Midway through a first round that had to just about bore him, Pete Carroll stuck his head into the defensive meeting room upstairs at Seahawks headquarters.
“Don’t tell anybody,” the Seattle coach said, “but we’re taking a tight end.”
While the rest of the Seattle area rejoiced over a school-record three Washington Huskies getting selected in the first round — Danny Shelton 12th overall to Cleveland, Marcus Peters 18th to Kansas City and Shaq Thompson 25th to Carolina — the Seahawks reveled in their move made seven weeks earlier.
At the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seahawks believed the best player acquired thus far in the draft is Jimmy Graham, the star tight end for whom Seattle gave up center Max Unger and its 31st overall pick to New Orleans in March.
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What didn’t happen Thursday may or may not change what the Seahawks will do Friday, when they hold their first pick at No. 63 overall. That would be the latest initial pick in franchise history, one spot lower than running Christine Michael got picked to begin Seattle’s 2013 draft. Seattle also has a third-round choice at No. 95 on Friday.
Dorial Green-Beckham, the huge wide receiver sent away from Missouri’s program after a charge of pulling a woman out of an apartment by her neck, didn’t get selected. There is some thought that if the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Green-Beckham stays undrafted deep into the second round, the Seahawks might trade up using one of its league-high stash of 11 picks.
But Seattle has hosted even-bigger wideout Devin Funchess from Michigan, plus Ty Montgomery of Stanford and Chris Conley from Georgia, among others. And the Seahawks have more priorities than just a big wide receiver. They need a new starting left guard, a new starting center, defensive tackles, cornerbacks and pass rusher. Never enough pass rushers.
Attractive, near-top players are still available at all those spots: offensive tackles T.J. Clemmings of Pittsburgh, versatile Donovan Smith of Penn State and nasty Ty Sambrailo from Colorado State; center Hroniss Grasu from Oregon; pass rushers Eli Harold from Virginia, Nate Orchard from Utah and Hau’oli Kikaha from Washington; defensive tackles Jordan Phillips of Oklahoma, Michael Bennett from Ohio State and Joey Mbu from Houston; and cornerback Quinten Rollins from Miami (Ohio).
The Seahawks have the picks to make moves. But the two-time defending NFC champions have the needs to stay with all the picks they have as-is to make those choices, too.
“The challenges are — wen you’re winning like this, it’s awesome, you’re picking late. You want to do that all the time,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said before the draft. “So it’s trying to figure out if you’re moving up, if you’re moving back, where do you see the meat of the draft — and trying to get yourself in a position to acquire as many of those players as you possibly can regardless of position.”
Thursday night began with the top two quarterbacks as the league’s focus — but not Seattle’s. The Seahawks are more than content with 2012 third-round pick Russell Wilson as its two-time Super Bowl passer.
Jameis Winston went as expected first overall to Tampa Bay, a four-hour drive from his college home at Florida State.
Chip Kelly then reportedly tried to trade everyone and everything in Philadelphia except the Liberty Bell to move the Eagles up from No. 20 to No. 2. It didn’t work; Tennessee kept its second pick and selected the quarterback Kelly recruited to Oregon, Marcus Mariota.
“We didn’t even get out of the car and go inside to look at the house,” Kelly said of the Titans’ asking price to move up.
The NFC West went on the offensive. With the 10th pick, St. Louis selected Georgia running back Todd Gurley, convinced his reconstructed knee from last year is fully healed. It also means a return to balanced offense for the Rams.
San Francisco traded down two spots with San Diego, from 15 to 17, and still got the attacker on defense new coach Jim Tomsula wanted all along: Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead.
Arizona, at No. 24, decided protecting Carson Palmer and avoiding a fourth-string quarterback leading into the playoffs again was the priority. So the Cardinals chose Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, who shot up draft boards over the past few months.