NFC West: Jamaal Anderson

Ken Whisenhunt is right when he says Levi Brown takes more criticism as a high draft choice than he would take as someone selected later in the process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFC West Week 15 decisive moment

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck would later say he had receiver Ben Obomanu open for a possible 96-yard touchdown.

Instead, the Atlanta Falcons scored on a pivotal third-quarter play, stretching a 17-10 lead into double digits on their way to a 34-18 victory that threatened to end Hasselbeck's run as the Seahawks' starting quarterback.

Hasselbeck took the snap from center and rolled to his right on first-and-10 from the Seattle 4, but Falcons defensive end Jamaal Anderson was on him before Hasselbeck could set his feet, let alone throw the ball. Anderson knocked the ball free. He also might have committed a facemask penalty -- Hasselbeck lobbied for a call, to no avail. Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux recovered in the end zone.

"If I make the guy miss -- there’s an 'if' there, I guess -- but that’s a 14-point swing, and as much as we preach about turnovers, turning the ball over is unacceptable," Hasselbeck told reporters after the game.

Down by two touchdowns after the Babineaux recovery, Hasselbeck admittedly began pressing. He threw interceptions on the Seahawks' next two drives. That was enough for coach Pete Carroll to send in backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to finish the game. It was also enough to doom Seattle to its eighth double-digit defeat of the season when a victory would have left the Seahawks alone atop the NFC West with two games remaining.

"We realize how we fought really hard in this game, had a chance to kind of be involved with a really good football team well into this game," Carroll told reporters Monday. "Our third-quarter play just put us behind too far to catch up on a good squad."

Wrap-up: Falcons 34, Seahawks 18

December, 19, 2010
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Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 34-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Qwest Field in Week 15:

What it means: The Seahawks lost no ground in the NFC West race while falling to 6-8, but questions persist at quarterback after coach Pete Carroll benched Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck completed 10 of 17 passes for 71 yards, two interceptions and a critical lost fumble. Hasselbeck's interceptions on consecutive third-quarter possessions precipitated the change. Charlie Whitehurst completed 8 of 16 passes for 83 yards in relief.

What I liked: The Seahawks started quickly. They scored a touchdown on their first possession and tied the score 10-10 after Atlanta took the lead. Seattle's shaky run defense held firm against the Falcons' Michael Turner, even when the Seahawks fell behind.

What I didn't like: The three third-quarter turnovers helped turn a 17-10 deficit into a 34-10 blowout before the fourth quarter. The Falcons' Jamaal Anderson sacked Hasselbeck in the end zone. The ball came out and Jonathan Babineaux recovered for Atlanta. The Falcons led, 24-10, and Hasselbeck followed with two picks. Interceptions have become a problem for Hasselbeck when Seattle falls too far behind. Seattle also got little from its usually productive return game.

Tomorrow's Talker: Is Hasselbeck finished in Seattle? Even if Hasselbeck remains the starter heading into Week 17, is there any way the team will re-sign him after such a rough late-season stretch? Hasselbeck has four touchdowns and 16 interceptions in his previous five December games dating to last season.

Williams' returns: Top receiver Mike Williams returned for Seattle. He caught eight passes for 66 yards.

What's next: The Seahawks head to Tampa Bay for a Week 16 game against the Bucs.

Rams taking hard look at Big 12

March, 25, 2010
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Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy would fit the college conference profile for first-round choices taken by Billy Devaney's teams over the last two decades.

All three are from the Big 12 and all three could be candidates for the St. Louis Rams to draft first overall.

Devaney, the Rams' general manager, has been with teams that drafted 11 players in the first round. The chart breaks down those picks by conference and decade.

Five of the 11 were from the Pac-10, with two apiece from the SEC, ACC and Big 12 (using current conference affiliations).

Devaney's teams have not drafted a Big Ten player in the first round since he entered the NFL with San Diego in 1990. The rest of the league has drafted 119 from the ACC, 110 from the SEC, 100 from the Big Ten, 79 from the Pac-10 and 66 from the Big 12. Again, those numbers reflect current conference affiliations.

I'll break down Devaney's teams' first-round choices by conference:


After the first round, Devaney's teams have favored the SEC (22), ACC (20), Big Ten (16) and Big 12 (15).

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Things I noticed watching the first half of the Rams' game against the Falcons in St. Louis' second exhibition game under coach Steve Spagnuolo:

  • Jason Smith is not ready. I've wondered why the Rams have withheld the No. 2 overall draft choice from the starting lineup. I've wondered why they've put him on the right side instead of the left, where a high pick should play. The way Smith played against the Falcons validated the conservative approach. Smith played too high in pass protection. His footwork was shaky. He spent too much time on the ground. He did not appear athletic enough to recover from his mistakes (could be thinking more than he will be once he gets up to speed). He appeared eager. He tried to hunt down a defensive back on one run. But it's clear the Rams cannot trust him yet. Defensive end Chauncey Davis pancaked Smith while rushing the passer. Defensive end Jamaal Anderson beat Smith to the outside before drilling Kyle Boller. On the next play, a run, Smith whiffed on Anderson, then held him, drawing a penalty.
  • So much for live tackling. The Rams' training camp featured live tackling, unusual for NFL practices. There wasn't enough live tackling against the Falcons. The Rams were sloppy on defense. Leonard Little and James Laurinaitis missed tackles, as did Oshiomogho Atogwe. Tye Hill missed a couple. The Falcons ran the ball effectively in the red zone against eight in the box when defensive end Chris Long couldn't get away from Falcons tight end Justin Peelle in time to make a play. Long did make a couple of plays at the snap with his quickness.
  • Robinson looks good at receiver. Laurent Robinson has shown in practice an ability to beat smaller corners on quick slants. He did it again against the Falcons. Robinson, who had a 50-yard reception in the exhibition opener, again showed an ability to get deep. He badly beat Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes off the line and was wide open in the end zone, only to have Boller miss the throw.
  • Ahman Green looked good. The Rams worked out Green during the week and added the veteran runner to their list of potential players to sign if none of the current backups seizes the job behind Steven Jackson. Samkon Gado, who played well for the Rams in the exhibition opener, hurt his chances at earning a roster spot. He dropped a screen pass early in the game. He lost a fumble right before halftime.
I'll take a look at the rest of the game as time permits. The first half wasn't all bad for the Rams. Laurinaitis did pick off a pass. Robinson, as noted, made a positive impression at receiver. Overall, though, the first-team offense and defense struggled.

Quick look at current 2009 draft order

December, 15, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks' victory over the Rams leaves St. Louis in the lead for the No. 2 overall choice in the 2009 draft.

The next two weeks will probably affect the eventual order at the top of the draft, but here's how the top 10 would shake out at present, according to the league:

1. Detroit (0-14)
2. St. Louis (2-12): The last five players drafted second overall were Chris Long (Rams), Calvin Johnson (Lions), Reggie Bush (Saints), Ronnie Brown (Dolphins) and Robert Gallery (Raiders).
3. Kansas City (2-12)
4. Cincinnati (2-11-1)
5. Seattle (3-11). The last five players drafted fifth overall were Glenn Dorsey (Chiefs), Levi Brown (Cardinals), A.J. Hawk (Packers), Cadillac Williams (Bucs) and Sean Taylor (Redskins).
6. Oakland (3-11)
7. Cleveland (4-9)
8. San Francisco (5-9): The last five players drafted eighth overall were Derrick Harvey (Jaguars), Jamaal Anderson (Falcons), Donte Whitner (Bills), Antrel Rolle (Cardinals) and DeAngelo Hall (Falcons).
9. Jacksonville (5-9)
10. Green Bay (5-9)

The Rams would be picking second overall for the second year in a row. They've addressed the defensive line early in recent drafts. This might be time to help the offensive line. Orlando Pace certainly worked out well for them as an early pick.

The Seahawks haven't picked in the top five since selecting Shawn Springs third in 1997. They also picked up Walter Jones (sixth overall) that year.

The 49ers last picked among the top eight when they selected tight end Vernon Davis sixth overall in 2006.

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