John Schneider and Pete Carroll hold their cards as close to their vests as any front office pair in the NFL before the draft. Then they are among the most transparent after picks are made. It is just one more way in which they revel in contradiction. While the rest of the NFL scoffed at the idea of taking wide receiver Paul Richardson in the second round, Carroll and Schneider could barely contain their glee at landing a player they were ready to take with their pick in the first round.
There is a pattern to how Carroll and Schneider speak about draft picks that reveals more than what they actually say. With Richardson, they were as ecstatic as I have ever seen them after any pick. The underlying message from each of them was they have once again found a player with a special combination of skill and makeup that the rest of the league past over due to rigid old school measurables. The last draft choice they reacted to in a similar way to was Russell Wilson. Bruce Irvin comes to mind as well.
Contrast that to the way they talked about their second choice in the second round, offensive tackle Justin Britt. There was no glee. When Schneider says something along the lines of, “We saw a big dropoff in that position after this pick,” it means they drafted for need. What he is actually saying there is that they know they need a good player at that position on the roster, and that they took a guy who may not be the highest overall player on their board at the time, to ensure they exit the draft with a quality fit at a need position.
That does not mean Britt is destined to be a poor player, but it does raise some question about his ceiling. Players who Schneider has talked about in a similar way after drafting include Jordan Hill and Bobby Wagner.
Seattle has now addressed two of their top three gaps heading into the draft. There was plenty of talk about the Seahawks taking a guard first, but it has always been right tackle that was a bigger need. It was crystal clear what Carroll and Tom Cable are planning for the line as of now at every position but left guard:
LT: Alvin Bailey will get the reps until Russell Okung recovers from foot surgery (expected back for training camp)
LG: James Carpenter “played his best ball as a Seahawk” at the end of last season, according to Cable, but should see competition from Bailey after Okung returns
C: Max Unger
RG: J.R. Sweezy appears safe unless Britt somehow wins the RT job and Bowie slides inside
RT: Michael Bowie is the starter, but Britt will have every chance to take the job from him
I will be cheering like crazy for Britt to emerge as a guy that earns time at right tackle because Bowie feels like he could be a Pro Bowl guard, but just a quality starter at tackle. His pass protection on the edge still left a lot to be desired.
Richardson adds electric speed to the offense that they simply did not have on the outside. Ricardo Lockette is a burner, but is far more limited as a route runner, and is much stiffer in and out of breaks. Richardson was timed at 4.40 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but has been clocked as low as 4.28. That is approaching escape velocity.
Carroll talked about wanting to add more speed to their defense two years ago, and then did so in the form of Irvin, Wagner, and eventually getting Malcolm Smith on the field. The offense has undergone a silent speed infusion this off-season. Percy Harvin is practically a new addition. Christine Michael barely played last year, and now Richardson joins on the outside.
An offense that did not feature many (any?) home run threats last year now has three elite breakaway threats that they can have on the field at the same time. And that does not even include the likes of Luke Willson (4.51) or Terrelle Pryor (4.38) who could also be out there at tight end and H-Back should the team go that route.
Richardson was a guy I had my eye on for the Seahawks back at the combine:
Paul Richardson is an interesting fit with Seattle at the X. Stood out for me vs Huskies in a blowout loss.
— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) February 23, 2014
He will be given a shot to challenge Jermaine Kearse at split end and Doug Baldwin at flanker. He can also slide inside, but it seems hard to imagine the team stealing snaps from Baldwin or Harvin inside in favor of a rookie.
My best guess is he is initially asked to focus on split end, with Kearse ahead of him on the depth chart to start. As excited as this front office is about Richardson, and as unique as his speed is, Kearse needs to bring his best to hold his spot.
Schneider has now traded down in the second round in each of the last three seasons. Seattle will have two of the top eleven picks in the 4th round today. They also have another 4th, a 5th, 6th and 7th. Seattle probably would like to exit the draft with at least nine picks, and they currently sit at eight. Look for them to trade back at least one more time to get another 7th.
Most of Schneider’s gems have been unearthed after round four
Seattle absolutely must find some additional prospects for the defensive line, and has historically done that in the middle rounds. Jaye Howard, Jesse Williams, and E.J. Wilson were 4th and 5th round picks. Jordan Hill was a 3rd rounder. Expect a defensive tackle to come off the board early today for the Seahawks. After that, it’s mostly going to be about best player on their board. For reference, here again is my probability chart for which positions the team will add and how many:
Today is the day Schneider lives for. It is his favorite part of the draft, and his results have been spectacular. When the draft completes, the team can start recruiting undrafted free agents, and that is Carroll’s favorite part of the draft, with similarly spectacular results. Odds are that the Seahawks find at least two quality players today in one form or another. If Richardson is anywhere close to the player they think he is, the draft is off to a solid start for the Seahawks.