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Published: Monday, May 5, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Don't be surprised if Seahawks trade down in draft

  • Cornerback Richard Sherman was one of two picks the Seahawks made in in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft.

    Genna Martin/The Herald

    Cornerback Richard Sherman was one of two picks the Seahawks made in in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft.

  • Strong safety Kam Chancellor was a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks in the 2010 NFL draft.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Strong safety Kam Chancellor was a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks in the 2010 NFL draft.

Forget trying to predict who the Seattle Seahawks might take with the 32nd pick in this year’s NFL draft. If head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider’s time together has taught us anything, it’s that they’re going to use their first pick on somebody we weren’t expecting.
Besides, there’s a pretty good chance the Seahawks won’t even use that 32nd pick.
While little is predictable when it comes to Seattle’s drafts — and that’s a big compliment in Schneider’s eyes, because it means the Seahawks front office doesn’t have leaks — one thing you probably can bet on is that at some point this draft, be it in the first round or some other time, the Seahawks will trade back, acquiring an extra pick or two in the process.
“I just like it in general,” Schneider said of trading back. “Is that OK to say? I’m not giving anything way, am I?”
No, John, you’re not.
Seattle’s 2010 draft was unique compared to their others because every trade had players involved. (And as a quick aside, how about getting defensive end Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick for defensive end Darryl Tapp.) But in the past three drafts, Seattle has traded back in the draft four times, and moved up just once, doing so last year in the fifth round to pick Jesse Williams and Tharold Simon with consecutive picks.
“I don’t think we’ve moved up a lot,” Schneider said, making a pretty big understatement.
So while the Seahawks may only have six picks, having traded away their third-rounder as part of the Percy Harvin trade, and a seventh-rounder to Oakland for quarterback Terrelle Pryor — Seattle has an extra fifth-round pick thanks to the Matt Flynn trade with the Raiders — there’s a very good chance that by Saturday night, they’ll have drafted seven or eight players.
So why do the Seahawks like moving back so much? The obvious reason is to gain more picks, but that is only an effective strategy if you do something with those picks, and the Seahawks have certainly done that. Schneider trusts his ability and that of his scouting department to not just identify talent in the mid- to late rounds, but to understand when those players might get drafted.
“Say you have eight guys in the fifth round that you really like, is it really worth losing two of those eight guys to go up and get one player?” Schneider said. “Is that one player worth two of those guys?”
It’s probably no coincidence that Schneider uses fifth-round picks in his example, because that’s one place the Seahawks have done considerable damage in the draft.
Have you ever wondered what Seattle’s defense might look like without cornerback Richard Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor? Because both of those players were selected with fifth-round picks that didn’t belong to the Seahawks heading into those drafts.
Chancellor was picked early in the fifth round with a pick acquired in the trade that sent guard Rob Sims to Detroit. And just six picks before that, the Seahawks took defensive end E.J. Wilson, who didn’t end up making an impact, with the pick acquired in the aforementioned Clemons-for-Tapp trade.
So even if the Seahawks had that fifth-rounder for Sims, it’s entirely possible they could have used that pick on Wilson, and not Chancellor, if not for another trade that gave them extra picks.
A year later, the Seahawks gave up their second-round pick to Detroit to acquire third- and fourth-round picks, while also improving their draft position in the fifth and seventh rounds. Of those four picks, three are gone — guard John Moffitt, wide receiver Kris Durham and defensive tackle Pep Levingston.
But the fifth-round pick, No. 154?
That was used to select a receiver-turned-cornerback out of Stanford who would go on to become the best corner in the game. Now it’s entirely possible the Seahawks would have ended up with Sherman a few picks later in the fifth round had they not made any trades, but the fact remains that he too was acquired with a pick that came to Seattle via a move back in the draft.
But just because the Seahawks like moving back, and have had success doing so, that doesn’t mean those are easy decisions in the heat of the moment. Moving back often means taking a risk that a player you like won’t still be there when that new pick come along — the Seahawks moved back in the first-round in 2012, and were considering doing so a second time, but feared they’d lose defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin if they waited any longer to take him.
“The temptation is to go get guys instead of going back and acquiring more picks,” Schneider said.
And at times, that temptation to go get guys wins out over the desire to accumulate picks. In their first draft together, Carroll and Schneider made the no-brainer decision to pick Russell Okung with the No. 6 pick, filling their vacancy at left tackle. Seattle had another first-round pick at No. 14 thanks to what, as it turns out, ended up being one of the best moves made by the previous regime, a 2009 trade that sent a second-round pick to Denver for a first-rounder the next year.
Seattle had a ton of needs in 2010, and was all set to trade that 14th pick for more ammunition later in the draft, but when Texas safety Earl Thomas was still available, Carroll and Schneider decided he was a player they couldn’t pass on, no matter how badly they wanted more picks. And yes, that decision has worked out pretty well thus far.
So it’s not a given that the Seahawks will move back from the 32nd pick or any other. Maybe there will be somebody available at the end of Round 1 who they feel like they have to have, but if past drafts are any indicator, the mystery isn’t just in who the Seahawks will draft, but when they’ll do so.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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