RENTON, Wash. -- Bobby Wagner was worried that missing the NFL combine because of pneumonia would be another strike against him, considering he already carried some concerns having played his college ball at Utah State.Ultimately, Wagner's production at linebacker outweighed those worries for the Seattle Seahawks.
Continuing to address their holes on defense, the Seahawks selected Wagner out of Utah State in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night. Seattle's hope is that Wagner will develop into its new middle linebacker after starter David Hawthorne left for New Orleans in free agency.
"His speed and his range is very impressive and then you get a guy who is very physical," Seattle assistant scouting director Eric Stokes said.
Wagner's selection at No. 47 overall came after Seattle used its first-round pick to help its pass rush with the selection of defensive end Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia. Last year, Seattle's first two picks addressed its offensive line.
So far in 2012, it's all about improving the defense.
Wagner did everything for Utah State, racking up 147 total tackles his senior season for the Aggies. He was a three-time all-Western Athletic Conference selection and started all four years for the Aggies. His senior season, Wagner ranked eighth in the country, averaging more than 11 tackles per game.
Asked what he feels like he does well, Wagner was brief: "make tackles."
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.
Wagner will instantly get comparisons to former Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu because of where they were drafted. Tatupu was a second-round pick in 2005 and became Seattle's starting middle linebacker that season as the Seahawks won their only conference championship in franchise history.
But while Tatupu came with football lineage -- his father was an NFL player -- Wagner only started playing football his junior year of high school. Utah State was his only offer. After a stellar career and about to go perform at the NFL combine, Wagner was stricken with pneumonia just a couple of days before he was supposed to leave for Indianapolis. Wagner said he 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.
"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."
Seattle also held a third-round pick on Friday night, No. 75 overall.