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O’Neil: Seahawks’ 1st round actions tell us what they think of this draft class

Seahawks GM John Schneider made two trades and one pick during the draft's first round. (AP)

So let me get this straight: The Seahawks traded back from their original draft spot in the first round, adding more picks in the latter half of the draft, and then not only picked some guy no one had mentioned in the build-up to the draft, but chose him one round earlier than pretty much everyone projected him to be chosen?

Yeah. That sounds like something John Schneider would definitely do.

Seahawks add much-needed power, versatility in first-round DE L.J. Collier

But we’re past the point of thinking the Seahawks made a mistake in choosing defensive end L.J. Collier with the 29th pick of the first round, aren’t we?

I mean, I’m not going to stand up and tell you that this Collier guy is going to be a Pro Bowler or that Seattle’s scouting department is beyond reproach. They’ve made their share of misses.

But I’m also not going to insinuate that Seattle may not know what it’s doing because it picked a guy earlier than most draft analysts thought he’d be chosen. I’ve covered this team long enough to know that the initial reaction to Seattle’s picks bears very little correlation to how those players actually wind up performing. Not only that, but I believe that Seattle’s secrecy has more than a little to do with why the Seahawks typically choose players no one is talking about.

I’m going to let you in on one of the dirty little secrets of the NFL’s draft-industrial complex. A great deal of the evaluations that you hear on television or read on the internet are based not just on what an analyst sees in a specific player, but what he hears about that player. Specifically, what he hears from the scouts who gather information on those players for a specific NFL team and the executives who will decide which ones to choose.

No team is dumb enough to spell out its plans. Well, no team is dumb enough to spell out its plans since back when Al Davis was using sprint times as bible of player evaluation. But there are plenty of teams whose personnel will mention so-and-so’s name among the guys they see as a first-round talent. The reason for those loose lips is two fold:

1) People often love to talk about how much they know, especially behind the cloak of anonymity, and that little bit of human nature is the gift that keeps on giving to any journalist still typing for a living;

2) Mentioning so-and-so is a first-round talent creates the distinct possibility that a specific draft analyst projects so-and-so as a first-round pick and thereby prevents that specific draft analyst from deeming so-and-so to be a “reach” when the team picks him.

You laugh, but it’s true, and if you doubt that, please explain to me what other benefit any scout or executive would ever derive from sharing thoughts on a prospect with someone who is going to publicize those thoughts. I haven’t just seen it happen, I’ve participated in the whole process, and I can remember boasting that – right or wrong – the Seahawks certainly didn’t reach to pick Lawrence Jackson of USC in the first round. They got the guy they wanted, which made for a glowing write-up of the pick. Unfortunately, Jackson never looked as good on the field as he did in my stories after the choice.

So instead of evaluating the merits of Seattle’s selection of Collier, I thought we’d all be better served by looking at what the first day of the draft told us about how the Seahawks saw this class. So here’s three things we learned:

1. John Schneider did not exaggerate the amount of high-end D-line talent.

Seattle’s general manager told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk that this was the deepest draft in terms of defensive line talent that he had seen in 27 years working in the NFL. Well, 13 defensive linemen were chosen in the first round on Thursday. Compare that to the five defensive linemen chosen in the first round last year, and seven the year before that. There haven’t been 10 defensive linemen chosen in the first round of any draft since 2011.

2. The Seahawks were batting too low in the order to snag one of the truly top-shelf D-lineman at No. 21.

There are two terms you need to know from the Seahawks’ draft room: upsets and body blows. Upsets occur when a surprise pick is made, a team either passing on someone the Seahawks expected it to pick or the team picks a player the Seahawks didn’t think would go that early. Upsets are important because it creates a trickle-down effect. Someone the Seahawks anticipated coming off the board is still on it. A body blow is a shot to the gut, and a player the Seahawks were hoping – maybe even praying – would work his way to them was chosen by another team. There weren’t many upsets among the first 17 or so picks but there were too many body blows, and any player the Seahawks were hoping to snag at No. 21 was long gone.

“We were waiting for offensive linemen to start going,” Schneider said when he and Carroll met with the media after Round 1, “and they never went.”

There wasn’t a single offensive lineman chosen among the first 10 picks. By the time Seattle was on the clock at 21, 10 different defensive linemen had been drafted compared to only two offensive linemen.

3. No, trading back didn’t burn the Seahawks.

If there’s one thing you take away from this column, other than the fact that I once praised the Seahawks for drafting Lawrence Jackson, let it be this: If you hear someone say the Seahawks missed out on a player they wanted by trading back, I want you to calmly – but firmly – inform them that only two defensive linemen were drafted between the 21st pick, which Seattle traded to Green Bay, and the 29th pick, which the Seahawks acquired from Kansas City and used to select Collier. When the Seahawks traded back, they were not gambling that one of those two players would still be there when they picked again. They traded back because none of the players they would have chosen at No. 21 were still on the board.

So instead, they moved back, adding two fourth-round picks. Then they picked a guy no one expected. Then, they traded back to add another two picks.

In other words: typical Seahawks.

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