NFC West: Gaines Adams
That's the way it works. The highest picks in a draft class should outperform their peers.
"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."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals shouldn't have serious issues in pass protection at right tackle after using the fifth pick in the 2007 draft for Levi Brown. They regularly do, of course, and that qualifies Brown for inclusion in ESPN.com's package featuring one underachieving player from each division.
|Christian Petersen/Getty Images|
|Problems with his technique have hampered Arizona’s Levi Brown.|
Brown seemed to improve last season, only to take a step backward early in 2009.
"He has excellent size with long arms and good strength," Scouts Inc. wrote heading into this season. "He has adequate balance and body control in the run game. His foot quickness in pass protection is good. He has some problems with quick, change-of-direction rushers who can work back inside. He will have some trouble finishing when he plays upright or gets caught leaning, but he showed improvement in his overall technique."
Brown's struggles in the season opener played a significant role in the Cardinals' defeat to the 49ers. Brown had more problems against the Colts before allowing two sacks during an otherwise impressive Cardinals performance Sunday in Seattle. Coach Ken Whisenhunt singled out both Cardinals tackles for technique problems in the opener. He praised left tackle Mike Gandy's improved technique against the Seahawks during a radio interview Monday. No mention of Brown.
Brown still has time to develop. He's 25 years old and talented. Teams picking ahead of Arizona fared better (Joe Thomas, Calvin Johnson) and worse (JaMarcus Russell, Gaines Adams). The most familiar knock on Brown -- that the Cardinals should have drafted Adrian Peterson instead -- ignores the fact that the team had given a $7 million signing bonus to Edgerrin James a year earlier. Drafting a talented offensive tackle is almost never a bad idea. Brown can still make it a good one for Arizona if he becomes more consistent with his technique.
I've updated 26-column NFC West rosters and thrown in a bonus gift this time: a league-wide summary sheet comparing all rosters.
Download here or here.
Note that the Bears have 54 players and the Bucs have 52 pending roster moves associated with the Gaines Adams trade. I'll update those totals once the Bears release someone and the Bucs presumably sign someone. Update: The Bears just announced they have released tight end Michael Gaines. That change will be reflected the next time I make available these rosters.
The chart shows how many NFC West draft choices are starting for the teams that selected them. Seattle is the only team in the league without one of its own draft choices projected to start at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Seven teams -- some good, some bad -- have draft choices starting at each of those positions.
I'll update the Cardinals' situation at tight end once 2007 seventh-round choice Ben Patrick takes over the starting job. I have not updated that position yet (the injured Stephen Spach is listed as the starter for now). The Cardinals did move Patrick onto the 53-man roster Friday following his four-game suspension.
More notes on NFC West rosters:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Sensing the shortage of mock drafts this time of year, I joined ESPN.com's other divisional bloggers in putting together our own version.
A confession: I sent Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe to the Rams at No. 2 knowing the decision helped avert a dilemma with Seattle at No. 4.
Sending another player to the Rams -- specifically receiver Michael Crabtree -- might have complicated the choice I was facing two picks later.
If Crabtree disappeared from the available pool at No. 2 and my AFC West counterpart, Bill Williamson, snagged Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry for the Chiefs at No. 3, then what for Seattle? I wasn't ready to join the Mark Sanchez-to-Seattle hype machine, but the possibility seemed more realistic without Crabtree and Curry available as alternatives.
The Rams need a tackle more than Seattle needs one, the thinking goes, so it's convenient for St. Louis to take one, leaving the Seahawks with more palatable options two picks later.
Alas, these are all theories built on assumptions. Reality figures to diverge significantly.
Four of Scouts Inc.'s 32 highest-ranked players -- Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers, Florida receiver Percy Harvin, Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas and Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler -- failed to find their way into our divisional bloggers' mock. Two players appearing on our mock -- Rutgers receiver Kenny Britt and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith -- did not earn spots on the Scouts Inc. top 32.
I doubt whether any two NFL teams share the same rankings for the top 32 players.
There is no consensus, in other words.
With that, I'll break down where each of my projected NFC West projections could break down.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike SandoThe Seahawks hold the fourth, 37th, 68th, 105th, 137th, 178th, 213th, 245th, 247th and 248th choices in the 2009 draft. For perspective, I've singled out the last four players chosen in those spots.
Seattle drafted one of those players: offensive lineman Ray Willis, taken 105th in 2005, Tim Ruskell's first season as team president.
The Seahawks have four seventh-round choices this year. Ruskell's teams have fared well drafting in the seventh round. The last five players his teams have drafted in the round remain on NFL rosters, all drafted since 2006: Justin Forsett, Brandon Coutu, Steve Vallos, Ryan Plackemeier and Ben Obomanu.
Ninety-five of the 132 seventh-round choices drafted by other teams during the same span remain on NFL rosters.