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Sunday, April 12, 2009
Mailbag: Why not Orakpo to Seahawks, 49ers?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

James from Auburn, Wash., writes: With the debate on who the Seahawks will take with their 4th overall pick and all this talk about Michael Crabtree, an offensive tackle, or a quarterback, what about choosing a DE/OLB in Brian Orakpo?

He is one of the best pass rushers in college and the top DE prospect with experience at outside linebacker, but what if the Seahawks can develop him to eventually take Julian Petersons role at outside linebacker? He would be in tremendous value to the Seahawks in that he can play two positions if called upon and injuries occur to other players and he has the potential to bring the most force in attacking the quarterback.

The Seahawks could always use Orakpo as a great DE if things didn't work out at Linebacker. Peterson was great at rushing the passer and tracking the ball, but in my opinion his pass coverage will not be missed. How do you think the Seahawks would value an athlete like Orakpo and have they looked into him? I just can't see him being a bust. He will be a great addition to any teams defense. Keep up the great work.

 
  NFL.com Video
  An inside look at outside linebacker Brian Orakpo from Texas.

Mike Sando: Thanks, James. I wouldn't rule out anything for Seattle with that pick, but the team already has quite a mix of players at that position. Patrick Kerney and Cory Redding are the veterans. Lawrence Jackson is the recent first-round choice. Darryl Tapp was another recent high draft choice. Baraka Atkins made the team last year.

I will not pretend to have studied Orakpo, but the people projecting him at outside linebacker seem to assume he would be playing in a 3-4 defense. The video atop this entry makes it sound as though Orakpo could play all 11 positions at the same time. Our Scouts Inc. analysis, available to Insider subscribers, rates him as exceptional in two categories: production and pass-rush ability:

Technique needs some refining. But he has elite natural pass-rushing skills. Explodes off the line and bends the corner nicely. Displays excellent closing burst to the QB. He's agile and can smoothly change directions on double moves. Also shows jarring punch to knock OT's off balance. 

Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout suggests Orakpo's stock could be leveling off or falling as the draft approaches:

I've spoken to scouts who operate for teams using the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments and each club is souring on the Longhorn pass-rusher. The more film teams do on Orakpo, the more they are left wondering if he is explosive and persistent enough to consistently generate a pass rush against NFL left tackles or, for that matter, agile enough to drop back into coverage.

Orakpo's imposing build is impressive to look at, but belies his career-long struggles with durability, as well; another element that scouts are mentioning as a reason he could slip out of the top ten and perhaps considerably farther than that.

I do not see an easy answer for the Seahawks at No. 4. Adding a pass rusher couldn't hurt. There simply isn't a consensus choice, which means the Seahawks will probably have some reservations about any player they select that early.


Cory from Houston writes: Love the blog. Being a die hard 9ers fan I am praying that they do not draft a quarterback with the 10th pick. Especially with next years QB class being so much better. My question is this, why does no one see them taking a dominating OLB/DE type with the 10th pick, like Orapko if he is still there, or a DT like Raji.

Hill may not be Cutler, but he has proven that he can win, and if we could get someone that could help put pressure on the other teams QB, like the Steelers D, it could take us to the next level. Don't call me crazy, but like the Steelers, if we have a top 10 defense, strong running game, and QB play that makes some plays, we could make the playoffs. OK I may be Crazy.

Mike Sando: I do think the 49ers will strongly consider a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the draft. They haven't had a problem converting defensive ends in the past, either. Most projections have had Orakpo off the board by No. 10. I think that helps explain why we haven't heard his name as much. If he is there, don't the 49ers have to consider him?


William from Columbus writes: Hey Mr. Sando, I keep hearing that the 49ers want to be more of a running based offense and that they want a BIG BACK to take the load off Frank Gore. With a back like Beanie Wells still going to be on the board why dont we hear more about that? I know that one of the Big Tackles might still be there but a good RB like Wells is kind of hard to find!

Mike Sando: Frank Gore is the reason we don't hear more about the 49ers taking a running back in the first round. General manager Scot McCloughan, speaking at the combine, sounded confident in the 49ers' ability to find a complementary back at some point in the draft. He did not outline running back as a primary need.


Justin from Missoula writes: I know there has been a great deal of attention following the cutler trade, but there hasn't been much talk about who might grab Plaxico Burress. What do you make of his situation and the NFC West teams in need of a go to man ... even a receiver with his baggage?

Mike Sando: The Rams could use him more than any team in the division, and their head coaches would know Burress well. However, general manager Billy Devaney has talked about removing from the board draft prospects with off-field baggage. Burress would be a high-maintenance player and a threat to Steve Spagnuolo's attempts to establish the way he expects things done. Burress was notorious for being late to meetings and that sort of thing. Spagnuolo can't afford to tolerate that stuff.


Travis from Gilbert writes: If all these players were available when the Cardinals draft at 31 who would you take? RB Knowshon Moreno, C Alex Mack, OL Eben Britton, TE Brandon Pettigrew, OLB Brian Cushing, ILB James Laurinaitis, DE Connor Barwin?

How many contracts do you think the Cardinals are going to be able to rework this offseason and which players contracts do you think will be reworked?

Mi
ke Sando:
I would probably go with the running back in that situation. He's going to touch the ball so much. Sometimes I wonder if the Cardinals need a better back to make their line look better. Usually we hear people talk about it the other way around. 

As for reworking contracts, I think the timetable has been pushed back now that Karlos Dansby is hiring a new agent and talking about possibly playing on a one-year deal. If Dansby plays on a one-year deal, Adrian Wilson would be next in line for a new deal, probably. Recent history suggests the Cardinals will not get deals done until those deals have to get done -- and that's how things work for quite a few teams.

Larry Fitzgerald got a new deal only when the costs associated with his old one became prohibitive. Kurt Warner got a new deal only after becoming a free agent and visiting the 49ers.