RENTON — Naturally, John Schneider couldn’t leave the draft without swinging one trade — a minor deal in Round 5 probably consummated as much out of muscle memory and tradition as anything else.
And, of course, there had to be one Seahawks pick to infuriate those analysts who preach positional value — and to show that Pete Carroll and Schneider are going to do it their way, critics be damned. In this case, it was running back Kenneth Walker III going in the second round, an affront to all those who see running backs as fungible commodities you can scoop up in the sixth or seventh round.
But for the most part, this was a draft where the Seahawks had a list of holes to fill, and systematically filled them with captivating prospects. The lure of shiny toys and grab-bag diversions did not deter them from the task at hand.
“Things kind of kept happening the way they should have,” Schneider said afterward.
After a decade of unconventional picks, Seattle was resolutely conventional, and thus comes away from this three-day affair with demonstrably better options and potential solutions at a variety of positions of need. They honed in on their deficiencies with a single-minded determination that shows maybe they’ve learned a few lessons from underwhelming recent drafts.
“The opportunity of the numbers were at positions that fit our choices,” was how Carroll put it, who added that the dearth of trades wasn’t for lack of trying to work all angles by Schneider.
It wasn’t sexy and it wasn’t provocative, but it was productive with the potential for major payoffs — and what more can you ask of a draft? One can look at Seattle’s offensive line, defensive line, secondary and, yes, running back, and say the Seahawks are better today than they were Wednesday.
It’s all hypothetical, of course, because we’re speaking of potential and measurables and projections at this point. Draft grades are largely meaningless; the Seahawks did little to wow, and much to bend their personnel in the direction of Carroll’s preferences (speed and athleticism) and the requirements of a newly tweaked defensive scheme. Check back in a couple of years, and I’ll tell you how they did.
The big-ticket item was Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross at No. 9 overall, augmented in the third round by Washington State tackle Abraham Lucas. These two products of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense will have a distinct opportunity to be starters on Seattle’s offensive line. That seems to be an area in perennial need of repair, much like the freeway in Tacoma. If the Seahawks hit on these two, they can change the entire tenor of the offense at a fraught time of transition at quarterback.
The pass rush, which clearly needs its own upgrade, was addressed by Boye Mafe of Minnesota in the second round, and Tyreke Smith of Ohio State in the fifth. And on Saturday, the Seahawks took dead aim at cornerback and selected Cincinnati’s Coby Bryant (fourth round) and the University of Texas-San Antonio’s Tariq Woolen (fifth round), who will also compete for significant immediate playing time.
It is those latter two picks that tickle the imagination as much as any new Seahawks players. Bryant, in addition to having that distinctive name — his parents were huge fans of the Laker star but changed the spelling of the first name to allow their son to forge his own identity — has glittering credentials. Playing opposite the touted Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner at Cincy, Bryant was constantly tested. He responded with 10 career interceptions and was bestowed the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back.
“I feel like I make a lot of plays on the ball, so I would say that my ball skills are the best in the draft,” Bryant told the Seattle media in a self-assessment the Seahawks fervently hope is dead-on accurate.
Woolen, meanwhile, makes analysts drool with his skill set, which might as well have been lifted from the Pete Carroll Catalog of Coveted Cornerback Traits. He is tall (6-foot-4), has the requisite long arms that Carroll seeks (33 5/8 inches), and is blazing fast (his 4.26 40 electrified the combine and was fourth-fastest since 2006) as well as super athletic (42-inch vertical leap).
“Woolen has unbelievable talent,” Carroll said. “There’s probably never been a guy as tall as him that’s run as fast as him.”
It did not go overlooked that Woolen is a converted wide receiver, just like Richard Sherman — and was taken one pick earlier than Sherman was 12 years ago (153rd, compared to 154th for Sherman).
“I’m just crazy to be in kind of the same footsteps as him,” Woolen said. “Now it’s what I do when I get here.”
He added, “I’m already a good player, but I feel like I can be great.”
That is a concise summation of the mission of every draft. The Seahawks believe they gave themselves the opportunity to find greatness at numerous positions — including Walker at running back. If they succeed there, it will become an afterthought that they spent second-round capital to obtain him. And in the final round, Seattle took two shots at bolstering wide receiver, selecting Bo Melton of Rutgers and Dareke Young of Lenoir-Rhyne, an extra pick acquired from Kansas City by trading down 13 spots in the fifth round. The former is a speed-burner and the latter a bruiser at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with backfield blocking and ball-carrying experience. If the Seahawks get anything out of either — including special-teams play — it will be a nice bonus.
One position the Seahawks didn’t address in this draft was quarterback, a referendum both on their perception of the quality of available quarterbacks and their belief that Drew Lock, in particular, is more viable than the outside world believes. If not, all of the above will be largely moot, at least in 2022.
The Seahawks are adamant, however, they aren’t entering a rebuilding campaign, despite distinct signs pointing in that direction. Regardless of the nomenclature, they will soar to former heights only if they augment the roster with impact talent at vital positions. In this draft, they took a determined swing at pulling it off.