The Seahawks’ general manager has a thing for draft choices

To John Schneider, the week-long scouting combine that kicks off Wednesday is the equivalent of being a kid in a candy store for the Seahawks’ draft pick-loving general manager.

INDIANAPOLIS – Welcome to the NFL scouting combine. Or for John Schneider, the equivalent of being a kid in a candy store.

The Seahawks’ general manager has a thing for draft choices, and Schneider and his staff – as well as coach Pete Carroll and his staff – will spend the next seven days examining players that they will consider selecting in April’s draft.

Despite the uncertainty over free agency because the CBA between the owners and NFL Players Association is set to expire next week, the draft will take place – which is why there is even more emphasis on the combine than usual. The process begins Wednesday, when the offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers and punters start their physical exams and interviews with teams. The combine concludes next Tuesday, when the safeties and cornerbacks will work out at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Seahawks currently hold the 25th pick in the first round of the draft, which is set for April 28, as well as six other picks in the subsequent six rounds. That number could increase when the compensatory picks are awarded.

“Draft picks are everything. They really are,” Schneider said. “You don’t like giving up seventh-round draft choices.”

That’s why Schneider and staff spent the three weeks leading up to the combine compiling their draft board. It will be tweaked and even shuffled from input and impressions they glean during their week in Indy.

“You think about the coaches working hard, late at night. You think about the scouts being out at a Marriott Courtyard, typing reports late in the evening,” Schneider said. “It’s everything that goes into it.

“The draft picks are just …” he continued before pausing. “If you trade a draft pick away, it hurts. I just hate giving up draft picks.”

Just as he loves acquiring them. The more picks, obviously, the better.

“Valuing the picks, I truly do,” he said. “Quite frankly, I love moving back.”

Because trading down is a way to get more picks. And this could be one of those drafts where the talent pool from No. 24 through No. 40 could be equal, as far as the players’ draft grades. So trading back could be a possibility for the Seahawks – depending on which players are available when it’s time to make the 25th pick and what another team might be willing to give up to move into that spot.

Todd McShay, draft analyst for ESPN, says he has given only two dozen players first-round grades at this point. But Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network, views this year’s talent pool a little differently.

“I’ve got a deeper first round than I’ve had in the past several years,” he said. “I think it starts because of the defensive line class, and let me give you an example: I’ve got eight or nine defensive ends with first-round grades. Typically, four defensive ends go in the first round.”

Mayock offers Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson as an example of his example, and also one that plays into the point McShay was making.

“He could be a defensive tackle or a defensive end,” Mayock said. “He could go from 25 to 40, and the kid is a heckuva of a football player.

“So it’s about whether or not your needs meet up with the strength of this year’s draft.”

Need a D-tackle or a D-end, or even an offensive lineman, “You’re in luck,” Mayock said. Looking for a starting cornerback at No. 25, “There’s a big drop off after the first two,” he added, referring to LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara.

All of that is just another way of saying the Seahawks should be able to go in any of several directions with that first-round pick: Best player available, as the team continues to have multiple needs in its second offseason under Carroll and Schneider; a value player who also fills a need; trading back, to add more picks and still secure a player with the potential to help immediately.

Last year, Schneider had his hands on 15 picks during the three-day draft – the Seahawks’ original choices, as well as those obtained and traded in deals that involved kick returner/running back Leon Washington, running back LenDale White and defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson.

Before the draft, picks were involved in the trade with the San Diego Chargers for quarterback Charlie

Whitehurst and the trades that send defensive end Darryl Tapp to the Philadelphia Eagles, guard Rob Sims to the Detroit Lions and quarterback Seneca Wallace to the Cleveland Browns. After the draft, there were trades that impacted this year’s picks involving the arrivals of running back Marshawn Lynch, defensive line Kentwan Balmer and offensive lineman Stacy Andrews and the departures of defensive end Lawrence Jackson, cornerback Josh Wilson and wide receiver Deion Branch.

You get the picture: Schneider is not afraid to deal; and if it involves adding another pick, all the better.

The vision for this year will become clearer over the next seven days. While some pooh-pooh the viability of the combine because too many players pass on working out and even more are coached on how to handle the interviews with teams, Schneider is not among them.

This is, after all, his annual trip into the NFL version of a candy store.

“The combine is enormously important, because of the medical portion and also the interviews you get to do with the players,” Schneider said. “This is like the biggest job interview they’ll have.

“Yes, you have seen them competing and playing at a high level. And that’s phenomenal. But to me, this is the full-blown job interview. You have medical. You have psychological. You have, obviously, the athletic portion. And then you have the interviews, which are real intense and can show how the player handles stressful situations.”

Too many outside the inner circle focus too heavily on the physical aspect, as McShay pointed out.

“We all go to Indianapolis and spend a week reporting on every single 40 time and bench press and height and weight and hand size – every number possible,” he said. “But 80 percent of the combine, in terms of value for teams, comes from the medical exams and the interview process.

“When you’re going to invest that kind of money in an individual, you have to know what kind of person he is and what kind of medical history and potential you’re dealing with. With any player that’s coming off an injury, or has a history of injuries, this is going to be the most important part of his process.”

It’s a week-long process that also goes a long way toward satisfying Schneider’s sweet tooth when it comes to draft choices.

“This one is huge,” he said. “So the combine, to me, is phenomenal.”