By Danny O’Neil
RENTON – The Seahawks began the final day of their draft by choosing a receiver who began his college career at quarterback, a defensive tackle from Australia with an acronym tattooed on his face and a backup tight end from Rice University who happens to be Canadian.
Oh, almost forgot. There was also cornerback who was arrested Thursday night.
In other words, just another day at the draft for the Seattle Seahawks. Business as usual as they assembled a collection of 11 choices that would be easy to criticize if the team didn’t have such an impressive legacy of successful picks.
Take Luke Willson, the tight end from Rice whose last name only appears to be misspelled. He caught only nine passes as a senior, but it’s tough to cast too many aspersions after Seattle chose him in the fifth round on Saturday when you consider that’s the same round where the Seahawks picked Richard Sherman in 2011 and Kam Chancellor the year before that.
It wouldn’t be tough to turn the selection of LSU cornerback Tharold Simon into a punchline, either. He was arrested Thursday in his hometown after a confrontation with a police officer that began over where Simon parked his car outside his grandmother’s house.
But Seattle has looked past legal scrapes before and landed players whose citizenship has been impeccable, more impressive in some cases, than their performance. Bruce Irvin — last year’s first-round pick — had been arrested the month before the draft. Seventh-round picks Greg Scruggs and J.R. Sweezy were both arrested during their college careers, too. None have been a problem.
“At a certain level, you have to be willing to accept those risks,” general manager John Schneider said. “We don’t draft guys unless we feel we’ve kind of laid it on the line with them, you know what I mean?”
So while Seattle concluded its third day with some selections that were anything but orthodox, the Seahawks’ recent draft history points to the danger in rushing to judgment because the Seahawks have been able to unearth some gems.
Seattle used a fourth-round pick on Chris Harper, a 6-foot-1 wide receiver from Kansas State who originally went to Oregon to play quarterback and wound up a receiver so skilled he stood out even in a run-first offense.
That selection was followed in the fifth round by Jesse Williams, a defensive tackle from Alabama who has a worrisome knee and an aggressive idea of facial ornamentation. He’s got a few tattoos above the neck, including the phrase “YOLO” near his sideburn: You Only Live Once.
It’s the kind of pick you’ve come to expect from the Seahawks under Schneider, which is to say it was totally unexpected. And when Seattle chose another running back in the sixth round, selecting Spencer Ware from LSU to follow up Friday’s choice of Christine Michael of Texas A&M, the only thing to interrupt the wringing of hands over Seattle’s selections was the possibility he might be a fullback and the reality that Seattle’s front office has shown a distinct propensity for knowing what they’re doing.
Some teams spent Day 3 looking for special-teams contributors. Others searched for depth. Seattle turned over every rock in an attempt to find another star, willing to overlook a few rough edges to find someone capable of making an impact. It’s worked before, whether it was choosing Sherman in the fifth round in 2011 after playing just two seasons at cornerback or picking a defensive lineman like Sweezy in the seventh round last year and switching him from defensive line to offensive guard.
So when Seattle picked Jared Smith out of New Hampshire in the seventh round with the intention of moving him from defensive tackle to offensive line, it was met with a shrug instead of skepticism. Figures that would be something Seattle would try.
There are no perfect prospects in the later rounds of the draft. The cupboard has been picked over, and everyone has a wart or two that’s caused them to fall this far. Maybe it’s a team that didn’t cater to their talents, perhaps an injury or maybe some personal baggage.
So when the Seahawks followed that up by picking Michael Bowie, an offensive tackle dismissed from Oklahoma State before last season began, you figured they must have seen something in the 6-foot-4, 332-pound mountain of a man.
“Just a big, athletic, great feet, long arms guy,” Schneider said. “He was picked where he was picked for a reason. He’s had a little bit of a background, and he needs to overcome those things. If he does, he has a good chance to be a good pro.”
Taking a chance isn’t the right way to phrase Seattle’s approach so much as giving an opportunity. And Seattle is willing to look past a few rough edges to find someone capable of stepping into a starring role.