NFC West: Adam Carriker

Final Word: Seahawks at Redskins

January, 4, 2013
NFC Final Word: East | West | North AFC: North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Seattle Seahawks' wild-card playoff game against the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field:

Rookie showcase. Washington's Robert Griffin III (102.4) and Seattle's Russell Wilson (100.0) are the only qualifying quarterbacks in NFL history to finish their rookie seasons with NFL passer ratings in triple digits. They also are the first full-time rookie starting quarterbacks to face one another in an NFL playoff game. Houston's T.J. Yates was a replacement for Matt Schaub when he went against fellow rookie Andy Dalton in the playoffs last season.

Wilson and Griffin aren't alone among rookies playing prominent roles for their teams. The Redskins, led by Griffin and 1,600-yard rusher Alfred Morris, have a league-high 46 touchdowns passing, rushing or receiving from their rookies this season. The Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts are tied for second with 30 apiece.

Seattle also got 12 sacks from its rookies. Bruce Irvin had eight of them. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner finished his rookie season with 140 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks as an every-down player.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsSeattle quarterback Russell Wilson has shown steady improvement when facing heavy defensive pressure this season.
Picking their spots. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said he counted nine all-out blitzes for Washington against Dallas in Week 17.

The Redskins collected a league-high 12 interceptions while blitzing during the regular season. Wilson, after struggling against pressure early in the season, has eight touchdown passes with no picks against five or more pass-rushers since Week 8. He has hit on six deep passes against five-plus rushers over that period, third most in the NFL. Deep passes are those traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage before the reception.

Wilson has eight overall touchdown passes on these deep throws, tied for second most in the NFL. He has thrown none of them on the road, however. His completion rate on these throws drops from 53.3 percent at home (16-of-30) to 28.6 percent on the road (8-of-28).

Pictures of health. The Seahawks enter the playoffs with zero starters on injured reserve unless you count guard James Carpenter as a player Seattle was counting on. Nickel pass-rusher Jason Jones and nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond are the most prominent Seahawks on IR. The Redskins' IR list features starters Adam Carriker, Brian Orakpo, Fred Davis, Jammal Brown and Brandon Meriweather. Also, nickel cornerback Cedric Griffin missed four games to a suspension and is returning.

Watch that play fake. The Seahawks have increasingly used play-action to great effect from the shotgun formation. Wilson has completed 14 of 15 such passes over the past five games. Both defenses must be wary. Griffin's average target depth jumps by a league-high 5 yards on play-action throws. His Total QBR score is a 13th-ranked 58.4 without play-action. It jumps to 86.8, fourth best in the league, when using the tactic. Seattle's defense ranks 24th in QBR allowed (74.4) against play-action. Washington's defense ranks third (46.9) by this measure.

Cornerback playmaking. Griffin, Wilson, Morris and Marshawn Lynch will command most of our attention as the most productive offensive players for each team.

There should be some outstanding battles in the secondaries as well. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is one of four players over the past 10 seasons with at least eight interceptions and three forced fumbles in one season (Charles Woodson and Ed Reed are two others to do it).

Sherman and fellow corner Brandon Browner tick off opposing receivers with their aggressive, sometimes against-the-rules tactics. The Redskins haven't gotten many calls along those lines. They made only seven first downs this season via penalties for illegal contact, defensive pass interference or defensive holding this season. That is half the NFL average and second fewest in the NFL behind Cleveland (six).

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this item.
OK, St. Louis Rams fans, here's the plan:

"Maybe if you do Justin Blackmon in the first round, maybe your second-round picks, if it falls need with value, maybe you get a real athletic outside linebacker who starts for you and maybe you get a defensive tackle."

That's what I told Bernie Miklasz during our latest conversation on 101ESPN St. Louis, anyway.

"(The defensive tackle) maybe has some questions about him -- you’re not going to get that perfect guy -- but look, the Rams know there are questions with defensive tackles when you taken them in the first round," my thinking went, with visions of Jimmy Kennedy and Adam Carriker.

The most talented defensive linemen tend to disappear in the first round, although some have projected Insider Michigan State's Jerel Worthy to the Rams at No. 33 overall.

"You're using a lower-round pick, still getting some guys with question marks," I offered. "With the big guys, it's usually about effort and motor and those things, but that's why you have coaches. That's why you have Jeff Fisher, who got something out of Albert Haynesworth."

OK, then. Using my logic, the Rams would draft Blackmon in the first round, Worthy atop the second and, say, Nebraska's Lavonte David with the 39th overall choice.

On a side note, the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans never used a second-round choice for a linebacker when Fisher was their head coach. They took one in the first round (Keith Bullock at No. 30), three in the third, five in the fourth, three in the fifth, two in the sixth and five in the seventh.

Perhaps Fisher breaks that trend in 2012. The Rams' general manager, Les Snead, was with Atlanta when the Falcons made Curtis Loftin the 37th overall choice in 2008.

Expanded list: Most sacks per pass play

December, 8, 2011
Expanding on an earlier post, this one ranks NFL players by most sacks per pass play through Week 13.

The San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith ranks fourth on the list. The St. Louis Rams' Chris Long is 10th. The Arizona Cardinals' Sam Acho ranks 19th. Ex-Seattle Seahawk Lawrence Jackson is 14th. Ex-Ram Adam Carriker ranks 21st.

Smith is keeping impressive company. The next step for him, likely next season, will be to maintain his pass-rush production as an every-down player, when he'll also have to hold up against the run more frequently. So far, so good.

The St. Louis Rams' Robert Quinn did not quite make the chart. He has five sacks and a 2.2 percentage. Seattle's Chris Clemons has eight sacks and a 2.1 percentage.

Sacks are not the only measure of a player's performance, of course. The best pass-rushers tend to collect a lot of them, however.

Michael from Seattle asked whether I noticed that the Seahawks had ranked last among NFL teams in Rick Reilly's recent re-drafting of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 first rounds, with cornerback Kelly Jennings going 210 spots later.

Mike Sando: Not only were the Seahawks last, but the St. Louis Rams were second-worst and the San Francisco 49ers third-worst. The Arizona Cardinals finished 22nd. Poor draft choices drag down teams, no doubt, but bad teams also drag down questionable draft choices. Some of these players walked into rough situations.

One of the Seahawks' recent first-round picks, Lawrence Jackson, appears better suited for Detroit's scheme. He had a career-high six sacks for the Lions last season and could get close to double digits playing with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. But he was never going to enjoy that sort of success in Seattle, particularly as the team sought different qualities in its linemen. Jennings, Kentwan Balmer (49ers), Tye Hill (Rams) and Matt Leinart (Cardinals) dragged down their teams' drafts as well.

A quick look at the NFC West picks Reilly mentioned, and how many spots earlier or later they would have gone on a re-draft:
  • Cardinals (minus-192): Leinart fell from 10th to undrafted (2006); Levi Brown fell from fifth to 32nd (2007); Steve Breaston rose from 142nd to 28th (2007); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie fell from 16th to 50th (2008). Breaston was the only NFC West player to jump into a first round from lower in his draft class. Rodgers-Cromartie has played at a Pro Bowl level for stretches. He wasn't as good last season, but was he bad enough to fall 34 places? Reilly made him the seventh cornerback selected.
  • 49ers (minus-323): Vernon Davis fell from sixth to 19th (2006); Manny Lawson fell from 22nd to 99th (2006); Patrick Willis jumped from 11th to third (2007), trailing only Adrian Peterson and Darrelle Revis in his class; Joe Staley dropped from 28th to 46th (2007); Kentwan Balmer dropped from 29th to undrafted (2008). Willis was the only NFC West first-rounder to gain ground in the re-draft. Reilly had Davis going one spot after Marcedes Lewis. Both are good tight ends. Both have been to the Pro Bowl.
  • Rams (minus-351): Hill fell from 15th to undrafted (2006); Adam Carriker fell from 13th to 100th (2007); Chris Long fell from second to 26th (2008). Reilly had Long going after Pierre Garcon in the re-draft. I'd much rather have Long. Garcon would be far easier to replace. The Rams had less to gain in these rankings because they've drafted so early. The best Long could do was gain by one spot.
  • Seahawks (minus-377): Jennings fell from 31st in 2006 to 241st; Jackson fell from 28th in 2008 to 195th. Seattle had no first-round choice in 2007. The team was picking late in the other first rounds, giving Seattle plenty of room for improvement. That makes the 377-point cumulative drop even more problematic. Adding 2009 wouldn't improve matters, either, as Aaron Curry would fall from No. 4 overall.

I've been meaning to address this re-draft. Thanks for bringing it up.
Ray Horton is the Arizona Cardinals' third defensive coordinator since Ken Whisenhunt became head coach in 2007.

He inherits a defense that has struggled despite significant investments.

Arizona has used six first- and second-round choices for defensive players since 2007, tied for the second-highest total in the league.

Only the New England Patriots have drafted more defensive players in those rounds over the past four drafts. Only the Patriots have used a higher percentage of first- and second-round choices for defense during the period in question.

A quick look at the defensive players NFC West teams have selected in the first two rounds since 2007:
Overall, teams have drafted slightly more defensive players (133) than offensive players (122) in the first two rounds of the past four drafts. New England has used 11 of the 255 picks in question, tied for second-most in the NFL, even though the Patriots did not have their own first-round selection in 2008.


Blogger mock: J.J. Watt to the Rams

April, 25, 2011
Von Miller, Robert Quinn, J.J. Watt and Mark Ingram landed in the NFC West thanks to my shrewd maneuvering in's Blog Network mock draft for 2011.

I'm breaking out my selections on a team-by-team basis, with explanations that hopefully will invite your points and counterpoints. Running back Mark Ingram unexpectedly landed with Seattle at No. 25.

Let's continue in reverse order, with the St. Louis Rams at No. 14.

The selection: J.J. Watt, DL, Wisconsin

Off the board: Quarterbacks Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Andy Dalton; defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Aldon Smith; cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara; outside linebackers Von Miller and Robert Quinn; receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones; and offensive lineman Tyron Smith.

The thinking: The more I consider rampant comparisons between Watt and Adam Carriker, the less solid this selection seems to be on the surface. Carriker found himself caught between positions and ultimately caught between coaching staffs after the Rams made him the 13th choice of the 2007 draft. He played 31 of 32 games, starting 25, in his only two seasons with the Rams. He also needed shoulder surgery last offseason, complicating efforts to earn a spot in the Rams' rotation. Carriker's versatility was seen as an asset when he was coming out of college. The Rams' experience with him changes the outlook for Watt. It's fair to wonder whether Watt would fit well enough into any one position to maximize his value. Could he play primarily inside, adding to the rotation at defensive tackle? Would he possess the quickness and pass-rush ability to play enough on the perimeter? Would he even remotely fit the physical mold of the defensive linemen Steve Spagnuolo's teams have drafted early in the past -- guys such as Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Jerome McDougle, Corey Simon, Jay Alford and Derrick Burgess? Those are valid questions. Watt could fit more naturally in a 3-4 scheme. The way this mock draft unfolded, however, Watt projected as a good value selection at a position where the Rams are seeking young reinforcements. The top two receivers weren't available. This was too early, it seemed, to fill needs at outside linebacker. Drafting for the offensive line seemed like a luxury for a team already set at both tackle spots. It's arguably a year early to spend such a high selection on a running back, although Ingram was available when I made this selection. Watt became the choice by default -- a big, versatile defensive lineman adding depth where coach Spagnuolo values it the most.

Odds of this happening: Outside shot. I spent the last paragraph all but apologizing for the selection. I do think there's a good chance the Rams will select a defensive lineman, however.
Of all the 2007 NFC West draft picks, the Cardinals' Levi Brown and the 49ers' Patrick Willis have started the most games.US PresswireOf all the 2007 NFC West draft picks, the Cardinals' Levi Brown and the 49ers' Patrick Willis have started the most games.
JaMarcus Russell's demise as an NFL player is back in the news, shining light upon the perils of investing millions in unproven prospects.

The 2007 NFL draft was about more than Russell, of course.

That draft also produced Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis and Lawrence Timmons among the top 15 choices.

For as much criticism as the Arizona Cardinals have taken for selecting tackle Levi Brown fifth overall, Brown has started 59 regular-season games, second only to Willis (63) among NFC West draft choices that year. He has also started six playoff games, including a Super Bowl, and coach Ken Whisenhunt expects good things from him.

I've put together a couple charts showing what NFC West teams have gotten from their draft choices that year. More on those in a bit.

First, I've taken a team-by-team look at the players selected, whether they remain with their original teams and how many games each has started for his drafted team.

The 49ers had the best draft among NFC West teams. They also had the most draft capital to work with, selecting twice in the first round. The Seattle Seahawks had no first-rounder that year thanks to the Deion Branch trade, so expectations were lower.

Arizona Cardinals

Total picks: five

Still with team (4): Brown (59), Steve Breaston (26), Ben Patrick (20), Alan Branch (3)

No longer with team (1): Buster Davis (0)

Comment: The Cardinals had fewer total selections than any team in the division. Hitting on Breaston in the fifth round was outstanding, but the Cardinals haven't gotten enough from their top three selections that year. Branch never panned out as a second-rounder. Davis, the third-rounder, didn't make it out of camp. Whisenhunt takes pride in making roster decisions with less regard for draft status. He wasn't going to give Davis or anyone a free pass. That's admirable, but in the bigger picture, Arizona still came up short in this draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Total picks: nine

Still with team (5): Willis (63), Joe Staley (50), Ray McDonald (9), Dashon Goldson (34), Tarell Brown (5)

No longer with team (4): Jason Hill (2), Jay Moore (0), Joe Cohen (0), Thomas Clayton (0)

Comment: Former general manager Scot McCloughan gets credit for selling former coach Mike Singletary on Willis as an elite prospect. That seems odd given Singletary's background as a Hall of Fame linebacker, but the 49ers got the right guy, so the "how" part matters less. That one selection makes this draft the best in the division for 2007. Staley is the starting left tackle. McDonald has been a solid rotation player. Goldson became a starter. All in all, this was a strong draft.

Seattle Seahawks

Total picks: eight

Still with team (2): Brandon Mebane (53), Will Herring (7)

No longer with team (6): Josh Wilson (24), Steve Vallos (8), Mansfield Wrotto (5), Courtney Taylor (4), Jordan Kent (1), Baraka Atkins (0)

Comment: Not having a first-round selection severely hurt this class' overall potential. Wilson seemed like a solid selection in the second round given the playmaking value he offered, but multiple changes in organizational leadership left him on the outside in terms of fit. Mebane was a solid choice in the third round. Vallos and Wrotto remain in the league elsewhere.

St. Louis Rams

Total picks: eight

Still with team (1): Clifton Ryan (27)

No longer with team (7): Adam Carriker (25), Brian Leonard (7), Jonathan Wade (6), Dustin Fry (0), Ken Shackleford (0), Keith Jackson (0), Derek Stanley (0)

Comment: This draft was a disaster for the Rams and made worse by massive organizational changes. On the bright side, the Rams might not have been in position to select Sam Bradford first overall in 2010 without selecting so many non-contributors in 2007.

Now, on to the charts. The first one takes a round-by-round look at the number of starts each team has gotten from its 2007 selections. I have used dashes instead of zeroes to show when teams did not have a selection in a specific round.

The second chart divides the number of starts by the values of the selections each team held, using the draft-value chart.

For example, the value chart said the Seahawks' picks that year were worth 669.2 points, far less than the picks for other NFC West teams were worth. Using this measure, Seattle got more bang for its buck if we valued all starts equally (and we should not value them all equally, but we can still use this as a general guide).

Some of the choices were compensatory and could not be traded, so the chart would not have valued them for trading purposes. I assigned values to them for this exercise, however, because we were not considering the picks for trading purposes.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the Cardinals' 2010 draft choices, with an eye toward their roles for the coming season. On John Skelton: "The Cardinals don't want him to start in 2011, but are excited about his future. I think Whisenhunt and his staff would be content to enter the season with a veteran as the starter, Skelton as the No.2, and either Rich Bartel or Max Hall as the No. 3. Bartel has the edge there right now. Skelton has a strong arm and showed poise in his four starts last season. He can move around in the pocket, too. What he didn't show was accuracy, completing just 47.6 percent of his passes. The Cardinals don't think there is a sure thing at quarterback in the 2011 draft and are expected to look for a veteran to provide a bridge to the future. Skelton might just have the skills to be that future. If the off-season plans work out, Skelton will be able to sit and learn this season." Hall has gone from undrafted free-agent long shot to surprise backup to starter to fighting for a roster spot with Bartel -- in less than one calendar year.

Darren Urban of thinks the team will select a defensive player with the fifth overall choice.

Clare Farnsworth of says Jeff Bryant's versatility might have hurt him in balloting for the Seahawks' 35th anniversary team. He was tough to classify. Farnsworth: "Bryant, in fact, is the only player in franchise history to start at all four spots on the D-line. He was the right end from his rookie season in 1982 until 1990, when the Seahawks drafted Cortez Kennedy and shifted to a 4-3 defense. But Bryant started 14 games that season at the right tackle spot Kennedy eventually would own. In 1991, Bryant replaced Joe Nash as the left tackle. In 1992, Bryant moved to left end to replace Jacob Green."

Also from Farnsworth: Nash shows humility in explaining the key to his 218-game career on the Seahawks' defensive line, noting that injuries to other players gave him chances for playing time. Nash wasn't even supposed to earn a roster spot, at least initially, after going to camp with the team in 1982 as an undrafted free agent from Boston College. Nash: "I was supposed to get cut, on the final cut. It was really weird because I was in this room with about 10 other guys who got cut [when the pro scouting director told him the team was trying to keep him]. I stayed in the room, which was kind of awkward because the guy I was rooming with turned back and said, 'What are you doing?' They ended up putting someone else on IR and I got to stay."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee gets thoughts from Charley Casserly on LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson relative to Champ Bailey as the 49ers consider their options in the secondary. Casserly: "[Bailey] had great hands and an ability to focus on the ball. There are times that I think Peterson should make more plays on the ball than he does. That's something that I'd spend some time looking into if I was thinking of drafting him. ... That's no slight on Peterson. Champ has been to 10 Pro Bowls." Casserly was with the Redskins when they selected Bailey.

Carl Steward of Bay Area News Group checks in with Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson for thoughts on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Johnson played under Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. Johnson: "Even if we don't get together, there's always going to be a mutual relationship between us. There's a lot of respect there, because I know what he did for me as a player. I know how much I grew to love him and his family. I felt like it was more than just a coach-player type of thing."

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers visited with Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor as the team considered its options at the position. Veteran Aubrayo Franklin is unsigned for 2011. Maiocco: "The 49ers are doing their homework on Taylor, who transferred from Penn State. Taylor left Penn State after he was suspended for his role in an on-campus fight in 2007. He finished strong at Baylor, and was one of the week's more impressive players at the Senior Bowl."

Also from Maiocco: He defends his decision to name Jason Smith the Rams' worst draft choice since 2006. Maiocco: "The problem with the Rams is that there were a lot of bad picks from which to choose. Hill and Adam Carriker were given strong consideration. But the reason I went with Smith is because of where he was chosen. He was the No. 2 overall pick. And he is playing right tackle. Nobody takes a right tackle with the No. 2 overall selection. The fact that a rookie selected at the top of the second round (Rodger Saffold) was inserted at left tackle over the No. 2 overall pick from the year before is astounding." Hill would be my choice given that he started only 21 games for the Rams. Carriker started 25 games for the Rams before emerging as a 16-game starter with Washington last season. Hill owns four starts over two seasons since leaving the Rams. Smith projects as a long-term starter. That's why drafting offensive linemen early tends to be a low-risk proposition. Even the disappointing ones tend to start for a long time while providing at least above-average play. That has been the case with Robert Gallery in Oakland.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams season-ticket holders. Most of the ones surveyed are holding onto their money until the labor situation is clearer. Said one fan: "I was so geeked up for this season. We're kind of losing enthusiasm a little bit because you don't know what's going to transpire. I want them to get this (settled) soon because you don't want to lose the excitement -- you know what I mean? ... I'm going to hold my money during the unknown. Who knows? We might not have football this August. Or a shortened season. I don't want you just sitting on my money. I'll hold my own."
Seahawks owner Paul Allen adapts a section of his new memoir for use by Vanity Fair. I've read through the piece and learned more about Allen than I had learned in nearly 15 years of covering his NFL team. Allen goes into detail regarding his relationship with Bill Gates during Microsoft's formative years. Allen: "My style was to absorb all the data I could to make the best-informed decision possible, sometimes to the point of over-analysis. Bill liked to hash things out in intense, one-on-one discussions; he thrived on conflict and wasn’t shy about instigating it. A few of us cringed at the way he’d demean people and force them to defend their positions." I found this to be a fascinating look inside the partnership that ultimately armed Allen with the resources needed to purchase professional sports franchises.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes an in-depth look at Golden Tate in relation to other rookie receivers drafted in the second round. O'Neil: "The first question is just how bad was Tate's rookie season? And truthfully, it wasn't as awful as many have described. He was one of three receivers drafted in the second round in 2010, none of which caught more than 25 passes last season. Tate's regular-season statistics: 21 catches for 227 yards, an average of 10.8 yards per catch. He did not score a touchdown. In the past four drafts, there were 17 wide receivers chosen in second round. Nine of them finished their rookie season with fewer receptions than Tate's 21."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle passes along comments from an interview with Seahawks general manager John Schneider. Schneider: "Well, starting any organization or any football team I think you have to look at both sides of your line. So I would say offensive, defensive line are priorities for us, no question. But we're looking for depth at every position."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reflects on the limited quarterback options for the Cardinals, noting that recently injured veteran Chad Pennington had been considered a candidate to compete for playing time somewhere despite age and previous injury concerns. Somers: "So to those who can't believe the Cardinals are considering Marc Bulger, what other free agent intrigues you? Alex Smith? Rex Grossman? Tavaris Jackson? Matt Hasselbeck? A strong case can be made against each of them. When signing a quarterback in free agency, a team needs some vision and a ton of luck. The Saints took a risk on Drew Brees' shoulder in 2006 and it paid off. The Cardinals thought Kurt Warner had a little something left in 2005. It took two-plus years and a coaching change, but Warner proved himself again."

Jason La Canfora of says University of Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed plans to visit with the Cardinals next week. La Canfora: "Reed has been somewhat overlooked in a deep class of elite defensive linemen, but he's generating a lot of interest from teams drafting in the 25 to 40 range, sources said Thursday, and is meeting with many of them."

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers' coaches -- led by Jim Harbaugh, Greg Roman and Vic Fangio -- are more familiar with college prospects based on their experiences at Stanford last season. Maiocco: "Harbaugh, Roman and Fangio coached or coached against at least 52 of the 329 (15.8 percent) prospects invited to the NFL scouting combine last month in Indianapolis. They recruited countless others. The 49ers are looking to add a quarterback in the draft. Stanford played against three draftable quarterbacks -- Washington's Jake Locker, TCU's Andy Dalton and Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor -- during Harbaugh's time coaching the Cardinal. Moreover, Harbaugh recruited Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, expected to be one of the top two quarterbacks selected."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers general manager Trent Baalke and college scouting director Joel Patten watched Robert Quinn and other North Carolina players work out at their pro day.

Tim Klutsarits of says the lack of consensus atop the 2011 NFL draft suggests this might be a weak year for top prospects. Klutsarits: "This could mean great things for the St. Louis Rams because since there is so much uncertainty with these guys there will be players that fall and will become productive members of teams to the later picks in the first round. The risk of course is that because the bust rate seems higher in this year’s Draft that the Rams have a higher chance of picking the next Adam Carriker or Tye Hill with the 14th pick in the draft."

Aaron Wilson of National Football Post says Hawaii running back Alex Green has a visit scheduled with the Rams. The visit could mean the Rams have genuine interest in Green. It could mean they have unanswered medical questions about him. It could mean nothing much at all. It's tough to say. The team does need a backup running back, however. Green is 6 feet tall and 225 pounds. He's known for his skills as a receiver out of the backfield.
Ken Whisenhunt is right when he says Levi Brown takes more criticism as a high draft choice than he would take as someone selected later in the process.

That's the way it works. The highest picks in a draft class should outperform their peers.

[+] EnlargeLevi Brown
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesLevi Brown, drafted fifth overall in 2007, can still become an "outstanding" player according to Ken Whisenhunt.
The Arizona Cardinals don't need anyone to remind them that they selected Brown over some All-Pro performers, including Adrian Peterson and Patrick Willis. But it's not as though Brown, a player with 56 consecutive regular-season starts, qualifies as a flat-out bust, either. He moved to left tackle from the right side last season and will stay there.

"He improved last year," Whisenhunt said this week from the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans. "As a left tackle, it's not an easy position to move from right tackle. He will continue to get better. He is a talented football player. The biggest thing he has struggled with is the consistency of his play. But a lot of times you are under the microscope more because you were the fifth pick in the draft."

I would rank Brown, chosen fifth overall in 2007, somewhere around 20th out of 32 first-round picks that year.

Brown has obviously or arguably outperformed the following first-round selections from 2007: JaMarcus Russell, Jamaal Anderson, Ted Ginn Jr., Amobi Okoye, Adam Carriker, Justin Harrell, Jarvis Moss, Aaron Ross, Reggie Nelson, Brady Quinn, Anthony Gonzalez and Craig Davis. Gaines Adams, chosen fourth that year, passed away after Tampa Bay traded him to Chicago.

The following first-rounders from 2007 have obviously or arguably outperformed Brown: Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, LaRon Landry, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lawrence Timmons, Leon Hall, Michael Griffin, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Meriweather, Jon Beason, Anthony Spencer, Robert Meachem, Joe Staley, Ben Grubbs and Greg Olsen.

"The reason we drafted Levi where we did was because we had him rated high enough to go in that position, but we also felt like we had to develop our offensive line and defensive line at that point, because that is where the most critical component of your team," Whisenhunt said. "That is the only way you are going to have a chance to compete. Levi has been a good player. He is often criticized, but I think that comes with being the fifth pick, and I don't understand how you evaluate offensive linemen, because they are not catching passes or running touchdowns in."

Whisenhunt said he thought Brown can and will become an "outstanding" player.

"Any time an offensive lineman gets drafted that high, especially in a fantasy football world where people want you to get dynamic playmakers, you are going to face some kind of criticism," Whisenhunt said. "I have to give Levi some credit. As tough as it's been, he hasn't let it affect him. He has continued to work and get better and I think this will be a big year for him. This is a chance for him to show that he can play this position very well."
NEW ORLEANS -- Coaching changes alter the way teams value players.

That happened in St. Louis when Steve Spagnuolo arrived as Rams coach for the 2009 season. Players drafted among the top 52 overall choices only two years prior suddenly didn't fit. Defensive lineman Adam Carriker (13th overall) and fullback Brian Leonard (52nd) were sent on their way before long.

It happened again in Seattle when Pete Carroll took over as head coach last season. Building the defense around Aaron Curry, chosen fourth overall in the 2009 draft, became less a priority once the people responsible for drafting him were no longer in charge.

I would expect similar disruption in San Francisco, where Jim Harbaugh has taken over for Mike Singletary.

"The simple effect is that nobody is guaranteed a position," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said from the NFL owners meeting this week. "A new staff comes in, we have a new system offensively, defensively and on special teams. Very few holdover position coaches. So, it's going to be competition at its finest. Roll out the ball and may the best man win."

The pressure will be on some of the less established players -- second-round choice Taylor Mays comes to mind -- once the lockout ends and players return to their teams. A prolonged lockout will hamper preparations, another challenge to overcome.
This is the third in a series of items revisiting relatively recent NFL trades involving first-round draft choices in the slots NFC West teams occupy this year.

The St. Louis Rams must hope the 14th overall choice treats them better than the 13th and 15th choices treated them recently.

Defensive tackle Adam Carriker was the choice at No. 13 in 2007. Cornerback Tye Hill was the choice at No. 15 a year earlier. Neither lasted long with the team.

This year, Rams fans will be looking to see if one of the top receivers or defensive linemen falls their way at No. 14. As for trading the pick? I'll break out what the 14th overall choice has brought in some previous trades involving only draft choices.

The pick: 14th overall

Held by: St. Louis Rams

Most recent trade involving only picks: 2007. The New York Jets jumped 11 spots to draft cornerback Darrelle Revis at No. 14. This trade helps show what Seattle might have to pay for swapping first-round choices with the Rams this year. In 2007, the Jets sent the 25th, 59th and 164th choices to Carolina for the 14th and 191st picks. The trade-value chart says the Jets paid 1,056.8 points for picks worth 1,116 points. The difference equates to a pick late in the fourth round. Carolina wound up with linebacker Jon Beason (25th), offensive lineman Ryan Kalil (59th) and linebacker Tim Shaw (164th).

Shockey vs. Haynesworth: In 2002, the New York Giants moved up one spot to No. 14 and drafted tight end Jeremy Shockey. They gave up the 15th pick, which Tennessee used for Albert Haynesworth, and the 110th choice (Mike Echols). Echols never played.

When the Bucs got Buffaloed: Tampa Bay moved up seven spots to No. 14 in 2001 for a chance to draft tackle Kenyatta Walker. The Buffalo Bills came away with the 21st pick, used for cornerback Nate Clements, and the 51st choice (Paul Toviessi). Walker was supposed to lock down the left side of the Bucs' line, but he played mostly right tackle, starting 73 games over six seasons. He was in the CFL by age 29.

The price of moving up: What might the Rams pay if they sought to move up a pick or three from the 14th overall spot? In 1993, the Denver Broncos sent the 14th (Steve Everitt) and 83rd (Mike Caldwell) choices to Cleveland for the 11th overall choice (Dan Williams). A decade later, the Patriots sent the 14th (Michael Haynes) and 193rd (Marques Ogden) choices to Chicago for the 13th choice (Ty Warren). Neither trade was a lopsided mismatch on the value chart. The Patriots underpaid slightly. The Broncos overpaid slightly.

Following up: Four high picks in focus

February, 28, 2011
Following up an earlier item, a look at four relatively recent NFC West draft picks, one per team and each highly drafted, under scrutiny heading toward 2011:
  • Levi Brown, LT, Cardinals. Arizona made Brown the fifth player chosen in the 2007 draft. The Cardinals could have drafted Adrian Peterson, but with a young Matt Leinart under center and Edgerrin James already in the backfield, they sought to upgrade their line. Brown has been durable, but not consistent or productive relative to his draft status. That's a surprise given Russ Grimm's presence coaching the line.
  • Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams. Avery makes the list in part because the Rams have already cut ties with several high draft choices, notably Alex Barron, Adam Carriker and Tye Hill. Health is the issue for Avery. The wideout missed only one game in his first two seasons, but he played hurt and his production sometimes suffered. A knee injury incurred during the 2010 exhibition season landed Avery on injured reserve. He needs some better luck on the injury front.
  • Manny Lawson, OLB, San Francisco 49ers. With all eyes on quarterback Alex Smith, let's consider Lawson, the 49ers' 2006 first-round choice. He has been a dominant special-teams player, but the 49ers expected more than 14.5 sacks over five seasons when they drafted him. Lawson is a free agent and the 49ers have a new coaching staff, so his future with the team is in question.
  • Aaron Curry, LB, Seattle Seahawks. Curry was considered the "safest" choice in the 2009 draft, but no one appears safe from scrutiny as the team's new leadership remakes the roster. Curry's status as the fourth player chosen in the 2009 draft raises the stakes. The 2011 season is huge for him.

Three of the four remain under contract and likely to return this season. The labor situation is limiting teams' options, anyway.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)

Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)

Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)

San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)

The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.

San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Justin Green, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Brian St.Pierre, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, Steve Vallos, David Carr, Randy McMIchael, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Shaun HIll, Leroy HIll, Chris Patrick, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Ricky Schmitt, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Jerome Johnson, Derek Walker, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Seneca Wallace, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Anquan Boldin, Trevor Canfield, Marc Bulger, Nate Davis, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Jason HIll, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Thomas Clayton, Deon Grant, LaJuan Ramsey, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Louis Rankin, Brandon Frye, Ruvell Martin, Paris Lenon, Leger Douzable, Ryan Neill, Danny Gorrer, Russell Okung, Anthony McCoy, Clinton Hart, Earl Thomas, Leon Washington, Andre Roberts, Chester Pitts, Dan Williams, Mike Iupati, Ben Hamilton, Ryan McKee, Kennard Cox, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, Chris Baker, William James, Rex Hadnot, Hank Fraley, Mark Clayton, Quinton Ganther, Na'il Diggs, Chris Clemons, John Skelton, Mardy Gilyard, Rodger Saffold, Daryl Washington, Golden Tate, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, Nate Byham, Fendi Onobun, George Selvie, Thaddeus Lewis, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Dominique Curry, Phillip Adams, Trumaine McBride, Kevin Dockery, Shane Andrus, Tyler Polumbus, Clint Gresham, Roger III Allen, Cyril Obiozor, Brandon McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Junior Siavii, Troy Smith, Ted Jr. Ginn, Raheem Brock

Three years is a long, long time in the NFL.

It was 2007 when Ken Whisenhunt joined an NFC West head coaching fraternity featuring Mike Holmgren, Mike Nolan and Scott Linehan. The landscape has changed dramatically since then, shifting further Tuesday when the Seattle Seahawks traded 2007 second-round draft choice Josh Wilson to Baltimore.

Wilson's departure leaves the Arizona Cardinals' Alan Branch as the only 2007 NFC West second-round choice still with his original team. The St. Louis Rams have only one player remaining from that draft class, fifth-round choice Clifton Ryan. That draft also featured Adam Carriker and Brian Leonard.

The San Francisco 49ers came away from that draft with Patrick Willis and Joe Staley. Jason Hill, Ray McDonald, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown also remain from that draft, making it easily the strongest 2007 class for an NFC West team.

The Cardinals still have Levi Brown, Branch, Steve Breaston and Ben Patrick. The Seahawks traded their 2007 first-rounder to New England for Deion Branch. They still have Brandon Mebane, Mansfield Wrotto, Will Herring and Steve Vallos from that class.

The chart takes a round-by-round look at how many 2007 NFC West draft choices remain with their original teams.