|National Football League|
Seattle grabs QB Wilson, LB Wagner on Day 2
By TIM BOOTH
RENTON, Wash. (AP) Finally, Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks took a draft pick that everyone knew.
And yet there were still questions about what drafting Russell Wilson in the third round on Friday night might mean for the Seahawks.
Seattle took Wilson, the star QB that led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl last season, with the 75th overall pick in third-round, after addressing another need by taking Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round. The Seahawks are hopeful that Wagner's huge production at a smaller college will carry over into the NFL and he can develop into their starting middle linebacker of the future.
While Wagner will have the more immediate impact, it's the selection of Wilson that grabbed attention.
"We think more than anybody else that was alive in the draft, this guy gives you the chance to have a great player," Carroll said of Wilson. "It's going to be really exciting to see what he can bring. All he's ever done is be great. And the way he finished at Wisconsin last year with the great finishing efforts, the extraordinary ability to control a game, and then knowing what kind of kid he is and the great all-around athleticism he has, he's just a fantastic chance for us to take."
Quarterback was an offseason theme for Seattle. The Seahawks signed Matt Flynn, one of the hottest free agents, to a three-year deal in March. Last season's starter, Tarvaris Jackson, has one year remaining on his contract and won over much of the Seahawks locker room by playing through a painful pectoral injury for more than half the season. The Seahawks were also high on young undrafted free agent Josh Portis, who was the No. 3 quarterback for most of last season.
But Carroll and general manager John Schneider have said since they arrived that they will look every year at adding a quarterback in the draft. And even though his height was a deterrent for some, it's hard to argue against Wilson's production.
After starring at North Carolina State, giving pro baseball a brief try and eventually ending up at Wisconsin, Wilson was one of the best QBs in the country last season. He set the NCAA record for pass efficiency for Wisconsin with a 191.8 rating, while throwing for 33 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He led Wisconsin to the Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl, where he threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in the Badgers' 45-38 loss to Oregon.
The concerns about Wilson seemed to be solely based on his height. He measured just shy of 5-foot-11 at the NFL combine, but questions about Wilson's height followed him to North Carolina State, then to Wisconsin and now to the NFL with the Seahawks.
This is the highest Seattle has drafted a quarterback since taking Rick Mirer with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1993 draft. Wilson had lengthy conversations with Schneider and Carroll at the Senior Bowl and could tell the Seahawks were very interested.
"I knew I had the talent. The only knock on me was my height. I think the main thing was just showing teams through my film that I could really play," Wilson said.
While Wilson had to overcome concerns about his height, Wagner was trying to prove that his eye-popping numbers posted at Utah State would transfer to the NFL. As another possible strike, Wagner missed the NFL combine when he came down with pneumonia just two days before he was set to leave for Indianapolis.
Wagner only started playing football his junior year of high school and Utah State was his only offer. Wagner went on to be a three-time all-Western Athletic Conference selection and racked up 147 total tackles his senior season for the Aggies. He was eighth in the country, averaging more than 11 tackles per game.
Asked what he feels like he does well, Wagner was brief: "make tackles." That'll be important as Seattle plans to start with Wagner at middle linebacker, although he's played both inside and outside spots in the past.
But as he was getting ready to perform on the biggest stage for NFL prospects, Wagner was so sick that he burst a blood vessel in his eye while vomiting. He bounced back with an impressive performance at his pro day, where Wagner said he ran in the 4.47 range in the 40-yard dash.
Wagner also made a visit to Seattle and could tell by the extensive testing the Seahawks put him through that there was interest. Wagner is likely to get comparisons - because of draft position - to former Seattle middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who was taken in the second round of the 2005 draft and instantly became Seattle's starter.
"I was worried a little bit because coming from a small school you have to do everything right," Wagner said. "But after the Senior Bowl and after my pro day I felt like it matched with every other linebacker that got picked, so I wasn't too worried about it."
For the second straight day, Seattle dropped back slightly in draft position but was able to stockpile picks for the later rounds. The Seahawks moved back from No. 42 to No. 47 in a trade with the New York Jets and picked up picks in the fifth and seventh rounds. Seattle now has seven picks - two picks in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds and one fifth-round pick - on the final day of the draft. Those later rounds have proved fruitful for Seattle the last two seasons.
"We take a lot of pride as a personnel department working with our coaching staff that we can make some hay on the very last day," Schneider said.
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Updated April 28, 2012