NFC West: Josh Wilson

Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson and Roy Lewis were the Seattle Seahawks' cornerbacks when Pete Carroll arrived as head coach for the 2010 season.

That group consisted of two first-round picks, two second-rounders and an undrafted free agent. It should have been stellar, but it was not.

The team has become exponentially better at the position without investing much in its personnel. Richard Sherman was a fifth-round pick. Brandon Browner was playing in the CFL. The new slot corner, Antoine Winfield, signed for one year and $2 million.

Consider Matt Williamson impressed. Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, listed Seattle's corners No. 1 in the NFC West -- and beyond -- as part of his ongoing pre-draft positional rankings for division teams.

Williamson: Seattle to me has the best set of corners in the league, clearly. And then Winfield might be the best slot corner in the league. It's almost unfair.

Sando: Carroll coached the secondary in his early NFL days. He and general manager John Schneider have put together the best one in the NFL, stacked at safety and corner alike. I think the entire division is pretty strong at corner overall.

Williamson: These next three teams are close. St. Louis has the best starters of the remaining three teams. Arizona clearly has the best single starter of the remaining three in Patrick Peterson. The Niners have a lot of guys and who knows what they get out of Nnamdi Asomugha.

Sando: I don't think the 49ers are all that worried about their corner situation even though the pass defense faltered late last season.

Williamson: Nobody complalins about their corners when Justin Smith is healthy. We like to nitpick this San Francisco defense when there is nothing wrong with it. The corners are still in the top 15 position groups in the league.

Sando: I'd think every team in the NFC West could say that.

Williamson: Agreed. Being fourth in this division isn’t something to hang your head about. I could make a strong argument for San Francisco as second to Seattle. I like the Rams' starters, but Janoris Jenkins could be overrated at this point based on some of the big plays he has made. People are picking on him.

Sando: Trumaine Johnson was a nice addition in St. Louis as well, if he can stay out of trouble. And we haven't even mentioned Cortland Finnegan. I'm curious, what did you think of the Antoine Cason addition in Arizona?

Williamson: He struggled in San Diego last season. The Chargers were so dysfuntional. I think Cason has first-round skills. He is a quality player who is never going to be a Pro Bowler. He is above average. He is a middle-of-the-road to an above-average starter.

Sando: The Cardinals shuffled most of their secondary. That group will be interesting to watch. I still think Peterson is just getting started and can become the best corner in the league. For now, though, Sherman might legitimately claim that title.
NFL rosters turn over quickly. It's no shock to see a team's draft class disperse after five or six years.

Sometimes it takes a special player to thrive through injuries, coaching changes, temptations and other issues that can send a promising career in the wrong direction.

[+] EnlargeCalais Campbell
AP Photo/Paul ConnorsArizona's Calais Campbell might be considered one of the better bargains out of the 2008 NFL draft.
Calais Campbell is looking like that type of player. He has stayed relatively healthy, succeeded despite multiple changes in coordinators and commanded a lucrative second contract from the Arizona Cardinals.

Campbell, still only 25, is the longest-tenured second-round draft choice remaining with his original NFC West team. That seems difficult to believe, but much has changed since the Cardinals made Campbell the 50th overall choice in the 2008 NFL draft. Every other team in the division has changed head coaches multiple times. Those changes negatively affected quite a few players.

The chart shows NFC West second-round choices since 2007, excluding the class selected last month. Shading indicates players no longer with their original teams.

Eight of the 10 drafted from 2009 to 2011 remain with their teams. Taylor Mays and Cody Brown are the exceptions. Campbell is the lone second-round survivor among seven taken during the 2007-2008 drafts.

I've singled out five second-rounders to watch in the division:

  • Colin Kaepernick, 49ers: Alex Smith projects as the starter for this season, but his contract provides flexibility for the team. Kaepernick could get a chance this season if Smith struggles or fails to remain healthy enough to start all 16 games for a second consecutive season.
  • Ryan Williams, Cardinals: Williams spent much of his offseason at team headquarters rehabbing a serious knee injury. The team remains cautiously optimistic that Williams can become a game-breaking back. Coaches and scouts loved what they saw from him before the injury.
  • Golden Tate, Seahawks: Tate started five games and dropped no passes last season. The Seahawks think Tate might be turning a corner after a rough start to his career. This is a pivotal season for Tate.
  • Rodger Saffold, Rams: Saffold quickly emerged as the Rams' starting left tackle, showing promise as a rookie. His second season wasn't as smooth. A pectoral injury suffered while lifting weights required surgery. Saffold looks like a long-term starter even if it means sliding to guard at some point in the future.
  • Lance Kendricks, Rams: Former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was a big supporter in the Rams' decision to draft Kendricks. McDaniels is gone. Kendricks remains in the Rams' plans, by all appearances. He was inconsistent as a rookie and still must find his bearings.

St. Louis and Arizona each used five second-round choices from 2007 to 2011. Seattle used four. San Francisco used three and has gotten relatively little from those selections, pending Kaepernick's potential emergence as the starting quarterback at some point in the future.

The Rams have gotten 118 starts from their five second-round choices during the five years in question. The Seahawks have gotten 99 starts, the Cardinals 74 starts and the 49ers 44 starts. Teams with weaker rosters and/or additional second-round choices would generally have larger totals.

The chart shows starts made only for the teams that selected each player. Some players have made additional starts for other teams.

NFC West Penalty Watch: Yardage leaders

December, 11, 2011
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Officials have not flagged Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson since calling a 20-yard interference penalty against him in Week 11.

San Francisco was the opponent that day. The 49ers are the opponent Sunday.

Peterson's matchup with the 49ers' Michael Crabtree will be one to watch after Crabtree caught seven passes for 120 yards against the Cardinals in Week 11.

The chart shows Peterson ranking second behind Seattle's Brandon Browner in penalty yardage this season. Browner, like Peterson, is an aggressive corner. They appear willing to trade flags for tight coverage that can take a receiver off his game.

Final Word: NFC West

November, 18, 2011
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:

Skelton's opportunity: Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton steps up in class when he faces the San Francisco 49ers' defense. The matchup figures to be a tough one from a protection standpoint, but the Cardinals have found ways to strike for big plays this season. They have seven pass plays of at least 40 yards this season, fourth-most in the league behind Detroit, Green Bay and Houston. The 49ers have given up seven such plays, tied for fourth-most in the league. That gives Arizona a puncher's chance against the 49ers. And if Skelton can somehow pull out a victory, his stock will rise considerably.

[+] EnlargeSteven Jackson
David Richard/US PresswireThe Rams' Steven Jackson has 30 career games with at least 100 rushing yards.
Ganging up on power backs: Steven Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Beanie Wells and Frank Gore give the NFC West four running backs able to dish out punishment. All are physical runners. I'm most interested in seeing whether Jackson can top 100 yards rushing for the fourth game in a row. He has 30 career games with at least 100 yards, but none against Seattle. That's surprising given that Jackson has faced the Seahawks more times than he has faced any other team -- 14, counting playoffs.

49ers hold their ground: Every NFL team but the 49ers has allowed at least three rushing touchdowns this season. San Francisco has allowed zero. The 49ers are the first team since the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars to go nine games into a season without allowing one, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cardinals rank tied for 11th in the league with eight rushing scores, but they have zero in their past two games. Wells' injured knee has robbed power from him. Wells had only 10 carries for 29 yards against the 49ers last season. He did carry 15 times for 79 yards against them as a rookie in 2009.

Cornerbacks in focus: The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks will play without cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Al Harris, Walter Thurmond or Marcus Trufant, among others. The team best able to exploit issues in the secondary could prevail. Seattle feels better about its cornerback situation, but the raw talent is questionable. Two of the Seahawks' five players at the position were undrafted. Two others are rookies. None of the five was drafted earlier than the fifth round. That was partly by design, however. The team traded 2006 first-rounder Kelly Jennings and 2007 second-rounder Josh Wilson.

Explosive potential in return game: Patrick Peterson and Ted Ginn Jr. give the Cardinals-49ers game big-play potential on returns. Peterson has helped Arizona go from 27th last season to second this season in punt-return average. He leads the NFL in that category with a 17.6-yard average among players with more than 15 punt returns. His three touchdowns on punt returns also lead the NFL. The 49ers' Ginn ranks third in punt-return average and third in kick-return average among players with more than 15 returns in each category. He also has two touchdowns. The Cardinals' kick returner, LaRod Stephens-Howling, has been quiet this season. He scored three times on returns over the previous two seasons.
Playing connect-the-dots with prominent Seattle draft choices predating the Seahawks' current leadership, which arrived in 2010:
  • 2003 draft: First-round pick Marcus Trufant accepts a pay reduction. Fourth-rounder Seneca Wallace, the only other player remaining with Seattle from this class when Pete Carroll took over as head coach, is traded.
  • 2004 draft: Third-round pick Sean Locklear, the only remaining player from this draft class, has his contract truncated. The team does not re-sign him.
  • 2005 draft: First-round pick Chris Spencer is not re-signed. Second-rounder Lofa Tatupu is released after refusing a pay reduction. Third-rounder Leroy Hill takes a pay reduction, then re-signs somewhat improbably.
  • 2006 draft: First-rounder Kelly Jennings is traded. Second-rounder Darryl Tapp is traded. Fourth-rounder Rob Sims, the third player Seattle selected in the 2006 draft, is traded.
  • 2007 draft: The team had no first-round pick. Second-rounder Josh Wilson is traded. Deion Branch, the player Seattle received in return for that 2007 first-round pick, is traded.
  • 2008 draft: First-rounder Lawrence Jackson is traded. Second-rounder John Carlson is imperiled when the team signs tight end Zach Miller in free agency. Carlson is entering the final year of his contract.
  • 2009 draft: First-rounder Aaron Curry accepts a new contract making him easier to trade or release in the future.

Curry and Carlson are the two remaining early draft choices to watch. Both remain younger players with potential, but their futures in Seattle appear tenuous.

Some of these draft choices would have fared better in Seattle if the team had performed well enough to avoid sweeping changes in the organization. Likewise, those sweeping changes might not have been necessary if some of these draft choices had come closer to meeting expectations.

What stands out most to me: Mike Teel, David Greene, Wallace, Jeff Kelly and Josh Booty are the only quarterbacks the Seahawks have drafted since 2001.

On the Seahawks' Kelly Jennings trade

August, 29, 2011
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Five quick notes/thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' trading cornerback Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati for defensive tackle Clinton McDonald:
  • Size matters: The Seahawks have gone big and tall at cornerback. Jennings is listed at 5-foot-11, but he's slight of frame and struggled in matchups against bigger receivers.
  • Experience does not matter: Jennings was one of two cornerbacks on the Seahawks' roster with significant starting experience. The team has decided to go young -- very young -- and Jennings was practically ancient by Seattle cornerback standards at 28. The team felt good enough about its young corners to move on without Jennings.
  • Roster churn: Jennings' departure leaves the Seahawks with five of their own first-round choices and three from other teams. One of their own, cornerback Marcus Trufant, took a pay reduction from $5.9 million to $3 million recently. One of the others, linebacker Aaron Curry, restructured his contract in a manner that makes him easier to trade or release next year. The other three first-rounders project as long-term starters. James Carpenter, Russell Okung and Earl Thomas were chosen by the team's current leadership. The Seahawks are taking a sledgehammer to the foundation they inherited. Chris Spencer, Lofa Tatupu, Josh Wilson, Lawrence Jackson, Rob Sims and Darryl Tapp were all relatively high draft choices under previous regimes.
  • Money inconsequential: The Seahawks paid a $200,000 signing bonus to Jennings as part of the one-year deal he signed this offseason. That bought little security in the end.
  • NFC West reunion: Jennings heads to a Bengals secondary already featuring NFC West castoffs Taylor Mays and Nate Clements, both late of the San Francisco 49ers. Jennings was never going to live up to his first-round status in Seattle. He has more value to the Bengals without those expectations.
  • Clinton who?: McDonald was a seventh-round choice of the Bengals in 2009. The team had released him previously. He played in eight games last season. McDonald stands just under 6-2 and converted from linebacker in college. Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly, writing for his 2009 draft guide, lauded McDonald for possessing toughness and a mean streak. He thought McDonald would project as a three-technique defensive tackle in a one-gap scheme. McDonald was not expected to earn a roster spot in Cincinnati.

Lots more moves to come. Teams must reduce to 80 players by Tuesday.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers will not be "major players" in free agency following the lockout, according to general manager Trent Baalke. Baalke: "Just because somebody goes out, makes a lot of acquisitions, doesn't mean all those acquisitions are going to pan out the way the media thinks they're going to pan out." The media has indeed played up some free-agent signings -- think Albert Haynesworth -- but NFL teams are the ones that have made the mistakes. Not so much lately, however. The 49ers and other teams have done a better job re-signing their own players and showing restraint in free agency. There simply haven't been many excellent players available. This offseason could be different. The pool of available players will likely be larger.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers rookie Aldon Branch isn't worried about a rookie wage scale.

Bob Padecky of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers hope Joe Montana's name can help them get a stadium built.

Also from Padecky: Count former 49ers lineman Bob St. Clair among retired players upset with labor negotiations. He wants more protections for former players. St. Clair: "I am really lucky, luckier than most of the guys. The helmets when I played didn’t provide any protection at all. Concussions? We’d get concussions every game. I know I am having trouble with my memory. But I go to golf tournaments and I see guys I played with and against in wheelchairs, unable to walk. Dementia, crippled bodies, there’s no question it’s caused by the sport. No question."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com expects Chilo Rachal to face competition for the starting job at right guard. Maiocco: "Assuming center David Baas re-signs, Rachal is the 2010 starter whose position for the upcoming season is the most tenuous. Adam Snyder, the backup at right guard a year ago, helped Joe Staley organize all the work for the offensive linemen during the player-led workouts. Snyder knows the terminology and line calls as well as anyone right now."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says talk of high salary floor as part of a new collective bargaining agreement could affect how the 49ers spend money. Could the team have an easier time paying more to nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, for instance? Barrows: "Why not spend it on players you know and trust and who allow your best defensive player, Patrick Willis, to make plays? One of the issues is Willis, who signed a contract extension last year. Would re-signing Franklin mean that Franklin is making more than Willis? And if so, would that cause problems? (My guess is that Willis would have no problem with that as long as the difference is within reason. But money issues inside the locker room can be tricky)."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits the team's final season under coach Mike Holmgren. Farnsworth: "By the time the season ended, 26 players had missed a combined 163 games -- and the 14-player injured reserve list included Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney, wide receivers Nate Burleson and Ben Obomanu and starting offensive linemen Chris Gray, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Mike Wahle and Sean Locklear. Matt Hasselbeck missed nine games, wide receiver Deion Branch eight and linebacker Leroy Hill four. So a better question might be: How did the Seahawks manage to win four games?"

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at the Seahawks' struggles in pass coverage last season. Williams: "Pete Carroll wants to play more press coverage because it takes away the quick, rhythm passing game and forces the offense to make tougher throws down the field and outside the numbers. It’s one of the reasons Seattle drafted big corners in Stanford’s Richard Sherman and Clemson’s Byron Maxwell, along with bringing in Oregon State product and CFL Star Brandon Browner with a futures contract. And it’s why the Seahawks chose to trade 5-9 defensive back Josh Wilson and likely will not bring back Kelly Jennings in free agency. Carroll wants bigger, more physical corners on the perimeter that can force opposing quarterbacks to make more precise throws on the perimeter of the defense."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle offers thoughts on Sal Paolantonio's suggestion that the Redskins could have interest in Hasselbeck. Huard thinks Hasselbeck's value is rising as the lockout continues because teams will want veterans capable of running their offense on short notice. Also, the Redskins' offense is similar to the one Seattle ran last season, so Hasselbeck could step in pretty quickly. Unlike some of the other teams needing quarterbacks, the Redskins did not use a high 2011 draft choice for one. Would they commit to Hasselbeck beyond the 2011 season, and would that be enough for Hasselbeck to sign with them?

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, who has continued to pursue interests in comedy writing. Young: "Campbell said he has been working out several hours a day to be ready to roll when a labor settlement is reached and training camp opens, but he also spent time in Los Angeles visiting the set of Will Ferrell's web-based show 'Funny or Die' and meeting with the writers of 'Family Guy.'"

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com took notice when safety Adrian Wilson provided footage from a recent workout. Urban: "Wilson tweeted out a video from today’s workout. Narrated by wide receiver Stephen Williams (and with a cameo from Beanie Wells), Wilson shows his ability to rep four big plates on each side of the bar on the incline bench press. Crazy. Say the bar is 45 pounds and the plates 45 pounds each, that’s 405 pounds. Yikes. Not that it’s a shock, really. Wilson lives for the weight room. As an aside, safety Rashad Johnson, who is spotting for Wilson, looks like he’s put on significant muscle."

Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly lists Ben Leber, Barry Cofield and Quintin Mikell as players who could make sense for the Rams in free agency. Arkush: "Mikell played under Steve Spagnuolo in Philly when the head coach was an assistant with the Eagles, Cofield played under Spagnuolo in New York along with Fred Robbins and Leber has a history worth noting with Rams linebackers coach Paul Ferraro, who previously coached Minnesota's special teams. All three players could figure as potential instant starters at positions widely considered to be in dire need of more depth."
Andrew from Menlo Park, Calif., thinks trading Arizona Cardinals first-round pick Patrick Peterson to Philadelphia for quarterback Kevin Kolb would make "perfect sense" given each team's needs and recent drafting.

Mike Sando: There's no way I would trade a top-five pick in the draft -- and arguably the best player in the draft, regardless of position -- for a quarterback with question marks.

How well would Kolb fit in the Cardinals' system? Is he good enough to lead a team to a championship? What other options might there be in the market when the signing period eventually does open? If Kolb were the right fit, why not trade a 2012 draft choice, possibly even a conditional one, instead of a player projected to start in 2011?

Peterson offers so much at cornerback and in the return game. I'd be more inclined to part with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Cardinals' other high-profile corner, given that he did not play to expectations last season. Rodgers-Cromartie has also had a couple injuries, and he isn't as aggressive a tackler as the prototypical Ray Horton corner.

Even then, I would have some reservations if I were Arizona. The Eagles would be giving up a backup in exchange for a starter. Arizona would have to feel very good about Kolb.


Mitch from Australia wonders who will start in the Seahawks' secondary and which players the team could pursue in free agency.

Mike Sando: The trading period could again affect which cornerbacks are on the roster. The team wants to get bigger at cornerback and younger in general. Trading Josh Wilson to Baltimore helped in the size department. Next, we need to see how the push toward youth affects veterans on the roster, including cornerback Marcus Trufant.

Free safety Earl Thomas is the only sure starter, in my view. Trufant will start if he remains on the roster. Walter Thurmond has a good shot at starting at the other cornerback spot now that he's had more time to fully recover from the knee injury that affected his draft stock in 2010. Kam Chancellor will be in the mix to start at strong safety.

It's tough to make projections regarding the defensive backs Seattle selected in the 2011 draft. There's a chance any one of them could secure a spot in the rotation, but we haven't seen any of them on the field yet.

On the free agency front, we need to know how many years players will need to reach free agency, and whether rules governing playoff teams will restrict Seattle's options.


Doug from Newbury Park, Calif., asks about the San Francisco 49ers' decision to convert Bruce Miller to fullback given how impressive Miller was on defense in college. He wants to know how often teams make these sorts of conversions and whether Trent Baalke, the 49ers' general manager, made the decision in this case.

Mike Sando: These sorts of conversions are fairly uncommon in general, but they are sometimes a necessity when trying to find fullbacks. Few college offenses feature traditional fullbacks, making it tougher for NFL teams to find them. The 49ers admitted they wanted to draft Stanford fullback Owen Marecic, but it didn't happen.

While Baalke is ultimately responsible for the 49ers' personnel decisions, coach Jim Harbaugh knows what he wants at the fullback position. He also has first-hand experiences to draw from in projecting which types of defensive players might convert well to fullback. One of the defensive linemen he coached at Stanford, Erik Lorig, has made the conversion to fullback with Tampa Bay. He played in nine games, starting one, as a rookie last season.


James from San Diego thinks the St. Louis Rams gave new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels considerable power in determining offensive draft choices. He questions whether this is a good thing given all the personnel mistakes that doomed McDaniels' tenure as head coach in Denver.

Mike Sando: Second-round choice Lance Kendricks should answer this question for us. General manager Billy Devaney said McDaniels was particularly instrumental in that selection, given how Kendricks would fit as a receiving threat in the Rams' offense. The receivers St. Louis drafted also fit the McDaniels mold, at least in terms of height and weight. But Devaney indicated those selections were driven more by how the organization rated them than by what McDaniels specifically thought of them.
The Seattle Seahawks have talked about getting taller at cornerback.

They did something about it Saturday.

Fifth-round choice Richard Sherman, from Stanford, stands 6-foot-2. Byron Maxwell, a sixth-round choice from Clemson, stands 6-0. Throw in fifth-round safety Mark LeGree, who picked off 22 passes at Appalachian State, and it's clear Seattle is remaking its secondary.

Free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Walter Thurmond began the transformation as draft choices last year. The team traded 5-9 cornerback Josh Wilson last season. Sleight-of-frame cornerback Kelly Jennings, a first-round choice in 2006, is not signed for 2011 and faces an uncertain future with the team.

I'm also curious whether starter Marcus Trufant, who turned 30 last season and carries a $5.9 million salary in 2011, fits into the longer-range plans as Seattle looks to get younger.

Lockout-related rules prevented teams from trading veteran players during the draft, making it tougher to know where some incumbent players stand.
Ray Horton is the Arizona Cardinals' third defensive coordinator since Ken Whisenhunt became head coach in 2007.

He inherits a defense that has struggled despite significant investments.

Arizona has used six first- and second-round choices for defensive players since 2007, tied for the second-highest total in the league.

Only the New England Patriots have drafted more defensive players in those rounds over the past four drafts. Only the Patriots have used a higher percentage of first- and second-round choices for defense during the period in question.

A quick look at the defensive players NFC West teams have selected in the first two rounds since 2007:
Overall, teams have drafted slightly more defensive players (133) than offensive players (122) in the first two rounds of the past four drafts. New England has used 11 of the 255 picks in question, tied for second-most in the NFL, even though the Patriots did not have their own first-round selection in 2008.

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With the San Francisco 49ers in the market for cornerback help and our offseason power rankings focusing on the position later Tuesday, I'll look back at the corners current NFC West teams have drafted over the last decade.

This is the second part in a series that began with a look at 15 classes of NFC West quarterbacks. Then as now, I'll break up the charts with narration from teams' perspectives.

These guys had better start early and challenge for Pro Bowls ...

Some prospects aren't ideal in one area or another, but they could shine in the right scheme ...

Still not too late to find decent starters ...

Last chance to find a likely contributor ...

Time to fill out the 80-man roster ...
Of all the 2007 NFC West draft picks, the Cardinals' Levi Brown and the 49ers' Patrick Willis have started the most games.US PresswireOf all the 2007 NFC West draft picks, the Cardinals' Levi Brown and the 49ers' Patrick Willis have started the most games.
JaMarcus Russell's demise as an NFL player is back in the news, shining light upon the perils of investing millions in unproven prospects.

The 2007 NFL draft was about more than Russell, of course.

That draft also produced Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis and Lawrence Timmons among the top 15 choices.

For as much criticism as the Arizona Cardinals have taken for selecting tackle Levi Brown fifth overall, Brown has started 59 regular-season games, second only to Willis (63) among NFC West draft choices that year. He has also started six playoff games, including a Super Bowl, and coach Ken Whisenhunt expects good things from him.

I've put together a couple charts showing what NFC West teams have gotten from their draft choices that year. More on those in a bit.

First, I've taken a team-by-team look at the players selected, whether they remain with their original teams and how many games each has started for his drafted team.

The 49ers had the best draft among NFC West teams. They also had the most draft capital to work with, selecting twice in the first round. The Seattle Seahawks had no first-rounder that year thanks to the Deion Branch trade, so expectations were lower.

Arizona Cardinals

Total picks: five

Still with team (4): Brown (59), Steve Breaston (26), Ben Patrick (20), Alan Branch (3)

No longer with team (1): Buster Davis (0)

Comment: The Cardinals had fewer total selections than any team in the division. Hitting on Breaston in the fifth round was outstanding, but the Cardinals haven't gotten enough from their top three selections that year. Branch never panned out as a second-rounder. Davis, the third-rounder, didn't make it out of camp. Whisenhunt takes pride in making roster decisions with less regard for draft status. He wasn't going to give Davis or anyone a free pass. That's admirable, but in the bigger picture, Arizona still came up short in this draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Total picks: nine

Still with team (5): Willis (63), Joe Staley (50), Ray McDonald (9), Dashon Goldson (34), Tarell Brown (5)

No longer with team (4): Jason Hill (2), Jay Moore (0), Joe Cohen (0), Thomas Clayton (0)

Comment: Former general manager Scot McCloughan gets credit for selling former coach Mike Singletary on Willis as an elite prospect. That seems odd given Singletary's background as a Hall of Fame linebacker, but the 49ers got the right guy, so the "how" part matters less. That one selection makes this draft the best in the division for 2007. Staley is the starting left tackle. McDonald has been a solid rotation player. Goldson became a starter. All in all, this was a strong draft.

Seattle Seahawks

Total picks: eight

Still with team (2): Brandon Mebane (53), Will Herring (7)

No longer with team (6): Josh Wilson (24), Steve Vallos (8), Mansfield Wrotto (5), Courtney Taylor (4), Jordan Kent (1), Baraka Atkins (0)

Comment: Not having a first-round selection severely hurt this class' overall potential. Wilson seemed like a solid selection in the second round given the playmaking value he offered, but multiple changes in organizational leadership left him on the outside in terms of fit. Mebane was a solid choice in the third round. Vallos and Wrotto remain in the league elsewhere.

St. Louis Rams

Total picks: eight

Still with team (1): Clifton Ryan (27)

No longer with team (7): Adam Carriker (25), Brian Leonard (7), Jonathan Wade (6), Dustin Fry (0), Ken Shackleford (0), Keith Jackson (0), Derek Stanley (0)

Comment: This draft was a disaster for the Rams and made worse by massive organizational changes. On the bright side, the Rams might not have been in position to select Sam Bradford first overall in 2010 without selecting so many non-contributors in 2007.

Now, on to the charts. The first one takes a round-by-round look at the number of starts each team has gotten from its 2007 selections. I have used dashes instead of zeroes to show when teams did not have a selection in a specific round.

The second chart divides the number of starts by the values of the selections each team held, using the draft-value chart.

For example, the value chart said the Seahawks' picks that year were worth 669.2 points, far less than the picks for other NFC West teams were worth. Using this measure, Seattle got more bang for its buck if we valued all starts equally (and we should not value them all equally, but we can still use this as a general guide).

Some of the choices were compensatory and could not be traded, so the chart would not have valued them for trading purposes. I assigned values to them for this exercise, however, because we were not considering the picks for trading purposes.

A few notes on the choices NFL teams hold in the 2011 draft:
  • The Seattle Seahawks have acquired a league-high four selections from other teams. They have a fourth-rounder acquired from New England for Deion Branch; a fifth-rounder from Baltimore for Josh Wilson; a sixth-rounder from Detroit for Lawrence Jackson; and a seventh-rounder from Cleveland for Seneca Wallace.
  • The high number of acquired picks reflects the team's decision to get value for players it did not envision keeping for the long term.
  • Only three teams -- New England, San Diego and Denver -- own picks in the first three rounds acquired from other teams. The Chargers have two, including the third-rounder they acquired from Seattle in the Charlie Whitehurst deal.
  • The Seahawks have also given up a league-high four 2011 picks, including selections in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. Those picks helped to acquire Whitehurst, Marshawn Lynch, Kentwan Balmer and Stacy Andrews.
  • The Arizona Cardinals are without the seventh-round pick they sent to the New York Jets in the Kerry Rhodes deal. They also parted with a 2010 fourth-rounder.
  • The St. Louis Rams are without the sixth-round pick they sent to Baltimore in the Mark Clayton trade. They have the Ravens' seventh-rounder as part of that deal.
  • The San Francisco 49ers hold the Chargers' fourth-round pick as part of a deal made with San Diego during the 2010 draft. San Diego sent the 91st and 173rd choices of the 2010 draft, plus the 2011 fourth-rounder, to San Francisco for the 79th pick last year. The Chargers drafted linebacker Donald Butler. The 49ers drafted NaVorro Bowman and Anthony Dixon with the picks from San Diego.
  • The 49ers also hold Seattle's sixth-rounder from the Balmer deal and a seventh-rounder acquired from the Detroit Lions in the Shaun Hill trade.

So many of the picks mentioned above were acquired in deals involving veteran players. Those types of deals will not happen during a lockout.

Scouts Inc.: Three concerns for Seahawks

February, 25, 2011
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Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck is poised to become a free agent. Of course, he isn’t the long-term answer, but because the Seahawks were in the playoff hunt in the terrible NFC West, they never really got a great opportunity to see what they have in Charlie Whitehurst, for whom they paid a premium a year ago. This is a predicament for the Seahawks, who can’t possibly consider themselves as true Super Bowl contenders. But bringing Hasselbeck back for one more season does make some sense, as they can re-evaluate this situation a year from now -- hopefully with more playing time by Whitehurst to evaluate. In the meantime, using a second- or third-round pick on a guy with long-term upside would be wise while they improve the quarterbacks’ supporting cast overall.

Secondary: On the surface, many would think that Marcus Trufant is the one player in this defensive backfield who Seattle could count on. That simply is not the case. For two seasons running now, Trufant has not been an upper-tier cover man. Although still inconsistent, free safety Earl Thomas appears to be a find for the Seahawks. But his highlight tape is more impressive than watching him on a down-by-down basis. The Seahawks could lose Kelly Jennings, Lawyer Milloy and Jordan Babineaux via free agency. Change is needed here, but Jennings and Babineaux were serviceable. Trading Josh Wilson to Baltimore was a big mistake.

The run game: He was great in one playoff game, but for the most part, Marshawn Lynch has been very ordinary. Justin Forsett is an underrated runner who deserves many more touches, but he also isn’t the type of back who can make a ton of yardage without at least adequate blocking. The run blocking for this offense just wasn’t close to being good enough. I believe Seattle has a future Pro Bowler in left tackle Russell Okung, but right tackle Sean Locklear and center/guard Chris Spencer are up for free agency. Line depth is a problem as well. Dynamic part-time running back Leon Washington could also depart. Improvement all around is required.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Around the NFC West: John Shaw out

February, 18, 2011
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Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says longtime Rams executive John Shaw is stepping down from the team now that Stan Kroenke has taken over as majority owner. Shaw: "This was a joint decision by Stan and myself. Stan provided me an opportunity to stay on if I so chose. But I just thought that this was a good time to do this. I appreciate the fact that he gave me my head and let me make a decision about officially ending the relationship. I felt it was the right time to do this. I really tried to do this gracefully and without any type of announcement." Shaw, when reached by the Post-Dispatch, was on his way out to dinner with former owner Chip Rosenbloom. Shaw clearly fit better when Rosenbloom was running the team, and the dynamics had changed with Kroenke taking control.

The Rams' website says team executive Kevin Demoff will participate in a chat March 2.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com does not expect Troy Smith or Brian Westbrook to return to the 49ers. Maiocco: "Jim Harbaugh always cites accuracy high on the list of attributes he wants from his quarterback. Troy Smith completed 50.3 percent of his passes. Also, Harbaugh's brother, John, released Troy Smith prior to the start of the regular season last year and decided to stick with just two quarterbacks (Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger) on his Baltimore Ravens roster. As for Westbrook, Harbaugh made it clear he likes Anthony Dixon as Frank Gore's backup. He also noted Gore will not be spending too much time on the sideline. At the conclusion of the regular season, I asked Westbrook what kind of situation he was looking to find in 2011."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers thoughts on the 49ers' draft options from NFL Network's Mike Mayock. Mayock: "I think that Von Miller from Texas A&M is the prototype 34 rush linebacker. He's got an innate ability. He not only has a great get off and quickness, he also can bend his body and twist and turn and flatten the corner to get to a quarterback. He's a tiny bit undersized. You've got to get yourself comfortable with that. He's not as big as, say, DeMarcus Ware was when he came out, but I think he's tough enough to overcome that. And I think if you're talking about the first round at No. 7 and you're looking for an edge rusher, I think Von Miller's the guy as far as the outside linebacker's concerned."

Eric Branch of Santa Rosa Press-Democrat notes that the 49ers' new assistant secondary coach, Greg Jackson, played with Harbaugh.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says using the franchise tag for Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane would cost more than $12 million, according to NFL.com. That is consistent with what Brian McIntyre of Mac's Football Blog projected in late January. O'Neil: "Mebane's value goes beyond Seattle, though. He plays a position that is becoming increasingly expensive across the league to the point that the franchise tag is no longer as economical of a solution. Certainly not like it was last year. Six players were designated with the franchise tag in 2010. Three played defensive tackle. Going back to 2007, 46 players have been designated with a franchise tag. Seven were defensive tackles, which matches the most at any one position."

Also from O'Neil: a round-by-round look at draft choices the Seahawks hold, including the fifth-rounder acquired from Baltimore in the Josh Wilson trade. That pick would have upgraded to a fourth-rounder had Wilson made 10 starts.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic passes along thoughts on the Cardinals' draft options from Mayock. Mayock: "If you believe there is a franchise quarterback, that trumps every other need. And since Kurt Warner retired, that underscores that point better than anything I can say. So if you believe Blaine Gabbert is the guy, you've got to take him right there. I think they have to be evaluating him right now. But they also have to be evaluating Von Miller, who is the prototype rush linebacker and a guy who immediately becomes a headache and a guy you've got to game-plan for every week coming off the edge. And Patrick Peterson is definitely the third guy I think you have to be looking at because of his ability to play the corner position and possibly kick inside a little bit down the road like Antrel Rolle did a few years back. But if they believe like I believe that Gabbert is a top 10 pick, that would be my guy at No. 5." That is the easy part. The hard part is determining whether Gabbert is or is not worthy of "the guy" status.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Kerry Rhodes is headed for Kentucky's hall of fame for pro football.

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