NFC West: John Jenkins

Kiper mock 4.0: 49ers thoughts

April, 13, 2013
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Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft Insider, this one spanning two rounds instead of the usual one, appeared while I was away.

A quiet (so far) Saturday provides an opportunity to run through Kiper's projections for NFC West teams. As usual, I'll sample from Kiper's analysis before offering a few thoughts, beginning with a look at the San Francisco 49ers.

First round

31. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

Kiper's give: Justin Smith will be 34 in September, and the 49ers need to think about who could take over for him long term, and spell him in the interim. Pound for pound, Hunt is as good an athlete as you'll find in this draft, and the 49ers currently have a roster that allows them to draft for ceiling at this slot. Hunt could add a little bulk and could become a rotation player behind Smith this season, with the potential to become that rare kind of impact pass-rusher in a 3-4 scheme from the defensive end position.

Sando's take: Kiper has projected a defensive lineman to the 49ers at No. 31 in each of his four mock drafts to this point. The three defensive linemen he projected to them previously -- Sharrif Floyd, John Jenkins and Datone Jones -- are all over the map in this latest mock. Kiper has Floyd going third overall to Oakland. He has Jones going 38th overall to Arizona. He has Jenkins going 57th overall to Houston. Bolstering the defensive line rotation makes obvious sense for the 49ers in this draft. Smith, a physical specimen known for his relentless work in the weight room, will presumably bounce back strong from his triceps surgery. However, his contract runs only through the 2013 season.

Second round

34. Matt Elam, S, Florida

Kiper's give: They added Craig Dahl, but safety is still a need. A deep class offers options.

Sando's take: Kenny Vaccaro was the only safety off the board when Kiper sent Hunt to the 49ers at No. 31. Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien went 32nd to Baltimore under this scenario, leaving Elam to the 49ers as the third safety selected in 2013. Again, the reasoning makes sense. Defensive line and safety are two positions just about any 49ers fan would like to see the team address in this draft. Elam could project as a long-term replacement for Dashon Goldson, who departed in free agency. Also, strong safety Donte Whitner is entering the final year of his contract.

61. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State

Kiper's give: A huge target for Colin Kaepernick, Escobar can keep the two-tight end look intact.

Sando's take: Hunt, Elam and Escobar would fill arguably the 49ers' top three needs this offseason. Escobar is known more for his receiving skills than for his blocking. The Scouts Inc. report on Escobar's blocking calls him "mostly a position-and-wall-off type blocker" who "frequently struggles to sustain and rarely drives defenders backwards." Of course, it's unrealistic to expect teams to land finished products in the second round. The 49ers' former No. 2 tight end, Delanie Walker, grew into his role over time. Under Kiper's scenario, Escobar would be the third tight end selected behind Tyler Eifert (17th overall) and Zach Ertz (39th). Ertz played under 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.

A run through McShay's two-round mock

March, 29, 2013
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Thoughts on Todd McShay's latest mock draft Insider projections for NFC West teams:

Arizona Cardinals: Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson (first round, No. 7 overall) and North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon (second round, No. 38) were the projections. Quarterback and offensive line were trouble points last season. Arizona needs to plan for the future -- and present -- at both positions. Johnson was the third offensive tackle drafted under McShay's scenario. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, the choice for Arizona at No. 7 in McShay's previous mock, was not available this time. The Cardinals haven't drafted an offensive lineman in the first three rounds since taking Levi Brown fifth overall in 2007. Steve Keim, promoted to general manager this year, reportedly wanted Adrian Peterson instead that year. Keim's read on offensive linemen would appear well qualified. He played on the offensive line at North Carolina State. The Cardinals have stressed drafting for value, not need. Defensive line and wide receiver are two positions the team might be less apt to address early, however. Coach Bruce Arians has said those positions are strengths.

St. Louis Rams: Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (first round, No. 16), North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams (first round, No. 22) and Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (second round, No. 46) were the projections for St. Louis in the first two rounds. West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin had been the projection for St. Louis at No. 16 in McShay's previous mock. This time, Austin went to Tampa Bay at No. 13. The Rams seem to like their receivers more than outsiders like them, but they could still draft one early. Defensive line is already a strength for the Rams, but that's no reason to steer clear of Williams if the value is right. Having two picks in the first round takes off pressure from a need standpoint. Lacy makes sense in the second round. He's a bigger back at 5-foot-11 and 231 pounds. Coach Jeff Fisher has said he'd like to add a bigger back this offseason. Lacy did have turf-toe issues in college, however. That is something to consider.

San Francisco 49ers: Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins (first round, No. 31), Stanford tight end Zach Ertz (second round, No. 34) and Florida International safety John Cyprien (second round, No. 61) were the projections from McShay this time. Margus Hunt, the player McShay projected to the 49ers at No. 31 his previous mock, lasted until the 39th choice in this two-round version. The 49ers could use impact players at the positions addressed by McShay's projections. Would Jenkins fit along the line at 346 pounds? That seems heavier than the 49ers would prefer for their scheme, especially if playing defensive end is part of the expectation, but McShay says Jenkins could do that for the 49ers. The team has not drafted a true defensive lineman since using a 2009 seventh-round choice for Ricky Jean Francois. Ray McDonald was a third-rounder in 2007. Justin Smith was a free-agent addition in 2008. Ian Williams and Demarcus Dobbs stuck as undrafted players more recently. Glenn Dorsey was signed in free agency this year after the 49ers watched Jean Francois and Isaac Sopoaga depart. Perhaps this is the year the team drafts a defensive lineman early.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks do not own a first-round pick. McShay has them taking 335-pound Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams (second round, No. 56). Under this scenario, Williams would be the seventh defensive tackle selected. Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei, Sheldon Richardson, Sylvester Williams, Jenkins and Kawann Short were off the board. The seventh defensive tackle went 87th overall last year. Drafting a defensive tackle makes sense from a need standpoint. Seattle signed veteran Tony McDaniel as a lower-cost alternative to Alan Branch. Using a second-round choice for another one would put into place an affordable future starter and someone to contribute to a rotation right away.

How four mocks see West before combine

February, 19, 2013
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With NFL prospects descending on Indianapolis this week, I've gathered pre-combine mock draft projections from Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, Rob Rang and Gil Brandt.

Their first-round picks for NFC West teams appear in the chart.

Mock drafts tend to make sense from a need standpoint. That is the generally the case here. The four analysts have Arizona seeking help at quarterback or on the offensive line. All four have Seattle targeting help for its defensive line or receiving corps. Defensive line and receiver are the positions projected for San Francisco.

The St. Louis Rams own two first-round selections, providing greater flexibility. Offensive line, receiver, running back, safety and defensive line were the positions targeted for the Rams by these four analysts.

Brandt, the NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys executive, has the Rams taking Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. That pick would give the Rams two highly drafted young backs (Lacy and 2012 second-rounder Isaiah Pead), plus Daryl Richardson, who was a find in the seventh round last year.

The Rams' all-time rushing leader, Steven Jackson, would not return under such a scenario. Jackson has a $7 million salary for 2013 and the ability to opt out of his contract.

NFL scouting combine preview: NFC West

February, 19, 2013
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NFC combine preview: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation previews the 2013 scouting combine by identifying the most important thing for each team to learn about its greatest area of need.

Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback is the most obvious and critical need area for the Cardinals. The team can use this combine to figure out whether any of the prospects at the position would warrant the seventh overall selection. Conventional wisdom says Geno Smith and Matt Barkley aren't promising enough to justify selecting so early. As we discussed earlier Tuesday, the Cardinals' division rivals from San Francisco showed two years ago how it's done at No. 7. They bucked expectations to select a quarterback that early, choosing Aldon Smith instead. The 49ers then found their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in the second round. The Cardinals head to this combine needing to fall in love with a quarterback for the right reasons. It happened for Seattle last year (Russell Wilson), and it happened for the 49ers with Kaepernick. Neither was a first-round selection, but both were players each team badly wanted to select in the early stages.

St. Louis Rams: Offensive line is probably the greatest need area. The Rams proved last season they could function offensively in the absence of front-line talent along the line. Line coach Paul T. Boudreau prides himself in rewarding the best players regardless of draft status. Coach Jeff Fisher's teams have never used a first-round choice for an offensive lineman when Fisher was a head coach. Fisher's teams have used two second-round selections (2005, 1996) and two third-rounders (1997, 1999) for the position. It's still important for the Rams to identify starting-caliber linemen for drafting in 2013. Lane Johnson (Oklahoma) and D.J. Fluker (Alabama) are two tackles whom analysts project as potentially available when the Rams are scheduled to select with the 16th and 22nd overall selections. Would either one be worthy of such a high selection? Alabama guard Chance Warmack is another lineman to consider.

San Francisco 49ers: Defensive line has to be a primary focus area for the 49ers at this combine. Justin Smith will turn 34 in September and will be coming off arm surgery. He and fellow defensive end Ray McDonald rank among the NFL's top four in most snaps played by defensive linemen over the past two seasons. Depth along the line needs reinforcing even if Smith returns to top form and plays another couple of seasons at his customary high level. Kentwan Balmer and Ricky Jean Francois are the only true defensive linemen the 49ers have selected in any round over the past five drafts. Balmer was a bust. Jean Francois can become a free agent this offseason. With that in mind, the 49ers head to the combine looking to identify defensive linemen worth drafting as early as 31st overall. UCLA's Datone Jones and Georgia's John Jenkins are two guys to investigate further.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive line and receiver are two positions for the Seahawks to keep in mind heading to Indianapolis for the combine. Improving the pass rush was a priority even before the team's sacks leader, Chris Clemons, suffered a torn ACL against Washington during the wild-card playoff round. The team could stand to improve its pass-rush push on the interior and exterior alike. Seattle gets much credit for landing impact players throughout its three drafts under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. However, 2012 first-rounder Bruce Irvin stands as the only true defensive lineman the current regime has selected in the top three rounds. Fourth-rounders Jaye Howard and E.J. Wilson were the only ones drafted in the first six rounds. Trading for Clemons and converting Red Bryant from tackle to end eased pressure to target the defensive line in past drafts. The pressure is there now. Seattle has boldly bucked convention with some of its draft picks. Is there a defensive lineman in this draft with the unusual traits Carroll seems to value?

2013 Kiper mock 2.0: 49ers thoughts

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
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Mel Kiper Jr. is back Insider with his second 2013 NFL mock draft for the first round.

We'll run through the projected picks for NFC West teams, beginning in reverse order and working our way forward. I'll include snippets from Kiper's analysis, followed by my own thoughts.

31. San Francisco 49ers: John Jenkins, DL, Georgia

Kiper's give: The current construct of the Niners' roster really offers them a great chance to maximize value, and getting a player like Jenkins this far down the board would represent a lot of value.

Sando's take: Kiper's previous mock draft had the 49ers taking another massive defensive lineman, Sharrif Floyd of Florida, with the projected 30th overall choice (they wound up with the 31st choice). The defensive line should be a priority for the 49ers this offseason as they seek to maximize investments in linebackers Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald have each logged more than 2,000 regular-season and postseason snaps over the past two seasons. Only three players have logged more than them over that span. Smith will be coming off triceps surgery. He turns 34 in September. McDonald is younger (28) and has not started for nearly as long, but he's also had chronic knee problems in the distant past. Ideally, the 49ers would be getting quality snaps on their defensive line from 2008 first-rounder Kentwan Balmer. That choice did not work out. That choice shows why the 49ers should not reach for a defensive lineman in the first round simply to fill a need.

2013 Kiper mock: Seahawks thoughts

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
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Mel Kiper Jr. has released his initial 2013 NFL mock draft Insider for the first round. We discussed his St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals projections previously. Now, I'll do the same for Kiper's Seattle Seahawks projection. The Seahawks hold the 25th overall choice.

25. Seattle Seahawks: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia

Kiper's give: "John Schneider and Pete Carroll showed great instincts in the 2012 draft, adding players they felt could help them immediately, even as analysts (myself included) questioned slot value. The defense was very good this past season, but I think an interior defender who can occupy blockers, occasionally penetrate and even wreck the pocket from the inside is a need."

Sando's take: The Seahawks have recently given big contracts to defensive linemen Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Chris Clemons. They used the 15th choice in the 2012 draft for pass-rushing defensive end Bruce Irvin. Seattle has also gotten mostly good play from defensive tackle Alan Branch. Despite all the investments in the defensive line, I do think the Seahawks would be wise to address the position early in the draft if value warrants the pick. Adding Jenkins' 358-pound body to the line might help shore up a run defense that ranked 30th in yards per carry allowed from Week 7 through the end of the season. Improving the pass rush should stand as Seattle's No. 1 offseason priority, however. Clemons is 31 years old and suffered a torn ACL during the Seahawks' playoff victory at Washington. His status for the 2013 season is in question. Irvin's longer-term future was at Clemons' position. Perhaps Clemons' injury accelerates the transition. Pass-rushing defensive tackle Jason Jones, a free agent in 2013, also finished the season on injured reserve. Seattle could have used a stronger pass rush late in games against Chicago, Detroit, Miami and Atlanta. Addressing that deficiency in the draft seems like a must even though Irvin and fellow rookie Greg Scruggs showed promise.

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