Schneider sure knows how to pick ’em in draft

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comApril 21, 2013 

John Schneider, partner in the roster-construction firm of Schneider, Carroll and Associates, ranks as one of the NFL’s rising stars.

Why not? As general manager of the Seattle Seahawks, he has collected Pro Bowl players in every way possible.

In three seasons, he has found Pro Bowl players who were considered too short (Russell Wilson) or too tall (Brandon Browner) for their positions by others.

He has found them at the top of the draft (Earl Thomas, Russell Okung) and toward the bottom (Kam Chancellor). He unearthed an All-Pro cornerback in the fifth round (Richard Sherman) and traded for another pair of Pro Bowl players (Marshawn Lynch and Leon Washington).

And Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson was collected as a castoff from San Francisco.

Coach Pete Carroll and staff shaped that collection of talent into an 11-5 squad that was one of the hottest teams in the league at the end of the 2012 season.

Schneider’s draft-success ratio, top to bottom, is high, with 22 of the 28 players taken in the past three drafts still on the roster — a dozen of them as starters.

As expected, there have been a few misfires, and some picks that remain unproven.

When he met with the media last week to talk about the upcoming draft, Schneider talked about the things he can learn from the mistakes.

“Yeah, there are lessons all the way through,” he said, adding that he has shed some of the nave notions he used to have before the weight of the decision was on his shoulders. It turns out to be more complex than he knew.

“The mistakes that we’ve made — or perceived mistakes — have been things where I’m trying something that I probably shouldn’t have,” he said. “And then I learn my lesson and don’t do it again.”

There have only been a few flat-out whiffs, and those have been compensated by an impressive series of late-round successes.

In 2010, fourth-round defensive end E.J. Wilson from North Carolina was released after playing two games, but the fifth-round pick of studly safety

Chancellor lessened that blow.

The next year, fifth-round safety Mark LeGree of Appalachian State didn’t make the team, and fourth-round receiver Kris Durham had trouble staying healthy and was cut last year.

And last season, fifth-round linebacker Korey Toomer of Idaho was cut and put on the practice squad, while fourth-round defensive tackle Jaye Howard was inactive most of the season.

Without elaboration or specific finger-pointing, Schneider said he looks back at two mistakes he made.

“One was comparing a player to another player that we’d had in the past,” he said. “You never know what’s in somebody’s heart, so you can’t do that. Then the other was just assuming that a player was completely locked away from a football standpoint because he’d been productive, and that he was squared away and confident.”

Even with extensive scouting and background checks, Schneider can be excused for being unable to see into the heart of every prospect. But it bothers him nonetheless.

“That upsets me because we pride ourselves on continuing to ask questions along the way and never feeling like we have somebody locked up like we know everything about them,” he said.

They’ve taken some chances, weighing risk against potential reward. Fourth-round cornerback Walter Thurmond (2010) is an example. Before a knee injury at Oregon, he was considered a first-round talent.

Schneider bet he could come back from it. But he has played in only eight games the past two seasons because of leg injuries.

Of bigger stakes, injuries have made it hard to fully assess 2011 first-round offensive lineman James Carpenter, since he has suffered season-ending injuries in each of his first two seasons.

“We continue to learn stuff about these guys in their second, third, fourth year now,” Schneider said.

Free agents are good for quick fixes, and trades can add high-end talent, but the core of a properly constructed roster is the product of successful drafts.

“We want to be good for a long time,” Schneider said. “We don’t want to just kind of cruise in one year and then cruise out. We want to be a consistent, championship-caliber team.”

The next step is this week’s draft.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 @DaveBoling

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