John Schneider, Seahawks Relishing Different View Heading Into 2020 NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS – When taking the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine one year ago, Seahawks general manager John Schneider found himself in quite a quandary as his team prepared for the upcoming draft.
At the time, a series of trades had left Seattle with just four draft picks, tied for the fewest among all 32 NFL franchises. Additionally, Schneider and the front office found themselves in the midst of intense negotiations trying to retain three of the team’s best players, including quarterback Russell Wilson and defensive end Frank Clark.
“Yeah, that was a disaster wasn’t it?” Schneider laughed, reflecting on the challenging circumstances this time last February.
The situation could have been catastrophic for the Seahawks, who were still in a period of transition after losing stars such as cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive end Michael Bennett during the prior offseason. Despite making the playoffs as a wild card in 2018, Schneider knew work still remained unfinished retooling the roster.
However, the lack of draft capital complicated that mission. Even considering his reputation for being a Rembrandt when it comes to navigating the draft through trades, Schneider had reservations about how things would play out in his ninth draft with the organization.
Looking back, there’s certainly no way he could have envisioned Seattle transforming four picks into an 11-player draft class. But that’s exactly what Schneider did as the well-renowned executive orchestrated his greatest masterpiece yet.
“All I was praying on was like ‘okay let’s just get a couple more picks.’ I didn’t figure it was going to be like that.”
The dominos started to fall in place shortly before the draft in April when Schneider made the difficult choice to ship Clark to the Chiefs for a first-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick.
Only two months earlier, he thought for sure the star pass rusher would remain a Seahawk. But as the market for pass rushers heated up, starting with fellow defensive end Demarcus Lawrence’s $105 million extension in Dallas, Schneider quickly realized Clark wasn’t in Seattle’s budget.
“It’s a landscape thing. Trying to figure out… at this point last year, I thought Frank was going to be on our team. It’s really a daily or weekly process of figuring out how you’re going to put this thing together.”
After being unable to agree on an extension with Clark, who refused to sign his franchise tag tender, Schneider decided to flip a known asset to set in motion what would become a draft weekend to remember.
In total, Schneider and his staff executed seven trades. They moved down five times, including trading down twice in the first round and moving down again midway through the second round. They also picked their spots to be aggressive moving up, trading back into the second round to draft DK Metcalf at pick No. 64.
“Our guys did a great job last year of working the phones and working our connections and moving around and trying to fit the guys in that we thought would fit appropriately,” Schneider remarked. “Excited for those guys to jump into their second season and get going.’’
Losing Clark was bittersweet, especially after producing a career-high 13.0 sacks in 2018. Schneider didn’t want to trade him, but business decisions aren’t always pleasant, and without that initial deal, it’s unlikely Seattle would have been able to come close to drafting as many players.
Now, the Seahawks have to keep their fingers crossed that nucleus of promising second-year players will be able to avoid the injury bug that plagued several of them as rookies.
As referenced by coach Pete Carroll, first-round pick L.J. Collier missed all of training camp and the preseason with a significant ankle sprain and second-round pick Marquise Blair lost valuable preseason reps due to a back problem. Guard Phil Haynes and defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas also opened the year on the PUP list, preventing either player from seeing a regular season snap.
“All of those guys I mentioned had injuries that stifled them all kinds of ways early parts of the season, the development part of the year. We just didn't get them over the hump and in part of the flow of it,” Carroll said.
Assuming lightning doesn’t strike twice in this instance, Carroll hopes to see the sophomore class take a huge leap forward as a whole. With eight draft picks at his disposal this time around, the Seahawks also has the ammunition to add more young talent to the stable two months from now.
It’s a far different view than the one that concerned Schneider this time last year, and if Seattle can hit on a few picks in April and receive steady production from players like Collier and Blair, the team should be poised to make another run at the Super Bowl in 2020.