NFC West: 2012 blogger mock draft

What's going on: Our eight divisional bloggers are participating in an ongoing mock draft Monday. Each blogger can make selections or trade picks for the four teams in his division.

The latest: I selected Stanford tight end Coby Fleener for the Seattle Seahawks with the 31st overall choice, aquired from New England as part of a trade involving the 12th overall pick.

My rationale: The Seahawks landed a defensive end four picks earlier (in this mock, anyway). Once Fleener slipped past the 49ers at No. 30, I figured Seattle could use him as a replacement for John Carlson, who signed with Minnesota in free agency. This was a bit of a luxury pick, admittedly. But the salaries for first-round picks have become relatively modest. Pairing Fleener with Zach Miller would give new quarterback Matt Flynn welcome options in the passing game. Seattle likes its depth at wide receiver enough to raise questions about Mike Williams' job security. But the depth at tight end could use reinforcement. The Seahawks considered veteran Visanthe Shiancoe, but they would prefer to go with younger players. Fleener would add another dimension to the offense. However, concerns about a back injury suffered in college do raise questions about the safety of this choice.
What's going on: Our eight divisional bloggers are participating in an ongoing mock draft Monday. Each blogger can make selections or trade picks for the four teams in his division.

The latest: I selected North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins for the San Francisco 49ers with the 30th overall choice.

My rationale: The 49ers have a strong head coach, a strong locker room and one of the best defenses in the NFL. Justin Smith and Patrick Willis give the 49ers impeccably strong leadership. This team appears to be in good position to take a chance on a player with clear off-field concerns, particularly if scouts are right about Jenkins' raw talent. I considered Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, but the 49ers love their current tight ends. They could easily extend Delanie Walker's contract, knowing he fits in their offense and brings great additional value on special teams. The 49ers could have taken a guard in this slot, but that's a position they should be able to fill later in the draft, or with Daniel Kilgore. Cornerback is a more valuable position. The 49ers face a long list of top quarterbacks in 2012. Jenkins gives them needed depth. Scouts say he can play man or zone well.

What's next for the NFC West: The Seattle Seahawks hold the 31st overall choice.

Blogger Mock Draft: Seahawks get DE

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
2:39
PM ET
What's going on: Our eight divisional bloggers are participating in an ongoing mock draft Monday. Each blogger can make selections or trade picks for the four teams in his division.

The latest: I selected Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones for the Seattle Seahawks with the 27th overall choice, acquired from New England as part of a deal involving the 12th pick.

My rationale: The Seahawks like defensive players with unusual physical characteristics. Jones has freakishly long arms and would upgrade a pass rush that was lacking in 2011. "Highly athletic, vine-armed, havoc-wreaking pass-rusher with rare dimensions and a developing frame to fill out and become a pass-rushing force," Nolan Nawrocki writes in his annual draft guide for Pro Football Weekly. Seattle still needs help at linebacker, but this draft is deep at that position, according to Seahawks general manager John Schneider. The team landed starting linebacker K.J. Wright in the fourth round a year ago. Finding an impact pass-rusher later would be more difficult. Jones fills a primary need, and he does so 15 selections later than the Seahawks were originally scheduled to select. That seems like a welcome development for the Seahawks, who get another chance to help themselves at No. 31.

What's next for the NFC West: The San Francisco 49ers hold the 30th choice.
What's going on: Our eight divisional bloggers are participating in an ongoing mock draft Monday. Each blogger can make selections or trade picks for the four teams in his division.

The latest: I selected Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd for the Arizona Cardinals with the 13th overall selection.

My rationale: Tackle Riley Reiff was available and would have filled the greater need. The scouting reports on Reiff suggested he might not be a great value choice at No 13, however. The Cardinals have learned their lesson drafting an offensive tackle for need, having selected Levi Brown fifth overall in 2007. Floyd has the physical dimensions generally associated with receivers drafted among the top three overall selections. He also comes with question marks, but Larry Fitzgerald should be the perfect mentor. Floyd steps into the starting lineup and gives the Cardinals a player scouts consider ideally suited for the "Z" receiver role. With this pick, the Cardinals finally find a No. 2 receiver to succeed Anquan Boldin. Early Doucet is ideally suited for the No. 3 role. And if Andre Roberts takes another step in his development, all the better.

What's next for the NFC West: The Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to pick 27th, followed by the San Francisco 49ers at No. 30 and the Seahawks again at No. 31, following a trade with New England.
What's going on: Our eight divisional bloggers are participating in an ongoing mock draft Monday. Each blogger can make selections or trade picks for the four teams in his division.

The latest: I traded Seattle's first-round pick, 12th overall, and fourth-round pick, 106th overall, to the New England Patriots for the 27th and 31st selections.

My rationale: The Seahawks could use a starting middle linebacker. Luke Kuechly would have been a strong consideration, but he did not last past the ninth pick. Trading back became an appealing option. Bill Williamson of the AFC West blog reached out about possibly having San Diego move from 18th to 12th for a shot at Melvin Ingram. That was a consideration until the AFC East blogger, James Walker, moved up to take Ingram at No. 10 for the New York Jets. Walker wanted that 12th pick for New England, however, so I was in luck. The draft value chart said our exchange -- Nos. 12 and 106 for Nos. 27 and 31 -- matched up well. And so I made the move. The Patriots moved up for safety Mark Barron, a difference-maker for their defense. Seattle was already set at safety, having placed two of them in the Pro Bowl this past season. Two first-round picks were better than one in the absence of a player Seattle absolutely had to have.

What's next for the NFC West: The Arizona Cardinals are on the clock with the 13th overall choice.
What's going on: Our eight divisional bloggers are participating in an ongoing mock draft Monday. Each blogger can make selections or trade picks for the four teams in his division.

The latest: I just selected Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon for the St. Louis Rams with the sixth overall choice.

My rationale: The Rams need a No. 1 receiver. Blackmon is widely considered to be the best receiver in the draft. Matt Kalil, Trent Richardson and Morris Claiborne were not available. I considered drafting a defensive tackle, but none of the available ones seemed more appealing than Blackmon. Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd was a consideration with this selection as well. However, making an off-the-wall selection at No. 6 would have risked sending the mock into turmoil unnecessarily and unrealistically. The choice was going to be Richardson, Claiborne or Blackmon. Blackmon was the only one of the three still available in this mock. He was the logical choice under the circumstances.

Trade considerations: I received no trade offers for the sixth overall choice.

What's next for the NFC West: The Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to select with the 12th overall choice. I've made it clear to the other bloggers that Seattle would like to deal this choice. A deal will go down before I'm on the clock for Seattle. Preliminary discussions with the AFC East's James Walker and the AFC West's Bill Williamson point to New England and San Diego as suitors for this pick. Williamson has Melvin Ingram in mind for the Chargers. Walker appears to be the aggressor in trade talks to this point, though.

We've become accustomed to reading NFL mock drafts as finished products, usually from a single author.

Process trumps product when our eight divisional bloggers, myself included, gather Monday at 1 p.m. ET for a live mock draft allowing on-the-clock trades.

I'll post a link when I have one.

We're setting aside a two-hour window for this mock, allowing not quite 4 minutes per pick on average. The hope is for the format to promote urgency and discussion. This will be interactive to the extent the "Cover It Live" module allows.

I'm making picks and trades for the NFC West teams, whether they like it or not. Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon will be a consideration for the St. Louis Rams at No. 6 despite concerns raised on the blog and in the ESPN video above.

Note: Follow our live mock on Twitter with the ESPNbloggermock hash tag.
Raise your hand if you had the San Francisco 49ers selecting Aldon Smith with the seventh overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft.

Not seeing many hands out there. Not seeing any hands, actually.

OK, let's try this again.

Raise your hand if you had the Seattle Seahawks selecting James Carpenter at No. 25.

Hmmm. Not seeing many hands out there. Not seeing any, actually.

Do not feel bad. Even if you knew which 32 players would become first-round picks in a given NFL draft, there would be more than 263 decillion possible combinations.

The number looks like this: 263,130,836,933,693,530,167,218,012,160,000,000.

With that in mind, our 2012 NFL Blog Network mock draft comes guaranteed not for accuracy but for its ability to promote conversation, a process that has already begun here on the NFC West blog.

"Kendall Wright pick makes no sense" CHI-TOWN-BULLS protested upon seeing the Baylor receiver projected for the49ers at No. 30.

More on that in a minute.

We penciled in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III at the top with a reasonable degree of confidence. Matt Kalil, Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon fell third through sixth. Most choices seemed logical, but somewhere among the top five or 10 selections, an NFL team breaks from projected form, tapping into those 263 decillion combinations.

Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars obliterated mock drafts by selecting Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick. Last year, four quarterbacks went among the top 12 choices, with Christian Ponder a surprise choice for Minnesota at No. 12.

My thinking for the NFC West was rather straightforward:
  • Rams at No. 6: Blackmon was an easy choice. The team has an obvious need for a wide receiver. Blackmon is widely regarded as the highest-rated one in this draft class, to the point that some question whether he will be available to the Rams. Going in another direction for this mock would have represented over-thinking a simple situation. Sure, St. Louis could trade back or select a player at another position. Richardson or Claiborne would carry appeal if available. But when Blackmon was available, I turned in the imaginary card right away.
  • Seahawks at No. 12. I wondered going into the mock whether Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly might be available for Seattle in this slot. Would the team take an inside linebacker that early? San Francisco fared well taking Patrick Willis with the 11th pick in 2007. Scot McCloughan, now a top Seahawks personnel executive, was the driving force behind the Willis decision. Would the Seahawks see Kuechly in a similar light? They do need help at linebacker, after all. The thought became a fleeting one when Kuechly went to Carolina at No. 9. That made it easier to focus on the highest-rated pass-rushers. Quinton Coples was the choice because he seemed to be the most talented one available, based on scouting reports.
  • Cardinals at No. 13. This choice was tougher than the previous two. I went with Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, figuring he might fit the profile for a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the Cardinals' 3-4 scheme. He's on the shorter side at not quite 6-foot-2, and there is no clear consensus on whether Upshaw projects as an outside linebacker. The height factor seemed less important given that Arizona patterns its defensive scheme after the one Pittsburgh has used under Dick LeBeau. The Steelers' LaMarr Woodley (6-2) and James Harrison (6-0) get the job done. Could Upshaw enjoy situational success the way Smith did as a rookie for San Francisco last season? Receiver Michael Floyd was a consideration for Arizona. I thought the Cardinals needed improved quarterback play more than they needed improved receiver talent.
  • 49ers at No. 30. Wright was the choice simply because he appeared to be the highest-rated receiver available, but the 49ers could easily go in another direction. Quite a few mock drafts have linked Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill to the 49ers, but he was not available to them in this mock, having gone 22nd to Cleveland. I was drafting more for position than for the specific player. The 49ers could use another cornerback. Perhaps Janoris Jenkins would have been a better value choice. He went 31st to New England in our mock. The 49ers could use a starting right guard, but they might already have one in Daniel Kilgore, a 2011 draft choice. Besides, how many first-round picks can one team use for offensive linemen? Current starters Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis were first-rounders. Ultimately, the 49ers are picking this late for a reason. They don't have as many clearly defined needs as less successful teams. They're in good position to keep an open mind.

I used ESPN's 2012 NFL Draft Machine to make selections and keep general track of which players remained available as the mock unfolded. Toggling between the overall list and specific position lists made it easier to balance value with need.

This conversation is to be continued.

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