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Thanks to Seahawks, secondary now primary in NFL

By Danny O’Neil

RENTON – The Seahawks didn’t make a single pick in the first round of this year’s NFL draft yet they still cast a shadow over Thursday’s proceedings.

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A record nine defensive backs – including cornerback Justin Gilbert – were chosen in the first round Thursday, which is two more than any draft in the modern era. (AP)

At least their secondary did.

Nine of the 32 players chosen in the first round on Thursday play defensive back, a run that started with cornerback Justin Gilbert going eighth overall to Cleveland and running up through San Francisco selecting safety Jimmie Ward at No. 30 and Denver choosing cornerback Bradley Roby one pick later.

By the time the Seahawks traded their first-round pick to Minnesota for a second- and a fourth-round selection, the trend was pretty clear: Seattle’s Legion of Boom has given every other team in the league a template for grooming a rival to the Seahawks’ success.

Start in the back. That was Seattle’s formula, choosing Earl Thomas with the 14th pick of the first draft under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. It’s that secondary where Seattle has been willing to re-invest as well, extending Kam Chancellor’s contract a year ago and signing first Thomas and then Richard Sherman to extensions this offseason that put those players at the top of their positional paygrade.

Seattle now employs two of the eight highest-paid safeties in the league. Think it’s a coincidence that four safeties were chosen in the first round on Thursday?

Because that number is an absolute aberration. Over the past 10 years, there has only been one year in which more than three safeties were drafted in the first round. That was 2007 when four were chosen: LaRon Landry (Washington), Michael Griffin (Tennessee), Reggie Nelson (Jacksonville) and Brandon Meriweather (New England).

This year, there were four safeties starting with Calvin Pryor. He went No. 18 overall to the Jets, whose general manager, John Idzik, just so happened to work in Seattle for the first three years under Schneider. Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was the 21st pick to Green Bay and Deone Bucannon was chosen 27th overall out of Washington State by Arizona.

And don’t look now, but the Cardinals are compiling quite a bit of talent in that secondary, having drafted Patrick Peterson in the first round in 2011 and Tyrann Mathieu in the third round a year ago.

That safety-first approach was capped off by the 49ers, who chose a safety in the first round for the second consecutive year, and while the Seahawks ended the day by trading their pick so the Vikings could choose quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, by then Seattle’s impact had already been felt.

The secondary is now a primary concern all across the NFL.