For Seattle Seahawks in NFL draft, unusual is usual
If the Seahawks weren't so successfully weird, you would overreact now. They took a backup running back, a possible third-stringer, in the second round of the NFL draft Friday.
Times staff columnist
RENTON — If the Seahawks weren't so successfully weird, you would overreact now. They took a backup running back, a possible third-stringer, in the second round of the NFL draft Friday. Next, they'll turn wine into water.
But wrong? Oh, let's not go that far.
In the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, the Seahawks have been right too many times to engage in premature disdain. Right now, they can take the teeth out of any second-guessing. It's almost boring to evaluate the Seahawks because you're required, if you're being truthful, to include such a disclaimer. Otherwise, you wind up being a revisionist fool.
For the third straight draft, the Seahawks' first selection left mouths agape and made reporters feverishly type a name into Internet search engines. In 2011, James Carpenter was the surprise first-round pick. In 2012, it was Bruce Irvin. This time, you had to wait until the No. 62 overall pick, the latest the Seahawks have ever made their first selection, to get your yearly shock.
His first name is pronounced Chris-TIN, if that makes you feel any better. He's a physical specimen and an athletic wonder. His combination of speed, strength and leaping ability is ridiculous. But he's also a player who suffered two major injuries at Texas A&M — a broken right leg and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee — and he had some issues as a senior with the coaching staff after the Aggies hired Kevin Sumlin to replace Mike Sherman.
Sumlin suspended Michael for a game last season and demoted him from his starting job. For all his talent, Michael was only third on the team in carries and yards. He didn't even play in the Cotton Bowl, his final collegiate game.
Still, as mostly a short-yardage back, he was productive enough to score 12 touchdowns in only 88 rushing attempts, an astonishing rate of one TD every 7.3 times he ran the football.
But then he went to the NFL combine, overslept and missed a few meetings with teams. (He has since explained that he was too ill to get out of bed.)
It's not the classic resume of a Seahawks' second-round pick, and Michael has plenty of attitude and maturity red flags. The Seahawks have done their own research and aren't concerned, however.
"I don't think any of that is an issue," said Matt Berry, the Seahawks' Southwest area scout. "I don't think we'd take him if it was."
Berry, who first saw Michael play as a college sophomore, sees a hungry player who still has room to grow into his immense talent.
"The traits — they jump off the tape," Berry said.
The Seahawks took Michael for that simple reason. He was the best player on their board. And even though we're scrutinizing them and considering whether they've plugged all holes in pursuit of a Super Bowl run, Schneider will never be a general manager who allows the outside noise to influence his desire to pick the best talent, even if a pick seems odd.
The Seahawks have an All-Pro running back, Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 1,590 yards and 5.0 yards per carry last season. A year ago, they took Robert Turbin in the fourth round, and he established himself as an intriguing backup with great potential. But they needed a third running back to replace Leon Washington, and furthermore, they know you can never have too many power running backs because that style is so taxing.
"We ran the ball more than anybody in the NFL last year," Carroll said. "We want this position loaded up."
For now, it's about depth. It's about Carroll craving a stable of running backs like he had at USC. In the future, however, it could be about replacing Lynch, who's still only 27, either for a game (he has a back problem that can flare up at any time) or for good (if he gets too expensive or goes into rapid decline).
Ultimately, though, Schneider is just pursuing talent. I asked him and Carroll about the conventional belief that teams should draft starters or players who make significant immediate contributions in the first three rounds. I asked them whether a pick such as Michael can be considered a success if he's a bit player for a few years.
Of course, they don't see it that way.
"You can't go through drafts passing on talents like Michael," Schneider said. "You start doing that, and you start making mistakes."
And in Carroll's competition-centric program, he'll figure out how to use talent, even if certain positions become loaded. So they'd rather collect as much skill as possible rather than become victims filling needs.
"That's good enough for us at this point," Carroll said.
Considering their success rate, that should be good enough for us all at this point.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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