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Originally published May 1, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Page modified May 1, 2011 at 10:01 PM

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Seahawks shrug off analysts' poor grades for draft results

Pete Carroll sat at the end of the NFL's three-day draft on Saturday, counting up nine new players and absolutely no misgivings. "We're real excited about...

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Pete Carroll sat at the end of the NFL's three-day draft on Saturday, counting up nine new players and absolutely no misgivings.

"We're real excited about this bunch of guys," the Seahawks coach said. "We think we have found guys that have fit what we're looking for, and we really don't care what anybody else thinks."

That's good, because most appraisals from draft analysts weren't all that flattering.

Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN graded the Seahawks' draft a D+, the lowest mark he handed out to any of the 32 teams. Clifton Brown of the Sporting News gave the Seahawks a D, which matched his lowest evaluation this year.

Pete Priscoe of CBSSports.com noted Seattle used its first two picks to shore up the offensive line and concluded, "The rest of the draft was just OK," which counted as a fairly positive review in comparison.

Some of the negative reviews were products of circumstance. The Seahawks held two of the first 14 picks in the 2010 draft, which made it a lot easier to come away with a haul hailed as one of the league's best. In comparison, Seattle held two of the first 98 picks this year and didn't choose until No. 25 in the first round.

But the Seahawks' draft wasn't just panned for a lack of top-shelf selections. The team also didn't follow the script that many had forecast.

They didn't draft a quarterback in the first round, opting instead for offensive tackle James Carpenter, who said himself he didn't expected to be drafted until the second round.

The Seahawks already have three starting linebackers in place, yet they chose K.J. Wright of Mississippi State with the second pick of the fourth round. Eight picks later, they chose Georgia receiver Kris Durham, who was not among the 350 or so players invited to the NFL scouting combine.

Seattle also was criticized for picking players that — gasp! — didn't coincide with the rankings compiled by some of the more prominent analysts.

Does that mean it was a bad draft? It's entirely too early to say. Most NFL executives say three years of results are needed before an accurate evaluation of any draft class.

But the immediate criticism isn't entirely meaningless, either. In fact, it is quite instructive with respect to the Seahawks' M.O. in the draft under Carroll and general manager John Schneider. They've made it pretty clear that they're not playing copy cat in this league.

"We're looking for unique qualities," Carroll said. "You'll hear me say that again. You need qualities that separate them from other players."

That helps explain Seattle's pick of Durham. Draft analyst Todd McShay of ESPN stated bluntly there were "better options" at receiver available at that point, among them Edmond Gates of Abilene Christian, Greg Salas of Hawaii and Tandon Doss of Indiana.

Gates is 6 feet tall, Salas 6-1 and Doss 6-2. By comparison, Durham truly stood out for Seattle.

"We like Kris because he is 6-5," Carroll said. "We wanted another big guy."

Kiper stated Seattle could have chosen a better tackle than Carpenter with the 25th pick. Obviously, the Seahawks disagreed. Even with Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi still available, Seattle concluded Carpenter was a better fit for what it wanted.

But the draft-day criticism isn't simply because Seattle picked against the grain. Finding the right players is only one part of draft-day strategy — though clearly the most important. But another consideration is getting the most value from each pick by choosing top-rated players as late as possible. No need to pick a player in the second round if no one else is going to choose him until the seventh.

In that regard, Seattle keeps a very narrow perspective. The Seahawks don't grade a prospect based on where he will go in the draft, but where he fits with the team.

"Some teams grade for the league and how they think players are going to come off the board," Schneider said. "It's a different philosophy."

And while Durham's selection was such a surprise that NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock applauded the network's production team for quickly finding highlights, he might not have lasted nearly as long as some analysts had forecast. Schneider took a call from the Chiefs after choosing Durham.

"They had a prior workout with him this week," Schneider said. "So it was pretty cool after you pick a guy to have a team like that call and say, 'That was a great pick.' "

So at least someone outside of Seattle was impressed with a pick that was part of a draft many analysts considered among the least impressive in the league.

Of course, draft grades don't count in the league standings or have anything to do with what a player becomes.

It's what Seattle does with these nine new players that will ultimately decide how this draft class rated.

"Now it's on us," Carroll said. "We have to show what a great class this is by the way we develop this talent and bring it to the playing field."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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