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Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Larry Stone: Seahawks GM John Schneider pulls out his old tricks of the trade on first day of NFL draft

Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Michael Conroy / AP)
Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Michael Conroy / AP)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

SEATTLE – John Schneider might be the most unmockable general manager in NFL history.

That’s a good thing, given the dual meanings of the word “mock.” Schneider doesn’t do goofy things like letting time expire before making a pick, as the Vikings did in the first round in 2003. He doesn’t send all his scouts home ahead of the draft because of trust issues, as Oakland’s new GM, Mike Mayock, and coach Jon Gruden reportedly did this year.

No, Schneider is a well-regarded, seasoned pro with some big scores on draft day. And he’s one who thrives on leaping outside the box, then ripping the box to tiny pieces and throwing it in the air like confetti.

Schneider’s idiosyncrasies make it virtually impossible to handicap Seattle’s draft beforehand, by virtue of an almost insatiable need to trade down, coupled with an equally strong propensity for disregarding the popular wisdom.

On Thursday, those aspects were once again in high-definition display. Schneider out-did himself with his pick-amassing wizardry, while still managing to nab a player to fill the Seahawks’ biggest need – edge rusher.

By the time the bling had settled in Nashville on Thursday, Seattle had swung two trades and added four more draft picks. From the paltry four selections with which they headed into this week – thoroughly unacceptable to Schneider and Pete Carroll — they wound up with nine.

One of those extra picks was acquired from the Chiefs in the Frank Clark trade on Tuesday. And that deal left Seattle with a gaping hole at defensive end, one that they attempted to fill on Thursday when they finally did hand a name to commissioner Roger Goodell – L.J. Collier from TCU.

The selection of a defensive lineman was not a surprise. However, the fact that few pundits had Collier linked to the Seahawks, and even fewer had him projected as a first-rounder, makes this a quintessential Schneider draft.

The Seahawks pride themselves in seeing what others don’t – and when looking at Collier, Carroll said he saw a lot of Michael Bennett.

“We think we have something special,” Carroll said. “I fell in love with the chip on his shoulder.”

Collier’s stock rose after the season ended, though he was somewhat overshadowed in a draft class of defensive linemen regarded as one of the best in memory. He shined at the Senior Bowl and was solid at the NFL combine, including a sub-5.0 40-yard dash.

In a conference call on Thursday, Collier exuded excitement at being selected by Seattle – a city he had never visited before the Seahawks brought him out a few weeks ago. The 6-foot-2, 283-pound Collier described himself as “a hard-nosed, physical guy…I’m not just a pass rusher, I’m an overall player. That’s what I bring to the game. I go 100 percent every time.”

He hails from Munday, Texas, a town of 1,527 in the last census, located about 2 1/2 hours northwest of Fort Worth. Collier’s graduating class had 25 seniors and is noted, he said, for some great burritos. He told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram earlier this week, “At 8 p.m., the streets are dead.”

“It’s a small football town,” he said. “Everyone loves football out there.”

Collier’s mother, Ruby, died of cancer after his freshman year. He thought of her on Thursday, he said, just as he thinks of her every day, and uses her memory as motivation. Collier didn’t become a starter until his senior year at TCU, when he posted six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.

“L.J. fits us,” Schneider said. “He’s a heavy-handed, tough, chip-on-his-shoulder guy. He lost his mother as a freshman in college. He didn’t play well in the last game she saw, and he always used that to his advantage.”

The beauty for the Seahawks is that they feel they have identified a guy who fits their mindset, their scheme, and their biggest need.

The bonus is that they still have eight more picks, twice as many as originally allotted. That includes one in the second, one in the third, four in the fourth and two in the fifth – with the potential for more wheeling and dealing always present.

“Exciting night,” Schneider said when he and Carroll met with the media. “There was a lot going on there, one of the craziest first rounds we’ve seen. There was a lot of stuff shaking there.”

Schneider and the Seahawks love to shake, rattle and deal.

“We’re back in the game,” Carroll said.

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