Aside from brief footage showed on NFL Network or ESPN, only a select few know what happens behind the closed doors of an NFL war room on draft weekend. Even the coaches themselves aren't always in the draft room and spend time away in their office during the event.
Luckily for Seahawks fans, only a few weeks after the team added a new nine-player class headlined by Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross, team reporter John Boyle was given the green light to pull back the curtain and provide an excellent behind-the-scenes look at what went down in the team's draft room in the first three rounds.
Coupling Boyle's observations and reporting of the festivities with prior insight provided by sources to All Seahawks, here are five final takeaways from draft weekend:
Seattle preferred Charles Cross over Evan Neal in tackle pecking order.
Heading into draft week, sources indicated to All Seahawks that Cross would be high on Seattle's wish list at pick No. 9 and as confirmed by Boyle, Schneider had discussions with the New York Giants about jumping up two spots to ensure the team landed either him or North Carolina State tackle Ikem Ekwonu. Those discussions broke down after the Giants selected Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux fifth overall and the Panthers selected Ekwonu sixth overall, however.
This left Schneider sweating it out over the next two picks, as he feared another team would leapfrog the Seahawks by making a trade with the Giants or Falcons for the No. 7 or No. 8 overall selection. Fortunately, that didn't happen, as New York picked Alabama tackle Evan Neal - who Seattle had ranked lower than Cross on its big board - and Atlanta selected USC receiver Drake London, ensuring Seattle would check off a major need by landing its desired left tackle to replace Duane Brown. While calls were fielded briefly for pick No. 9, Schneider didn't budge and snagged a "pillar" for the offensive line in Cross.
John Schneider had eyes on trading back into the first, but nothing materialized.
While the Seahawks weren't slated to pick a second time on the opening night of the draft, "upsets" started happening with other teams reaching for players who the organization didn't have rated highly on their big board. Per Boyle, Schneider and Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht recently discussed a trade for pick No. 27, but after Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith went to the Cowboys at No. 24 overall, the two teams broke off conversations. It remains unknown if Smith was on their big board, but given their later selection of Abraham Lucas, it can't be ruled out.
Shortly after, Schneider touched base with Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst about the No. 28 overall pick and a tentative deal was hashed out, but with several picks remaining until the Packers were on the clock, they weren't ready to pull the trigger yet. While those discussions took place, the Ravens nabbed Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, who sources previously suggested was high on the Seahawks' big board and may have been a target for a first-round trade up. The Jets traded back into the first round for the 26th pick and selected Florida State pass rusher Jermaine Johnson, but according to Boyle, he wasn't on Seattle's short list, so a trade up remained in play with two picks to go until Green Bay was on the clock.
Moments later, Schneider broke the news to the rest of the draft room that the Packers planned to make their selection and "out" on a trade with the Seahawks. From there, other deals were discussed at the end of the first round, but neither of their top two remaining pass rushers were picked, so everything was working out as hoped rolling into day two.
The Seahawks lucked out managing to get one of their coveted pass rushers.
Throughout the pre-draft process, the Seahawks exhibited strong interest in Penn State's Arnold Ebiketie as well as Minnesota's Boye Mafe. Both edge rushers heralding from the Big Ten met with the team at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ebiketie had a formal meeting with the organization at the NFL scouting combine, and Mafe flew out to the Emerald City for one of his top-30 visits only a few short weeks before the draft. Such meetings don't always give away a team's draft intentions, but Schneider and company clearly were intrigued by both players.
While Boyle didn't provide specifics in his writeup, putting together pieces of the puzzle based on prior intel, Ebiketie and Mafe were indeed the top two pass rushers Schneider and his scouting staff coveted in a potential trade back into the first round. Seattle ultimately didn't swing a deal and both players remained available until pick No. 38 when Atlanta - who acquired the pick from New York - snagged Ebiketie, leaving Schneider sweating again with two picks remaining until his team was back on the clock. Good fortune was bestowed on the franchise once again, as the Bears picked Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon, leaving Mafe on the board for the Seahawks to select with one of their back-to-back selections.
"Mafe's going to be a [expletive] blast," Carroll excitedly said.
While we will never know since it didn't happen, if Ebiketie or Mafe would have heard their name called in the mid-to-late 20s in the first round, given how aggressively he already was trying to climb back into the first round, there's a very strong chance Schneider would have traded up to ensure he landed the other pass rusher.
The selection of Breece Hall a few picks earlier led to Seattle's decision to pick Ken Walker III.
Few expected Seattle to draft a running back early, but Schneider and the scouting department did their due diligence evaluating top prospects at the position and with Chris Carson's status uncertain coming back from neck surgery, finding a replacement suddenly was a bigger priority. According to Boyle, the Jets' decision to slide up to No. 36 overall for Iowa State running back Breece Hall caught the attention of the draft room, as he was one of the top players left on the Seahawks' big board and met with them at the combine in Indianapolis. If he had fallen to pick 40, there's a strong chance he may have been one of the team's two second round selections.
Instead, Schneider and company again were forced to wait it out hoping Michigan State's Ken Walker III wasn't picked over the next four selections. Once again having luck on their side, with Mafe already cemented as pick No. 40, Carroll and other members of the draft room called in offensive coordinator Shane Waldron to help make a decision on whether to pick the running back or an offensive linemen. Ultimately, with Hall already off the board, the Seahawks decided to roll with Walker, the reigning Doak Walker Award winner and unanimous First-Team All-American selection, to bolster their backfield.
As Boyle noted, not surprisingly, nobody in the draft room may have been delighted by the selection of Walker more than run game coordinator Chad Morton, who let out a loud roar of approval.
It appears Seattle managed to get three players with second round grades on day three.
After calling Mafe and Walker to inform them they would become Seahawks, Schneider and the rest of the draft room had 31 picks standing between them and their next selection and wouldn't be back on the clock for two hours unless they trade up. As their lone third round pick drew closer, everyone was white-knuckling it with hopes Washington State tackle Abraham Lucas would somehow fall to them. Leading to more cheers in the draft room, the Bears picked receiver Velus Jones Jr. at No. 71 overall, and regional scout Chad Graff - who personally scouted Lucas and attended the same high school as the player - stood up on a table to celebrate.
While Boyle didn't disclose such information in his article, it's worth wondering if Lucas may have been in play when Seattle ultimately picked Walker at No. 41 overall. The team had been high on him throughout the scouting process, meeting with him at the Senior Bowl as well as the combine and then putting him through a private workout one week before the draft. Only one other tackle - Ohio State's Nicholas Petit-Frere - was selected between pick 42 and 71. If Lucas was a coveted target in the second round, no wonder Graff was jumping onto a table when he somehow remained available a full round later.
Of course, given their reported interest in Linderbaum, it's also possible the Seahawks could have been considering Nebraska center Cam Jurgens, who wound up being selected by the Eagles at pick No. 51 midway though the second round. Either way, Schneider, Carroll, and company couldn't have asked for things to play out more smoothly as they acquired four players who were high on their big board in the first 72 selections.