We’ll continue our countdown of the Top 25 draft picks in Seahawks history with another member of the team’s first Super Bowl champ.
LINEBACKER K.J. WRIGHT
WHEN DRAFTED: 2011, 4th round, 99th overall
COLLEGE: Mississippi State
SEAHAWKS CAREER: 2011-present
WHY HE’S ON THE LIST: Wright (above in a Dean Rutz photo) is already the third member of Seattle’s 2011 Draft, which if you recall didn’t exactly earn glowing reviews at the time — Mel Kiper, for one, gave it a D-plus. The others already on this list are linebacker Malcolm Smith and cornerback Byron Maxwell, and, well, it’s not worth trying to keep it a secret that Richard Sherman will also be on this list at some point. Pretty good haul there for a class that got mostly middling grades at the time.
Wright is one player who was picked about where everyone thought — he was generally considered a third-to-fourth round pick. Still, give the Seahawks credit for being the team that picked him, getting a player who contributed earlier than many speculated he would, starting 12 games as a rookie and every game for which he has been healthy since then, becoming an anchor of a linebacking corps that probably doesn’t get as much acclaim as it should given the attention heaped on the secondary.
Here’s what Seattle’s brain trust said about Wright on the day he was picked.
First, coach Pete Carroll on whether Wright would be solely a linebacker or also a LEO, and his height:
“I’ll remind you guys that we played Brian Cushing at Leo at USC an we played Clay Matthews at LEO at USC as well. Those guys were standup LEO guys, and so K.J. has a chance to be that guy, too. We’re going to play him at Sam linebacker, we’re going to look at him at the LEO spot, and we’ll also see what he can do at nickel as a coverage linebacker which we have already seen him do. He might even be able to help us as a rusher. He brings us great versatility, It’s rare that you would find a linebacker with this much length and 4.6 speed and a natural sense for the football. He’s a very unique player and we need that flexibility. Hopefully, that will really help us out. … He’s got great length over a lot of guys in the draft. That range shows up, and it sure makes him effective.”
And here’s what GM John Schneider said:
“Real smart guy. Very smart, very instinctive. It’s kind of rare in college that are really good in zone, getting into their drops. He has great route anticipation; that’s the first thing that stands out when you watch him. Then, we think he has an upside as a rusher as well.”
Other than the fact that he never really did the LEO spot, Wright has pretty much been all that and more — according to Pro Football Reference, the only players in the Class of 2011 to make more than the 164 he has with the Seahawks are Tampa Bay’s Mason Foster (199), who also went to Washington; and J.J. Watt (192). Ample enough reason to be on this list.