Seattle Seahawks

Draft Analysis



The Seattle Seahawks' 1997 draft was a case of quality vs quantity.

The quality came in a dizzying 40-minute burst at the start of Saturday's first round, when the Seahawks drafted Ohio State cornerback Shawn Springs with the third pick and then traded up to the sixth spot to select Florida State tackle Walter Jones.

The trades that produced Springs and Jones left the Seahawks with no draft picks until the fifth round and diminished their '97 draft class to just five players.

Was it worth it? The grin on coach Dennis Erickson's face answered that question.

The Seahawks got the player they really wanted (Springs) and a player they felt they couldn't pass up (Jones). Each will start -- Springs at left cornerback; Jones at left tackle.

"Things went exactly how we wanted them to go,'' Erickson said. "We couldn't have been happier.''

It's how things went in the weeks leading up to the draft that were the real key.

When the Seahawks got the 11th pick overall from the Chicago Bears in the February trade for quarterback Rick Mirer, they became players in this year's draft because they already held the 12th pick.

After seeing Springs during his workout in Columbus last month, the Seahawks knew they would have to trade into the top three to have a shot at the player who filled their most pressing need.

The Atlanta Falcons obliged, but it cost the Seahawks the pick they got from the Bears plus their own picks in the second and fourth rounds.

There were anxious moments after the New York Jets traded the first pick to the St. Louis Rams last week. It touched off trade talks between the Oakland Raiders, who had the second pick, and the Detroit Lions, who were at No. 5. Not to mention rumors: The Lions wanted the pick to take Springs. No, they wanted Russell. The Raiders would keep the pick and take Springs. No, they also wanted Russell.

The Seahawks didn't blink, even on draft day when the Raiders called and tried to force them to swap spots to assure getting Springs.

The Seahawks contended they would be happy with Russell, but were giddy when Springs was still there at No. 3.

"This guy is just a perfect fit,'' defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said. "If we hadn't gotten Shawn, we would have taken someone (Russell) we would have had to fit into our defense.''

The third-round pick the Seahawks retained by not trading up from No. 3 helped them land Jones. They worked out a deal with the Jets to jump from the No. 12 to the No. 6 spot if Jones was still there. But when he was, the Jets traded the pick to Tampa Bay.

No problem. The Buccaneers then called the Seahawks and offered the pick, and they got it cheaper. The Jets had wanted the Seahawks' third- and fifth-round picks. The Bucs settled for the third.

The trades, starting with the Mirer deal, had wiped out the Seahawks' picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. But not even a long day of thumb twiddling could wipe the smiles from their faces.

"The best scenario happened exactly like we thought,'' vice president of football operations Randy Mueller said. "Maybe the football Gods are looking out for us.''

The Seahawks' draft was closer to a short subject than a feature-length presentation, but even Siskel and Ebert would have to give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.



Round 1/3 -- Shawn Springs, CB, Ohio State

Springs steps in at left corner -- opposite Willie Williams, who was signed as a free agent in February. At just under 6-0, Springs gives the Seahawks a corner with size (Williams and Fred Thomas, last year's second-round draft choice, are 5-9). The coverage prowess of Springs and Williams will give the Seahawks the ability to play more aggressively.

Round 1/6 -- Walter Jones, OT, Florida State

Once they got Springs at No. 3, Jones was the only player the Seahawks would have traded up to get. He will step in at left tackle, with incumbent starter James Atkins moving to right guard. As was the case with many teams, Jones grew on the Seahawks. He jumped out at them once they started watching video of his only season at Florida State. He startled them by running 40 yards in 4.67 and 4.71 seconds during his workout in Tallahassee last month. He impressed them during a visit to the team's headquarters the week before the draft. Just how much do the Seahawks like this guy? Listen to offensive line coach Howard Mudd: "You can make a case that Walter Jones could become close to Orlando Pace. Walter is a very, very athletic player. He's probably the best pure athlete I've seen (among offensive linemen) since the Chris Hinton and Anthony Munoz time.''

Round 5/142 -- Eric Stokes, FS, Nebraska

Stokes played cornerback and both safety positions at Nebraska, starting the first three games at corner last year before moving to free safety. The Seahawks project him as a free safety, and need a backup to starter Darryl Williams because T.J. Cunningham, a sixth-round pick last year, isn't scheduled to start running until July after having reconstructive knee surgery in November. Stokes is a good fit, and was the highest-rated player on the Seahawks' draft board when they finally got to make another pick. He can cover kicks on special teams and the fact he played some corner is a plus in the Seahawks' defensive scheme.

Round 6/174 -- Itula Mili, TE, BYU

He will probably spend the season on physically unable to perform after tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and breaking a bone in his right knee during the WAC championship game. But the Seahawks just felt he was too talented to pass up and view him as an extra high-round pick in '98 rather than a sixth-round pick in '97.

Round 7/211 -- Carlos Jones, CB, Miami (5-10, 180)

Jones becomes the 10th former Miami Hurricane to join the Seahawks. And the club relied on references from Erickson and defensive backs coach Willy Robinson in drafting him because there was so little tape on Jones from his senior year, when he missed time with a pulled hamstring and fractured finger. He has speed (4.3 in the 40 and is a four-time Big East sprint champion). If he can revert to the player he was before the injuries, Jones could stick as the fourth corner.