Seattle's 2012 draft class paying off on the field
Everyone knows about Seattle stealing quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round of last April's draft and perhaps finding the franchise quarterback so many NFL teams seek.
Getting less attention are the other rookies the Seahawks drafted in April who are making a significant impact in their first NFL seasons.
From defensive end Bruce Irvin to linebacker Bobby Wagner to running back Robert Turbin to a pair of seventh-round picks who made the 53-man roster, the Seahawks can look on the 2012 draft with pride for some of the gems they uncovered. Seven of the 10 players the Seahawks selected have become major contributors.
''I think coach (Pete) Carroll and the GM John Schneider did a tremendous job of getting guys who love to play the game and who will do everything they can to play at their best level,'' Wilson said. ''Coach Carroll talks about competing at the highest level and our rookie class here for the Seahawks, we're doing our best job to try and be great every Sunday and to work at it and learn and just understand how we can improve.''
The philosophy of relying on younger players is something Carroll embraced when he returned to the NFL after seeing the success of playing freshmen during his time at USC. So when the Seahawks drafted Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the first round of the 2010 draft, the pair was instantly thrown into the starting lineup.
In that same draft, Seattle got current starters wide receiver Golden Tate in the second round and safety Kam Chancellor in the fifth round, and No. 2 tight end Anthony McCoy in the sixth round. The next season, Seattle drafted current starters K.J. Wright (fourth round) and Richard Sherman (fifth round).
While that first draft created a foundation and 2011 unearthed a pair of defensive gems, the 2012 draft is the one that's appeared to have the most immediate impact.
The most notable has been giving the Seahawks a key player in Wilson, the starting quarterback coming out of training camp. He's on pace to challenge the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes and is the first rookie quarterback since 1970 to win his first six home games.
At the same time that Wilson was named the starter, the Seahawks also decided Wagner would be capable of taking over as the organizer of the defense at middle linebacker. Wagner currently ranks third among all NFL rookies with 109 tackles.
Irvin, the Seahawks' first-round pick, currently leads all NFL rookies with eight sacks, and Turbin is coming off the first 100-yard rushing game of his career and looks like a suitable backup to spell Marshawn Lynch at running back without the Seahawks losing their punishing style of running.
Carroll said he noticed near midseason that Wagner and Irvin both went through the typical rookie swoon of getting used to playing so many games. That wasn't the case with Wilson.
''With those other kids there was a time about eight, nine games in, they had already played 12 to 13 games, and it was hard on those guys,'' Carroll said. ''Russell did not fall into that category; he just continued to progress the whole time. Why he has is because of the way he's prepared himself. He's just worked so hard and he will not back off. He continues to push, but not only does he continue to push and try hard, he's getting better.''
While those first four picks Seattle took in April have proved worthy of their selections, contributions have also come from players taken deeper in the draft. Sixth-round pick Jeremy Lane has been a standout on special teams and saw his first action on defense last week at cornerback. He could see even more playing time this week with starting cornerback Walter Thurmond nursing a hamstring injury.
And in the seventh-round, Seattle nabbed defensive tackle Greg Scruggs and guard J.R. Sweezy, a converted defensive lineman. Sweezy started the season opener against Arizona at guard and Scruggs has become a major part of Seattle's defensive line rotation.
Wilson said it was made apparent during the first rookie minicamp in May that this group would get an opportunity to have an influence on how good the Seahawks were this season.
''We said we wanted to be the best draft class,'' Wagner said. ''We just have to go out there and prove it.''
Notes: Seattle WR Sidney Rice (foot) did not participate in practice for the second straight day but was no longer wearing a protective walking boot on Thursday. ... Thurmond (hamstring) did not practice and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said Lane and Byron Maxwell were being worked in Thurmond's place.
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