Seahawks select a divergent pair in second day of draft
Bobby Wagner to step in right away at LB while Russell Wilson will wait at quarterback
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson had so many options he had his choice of professional sports.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner had so few choices coming out of high school he went to the only school that recruited him, Utah State.
Wilson was a Colorado Rockies baseball prospect just a year ago while Wagner has spent four years as a college starter, playing all three linebacker positions and building himself into the highest draft choice from his school in 30 years.
They might not share a story — or even a position — but they now share a team. Both were chosen by the Seattle Seahawks in Friday's portion of the annual NFL draft. The Seahawks were selecting Wilson as a quarterback for the future and Wagner as a linebacker for the present.
"Couldn't be more ecstatic," Seattle general manager John Schneider said. "It worked great for us."
Just not necessarily how everyone expected.
No one knew whether Seattle would select a quarterback after signing Matt Flynn this offseason and announcing he would compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. Wilson is the first quarterback drafted by Seattle since Pete Carroll became coach, and he's a strong-armed, albeit shorter, quarterback who led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl last season after deciding to make football his future following two seasons in the Rockies organization.
"He's phenomenal," Schneider said of Wilson. "We're really, really excited to get Russell in our program."
On the other side of the ball, everyone knew Seattle had a need at middle linebacker after letting David Hawthorne leave in free agency. However, not many had Wagner pegged as Seattle's target.
He didn't start playing football until his junior year in high school, and said Utah State was the only school that recruited him. He was invited to the scouting combine, but could not attend after contracting pneumonia. He wretched so violently that week that he burst blood vessels in his eyes.
At his pro day, though, he flashed elite athleticism with an 11-foot broad jump and a 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds.
"We had focused on that linebacker group and the speed at that position," Schneider said. "So adding Bobby was a great deal for us."
Wagner had 147 tackles as a senior, and he will begin working at middle linebacker, getting up to speed. The selection of Wagner means K.J. Wright likely stays at strongside linebacker.
Wilson's immediate role is not quite so straight forward. Seattle signed a quarterback, after all, adding Flynn to compete with Jackson. Then there's Josh Portis, who looked very promising as an undrafted rookie last year. Does something have to give in that group?
"We'll figure that out in time," Carroll said. "We want to have great competition."
For now, Seattle came away with the second day of the draft with a quarterback it could groom and a linebacker ready to play right away, not to mention seven more selections over the final four rounds of the draft, which concludes Saturday.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @dannyoneil.