NFC West: Brooks Reed

NFC West leads way in rookie sacks

December, 5, 2011
A quick look through the NFL rookie sack leaders shows NFC West teams with three of the top 10 producers, led by the San Francisco 49ers’ Aldon Smith with 9.5.

This is how it should be.

NFC West teams drafted two of the first three outside pass-rushers in 2011.

Denver’s Von Miller, the first pass-rusher chosen, leads all rookies with 10. 5 sacks. The 49ers’ Smith, drafted seventh overall, was the second outside rusher chosen. The St. Louis Rams’ Robert Quinn, tied for eighth on the list with five sacks, was the third outside rusher chosen. Houston’s J.J. Watt has more sacks than Quinn, but as a 3-4 defensive end, he’s not a pure outside rusher.

Arizona’s Sam Acho has outproduced his draft status as a fourth-round choice. Acho has five sacks in the Cardinals’ past seven games, though three of Arizona’s past four opponents have held him without one.

Sacks aren’t the only measure of a pass-rusher’s performance. The good ones tend to rack up a lot of them, however.

Charles Haley holds the 49ers' rookie record since the NFL began tracking sacks in 1982. He had 12.5 sacks during the 1986 season. Dana Stubblefield had 10.5 sacks during 1993, his rookie season.

Smith needs 3.5 sacks over the 49ers' final four games to pass Haley. He has all 9.5 of his sacks in the 49ers' past nine games, including two during the 49ers' division-clinching victory over St. Louis on Sunday.
A few notes upon looking back at the six 2011 NFL mock drafts discussed here last week:
  • Most had the right players in the right slots for most of the first six picks. Everything fell apart when the San Francisco 49ers selected Missouri's Aldon Smith at No. 7. Drafting a pass-rusher came as no shock. That it was Smith ran counter to expectations.
  • Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Mayock each had nine of the 32 players slotted correctly, regardless of which team wound up making the selections.
  • Rob Rang had 29 of the 32 first-round selections going in the correct round. He missed on Da'Quan Bowers, Akeem Ayers and Andy Dalton. Rang was the only one of the six to predict James Carpenter and Christian Ponder as first-round selections. He had Carpenter going to Pittsburgh and Ponder in the 28th slot (later acquired by New Orleans from New England).
  • All six mocks incorrectly thought Bowers would be a first-round selection. Five missed on Ayers and Aaron Williams.
  • All six mocks correctly had Mike Pouncey landing with the Miami Dolphins at No. 15.
  • Five of six mocks had Ryan Kerrigan going 16th overall. Kerrigan did go 16th, but only after the Washington Redskins acquired the pick from Jacksonville.
  • Kiper had Jake Locker going 12th, higher than anyone else projected. Locker went eighth.
  • Four teams drafted quarterbacks in the first round. All six mocks had Cam Newton going to Carolina. None of the six had quarterbacks going eighth to Tennessee or in the No. 10 slot, which Jacksonville acquired from Washington. Three of the six had quarterbacks going to Minnesota at No. 12. Kiper thought it would be Locker. Rang and the bloggers -- Kevin Seifert in this case -- thought it would be Dalton.

The first chart shows how many players the six mock drafts correctly saw as first-round picks, and how many went in the predicted slots within the first round.

The second chart shows which players appeared in the six first-round mocks, only to be selected in a later round. I've included their actual draft slots in parenthesis.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic likes the Cardinals' selection of LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson with the fifth overall choice. Bickley: "This was the smart play. The Cardinals didn't get the yips and trade down, as they once did with Terrell Suggs on the board. They selected an impact player who immediately will upgrade Arizona's defense, rewarding fans that suffered through a 5-11 debacle last season. In the process, they resisted reaching for a quarterback, a move that suggests the Cardinals must have someone in mind when hunting season finally opens in the NFL." Selecting a quarterback over arguably the best player in the draft would have carried undue risk. This looks like a solid selection for Arizona. Cleveland might have come out better at No. 6, however, thanks to the Falcons' wacky dealing for a shot at Julio Jones.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals plan to use Peterson in the return game as well. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "I think he could line up today and be a kick returner in the NFL and be one of the best ones. As a punt returner . . . he certainly has the skill set to do it, but we obviously want to see him do it."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals have options in the second round. Somers: "The Cardinals need a tight end, and there's Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph. A quarterback? TCU's Andy Dalton, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett weren't taken in the first round Thursday night. The Cardinals could also use a pass rusher, and outside linebackers Akeem Ayers of UCLA, Bruce Carter of North Carolina, Brooks Reed of Arizona and Tucson Sabino High and Dontay Moch of Nevada and Chandler Hamilton High are available."

Bob McManamon of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals could have a new starting quarterback next week.

Darren Urban of says the team expects to have players working out at the facility beginning Friday. Whisenhunt: "It will be exciting to have guys at the facility. It’s nice to have contact with these guys immediately. We got a number of calls and communication from players, and that’s exciting. When your players say they want to be here working out, I know they didn’t miss (strength and conditioning coach) John Lott, but they say they want to work out and that’s a good thing."

Also from Urban: Cardinals general manager Rod Graves says the team had Peterson fifth on its board.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sizes up the Rams' selection of Robert Quinn this way: "The selection of University of North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn sounds just like the sort of logical pick you would expect from a guy such as Spagnuolo, who likes collecting pass rushers the way Donald Trump likes collecting birth certificates. Quinn is a big, fast, strong and aggressive guy who Spags can plug into his rotation that already includes Chris Long, James Hall, George Selvie, Fred Robbins, C.J. Ah You and Eugene Sims."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams were surprised Quinn remained available at No. 14. Thomas: "The Rams liked Prince Amukamara, who ended up going No. 19 to the New York Giants. They really liked Corey Liuget, who went No. 18 to the San Diego Chargers. As for Quinn, well, in the Rams' minds he was too good to pass. As such, Quinn became the first defensive player taken in the first round in coach Steve Spagnuolo's three-draft tenure in St. Louis."

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams are taking a chance on Quinn, a player with some question marks.

Clare Farnsworth of passes along Pete Carroll's thoughts on not drafting a quarterback in the first round Thursday. Carroll: "John (Schneider, the GM) and I are of the mindset that we always have to look at the quarterback position -- every year, every draft we’re going to continue to do that. This year’s draft, Charlie (Whitehurst) is our third-round pick. I don’t know if you guys (reporters) realize that, but that’s something we’re very well aware of. We’re going to continue to deal with the quarterback position. Remember last year, the first big thing we did was to go get Charlie. He’s already come in and won a big game for us (the season finale against the Rams) as our pick in this year’s draft. So we think we’ve already been paid back on that front. But by no means are we done. We’ve got some question marks there, obviously."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks wanted to trade down and wound up taking a second-round talent in James Carpenter when they couldn't move back. Brewer: "Ultimately, the Seahawks were more concerned about finding a good player who fits the style they're trying to create. For them, Carpenter carried a high value because of his physical, aggressive brand of football. In Carpenter and Okung, the Seahawks now have two young bookend tackles to stabilize the offensive line. That's not a bad start. It seems they could've gotten better value out of that No. 25 pick, but they didn't. And now it's on Carpenter to make this decision pan out." Carpenter appeared at No. 31 in Rob Rang's final mock draft. That was as high as I'd seen anyone project him to go.

Christian Caple of says the Seahawks were unapologetic about their first-round selection. Schneider: "I would say to a fan that they should take reassurance in the fact that we’ve been busting our tail since last May covering this guy. And that we spent countless hours the last probably eight weekends in a row just evaluating this thing, and this guy’s never changed."

Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest says the Seahawks' recent first-round struggles make it tough for fans to get too excited about Carpenter -- even if the team's current leadership wasn't responsible for past mistakes.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Carpenter was "shocked" to be selected in the first round.

Matt Maiocco of expects the 49ers to select a cornerback, then work toward securing a veteran quarterback. General manager Trent Baalke: "We understand as an organization that we need to get a quarterback. But when that takes places, how it takes place, that's all been discussed internally and that will stay internally. We've looked at every option available to us. When you look at free agency, and you look at the trade opportunities and possibilities, and you look at players still on the board. There are players out there and situations out there that will allow us to address the position. But we have to let it play itself out."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee casts the 49ers' selection of Aldon Smith in the context of not selecting quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Barrows: "By bypassing Gabbert, the 49ers still will be eager to re-sign quarterback Alex Smith. Alex Smith, in turn, likely was watching carefully to see if the 49ers used their No. 7 pick on a quarterback. Gabbert was taken by the Redskins at pick No. 10. Harbaugh said he and the 49ers took a long look at Gabbert as well as every other prospect."

Also from Barrows: Opportunities to trade down never materialized for the 49ers.

More from Barrows: Alex Smith and the 49ers plan to get together Friday.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat likes the 49ers' decision to select a pass-rusher in the first round. Cohn: "Smith was an enviable pick because it took guts to go against the conventional wisdom. And it shows Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh think for themselves and act on conviction. They actually do. They knew who and what they wanted and they got him. Even after the 49ers made the selection, writers were tweeting the 49ers would trade Smith to the Eagles for Kevin Kolb. It's like no one believed the Niners did what they did. But they didn't trade. When writers later asked Harbaugh if he considered trading Smith, he looked dumbfounded, as if the question made no sense. It didn't." The trade talk came out of nowhere. The 49ers weren't trading a pick that high for Kolb without being convinced they could win a championship with him. I'm not convinced they're convinced enough on Kolb to make that sort of move.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Smith's toughness appealed to coach Jim Harbaugh.

Also from Branch: The 49ers realize Smith faces a transition period.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers appeared patient in making Smith their selection. Harbaugh does have a five-year contract. He didn't have to take a quarterback right away.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle describes Harbaugh as relieved to get a shot at working with players now that the lockout is ending.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle wasn't impressed with the 49ers' use of the seventh overall pick. Knapp: "They deserve credit for not allowing themselves to be seduced by one of the many overrated quarterbacks in the draft, but the two teams in front of them spun their slots into gold. By comparison, Aldon Smith, a promising but raw Missouri defensive end, seemed like a poor yield on the No. 7 pick."
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.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch does not envision the Rams drafting a linebacker 14th overall. Thomas: "Von Miller (Texas A&M) will be long gone. He's a top 10 pick, maybe a top 5 pick. UCLA's Akeem Ayers got some early play as a mid-first round guy, then he ran a 4.8 at the 40. Plus, some scouts -- including some at Rams Park -- think he may not be physical enough. I think he's now regarded as a late first, or early second guy. Justin Houston (Georgia) and Brooks Reed (Arizona) are listed by some as OLBs, but at 270 pounds and 263 pounds, respectively, they played end in college and would be 3-4 OLBs."

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis wonders where Josh McDaniels will find the time to coordinate the Rams' offense and coach their quarterbacks.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers plan to meet with Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett on April 11. Barrows: "Mallett has perhaps the best combination of arm strength, touch and accuracy among draft-eligible quarterbacks, and his 6-6 frame gives him a nice vantage point from the pocket. Mallett threw for 3,869 yards last season at Arkansas -- considerably more than any of the top quarterbacks in the draft -- and he also tossed 32 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. But Mallett also might be the least athletic of the top six quarterbacks."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat profiles 49ers free-agent kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, one of the few NFL players never to play at the college level. Branch: "An all-state kicker and all-American soccer player at St. Lucie (Fla.) Centennial West High, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Scaccia was offered a full-ride football scholarship from South Carolina. But he couldn't accept it, he said, after his mom was involved in a serious car accident and required his care (she has since fully recovered). He became a star kicker on southern Florida's semi-pro circuit -- he is a member of the Minor League Football Hall of Fame -- but he was destined for local-legend status until his 68-yarder kicked off a string of phone calls and opened doors."

Also from Branch: The 49ers have good depth at tight end, but they'll check out college prospects at the position anyway. Coach Jim Harbaugh envisions a power offense that leans on the tight end and fullback.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider takes a closer look at the 49ers' defensive line, plus potential options in the draft and free agency. Lynch: "Like so many areas on this team, the defensive line is good, not great. Justin Smith went to the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons and deservedly so. The guy never misses a game and at times he can dominate. Nevertheless, Smith typically collects his sacks against sad-sack opponents. Also, Smith could really be dangerous if he had another pass rusher who could draw some attention away from him. The 49ers figured Ahmad Brooks could be that guy, but by season's end even former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was losing faith in his commitment."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times doesn't envision the Seahawks using a first-round choice for Washington quarterback Jake Locker. O'Neil during a chat: "Sure, could be a consideration. I don't have any hard, declarative statements that Seattle isn't interested or has already ruled him out. But my sense has been that the Seahawks aren't sold on Locker enough to take him in the first round. Against that's my sense. And this is coming from a guy who had the 'sense' to wear shortsleeves with a tie last week on stage at a UFC weigh-in.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle offers thoughts via video on Locker's prospects. He's anxious to see which NFL personnel people attend Locker's pro day Wednesday.

Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston Post and Courier says Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts' relative success explains why more scouts are visiting The Citadel to check out prospects there. Hartsell: "Roberts was a third-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2010 NFL draft after his record-setting career at The Citadel. If cornerback Cortez Allen, who tested well at the NFL combine last month, is drafted this year, it would mark the first time since 1969-70 that The Citadel had players drafted in consecutive years."