For Seahawks, draftees with red flags are worth the risk
Several of the players Seattle selected in last week's draft have somewhat checkered pasts, but GM John Schneider said "you have to be willing to accept those risks."
Seattle Times staff reporter
John Schneider and Pete Carroll are like a pair of good gamblers. Calculated. Strategic. Quick to walk away from mistakes (see: Kris Durham, LenDale White).
And, equally important, they're risk-takers.
Schneider and Carroll proved that again in two fashions during the NFL draft. First, they drafted a handful of players with checkered backgrounds — injury problems, criminal histories or attitude issues. Second, they drafted a few players who weren't exceptionally productive in their final college season.
There is always risk in the draft. As Ed Dodds, the Seahawks' south-central area scout, said, "You can beat up every guy. We could shoot holes in all of them."
But the Seahawks have used those imperfections and past problems to find value.
The risk: Old concerns pop up and derail a player's career. The potential reward: A guy who would have been drafted earlier without the red flags turns into a draft-day steal.
"At a certain level, you have to be willing to accept those risks," Schneider said. "We don't graft guys unless we feel like we've laid it on the line with them."
Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams was once projected as a first-round pick, but questions about past knee problems and his durability caused him to fall to Seattle in the fifth round. Texas A&M running back Christine Michael has the physical makeup of a first-round pick, but questions about his maturity dropped him to the Seahawks deep in the second round.
Most notably, there's the story of LSU cornerback Tharold Simon, the Seahawks' fifth-round pick whom analysts agreed was a good value. Simon was arrested Thursday and charged with public intimidation, resisting arrest and unnecessary noise in his hometown of Eunice, La., just a day before the town was set to host "Tharold Simon Day."
"The whole thing, it's my fault," Simon said Saturday.
He then gave a lengthy, detailed explanation of what happened that night in front of his grandmother's house. Reports said that Simon told a police officer, "I own Eunice" and "I'm going to buy these projects and you are going to be mine" after the officer asked him to move his parked car. The report also stated that Simon drove the car aggressively and turned his music up loudly.
Simon disagrees with the police report and said there were "30 witnesses out there that know I didn't do nothing wrong or say nothing wrong." He also said he was "embarrassed" by what happened.
"We'll just wait to see what shakes out," Dodds said, "but we were comfortable with what me and him talked about, and I talked to other people down there. I don't see it as an issue."
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock told the Philadelphia Daily News before the draft that Michael, Seattle's second-round pick, was "as gifted as any tailback in his class." But Michael also carries a reputation as an immature player with attitude problems. He even admitted at the NFL combine he was "an immature player on the field" his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Michael was suspended one game last year for violating team rules and dropped to third on the depth chart after butting heads with first-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin — he had more than 10 carries just four times in 2012. Michael didn't play in the team's Cotton Bowl win against Oklahoma, something he wasn't expecting.
Michael also had seasons cut short in college because of a broken leg and a torn ACL.
In the seventh round, the Seahawks drafted offensive tackle Michael Bowie, who was dismissed from Oklahoma State for violating team rules, and LSU running back Spencer Ware, who was suspended along with Simon for testing positive for synthetic marijuana two years ago.
"Quite honestly, if you went through every prospect in this draft, and there's a lot of guys, everybody has their issues," Schneider said.
Remember, Seahawks tight end Anthony McCoy also failed a drug test before the draft, and Bruce Irvin, J.R. Sweezy and Greg Scruggs were all arrested before their drafts. Schneider and his staff trust their homework and their scouts when deciding which players are worth rolling the dice on.
The same is true for evaluating players who didn't have impressive statistical years.
Rice tight end Luke Willson caught only nine passes for 126 yards last year, but the Seahawks took him in the fifth round. Michael rushed for a career-low 417 yards, third at A&M last year. Ware, too, had a down season and rushed for 367 yards.
Those numbers are slightly alarming, but Schneider and his scouts don't evaluate based on one year. Michael, for instance, rushed for 899 yards in only nine games as a junior. Willson led Rice in receiving earlier in his career, and Ware rushed for 707 yards while splitting carries the year before.
All risks, of course, but all ones the Seahawks see as calculated and researched.
"Our guys do a great job of scouting all the way through," Schneider said. "As (New York Jets general manager) John Idzik would say, 'It's a full movie. You have to watch the whole movie, not just the fourth quarter of it.' "
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org