For the second season in a row, the Seattle Seahawks’ first-round selection elicited gasps and furrowed eyebrows from NFL observers and the team’s fans.
After trading down, sending the No. 12 overall pick to Philadelphia for the Eagles’ No. 15 pick, along with picks in the fourth (114 overall) and the sixth rounds (172), Seattle selected speedy pass rusher Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia.
That’s right, with their pick of pass rushers still on the board – including North Carolina’s Quinton Coples, South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, Syracuse’s Chandler Jones and USC’s Nick Perry – the Sea-hawks broke away from the pack once again by selecting someone who many had pegged as a second-round pick.
“I expected late first round, like thirty-something,” Irvin said. “But I didn’t expect 15. It was a little surprising.”
Last year, Seattle selected Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter with the team’s No. 25 overall pick, even though several draft analysts had him rated as a second-round prospect.
In need of pass rush help after finishing tied for 19th in total sacks last season with 33, Seattle coach Pete Carroll thinks he secured the best pass rusher in the draft in Irvin, who totaled 221/2 sacks in two seasons at West Virginia.
Seattle’s move was one of nine first-round trades in this year’s draft, the most since 2008.
The Seahawks now have seven picks remaining in the final six rounds, with the second and third rounds beginning at 4 p.m. today.
Seattle considered trading down again, but teams such as the N.Y. Jets, Chicago and New England likely had Irvin in their sights in the second half of the draft, and the team could have lost its player if it moved back too far.
“We were extremely excited,” Seattle general manager John Schneider said. “We didn’t want to get too cute with it. Obviously we viewed him as the best pass rusher in the draft. There was a certain spot we thought we could get to. And then we talked about going back again, but then we decided to just go ahead and lock it down.
“We had this guy rated as one of the top players in the draft.”
At 6-3, 245 pounds, Irvin totaled 40 tackles – including 15 tackles for a loss – and 81/2 sacks his final season at West Virginia. Irvin finished with 14 sacks in 2010.
Irvin was an All-Big East Conference first-team selection by the league’s coaches as a senior.
Carroll said he recruited Irvin while at USC and Irvin was at Mt. San Antonio Junior College in Walnut, Calif. – where Seattle assistant secondary coach Rocky Seto played before transferring to USC – and developed a relationship with the 22-year-old Atlanta, Ga., native.
“He’s a fantastic football player,” Carroll said. “He’s a great pass rusher. The speed that he brings is so unique and so rare. When he had his opportunities to show it in college, he came out as the best pass rusher in America. That’s something that we’re really excited about.
“The fact that I’ve known him for so long and have background with the kid – I know what he’s been through as John (Schneider) mentioned – I feel like we’ve got a guy that we had interest in from a lot of areas. This guy’s going to be a great asset to the program.”
One of the reasons Irvin was considered a second-round prospect was his checkered past. Irvin isn’t ashamed to admit he dabbled in drugs and crime as a teenager.
His mother kicked him out of the house during that time and he dropped out of school. He played in three games at wide receiver his sophomore year, and was ineligible the next two years at Stockbridge High.
But Irvin eventually turned his life around, earned his GED and made his way to junior college, where he developed into one of the best college pass-rushing prospects.
“I went through a lot of stuff in my life,” Irvin said. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff, man. If the average person went through what I went through, they would not be on this phone with you right now.
“I could have chosen right, but I chose to go left. And when I chose to go left, I told God that I wasn’t going back to what was trying to suck me in. I just surrounded myself with a lot of positive people.”
Irvin said he had no idea how interested Seattle was in him. The Seahawks didn’t have Irvin in for a visit nor work him out at West Virginia. But Carroll did meet with Irvin at the NFL scouting combine, where Irvin raised eyebrows by running a 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds and bench pressing 225 pounds 23 times.
“Me and Pete have a different relationship,” Irvin said. “Me and Pete go way back. We got more than just a coach/player relationship. I think we’re actually friends.
“I talked to them at the combine, and they had a serious talk with me. But since the combine I hadn’t heard from them, and that’s what really shocked me because I didn’t think they were really interested in me.”
Carroll compared Irvin to Denver’s Von Miller in terms of his ability to get off the line of scrimmage quickly and rush the passer. But he understands that Irvin is not a finished product, and will have to learn different aspects of playing pass coverage.
Right now Irvin is penciled in as a backup, pass-rushing defensive end behind Chris Clemons and will line up opposite Clemons on third down, similar to how Seattle used Raheem Brock last year.
Carroll said he plans on using Irvin the same way he used Clay Matthews at USC, as mostly a rusher who drops at times into coverage.
“He’s got extraordinary speed and tremendous flexibility,” Carroll said. “And great instincts and a great motor – He has all of the things that make up a good pass rusher.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 Eric.firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks Doug Pacey, doug.pacey@ thenewstribune.com
FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICKS
1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 234
Last time Colts took a QB at No. 1 they picked Peyton Manning
2. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (From St. Louis): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 223
Can electrifying Heisman Trophy winner resurrect Redskins?
3. CLEVELAND BROWNS (From Minnesota): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Ht: 5-9 Wt: 228
Regarded as best running back since Adrian Peterson
4. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (From Cleveland): Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Ht: 6-6 Wt: 306
Vikings make easy decision and select draft’s top left tackle
5: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (From Tampa Bay): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 207
Blaine Gabbert finally has someone to throw to
6. DALLAS COWBOYS (From Washington through St. Louis): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 188
Horrible secondary receives a major boost
7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (From Jacksonville): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 213
Fills void at safety and could become a Pro Bowl player
8. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 221
Miami continues to search for the next Dan Marino
9. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 242
Led country in tackles the past two seasons
10. BUFFALO BILLS: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 190
Someone has to stop Tom Brady and New England
11. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 346
Incredible athleticism for his size
12. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (From Seattle): Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 299
Eagles trade up, shore up run defense
13. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 220
Arizona will test secondaries in 2012
14. ST. LOUIS RAMS (From Dallas): Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 322
Can make an immediate impact in the middle
15. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (From Philadelphia): Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 245
The first “They picked who?” selection of the first round
16. NEW YORK JETS: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Ht: 6-6 Wt: 284
Scouts love his speed, power and size
17. CINCINNATI BENGALS (From Oakland): Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 187
Bengals secondary was horrible in 2011
18. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 264
Impact pass rusher fell further than some expected
19. CHICAGO BEARS: Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 260
Will be an end in Bears’ 4-3 scheme
20. TENNESSEE TITANS: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 196
A rich man’s Golden Tate
21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (From Cincinnati): Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 266
Can rush passer, play run, drop into coverage
22. CLEVELAND BROWNS (From Atlanta): Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 221
Browns’ offensive overhaul continues with this pick
23. DETROIT LIONS: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Ht: 6-6 Wt: 313
He’ll protect injury-prone QB Matt Stafford
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 316
Massive mauler fits in perfectly with Steelers
25. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (From Denver): Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 265
Pats move up again and add defensive help
26. HOUSTON TEXANS: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 261
Pass rusher enjoyed breakout 2011 season
27. CINCINNATI BENGALS (From New Orleans through New England): Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 314
Wisconsin linemen have a good pro track record
28. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Nick Perry, DE, USC
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 271
Packers ranked last in yards per game allowed
29. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (From Baltimore): Harrison Smith, FS, Notre Dame
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 213
Vikings allowed league-high 34 passing TDs in 2011
30. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190
Can stretch the field
31. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (From New England, through Denver): Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Ht: 5-9 Wt: 223
Every-down back is a solid performer
32. NEW YORK GIANTS: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 206
ACC Player of the Year left after junior seasonDoug Pacey, email@example.com