Don’t hold your breath for Seahawks to pick in Round 1

OK Seattle Seahawks fans, I have a bit of friendly advice.

If you’re the diehard who prepares a bowl of popcorn and hunkers down on the couch to take in the spectacle that is the first round of the NFL draft, and if you’re the type who anxiously awaits Seattle’s selection by gnawing on your fingernails or clutching desperately at the armrest, be prepared for the possibility of disappointment. Given Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s track record, there’s a good chance you won’t get your climactic opportunity to cheer.

The first round of the draft takes place Thursday night, with the Seahawks holding the 26th pick. However, if past history is a guide, there’s a good chance that when pick No. 26 comes around it won’t be Seattle doing the selecting.

Schneider and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll held their joint pre-draft press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, and they weren’t giving away any clues about their intentions in this year’s draft. When the subject of possibly trading down and perhaps out of the first round was broached, Schneider and Carroll broke into an elaborate two-man song-and-dance routine that eventually led to Carroll, a mischievous Cheshire Cat grin on his face, saying, “We’re not gonna tell you a thing.”

Once Schneider actually got around to attempting to answer the question, here’s what he came up with:

“Look, we put a lot of work into it and we have a lot of confidence in what we do, and we think that if our board is looking like there’s going to be several players there, it’s really a matter of trying to figure out if you’d rather have two or three players, as compared to that one specific player. With our coaches involved that helps us, because you can figure out what type of role that specific player is going to play for us, so you have to balance that.”

The term “obfuscation” hardly does that quote justice.

But while Schneider and Carroll were providing no hints Tuesday, a look at their past track record provides a glimpse into the crystal ball.

Schneider has shown he will not hesitate to trade away his first-round pick. In each of the past four drafts he’s dealt away his top selection. In the past three drafts that’s meant not picking in the first round at all.

Of those past four first-round picks, two were traded away for players — in 2013 the pick was part of the package that landed receiver Percy Harvin, and last year the first-rounder helped net tight end Jimmy Graham. The other two times Seattle went into the draft with its first-rounder, but then dealt it away to acquire more picks — in 2012 the Seahawks moved down in the first round and picked up two additional selections, while in 2014 Seattle dropped out of the first round completely to acquire an additional pick.

Schneider insisted Tuesday his history of trading away his first-round pick is not an indication he no longer values the first round.

“No, no,” Schneider responded. “It’s just where you’re picking in the round and how you value those picks, those selections. A lot of times history will tell you that on average, say the 20th player through the 40th player, you’re going to get about the same level of participation, so it’s just a matter of what that specific draft looks like. Like last year, being able to acquire Jimmy, we had 16 guys in the first round. Maybe New Orleans had more. I didn’t ask specifically at the time. It really depends on the year.”

However, it does indicate Schneider puts greater value in quantity rather than quality when it comes to the crapshoot that is the NFL draft. That’s been Schneider’s modus operandi through the entire draft, not just in the first round. Since taking over as Seattle’s GM in 2010 Schneider has executed nine draft-day trades that involved only draft picks. Seven of those nine involved the Seahawks trading down in order to acquire more picks.

Indeed, Schneider and Carroll emphasized they valued their late-round picks, and even the undrafted free agents they sign, just as much as their early picks. Considering that at one point last season 24 of Seattle’s 53 players were undrafted, it suggests Schneider and Carroll are justified in their approach.

On Tuesday Schneider reiterated his belief that this year’s draft is strong, saying is was the strongest class he’s seen since becoming Seattle’s GM. In a radio interview with KJR two weeks ago he said the team has 200 names on its draft board this year as opposed to the 120-140 it typically has. Those conditions seem ripe for trading down, and Schneider even hinted at the possibility during the KJR interview when he said, “Who says we’re picking at 26?”

It’s a formula that Schneider has used often, and it’s hard to question his tactics, given the Seahawks’ success under his guidance. But unfortunately for those fans seeking that moment of first-round emotional release, it means that come Thursday night there’s a good chance you’ll be left hanging once again.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Seattle Sidelines blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/seattlesidelines, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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