Here are four things we learned during the Seahawks' pre-draft press conference Tuesday.
Fairly early during the Seahawks’ predraft press conference Tuesday, coach Pete Carroll revealed the team’s true goal for the day.
“We’re not gonna tell you a thing,’’ Carroll said.
Indeed, anyone looking for clues into what the Seahawks may do during the NFL draft Thursday-Saturday was left sorely wanting. A Seattle organization regarded around the NFL as being especially good at keeping its secrets in-house appears to be even more close-lipped than ever this year as it sets about trying to construct a roster that can get back to the Super Bowl after last year’s slip-up in the divisional round.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few things to glean from what Carroll and general manager John Schneider had to say Tuesday.
Here are four things we learned:
1. The Seahawks feel this is the deepest draft of the Schneider/Carroll era.
Schneider reiterated what he has said a few other times, that this looks like the deepest and maybe most consistent draft from top-to-bottom since he arrived along with Carroll in 2010, with Seattle having roughly 200 players on its draft board.
“To us it’s the most impressive one so far in terms of the sheer numbers of players,’’ he said. “…. We think it’s strong all the way through.There doesn’t seem to be as many huge dropoffs (in talent) along the way. There are at a couple of positions but not as bad as it has been in the past.’’
Whether that depth might compel the Seahawks to pull off one of their favorite tricks and trade down to acquire more picks remains to be seen. Seattle has nine picks as is and four of the top 97 — its most in the top 100 since 2005 when it had four of the first 98. Seattle has not used its first-round pick since 2012, using it in trades for Percy Harvin in 2013 and Jimmy Graham in 2015, and then simply trading down in 2014. In 2014, though, the Seahawks entered the draft with just six picks with Schneider making it clear ahead of time that the team would like to get more.
Having nine picks already this season creates a little less urgency to add numbers, since as Schneider also said, the Seahawks have a roster right now that’s pretty tough to make.
Said Schneider Tuesday of the prospect of trading down: “If our board says we have several players there it’s a matter of trying to figure out if you have two or three compared to that one, and that’s with our coaches involved we can figure out what type of role that specific player will play for us.”
2. The Seahawks are making it clear they haven’t really planned to spend little on the offensive line, it just sorta worked out that way.
The Seahawks are widely expected to use some of those nine picks on offensive line to bolster a group that continues to be regarded by most around the league as the team’s biggest question mark. Seattle didn’t do much to ease those concerns during the off-season by making two relatively inexpensive free agent additions while losing left tackle Russell Okung and guard J.R. Sweezy, the result of which the Seahawks currently have just $8.7 million committed to the line in 2016 — the least in the NFL.
“We spent a lot of money on the other side of the ball,’’ Schneider said, referring to big contracts handed out in recent years to players such as Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas (among others).
“We’ve had to figure out that we had specific players on the other side of the ball, and a quarterback we had to take care of, so that was our primary plan. We knew that in signing guys like (Bradley) Sowell and (J’Marcus) Webb to (one-year) contracts that are more like, ‘C’mon in, let’s get to know each other, prove-it’ kind of contracts, shorter-term contracts, we knew we would be headed in that direction.’’
Carroll, meanwhile, again voiced confidence in the linemen that will be returning, noting the success of the season half of the season —which might also indicate the team doesn’t view the line as being as much of a question mark as others.
“Those guys came together, kind of like we kept saying, we hoped it would happen earlier but it didn’t,’’ he said. “You are faced with some of that, so there is a learning curve. There’s an opportunity for guys to grow with you and all of that. We’re kind of somewhat accustomed to that. We don’t like it like that, but it’s like that. We’d like to pick up where we left off, we did a really good job in the second half of the season. All of our numbers switched, from sacks to third downs to completion percentage to touchdowns, everything. So we’d like to pick up where we left off. We don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that, but we’ve seen that over the years, we’ve seen that battle.”
3. Do the Seahawks draft for need or best player available?
The answer is yes to both. Let’s let Schneider explain first:
“I probably have to clear this up because I said that we draft for need at some time,” he said. “Basically, how we do it is 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. You’re going to have specific needs at different positions based on people you’ve lost in free agency or if a guy you drafted isn’t coming through at a specific position. It’s really a combination of the two.”
A few things to digest:
- The Seahawks do build their draft board depending on need. If they feel they have a deficiency at offensive line or linebacker, their board will reflect that.
- That’s a little bit different than saying they draft for need, which implies they’re just going to pick a player at a specific position regardless of how the draft shakes out.
- This isn’t unique to the Seahawks; Schneider learned it from former Packers general manager Ron Wolf.
- One thing Schneider does do, though, is assess the needs of other teams. He wants to figure out who they might be interested in and what round a player may go. It’s part of the draft’s poker game, and Carroll said that is one of Schneider’s strengths.
4. Schneider said receiver is one of the hardest positions to evaluate.
The spread of, well, spread offenses in college makes it harder for the Seahawks to evaluate offensive line. But it has also made it harder scouting receivers even though more receivers are playing in college than ever before.
The reason: route trees, or the kinds and numbers of routes a receiver can run. Receivers in college generally aren’t asked to do as much, or be as precise, as players in the NFL. The Seahawks then have to project how a receiver will be as a route runner in the pros because they didn’t have to do it in college.
Here’s how Carroll explained it: “So we’ll see guys that were running kind of an option principle where they’re just going to get open and they stop in areas that we just won’t function like that very well. John has to project if the guy is capable of picking things up and learning and adapting and how quickly can he do that. Sometimes you don’t have great information because they haven’t done it their whole career.”