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We're used to it: Seahawks do their own thing in NFL draft

Justin Britt of Missouri celebrates after beating Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 3
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL is considering expanding the draft to four days. There is no truth to the rumor (created just now) that the fourth day will be for the Seahawks to conduct their draft. You know, doing what they do now: picking guys no one else wanted on the first three days.

Once the Seahawks finally started picking players in this NFL draft, everyone knew they would do their own typically unexpected thing. They didn't disappoint.

The Hawks actually started out with the expected move and smartly traded down Thursday and Friday -- and they still got the guy they would have taken 32nd overall: speedy Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson.

They ended up moving down three times in three days, bumping their pick count from six to nine, and filled draft needs with two receivers, a right tackle, a LEO and a linebacker while adding developmental players at defensive line, guard and defensive back. Oh, and we can't forget the 5-foot-8 (and a half -- "don't forget the half") fullback with the surname Small who weighs 250.

It was a typical Seattle draft, with general manager John Schneider and his staff once again making plenty of people scratch their heads with some of the picks as they chose players rated lower by outside analysts but who they obviously felt bring unique skills tailored for their team.

By now, everyone knows (or should know) that Schneider & Co. grade for their team specifically, not on the macro scale that media analysts -- or even other teams -- use. The Hawks grade players based on their unique abilities and their fit with the Seahawks' roster.

So, while Richardson might have been a late second-rounder or even a third-rounder according to media analysis, the Hawks rated him higher because they envisioned how they would use his skills (in this case, his blazing speed and big-play ability).

While Missouri right tackle Justin Britt might have been viewed as a mid-round lineman, the Hawks had him as one of their top two blockers in the second round. Even Britt did not know where he might go, saying he had heard projections putting him anywhere from the second round to undrafted. But line coach Tom Cable loved everything about him: his 45-0 record as a wrestler in high school, his "ornery, mean" playing disposition, his experience facing great defensive players in the SEC and the fact that he is married and has a child.

The Hawks made other moves that had many asking: Why him?

Fourth-round LEO Cassius Marsh of UCLA was rated by analysts as a sixth- or seventh-round option, and fifth-round defensive tackle Jimmy Staten of Middle Tennessee State was basically rated as one of those Day 4 picks mentioned above.

The Seahawks have a plan for Marsh, who will basically shadow Michael Bennett as the D-line's Mr. Versatile Jr.

Coach Pete Carroll said the Hawks needed a big defender like Staten (6-4, 304), although they weren’t sure they wanted Staten in the fifth round.

"We took a look and had to talk through a number of different angles to come to the agreement that this was the right guy at the right time," he said. "John again sensed how much time we would have to get him, and it fit just right.

"John’s sense for what’s going to happen in these drafts allows us to really kind of pinpoint guys that could help us, and we’re able to target really well," Carroll added. "We’re just thrilled at the way the guys came to us."

Some would argue the Seahawks came to the players, picking many of them higher than they needed to. That criticism of the Seahawks is nothing new (we've ripped them several times for perceived reaches). But the fact is: It is such a subjective process and it's hard to know whether a certain player might be picked if you trade down or wait until later.

It's easy for observers to look at media scouting lists and scoff when the Seahawks go against the grain (as they so often do). It's easy to join the chorus and roll our eyes at some of their choices. But we often don't know yet how those players fit into the team's plans, and we don’t know which other teams might have been eyeing those players in that area of the draft.

Cable mentioned in passing that he heard another team was ready to draft Britt in the third round. Schneider said the Hawks thought they had lost their chance to draft Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood when they traded down in the fourth round. They still ended up getting him.

This kind of stuff happens all of the time. In 2012, the Hawks drafted Bruce Irvin at No. 15 overall -- much earlier than the outside consensus, which had him ranked in the second round. Schneider later said he was concerned the New York Jets would take Irvin at No. 16. And, after Seattle picked him, the Jets reportedly called to say they had indeed wanted Irvin.

In the second round of that draft, Schneider wanted to take Russell Wilson. But Carroll and others convinced him to wait until the third round.

"John wanted to go in the second round with it," Carroll told fans last May. "He was willing to do it and take him right there. ... We had a plan to wait until the third round. But as the first round came and then the second, John was starting to get antsy because he just didn't want to miss (drafting Wilson)."

If the Hawks had not taken Wilson in the third round, at No. 75 overall, a handful of other teams apparently were waiting to.

“Two guys I respect called me right after the Wilson pick to cuss me out,” Schneider told Sirius XM NFL Radio afterward.

The draft is such a cloak-and-dagger, unpredictable affair that it is impossible to know what every team will do or where every team has every player ranked. The Hawks obviously are one of the least predictable in that regard. Sometimes their rankings match those of other teams and media analysts; many times they don't.

There are two ways to analyze the draft: (1) Did a team get proper value based on consensus rankings and (2) did the team get proper players for its systems? The Seahawks don't care about the former, except as it relates to their ability to accomplish the latter.

We can all criticize the Hawks for not getting appropriate value for their selections and thus missing out on better picks or players, but -- outside of a few moves down here and there to add picks -- they do not focus on that part of the draft. Their intent is to find players who fit their team and then let their coaches develop them. They don't care that some of them might still be there if there were a Day 4.

We can argue value all day, but it's pretty hard to criticize their track record so far. And few people flinch anymore when the Hawks do something unexpected -- because we expect it.