used first-round picks to acquire Harvin and Graham. The Seahawks have been searching for an elusive No. 1 receiver. The Harvin trade turned out to be a disaster. We’ll see what happens with Graham, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound tight end with wide receiver skills. But there’s nothing wrong with the Seahawks trying to get creative to find the one thing they don’t have. And while those moves were considered statements about the Seahawks’ appetite for championships, they weren’t made merely in a single-minded pursuit to win now. Those trades are compatible with the Seahawks’ constant desire to get better in every aspect of the game.
It’s possible, maybe even likely, that the Seahawks will have to decide whether to make late first-round selections for several more seasons. They’re poised to remain that good. And the way they do business, it makes sense to do what they did a year ago: Move down and pick in the second round. The slightly cheaper salaries could help them continue to manage the cap. And for a team that prefers under-the-radar talent with something to prove, it never hurts the team’s competitive culture to draft a player in the second round who has first-round talent and a chip on his shoulder about not going higher.
As Bobby Wagner once told me, “Yeah, I went in the second round, and that’s still considered a high pick. But every day I want to show that I should’ve been drafted way higher. I want to make some teams that passed on me have regrets.”
The Seahawks are scheduled to finally make a pick Friday at No. 63 overall, the next-to-last pick in the second round.
They’ve learned not to fear the lulls before they pick. They know they’ll find talent. And they trust in the way they go about finding value.
Schneider joked recently about keeping Carroll, his notoriously hyper coach, occupied during the draft. Early in their five-year partnership, it was a challenge.
“I just asked him to go outside and shoot hoops, you know,” Schneider said, laughing.
And when Carroll gets tired of basketball, his favorite hobby, he attempts to entertain the media.
Leave it to the Seahawks to need a cure for first-round boredom.