NFC West: Jermale Hines

Around the NFC West: T.O. makes move?

August, 16, 2012
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The Seattle Seahawks' defensive backs were gunning for Terrell Owens when the veteran receiver reported to training camp last week.

Cornerback Brandon Browner memorably planted Owens on his backside during drills. Owens, 38, remained philosophical at the time. He figured there would be an acclimation period after sitting out the 2011 NFL season.

Perhaps Owens figured right.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune thought Owens made noticeable strides in practice Wednesday. Boling: "Asked to pick a story of the day, I’d say that Terrell Owens looked as if he’s getting his legs under him and feeling more comfortable. He pulled in a nice completion against Richard Sherman on a little in-and-out route during one-on-one drills, and later grabbed two touchdown passes in team (2s v. 2s) from Russell Wilson. The first score reflected well on both of them; the play appeared on the verge of breaking down, but Wilson stepped up and Owens found a spot open near the back of the end zone. He also caught a long touchdown from Wilson. On the same veteran receiver front, Braylon Edwards had an eye-catching one-handed grab of a poorly thrown pass during skeleton drills."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Bobby Wagner is on track to start at middle linebacker for Seattle.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Pete Carroll recruited Sherman to USC as a cornerback. Sherman went to Stanford as a receiver instead, but Carroll is getting the last laugh.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects Ryan Williams to play for the Cardinals on Friday night, six days short of the one-year anniversary of the torn patella Williams suffered in the 2011 exhibition season.

Also from Somers: Tarvaris Jackson probably will not wind up in Arizona. Somers: "I've been asked several times if the Cardinals will show interest. I don't see it. I think it's questionable if Jackson is better than what the Cardinals have already. Do you give up assets for Seattle's 3rd QB? Plus, I don't see teams in the same division trading. I've been surprised before but I don't see this happening."

More from Somers: Blake Gideon is among the little-known players standing out in Cardinals camp.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Michael Floyd is keeping a low profile in Arizona.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman understands the difficult transition A.J. Jenkins is making as a rookie wide receiver. Maiocco: "Jenkins, of course, is a lock to make the 49ers' 53-man roster. But it's unlikely he'll get much of an opportunity to contribute as a rookie with Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham clearly ahead of him on the depth chart."

Also from Maiocco: Michael Crabtree is healthy, and it shows in the receiver's speed.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Crabtree and cornerback Carlos Rogers know the score in their rivalry. Crabtree: "I've got a little tablet on my locker, of how many days I won, how many he lost. So, I'm keeping tabs. I'm winning right now. I'll try to keep it like that."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News quotes Roman on Crabtree: "He was playing last year on a bad wheel and battled his way through it. He's much healthier this year. He certainly appears a lot quicker and faster."

Also from Inman: practice notes.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noticed rookie receiver Chris Givens repeatedly running deep routes in the Rams' preseason opener, an indication St. Louis plans to showcase Givens as a deep threat. Thomas: "On three occasions, the Rams threw deep his way. The first resulted in a pass interference flag against safety Jermale Hines (a Rams fifth-round pick in 2011). The 54-yard penalty advanced the ball to the Indy 26 and set up the Rams' only points of the day, on a Greg Zuerlein field goal. The second heave -- like the first, thrown by backup quarterback Kellen Clemens -- barely was beyond Givens' reach and probably would've resulted in a touchdown late in the second quarter. And with rookie QB Austin Davis in the ballgame in the third quarter, a third long-range attempt was underthrown. Givens came back for the ball, and should've caught it, but was distracted by a defender flashing in front of him."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers notes from Rams camp. Wagoner: "LB Aaron Brown might be the most overlooked player in this draft class but he continues to impress. He jumped in front of a receiver in a one on one drills for an interception. He’s also made a strong impression on special teams coach John Fassel. They say that for young defensive players to make an impression and make the squad, special teams is the way to do it. It would seem he’s doing just that so far."

Also from Wagoner: Torry Holt is in town with the Rams.

More from Wagoner: Danny Amendola as a leader.
Trading down in the NFL draft to acquire additional picks sounds good in theory.

Sometimes, it's tough finding a trading partner. Other times, sacrificing quality for quantity hurts a team's prospects.

But in every case, making an effort to trade down requires a team to trust its ability to find quality players later in a draft -- often in the middle rounds.

This is the range where the Seattle Seahawks' Pete Carroll and John Schneider have fared well since taking over the team before the 2010 draft. The team has used seven fourth- and fifth-round choices during that time, most in the division. Those picks have produced a Pro Bowl safety (Kam Chancellor), a very good starting cornerback (Richard Sherman), a starting linebacker (K.J. Wright) and two players coming off injuries (Kris Durham, Walter Thurmond).

I would expect Durham to make a push for playing time in 2012 and make it tougher for Mike Williams to keep a roster spot.

Arizona has also done well drafting in the fourth and fifth rounds. Sam Acho came on strong as a pass-rushing outside linebacker last season, collecting seven sacks, the second-most for a Cardinals rookie since sacks became an official stat in 1982. Another outside linebacker, O'Brien Schofield, gained momentum as the 2011 season progressed, finishing with 4.5 sacks. Anthony Sherman met expectations as a starting fullback while John Skelton finished the season with four fourth-quarter comeback victories.

I've included in the chart below information for St. Louis, but the Rams have new leadership, so those choices tell us nothing about the team's ability to maximize draft choices in the middle rounds. The San Francisco 49ers have used only two picks in the fourth and fifth rounds since 2010. They have one in each round this year.

Overall, I'd say Seattle and Arizona have done well enough in the middle rounds recently to consider trading back in the draft to acquire additional picks in that range. It's a little early to make any declarations about the 49ers or Rams along those lines.

Hitting on picks in this range provides insurance against the occasional whiffs early in a draft, while also building critical depth.

Taking stock: NFC West defensive rookies

November, 3, 2011
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Playing-time percentages for NFC West defensive rookies tell us a few things:
  • Draft order matters. The three defensive players chosen in the first round are the three with the most playing time. Starting cornerbacks stay on the field for almost all the snaps. That, more than performance, explains why Arizona's Patrick Peterson has played so much more than pass-rushers Aldon Smith and Robert Quinn.
  • Fifth-round safeties did not last. The Seattle Seahawks cut Mark LeGree. The St. Louis Rams cut Jermale Hines.
  • Good values at cornerback. The San Francisco 49ers found a quick contributor in third-round cornerback Chris Culliver, who has seized the nickel job. The Seahawks' fifth-round corner, Richard Sherman, is also looking good early. Injuries forced him into the starting lineup last week. Sherman picked off one pass and tipped a ball that teammate Kam Chancellor intercepted.
  • Mid-round linebackers ascending. Seattle's K.J. Wright and Arizona's Sam Acho are dissimilar as linebackers. Wright has played the middle after entering the draft as a strongside type, and now he is starting on the strong side. Acho is converting from college defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. There are similarities as well. Both have replaced big names in their starting lineups. Wright replaced Aaron Curry. Acho replaced Joey Porter. Both players have impressed their teams with their smarts. Acho has one sack in each of the Cardinals' last two games.
  • Late-round find. The Cardinals have been pleased with sixth-round defensive lineman David Carter, even though another sixth-rounder, Quan Sturdivant, came to the team with higher expectations for making an immediate impact. Carter has pushed 2010 first-round pick Dan Williams for playing time. Williams has 152 snaps. Carter has 105.

Thanks to Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information for passing along the numbers. Dashes represent bye weeks in the chart.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 28, 2011
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Arizona Cardinals:
Depth at running back remains the biggest injury variable for the Cardinals heading into Week 4. Beanie Wells hopes to return from the hamstring injury that sidelined him against Seattle. Hamstring injuries are notoriously difficult to manage, however. Returning too soon can put a player at heightened risk for a setback with long-term ramifications. The extent to which Wells practices late in the week should be telling. He was limited Wednesday. Chester Taylor started against Seattle, but Alfonso Smith was the primary back. Fellow running back and return specialist LaRod Stephens-Howling, recovering from a hand injury, also missed the Seattle game. He has only two kickoff returns this season. After three games last season, he had 13 returns for 351 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals also miss what he brought to the offense as a situational player. On defense, linebacker Daryl Washington returned from his calf injury against Seattle.

San Francisco 49ers:
Receiver Braylon Edwards and fullback Moran Norris remain out, hurting the offense. Edwards would have given the team a needed receiving threat heading into the 49ers' game against Philadelphia's talented secondary. More pressure falls on Michael Crabtree, who apparently made it through Week 3 without aggravating his foot injury. Running back Frank Gore was on the practice field Wednesday despite suffering an injured right ankle against Cincinnati. That injury could lead to more playing time for rookie Kendall Hunter. Injuries were already affecting the ground game. The 49ers miss Norris and their top blocking tight end, Nate Byham, who is on injured reserve. Safety Donte Whitner was expected to play this week despite a hip injury. Having fellow safety Dashon Goldson return from injury last week helped the team's depth at the position.

Seattle Seahawks:
The Seahawks' latest injury-related change to the offensive line will not affect the game-day rotation. Assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable underwent back surgery that will keep him from coaching for the short term. On the field, Seattle appears likely to start the same five linemen in the same spots in back-to-back weeks, something the team has not done this season. The line made strides overall against Arizona, but Paul McQuistan struggled through a tough matchup against Calais Campbell in his first game as Robert Gallery's injury replacement at left guard. Fullback Michael Robinson's absence since Week 1 has hurt the special-teams coverage units. He's back this week. Strong safety Kam Chancellor is expected to start despite resting a thigh injury Wednesday. Receiver Sidney Rice made it through his Seattle debut without aggravating his shoulder injury. His availability is big for the passing game.

St. Louis Rams:
Sam Bradford participated fully in practice despite his sprained toe. He was hurt scrambling against Baltimore. The fact that Bradford missed no practice time suggests the injury does not threaten his availability. What it means for his mobility will be harder to say. Running back Steven Jackson practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and appeared closer to full strength than at any time since suffering a quadriceps injury in Week 1, according to reports. He appears likely to play a more significant role against Washington this week. Receiver Danny Amendola appears on course to return from a dislocated elbow following the Rams' Week 5 bye. He participated in individual drills Wednesday, but it's an upset if the Rams hurry him back into the lineup with the bye so close. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui continues to fight through injuries. He emerged from the Baltimore game with a back injury, but he practiced on a limited basis. With injury issues affecting the secondary, the Rams signed veteran cornerback Rod Hood, formerly of the Cardinals. The Rams released rookie safety Jermale Hines, who appeared headed for the practice squad.

Steven Jackson active: Big boost for Rams

September, 25, 2011
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The St. Louis Rams can use all the hard-nosed, physical players they can get heading into their game against Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens.

Running back Steven Jackson, sidelined since the early going of a Week 1 defeat to Philadelphia, is one of the players St. Louis needs the most. The team did not list him among its inactive players Sunday, meaning Jackson will be available to them.

Jackson's first carry of the season went for 47 yards and a touchdown, but he suffered a strained quadriceps on the play. He returned for one more carry and has not played since.

The Rams will be without receiver Danny Amendola, safety Jermale Hines, receiver Greg Salas and defensive end C.J. Ah You.

No surprise: Jackson, Amendola inactive

September, 19, 2011
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The St. Louis Rams and New York Giants have submitted their inactive lists for their Monday night matchup.
We're about an hour from kickoff. I'm seeing Rams fans wearing Eric Dickerson and Jack Youngblood jerseys, and another with a Sam Bradford jersey. The stadium remains mostly empty at this time, however.
Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis will not miss fewer padded practices. Willis on protections written into the new labor agreement: "Honestly, I'm glad they put that in there. At the end of the day, we're high-impact players. For us to go out there and hit each other twice a day and it's me against you and it's everything I've got against you, it takes a toll on your body."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along a team-issued comment from Chargers general manager A.J. Smith regarding the team's contract agreement with Takeo Spikes. Smith: "He is an outstanding player. I love his competitiveness and instincts. I believe he will be an immediate contributor. To me, this is another Randall Godfrey type move for the Chargers."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers did not show interest in Spikes once the negotiating period opened.

Taylor Price of 49ers.com reports from team headquarters as players returned for work following the lockout. Price: "While 49ers players like Willis were extremely eager to begin the 2011 campaign, many of them had trouble finding their lockers first. The typical locker arrangement the players had come to expect was changed by head coach Jim Harbaugh. Now the locker room looks like a sporadic mix of players intertwined with various position groups."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are adopting a long-term approach under team president Jed York.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune reflects on some of the moments that defined Matt Hasselbeck's legacy in Seattle. Boling: "Years ago at Arizona when Darrell Jackson fumbled the ball 20 yards downfield at a crucial point in the game, the Seahawk who made the recovery was Hasselbeck. He’d gone racing down the field to help and was there to dive into the pile and get the ball. Offensive coordinator Gil Haskell was mad at him after the game because it seemed so reckless for a quarterback, but then he admitted that he’d never seen another quarterback make that play, and that Matt was the 'toughest guy on the team.'"

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks the Seahawks should give Charlie Whitehurst a chance.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says now was the time for Hasselbeck and the Seahawks to part ways. Kelley: "He made himself into a Pro Bowler. He became one of the most respected athletes to play in Seattle and one of the classiest, most humble guys I've covered. But it was time for him to go. The Seahawks will go into this season with two rookies projected to start on the right side of the offensive line. Four of their starting linemen will have a combined total of 27 career starts. That's a prescription for disaster for Hasselbeck, who will turn 36 in September and has had injury and mobility problems the past few years. Truthfully, the end of the Hasselbeck era has been coming since former general manager Tim Ruskell hustled [Mike] Holmgren out the door."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle says clues were there that Hasselbeck would not return. As coach Pete Carroll put it some time after declaring Hasselbeck's re-signing a top priority, "Well, we had a good dialogue started and we went up to the time frame that we had available so that's all we could do, and then it ended. We weren't able to get anything done at that time so when opportunities arise again where we can get going on it again, we'll be right after it again and see where it all fits. Some time has passed now and there could have been some things that have changed."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says former defensive lineman Richard Harris, 63, has died of a heart attack.

Also from Farnsworth: Seattle players return to work.

Art Thiel of Sports Press Northwest calls Tarvaris Jackson a placeholder while the Seahawks search for their next long-term quarterback.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are considering multiple options at quarterback. Hasselbeck was one of the options mentioned, but obviously not a serious one. Hasselbeck's agreement with Tennessee gives Arizona one fewer quarterback to consider as the Cardinals try to leverage a better deal with Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb. Somers: "Kolb is the Cardinals' top choice, and their efforts to get him were bolstered when the Seahawks agreed to terms Tuesday with former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson."

Also from Somers: Jeff King and Ben Graham have agreed to deals with Arizona.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says team staffers were happy to see players back in the building following the lockout. Urban: "There are times when a player comes through the door and freezes, realizing a meeting was going on. Offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges was that guy this morning, until [team president Michael] Bidwill waved him through. As the affable Bridges walked down the side, the staff began to clap, bringing a smile to Bridges’ face. As he went to pass the main stage, he went to shake Bidwill’s hand -- and it turned into a welcome-back hug."

Also from Urban: More on players returning to work.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports from Rams headquarters as players returned to work following the lockout. Also: "Jim Lake has been promoted to equipment manager. He replaces Todd Hewitt, who was fired in January after 16 years in the position and 32 years as a Rams employee. Lake has worked in the club's equipment department for 20 years. In other staff additions, Adam Bailey has been hired as assistant strength coach, Lou Paolillo has been named a coaching assistant/special projects, and Jeremy McMillan becomes the team's nutritionist."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Quintin Mikell's addition to the Rams could spell the end for veteran James Butler. Thomas: "The Rams currently have only three safeties under contract in James Butler, Craig Dahl and Darian Stewart, but did draft two safeties in Ohio State's Jermale Hines and Oklahoma's Jonathan Nelson. The signing of Mikell could put Butler, who counts nearly $3.3 million against the salary, in jeopardy of being a cap casualty."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along comments from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh regarding receiver Michael Crabtree, via KNBR radio. Harbaugh was apparently alluding to recent interactions between Crabtree and Alex Smith. Harbaugh: "I've been around him a little bit. And Crab to me is a good guy and a good football player. Just some of the things lately kind of goes back to the analogy I gave a little bit ago, when you're kids and working it out and sometimes you get into some tussles and shirts get ripped and noses get bloodied, but that's part of figuring it out. I know he's a good guy. I know the other guys on our team are good guys. That's another interesting part of watching these guys figure it out. ... From my experience begin around him, I think he's a guy who's about us and about the team being successful."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers receivers coach John Morton has high expectations for Crabtree and Josh Morgan. Morton said he expects Crabtree to become "a phenomenal football player in this offense." The 49ers should have high expectations for Crabtree in particular. Encouragement and optimism from the coaching staff can be constructive, particularly at a time when lockout rules prevent the team from reaching Crabtree directly.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Harbaugh spoke more about the 49ers in general than Alex Smith in particular.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams are asking fans to help determine which game the team selects to wear its throwback uniforms. Said team exec Kevin Demoff: "We wanted to find a way to engage our fans and give them a voice on which game the club wears our throwback uniforms. The reason to wear the throwbacks is to celebrate the Club’s history and our fans are an important part of that history. What better way to recognize our fans’ passion for our team past and present than to give them the opportunity to select the game we wear our throwback jersey?"

Also from Wagoner: a look at Rams rookie draft choice Jermale Hines. Wagoner: "Hines’ versatility to come up in the box and stop the run or drop into coverage could allow him to work at either safety position or perhaps even fill in as the second linebacker in the team’s nickel packages. Will compete for playing time on defense right away but figures to help on special teams immediately."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who will visit Kuwait on a USO trip later this summer. Somers: "Whisenhunt's father, brother and father-in-law served in the Air Force. His brother, Harry, who is two years older, flew F-16s for eight years in the Air Force and is now a pilot for United. Whisenhunt and his family, coincidentally, are vacationing with the families of his brother and two sisters, an annual occurrence."

Also from Somers: He expects the Cardinals to show no interest in Plaxico Burress or Terrelle Pryor.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has this to say about the USO trip featuring Whisenhunt and former Seahawks coach Jim Mora, among others: "In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you stand on why soldiers are where they are in the world. It matters that they are willing to do a job many, frankly, aren’t. For what they do for us, it makes sense to send over celebrities -- in this case, NFL coaches -- to remind them their work isn’t forgotten." More from Urban here.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says David Sims' 15 touchdowns stood as one of the bigger surprises from the team's 1978 season.

Also from Farnsworth: Sims recalls the 43-yard scoring pass he threw to Steve Largent.

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle quotes Mora on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Mora: "I just think he's got a lot left. I watched what Kurt Warner did when he went from the Rams to the Cardinals and kinda revived his career again, and I see that happening for Matt. I know Matt's work ethic. I know Matt's commitment. I know his drive to succeed and I just think that he's going to have a few more good years left in him." For Hasselbeck to follow Warner's lead, he would need to change teams. Warner was not an immediate success with Arizona, however.
The Arizona Cardinals' running game should perk up this season if Beanie Wells revisits the hard-charging form he flashed during his rookie season two years ago.

The passion Wells showed Monday in defending his former college coach wouldn't hurt, either.

Wells, one of 11 NFC West players from Ohio State, took Jim Tressel's scandal-induced resignation hard. The third-year Cardinals runner called Tressel a "great man" who imparted life lessons upon his players. The way Wells sees things, if Tressel lied about his players' roles in the scandal, he did so only out of honor.

Wells punctuated his tweets with exclamation points, making good on his promise to "go off" while criticism against Tressel piled up.

"It's not his fault at all that he had a few go stray out of hundreds!!!" Wells wrote. "U check the success rate of the people that have been around him!!!!"

According to Wells, Tressel stepped up to help players from disadvantaged backgrounds, becoming more than just a coach to them.

Wells is among 10 current NFC West players from Ohio State, but the only one playing for the Cardinals.

All but St. Louis Rams linebacker Na'il Diggs and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Nate Clements played for Tressel. The NFC West players from Ohio State: Clements, Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Alex Boone and Thaddeus Gibson from the 49ers; Jay Richardson from the Seattle Seahawks; Diggs, Jermale Hines, Larry Grant and James Laurinaitis from the Rams.

Laurinaitis reportedly used the term "sad day" to describe the events Monday. Smith was once suspended for accepting money from a booster when Tressel was coach.
The Seattle Seahawks were on the clock with the 99th overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft when the Minnesota Vikings called to inquire about a trade.

Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider had a decision to make. The team wanted to add more picks, so sliding back into the Vikings' spot at No. 106 carried some appeal. But the Seahawks had not addressed defense to that point in the draft, and Mississippi State outside linebacker K.J. Wright was a player they had been targeting.

Seattle decided to stand pat at No. 99.

"It is rare that you would find a linebacker with that much length (6-foot-4) and 4.6 speed," Carroll said after the draft. "We need that flexibility."

[+] EnlargeK.J. Wright
AP Photo/Michael ConroyK.J. Wright, who was drafted by the Seahawks with the No. 99 pick, was the last 4-3 strongside linebacker drafted.
This seemed a bit improbable. After all, teams selected 24 more linebackers over the remaining 155 selections. Surely one of them could have provided what the Seahawks wanted from Wright, right? Not necessarily. The more I studied those selections, the more I understood what Carroll was talking about. Wright was the fourth and final 4-3 strongside linebacker selected in the draft. All were gone among the top 100 selections.

The NFL has become so specialized, particularly on defense, that players are increasingly difficult to categorize. Seeking fresh perspective on the 2011 draft, I reclassified the 254 players chosen into 20 positional categories, based largely on how teams plan to use them. The process was imperfect because teams view players differently, and some players transcend easy categorization. But patterns that emerged were helpful in bringing the big picture into clearer focus.

Breaking down linebackers into five categories across 3-4 and 4-3 schemes was particularly helpful.

Teams selected one 4-3 strongside linebacker in each of the first four rounds, but none thereafter. They selected 12 4-3 weakside linebackers -- none in the first two rounds, five in the sixth and three in the seventh. That position carried less value relative to others based on when the players came off the board.

Nine of 11 4-3 defensive tackles went in the first three rounds, affirming how much teams value that position. Teams selected five 4-3 defensive ends in the first two rounds, then none until taking one in the fifth and four more in the seventh. Teams selected four five-technique defensive ends in the first round and one in the second, but none over the next four rounds.

I ultimately divided players into percentiles based on where they were selected in relation to other players from the same positional categories. Three NFC West players were the first players chosen at their specific positions. They were in the top percentile for their positions. Three, including Wright, were the last players chosen at their specific positions. They were in the bottom percentile.

The percentiles say nothing about whether individual players will succeed in the NFL. In some cases, players with lower percentiles probably carried more value at that moment in the draft based on how few prospects remained available at their positions.

Without categorizing players more specifically, we might not have any idea.

Overall, this draft featured 37 cornerbacks; 28 wide receivers; 24 running backs; 21 interior offensive linemen; 20 offensive tackles; 16 safeties; 13 tight ends; 12 quarterbacks; 12 4-3 weakside linebackers; 11 4-3 defensive tackles; 10 4-3 defensive ends; 10 3-4 outside linebackers; eight five-technique defensive ends; seven 3-4 inside linebackers; seven fullbacks; six 4-3 middle linebackers; four 4-3 strongside linebackers; four nose tackles; and two specialists. Two defensive linemen -- Kansas City's Allen Bailey and Baltimore's Pernell McPhee -- qualified as nickel pass-rushers.

And now, a look at all 35 NFC West draft choices, listed by how early they were drafted in relation to other players at their specific positions:

First quarter: 75th percentile and higher

Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals: First of 37 cornerbacks selected

Aldon Smith, OLB, San Francisco 49ers: First of 10 3-4 outside linebackers

Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams: First of 10 4-3 defensive ends

Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals: Second of 24 running backs, putting him in the 91.7 percentile for the position (FBs excluded)

Lance Kendricks, TE, Rams: Second of 13 tight ends (84.6)

James Carpenter, T, Seattle Seahawks: Fourth of 20 offensive tackles (80.0)

Chris Culliver, CB, 49ers: Eighth of 37 cornerbacks (78.4)

Rob Housler, TE, Cardinals: Third of 13 tight ends (76.9)

John Moffitt, G, Seahawks: Fifth of 21 interior offensive linemen (76.2)

Second quarter: 50th to 74th percentile

Anthony Sherman, FB, Cardinals: Second of seven fullbacks (71.4)

Austin Pettis, WR, Rams: Eighth of 28 wide receivers (71.4)

Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers: Tenth of 24 running backs (58.3)

Bruce Miller, FB, 49ers: Third of seven fullbacks (57.1)

Kris Durham, WR, Seahawks: 12th of 28 wide receivers (57.1)

Daniel Kilgore, C, 49ers: 10th of 21 interior offensive linemen (52.4)

Sam Acho, OLB, Cardinals: Fifth of 10 3-4 outside linebackers (50.0)

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers: Sixth of 12 quarterbacks (50.0)

Greg Salas, WR, Rams: 14th of 28 wide receivers (50.0)

Third quarter: 25th to 49th percentile

Richard Sherman, CB, Seahawks: 24th of 37 cornerbacks (35.1)

Mark LeGree, S, Seahawks: 11th of 16 safeties (31.3)

Quan Sturdivant, ILB, Cardinals: Fifth of seven 3-4 inside linebackers (28.6)

Byron Maxwell, CB, Seahawks: 27th of 37 cornerbacks (27.0)

David Carter, DE, Cardinals: Sixth of eight five-technique defensive ends (25.0)

Jermale Hines, S, Rams: 12th of 16 safeties (25.0)

Fourth quarter: Zero to 24th percentile

Colin Jones, S, 49ers: 13th of 16 safeties (18.8)

Jabara Williams, LB, Rams: 10th of 12 4-3 weakside linebackers (16.7 )

Ronald Johnson, WR, 49ers: 24th of 28 wide receivers (14.3)

Mikail Baker, CB, Rams: 32nd of 37 cornerbacks (13.5)

Pep Levingston, DE, Seahawks: Seventh of eight five-technique defensive ends (12.5)

Mike Person, C, 49ers: 19th of 21 interior offensive linemen (9.5)

Malcolm Smith, LB, Seahawks. Eleventh of 12 4-3 weakside linebackers (8.3)

Jonathan Nelson, S, Rams: 15th of 16 safeties (6.3)

K.J. Wright, LB, Seahawks: Fourth of four 4-3 strongside linebackers (0.0)

DeMarco Sampson, WR, Cardinals: 28th of 28 wide receivers(0.0)

Curtis Holcomb, CB, 49ers: 37th of 37 cornerbacks (0.0)

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' recently drafted receiver, DeMarco Sampson, has joined Larry Fitzgerald and other NFL players for workouts at Arizona State University. Somers: "Sampson and Fitzgerald were among about 20 quarterbacks and receivers who threw and caught during a session Wednesday morning. Many other Cardinals players were there, including quarterbacks John Skelton and Rich Bartel, and receivers Steve Breaston, and Stephen Williams. Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb, who lives in Chandler in the off-season, also threw, and Ravens tight end Todd Heap, a product of Arizona State, was among the receivers. Fitzgerald has tried to keep the workouts low-key."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' decision to draft Ryan Williams in the second round two years after drafting Beanie Wells in the first makes Wells a bust.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times reproduces quotes from Pete Carroll regarding Matt Hasselbeck. From April 26: "Well, we had good dialogue to get started, and we went up to the time frame that we had available so that's all we could do. Then it ended. We weren't able to get anything done at that time. So when the opportunities arise again where we can get going on it again we'll be right after it again and we'll see where it all fits. Some time has passed now. There could be some things that have changed. We'll just have to see when we start to re-open the conversations." Nothing has changed in terms of the roster. The team did not draft a quarterback.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com passes along draft grades for the Rams. On the verdict from Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki: "Says the Rams addressed all major needs with the exception of a backup running back and upgraded their speed off the edge with Robert Quinn. Likes the reliability of Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas and says the Rams did well for depth and special teams late in the draft. Went so far as to say Jermale Hines and Jonathan Nelson both have 'starter' potential." Guard and outside linebacker also remain potential needs for the Rams once free agency opens.

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis analyzes the Rams' decision to select tight end Lance Kendricks with the 47th overall choice. Farr: "It's kind of like breaking in a new pair of shoes. Sure, it may hurt for a little while, but eventually shoe leather gives way to the natural curvature of your foot and all is well. I'm sure once I actually get to see the team take the field and run plays on offense, I'll start to appreciate Lance Kendricks in a way I can't understand right now. New offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wasn't considered the hottest young head coaching prospect in the NFL by being stagnant and antiquated in his offensive philosophy."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says he's generally skeptical about draft classes and has reason to feel that way again regarding the 49ers' class for 2011. Maiocco: "My biggest issue with the 49ers' draft was, to brazenly quote myself, was that it 'was loaded with players who probably aren't close to being game-ready, except to contribute on special teams. The 49ers invested a lot of picks in players who are being asked to make difficult position changes. In other instances, the 49ers seemed to favor height-weight-speed and potential over college production.' "

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists future free agents who visited 49ers headquarters before the draft. Might the 49ers target them when the signing period opens?

Taylor Price of 49ers.com offers highlights from general manager Trent Baalke's appearance on Sirius radio. Baalke's description of the 49ers' philosophy heading into the draft is exactly what we thought it would be heading into the draft. Baalke: "Either address the corner position or the pass rush position, whichever we felt we could get the most value from with the first pick, and then circle back and pickup the quarterback."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider looks back at the 49ers' draft from 2009. Only one of the top five picks, Michael Crabtree, has made a significant contribution to the team.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers wanted to draft Stanford's Owen Marecic.
Teams have yet to see their 2011 draft choices on the field. They have yet to sign players in free agency. Depth charts remain largely imaginary.

Those factors complicate efforts to predict which 2011 draft choices will start as rookies. The head coaches for NFC West teams would surely cringe at making projections this far out. The San Francisco 49ers' Jim Harbaugh repeatedly used the word "anointed" during his draft-related media appearances -- as in, none of these rookies will be anointed starters.

With that in mind, I'll anoint myself as armchair general manager with an eye toward projecting which 2011 draft choices will start as rookies.

First, a little history.

Fourteen 2010 NFL draft choices started every game last season.

Five of the 14 -- Sam Bradford, Anthony Davis, Earl Thomas, Mike Iupati and Rodger Saffold -- played for NFC West teams. Two more NFC West rookie draft choices, Daryl Washington and Russell Okung, started at least 10 games. Six others started between one and six games.

As the chart shows, players starting the most games tended to have higher draft statuses. Those making at least 10 starts were selected about 18th overall on average.

Now, on to the non-anointing ...

Projected starters

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson, the No. 5 overall pick in this year's class, is expected to beat out Greg Toler for a starting job.
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesPatrick Peterson, the No. 5 overall pick in this year's class, is expected to beat out Greg Toler for a starting job.
Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals: The fifth overall choice should have little trouble locking down a starting job even though coach Ken Whisenhunt makes rookies in particular earn their jobs. Peterson should beat out incumbent Greg Toler. Landing a corrnerback in free agency became less of a priority once the Cardinals drafted Peterson.

James Carpenter, RT, Seahawks: The Seahawks want to upgrade the talent and change the demeanor of their offensive line. Carpenter is a big part of those plans. He has the versatility to start at guard or tackle. Right tackle is where the Seahawks envision him starting right away. Sean Locklear is not signed. Stacy Andrews likely will not be back at his current price.

John Moffitt, G, Seahawks. Guard was one of the most acute needs for Seattle this offseason. I expect the team to make a clean break from some of the older players who manned the position last season (Ben Hamilton, Chester Pitts, etc.). They were stopgap solutions. Moffitt projects as the starting right guard. The team could add a free agent to start at left guard. Robert Gallery's connections to line coach Tom Cable make him a logical candidate.

Lance Kendricks, TE, Rams. I'll assume the Rams will use two tight ends more frequently under new coordinator Josh McDaniels. If that is the case, Kendricks projects as one of the top two tight ends and a player the Rams will feature.

Rob Housler, TE, Cardinals. Arizona's options at the position make Housler the early favorite. Seventh-round rookie Jim Dray made three starts at tight end last season. Housler should figure much more prominently into the mix as a third-round selection (69th overall).

Projected situational roles

Aldon Smith, DL/OLB, 49ers. Smith and other college defensive linemen face transition periods converting to pass-rush roles in 3-4 defenses. The 49ers like Smith's versatility. They'll probably use him on the line and as a situational pass-rusher. The goal would be for Smith to work his way into the starting lineup, but not necessarily right away.

Robert Quinn, DE, Rams. James Hall projects as the starter on the right side. Quinn projects as Hall's eventual replacement. The Rams plan to make Quinn a prominent part of their rotation on the defensive line right away. Quinn faces a transition after sitting out the 2010 season. The faster he develops, the faster he'll join the starting lineup. How well he plays the run is one key variable.

Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals. I wouldn't rule out Williams as a candidate to start in 2011, but most rookies require time to learn the ins and outs of pass protection. The Cardinals have a crowded backfield at the moment. The competition should be fierce.

Chris Culliver, CB, 49ers. Culliver has played safety and cornerback. That could make him suited to play in nickel and dime packages as a rookie. He should be part of the rotation.

Austin Pettis or Greg Salas, WR, Rams. I'm listing these two together because the Rams selected both within a 29-pick range spanning the third and fourth rounds. Rookie receivers can have a hard time adjusting to the pro game. At least one of these two figures to emerge as part of the rotation.

Other considerations

Other rookie draft choices will surely emerge as immediate contributors.

Some will start games. Some will have an easier time than others based on the competition they'll face in training camp.

For example, Cardinals fifth-round choice Anthony Sherman might have a better shot at starting than players drafted earlier because Arizona doesn't have depth at fullback. Bruce Miller, the linebacker San Francisco plans to convert into a fullback, could also have a chance (Tampa Bay's Erik Lorig, who played defensive line for Harbaugh at Stanford, has played fullback for the Bucs and started one game last season).

Arizona could use a young outside pass-rusher to emerge. Will fourth-rounder Sam Acho be the one?

In Seattle, coach Pete Carroll said seventh-round linebacker Malcolm Smith has the ability to contribute on third down right away. The Seahawks could have quite a few rookies playing given an organizational emphasis on getting younger.

Linebackers and defensive backs sometimes work their way into various situational packages. The Rams have plans along those lines for Jermale Hines, among others.

I could go on, but there's no sense in listing each of the 35 players NFC West teams selected. I'd be interested in your thoughts on which ones you expect to emerge, and why.
Mel Kiper Jr. gave the St. Louis Rams a B grade for their efforts in the 2011 NFL draft.

Everything looks better with a young, ascending quarterback in place.

The Rams used three of their first four picks on weapons for Sam Bradford. All three fit the mold for new coordinator Josh McDaniels, who prefers big receivers. All three should help the Rams improve in the red zone, where they struggled badly last season.

First-round choice Robert Quinn added pass-rush help to a defense that wasn't hurting in that area, but still had longer-term concerns. Kiper thought Quinn could have been a No. 1 overall selection on raw talent. Quinn went later after serving a one-year suspension in 2010. A benign brain tumor was another potential concern.

The Rams' calculated gambles went beyond Quinn. Receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas do not seem to add the speed element the Rams could use on the outside. General manager Billy Devaney cautioned against overvaluing speed at the expense of finding good players. Those warnings are fair. Also, the most dynamically talented receivers tend to go earlier in the draft. Receivers available after the first round tend to have holes in their games. The Rams went for bigger, physical, more reliable targets. They weren't going to get A.J. Green or Julio Jones.

Later in the draft, the Rams took chances with players carrying injury histories. Seventh-rounders Mikail Baker and Jonathan Nelson come to mind. There are no perfect prospects in the seventh round, of course. Teams are making educated guesses and hoping for some luck.

The Rams still have work to do, but it's low-pressure work. While division rivals search for quarterbacks, the Rams can target free agents at defensive tackle, guard and possibly linebacker. Oh, and there's always the now-annual search for a complementary running back. They took tight end Lance Kendricks at No. 47, nine spots before McDaniels' former team, New England, took running back Shane Vereen. They took Pettis, the receiver, five spots after New England selected another running back, Stevan Ridley.

Eleven running backs came off the board between the Rams' fourth- and fifth-round selections.

"It was probably close a couple of times and we didn’t force it," Devaney told reporters. "There were running backs that we were thinking about taking and they went before our next pick came up. But we didn’t react by saying, 'OK, we lost the back, now we've got to drop down in value in this round and take a back no matter what [even] if he doesn’t warrant going there.' It didn’t work out."

That was true for teams across the league. The Rams weren't going to fill every need.
There was some thought the St. Louis Rams would target defensive tackle in the 2011 NFL draft, even in the first round.

It never happened during the early or middle rounds.

The team has two seventh-round choices remaining after using the 158th overall choice, a fifth-rounder, for Ohio State safety Jermale Hines, who weighs 219 pounds and could have longer-term potential at outside linebacker, according to scouts.

The Rams had a need at safety after watching veteran starter Oshiomogho Atogwe sign with the Washington Redskins this offseason.

"I played nickelback, I played strong safety and I played free safety," Hines told reporters in St. Louis after being drafted. "I did a little bit of everything -- dropping down in the box, helping support the run, playing off the deep half."

Hines said he played a combination linebacker-safety position, and served as a blitzer.

That versatility could come in handy given the injury problems that have affected St. Louis at both safety spots.

"I'm a physical guy," Hines said. "I like to impose my will on opponents. Hit as much as I could."

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