NFC West: Bryan Bulaga

We've got a couple significant injury updates relating to the Week 1 matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

Most importantly, the Packers will be without starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga, who has suffered a torn ACL. This injury will force Green Bay to reconfigure a line that has been reconfigured quite a bit over the years. The 49ers' Justin Smith and Aldon Smith will face different matchups as a result. They combined for one sack in two games against the Packers last season. Marshall Newhouse, the Packers' starting left tackle in 2011 and 2012, could take over for Bulaga this season.

Meanwhile, the 49ers expect to have linebacker Patrick Willis back in plenty of time for the regular season after Willis underwent surgery to repair a fractured right hand. Willis has not practiced since suffering the injury during a collision with fullback Bruce Miller. He has played with a broken hand in the past. Willis is expected back within the next few weeks.
Using an early draft choice for an unusually young player can carry risks.



The upside: a potentially longer career window.

As noted earlier Thursday, the San Francisco 49ers' Anthony Davis and the Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas are among three players to start all 48 games over the past three seasons before turning 24. Davis has already received a contract extension. Thomas is in line for one.

The chart breaks out all others with more than 35 starts over the past three seasons before they turned 24. Rolando McClain stands out as an exception for the wrong reasons. Most of the others have met general expectations.

That doesn't necessarily mean teams should rush out to draft especially young players. In some cases, it means exceptionally talented players were good enough to attract teams' interest in the absence of college seasoning.

Four of the players in the chart have achieved Pro Bowl and first-team Associated Press All-Pro status: Thomas, Pierre-Paul, Rob Gronkowski and Maurkice Pouncey. Thomas and Pouncey have also been second-team All-Pro choices.
Rolando McClain's early retirement from the NFL comes three years after the Oakland Raiders made him the eighth overall choice in the 2010 draft.



While McClain is inviting derision, I wondered whether he was even the most disappointing choice from the first round of that 2010 class. He would fit right in with the 2009 group, for sure.

A quick check of games started by 2010 first-rounders showed four players with 48 starts in 48 possible regular-season games. Three of those four players were from the NFC West: Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis of the San Francisco 49ers, and Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks.

Tyson Alualu, the player Jacksonville controversially selected 10th overall, rounds out the quartet.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (42) and Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung (37) were relatively close behind. Dan Williams, chosen 26th overall by the Arizona Cardinals that year, ranked 26th on the list with 21 starts over the past three seasons.

All starts aren't quality starts, of course. McClain ranks relatively high on the list with 38 starts despite his bust status. Anyone familiar with the NFL would rather have Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas (23 starts) than Alualu, who has struggled with knee trouble and generally been just OK.

First-round picks from 2010 have combined for 21 Pro Bowl honors.

Maurkice Pouncey leads the way with three. Thomas is one of five players with two. Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Eric Berry and Jermaine Gresham are the others.

Iupati and Okung are part of an eight-man grouping with one Pro Bowl. Ryan Mathews, Thomas, Devin McCourty, Gerald McCoy, C.J. Spiller and Trent Williams are the others.

Iupati, Pouncey, Suh, Thomas and Pierre-Paul have been first-team Associated Press All-Pro once apiece.

Bradford was offensive rookie of the year. Suh won defensive rookie of the year.
The Seattle Seahawks added defensive end Chris Clemons and kicker Steven Hauschka to their injured reserve lists this week.

Rookie Bruce Irvin, the 15th overall choice in the draft, will start in Clemons' place. Recently signed veteran Ryan Longwell will handle kicking duties for Hauschka.

Those moves led me to compile IR lists for remaining NFC playoff teams. I used the reserve lists at Ourlads.com, which updates its rosters daily.

Outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield might still be healthy and playing for the Arizona Cardinals if his Week 9 opponent hadn't suffered a hip injury Sunday.

The man assigned to block Schofield, Green Bay tackle Bryan Bulaga, was out of the game when Schofield rushed upfield on a second-and-6 play early in the third quarter.

Schofield had beaten Bulaga's replacement up the field on the play that would end Schofield's season. Defensive end Darnell Dockett, working against a replacement guard after Green Bay moved its regular one to tackle in response to Bulaga's injury, also got good push on the play.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sensed their pressure and broke from the pocket to his right. The chase was on.

Dockett launched his 290-pound body into the air and was horizontal to the ground as Schofield turned back to the quarterback and accelerated right into Dockett's path. The athletic Rodgers pulled into the clear as Dockett's body, now spinning like a helicopter blade, chopped down Schofield from behind in the lower left leg.

The force of the impact dropped Schofield to the ground instantly, contorting his body. Dockett's weight briefly pinned Schofield's leg to the ground as both players slid across the grass. It was clear right away Schofield would not be OK.

The Cardinals did not reveal specifics on Schofield's injury. Coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters the injury would be season-ending, however.

The Cardinals were betting on Schofield and another young outside linebacker, Sam Acho, heading into this season.

They released veteran Clark Haggans and did not address the position in the 2012 NFL draft. Arizona was the only NFL team to emerge from the 2012 draft without selecting a player for its defensive front seven.

So, when Schofield suffered his ankle injury at Lambeau Field, the Cardinals didn't have a rising prospect to plug into the role. They had Quentin Groves, a former starter and backup in Jacksonville and Oakland. Groves, who has 22 NFL starts and 4.5 career sacks, has played roughly one-fifth of the Cardinals' defensive snaps this season. He projects as the starter with Schofield no longer available.

Jamaal Westerman and Zack Nash are the other backup outside linebackers.

Arizona signed Groves in May to a one-year deal worth $700,000. The Cardinals claimed Westerman off waivers from Miami. Nash is an undrafted rookie free agent. Tim Fugger, a seventh-round pick of Indianapolis this year, is an outside linebacker on the practice squad.

Schofield had four sacks in nine starts while playing better than 80 percent of the defensive snaps. He lasted until the fourth round of the 2010 draft because he faced an arduous rehabilitation from knee surgery. Knee trouble had occasionally limited him this season.
Trent Williams' substance-abuse suspension for the final four games of the 2011 season delivered another blow to the 2010 draft's offensive tackles.

Five of the first 10 tackles drafted that year are unavailable to their teams, including the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Okung and the St. Louis Rams' Rodger Saffold.

Seven of the 10 are starters or would be starters if healthy.

Okung was playing as well as any of them when Trent Cole's takedown ended his season. Saffold, slowed by back and ankle problems at various points, was struggling in his second season starting with the Rams. The San Francisco 49ers' Anthony Davis, though improved, continues to struggle some in pass protection.

The chart shows the first 10 tackles drafted. A few other potential tackles, including Denver's Zane Beadles, projected to guard in the NFL. They were not listed.

The Oakland Raiders' Bruce Campbell remains on the list even though he has been a backup guard to this point. He projected at tackle coming out of college and still could wind up there.

SEATTLE -- First-half thoughts from Qwest Field while watching the Seattle Seahawks against the Green Bay Packers in the second week of the exhibition season:
  • Russell Okung's ankle injury has not hurt Seattle a great deal in this game. Mansfield Wrotto has seemed to fare well, particularly early. But losing Okung for any length of time severely depletes the depth at tackle, particularly with backup right tackle Ray Willis already needing knee surgery. Getting Chester Pitts healthy enough to factor at tackle becomes more important pending news on Okung.
  • The Seahawks' offense helps out the tackles in pass protection. Example: Hasselbeck fooled the Packers twice on one play when he ran bootleg off a play-fake. The Packers bit on the fake and they were in even worse position to deal with the boot. Hasselbeck rolled left and threw across his body to Mike Williams for a first down. A team doesn't need an elite tackle to run that type of play effectively.
  • Hasselbeck turned in the type of performance Seattle wanted to see from him, completing 11 of 15 passes for 127 yards, one touchdown and a 120.7 rating. He played the full first half.
  • Chris Clemons could become a double-digit sack threat for Seattle with a little pass-rush help from the other side. I did see Aaron Curry bring down Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on one play, but the ball was already gone and Rodgers completed the pass. Clemons again showed he can push back tackles. He drove Chad Clifton into Rodgers' face on one play, but Rodgers got rid of the ball in time to avoid a sack. Also noted: Clemons gave good effort on the first-team punt-coverage unit. Late-half update: Packers rookie Bryan Bulaga was winning his matchup with Clemons. Clemons also gave up a reception in coverage.
  • Leon Washington excelled when working with the first-team offense early in the second quarter. Washington got the Packers' attention right away with violent pass-protection block on safety Nick Collins. Washington jacked up Collins, lifting him high into the air. Collins acknowledged Washington's effort after the play. Washington then opened up the pass to Williams with his play-fake to the inside. The drive ended with Washington quickly covering the remaining 11 yards to the end zone on an inside handoff. The touchdown meant the Seahawks matched the Packers, 14-14, when the first-team offenses were on the field (the Packers replaced Rodgers on their next drive, but Seattle left Hasselbeck and its starters in the game, with diminishing returns).
  • Rookie free safety Earl Thomas showed his range and leaping ability in breaking up a deep pass near the sideline. He also badly missed an open-field tackle and couldn't break up a spectacular deep connection between Rodgers and Greg Jennings early in the game. Jennings laid out for the ball with Thomas right behind him. This was more a great play by the Packers than a bad one by Thomas (and it wasn't even clear whether Thomas was primarily responsible for coverage on the play).
  • Mike Gibson worked some at left guard with the starting offense. Gibson might be better than veteran Ben Hamilton, but line coach Alex Gibbs likes having Hamilton around because Hamilton knows the system. Again, getting Pitts healthy would be a significant plus for Seattle.
  • Left cornerback Marcus Trufant looks better than I've seen him in a couple years, at least. He's active and playing with swagger.
  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh played extensively and justified the commitment. Hasselbeck seems to trust him more than he did a year ago. That was evident when Hasselbeck threw to Houshmandzadeh without hesitation, including when tight throws were required.
  • Julius Jones was the odd man out in the halfback rotation. Justin Forsett and Washington played extensively in the first half.

The Packers hold a 17-14 lead at halftime even though Seattle played key starters longer from what I saw.

49ers in good shape to get tackle

April, 22, 2010
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The 49ers have to like how the draft is falling to this point.

Only two offensive tackles have been selected. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen is also available, should the 49ers' rumored interest in him pan out.

The 49ers need an offensive tackle. Getting one at No. 17 instead of No. 13 would be ideal.

Tackle Bryan Bulaga could make sense for the 49ers.

Last-minute look at mock drafts

April, 22, 2010
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Nolan Nawrocki, Rob Rang, Rick Gosselin and Pat Kirwan have posted updated mock drafts recently.

The chart shows their predictions for NFC West teams, with links to their full mock drafts.

They agree on Sam Bradford at No. 1. Two think Eric Berry will land in Seattle at No. 6. Two like Anthony Davis to the 49ers at No. 13. None agreed on Seattle's choice at No. 14 or the 49ers' choice at No. 17. All predicted Arizona would take a linebacker -- Sean Weatherspoon or Brandon Graham -- at No. 26.

Rang has Seattle taking Jimmy Clausen at No. 6. Gosselin has Clausen going 30th to Minnesota. Not much of a consensus, in other words.

Note that Gosselin is the only one thinking Seattle will draft an offensive tackle in the first round. There's no question the Seahawks' obvious need for a tackle has made it easier to reach when making projections for Seattle at No. 6.

Around the NFC West: Rams on clock

April, 22, 2010
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Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' leadership has been too conservative in rebuilding the team, and that must change in the 2010 draft. Miklasz: "At this rate the rebuilding project will be completed in time for the 2029 season. This safety-first philosophy is so pronounced at Rams Park, I wouldn't be surprised to see general manager Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo wearing biohazard suits the next time they step forward to announce a personnel move." Miklasz thinks the team should draft Sam Bradford.

Howard Balzer and Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat advocate Bradford and Ndamukong Suh, respectively, as the Rams' choice at No. 1. Balzer: "Balance it. A great defensive tackle, or a great quarterback. Simply stated, the great quarterback will help win more games. Heck, if it’s a balance between a great defensive tackle or a very good quarterback, the quarterback is still more important. That’s why, when Devaney polled his scouts and coaches Wednesday, asking who they would take No. 1, it was virtually unanimous. That’s why the name called at about 6:40 Thursday night will be Sam Bradford."

Also from Balzer: a mock draft showing what he thinks teams should do, not what they are likely to do.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are expecting a more stressful draft given the new format. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "It will be more nerve-racking, especially if you ... have your eye on a particular player and you have to wait all through the night and the next day before you know what is going to happen."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals are expected to unveil an alternate jersey to be worn once during the exhibition season and twice during the regular season.

More from Somers: a look at risks associated with any pursuit of Ben Roethlisberger.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says it's tough to know which players will be available to Arizona at No. 26.

Also from Urban (PDF): He sends linebacker Daryl Washington to Arizona with the 26th overall choice.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers theories on reports suggesting the 49ers have interest in Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Barrows: "If the 49ers felt that Jimmy Clausen was a starter-caliber quarterback, they should take him at pick No. 13. The scouts/analysts I've talked to have Clausen rated highly, and they say there are fewer questions about him than with (Brady) Quinn and (Aaron) Rodgers. What we don't know, of course, is how the 49ers have Clausen rated."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat considers offensive options for the 49ers in the draft. He thinks Maurkice Pouncey could make more sense than Mike Iupati. Maiocco: "While the 49ers must come away with a starter at right tackle, it's not as if they can't use help at the other positions on the offensive line, too. Iupati is a guard. Perhaps, he could transition to right tackle. But that would not be a Year 1 development. That would be far down the road. Pouncey, likewise, would start out at guard. He would transition in 2011 or 2012 to center to take the place of Eric Heitmann. The more I think of this scenario, the more I think the 49ers could easily select Pouncey. (And my final-final mock draft for tomorrow's newspaper is likely to reflect that.)"

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News has this to say about Clausen: "Talking with multiple NFL sources, it looks like the 49ers and Seahawks could be the two key players in Clausen’s final destination. Both teams have two 1st-round picks, neither seems totally desperate for a QB (Seattle has Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst, the 49ers have Alex Smith and David Carr), but both do have a need to find a QB at some point. They’re in the same division, you might have realized. I’ve heard Pete Carroll is a Clausen fan, as Peter King has said. The Seahawks are at 6 and 14. The 49ers are at 13 and 17. I’ve heard many smart people say that if Clausen is there at 13, the 49ers will take somebody else and wait to take Clausen at 17 if he lasts that long."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers should trade down to add picks, then collect building blocks, not showpieces. Cohn: "There is talk the 49ers will use (waste) one of their first-round picks on Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen if he’s available. Nuts to that. The 49ers need to embrace the basics of team building, and that means getting grunts who get down and dirty. They took Michael Crabtree last year and had to endure his ridiculous holdout and still they couldn’t make the playoffs. They have to build a team the right way."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says Carroll's pre-draft tweeting reflects a different kind of coach. Brewer: "the person who has the most to lose seems to be the loosest. Seahawks fans have been talking about this draft since last October, when it became obvious early last season that the franchise would be drafting high. The Seahawks earned the No. 6 pick by virtue of their 5-11 record in 2009, and they also have Denver's first-round selection, which is No. 14 overall. With those two picks, Seattle has a chance to own Thursday night. Or fail dramatically."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com expects the Seahawks to make trades during the draft because it's in their best interests and it's consistent with how general manager John Schneider likes to operate. Johns: "It's a debate of quantity vs. quality at times, but Schneider firmly believes if a team scouts well and understands the draft board and who will be available in later picks, it is well worth the risk of giving up higher choices in exchange for adding more options later."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune predicts which players the Seahawks might draft by round. Russell Okung and Taylor Mays are his top two choices, with Seattle potentially trading down before drafting the latter.

Also from Williams: Draft analyst Rob Rang says the Seahawks would be more likely to take Bryan Bulaga at No. 14 than No. 6 based on the tackle's athletic ability.

John Morgan of Field Gulls gives the Seahawks Eric Berry and C.J. Spiller in his latest Seattle-centric mock draft.

Around the NFC West: 49ers' needs

April, 20, 2010
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Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee runs through the 49ers' needs heading into the draft. Barrows: "The 49ers must open up their attack and use the perimeter more often in 2010. That means improving the overall speed on offense. The team took a step in that direction by acquiring Ted Ginn Jr. from Miami. Ginn was one of the fastest players in the 2007 draft. If they pass on speedy running backs such as Clemson's C.J. Spiller and Cal's Jahvid Best in the first two rounds, someone such as Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster or USC's Joe McKnight could bring pizazz to the running game in later rounds."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sends Joe Haden and Anthony Davis to the 49ers in his latest mock draft. He has Maurkice Pouncey going to Arizona at No. 26, although the Cardinals are on the record saying they don't want to select offensive linemen early. Russell Okung and Earl Thomas are the choices for Seattle. Sam Bradford is the choice for St. Louis. Maiocco: "What about C.J. Spiller? I don't think the 49ers would take him at 13 or 17. And if my mock miraculously falls the way I diagram, we won't find out."

Also from Maiocco: A scout familiar with the 49ers said he thought the team would be wise to select quarterback Jimmy Clausen because the 49ers are presently working on a year-to-year basis at quarterback.

Tom Abate of the San Francisco Chronicle details the kicking battle between the 49ers' Joe Nedney and a robot. Abate: "The lighthearted contest, a stunt to highlight the three-day RoboGames competition that opens Friday at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds, ended when Nedney easily kicked a football 45 yards while his mechanical adversary twice failed to clear the goalposts at that distance."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have not drafted an offensive tackle since selecting Ray Willis back in 2005. Chris McIntosh was the last tackle Seattle drafted in the first round. Those streaks should end this year.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says draft analyst Rob Rang expects the Seahawks to select an offensive tackle -- probably Russell Okung -- with the sixth overall choice. A personnel person familiar with Seattle line coach Alex Gibbs told me he thought Gibbs might prefer Bryan Bulaga over Okung, but it's tough to know for certain how much input Gibbs will have if Seattle does take a tackle in that spot.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan could make sense for Seattle with the 14th overall choice. Williams: "Seattle's tentative starting defensive front line, defensive ends Lawrence Jackson and Chris Clemons, who came to Seattle in the (Darryl) Tapp trade, and defensive tackles Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane, combined for nine sacks last season."

Also from Williams: defensive linemen and linebackers the Seahawks could consider on a round-by-round basis, according to Rang.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic considers options at nose tackle for Arizona heading into the draft. Somers: "Weight is a problem for Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody, who is listed at 360 pounds. Tennessee's Dan Williams likely will be gone by the time the Cardinals pick. The club could decide to gamble and hope that someone such as North Carolina's Cam Thomas or East Carolina's Linval Joseph is available in the second round."

Also from Somers: a chat transcript featuring thoughts on Deuce Lutui, among other Cardinals subjects.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he thinks the Cardinals could be more likely to move back in the draft than move up, even though general manager Rod Graves sounded more excited about using the team's extra third-round choice as ammunition.

Also from Urban: The proliferation of 3-4 defenses in the NFL makes it tougher for Arizona to find a nose tackle. Urban: "A player like Alabama’s Terrence Cody is considered by many best-suited for the second or even the third round because of ongoing weight issues. Others, like East Carolina’s Linval Joseph or North Carolina’s Cam Thomas, can be had after the first round as well."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says sources close to Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke say the billionaire remains focused on acquiring full ownership of the team, independent of whatever dealings Kroenke might have had with bidder Shahid Khan. Thomas: "Meanwhile, a backlash continues to grow over the absence of comments or statements by Kroenke about a commitment to keeping the Rams in St. Louis. The controversy began when Kroenke did not mention St. Louis in his April 12 announcement that he was exercising his right of first refusal. Radio personality McGraw Milhaven, who hosts a morning drive show on KTRS (550 AM), is asking fans to boycott Rams games if Kroenke doesn't make some kind of statement about keeping the team in St. Louis by the start of Thursday's draft."

Also from Thomas: Defensive tackle Gary Gibson has re-signed with the Rams.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says fans should not trust Kroenke. Burwell: "As far as I can tell, what we have learned about Kroenke is that every move he makes is straight out of a Machiavellian playbook. From his cunning 11th hour maneuver to gain complete financial control of the franchise, to this latest reported strategy to seek an eight-figure 'compensation' from would-be buyer Shahid Khan to step out of the buying process, his actions reek of cold-blooded duplicity."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' ownership uncertainty is hurting the team with fans. Miklasz: "So the Rams’ ownership saga gets crazier and more confusing by the day, which only creates distraction and frustration at a time when Rams fans would like to be in a happier mood, looking forward to this week’s NFL Draft. By the time this nasty ownership mess is sorted out, there may be about 248 Rams fans left in St. Louis."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Kroenke's reported dealings raise questions about what kind of owner he might become. Balzer: "No one can convince me that the fingerprints of Rams senior adviser John Shaw aren’t all over Kroenke’s tactics. Remember, it was Shaw who orchestrated the move of the Rams to St. Louis in 1995 and then, at the 11th hour, with the papers ready to be signed, suddenly demanded the controversial 25-percent clause be included in the lease that could end up allowing the Rams to move after the 2014 season. What choice did we have but to acquiesce?"

Also from Balzer: The Rams and player agents don't think it's necessary to begin early negotiations with the future No. 1 choice in the draft.

Draft scenario for the 49ers

April, 11, 2010
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Austin asks via Twitter: If both available for Niners, Haden or Bulaga at 13?

Mike Sando: Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga would have to be the choice, in my view, if he and Florida cornerback Joe Haden were both available to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 13. Bulaga is close to 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds. The scouting reports say he could play multiple positions on an NFL line, including tackle, and with Pro Bowl potential. There's seemingly a good chance Bulaga could be gone among the Top 10 overall choices.

Teams can mask weaknesses in their secondaries easier than they can mask weaknesses at offensive tackle. That's why I would take the tackle over the cornerback, particularly that early, even if their ratings were equal and a team had needs at both positions.

Mapping out the draft's top five

April, 8, 2010
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Let's say the top of the NFL draft goes pretty much as expected.

The Rams take Sam Bradford first. The Lions and Bucs go with defensive tackles. The Redskins take an offensive tackle.

That leaves Kansas City as a pivotal wild card at No. 5, one pick before Seattle.

If the Chiefs take a tackle and Seattle also wants one, the Seahawks would have to weigh whether to use the sixth overall choice on what could be their third-rated tackle. Under this scenario, the Seahawks would have better options if Kansas City drafted for defense.

What might the Chiefs do?

Their general manager, Scott Pioli, has a close association with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, leading to speculation that the Chiefs could draft Hawkeyes tackle Bryan Bulaga. Perhaps not. A chat question from Taylor in Salt Lake City offered an opportunity to address Pioli's draft history -- more specifically, the draft histories of his teams. My answer:
I think KC goes defense. I was looking at the picks Scott Pioli's teams have made since he entered the NFL and noticed this: His teams have taken nine players in the top 13 overall picks and seven were defensive players, including five from the SEC. Four were defensive linemen and three of those were from the SEC. I think they go with Eric Berry if available. Then Seattle could probably get the second tackle. I'm thinking it would be Williams or Okung. It's a guessing game with the tackles that early, to an extent.

Pioli's teams have drafted seven players among the top 13 since 2000. All seven played defense: Tyson Jackson, Richard Seymour, Jerod Mayo, Shaun Ellis, John Abraham and Ty Warren. That gives us a pretty good feel for how things might play out (even if the Chiefs do not take Berry, a safety).
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers highlights from an XTRA910 radio interview with Cardinals quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. Somers: "Miller was forthcoming with his opinions on the top quarterbacks in this draft. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is big, strong and throws a tight spiral. Like most people, Miller thinks the Rams will take Bradford with the first pick. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen is impressive, too, but Miller said teams have to wonder how much he will improve. Clausen played at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis in a pro system. Texas' Colt McCoy doesn't have a great arm and might have some trouble throwing some routes. But Miller likes McCoy's leadership ability and toughness and thinks he could be a good QB, maybe best suited for a West Coast attack."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says new Cardinals kicker Jay Feely doesn't shy away from contact, same as predecessor Neil Rackers. Feely: "If you see the play develop and you have the guts and ability to go down and fill that hole at the 25-yard line, they only have two or three yards to beat you and you can make the play. That’s when I feel like a football player too."

Also from Urban: Catching up with globetrotting Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Brian McIntyre of scout.com passes along dates for the Seahawks' organized team activities. The team has a minicamp scheduled for next week.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks will not select Clausen in the first round, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper. I wasn't able to hear all of Kiper's media conference call Wednesday, but at one point I thought he said Seattle could consider Clausen. I'm in the minority on this one, though. Multiple reports are quoting Kiper to the contrary. The call lasted two-plus hours.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says there's too much smoke before a draft to make sense of various projections. Boling on Seattle: "Some of the talk suggests that they don’t need to expend high-end picks on offensive linemen because of the nature of the zone-blocking scheme brought in by new line coach Alex Gibbs. Baloney. This line has been dreadful and the tackle on that left side is still going to have to block the best pass rushers in the league regardless of scheme. Look at the big picture. How would it have been in 1997 if somebody had said they didn’t want to take Walter Jones because he didn’t fit the current scheme. The Seahawks are on their fourth head coach since Jones was drafted. Schemes have come and gone; great players persist."

Michael Lombardi of NFL.com says the Broncos still want a first-round choice for Brandon Marshall, and that trade talks could accelerate. Seattle would not give up one of its current first-round choices for Marshall, in my view, unless the team received something more in return.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Clausen while noting that the Rams appear more likely to select Bradford. Clausen: "I've played in a pro-style offense for the past three years, played under center under coach (Charlie) Weis, and I feel that I'm the most ready guy out there. ... I think I translate the best to the NFL because I've already had to deal with what those guys are going to have to go through, which is learning a pro-style system and having growing pains growing up in a system."

Also from Thomas: Na'il Diggs is the newest Ram. Thomas: "Rams general manager Billy Devaney has continued to work on getting bigger in the front seven this offseason, in an effort to improve the team's run defense. Diggs, a 6-feet-4 and 240 pounds, had good size for an outside linebacker and has a reputation as a good run defender."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Diggs is most likely to play the strong side, contrary to expectations.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Diggs' addition gives the Rams three linebackers from Ohio State.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says during a chat that the 49ers would be wise to draft Dan Williams, if available, because teams running 3-4 defenses need good nose tackles and Aubrayo Franklin could leave after the 2010 season. Barrows on Alex Smith: "My gut feeling is that he'll have his best year yet but that there will be enough bad spots that at the end of the year we'll still be asking the same questions about him. Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but I just don't see it being black and white."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers draft advice for the 49ers. He lists Russell Okung, Trent Williams, Bryan Bulaga, Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Derrick Morgan and Sergio Kindle as players the 49ers should draft if available to them (the assumption being that Bradford, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy would be long gone).

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers should use mid-round picks for offensive tackles if the team cannot find one worth taking in the first round.

Sizing up NFC West mock drafts

April, 6, 2010
4/06/10
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Draft analysts Nolan Nawrocki and Rob Rang posted updated mock drafts Monday.

I've singled out their selections for NFC West teams and run them alongside the Insider projections Mel Kiper and Todd McShay made March 11.

Nawrocki says he thinks Williams' skills mesh perfectly with what the Seahawks want to do offensively, offsetting questions about Williams' work ethic.

Three of the four analysts have Clemson running back C.J. Spiller landing in the NFC West.

Nawrocki and Rang line up on Sam Bradford (Rams), Williams (Seahawks), and Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

Weatherspoon would replace Karlos Dansby at inside linebacker in these projections. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was with the Steelers when they used a second-round choice for a 3-4 inside linebacker with similar height and weight (Kendrell Bell).

I'm just not sure if using a first-round pick for an inside linebacker qualifies as an ideal scenario. Nose tackle Dan Williams remained available for the Cardinals' choice at No. 26 on Nawrocki's mock draft (landing with San Diego at No. 28).

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