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Published on May 2, 2011 by     Tacoma News Tribune (Feed)

Critics, looking at the Seattle Seahawks the way sugar-savoring children look at a piñata dangling over a crowd, took only a few moments after the NFL draft concluded Saturday to take some hefty swings at the Seahawks’ draft class.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. broke out the Louisville Slugger, giving the Seahawks a grade of D+ for their three day’s of work and nine draft selections. Kiper said Seattle overreached for its first-round selection, offensive tackle James Carpenter, contending that the Seahawks could have gotten the nasty run-blocker with quick feet in the second round.

Kiper also said Seattle reached in selecting Mississippi State linebacker K.J. Wright and Georgia receiver Kris Durham in the fourth round, and questioned the Seahawks’ not selecting a quarterback with only Charlie Whitehurst on the roster.

“They did nothing really to help the defensive line, and their sense of value was questionable,” Kiper said.

Clifton Brown of the Sporting News also gave Seattle a D, saying the team’s decision not to draft TCU quarterback Andy Dalton with the No. 25 pick could haunt them, particularly if Matt Hasselbeck does not return in free agency. Brown thinks the Seahawks could go from first to worst in the NFC West.

Finally, here’s what Adam Caplan of Fox Sports had to say in handing the Seahawks another D grade: “No team reached for players as badly as the Seahawks. While they selected a few good players early on, Seattle picked them before many personnel evaluators felt they should have gone off the board.”

Conventional wisdom in the NFL says a draft truly can’t be evaluated until after the third year. Still, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll must have understood he had some explaining to do because he addressed the issue of the team’s selections at the close of the draft on Saturday.

Carroll said that Seattle searched for players with specific skills that were not necessarily considered high on other team’s draft boards.

“We’re looking for unique qualities that separate players from other players,” Carroll said. “And then we try to accentuate that weakness and make them special.”

Carroll provided some context with a couple of examples from this year’s draft class.

USC linebacker Malcolm Smith, a seventh-round draft choice by Seattle, may not have been on many team’s radar because of his size – 6-foot, 226 pounds, which is considered small for a linebacker.

However, because of Smith’s 4.4 speed in the 40-yard-dash, Carroll thinks he can come in and play right away in passing situations.

“He’s a running back playing linebacker,” Carroll said. “Whereas we have to develop him as a first- and second-down player, we know he can be a third-down player right now. So that makes him unique to us. We don’t have another guy like that.”

Carroll also pointed to Carpenter and third-round pick John Moffitt, an offensive guard from Wisconsin. Although other linemen may have been rated higher by other teams, when Seattle made those picks, new offensive line coach Tom Cable wanted specific characteristics that those guys had. Those included being able to handle tough coaching and an ability to run block, along with a nasty and tough attitude – traits sorely lacking from last year’s group.

“We accentuated the things that Tom thought he could bring out in players and the things he was looking for to add to in very special ways,” Carroll said. “And we found two kids that we love that we got. So whether someone thinks that’s the right guy for them or not, we don’t care about that. For us, for what we’re doing, we’ve dug in and worked hard enough in our scouting department that we feel great about the picks. And now it’s our job to prove that.”

Many observers think Seattle made a mistake by not drafting a quarterback. Perhaps the most vocal was ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, himself a former Seahawks quarterback, who said Seattle made a grave error in passing on Dalton. Dilfer sees Dalton as a good fit for the Seahawks and new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Dilfer also said that free agent Matt Hasselbeck likely will not return.

“You have Andy Dalton sitting there at No. 25, you need a quarterback and you’re not going to get Hasselbeck back, you went and got Charlie Whitehurst last year,” Dilfer said. “It just once again shows a team that isn’t evaluating the quarterback properly.

“You’re sitting there in position to get a guy that can be your quarterback for the next 10 years, and you take a tackle that you could have got in the back end of the second round who you’re going to move to guard.”

Even though Seahawks general manager John Schneider emphasized the importance of drafting quarterbacks and strengthening that position each year, Seattle has not drafted a quarterback since Schneider has taken over – although Carroll said he considers Whitehurst part of this year’s class because the Seahawks used a third-round pick from this year’s draft to get him in a trade with San Diego.

“We had a plan going in, and we still have our plan,” Schneider said about the quarterback situation. “We just can’t execute that plan right now.”

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