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Drafting Jordyn Brooks another first-round Seahawks surprise

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Was Jordyn Brooks the right pick for Seattle? (1:27)

Brady Henderson explains why LB Jordyn Brooks was the smart pick for the Seahawks. (1:27)

The Seattle Seahawks stunned NFL observers in 2011 when they spent the No. 25 overall pick on offensive lineman James Carpenter, who wasn't exactly a first-round fixture in mock drafts.

The same thing happened the following draft, with defensive end Bruce Irvin at No. 15, and again two years ago with running back Rashaad Penny at No. 27.

So it was nothing new when general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll went against outside expectations and took Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks with the No. 27 pick Thursday night after an attempt to move back in a trade with the Green Bay Packers fell through. The only difference was that reporters who were sent scrambling for NFL draft bios on the Seahawks' latest first-round surprise did so from their homes as opposed to the media room at team headquarters.

Brooks himself didn't see it coming, at least not with Seattle.

"I was a little bit surprised it was the Seahawks," he said. "I wasn't surprised about the first round; I was surprised the Seahawks came and got me. I hadn't talked to them since the combine, so I wasn't really expecting them to pick me."

When asked if that was by design, Schneider gave an answer that helps explain the gap that sometimes exists between where analysts project a player to be drafted and when he ends up going. Some mock drafts, in his view, have a good feel for the first half of Round 1. Beyond that, it's much harder to predict.

"Once you get past, call it 15 to 16, 18, right in there," Schneider said, "the mock draft stuff kinda -- no disrespect. It's entertainment. I get it. I couldn't wait for Paul Zimmerman's thing to come out in SI ... but it gets to a point where you rely on your pro scouting staff, especially Nolan Teasley and Willie [Schneider], and DJ [Hord] and those guys to say, 'Hey, this is what [another team's] needs are. If I was running this team, this is what I would want to add.'

"That's really how you try and project where people are going to go."

That was Schneider's polite way of saying the Seahawks trust their intel and feeling over what they read in a mock draft. And while some observers might have concluded that they erred in spending a first-round pick on a player they could have gotten in the second, the implication from Schneider was that the Seahawks -- who at the time weren't picking again until No. 59 -- believed their best shot at getting Brooks was to take him at 27.

From the sounds of it, that might have been their only shot.

One NFL source told ESPN that he heard after the fact from at least five teams that said Brooks -- not Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray or LSU's Patrick Queen -- was their top-rated linebacker. The same source said multiple teams believe the Ravens, who took Queen at No. 28 with Murray off the board, would have taken Brooks had Seattle not chosen him one pick before. At least one team said it wanted to trade up into the bottom of the first round for Brooks, according to the source.

So while Seattle's pick was surprising to observers, it wasn't to the rest of the NFL.

Teams do their best to keep their targets close to the vest, and as one NFL talent evaluator noted, it's especially important when you're picking later in the first round because it's less prohibitive for another team to jump ahead of you for a player it believes you want.

That might have meant less chatter on Brooks for mock drafters to pick up on (though ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. wrote afterward that he wanted to squeeze Brooks into his final first-round projection).

"When people aren't talking about players, that's when you get pretty nervous," Schneider said. "And Jordyn was clearly one of those players."

The Seahawks taking a linebacker over a pass-rusher might have been unexpected after they finished last season with only 28 sacks, tied for second fewest in the league. But their defensive struggles went beyond their inability to pressure quarterbacks. While an edge rusher was the more common projection in mock drafts, there weren't any surefire first-rounders left once LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson went at No. 20 to Jacksonville.

The Seahawks got their edge rusher in Round 2, when they moved up 11 spots for Tennessee's Darrell Taylor, a player Schneider and Carroll said was in consideration at No. 27. Seattle got another edge rusher -- Syracuse's Alton Robinson -- in the fifth round.

There's a question about Brooks' immediate path to playing time. Carroll said he could play strong-side linebacker but sounded more excited about his potential at one of the two inside spots, where the Seahawks have K.J. Wright on the weak side and All-Pro Bobby Wagner, he of the $54 million extension from last summer, in the middle. Irvin is back with the Seahawks and is a candidate to play strong-side linebacker on early downs as he did in his first Seattle stint.

But Wright will be 31 in July and is entering the last year of his contract with a $10 million cap charge, $1 million of which he was already owed in a March roster bonus. At 32, Irvin doesn't look like a long-term option, either. Wagner will be 30 in June, so getting younger at the position made sense, especially for a team that frequently kept all three linebackers on the field in passing situations last season and might favor a base-heavy approach again in 2020.

The results have been mixed with the Seahawks' three previous surprise picks in the first round.

Carpenter got off to a slow start in Seattle but has had a nice career since, far outlasting the two first-round tackles chosen behind him, Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherodd. Irvin set the Seahawks' rookie sack record and has more career sacks (52) than all but one of the six edge rushers taken after him in the first round, All-Pro Chandler Jones (96). But neither Carpenter nor Irvin got second contracts from the Seahawks or had their fifth-year options exercised.

Penny has shown flashes but tore an ACL last season and wasn't able to beat out Chris Carson for the starting job before that. And while it's still early, you can bet the Seahawks are kicking themselves for taking Penny over Nick Chubb, who went No. 35 overall.