RENTON — Because the weeks leading up to the NFL draft are typically a time of high-stakes Liar’s Poker, in which misdirection is a common practice, Seahawks general manager John Schneider spoke in only vague terms about the team’s plans when he chatted with media Wednesday.
But he offered a few interesting insights, nonetheless.
Yes, because the roster was so well established last season, the 2013 draft was conducted with long-range needs in mind. And the edition that gets under way on May 8 will likely feature a similar philosophy.
Perhaps of more interest, though, was Schneider’s comment regarding a heightened focus during the scouting process – one that he hopes will help avoid the occasional flameout they’ve seen from prospects since they’ve been here.
When asked a question about predraft interviews of players, Schneider expanded on an area in which he is seeking improvement.
“There’s certain guys you spend a lot of time with because you’re trying to figure out the man,” he said. “What’s in his heart? What is his personality like? Would he fit in in the locker room?”
The reason it’s of increasing importance to Schneider?
“There’s certain guys we haven’t done that good of a job with, in my opinion, in the past,” he said. “And that’s something we’ve really focused on this year: Just getting to know the person. How will he compete in this locker room? This is such a young and competitive group.”
Schneider referenced some of the comments made by All-Pro safety Earl Thomas this week when he signed a contract extension. Thomas was a first-round pick in 2010, the first draft involving the collaboration between Schneider and coach Pete Carroll.
Thomas is driven to improve to be the best in the game. His dedication has become legendary, and it lifts the level of expectation of everyone in the locker room.
“He’s 24 years old he’s a fairly intense guy,” Schneider said, stressing the understatement. “These (drafted players) have to have a certain quality about them that’s going to enable them to come in and compete with and or against guys like that.”
Schneider didn’t mention the players who were short on those qualities. But a look at the draft history shows some early departures.
Third-round guard John Moffitt was released last season. Some recent fourth-rounders made early exits, too – receiver Chris Harper last year, defensive tackle Jaye Howard from two years ago, for instance.
The 2011 draft, as Schneider and Carroll were trying to rebuild the secondary in the later rounds, provides an interesting example.
In the fifth round, the Hawks took Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman with the 154th pick, and Appalachian State safety Mark LeGree two picks later.
The two, obviously, had to have been graded almost equally.
But Sherman is a two-time All Pro with an unsurpassed competitive engine. LeGree was cut before the season started and has failed to play a down, although he’s been given eight tries with seven teams.
And in the sixth round of that draft, the Hawks took Clemson’s Byron Maxwell, who became a starter late last season and was a key defender in their run to the Super Bowl.
Of the 22 starters in the Super Bowl win over Denver, only five Seahawks were drafted in the first or second rounds by the Hawks. Nine were taken in the third round or later – or were undrafted free agents.
Although Carroll is noted for giving young players chances to play their way onto the field, it appeared as if the bulk of the 2013 draft was designated for red-shirting. Only tight end Luke Willson played in every game (20 catches, 272 yards, one touchdown).
“We’re trying to project who is going to be here, who is not going to be here and who they will be competing against (in two years),” Schneider explained. “I think you saw last year was a prime example of that.”
Willson, he said, met a specific immediate need. “But you saw a number of other picks that were more projections for the 2014 season,” Schneider said.
The shifting philosophy and renewed focus on detecting the prospect’s inner drive are a part of what caused Schneider, again, to paraphrase Thomas’ earlier comments.
“It’s like this constant search for how to get better every single day,” he said. “You do that so your fans have that ultimate hope and faith every year that we’re going to be doing the right thing that we’re going to be fun to follow.”