Seahawks fill defensive holes on Day 3 of Draft

Seahawks fill defensive holes on Day 3 of Draft

Credit: KING

Seahawks fill defensive holes on Day 3 of Draft

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by Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on April 30, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Updated Saturday, Apr 30 at 5:46 PM

RENTON, Wash. -  K.J. Wright wanted to scream. The situation dictated he whisper.

When Wright wasn't taken in the third round of the NFL draft Friday, the Mississippi State linebacker knew that Saturday could get a little odd and a little awkward. Wright knew he was going to get drafted. The problem came with the timing.

Would Wright get the phone call he's always wanted to receive in the middle of his college graduation ceremonies?

Yep.

"As soon as I got off the phone, two minutes later I had to go up there and walk across the stage," Wright said.

The drafting of Wright was the beginning of a busy final day of the NFL draft for the Seattle Seahawks. Picking seven times in the final three rounds, Seattle addressed mostly the defensive side of the ball after spending the first two days working to better an offensive line that was a constant problem in Pete Carroll's first season.

Seattle grabbed a trio for its secondary with Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman, Appalachian State free safety Mark LeGree, a three-time Associated Press FCS first-team all-American, and Clemson cornerback Byron Maxwell.

The Seahawks closed out the day by drafting defensive lineman Lazarius "Pep" Levingston from LSU and Southern California outside linebacker Malcolm Smith, both in the seventh round.

The only offensive player Saturday drafted was 6-foot-5 Georgia wide receiver Kris Durham in the fourth round, a stark turn from the first two days when Seattle focused on the offensive line and took Alabama's James Carpenter and Wisconsin's John Moffitt.

About the only lingering position Seattle didn't address -- and most expected them to -- was quarterback. Charlie Whitehurst is the only QB under contract.

"Overall, I think we were able to really improve the athleticism and speed of our team and then we were able to do some things up front from a strength and toughness standpoint," Seattle general manager John Schneider said.

Wright's size and his ability to be used in a variety of ways is was attracted the Seahawks. He played in all 47 games during his career for the Bulldogs, starting 35. He finished his career at Mississippi State with 259 total tackles and nine sacks.

At nearly 6-foot-4 and almost 250 pounds, Wright could be a hybrid player in the Seahawks defense, potentially used as an outside linebacker or a pass-rushing defensive end. He's in the mold of defensive ends Chris Clemons, who had 11 sacks last season, and Dexter Davis, who was taken in the seventh round a year ago.

Wright just wished he could have celebrated the way he wanted, or the way the Seahawks expected.

"My mind was going everywhere. I had to whisper, because I really couldn't talk to them in line, I couldn't say everything I wanted to," Wright said. "It was a little different."

It was Carroll who finally found out what was going on after first talking with Schneider.

"I just thought he was being pretty quiet," Schneider said.

Sherman nearly became one of Carroll's players at Southern California, being recruited by Carroll out of Dominguez High in Compton, Calif. Carroll told Sherman he could be a "lockup" cornerback for the Trojans, prompting Sherman to use "lockup" as part of his email address ever since.

But Sherman decided he wanted to make a statement that kids from Compton could go to a school like Stanford and decided playing on The Farm was the route he wanted to take.

"It's hard for people to understand that you can be an athlete and have high academics standards and achieve high academic things," Sherman said. "So I really wanted to make that known to people that you can go to Stanford from Compton."

Sherman has only two seasons playing at cornerback, making the switch before his junior year after starting at wide receiver. But he fits the mold of what Seattle wants in its defensive backs -- big. Sherman stands 6-foot-2 and nearly 200 pounds. Same goes for LeGree and Maxwell, both of them 6 feet and around 210 pounds.

LeGree was one of the top small college players in the country and was the active NCAA leader in interceptions with 22 at the end of last season. It was a remarkable rise for LeGree, who went to a small high school in Georgia with a graduating class of just 28 and got just one offer -- Appalachian State -- for college.

His first college game was Appalachian State's upset of Michigan back in 2007.

"I am so thankful that one school felt like I could come in and contribute to a team. I made the most of my opportunity," LeGree said. "I just wanted to play college football for four more years and go to school for free."

Schneider and the Seahawks weren't deterred by LeGree playing against a lower level of competition. Nor were they turned away by Smith and a disease of the esophagus that he eventually needed surgery to repair, or the fact that Durham had just 32 catches his final season at Georgia.

Schneider said they feel each guy can fill a niche for the Seahawks.

"We feel very good about what happened in these picks and I think that's because our information was clear and connected so well and we worked together so cleanly," Carroll said.

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