The Seahawks contingent will be arriving Tuesday for the NFL’s annual meat market/predraft combine with three pluses they didn’t bring here last year.
More action in the top of the draft.
And more time.
Seattle general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll and staffers are scouting this week in Indianapolis for what Schneider last week said he expects will be 10 selections in May’s draft. Barring trades, it would be the third time in 13 years the Seahawks will have double-digit picks — Schneider and Carroll had 11 in 2013 and 10 the year before that.
It would be one more selection than the Seahawks had in 2014. And unlike last year it includes a first-round choice, next-to-last at 31st overall.
The 10-pack includes three expected compensatory selections over the fourth and fifth rounds from losing free agents before the 2014 season, most valuably wide receiver Golden Tate. It also includes the pick Seattle got from the New York Jets in October in the Percy Harvin trade — the trade of Harvin, whose acquisition from Minnesota had cost Seattle that first-round pick last year.
If the Jets decide to keep Harvin and his $10.5 million contract past March 19, New York owes the Seahawks a fourth-round pick. If the Jets cut the dynamic-but-enigmatic wide receiver before March 19, Seattle gets a sixth-round choice.
Another plus on Seattle’s side this winter and spring: Time.
Schneider and his player-evaluation staff began fully preparing for the 2014 free agency during Super Bowl 48 week in New Jersey in January.
“I don’t think we did a very good job with it,” the GM said, “so we wanted to be ahead of it this year.”
This time, Schneider began plotting the Seahawks’ offseason moves more than a month earlier, during the regular season in December. They brought the entire offseason preparation operation to Phoenix during the last week of January to finalize their plans during the days before Seattle played New England in Super Bowl 49.
“We have to do that because what we found out last year was we got a little bit behind,” Schneider said, before adding with wry deadpan: “You know, it’s a real bummer: We had a Super Bowl. We won it. It got in the way of our preparation.”
Schneider sent his draft staff and scouts home to their families for a few days before they reconvene in Indiana this week. Starting Tuesday and Wednesday, they and Carroll will interview nervous college players. Each prospect can have up to 15 private interviews. The questions will be about almost everything but football, among the most unconventional things the always unorthodox Schneider and Carroll will do all year.
After that the Seahawks will join the other 31 teams in staring up and down each prospect as they parade into and out of a humbling sort of height-weight-body-shape screening room.
Only after all that will the prospects do in position groups the most recognizable parts of the combine: The 40-yard dashes, shuttle runs, plus agility and strength drills on the stadium’s turf that are televised nationally by the league’s network all week.
Then after the combine ends this weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, Schneider’s guys will fan out across the country to attend prospects’ individual pro days on college campuses.
Who might they be studying most?
The Seahawks’ biggest needs — at least as long as we assume 1,600-yard running back Marshawn Lynch is indeed coming back and not retiring before the 2015 season, as Schneider floated as a possibility last week: offensive line, defensive tackle, wide receiver, tight end and cornerback.
Some are projecting La’el Collins, a 6-foot-5, 321-pound blocker out of Louisiana State, to be a top-10 pick. Others say the road paver and pass protector is a second-round talent. Some see him as guard, of which the Seahawks have a perhaps endangered one in 2011 first-round pick James Carpenter on the left side. Others project him as a tackle; Seattle had 2014 second-round pick Justin Britt start every game this past season at right tackle, while left tackle Russell Okung (its sixth-overall selection in 2010) has been limited by injuries for years and has had trouble recently. Both had trouble with speed rushers outside.
If Florida’s D.J. Humphries (6-6, 300) is still around at No. 31 overall, the Seahawks could be tempted by one of college football’s most impressive pass blockers, to address years-old pass protection issues.
Could Washington Husky Danny Shelton from Auburn High School still be around at the end of the first round? If not, almost as highly acclaimed and athletic defensive tackle Arik Armstead of Oregon may be. In later rounds, 288-pound Grady Jarrett of Clemson may intrigue the Seahawks for his speed.
The other apparent need on defense, cornerback, hinges on whether the Seahawks do in fact lose unrestricted free-agent starter Byron Maxwell to a higher bidder, as even they expect.
The Seahawks’ apparent need to upgrade at wide receiver may be timely; that position is considered one of the deeper ones in this draft. Amari Cooper of Alabama is likely to be gone among the first dozen or so picks. But 6-3, 212-pound Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, 6-5 Devin Funchess from Michigan and towering 6-6 Dorial Green-Beckham have the size and could be projects the Seahawks covet. Green-Beckham is off some teams’ boards because of red flags — he was kicked off the team at Missouri over an alleged forced entry into an apartment — but Carroll and Schneider have embraced reclamation projects to varying results in their five years recreating the Seahawks.
Those rookies-to-be that get keen interest from the Seahawks should be ready: The two-time defending NFC champions don’t usually waste time at these combines. Seattle’s interest often translates immediately into opportunity.
“My belief is that if you want to be a consistent, championship-caliber team, you have to make those tough decisions,” Schneider said, “where guys are moving on every year and you just have to keep playing young people.”