Just call it the Russell Wilson effect.
NFL general managers and personnel executives are covering their backsides this draft season after other teams passed over a potential franchise quarterback in the University of Wisconsin’s Wilson last season because he did not meet the eyeball test at 5 feet, 10 inches tall.
“Maybe every several years, a Drew Brees comes along like that,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. “And hopefully Russell’s one of those guys. But I don’t think people are going to go necessarily and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to find a (5-10 quarterback).’ ”
With no real consensus about the quarterbacks expected to go in the top 10 picks come Thursday, teams are taking a closer look at every quarterback prospect to make sure they don’t miss out on the next Wilson.
“I don’t know if there’s another Russell Wilson,” said Jon Gruden, an NFL analyst for ESPN who was high on Wilson heading into last April’s draft. “I think what he did as a rookie is unprecedented, really, for a third-round draft choice.”
Because of Wilson’s success last season, teams are paying close attention to quarterback prospects who might not otherwise be considered first-round picks to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle again.
“You can take a quarterback in this draft and put him in the right situation with the right approach, and you can win a lot of games,” Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “The actual strength of this quarterback group? I always say, ‘Let’s see how this pans out.’
“Fortunately for us right now, we’re not looking for a quarterback.”
The Seahawks have three quarterbacks: Wilson, backup Brady Quinn and third-year pro Josh Portis. However, Schneider did not rule out drafting a quarterback for a second consecutive season.
Florida State’s EJ Manuel could be an ideal fit if he’s available when Seattle picks in the second round at No. 56 overall.
At 6-5 and 237 pounds, Manuel is an imposing athlete. His senior season, he completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,392 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, leading the Seminoles to a 12-2 record, including an Orange Bowl victory.
Manuel also was named Senior Bowl MVP.
With a 40-yard dash time of 4.65 seconds, Manuel has the ability to run some of Seattle’s read-option elements. And he has a relationship with Wilson because they both grew up in Virginia. Manuel said he sought out Wilson to get his advice on how to handle the draft process.
“I don’t think I have to be Colin Kaepernick,” Manuel said. “I don’t have to be Russell Wilson. I can be EJ Manuel. But I do see a lot of my abilities in those guys. When I saw those guys having success this year, it gave me a lot more confidence going into the draft.”
With Manuel rising up the draft board, a more realistic option for the Seahawks could be Arizona’s Matt Scott. Seahawks quarterbacks coach Carl Smith worked out Scott a few weeks ago at a high school in Scott’s hometown of Corona, Calif.
Scott completed 60.3 percent of his passes his senior season, throwing for 3,620 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also ran for 506 yards and six scores.
At 6-2 and 213 pounds, Scott has the measurables Seattle wants in a quarterback. Scott ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds, and he has one of the strongest arms in this year’s quarterback class.
“A lot of people have a notion that I’m a scrambler, not really much of a passer,” Scott said. “I feel like I’m a pass-first (quarterback), and then scramble if that’s the case.”
While Manuel and Scott fit the mold set by Wilson, they’re not his clones.
“Where are you going to find another Russell Wilson?” Seattle coach Pete Carroll joked at the NFL combine in February. “If there’s another one, we’d like to find him. It’s going to take an unusual athlete that can run exactly the same stuff, and we’re not necessarily going to be able to get that done.”
QUARTERBACKS/RUNNING BACKS TO CONSIDER
Rob Rang, senior draft analyst with NFLDraftScout.com, reviews quarterbacks and running backs Seattle might select in each round of this year’s draft.
SECOND ROUND (56TH PICK), Eddie Lacy, RB, 5-11, 231, Alabama
Rob’s rationale: Might not be available. Offers similar blend of power and vision as Marshawn Lynch but lighter on his feet. Terrific spin move. Likely to slip into second round because of marginal speed.
THIRD ROUND (87TH PICK), Matt Scott, QB, 6-2, 213, Arizona
Rob’s rationale: Dual-threat passer who threw for 27 touchdowns in his only full season as a starter after backing up Nick Foles. Raw, but significant upside.
FOURTH ROUND (123RD PICK), Zac Dysert, QB, 6-3, 231, Miami (Ohio)
Rob’s rationale: Well-built passer with a high school background at linebacker. Strong arm and will with surprising mobility. Didn’t get rattled when facing better competition.
FIFTH ROUND (138TH AND 158TH PICKS), Jordan Rodgers, QB, 6-1, 212, Vanderbilt
Rob’s rationale: Younger brother of Green Bay’s Aaron. Some legitimate arm talent. Mobile. Some savvy for the position. Handled tough coaching and competition.
SIXTH ROUND (194TH PICK), Dennis Johnson, RB, 5-6, 196, Arkansas
Rob’s rationale: Overshadowed by Knile Davis but was more productive player. All-purpose specialist who could help take over role left with Leon Washington’s release.
SEVENTH ROUND (220TH, 231ST, 241ST AND 242ND PICKS), Jeff Tuel, QB, 6-3, 218, Washington St.
Rob’s rationale: Was beaten up behind a porous offensive line but showed at least adequate arm strength, good athleticism and some toughness.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org