RENTON – Consider it mission accomplished for the Seattle Seahawks on the first day of the NFL draft.
Heading into Saturday, Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell and the rest of his staff had Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry pegged as the guy they would pick with the fourth overall selection in the draft – the team’s highest pick since drafting cornerback Shawn Springs No. 3 overall in 1997.
Ruskell and his staff put their poker faces on during the predraft process, not wanting to let on that Curry was the guy they most coveted.
And Ruskell had to bite his fingernails as he watched Detroit, St. Louis and Kansas City select before him.
Then the dominoes began to fall. The Lions, picking first overall, selected Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, who they already had signed to a six-year, $72 million deal. Then the Rams picked Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith second.
And finally, Kansas City, a team many mock drafts had selecting Curry, grabbed LSU defensive tackle Tyson Jackson with the third pick.
And Curry had fallen into Seattle’s lap.
“That was tough,” Ruskell said of the waiting game. “That was a tough one because a lot of the mocks had him (Curry) going if not to St. Louis, to Kansas City. And we just did not know. We did not know if they were going to pull the trigger or not.
“And believe it, the room was very happy when the clock ran down and they picked someone else.”
By picking Curry, the Seahawks got what most draft experts projected as the best overall player and the “safest player” in the draft.
And Ruskell didn’t stop there. He worked a deal with Denver, with the Seahawks giving up their second-round pick, the 37th overall, for Denver’s first-round pick in 2010. The Broncos had one to spare after they received Chicago’s No. 1 in the recent trade for quarterback Jay Cutler.
The Seahawks then moved up late in the second round, trading their third- and fourth-round picks to Chicago for the Bears’ second-round pick, 49th overall, and selected versatile center/guard prospect Max Unger of Oregon, whom the Seahawks had initially considered a possible selection with their 37th pick.
Overall, the Seahawks addressed an immediate need at linebacker – with Julian Peterson gone to Detroit via trade – by adding Curry, who will likely fill the strong side linebacker spot that Peterson left vacant. And they brought in an interior lineman to add depth up front to an offensive line that was depleted due to injuries in 2008.
“Basically, what it comes down to is you traded a third- and fourth-round pick in a draft that’s not very good for a first-round pick next year, which looks like a very good class,” said Rob Rang, a Gig Harbor-based senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com. “… So just from the picks standpoint I think they did a very good job.”
But bringing in Curry was Seattle’s first order of business.
A high-energy player with good character, the 6-foot-2, 254-pounder from Fayetteville, N.C., was seen as a perfect fit for the organization. He’s physical enough to offer stout run support, fast enough to be effective in pass coverage and smart enough to play all three linebacker positions for Seattle.
“There really was just no doubt about his character and his personality, and his competitiveness,” said Seattle coach Jim Mora. “He’s a top-flight kid, and he will really add a lot to this organization both on the field and off the field and in the locker room. It’s a heck of a pick for us.”
Curry was the first linebacker to be drafted in the top-five since A.J. Hawk was taken fifth overall by Green Bay in 2006. The last linebacker to go higher than the fourth pick was LaVar Arrington, who was picked second overall by Washington.
A group of Seahawks staff worked out Curry before the draft at Wake Forest, and Curry was scheduled to make a visit to Seattle. However, Ruskell said the visit was canceled as part of the team’s strategy to keep their interest in Curry under the radar.
An emotional Curry shed tears as he made his way up to the podium to hold up a Seahawks jersey and shake the hand of league commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I was excited just for the phone to ring,” Curry said by telephone. “To be on the phone with Coach Mora, he wants me to bring my same relentless attitude to the football field, and my high character personality to the team. To find out that I was going to be a Seattle Seahawk was one of the best things that I have ever heard.”
Unger, an athletic lineman who at 6-5, 309 pounds should fit nicely into the Seahawks’ new zone blocking scheme, was just as surprised and pleased to get a phone call from Seattle. One of the top-rated centers in the draft, Unger said he expected to go a bit higher, and began to get anxious.
“I saw myself going maybe a little higher,” Unger said. “But it is much worth the wait to be able to go to Seattle. I’m very, very happy.”
Seattle has six more picks today as the draft concludes.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437