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Carroll's grand Hawk plan hinges on first draft

by Gregg Bell
| April 19, 2010 9:00 PM

RENTON, Wash. - Pete Carroll is pumped about having the sixth and 14th overall picks in the NFL draft. The Seahawks' new coach likens it to being a kid waiting for Christmas.

Guided by Carroll's goals, the Seahawks are reinventing themselves after going 9-23 the last two seasons. Seattle needs a left tackle, a safety or two, a running back, defensive linemen, wide receivers, guards - almost everything. And they need to start right now.

"It's a huge opportunity for us. That was an exciting aspect of coming here (from USC), that there was a big opportunity for us to get a couple big shots right off the bat," Carroll said. "We really need to hit it. We need two guys to come help this football team win."

John Schneider is excited, too.

Seattle's first-time general manager has been on the job three months and has been planning for one of the most important drafts in team history, one that will help determine whether Carroll fulfills his goal of "doing it better than it's ever been around here."

Schneider admits having butterflies. The former personnel executive in Green Bay is more thrilled with the opportunities those top picks are giving him to trade and get even more selections than he is with the numbers six and 14, per se.

"I'm always open to trading down, I really am," Schneider said. "We kind of took pride in it in Green Bay, and we will continue to do that.

"If you feel real good about your board, it's worth moving down. Now, you are going to miss out on a guy here or there. And (fans will howl) 'Hey, they passed on such and such.' But you've got to look at it like maybe Player A was a better player than B and C, but B and C, (that's) two players for one."

"At the end of the day, when you look at your draft, fans might not be quite as excited because they aren't seeing the names that they have on NFL Network as much, or on ESPN or whatever. But you get a nice couple players. It's like having a big recruiting class. And we're going to try to get this group young, fast and competitive."

If Schneider keeps the picks, one of three offensive tackles could be the logical choice at No. 6 or 14: Russell Okung of Oklahoma State, Bryan Bulaga of Iowa or Trent Williams of Oklahoma. All are expected to be taken in the first round.

The Seahawks expect 36-year-old left tackle Walter Jones to retire. The six-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler has had two knee surgeries and hasn't played a game since Thanksgiving Day 2008. Battered Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck knows too well how painful and unsuccessful life has been without a quality healthy left tackle the last two seasons.

"We would approach it like Walter's not going to be here, quite frankly," Schneider said. "If he is here that's just kind of an added bonus."

As a possible tip-off that a top left tackle might be on his way, the Seahawks had incumbent starting tackle Sean Locklear back on the right side in last week's minicamp. Locklear had played left in Jones' absence last season. Ray Willis, a disappointment since Seattle drafted him in the fourth round in 2005, seemed like a place holder at left tackle during the practices.

Another dire need is at safety. Just two of them were on the roster and present for last week's minicamp. One, Jamar Adams, hasn't started a game in his two NFL seasons.

"If you're asking me if we would take a safety where we're picking, yeah, we would strongly consider taking a safety there," Schneider said. "Especially a guy that has a chance to be a Pro Bowl player."

A guy like Eric Berry of Tennessee, perhaps. He may be the best all-around athlete in the draft. Or speedy, play-making Taylor Mays from USC. Carroll has known him since the eighth grade and recruited him out of Seattle's O'Dea High School to join the Trojans.

The Seahawks haven't selected a safety with their top pick since 1981. That worked out OK. Kenny Easley became a five-time Pro Bowler and The Associated Press' NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1984. He is one of eight players in the franchise's Ring of Honor.

Then again, Clemson's C.J. Spiller is the dynamic running back that Seattle currently lacks for the zone-blocking rushing game Carroll and line coach Alex Gibbs are installing.

Yes, the Seahawks have so many needs that the oft-recited wisdom of taking the best player available regardless of position is bunk in Seattle.

"It's really fun to talk about, 'We don't draft by need,' but you just end up doing it," Schneider said. "You try to take the best player - based on your need."

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