RENTON, Wash. (AP) John Schneider is back in his comfort zone.
The Seattle Seahawks general manager will go into the NFL draft with a load of picks, 11 to be exact, more than any other team. And that number gives him the flexibility to move around and try to land the right players to keep Seattle as the class of the NFC.
All the Seahawks lack is a first-round pick, but the acquisition of perennial Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham more than makes up for that absence and Seattle being forced to wait until No. 63 before its first selection.
”You just start thinking of, `OK, what does your team look like? Where can you go?’ " Schneider said. ”It gives you a lot of flexibility to either move, stay where you are or move back. I meant move up because I think there is going to be some anxious people waiting until 63, you know, with names coming off.”
Now entering his sixth draft with the Seahawks, Schneider will be without a first-round pick for the third straight year. But he’ll enter with a bounty of selections after having only six when the 2014 draft began. Schneider was able to make enough deals last year to where the Seahawks ended up with nine picks.
This time, Seattle surrendered its first-round pick to New Orleans as part of the trade that brought Graham along with a fourth-round pick. Schneider said the way they evaluated the No. 31 pick, there would not be a player available with the same impact as Graham. That was also the case two years ago when Seattle was set to pick No. 25 and traded that selection to Minnesota as part of the deal to acquire Percy Harvin.
”It’s 80 to 90 percent of it. It’s enormous,” Schneider said. ”When you acquire a player of Jimmy’s caliber with the 31st pick, that makes it that much easier to sleep at night knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get a player like that.”
While there was plenty of attention placed on Seattle’s splashy acquisition of Graham, there are significant needs the Seahawks will try to address in the draft.
HOLD THE LINE: The offensive line leads Seattle’s list of needs. Gone is former All-Pro center Max Unger, packaged to New Orleans for Graham. Gone is left guard James Carpenter, a former first-round pick who signed with the Jets.
Having to part with Unger was a significant blow. He started only six games last season due to injuries, but Seattle was a significantly better offense when he was on the field. Of Russell Wilson’s 56 career starts – regular and postseason – Unger was at center in 43.
Offensive line depth will be addressed by Schneider.
”I think I’d be lying to you if I told you any different. But saying that, that doesn’t mean that we need to go hog wild doing something, either,” Schneider said. ”We are going to continue (to) address it as we go. It could be the draft. It could be a cap casualty in the summer. It could be someone who was just waived, it could be a trade yet. We’ll never stop evaluating every position.”
SECONDARY CONCERN: The defensive backfield will be another area for adding depth. The Seahawks signed cornerbacks Cary Williams and Will Blackmon as free agents, but lost Byron Maxwell to Philadelphia and Jeron Johnson to Washington. They’re also unsure when Jeremy Lane will return after suffering knee and arm injuries in the Super Bowl.
CATCHING ON: While the addition of Graham gives Seattle a dynamic pass catcher, wide receiver is another position where injuries have left depth concerns. Seattle is likely without Paul Richardson until midseason after tearing his ACL in the NFC divisional playoff game.
LATE GEM: Who will be the latest player uncovered by Schneider and his staff? Seattle’s become known for its finds in the later rounds, such as Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, J.R. Sweezy and K.J. Wright.
”We are always trying to evaluate how we are doing, and fix as much as we possibly can and add as much as we possibly can to this team, and do what is right by this organization,” Schneider said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL