RENTON, Wash. — Through his three years as the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks, John Schneider has made his way by going against the grain. To Schneider, conventional wisdom is what he makes it, and in conjunction with head coach Pete Carroll, Schneider has made a series of moves that have not only surprised the rest of the league, but also defined a Seahawks team that is the hottest in the league right now. While the league was fawning over Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and a host of other first-round quarterback picks in 2012, Schneider took West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin with the 15th overall pick. It was seen as a strange move by those who were not aware that the smaller, faster Irvin was misplaced in the 3-3-5 defense he played in college. Schneider knew better, saw that Irvin would succeed in Carroll’s multiple fronts, and he got the NFL’s rookie sack leader in return. In the second round, Schneider pulled the trigger on Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner, who is now a legitimate candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Of course, it was the third-round pick that really set Schneider and the Seahawks up for success in 2012. He and Carroll decided on Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, who was seen by many teams to be too short to succeed in the pros. All Wilson has done since then is beat out veteran incumbent Matt Flynn, take change of the offense on a team that has scored 150 points in its last three games, and stand just one touchdown pass away from Peyton Manning’s record for touchdown passes thrown by a rookie. If Wilson can throw two scores against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, he’ll roll past Manning’s mark of 26. It’s more than the splash picks, though. Schneider has as deep a draft board as anyone in the NFL, and an absolute belief in the type of players Carroll needs. That’s how he plucked Stanford’s Richard Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 draft — in his second year, Sherman has transformed into perhaps the best cover cornerback in the NFL. He paired Sherman with Brandon Browner, a former Denver Broncos camp washout who was imported from the Canadian Football League. Wagner was paired with K.J. Wright, a fourth-round pick from the 2011 draft, to give the Seahawks two of the rangier linebackers in the league. That Seahawks secondary is rounded out by Kam Chancellor, a fifth-round pick in Schneider’s first draft in 2010, and first-round pick Earl Thomas, who might cover more ground than any other safety around. And when Browner was suspended four games late in the season for a violation of the league’s PED policy? The Seahawks were able to throw sixth-round rookie Jeremy Lane in Browner’s place, and Lane used his speed and trail ability to keep the ball rolling. In last Sunday’s 42-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers, Lane and seventh-round picks J.R. Sweezy (a converted defensive tackle now playing offensive guard) and defensive end Greg Scruggs played significant roles. Jerry Reese of the New York Giants once told me that personnel guys earn their paychecks in the second and third days of the draft. By that standard, Schneider deserves a raise, no matter how much he’s making. True to form, Schneider would not make himself available to the media this week, even as so many of his picks are paying off. He’d rather grind tape and find the next great value than bring attention to himself. But Carroll had no trouble gushing about his GM when I asked him how the two men worked together.
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