NFC West: Darius Fleming


Last week, we considered whether 35 offensive snaps and 16 pass routes were enough for the San Francisco 49ers to fully assess second-year wide receiver A.J. Jenkins.

Turns out it was enough.

The 49ers traded Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs for receiver Jon Baldwin, another disappointing first-round draft choice. This move is good for the 49ers in that it shows they'll move on from a disappointing player without carrying him on their roster just to keep up appearances. The move is also bad for the 49ers in that Jenkins' departure after making zero regular-season receptions reflects poorly on the team's decision to draft him.

Baldwin, chosen 26th overall in 2011 by the Chiefs' previous leadership, has 41 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns in 26 regular-season games. Jenkins, the 30th overall choice in 2012, played in three games without making a reception. He becomes the 49ers' highest-profile personnel misfire since Trent Baalke became general manager and Jim Harbaugh became head coach.

The 49ers had hoped Jenkins would provide a needed vertical speed element to their offense. They could seemingly still use that element as they look to create better matchups for receiver Anquan Boldin, who beats defenses with strength, not speed. Tight end Vernon Davis does provide the 49ers with a deep threat and he has gotten practice reps at wide receiver, but Jenkins was seen as a key player the team hoped to develop this offseason.

Baldwin is a different type of player. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds and had a 40-yard dash time in the 4.5-second range. Jenkins is 6-0 and 192 pounds with a 40-yard time in the 4.4-range.

The 49ers and Chiefs played one another in a preseason game Friday night. The Chiefs' big and physical starting corner, Sean Smith, roughed up Jenkins and shut him down. The 49ers will face similar cornerbacks in NFC West play. Jenkins was not going to match up well against them unless he could get off the line of scrimmage and put his speed to use.

Davis, safety Donte Whitner and other 49ers players polled this offseason said they thought Jenkins would be the young wide receiver to emerge as the preseason unfolded. Jenkins lost a fumble after his lone reception against Denver in the preseason opener. A penalty against an offensive lineman for holding wiped out a 21-yard reception Jenkins made against the Chiefs' backups.

LaMichael James, Joe Looney, Darius Fleming, Trenton Robinson, Jason Slowey and Cam Johnson were the other players San Francisco drafted in 2012. Fleming suffered a season-ending injury this offseason. Slowey is no longer with the team. James is fighting for playing time at running back. Looney, Robinson and Johnson are backups.

Last offseason, Harbaugh defended Jenkins from media criticism. The defending appeared justified, in my view, because Jenkins was just getting started. One training camp generally isn't enough to evaluate a player. Thirty-five regular-season snaps generally isn't enough, either. This move by the 49ers validates outside criticisms of Jenkins. The team wouldn't be moving on from a 2012 first-round draft choice if it thought Jenkins would have factored.
Two of the NFC West's top receivers, Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin, headline a list of players declared physically unable to perform (PUP) as training camps gain momentum.

PUP designations carry different meanings at different times of the year. With that in mind, now is a good time to freshen up on the implications.

Players on PUP lists entering camp continue counting against the 90-man roster limit. They cannot practice while on the list. However, their teams can activate them from the list at any time before the mandatory roster reduction to 53 players, provided the players pass a physical exam.

This year, teams must reduce to 53 players by 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 31.

Players remaining on PUP lists at the reduction to 53 players must remain on the list for their teams' first six games. They do not count against the 53-man roster limit during that time. After six games have passed, players on PUP have a three-week window to resume practicing. Once a player begins practicing within that window, the team has another three weeks to activate the player from the PUP list onto the 53-man roster.

In effect, a player on the PUP list at the reduction to 53 players could return after his team's sixth game or as long as six weeks after that. The NFL had discussed expanding the three-week window for practicing by two weeks. I'm checking on the status of that proposal, which would have required collaboration with the NFL Players Association.

Update: The window has indeed been extended from three weeks to five weeks, according to the NFL.

Thirteen players from the NFC West are on PUP lists. Five others are on non-football injury (NFI) lists. The rules for NFI mirror those for PUP, the difference being that players on NFI lists suffered injuries unrelated to football. For example, the San Francisco 49ers recently activated defensive lineman Lamar Divens from the NFI list. They did not disclose the source of his injury, but teammate Ahmad Brooks had struck him in the head with a bottle in June, according to authorities.

Separately, the 49ers have also activated linebacker Darius Fleming and receiver Kyle Williams from their PUP list.


News that the St. Louis Rams planned to release guard Rok Watkins suggests the 2012 fifth-round pick failed to hold up his end of a bargain with his head coach.

In May, Jeff Fisher had strongly disagreed with the NFL's decision to levy a one-game suspension against Watkins under the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Fisher had Watkins' back. The Rams thought Watkins had a future with the team. But Watkins, who reported to camp out of shape in 2012, needed to keep his weight in check to maintain his standing with the team. Releasing Watkins just as players are reporting for training camp invites questions about Watkins' reporting weight.

Watkins was a candidate to start at left guard, but the team wasn't betting big on him. Shelly Smith and Chris Williams remain leading candidates to start at that position.

None of the NFC West's fifth-round picks from 2012 has produced much to this point. The other three remain on their teams' 90-man rosters.
Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh Ric Tapia/Icon SMIPete Carroll's Seahawks and Jim Harbaugh's 49ers have continued their rivalry into the offseason.
The 2012 battle for NFC West supremacy between the San Francisco 49ers' and Seattle Seahawks' has turned into a perceived battle this offseason.

"It just feels like the Seahawks make a move, then the Niners make a move," former NFL quarterback Damon Huard said Wednesday during our conversation on 710 ESPN Seattle. "The Seahawks sign Percy Harvin, then the Niners go get Anquan Boldin. The Niners just signed Nnamdi Asomugha, they signed Colt McCoy, and now it's the Seahawks' turn to sign a quarterback. It really feels like this competition that was so fun to watch last fall has carried over into the offseason between the Niners and the Seahawks."

That's what it feels like from this angle, too. So, when ESPN's Bill Polian listed 49ers general manager Trent Baalke among his top six executives Insider without a mention of Seattle counterpart John Schneider, I knew some Seahawks fans would take offense.

"Schneider should be on there," SamW9801 wrote in commenting on the Polian piece.

I'm going to ratchet up the discussion with an assist from Tony Villiotti of draftmetrics.com. Tony identified ranges of picks by how frequently teams have found five-year starters within those ranges.

Using those general ranges, displayed at right, I've put together a chart at the bottom of this item comparing the 49ers' and Seahawks' draft choices since 2010.

Baalke took over the 49ers' draft room roughly a month before the 2010 draft. Schneider became the Seahawks' GM that offseason. The 49ers then underwent a coaching change after the 2010 season, at which point Baalke assumed the GM title officially. We might cut Baalke some slack for selecting Taylor Mays, a player then-coach Mike Singletary valued. There were surely other times when both GMs followed their coaches' input, for better or worse.

Seattle has drafted 28 players during this period, three more than San Francisco has drafted. The Seahawks had more to work with from a qualitative point as well. Their median choice was No. 130 overall, compared to No. 165 for the 49ers.

It's pretty clear both teams know what they are doing in the draft.

Aldon Smith, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and NaVorro Bowman have earned Pro Bowl and/or All-Pro honors for the 49ers. Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman have done so for the Seahawks.

Both teams have found franchise quarterbacks after the first round. Colin Kaepernick was chosen 36th overall in 2011. Wilson went to Seattle at No. 75 last year.

Neither team has missed in that first category, which includes players taken among the top 13 overall picks. Smith and Okung are elite players at premium positions.

Both teams have unanswered questions in that 14-40 range. The 49ers are waiting on receiver A.J. Jenkins to produce. The Seahawks haven't gotten much from guard James Carpenter. But in Iupati and Thomas, the 49ers and Seahawks, respectively, found players among the very best at their positions. Kaepernick's selection puts this group over the top for San Francisco. Seattle got eight sacks from Bruce Irvin as a rookie in 2012, so the Seahawks aren't far behind. It's just impossible to overlook the value a franchise quarterback provides.

Seattle has the edge in the 41-66 range. Mays is long gone from the 49ers. That leaves LaMichael James for the 49ers against Bobby Wagner and Golden Tate for Seattle. Wagner was an instant starter at middle linebacker and a three-down player who commanded consideration for defensive rookie of the year. Tate blossomed with Wilson at quarterback.

The Seahawks also have an edge in that 67-86 range, having selected Wilson.

Seattle holds a 7-3 lead in number of picks used between the 87th and 149th choices, a range producing five-year starters 16 percent of the time, according to Villiotti.

Both teams used picks in that range for players whose injury situations dragged down their draft status: Joe Looney in San Francisco, Walter Thurmond in Seattle. Both teams found starting linebackers in this range: Bowman to the 49ers, K.J. Wright to the Seahawks. Both teams found developmental running backs in that range: Kendall Hunter to the 49ers, Robert Turbin to the Seahawks. Both teams found Pro Bowl players: Bowman in San Francisco, Chancellor in Seattle.

Sherman, arguably the NFL's best cornerback, gives Seattle an edge in the 150 through 189 range of picks. Both teams found backup tight ends there. Anthony Dixon (49ers) and Jeremy Lane (Seahawks) have the potential to expand their roles.

The 49ers found starting fullback Bruce Miller in the final pick range, which runs from 190 to the end of the draft. Seattle found a projected starting guard there in J.R. Sweezy. Malcolm Smith is a candidate to start at linebacker for Seattle. Miller and Sweezy both played defense in college. Miller already has successfully transitioned to offense. Seattle believes Sweezy will do the same.

Summing it up: Both teams can feel good about their draft performance in the past three seasons. I doubt either team would trade its picks for the other team's. That makes sense. Teams draft the players they like best. The 49ers have six projected 2013 starters to show for their choices. The number is eight for the Seahawks, not counting Irvin or Tate. Seattle has had more choices and higher choices, and more openings in the lineup to accommodate those players. I think that shows in the results.

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.

Putting West's injury toll in perspective

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
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Jeff Fisher's addition as head coach has surely helped the St. Louis Rams become more competitive this season. The team's current three-game winning streak is its longest since 2006.

Here is something else to consider beyond coaching: The Rams have zero established starters on their injured reserve list heading into the final three weeks of the season. That is down from as many as six at this point last season, although some of those players were on their way out for reasons related to performance.

There are three Rams players on IR at present, down from 12 following Week 14 last season.

The current injury situation in St. Louis more closely approximates 2010, when the Rams were hurting at wide receiver but healthy enough elsewhere to have a 6-7 record at this point. The current team is 6-6-1 heading into Week 15.

Many other variables beyond injuries differentiate a team from season to season, of course. But in looking at the chart, we can see why Arizona is having a hard time snapping what is now a nine-game losing streak.

The Cardinals have been the most injured team in the NFC West this season and it's not close. Their most significant injury, to quarterback Kevin Kolb, doesn't even show up in the chart. Kolb has not played since Week 6. The team has continued to carry him on its active roster in case he can return.

The numbers next to players' names in the chart show how many estimated starts each will have missed by season's end. I assumed Arizona's Ryan Williams would have started at running back until Beanie Wells' return. I also assumed Rams rookie Rokevious Watkins would have started at left guard if available for the final 15 games. That might be overestimating his role, but the situation appeared dire early in the season.
San Francisco 49ers fans periodically ask when the team's 2012 draft class might begin contributing on the field.

Like other top teams, the 49ers drafted late in the order. Their roster was already quite strong. That combination has made it tougher for the 49ers' rookies to earn playing time. It doesn't necessarily mean their draft choices are falling short. It just means they're not playing yet.

With an assist from Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information, I've put together charts showing games played, games started and offensive/defensive snap counts for every 2012 NFC West draft choice through Week 6.

The 49ers are the only team in the league with zero snaps from their 2012 class. The 6-0 Atlanta Falcons' draft choices have played 25 snaps, the second-lowest total. The 30 remaining teams have gotten at least 215 snaps and an average of more than 700.

Seattle ranks fifth with 1,092 snaps from 2012 draft choices, followed immediately by St. Louis at 988. Arizona ranks 14th with 806. Right tackle Bobby Massie has played 424 of those, more than any team has gotten from its fourth-round choices. Seattle leads the league in snaps from seventh-rounders while ranking second in snaps from third-rounders. The Rams are second in snaps from second- and seventh-rounders.

Arizona Cardinals

Quick notes: Michael Floyd is getting work as the fourth receiver. He had a 24-yard reception Sunday. He has seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. ... Massie is getting valuable experience. He's been a liability in pass protection against some opponents. That was to be expected. ... Cornerback Jamell Fleming's playing time has fluctuated based on Greg Toler's availability. ... Ryan Lindley becomes the No. 2 quarterback behind John Skelton now that Kevin Kolb is injured. The team could conceivably re-sign Rich Bartel in the future. The Cardinals do like Lindlely's potential, however.

Seattle Seahawks

Quick notes: Bruce Irvin has 4.5 sacks, including one to help preserve a victory at Carolina. ... Second-round choice Bobby Wagner has provided a significant upgrade at middle linebacker. He opened the season as a starter and member of the base defense. His has become an every-down player over the past two weeks, with positive results, including when he ran down Cam Newton for a loss. ... Russell Wilson owns two fourth-quarter comeback victories in his first six starts, two more than Seattle managed last season. He is the first rookie since the 1970 merger to throw winning touchdown passes in the final two minutes of two games. ... Robert Turbin's speed and power have impressed. ... J.R. Sweezy impressed in camp and started the opener, but he wasn't ready. ... Greg Scruggs is healthy again and figuring into the pass-rush rotation.

San Francisco 49ers

Quick notes: Trenton Robinson has played on special teams, but he has been inactive recently. A.J. Jenkins has been active without playing. The 49ers have established players ahead of him at wide receiver. They also use two backs and/or two tight ends frequently, diminishing opportunities for wideouts to get on the field. Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams and Randy Moss are competing for those limited snaps. ... LaMichael James' arrival provided incentive for Kendall Hunter, who has met the challenge. Might there be a role for James later in the season? So far, the 49ers haven't even activated veteran Brandon Jacobs. ... Joe Looney projects as a potential future starter at guard, but there might not be an opening if Alex Boone continues playing well. Boone seized the job while Looney was recovering from foot surgery. ... Darius Fleming suffered a knee injury and remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. ... The team released sixth-rounder Jason Slowey. ... Seventh-rounder Cam Johnson is on the practice squad.

St. Louis Rams

Quick notes: First-round defensive tackle Michael Brockers has recovered from an ankle injury well enough to become a big part of the Rams improving run defense. ... Brian Quick made a key reception over the middle to help the Rams beat the Seahawks, but fourth-rounder Chris Givens has made a bigger impact among the Rams' rookie wideouts. Givens has a reception of at least 50 yards in each of the Rams' last three games. That is a first for any NFL rookie since Willie Gault in 1983. ... Janoris Jenkins has been a playmaker at cornerback all season. He suffered a significant lapse in coverage at Miami, but overall, Jenkins has shined. ... Fifth-rounder Rokevious Watkins reported out of shape and landed on injured reserve. ... Sixth-rounder Greg Zuerlein has transformed the Rams' offense with his extended field-goal range, although he struggled some in Week 6. ... Seventh-rounder Daryl Richardson has a 5.2-yard average per carry and 246 yards rushing. He has won playing time from second-rounder Isaiah Pead, who has not been a factor.

Good morning. I'm looking forward to renewing acquaintances in the comments section after a couple weeks away.

First, let's throw out a few subjects for conversation.

Brian McIntyre of NFL.com says Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons saw his 2012 base salary shrink from $4 million to $3 million after skipping a mandatory minicamp last month. McIntyre: "Knowing that his failure to appear for the minicamp would result in a loss of 2012 income, either through forfeiture or fines, can be taken as a sign of how serious Clemons is about receiving a new contract." Noted: I question whether Clemons knew so much salary would be at stake. Not many players sacrifice 25 percent in potential income over a three-day non-contact camp. Clemons can be difficult to read, however. Clemons changed his mind after initially informing coach Pete Carroll that he planned to attend that camp. I'd expect Clemons to report in time for training camp. The Seahawks practice Saturday.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says assistant coach Brian Schneider is pleased with his special-teams units. Noted: Analysts will measure first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin more by his sack total than anything else, but he could be a player to watch on special teams. We've seen other first-round picks around the division make impact plays in that area. First-round defensive end Robert Quinn was a threat to block punts for the Rams last season. Irvin should have similar capabilities based on his speed.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic points to O'Brien Schofield as the key variable for the Cardinals at linebacker this season. Somers: "If Schofield has a breakout season, the Cardinals linebacking corps is set up for years to come. If he doesn't, they will need Clark Haggans to play like he's 25 instead of 35, or for Quentin Groves to step up."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com lays out 10 questions for the team heading into training camp. Noted: Urban raises all the good ones. The quarterback situation is obviously primary, but health at running back stands out as one to watch. The team needs Beanie Wells to hold up long enough for Ryan Williams to make what the Cardinals hope will be a complete recovery from a torn patella. Urban: "The reality is that the Cards expect both to be ready for the regular season, enough so that the only veteran added in the offseason was Javarris James -– a longshot to make the team at best. LaRod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith are the other two backs who will have a role, but the Cards need Williams and Wells. If they are ready to play, it’s a very nice tandem to have."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch raises five Rams-related questions heading toward camp. Noted: The first three questions directly or indirectly relate to quarterback Sam Bradford. That's appropriate.

Also from Burwell: serious questions about alcohol-related driving arrests involving athletes in St. Louis and elsewhere. Burwell: "This is the very thing that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently warned all 32 teams to be on guard for as their players headed off into the short break between the end of organized offseason workouts in June and the start of training camps at the end of July. Last month, Goodell sent out a league-wide memo specifically warning front offices to reinforce to their players about the dangers of driving while impaired." Noted: This one is worth expanding on separately. More to come.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com sees potential parallels between current San Francisco 49ers franchise player Dashon Goldson and former one Aubrayo Franklin. Maiocco: "This could serve as a cautionary tale for all franchise players. Franklin was entering his eighth NFL season when the 49ers tagged him. Goldson is entering his sixth season. Goldson wants to earn the kind of long-term contract that never came for Franklin. ... Goldson must do whatever he believes will give him the best opportunity to have a strong season. Because if he does not have a strong season, he may never get a long-term contract." Noted: The 49ers lack proven alternatives at safety beyond Goldson and Donte Whitner, but they know Goldson will almost certainly report in time for the season. And they know Goldson will have ample incentive to perform in the absence of long-term security. This situation favors the 49ers.

Also from Maiocco: It's no sure thing the 49ers will give a long-term extension to any current players before or during the 2012 season.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News raises five 49ers-related questions heading into camp.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects Joe Looney and Darius Fleming to open 49ers camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle explains why Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz expects the 49ers' win total to plummet in 2012. More on this later in the week.
Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the San Francisco 49ers’ defense and special teams.

Defensive linemen (10)

Average number kept since 2003: 7.0

Safest bets: Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga, Ricky Jean Francois

Leading contenders: Will Tukuafu, Demarcus Dobbs, Ian Williams

Longer odds: Patrick Butrym, Matthew Masifilo, Tony Jerod-Eddie

Comment: The top three are firmly entrenched. All are playing at a high level. The 49ers might want to address this position in the 2013 draft. For now, though, they're set. San Francisco kept seven defensive linemen on its Week 1 roster last season. Tukuafu, Dobbs and Williams combined to play about five percent of the defensive snaps.

Linebackers (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 7.6

Safest bets: Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson, Larry Grant, Tavares Gooden

Leading contenders: Cam Johnson, Kourtnei Brown, Eric Bakhtiari

Longer odds: Michael Wilhoite, Joe Holland, Darius Fleming (injured)

Comment: The 49ers have kept eight linebackers on their Week 1 roster for each of the past six seasons. Brown, an undrafted rookie from Clemson, stands 6-foot-6, weighs 255 pounds and moves well. He's also raw and has had injury problems. Johnson, a seventh-round choice, might need to fight off Brown and the more experienced Bakhtiari for a roster spot. Special teams will be a determining factor.

Defensive backs (17)

Average number kept since 2003: 10.0

Safest bets: Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, Dashon Goldson, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, C.J. Spillman

Leading contenders: Perrish Cox, Trenton Robinson, Curtis Holcomb, Tramaine Brock, Colin Jones

Longer odds: Ben Hannula, Mark LeGree, Michael Thomas, Deante' Purvis, Cory Nelms, Anthony Mosley

Comment: The 49ers lack experienced depth at safety. They could go young this season or consider adding a veteran later. Robinson, a sixth-round rookie, took some first-team reps while Goldson stayed away as an unsigned franchise player. Spillman also worked with the starters. The undrafted Thomas could have the inside track for a practice-squad spot after playing for coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford. Holcomb, a seventh-rounder in 2011, is coming off Achilles surgery.

Special teams (5)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Safest bets: Andy Lee, David Akers, Brian Jennings

Leading contenders: none

Longer odds: Giorgio Tavecchio, Kyle Nelson

Comment: All three specialists earned Pro Bowl honors last season.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Things I noticed while watching the San Francisco 49ers during their minicamp practice Tuesday at team headquarters:
  • A fully engaged Randy Moss. When Moss wasn't making impressive catches over defensive backs such as Chris Culliver, he was engaged in other ways. Moss worked with quarterbacks Alex Smith and Scott Tolzien off to the side during breaks. He easily could have stood and watched those portions of practice. When the receivers were moving their drill into an area occupied by defensive lineman, Moss jokingly instructed them to vacate the area. Such details mean little when isolated. Together, they validate what coaches and teammates have said about Moss to this point.
  • Patrick Willis leaving practice. The Pro Bowl linebacker wasn't injured. The team said Willis left for personal reasons. Larry Grant took over for Willis. All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman was not there at all. He had an excused absence.
  • Rookie A.J. Jenkins getting deep. The usual disclaimers about minicamps apply. Rules allow defenders to cover, but not to defend aggressively. Still, the 49ers had to like seeing their first-round choice get deep for a reception along the left sideline.
  • Michael Crabtree's hands. Coach Jim Harbaugh provided welcome blog fodder when he called Crabtree's hands the best he'd seen. It's going to be a news event when Crabtree eventually drops one. He bobbled one Tuesday. Crabtree made an impressive deep grab from Colin Kaepernick with a defender running close by.
  • A couple of drops. Chris Owusu and Garrett Celek were among the players dropping passes.
  • Frank Gore as a receiver. Gore uncharacteristically suffered from seven drops last season. He made an leaping grab against Ahmad Brooks in this practice. A wideout would have been happy to have made that grab.
  • Steve Mariucci in attendance. The 49ers' ex-coach was on assignment for NFL Network. He watched practice with general manager Trent Baalke.
  • Nate Byham's knee. The blocking tight end has returned from the knee injury he suffered a year ago. Byham is wearing a brace on his left knee. He was emerging as a top blocking back before the injury. Rules against contact during minicamps make it tough to gauge a player's power.
  • Carlos Rogers' debut. The Pro Bowl cornerback made his offseason debut after resting a calf injury previously.
  • A few guys watching. Delanie Walker, Ted Ginn Jr., Cam Johnson, Darius Fleming and Joe Looney did not participate for various reasons. Rules prevented second-round choice LaMichael James from attending because his college class at Oregon has not yet graduated.

That's if for the time being. Back in a bit.
Durable veterans have helped the San Francisco 49ers field one of the NFL's toughest defenses.

Losing outside lienbacker Darius Fleming, a fifth-round choice in 2012, to a potentially season-ending injury will not affect their plans for the coming season. The injury stunts efforts to develop young depth for the future. One of the team's long-time starters at the position, Parys Haralson, was a fifth-round choice in 2006.

Fleming suffered a torn ACL during the 49ers' recent rookie minicamp, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who cited Fleming's agent as a source. Fleming had signed his contract and would have been assured compensation even if he had been practicing while unsigned. He would receive his salary and rehabilitate the injury at the 49ers' facility if the team placed him on injured reserve, standard practice for players suffering similar injuries. Update: Some players do sign what are called "split" contracts, and in those cases, they earn less when injured.

Teams running 3-4 defenses drafted 12 outside linebackers this year, selecting four from the 18th and 35th overall choices. The 49ers made Fleming the 10th one selected (165th overall). They made seventh-rounder Cam Johnson the last one picked (237th).
Justin from Phoenix thinks the Arizona Cardinals can't win with critics.

"The Cardinals have caught grief over the last few years for not drafting offensive lineman, so this year they go out and draft three," he writes. "Now, they are catching grief for not addressing the outside linebacker position. Why can't this team ever do anything right?"

Mike Sando: I don't know whether the Cardinals are taking significant grief for failing to select an outside linebacker. Let's assume they are, and then let's weigh their perceived needs against known opportunities.

The Cardinals used the 13th overall choice for receiver Michael Floyd when they could have selected Melvin Ingram, who went 18th to San Diego. Whitney Mercilus (26th to Houston) and Nick Perry (28th to Green Bay) were the other projected outside linebackers drafted in the first round by teams running 3-4 defenses. Time will tell whether the Cardinals might have fared better selecting one of those players over Floyd.

Having no second-round choice limited the Cardinals' options in this draft, but drafting an outside linebacker in that round might have been a stretch. Courtney Upshaw, chosen 35th overall by Baltimore, was the only 3-4 outside linebacker chosen in the second round (Miami used a third-round choice, 72nd overall, for Olivier Vernon).

That suggests Arizona, which sent the 51st overall pick to Philadelphia in the Kevin Kolb trade, did not necessarily miss out on pass-rush help in that round.

Vernon was the only 3-4 outside linebacker selected in the third round. Arizona, picking eight spots later, took cornerback Jamell Fleming.

The fourth round did provide an opportunity for the Cardinals to select help at outside linebacker. Arizona was picking 112th overall. Dallas took outside linebacker Kyle Wilber with the 113th pick. Washington took Keenan Robinson at No. 119.

Offensive tackle was clearly the No. 1 need for Arizona, however. The Cardinals' decision to use the 112th choice for tackle Bobby Massie seemed reasonable and almost imperative because the team had not taken an offensive lineman to that point in the draft.

Perhaps things would have been different for Arizona in the fourth round if the team had held onto the 51st overall choice. Tackle Mike Adams, selected 56th overall by Pittsburgh, would have been an option for the Cardinals.

Arizona used its fifth-round choice (151st overall) for another offensive lineman, Senio Kelemete. This again appeared reasonable, although teams did take 3-4 outside linebackers among the next 14 picks.

The Cardinals already have young pass-rushing prospects in Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield. If they were going to select an outside linebacker, they arguably needed to get a true difference maker. Ingram, Mercilus and Perry would have been the options, but drafting one of them would have meant passing on Floyd.
The 2012 NFL draft has finished.

I've put together a chart showing all the NFC West picks.

Seattle drafted an NFL-high eight players on defense. One, defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy, projects as a guard. No other team drafted more than six defensive players, by my count.

Total draft picks: Rams 10, Seahawks 10, Arizona Cardinals 7, San Francisco 49ers 7.

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