NFC West: 2014 NFL Nation mock

We held our NFL Nation mock draft this week on ESPN.com and on SportsCenter.

I took Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the 49ers at No. 30.

But that was not my intention. I tried to trade up. I tried a lot. Spanning picks 15-28, I made nine inquiries. Nine of them. I never truly came close to executing a deal. There was some potential with Kansas City at No. 23. But I wasn’t giving up the No. 30 pick.

I think the 49ers would like to draft twice in the first round, so that was my goal. I wouldn’t worry my lack of trade success will translate into trouble for the 49ers finding a trade partner Thursday night. I think the actual decision makers may be more willing to move back than the folks I was trying to convince.

Honestly, I don’t love the Benjamin choice, but he was really the only way I thought I could go. I would have been much more satisfied if he was my second first-round pick and I was able to get a cornerback earlier. Even without a trade, I thought I might get TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, but his slide ended at No. 28 to Carolina. Yes, I talked to Carolina about a deal, too.

At No. 30, in addition to Benjamin, I considered Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews and Fresno State receiver Davante Adams as well as Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford. In the end, I went with Benjamin, whose size and skill can translate into big NFL success.

But, overall, I leave this exercise disappointed. I wanted to get a cornerback and a receiver. But no one would play with me.
The Seahawks are pretty tight-lipped about what they might do in the draft, as all teams are. But Seahawks general manager John Schneider made it clear Tuesday what they like to do.

The more picks, the better, and Seattle only has six picks at the moment.

“I think we do a great job throughout the draft of trying to acquire picks and making those decisions along the way,” Schneider said. “We have a track record where I tried to acquire as many picks as we possibly can.

“At the top of the draft, you’re excited about the players, but the further you get into the draft, you wish you had more picks toward the end. There are quality players that you know the coaching staff could work with and coach up. So you always want as many picks as you can.”

With that in mind, don’t be shocked to see the Seahawks try to trade their pick at the end of the first round.

In our live mock draft Tuesday on ESPN.com, I had a deal worked out with Minnesota to give the Vikings Seattle’s pick at No. 32 for their second-round pick at 40 and the third-round pick the Seahawks sent to Minnesota as part of the Percy Harvin trade last year.

However, our Vikings reporter, Ben Goessling, made a last-minute deal with Denver reporter Jeff Legwold to move up to 31, nixing my deal at the last minute.

So I selected UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo in the first round. He fills a clear need for the Seahawks on the offensive line with the player widely-regarded as the second best guard in the draft and a guy who can step in immediately and compete for a starting spot. It’s also possible he could play right tackle after playing a lot at the tackle spot in college, but is generally seen more as a guard in the NFL.

In the real draft Thursday, I still think the Seahawks will trade down if possible, which could depend on how the quarterbacks fall early.

The Seahawks had 11 draft picks last year. This year, the Rams and the 49ers have the most draft picks in the NFC West. St. Louis has 12 picks and San Francisco has 11.

“With all of the picks that the 49ers and Rams have, I hope it will be really confusing for them,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll joked on Tuesday.
By time the 20th pick rolled around in Tuesday’s NFL Nation mock draft, I had turned down three trade requests.

Two teams – the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars – offered me an opportunity to move out of the first round, while the New Orleans Saints tried to get me to move back. But Arizona has areas it needs to improve, some greater than others, and I knew the options wouldn’t be as talented after No. 20.

After fending off the trade offers, I took a look at my big board and the lure of drafting an offensive tackle – at the time Virginia’s Morgan Moses and Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio were still available – was tempting but Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier was the best player available. And with inside linebacker an area of concern, he was the right fit.

As Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said last week, Shazier can play both inside and outside linebacker, which gives the Cardinals options in utilizing his speed. He would instantly compete with Kevin Minter for the inside job next to Daryl Washington and Shazier would likely fill Washington’s role when he’s suspended by the league for violating its personal conduct policy. Of anyone in the draft, his play most resembles Karlos Dansby's ability to cover sideline to sideline.

Shazier can also be a weapon on the outside, with enough speed to blow by tackles off the edge, giving the Cardinals a presence there they didn’t have last year. And he’ll be able to learn under veteran sack master John Abraham, who’ll be 36 next season.

He wasn’t just the best player available, he was the best fit for the Cardinals.

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