RENTON, Wash. -- Tis the season for NFL general managers to talk about the upcoming draft without tipping their hands.
The Seattle Seahawks' John Schneider and the San Francisco 49ers' Trent Baalke took their turns during pre-draft news conferences Wednesday. I was able to attend Schneider's session, which the team also streamed live on its website. A few notes and observations:
Personalities: Schneider's occasional references to movies such as "Step Brothers" and "Tommy Boy" show why he fits so well with coach Pete Carroll, who counts comedian Will Ferrell among his buddies and occasional visitors to team functions (including, presumably, any Catalina Wine Mixers). These guys like to have fun. Schneider joked that he was hoping to spend the draft's first round at Dino's Pub across the street from team headquarters until team officials talked him out of it. Seattle doesn't have a first-round pick after trading it to Minnesota for Percy Harvin. Schneider said the revised first-round plan was to watch Harvin highlights on YouTube while other teams made their picks.
Draft lessons: Schneider, asked about the boom-and-bust nature of players the team has drafted in the fourth round or thereabouts, pointed to a couple draft-related missteps he hoped to avoid in the future. Comparing a draft prospect to a veteran player with similar attributes has backfired in the past, he said, because it's tough to measure what's in a player's heart. Schneider also said it's a mistake to let a prospect's excellent production in college lull a team into asking fewer questions about the player. Schneider indicated that had happened to him in the past. He did not name names, but Kris Durham, E.J. Wilson and Mark LeGree were three underwhelming players the team selected in those rounds. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright were among the success stories.
Clemons' health: Schneider sounded optimistic about defensive end Chris Clemons' recovery from ACL surgery. He noted that Clemons proved to be a quick healer from foot/ankle surgery years ago. Clemons has a reputation on the team for being exceedingly tough when it comes to playing through pain. However, the team appears in position to carry Clemons on the physically unable to perform list, buying additional time before working Clemons into the lineup during the season. Adding Cliff Avril in free agency added flexibility.
Carpenter's confidence: James Carpenter is a wild-card player for the Seahawks on their offensive line. The team would love for him to emerge as a starting guard. Health is the No. 1 concern. Carpenter has struggled to regain quickness and range after suffering a serious knee injury. Schneider said Carpenter is the strongest player on the team, but the challenge will be for Carpenter to regain confidence and flexibility in his legs. Carpenter did stay in the Seattle area this offseason, which should help from a conditioning and rehabilitation standpoint.
49ers watching: Fans and reporters have been paying close attention to the moves Seattle and San Francisco have been making since finishing one-half game apart in the standings last season. Schneider said he doesn't get caught up in what other teams are doing, but he did say he thought the 49ers fared well in adding Anquan Boldin, Glenn Dorsey and Colt McCoy specifically.
Winfield fit: Seattle announced cornerback Antoine Winfield's signing. The Seahawks see Winfield as a slot defender whose addition fills a specific need while improving the team's defense against run and pass alike. He said Winfield's agent was very aggressive in pushing for a deal with Seattle. Schneider considered that an indication players are eager to join a strong Seattle defense. He theorized that Carroll's reputation for treating players as men has gotten around the league, making Seattle a more attractive destination.
Grading the draft: Seattle and Washington are the only teams without first-round picks. Teams grade players differently, of course, and there will usually be players graded as first-round talents still available in the second round. Schneider said the number is usually two or three in a given year. He said there will usually be five to 15 players his teams gave second-round grades still available in that round. When the Seahawks used a 2010 second-round choice for receiver Golden Tate, they said at the time they had him rated as a first-round player.
That's it from here. Time to dive into that rush-hour traffic for the trip home.