The NFL released its official list of 330 players it has invited to the league’s annual national scouting combine in Indianapolis that begins Feb. 28.
That is 74 more invitees than there are selections in April’s draft, by the way.
As my News Tribune colleague and Washington Huskies beat writer Christian Caple noted, UW has seven players invited to this year’s combine:
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Washington’s universities have 11 players invited to the combine, as draft guru Rob Rang from CBS Sports and Tacoma pointed out:
For the Seahawks, the list of invitees is far from their be all, end all.
The combine is often just their stating point.
Since they took over the Seahawks in January 2010, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have drafted 17 players in seven years that didn’t get invited to the combine. There’s been one such Seattle selection every draft under this regime, and multiple non-combine players taken in each of the team’s last six drafts.
The list includes:
▪ 2016 starting defensive back Jeremy Lane (sixth round, 2012, Northwest Louisiana). He just played the first season of a four-year, $23 million contract extension.
▪ No. 2 tight end Luke Willson (fifth round, 2013, Rice). The No. 2 tight end to Jimmy Graham is poised to become an unrestricted free agent March 9.
▪ Linebacker Malcolm Smith (seventh round, 2011, USC). He was the Super Bowl 48 MVP with Seattle who just finished his second season starting for Oakland after signing with the Raiders as a free agent following the end of his rookie contract.
▪ Center Joey Hunt (sixth round, 2016, TCU), Seattle’s backup to starting center Justin Britt
▪ Running back Zac Brooks (seventh round, 2016, Clemson). Seattle released him in August, then had him in two stints on its practice squad last season.
Carroll’s and Schneider’s Seahawks have drafted as high as in the fourth round a guy who didn’t get invited to the combine. That reach was a miss. Wide receiver Kris Durham out of Georgia in 2011 played in just three games for Seattle, all as a rookie. He has played in 27 career games including with Tennessee and Detroit. He is currently unsigned after Oakland cut him before he played a game for the Raiders.
Forty percent of Seattle’s starting offensive line from this past season did not get invited to the combine. In fact, they didn’t even get drafted. Left tackle George Fant (Seahawks rookie class of 2016) was a college basketball player at Western Kentucky. Right tackle Garry Gilliam (a rookie in 2014) was a tight end for three years at Penn State. Seattle signed both as undrafted rookie free agents. The Seahawks have been among the league leaders in undrafted free agents on their active roster the last few seasons.
Suffice to say, Carroll and Schneider pride themselves on finding prospects deep in the bushes beyond being handed blue chips on display in the combine’s super-hyped dog-and-pony show. They found Fant from a pro day on his campus last spring and a grainy, homemade video of the workout.
A large reason for all this underground movement outside the combine: Carroll believes signing players who enter the league with chips on their shoulder from perceived slights -- not being invited to the combine, not getting drafted -- raise the level of competitiveness throughout Seattle’s roster. He believes such rookies push veterans to stay motivated by fear of losing their jobs, thus staving off team-wide complacency.
And Carroll guarding against his ways and messages becoming stale has increased in importance as the Seahawks have made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons. Their coach is beginning his eighth offseason messaging and motivating them.
“I think that every year. I think that as you come back every year,” Carroll said last month. “Everybody is going to change a little bit between last year and this year coming up. As coaches we have to anticipate that guys are going to be a little bit different, and we need to see that happening so we can make sure we know what we’ve got.
“The new players that add to the team are going to bring a new element that will bring another dynamic. We need to maintain the competition. That’s really what feeds this is being competitive. John continuing to fill the roster with guys that can battle and push. Competition puts a lot of that stuff to the side, and that’s what we’ve always stood for. We’ve got to make sure the guys feel it.”
Carroll talked about this to his veteran players in the team meeting after last month’s playoff loss at Atlanta, just before they scattered to begin their offseason.
“I mentioned to them that there’s going to be a whole slew of guys coming into this team, just like there was last year. And if you want to hold our spot, you better get right,” Carroll said. “You better work out and get strong and get fast and be ready for the challenges that the other guys bring, because we’re going to give them an opportunity. The theme of competition is so crucial that it drives you behind that complacency.
“I haven’t seen these guys like that at all. We have such good leadership and the guys stand for exactly the right stuff and they’re willing to put it out there and put it on the field. But I’m always concerned about that. I’m always looking. It’s human nature. That’s the natural way to go. We can’t be like that. We have to be beyond that.”
“I think we have a really cool formula here, and I think we’ve demonstrated that. It’s demonstrated in consistency over years that is pretty obvious.”
So, hey, all those exiting college players who may be bummed they aren’t on Wednesday’s list of official combine invitees: Seattle may be calling you.
Here is the list of Seahawks drafted in the Carroll-Schneider regime that did not get invited to the combine, and their NFL careers:
YEAR, ROUND, PLAYER, NFL CAREER
2010 7 Jameson Konz, WR, Kent State 1 game, for SEA in 2011, in 4 NFL seasons. Also with DEN, DAL as a LB and DE. Out of football.
2011 4 Kris Durham, WR, Georgia 27 games, 3 for SEA in 2011, in 4 NFL seasons. 13 starts with DET in ‘13. Also with TEN, OAK. Unsigned.
2011 7 Malcolm Smith, LB, USC Super Bowl 48 MVP with SEA. 86 career games. Just finished 2nd full season starting at OLB for OAK.
2012 5 Korey Toomer, LB, Idaho 31 games from 2014 through 16 with DAL, STL, OAK, SD. Started 8 games for Chargers last season.
2012 6 Jeremy Lane, CB, NW Louisiana 57 games, 15 starts, all with SEA. Starting nickle back last season, 1st year of 4-yr, $23M extension.
2012 7 Greg Scruggs, DE, Louisville 18 games. 14 with SEA in 2013-14. 4 with CHI in 2015-16. Spent 2106 as TE with NE on IR. Now a free agent.
2013 5 Luke Willson, TE, Rice 74 catches in 56 games, 30 starts, with SEA through last season. No. 2 TE behind Graham now a free agent.
2013 7 Ryan Seymour, G, Vanderbilt 12 games, 11 with 3 starts in 2014 with CLE, 1 game last season with DAL. Now a free agent.
2013 7 Michael Bowie, T, Northeastern St. 9 starts as rookie for SEA. Injuries with CLE. Retired last Aug. but signed futures contract with NYG last month.
2014 5 Jimmy Staten, DT, Middle Tenn. SEA waived Aug. ‘14. With NYG, NE, KC, CHI. On CHI roster 2 days in Nov. Signed to ATL futures contract.
2014 6 Garrett Scott, T, Marshall Waived with enlarged heart day after signing rookie contract in May ‘14. Hasn’t played since.
2014 6 Eric Pinkins, DB, San Diego State 6 games for SEA in 2015 at LB, S, special teams. Now LB/S with NYG, for whom he played five games in 2016.
2014 7 Kiero Small, FB, Arkansas 3 games for CLE in 2014. BAL practice squad end of 2014 before waived Sept. 2015. Unsigned.
2015 6 Kristjan Sokoli, G, Buffalo Native Albanian failed in conversion from DT. 1 SEA game on STs. Spent most of last season on IND practice squad.
2015 7 Ryan Murphy, S, Oregon State SEA released Sept. ‘15. DEN signed to PS then sent him home from Super Bowl 50. Now NYG futures contract.
2016 6 Joey Hunt, C, TCU Made NFL debut in Oct. -- lined up at fullback. Backup C to Justin Britt.
2016 7 Zach Brooks, RB, Clemson Clemson backup released in Aug. PS with SEA, KC, DEN last season. Now futures contract DEN.