With rare top-10 pick, Seahawks can speed up rebuild, improve spotty first-round record

RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks' annual pre-draft press conference revealed little about who they plan to take but plenty about the vibe inside the Virginia Mason Athletic Center heading into Thursday's first round of the NFL draft (8 p.m. ET, ABC, ESPN, ESPN app).

"I can't put my finger on it, but there's a certain energy in this building right now," general manager John Schneider, seated next to coach Pete Carroll, told reporters last week. "There's a certain refreshness and juice ... It's just very hard to describe."

That feeling makes sense given the recent changes to the roster and coaching staff as well as the opportunity that lies ahead in this draft.

The Russell Wilson trade left the Seahawks with a major long-term question at quarterback but has also ended years of tension that hung over the organization, Schneider in particular. And it puts them in prime position to expedite their post-Wilson rebuild.

After making a franchise-low three selections last year, the Seahawks are as stocked with draft capital as they've been in a while. Four of their eight picks are in the top 72, including the No. 9 overall pick that was acquired from the Denver Broncos in the Wilson trade.

The very first pick of the Schneider/Carroll era -- left tackle Russell Okung at No. 6 overall in 2010 -- marks the only time they've picked inside the top 10. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only one other team (the New England Patriots) has not picked inside the top 10 at least once since then.

That makes this a rare opportunity for the Seahawks to draft top-end talent they could land only in their dreams -- or via a trade for two first-rounders -- when they were selecting in the 20s as a perennial playoff team.

"There's definitely an excitement about this because there's only so many things that can happen," Carroll said. "When you're picking 25th and 28th and down there, there's a million scenarios. This is not like that. It's a little different."

Still, there are plenty of scenarios that could play out, thanks to the mystery of how many quarterbacks -- if any -- will go before the Seahawks' pick. And there are enough needs on a team that finished 7-10 last season to bring several positions into play.

Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II was the pick for Seattle in NFL Nation's mock draft, though LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross were strong considerations. Quarterback was not, as all indications suggest that the Seahawks are high enough on Drew Lock's potential and not sold enough on anyone in this year's crop of QBs to take one at No. 9.

And while trades weren't allowed in NFL Nation's mock draft, they will very much be in play on Thursday. According to Schneider, the final few days of draft prep include talking with other teams about possible trades.

"People know that we're very open to moving around," he said. "We're pliable."

The Seahawks' 21 draft-day trades since 2016 are third most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In that span, they've entered the draft with six first-round picks and have stayed put only twice, moving back four other times.

Then again, that trend was largely a function of the drop-off in talent that usually occurs in the second half of the first round.

"You get down to ... that lower part of the round, if you get to like 18 or 20, right in there, depending on the year, you're basically drafting in the second round," Schneider said at the owners' meetings. "That's why you guys have seen us go back, because from, call it, 20 to 45, you're basically getting the same quality player."

The dynamic is much different this year, with the Seahawks in the unfamiliar position of landing one of the draft's top-rated prospects.

And with that comes an opportunity to clean up a spotty track record with recent first-round picks.

Right tackle Germain Ifedi (31st overall in 2016) was not as bad as his harshest critics suggested but didn't play well enough to get a second contract from Seattle. That selection was heavily influenced by then-offensive line coach Tom Cable, who had more say in personnel decisions than an average position coach.

Running back Rashaad Penny (27th, 2018) just got a second contract from Seattle after finishing last year on a tear, but Nick Chubb, who was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the second round, has vastly outperformed him over four seasons. Much of the organization favored Chubb in 2018. Perhaps the loudest dissenting voice was then-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who coached Chubb for one season at Georgia and had reservations about him as a pass-catcher.

Defensive end L.J. Collier (29th, 2019) has produced sparingly in three seasons and was a healthy scratch for much of 2021. The Seahawks settled on Collier after missing out on defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and tight end Noah Fant (whom they acquired in the Wilson trade). They felt they badly needed an edge rusher and saw a steep drop-off, so they took Collier above where they had him rated.

Linebacker Jordyn Brooks (27th, 2020) has been their best first-rounder in at least a decade. He looks like a cornerstone player with Pro Bowls in his future.

The common thread with the three misses before him were their selection near the end of the first round. The Seahawks have hit on all three of their earlier first-rounders since 2010 (Okung and Earl Thomas in 2010, and Bruce Irvin in 2012). In the case of Thomas -- a potential Hall of Fame safety they took at No. 14 -- they hit big. Okung made a Pro Bowl and later became the NFL's highest-paid left tackle. Irvin, who was picked No. 15, has had a nice career, with 52 sacks in 10 seasons.

So no wonder the Seahawks are excited to be back inside the top 10, at least for now.

"There's a different level of excitement about the opportunity," Carroll said. "And then, as John said, we'll be interested to see how other people see it, and are they willing to come chasing that spot too. Just everything about it is more challenging, more exciting, and we're looking forward to it."