RENTON — The Seahawks may have confidence in the young defensive backs they took two years ago.
But Friday they showed they aren’t done remaking the now-departed Legion of Boom, drafting safety Marquise Blair out of Utah in the second round with the 47th overall pick.
The pick struck some as surprise since Blair was generally considered a third-day choice.
But to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, there was no doubting in their minds he went right where he should have, both in terms of his draft position and NFL team.
“He’s just physical,” Schneider said. “Great athlete. Ran fast. True competitor.”
The 6-1-and-a-half, 196-pounder became the highest-drafted defensive back by Seattle since the man he is being taken to help replace — Earl Thomas. Since Thomas went in the first round in 2010 Seattle had not drafted a DB higher than the third round.
But with Thomas now off to Baltimore, and Kam Chancellor still on the roster but unofficially retired, the Seahawks are continuing to remake the back end of their defense.
Blair was one of two picks Seattle used Friday on defensive players, each from Utah.
The other came at number 88 on outside linebacker Cody Barton, listed at 6-2, 237. That pick came after a trade with the Vikings in which Seattle traded pick 159 to get 209 while moving up four spots.
That leaves Seattle with five more picks in the draft, all on Saturday, at 114, 124, 132 in the fourth round, 142 in the fifth and 209 in the sixth.
Barton was an honorable-mention All-Pac-12 pick last year at Utah when he had a career-high 116 tackles, with 10-and-a-half for a loss. His listing by Seattle as an outside linebacker but Carroll said after the draft the plan for now is to have him play both inside spots — middle and weakside — and serve as depth behind Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright while also helping out on special teams.
“We see him being a part of a lot of stuff right off the bat,” Carroll said. “We’ll start him off inside, at the Mike and Will spots and just let him learn the system and see where he takes it.”
In comments supplied by the team, Seahawks scout Tyler Ramsey said Barton may be tried at all three linebacker spots.
“Cody is a versatile, athletic and instinctive linebacker that can play all three spots for us and excel on special teams,” Ramsey said. “He’s a leader, he gives high effort and he comes from a very athletic family where his parents are Utah Hall of Fame and (older) brother (Jackson) is a 2019 O-line prospect as well. This kid loves football and everything about competing.”
In Blair, the Seahawks got a player who sounds like something of a potential mix of Thomas and Chancellor having played both free and strong safety while at Utah.
Carroll, though, said the plan is for him to start out playing primarily strong safety, Chancellor’s old spot.
“We like him attacking the line of scrimmage,” Carroll said. “It’s his toughness that we really are excited about.”
Blair ran a 4.48 40 at the NFL combine, eighth best among the safeties there, and not far off the 4.43 Thomas ran in 2010.
But during his two years at Utah he also earned a rep for his physical play — he was ejected for targeting three times in 24 games at Utah, including against UW on a hit on Myles Gaskin in September.
Asked if he thinks a reputation for playing nasty on the field is accurate, Blair said, “Yes sir.” And asked the aspect of his game he takes the most pride in, he said, “Definitely my physicality.”
That image was reinforced in a comment attributed to an anonymous NFL scout relayed by longtime NFL writer Bob McGinn. “He’s the most aggressive head-hunter,” the scout was quoted as saying. “He’s got everything you want. Just really undisciplined.”
McGinn quoted another scout saying, “If he wasn’t crazy I’d take him in the second round.”
Carroll and Schneider, though, said they have no concerns about Blair’s ability to use his aggression in the right way on the field.
“He’s really violent, really aggressive,” Schneider said. “We’re cool with it.”
Said Carroll: “I think we can focus that and make sure that we are zeroed in.”
And in comments provided by the Seahawks via Twitter, area scout Tyler Ramsey cited Blair’s physical style as something that drew the team’s attention.
“Marquise will fit in great with our style, and he’s what we covet from a safety,” Ramsey said. “He’s a guy that can play either position. He’s got great speed on the back end, but really loves to be physical and mix it up in the box near the line of scrimmage.”
Blair, who played two years at Utah after transferring from Dodge City (Kansas) Community College, said he was watching the draft in his hometown of Wooster, Ohio, with family and friends.
“I’m just grateful,” said Blair.
Blair said he played both free and strong safety at Utah — saying “50-50” when asked to define how much of each — and that versatility is also a trait that drew him to the Seahawks.
“I can be physical in the box and and I can cover in the back area,” Blair said.
Seattle has Bradley McDougald set to start at one safety spot but was scheduled to have a competition between 2017 draft picks Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson to determine who would play alongside McDougald, who can play at either strong or free, with Seattle’s apparent plan to identify its second-best safety and then pair him with McDougald.
Blair now joins that mix.
If a lot of predraft projections listed Blair as more likely a midround pick, at least one magazine foreshadowed Seattle’s pick.
Lindy’s Draft Preview listed Blair as a sleeper, noting that his stats were not “eye-popping’’ but that “he boasts an intriguing combination of size and speed to suggest that his best football could be ahead of him.’’
And one stat surely stood out to Seattle, that Blair had the second-highest forced incompletion rate among all college safeties last season at 28.6 percent, according to Pro Football Focus, behind only Nasir Adderley of Delaware.
But before taking Blair, the Seahawks made yet another trade to move down and add more picks, dealing the 37th selection to Carolina to get picks 47, in the second round, and 77 in the third.
Seattle has made three trades during the draft to add five picks, and also got a first-rounder in the trade of Frank Clark on Tuesday.
The pick Seattle traded to Carolina had been acquired in a trade down the night before with the New York Giants, in which the Seahawks also picked up selection 142 in the fourth round and 152 in the fifth.