April 28, 2013 in Sports

Seahawks relish calculated risks in draft

Jayson Jenks Seattle Times
 
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RENTON, Wash. – John Schneider and Pete Carroll are like a pair of good gamblers.

Calculated. Strategic. Quick to walk away from mistakes (see: Kris Durham, LenDale White).

And, equally important, they’re risk-takers.

Schneider and Carroll proved that again in two fashions during the NFL draft. First, they drafted a handful of players with checkered backgrounds – injury problems, criminal histories or attitude issues.

Second, they drafted a few players who weren’t exceptionally productive in their final collegiate season.

There is always risk in the draft. As Ed Dodds, the Seahawks’ south central area scout, said, “You can beat up every guy. We could shoot holes in all of them.” But the Seahawks have used those imperfections and past problems to find value.

The risk: Old concerns pop up and derail a player’s career.

The upshot: A guy who would have been drafted earlier without the red flags turns into a draft-day steal.

“At a certain level, you have to be willing to accept those risks,” Schneider said. “We don’t draft guys unless we feel like we’ve laid it on the line with them.”

Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams was once projected as a possible first-round pick, but questions about past knee problems and his durability caused him to fall to Seattle in the fifth round. Texas A&M running back Christine Michael has the physical makeup of a first-round pick, but off-the-field questions dropped him to the Seahawks deep in the second round.

Most notably, there’s the story of LSU cornerback Tharold Simon, the Seahawks’ fifth-round pick who analysts agreed was good value. Simon was arrested Thursday and charged with public intimidation, resisting arrest and unnecessary noise in his hometown of Eunice, La., just a day before the town was set to host “Tharold Simon Day.”

“The whole thing, it’s my fault,” Simon said.

He then went into a lengthy, detailed explanation of what happened that night in front of his grandmother’s house. Reports said that Simon told a police officer “I own Eunice” and “I’m going to buy these projects and you are going to be mine” after the officer asked him to move his parked car.

Simon disagrees with the police report and said there were “30 witnesses out there that know I didn’t do nothing wrong or say nothing wrong.”

“We’ll just wait to see what shakes out,” Dodds said, “but we were comfortable with what me and him talked about, and I talked to other people down there. I don’t see it as an issue.”

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock told the Philadelphia Daily News before the draft that Michael was “as gifted as any tailback in his class.” But Michael also carries a reputation as an immature player with attitude problems.

In the seventh round, the Seahawks drafted offensive tackle Michael Bowie, who was dismissed from Oklahoma State for violating team rules, and LSU running back Spencer Ware, who was suspended along with Simon for testing positive for marijuana two years ago.

“Quite honestly, if you went through every prospect in this draft,” Schneider said, “and there’s a lot of guys, everybody has their issues.”

Schneider and his staff trust their homework and their scouts when deciding which red-flag players are worth rolling the dice on. The same is true for evaluating players who didn’t have impressive statistical years. Michael rushed for a career-low 417 yards, third at A&M last year. Ware, too, had a down season and rushed for 367 yards.

Those numbers are slightly alarming, but Schneider and his scouts don’t evaluate based on one year. Michael, for instance, rushed for 899 yards despite playing only nine games as a junior. Ware rushed for 707 yards while splitting carries the year before.

All risks, of course, but all ones the Seahawks see as calculated and researched.

“As (New York Jets general manager) John Idzik would say,” Schneider said, “‘It’s a full movie. You have to watch the whole movie, not just the fourth quarter of it.’”

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