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It's 6:45 on Friday evening and Seahawks West Coast scout Josh Graff is standing atop a table in the middle of the Derrick Jensen Draft Room at the behest of general manager John Schneider.
It's not uncommon in NFL scouting circles to hear the phrase "stood on the table" for a prospect, meaning a scout is so convinced the team needs to select that player, he would get up on a table to plead his case. That expression isn't actually taken literally too often, in this case Graff was indeed on top of a table as the Seahawks were prepared to select Washington State tackle Abraham Lucas with their third-round pick, No. 72 overall.
And it wasn't that Graff needed to do any more convincing at this point to sell his colleagues on Lucas, an athletic right tackle who was a four-year starter for the Cougars, but rather that Schneider and company wanted to let everyone in the room, and especially Graff-who not only scouted Lucas but who also attended the same high school, Archbishop Murphy in Everett-enjoy the moment as the Seahawks made their final of four picks in the top 72 that they hope will help lead the franchise to years of future success.
Both before and after this year's draft, Schneider and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made comparisons to 2010, their first draft together and the last time Seattle held a Top 10 pick. Some of the players acquired in that draft, most notably first-round picks Russell Okung and Earl Thomas, second-round pick Golden Tate and fifth-round pick Kam Chancellor, helped build the foundation for the most successful decade in franchise history, and if the Seahawks are going to quickly rebound from their first losing season in over a decade and set off on another run of sustained success, they're counting on the players taken in this year's draft to also become foundational pieces of that next run.
The Seahawks had more draft capital this year than they have since that 2010 draft, adding the ninth overall pick and an early second-round pick (No. 40 overall) in the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver, and came out of the weekend with nine new players, making draft weekend a big opportunity to help shape the future of the team.
With that in mind, Seahawks.com spent the first two days of the 2022 NFL Draft inside the Seahawks draft room to give you a behind-the-scenes look as the Seahawks acquired four players: tackle Charles Cross, outside linebacker Boye Mafe, running back Ken Walker III and tackle Abraham Lucas in Rounds 1-3.
For more behind-the-scenes Seahawks coverage, check out "The Sound," an access-driven story of the 2022-2023 Seattle Seahawks. Fans can expect episodes monthly that highlight key main characters throughout the season. This series serves as a window into Virginia Mason Athletic Center for all 12s, underscoring the highs and lows that come with being inside an NFL team. You can watch new episodes and catch up on prior ones at YouTube.com/Seahawks.
The first episode of "The Sound" follows the Seahawks' 2022 NFL Draft and Rookie Mini Camp. From inside the draft room to exclusive reactions of newly drafted players, "Fresh Seattle Air" shows what it's like to both draft and be drafted. Tune into episode one on Wednesday, May 25 via the Seahawks YouTube Channel.
As the New York Jets select Sauce Gardner with the fourth overall pick-the second straight cornerback off the board following Houston's pick of Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3-Schneider is on the phone with Giants general manager Joe Schoen talking about a possible trade for the New York's pick at No. 7 (the Giants hold picks No. 5 and 7). The call ends so the Giants can make their pick, Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, then Schneider and Schoen resume the conversation, ultimately deciding not to do a deal. The Giants will pick at No. 7 and the Seahawks will wait until the ninth pick, hoping one of the players at the top of their board will still be available.
With three teams still ahead of them, the Seahawks have several players with first-round grades still on their board, so they're going to get a player they like, the only question now is which one and if they can get one at a position of need.
Carolina picks N.C. State's Ikem Ekwonu, one of three tackles the Seahawks have near the top of their board. Jack Schneider, John's youngest son, climbs a step ladder to remove Ekwonu's name from the board.
The Giants use their second first-round pick on Alabama tackle Evan Neal, another of Seattle's top tackles, but not their highest-rated one still remaining. That would be Mississippi State's Charles Cross.
The Seahawks are on deck and the player they want is still there, but first have to sweat out the Falcons pick at No. 8. These are tense times, and John Schneider asks Jack to turn down the music, some mellow reggae that has been playing throughout the evening.
Could the Falcons be taking a tackle here? Could they trade it to another team looking to leapfrog Seattle, a team for whom tackle was an obvious need coming into the draft?
The pick is in, and the Falcons select USC receiver Drake London.
The room erupts.
"Let's go!" Schneider shouts. "Hell yeah, baby!"
Schneider and Carroll hug, then Schneider gives Seahawks president Chuck Arnold a big high five. The mood in the room is a combination of relief and joy.
Arnold jokes that he can get Schneider a new shirt-he literally was sweating out these picks leading up to No. 9-while Seahawks Chair Jody Allen defends her GM from Arnold's playful teasing.
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Seahawks Chair Jody Allen and General Manager John Schneider discuss the next Seahawks move during the 2022 NFL Draft.
With the Seahawks still on the clock having not yet submitted their pick of Charles Cross, the phone rings. It's another team interested in moving up to acquire the No. 9 pick. With the clock winding down, there's a brief discussion about what the Seahawks would get back if they make the trade, and about if they'll still be able to get Cross if they do. Over the years, Schneider has been known to move back in the first round to acquire more draft picks, but in this case, everyone involved in the decision agrees it's not worth moving when they can just get their guy right now.
"It's a no," Schneider says in the phone before hanging up.
The selection of Cross is now official. Schneider gets his team's newest tackle on the phone.
"We're getting ready to select you right here, OK?" Schneider says. "You ready to come on up to Seattle and kick some ass?"
Schneider then hands the phone to Carroll who tells Cross, "Everybody's fired up. We were really hoping we'd be able to do this."
"Great job, everybody!" Schneider shouts to the room.
The Seahawks have used their only first-round pick, but there's still activity in the room. As everyone closely monitors the action, Schneider, VP of player personnel Trent Kirchner, director of college scouting Matt Berry, director of pro personnel Nolan Teasley and assistant director of pro personnel Willie Schneider work the phones. Nothing is imminent, but the Seahawks want to have options in place should they want to make a move to get back into the end of the first round.
As the first round winds down, a few players start going off the board that the Seahawks don't have rated very highly. The Seahawks refer to those as upsets, and upsets are good news. Somehow, it has become the job of pro scouting personnel assistant Armani Perez to call out, loudly, any upset. He isn't sure how this responsibility fell to him, but he plays along.
The trade talks continue, with Berry talking to Tampa Bay about the 27th pick. Ultimately that doesn't go anywhere.
Dallas takes Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith at No. 24, and moments later the Bucs and Seahawks decide not to go forward with a possible trade at 27 (not long after, Tampa would trade that pick to the Jaguars).
Schneider is on the phone with Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, two longtime co-workers in Green Bay's front office now running their team's respective draft rooms and discussing a trade for the 28th pick.
After some back and forth discussions on the late-round picks that will balance out the trade, there's a tentative deal in place, but there are still several picks to go.
Eying their board, the Seahawks know that if they do make a trade to get back into the first round, they'll be able to either add one of their top pass rushers, or double down on the other side of the ball by adding another offensive lineman who is still high on their board.
The Ravens select Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.
The Jets, after acquiring the 26th pick, go pass-rush, taking Florida State's Jermaine Johnson II, but it's not one of the two pass-rushers the Seahawks have in mind.
With Green Bay's pick at 28 coming up, the Seahawks get ready to make their move, but a minute later, Schneider gets another call from Green Bay.
"They're picking," Schneider tells the room. "Green Bay is out."
Pete Carroll and John Schneider consider options as team president Chuck Arnold looks on.
Minnesota closes out the first round by selecting Georgia safety Lewis Cine. Between the deal that didn't go through with Green Bay and the final pick, more trades are discussed, but for various reasons, nothing materializes.
As Schneider would later tell the media, the Seahawks standing pat at No. 9 wasn't necessarily by design, trade talks happened, but talks don't always lead to consummated deals.
"There were opportunities to move up that disappeared and there were a couple to move back that disappeared," he said. "But (Cross) came to us, so we were pretty blessed that he was there."
Ultimately the Seahawks finish the night comfortable with where they stand, heading into the next day with two early picks in the second round (40 and 41 overall), and as well as the 72nd pick. Most importantly, they got Cross, a player Schneider would later refer to as "a pillar at left tackle," and while no trade back into the first round materialized, neither of their top remaining pass rushers were selected late in the first round.
On the TV screens in the front corners of the room, magician Criss Angel dangles from the sky above the draft stage in Las Vegas while wearing a straitjacket. The Seahawks draft room is confused.
Schneider gets on the phone with someone at the league office to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the Seahawks holding consecutive picks. Should the Seahawks keep both those picks, they can let the clock run out on the first pick, then make both selections before time runs out on the next pick. Essentially, the Seahawks have 14 minutes to make two picks (or make a pick then trade one), rather than having to do something with the 40th pick before their seven minutes are up.
Tampa Bay kicks off Round 2 by selecting Houston's Logan Hall, another pass-rusher, but not one of Seattle's targets.
Green Bay acquires No. 34 from Minnesota and takes North Dakota State receiver Christian Watson. Another pick down, another player off the board who isn't one of Seattle's targets. This day is off to a good start.
Schneider fields a call from a team looking to move up to acquire one of Seattle's two picks at 40 or 41. Nothing materializes.
After the Titans take cornerback Roger McCreary, the Jets move up to No. 36 and take running back Breece Hall. That move gets Seattle's attention, as he is one of two backs the Seahawks have left near the top of their board. As we'll soon see, there's another top back left, but with Hall going here affect how soon Ken Walker III gets picked?
After safety Jalen Pitre goes 37th to Houston, another call comes in about one of Seattle's two upcoming picks. This too doesn't lead to a deal.
The Giants trade the 38th pick to Atlanta, and the Falcons select Penn State's Arnold Ebiketie, one of the players in a cluster of remaining prospects at the top of the board, a group that also includes Boye Mafe.
The room deflates a little, but as long as Mafe survives the next pick, the Seahawks will be in great shape.
Carroll, Schneider, Berry, Kirchner and Teasley huddle up to discuss their upcoming two picks. Arnold and Allen are right there as well, but more as observers. As Carroll would later note, while Allen isn't the type to come into the draft room and demand Schneider and Carroll take certain players, she was very engaged in the process and would give her opinions.
Team president Chuck Arnold and Seahawks Chair Jody Allen listen in as the draft room discusses options.
"She was great and she had fun," Carroll told reporters. "She was in it. She was competing and she wanted to know about who you may be trading for, and the whole thing, she was on it. So she's really amazing."
The Bears take Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon, meaning the Seahawks are back on the clock. A decision is made that the Seahawks will not do any of the proposed deals to move back.
"We're not moving back, we're taking two good players here," Schneider says.
Says Carroll, "Mafe's going to be a (expletive) blast."
While there is no hesitation on taking Mafe, there is some discussion about the next pick. The decision is down to Walker, college football's top running back last year, and an offensive lineman.
"Somebody go get Shane (Waldron)," Carroll says, wanting to bring his offensive coordinator into the discussion. While coaches come in and out of the room throughout the draft, they aren't there the whole time, but are always available nearby in their offices.
In the back of the room, Schneider goofs off with some assistant coaches who have come into the room.
"What's up dudes?" he playfully asks. "I wish I got to be on the sidelines during games like you guys."
Even in the middle of making back-to-back picks that could help determine the future of the franchise, Schneider is as loose as can be.
The Mafe pick is official, and Schneider and Carroll make the call to their new pass-rusher.
"You want to come back out to Seattle, man?" Schneider says. "You had a great visit here."
"It was a great visit, I'd love to come back out there," Mafe responds.
"This is a really exciting time for us," Carroll says. "This is a great place to come and you're going to do a great job for us. We're going to ask you do to a lot of stuff now. You're going be rushing the passer, you're going to be covering some people, you're going to be on special teams everywhere, all of that. We need you to do all of that that you're capable of."
Defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt tells Mafe he and the Seahawks are "a match made in heaven."
After a bit more discussion, a decision is made, the Seahawks are taking Walker. One small problem though-his phone is going straight to voicemail. After a bit of a scramble and multiple people making multiple calls to different numbers, the Seahawks reach Walker just in time to turn in the pick.
"I love watching you run the rock, bud," Schneider tells Walker. "Can't wait to watch you run it up here in Seattle... I'm glad you picked up your phone."
Running game coordinator/running backs coach Chad Morton lets out a joyous yell that is arguably the loudest noise made in this room over the past two days.
Morton likes the pick.
With the seventh pick of the third round, No. 71 overall, the Bears take Tennessee receiver Velus Jones Jr. A loud cheer goes up in the room, because the Seahawks are back on the clock and are thrilled that Abraham Lucas is still there, high up on their draft board.
With Graff literally standing on the table, the Seahawks pick his guy, and Schneider can't resist having a little fun with Lucas when he reaches the big WSU tackle.
"John Schneider with the Seahawks," Schneider says. "Hey, we have the 109th pick in the fourth round..."
"OK," Lucas says, sounding confused.
"But we're going to take you right now, buddy!" Schneider continues. "Congratulations my man. Get in that car and come on over and kick some ass."
With the selection of Lucas, the Seahawks finished up a two-day stretch in which they added four players they're expecting to be big parts of their future.
Graff climbed off his table and the Seahawks watched the rest of the third round, getting ready for a Saturday in which they'd add five more players. Only time will tell how successful this 2022 draft was for the Seahawks, but the excitement level in the draft room was high.
"I think we balanced it out, and we attacked some needs," Carroll said after the end of the seventh round. "The tackle spot, that was a big deal, and were really fortunate that that worked out like that. Really fortunate. We had two really good guys to go for and upgrade the challenge and competition at those spots. I don't know who's going to start, but I know those guys are going to be challenged by the new guys coming in. It feels like we had some spots, and we didn't just get a guy, we got a couple of guys who can help us. As we continue to push to make it competitive, it makes us better. That's what I think we feel coming out of there. We got that done."
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