Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks heard you: Draft heavy on linemen, to match talent pool

Arkansas running back Alex Collins runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in February.
Arkansas running back Alex Collins runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in February. The Associated Press

You wanted linemen.

The Seahawks finally drafted linemen.

For years, John Schneider and Pete Carroll had drafted fast, freakish athletes with long arms and sometimes longer odds for outside, skill positions.

Drafting for need? Their Seahawks needed speed, regardless of position or popular opinion.

This year, Seattle’s need happened to coincide with college inventory.

The 2016 NFL draft that ended Saturday was deep in quality linemen and versatile, specific-role running backs. So that’s who Seattle, which lost 40 percent of its offensive line and its veteran run-stopper on the defensive front, drafted.

The Seahawks selected five linemen, plus what they saw the only true blocking tight end in this class, and three running backs to rush through that line.

Those linemen included Saturday’s highlight among five selections: Maryland pass-rushing defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson. The Seahawks say they think the former highly recruited defensive end could be an inside-outside pass rusher like Pro Bowl end Michael Bennett already is for Seattle.

“It just feels like the adding of the big guys inside on both sides of the ball is really going to help us,” Carroll said at team headquarters after the seventh and final round ended Saturday afternoon.

“I think this draft in particular makes me feel like we’ve really bolstered areas, and you’re going to have to battle for your spots. Everybody is going to have to bring their best. We couldn’t ask for more than that.”

The Seahawks like to corner the market on players who carry chips on their shoulders.

Their first of two fifth-round picks Saturday has so many chips he could use more shoulders.

Jefferson is a fast, athletic, 6-foot-4, 291-pound defensive tackle who Seattle selected with a fifth-round choice it acquired from New England on Saturday morning. He is a 23-year-old married father of three. He and his wife, Nadia, have a 5-year-old (Zoey) and 21-month-old twins, Charleigh and Quinn.

“It’s a lot,” an elated Jefferson said, with one of his daughters babbling through the phone as he spoke from his family’s home in the Swissvale area of Pittsburgh.

“I mean, I had to do a lot more than any other student athlete.”

His degree from Maryland is in family sciences. Of course it is.

Jefferson was considered one of Pennsylvania’s top defensive-end recruits out of Woodland Hills High School in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Then he broke his jaw in a fight. That derailed his college-scholarship plans.

He had to grayshirt at Maryland, delaying his entry by one football season. He spent that year humbled, working at a Best Buy in suburban Pittsburgh.

When he finally got to Maryland he played in nine games as a true freshman, and started all 13 games for the Terrapins in 2013. But four games into 2014 he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

On Saturday, the Seahawks made his dream come true, his perseverance pay off. They traded a seventh-round choice (225th overall, acquired previously from Dallas), plus a fourth-round pick in 2017, to New England for the Patriots’ 147th overall choice early in Saturday’s round five and New England’s 243rd overall choice in the seventh round.

And they made a dad of three their newest defensive tackle.

“Today goes to show you that you can do anything,” Jefferson said. “It’s paid off. It’s amazing.”

The Seahawks’ second selection in the fifth round is one of only three running backs in the history of the Southeastern Conference to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Darren McFadden and Herschel Walker are the others.

Alex Collins of Arkansas became Seattle’s second running back drafted in six picks. The Seahawks took him 171st overall with a compensatory pick.

“I’m pumped up and ready to get up there,” Collins said from his family’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Just getting that call, my heart’s racing. I can’t believe it!”

The 5-foot-10, 217-pound Collins left school with one year of eligibility remaining after he romped for 1,577 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. In 2013, he was the SEC freshman of the year after becoming the first running back with three straight 100-yard games to begin a major-college career since Adrian Peterson for Oklahoma in 2004.

Aaron Hineline is the Seahawks area scout who identified Collins as a Seattle fit.

“This kid, we talk about how we characterize our run game, being big, physical, runners that run violent, he fits all those,” Hineline said.

“He fits the (Seahawks) profile, definitely. ... To add a guy with his talent that far down the draft, it’s awesome.”

And, oh, yeah, Collins is an Irish dancer. How did he get into that?

“My younger sister,” Collins explained Saturday from his home — which “erupted,” he said, when the Seahawks called.

Collins said that while it sounds good to say he does Irish dancing for football reasons to enhance his footwork, but he does it just because it’s fun. He’s even taken on an alias from it.

“Mitchell Finley,” he said, explaining his “other” name was a takeoff from Michael Flatley, the professional Irish dancer.

“When I got into it, I wanted to watch the best and learn from him. I watched ‘Lord of the Dance’ on YouTube a few times, and kind of got it from there.”

The Seahawks have stocked up for running-back depth. Former All-Pro Marshawn Lynch is retiring and Thomas Rawls, the 2015 undrafted rookie breakout star, is coming off a broken ankle and torn ligaments in December. And Christine Michael returning.

On Friday, Seattle selected Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise in the third round. His role will be specific: The former wide receiver and safety will be a pass-catching, third-down back, at least initially.

Collins’ role will be more Lynch-like: pounding yards inside.

The knocks against Collins, besides the fact that he started full time only one season at Arkansas, are his 16 college career fumbles.

“We’re counting that we’re going to coach that,” Carroll said. “He won’t play if he can’t hold onto the football. Nobody will.”

In the sixth round, Seattle went back to the offensive line and drafted center Joey Hunt from Texas Christian a year and a month after it traded Pro Bowl center Max Unger to New Orleans for Jimmy Graham.

Hunt is 6 feet 1½, 299 pounds. He benched-pressed 225 pounds an impressive 34 times at his pro day this spring. Hunt was a two-time captain at TCU, an honor he said was picked by Horned Frogs head coach Gary Peterson. He was a finance major who had All-Academic Big 12 Conference honors.

“Very squared away, solid individual,” Schneider said. “Smart. Lines everybody up, makes all the calls. A little bit undersized, but he plays real square, plays real tight. For an undersized guy, you don’t see him get knocked around a ton.”

In the seventh round, the Seahawks drafted California wide receiver Kenny Lawler and the No. 2 running back on Clemson’s national runner-up team last season, Zac Brooks.

Lawler was the top target for Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick Thursday by the Los Angeles Rams. Lawler had 20 touchdown catches in the last two seasons at Cal, including 13 last season.

He had 100 guests at a rented house in San Clemente, California, on Friday, expecting to be drafted in the second or third rounds. But a slow 40-yard dash time (4.48 seconds) dropped him to the seventh round.

SEAHAWKS 2016 DRAFT

Round 1: RT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

Round 2: DT Jarran Reed, Alabama

Round 3: RB C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame

Round 3: TE Nick Vannett, Ohio State

Round 3: OT Rees Odhiambo, Boise State

Round 5: DT Quinton Jefferson, Maryland

Round 5: RB Alex Collins, Arkansas

Round 6: C Joey Hunt, Texas Christian

Round 7: WR Kenny Lawler, California

Round 7: RB Zac Brooks, Clemson

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