By Danny O’Neil
Forecasting the Seahawks’ first pick in this week’s draft isn’t just difficult, it’s foolish.
That’s what the past three years have shown us as the only time Seattle failed to place the league’s most surprising first-round pick was the one year the Seahawks didn’t have one.
In 2011, Seattle’s selection of offensive lineman James Carpenter raised the eyebrows of everyone, including his college coach, Alabama’s Nick Saban. In 2012, the Seahawks chose Bruce Irvin to begin a draft that many considered to be one of the worst in the league and came to be seen as perhaps the best.
Last season, the Seahawks traded their first-round pick away as part of the package to acquire Percy Harvin, and then did their best to keep their run of surprises going with the second-round choice of running back Christine Michael, who pretty much red-shirted his rookie season behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin.
So instead of trying to pick the player the Seahawks will select with their first pick, let’s instead try to project the type of player they will pick first by showing the guidelines Seattle frequently follows:
1. Don’t believe the hype
Seattle doesn’t look to draft players coming off their best collegiate season. In fact, it seems the Seahawks tend to find value in players coming off their worst years in college. It was true back in 2010 – the first draft under general manager John Schneider – when the Seahawks chose cornerback Walter Thurmond when he was coming off a serious knee injury.
It has only become more pronounced. The selection of Irvin came after a senior season at West Virginia when a defensive shift cut into both his pass-rushing chances and his playing time. Seattle’s draft class a year ago was even more emblematic of this trend as Michael’s senior season at Texas A&M was his least productive in college while tight end Luke Willson caught just nine passes his senior year while being slowed by injuries.
So don’t go crossing tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins off as a Seahawks candidate because his final season at Washington was less than stellar. The question with that player is more how he fits into the future of a team who already has a promising receiving specialist at tight end in Willson.
2. Perfect citizenship not required
Cornerback Tharold Simon was arrested two days before Seattle drafted him in the fifth round last year. In 2012, Irvin was arrested a month before he was chosen. In 2010, tight end Anthony McCoy tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine.
Here’s something else those three players have in common: No personal-conduct discipline since joining the NFL, though Irvin was suspended four games last year when he tested positive for a substance banned under the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Just like a sub-par college season can damage a player’s draft stock, so can an arrest or criminal allegation. The Seahawks have shown a willingness to look at that more as a youthful indiscretion than a deal-breaker, and they aren’t afraid to draft a player other teams may shy away from.
3. Size doesn’t matter, at least not with schools
The Seahawks drafted exactly one player from a non-BCS school during Tim Ruskell’s term as president from 2005 to 2009. The Seahawks have drafted seven players from non-BCS schools in the past two drafts alone.
None of that necessarily tells you who the Seahawks will draft, but it helps tell you the kind of player. On Wednesday, we’ll handicap the positions to tell you the direction the Seahawks are most likely to go.