By Danny O’Neil
RENTON – One pick addressed a need, the other reflected a luxury.
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill of Penn State was a player the Seahawks had to have when they chose him in the third round. Running back Christine Michael of Texas A&M, on the other hand, was a player Seattle simply couldn’t bring itself to pass up in the second.
In that way, Seattle’s two picks on Friday representing the two competing agendas for an NFL front office, which is constantly trying to balance addressing specific shortcomings on the roster with bringing in the most talented players available.
It can be as simple as the difference between a need and a desire.
Hill was a need, a defensive tackle who’s quick off the ball and capable of penetrating the pocket and will deepen the rotation at a position that is notably thin. Michael was a product of Seattle’s desire to put the most talented player in the pipeline even if the position he plays already manned by Marshawn Lynch, who only had the third-most prolific single-season rushing total in franchise history last year.
But this wasn’t about Lynch, who gained 1,590 yards in 2012 and turned 27 earlier this month. It isn’t about Robert Turbin, the team’s fourth-round pick last year. This is about keeping the pump primed in Seattle and filling a hole opened up when Leon Washington was released in March.
“You can’t go through drafts passing on talents like Michael,” said John Schneider, Seattle’s general manager. “When you start doing that – in my opinion – is when you start making a lot of mistakes. While it may not look like a glaring need or anything, we run the ball so much and we did have a hole with Leon.”
The Seahawks think third-round pick Jordan Hill can play either defensive tackle spot, a position they considered one of their top needs. (AP)
The fact that Michael won’t be expected to start is not a criticism of Seattle nearly so much as it’s a compliment. This roster has been rebuilt to the point that draft picks can’t be projected up the depth chart like they once were.
Left tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas were starters the moment they were drafted in 2010. So were offensive linemen James Carpenter and John Moffitt a year later. Even last year, second-round pick Bobby Wagner and third-round pick Russell Wilson won starting jobs in training camp.
Seattle isn’t closing the door on those possibilities, but the path to playing time is certainly tougher.
“We like the players we have,” coach Pete Carroll said, “and we think the guys that we have in place and the depth charts are situated well and they’re just reaching into the prime of their play time. So really, I look at it as hoping that we can add that competitive nature to the position and then that will bring out the best in everybody that is there.”
That doesn’t mean every position is set. The Seahawks could use more depth at linebacker, and defensive tackle was a concern after the team opted not to re-sign defensive tackle in Alan Branch.
That’s what made the selection of Hill so important. Not to say that he’ll replace Branch. He won’t. They are different builds, and different players, but Hill filled a need to deepen the rotation on the defensive line.
“We felt like there was a ledge here now with Jordan,” Schneider said. “We couldn’t pass on Christine because of where he was on our board and how highly we regarded him, but this was like the next tier of defensive tackle. There was a fairly big drop off (after Hill).”
And so Seattle picked him in the third round, finishing a day in which Seattle balanced need versus desire by picking one player to address a position that had everyone concerned and another at a position that not many fans considered a possibility.