It’s the one word to define the Seahawks’ draft — and, for that matter, the reason for any success they have had or are about to have.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have proven over three years that they march to the beat of their own drum, that very little they do adheres to conventional wisdom and that they are not afraid to take a few risks toward achieving their vision.
Their MO works because they have a plan based on versatility and flexibility.
Seattle’s draft this weekend illustrated it once again as they spent Friday and Saturday creating options from coaching and contract standpoints.
It says something about the state of the roster that — for the first time since Carroll and Schneider arrived in 2010 — they felt comfortable using one of their first two picks on a so-called luxury position.
They had filled needs early in their first three drafts. In 2010, they needed a left tackle and a safety and used their first two picks on Russell Okung and Earl Thomas. In 2011, they needed offensive line help and reached for right tackle James Carpenter in the first round and drafted guard John Moffitt with their next pick (in the third). In 2012, they needed a pass rusher and a linebacker, and they drafted Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner with their first two picks.
This year, they did not need a running back, but they did not think they should pass on first-round talent Chris Michael in the second round. (And yes, we’re going with the cool nickname over the lame female name his mom gave him.)
While he comes with past injury concerns (a broken leg in 2010 and torn ACL in 2011) and current maturity questions, the Hawks don’t need him to be a starter. For now, they want him to provide a speed element out of the backfield — and perhaps on punt returns. But he also offers depth in case Marshawn Lynch wears down again — and, down the line, in case the Hawks have to part with Lynch before his contract expires in 2015.
It’s roster flexibility.
The Hawks added more of it on the defensive line, at receiver and in the secondary.
They drafted two defensive tackles: Penn State’s Jordan Hill (third round) and Alabama’s Jesse Williams (fifth).
Williams was considered in some quarters to be a first-round talent — or at least a high second — but teams were scared off by a knee injury.
When he was still there near the top of the fifth round Saturday, the Seahawks traded up with Detroit — using the fifth- and sixth-rounders they had acquired from Baltimore in their second-round trade-down Friday.
“He was sitting alone on our board,” Schneider said. “Every year you have those guys that are supposed to go early and they fall for different reasons. Every team has to be comfortable where they take players at specific spots throughout the whole draft.”
Carroll said the Hawks are not concerned about his knee.
“We’re expecting him to be full speed and going,” the coach said. “He worked out at his workout at Alabama and he’s ready to go.”
If Williams is healthy, he will provide amazing value as a 320-pound run-stopping tackle. He also started 13 games at five-technique DE for Alabama in 2011.
Williams and Hill — a penetrating 3-technique — give the Hawks plenty of scheme flexibility along a D-line that also has added Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel to go with Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Clinton McDonald and last year’s draft picks, Greg Scruggs and Jaye Howard.
The Hawks have tons of scheme options now, especially as they plan to use Avril and Irvin at strong-side linebacker. With Bennett and McDaniel signed only for one year, Bryant in danger of underplaying his contract and Avril and Clemons signed through 2014, the additions give them some future roster flexibility as well.
Kansas State receiver Chris Harper (fourth round), LSU cornerback Tharold Simon (fifth), LSU running back Spencer Ware (sixth) and Harding linebacker Ty Powell (seventh) offer much of the same.
Harper will compete at split end, which will set the Hawks up to fill in behind Golden Tate if they are unable to re-sign him next year. Harper a stout receiver (230 pounds) who will benefit from working as the No. 5 guy behind Tate, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin. It’s quite possible that both Tate and Rice will be gone next year — and almost certain that one of them will be. Harper should offer necessary roster flexibility.
Simon joins a loaded secondary and will have to be at his best even to beat out young vets such as Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. But the 6-2, 202-pounder is the kind of physical press corner the Hawks like and, if his head is on straight, he could become an option when Brandon Browner is an unrestricted free agent in 2015.
Simon and Ware both come with some baggage from their days with the rogue LSU program. They were suspended along with teammate Tyrann M(arijuan)athieu for smoking pot. Simon also unfortunately was arrested on the first day of the draft, although that seemed like nothing more than two guys power-tripping, with the cop deciding to exercise the authority granted by his gun and badge.
Both Simon and Ware left after their junior seasons, so they obviously are still pretty immature. But the Seahawks obviously are comfortable that Simon and Ware will be put in line by the team’s veterans.
The Hawks are hoping to groom the tough-running, 228-pound Ware as a fullback, most likely with the hope of replacing Michael Robinson and his $2.5 million salary with a cheaper roster option next year.
The Hawks gambled on another character risk by taking tackle Michael Bowie, who got kicked off the Oklahoma State team just before last season began. He played his senior season at Northeastern Oklahoma State and had fallen from a potential mid-round option entering his senior year to the seventh round.
Okung helped recruit Bowie to OSU, which gave the Hawks “a certain comfort level with him,” Schneider said.
“He’s a guy who was picked where he was picked for a reason,” Schneider said. “He’s had a little bit of a background, and he needs to overcome those things. And if he overcomes them, he has a good chance to be an excellent pro.”
A third of the right tackles in the NFL were either not drafted or were picked in the seventh round, so it is quite possible — if not probable — that line guru Tom Cable will be able to turn Bowie into a viable starter.
Bowie was the last of three offensive linemen drafted in the seventh round. As Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com asked Carroll and Schneider, “Did Tom Cable lock you guys out of the war room in the seventh round?”
Ryan Seymour was an off-the-radar pick, but he played all over the line at Vanderbilt and the Hawks said they will let him focus on learning guard initially.
Just as in 2012, when they converted J.R. Sweezy from defensive line to guard, the Hawks are going to try the same thing with 6-3, 302-pound defensive tackle Jared Smith of New Hampshire. Cable worked him out last week and apparently thinks he can work the same magic on Smith that he did on Sweezy.
It is that kind of creativity and flexibility that has helped the Seahawks become such a strong team over the past three years. And it’s why they continue to do their own thing in the draft.