Look back at 2012 draft shows who knows best

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comApril 25, 2013 

So, we’ve been led to believe that it’s premature to judge the quality of a draft class by NFL teams in any span shorter than three or four years.

I think the Seahawks can be granted a waiver on the waiting period on the 2012 acquisitions, which in the span of one calendar year have proven themselves far more valuable than even the kindest grades that were handed out on draft weekend.

Let’s see, they picked up the franchise quarterback, the league’s rookie sack leader and the team’s leading tackler by a wide margin.

Dismissed as a C-minus collection at the time by analyst Mel Kiper Jr., they were upgraded to an A after the season when Kiper sorted through compelling evidence.

For example: Russell Wilson’s Pro Bowl, Bobby Wagner’s 140 tackles, Bruce Irvin’s eight sacks, spot starts by cornerback Jeremy Lane and J.R. Sweezy, and solid

reserve play by Robert Turbin and Greg Scruggs.

As the Hawks open the 2013 draft this weekend, it’s illustrative to re-examine how they approached the challenge last year.

Largely forgotten in the aftermath of the draft was that the first two times their picks arose, they traded down to collect more picks.

They passed along No. 12 to the Eagles to drop three spots to take pass-rusher Irvin, but also collect the picks that turned into fourth-round defensive tackle Jaye Howard and sixth-round cornerback Lane.

The Eagles got a nice season out of defender Fletcher Cox (5.5 sacks) with the No. 12, but the Hawks had Irvin targeted anyway and got two others as bonuses.

And in the second round, they dropped four places in a trade with the Jets, who took receiver Stephen Hill (21 catches). The Hawks picked up Wagner from Utah State and got the Jets’ fifth-rounder (linebacker Korey Toomer, who ended up on the practice squad) and Scruggs, a seventh-round defensive end who collected a pair of sacks as a promising sub.

In a conference call on draft day, Irvin said, “I love eating quarterbacks.” At the time he only nibbled, as his sacks came in spurts, but he did prove he has the appetite. And although he’s still on the up-slope of the learning curve, his sack number was still 25 percent of the team’s regular-season total.

The pick of Wilson in the third round was the steal of the draft, as he ended up tying Peyton Manning’s record for TD passes by a rookie (26).

Wilson told at the time of his numerous pre-draft exploratory chats with general manager John Schneider and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, each of whom Wilson called “a great human being.”

From the first interviews, Wilson was unique. He recounted something bold he did within the first week of his transfer to Wisconsin as a senior: He called a team meeting. Basically, he had just parachuted into a new setting and took charge the second his boots hit the ground. The result of the meeting? He was almost immediately named team captain.

One of the few not skeptical of Wilson’s 5-101/2 height, Schneider told of how he showed films of Wilson’s games to coach Pete Carroll, particularly some in awful weather conditions, and three last-minute losses.

“They lost three games this year and in every one of those games, he was driving them down the field at the end of the game looking for a chance to win,” Schneider said last spring.

Here’s how Carroll responded to Schneider’s reports on Wilson: He called former NFL coach and mentor Bud Grant for advice. He questioned him on how his undersize quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, could put together a Hall-of-Fame career.

“(The conversation) just gave me a sense that supported what John (Schneider) had seen and studied over the years and followed (Wilson) along. We just really felt we had a great guy.”

Wilson was grilled about his height, of course, and critics were unswayed by his comments, and the consensus remained that he was too short to play quarterback in the NFL.

But Carroll went on the record with his thoughts on Wilson’s athleticism and savvy and consistent production.

“He can handle all of the pressure that he’s going to be under, and all the scrutiny that he’s going to have to deal with,” Carroll said. “We think more than anybody else that was (available at that point) in the draft, that this guy gives you a chance to have a great player. It’s going to be really exciting to see what he can bring.”

It was exciting. In fact, it’s fair to think that his success alone made the 2012 draft a success. And it didn’t take three seasons to figure it out.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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