RENTON — The fact that the Seattle Seahawks are getting older at certain spots on defense was in clear focus when they finally decided to join the NFL draft.
Seattle used four of its six picks on Friday on defensive players, focusing specifically on the secondary and defensive line in an attempt to address specific needs and get a little younger.
Seattle initially focused on the line of scrimmage in selecting defensive lineman Malik McDowell and offensive lineman Ethan Pocic with a pair of second-round picks. Seattle again focused on needs with its four third-round picks, drafting Central Florida cornerback Shaquill Griffin, Michigan safety Delano Hill, North Carolina defensive tackle Nazair Jones and Michigan wide receiver Amara Darboh.
It was a heavy defensive focus that general manager John Schneider said wasn’t specifically designed but that the Seahawks hope answers some concerns.
“We followed the board. We spent a long time, a lot of long hours in that room building the board and you have to stick with it,” Schneider said.
Seattle entered the day with more picks than any other team and rather than giving up any of the six picks in a package to potentially move up in one of the rounds, Schneider and coach Pete Carroll held on to all their picks and gave clear indications of where the Seahawks needed reinforcements.
The Seahawks did make one deal, moving back one pick in the second round and picking up an additional sixth-round selection. The move didn’t cost the Seahawks a chance at McDowell, who was primarily a defensive tackle at Michigan State but may project more as a defensive end.
Schneider was nervous about McDowell being available at No. 35 overall, but was really worried if Pocic would still be there later in the second round when the Seahawks grabbed the versatile lineman from LSU. Pocic was a center last season for LSU but played across the entire offensive line during his time in college.
Seattle’s offensive line was an obvious weakness last season and that was somewhat addressed in free agency by the signings of Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi. The Seahawks tried to keep their interest in Pocic quiet to the point that offensive line coach Tom Cable never met with Pocic. Schneider said they feel they are getting the equivalent of two players because of Pocic’s versatility. He will be tried out at guard and tackle since they know he can play center.
“We think he’s the most flexible guy in the draft,” Carroll said.
McDowell’s size, 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, and athleticism seemed to have him pegged for the first round. But knocks about inconsistency and taking plays off seemed to ding McDowell as he dropped out of the first day. Seattle was more than willing to wait. The Seahawks even pulled off yet another trade — their third of the draft — to move back one spot and allow Jacksonville to move up while giving Seattle another sixth-round pick.
It’s the second straight year Seattle used a second-round pick on a defensive tackle and third straight year the Seahawks have drafted a defensive lineman in the second round. Last year, the Seahawks grabbed run-stuffing tackle Jarran Reed from Alabama in the second round. A year earlier, it was defensive end Frank Clark.
This time it was McDowell.
“They said they liked me a lot, but there wasn’t much from any other day-to-day. They played it cool,” McDowell said.
Seattle’s defense — especially the defensive line — is beginning to age. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are 31. Ahtyba Rubin will also be 31 when the season begins. McDowell and Jones go along with Reed, Frank Clark and Quinton Jefferson as players drafted by Seattle in the past three years in an effort to get younger.
Griffin could fill an obvious hole with starter DeShawn Shead not expected to be ready for the start of the season after suffering a major knee injury during last season’s playoffs, while Hill could be used at both safety spots in the secondary and possibly as a slot cornerback.