RENTON, Wash. — John Schneider understands the entertainment and excitement when it comes to the first round of the NFL draft.
It’s what transpires in those later rounds on the final two days that has separated the Seattle Seahawks from the pack since Schneider and coach Pete Carroll took over in 2010.
“I think the first round is a beautiful thing because it’s so exciting and everybody is really into it. It’s entertainment. I get it,” Schneider said. “But it’s all about the work that all the scouts put in throughout the fall, all the way through the draft and into rookie free agency.”
Schneider and the Seahawks hold the No. 32 pick in the first round, but it’s the paltry amount of selections that follow for Seattle that stands out with the draft approaching. The Seahawks hold only six picks heading into Thursday night, and it would be the fewest selections by Seattle since 2006 if that number holds. Schneider and Carroll have made no fewer than nine picks in any of their previous drafts in charge and ended up making 11 selections last year.
The measly number of picks — at least in terms of Seattle’s recent history — has raised speculation Schneider could be looking to move out of the last spot in the first round so he could acquire more selections on Days 2 and 3.
Schneider said even if the Seahawks hold their six picks, it hasn’t changed their approach to the draft.
“It’s just a matter of how it starts coming off,” Schneider said. “This year is going to be really unique because of the quarterbacks and how they come off. There are some really talented quarterbacks that should go really high in the draft.”
Here are five things to watch as the Seahawks draft as NFL champions for the first time:
FIFTH-ROUND FINDS: While Seattle has pulled some gems from the middle rounds, something about the fifth round has proved extremely fruitful for the Seahawks. In 2010, Seattle landed strong safety Kam Chancellor. A year later, it was All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman falling to Seattle in Round 5. And last year, Seattle found value in tight end Luke Willson in the fifth round; he went on to catch 20 passes.
No surprise, Seattle has a pair of fifth-round picks.
“I think coach Carroll and his staff have that natural, they played with young players at USC. They’re used to it. They don’t have a preconceived notion that you need a veteran,” Schneider said. “The easiest thing to do is sign a veteran. The toughest thing to do is sign a young player and coach them up and spend extra time with them and develop them and get them ready to play. And this staff has shown an ability to do that year in and year out.”
LINE GAPS: Seattle will need to fill at least two offensive line spots after right tackle Breno Giacomini and left guard Paul McQuistan left in free agency. Michael Bowie, a seventh-round pick last year, will likely get the first shot at right tackle, but filling the guard spot could come from the draft. The likes of guard Xavier Su’a-Filo from UCLA or tackle Morgan Moses from Virginia could possibly be options for Seattle late in the first round.
BIG TARGET: Everyone loves big wide receivers, especially Carroll. They were a staple of his offenses at USC and Seattle has tried to emulate that first with Mike Williams and then Sidney Rice since Carroll arrived. Rice, who has been injury-plagued since signing with Seattle, is returning, but the Seahawks could use another receiving option with Golden Tate going to Detroit in the offseason.
RUN STUFFER: Seattle let go of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons and saw Clinton McDonald sign elsewhere, leaving depth questions on the defensive line. The Seahawks believe Greg Scruggs and Jesse Williams, both injured last season, will be able to help fill the voids. But look for Seattle to try and add depth up front after seeing the benefits of having a rotation last season.
THE SURPRISE WILL BE ... Aside from their success in the later rounds, the Seahawks have pulled a few surprises in the draft, especially with their early picks. Whether it was taking Bruce Irvin in the middle of the first round or the decision to draft Russell Wilson after signing Matt Flynn as a free agent, Schneider’s group is good for at least one eyebrow-raising selection.