Cooler heads prevail at draft
Listen to the words. John Schneider is calm and in control.
He has plans and contingencies. He’s a master of the variables; weights and measures, mass and velocity. And he’s ready for the varied ways this week’s NFL draft might unfold in front of him.
For instance, the Seahawks’ general manager says that No. 12 is “a really cool place to pick.” But if events warrant, “then we feel comfortable with the way we’ve prepared that we could go back, too.”
Stay there, move around, bob and weave. Sure. Schneider’s playing the cool hand. Just listen.
But as he speaks, his legs are bouncing beneath the table fast enough to cause the room to vibrate.
That’s how these guys are at draft time, all subsurface energy beneath the poker faces. There’s a whole lot more going on than any of them want you to see.
Schneider, heading into his third draft with the Seahawks, has helped reshape the team into one of the youngest in the league while also opening salary cap options to procure a free-agent quarterback such as Matt Flynn and re-sign their own free agents such as Marshawn Lynch and Red Bryant.
In the process, the Hawks turned into one of the league’s top-10 defenses.
And while Schneider is not about to show his hand, the thought here is that the defense is going to get better when the team’s first-round pick rolls around at No. 12 on Thursday.
The specific identity is always difficult because there’s no way to predict how the chips fall on the way to the 12th selection. Schneider presented the example of the 2010 draft, when he had prepared to trade out of the No. 14 spot until it became evident that coveted Texas safety Earl Thomas was available.
The most pressing need this time is for a pass rusher. The Hawks were in the bottom half of the league in sacks (33), and a rusher would complement the best young secondary in the game.
North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, in some mock drafts, ends up with the Seahawks, which would make perfect sense given their need. But some question his motivation, and nobody wants to spend a first-round pick on a pass rusher who doesn’t rev near the redline.
Two linebackers also seem to be landing on Seattle’s No. 12 spot in recent hypothetical action: Boston College’s Luke Kuechly (KEEK-ly) and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram.
To serve the reader, I devoted considerable time and resources to the study of these two prospects. Here’s what I came up with in 15 minutes of YouTube study:
Kuechly was stunningly productive in his three seasons at BC, averaging 14 tackles a game, showing great instincts, versatility and durability.
At times you’d see his intelligence, sniffing out reverses well before anybody else on the defense. And his pass coverage was such that he might be one of those rare middle linebacker types you could leave on the field every down.
Word is that he’s a true leader who could take over that role on the Hawks’ defense.
But, at 242 pounds, he also got shoved around pretty well by big linemen, and a lot of those tackles he made seemed to take place after the ballcarrier already had gained considerable ground.
Ingram is much bigger, at 6-foot-2, 264 pounds, and would be more of a threat with the pass rush. This analysis might be mostly attributable to the creativity of the person who put together his highlight package, but Ingram looks more like the big-play, turnover-forcing defender Hawks coach Pete Carroll loves.
Aside from shrugging aside blockers on his way to the quarterback, Ingram made an interception on a fake field goal, and also ran for a touchdown from a blocking-back position on a fake punt.
And that’s at 264 pounds. Carroll and his staff like to find players with unique skills and then develop ways to work them into a scheme. While Kuechly looks to be a conventional middle linebacker type, Ingram could be more of a fun toy for Carroll.
To look deeper, we might best give retroactive credit to former Hawks middle linebackers whose physical, no-limits style of play used them up in a hurry: Lofa Tatupu and David Hawthorne.
Tatupu is with Atlanta after sitting out last year, and the beaten-up Hawthorne is now with New Orleans after limping through another season – the third consecutive in which he led the Hawks in tackles.
If Schneider can draft anybody on Thursday who has the heart and drive those two had, that will make it a cool pick, indeed.