NFC West: Kiper Mock 1.0

2013 Kiper mock: Seahawks thoughts

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
1:00
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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.

2013 Kiper mock: Cardinals thoughts

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
12:00
PM ET
Mel Kiper Jr. has released his initial 2013 NFL mock draft Insider for the first round. We discussed his St. Louis Rams projections earlier and will continue with a look at Kiper's thinking for the Arizona Cardinals, who hold the seventh overall choice.

7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

Kiper's give: "We haven't seen a true guard land in the top 10 since 1997, but roll the tape on Warmack and it's hard to see how he doesn't end the streak. ... Arizona's pass protection was a disaster early in the season, but very quietly they may have found answers at tackle in Bobby Massie and Nate Potter, who both played much better late in the year. Add Warmack, and you have a young offensive line that could make huge strides in 2013. Obviously, Arizona could be in the market for a QB here, but free agency (or a trade) could fill that void before April."

Sando's take: Quarterback clearly must be Arizona's priority this offseason. Teams have traditionally found the best ones in the first round. Division rivals San Francisco and Seattle bucked convention by finding franchise QBs later in the draft. Perhaps Arizona can do the same. The offensive line is another need area, of course. The Cardinals have neglected their line in the draft for too long. They drafted seven offensive linemen during Ken Whisenhunt's six-year tenure as head coach. That was right near the NFL average, but the figure was zero for 2010 and 2011. Arizona drafted zero offensive linemen in the first three rounds of its final five drafts under Whisenhunt. Tennessee was the only other team with none during that time. Massie and Potter did improve as the season progressed. Two of the team's more dependable veterans, Lyle Sendlein and Levi Brown, are coming off season-ending surgeries. While the team overpaid for guard Adam Snyder in free agency one year ago, the veteran does have value for his versatility. Arizona's new general manger, Steve Keim, played on the offensive line at North Carolina State years ago. I would think he'll place more value on the position than the Cardinals have recently. Note that the Seahawks and 49ers placed four highly drafted offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl this season.

2013 Kiper mock 1.0: Rams thoughts

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
11:00
AM ET
Mel Kiper Jr. has released his initial 2013 NFL mock draft Insider for the first round, a good conversation starter as three-fourths of the division transitions into an offseason mindset.

I'll run through his early projections for each NFC West team, beginning with the St. Louis Rams, who have been a bit neglected around here while their division rivals have commanded headlines for various reasons.

Note that Kiper's mocks are available in full to Insider subscribers. I've pulled partial comments from Kiper for each NFC West projection and labeled them as his "give" before offering my "take" (give, take ... get it?).

16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

Kiper's give: "The Rams have used the draft and free agency to strengthen the defense almost everywhere over the past couple of years. ... Getting the best safety in the draft, a player who can both cover and step up against the run, will be one of those finishing touches."

Sando's take: This is the Rams' own pick in the first round. The team acquired the 22nd choice from Washington in the deal allowing the Redskins to draft Robert Griffin III. Having two picks in the first round gives the Rams great flexibility. It becomes easier for the team to select a player at a non-premium position. Safety is a non-premium position in most cases. Teams will generally value positions such as quarterback, offensive tackle and defensive line higher than safety. But a game-changer at the position carries excellent value. Seattle has no regrets after using the 14th choice of the 2010 draft for another Texas safety, Earl Thomas. The Rams lacked range at this position. They could use someone to pair with box safety Quintin Mikell. Vaccaro would be that player. Mikell and veteran corner Cortland Finnegan give the Rams strong leadership in their DB meeting room. Vaccaro could grow with young corner Janoris Jenkins.

22. St. Louis Rams: D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama

Kiper's give: "You can't be below average at tackle in the NFC West, dealing with San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle six times a season, and while the Rams stabilized a little bit in 2012 with Barry Richardson and Rodger Saffold bookending the offensive line, they should use one of their first-round picks to look for an upgrade."

Sando's take: Skeptics of this projection might note that the Rams showed good ability to coach up their linemen, perhaps diminishing the need to draft one early. They might also note that coach Jeff Fisher's teams haven't used early choices for offensive linemen, and the Rams have already invested immense capital in the position, with disappointing results. I still like Kiper's projection from a positional standpoint. The Rams used nine starters on their offensive line during the 2012 season. That was tied for fourth-most in the NFL. They will get guard Rokevious Watkins back from injury, but he is unproven. Veteran guard Harvey Dahl turns 32 in June and will be coming off biceps surgery. The Rams leaned on journeymen tackles Barry Richardson and Wayne Hunter this season. Neither should be on the roster next season if the Rams succeed in upgrading their line.

2012 Kiper mock 1.0: Rams thoughts

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
1:42
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Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2012 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

I'll conclude with a look at Kiper's plans for the St. Louis Rams, who hold the second choice.

2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.


Kiper's give: There's a clear value question here, because I think St. Louis could leverage this position to trade down for more picks for 2012 and into the future, and then still target Blackmon perhaps a few spots later. But if the Rams can't find a dance partner for a trade, Blackmon still represents precisely what this offense needs. It should be noted there are a number of teams drafting behind St. Louis that need an elite wide receiver.

Sando's take: Jeff Fisher will put his stamp on this draft class. Trading down makes the most sense given the Rams' many needs. Fisher wants to emphasize running the ball, protecting the quarterback and forcing turnovers. All coaches value those things, of course, but Fisher focuses more on them. Some offensive-minded coaches might be more inclined to talk about quarterback play, for example. Fisher's Titans twice used first-round picks for receivers, taking Kevin Dyson 16th overall (1998) and Kenny Britt 30th (2009). Adding a receiver early in the draft carries obvious appeal for the Rams. They appear less likely to re-sign Brandon Lloyd now that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has left for New England. Fisher's Titans and Houston Oilers picked among the top 10 overall three times. They chose Vince Young third (2006), Adam Jones sixth (2005) and Steve McNair (1995) third. Fisher was not the ultimate voice in personnel, however.

2012 Kiper mock 1.0: Seahawks thoughts

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
1:26
PM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2012 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

I'll continue with a look at Kiper's plans for the Seattle Seahawks, who will draft either 11th or 12th, pending a coin toss with Kansas City.

11-12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina


Kiper's give: The Seahawks have quietly made major strides in overhauling the roster and finding solutions to grow with in the past two years. Obviously, quarterback remains a big question, but that's not something they can target at this spot in the draft. What they can do is add a final piece to a defense that is young, fast and extremely good in the secondary.

Sando's take: Seattle already has a strong defense. Adding another pass-rusher is critical. Chris Clemons is signed through 2012. He needs help. Quarterback is the other obvious need. Kiper projects only two in the first round. Teams selected four among the top 12 choices last year. The Seahawks haven't drafted one in the first round since 1993. Mike Teel, David Greene, Seneca Wallace, Jeff Kelly, Josh Booty and Brock Huard are the only quarterbacks Seattle has drafted since selecting Rick Mirer second overall in that '93 draft. The Seahawks selected those players 142nd overall on average. Needing a quarterback doesn't entitle a team to one. Speculation over targeting Matt Flynn in free agency will continue in the absence of evidence the Seahawks have interest. I'm skeptical.
Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2012 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

I'll continue with a look at Kiper's plans for the Arizona Cardinals, who hold the 13th choice.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Kiper's give: The Cardinals need to mend the offensive line -- they haven't drafted an offensive lineman before the fifth round since 2007 -- and Martin is an athletic, powerful left tackle who can help upgrade this unit immediately.

Sando's take: Left tackle Levi Brown could return at a reduced rate, but the Cardinals still need young depth on their offensive line. They have had the oldest backup offensive linemen in the league recently. That has advantages; experienced players such as Jeremy Bridges and Deuce Lutui can come off the bench without compromising the line in any way. Coaches don't have to sweat over developing young players, which takes a significant time commitment. The trade-off, however, is that the line has very little potential to grow into anything better than it is right now. Using a first-round pick for a tackle would make sense for the Cardinals. I would also endorse using the choice for pass-rush help.

2012 Kiper mock 1.0: 49ers thoughts

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
1:07
PM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2012 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

I'll run through these for each NFC West team, beginning at the bottom of the first round and working forward. I'll start with a look at Kiper's plans for the San Francisco 49ers, currently projected by Kiper to pick at No. 31 (they could pick slightly earlier or later based on how the postseason plays out).

31. San Francisco 49ers: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

Kiper's give: The 49ers got much better production out of the offense this season, but I still see a need for a big target on the outside, something Braylon Edwards wasn't able to provide. Jeffery is an absolute beast, a guy who plays at more than 230 pounds and easily could top 6-foot-4 when he measures out.

Sando's take: Upgrading at wide receiver makes sense for the 49ers. The team used the 10th pick of the 2009 draft on Michael Crabtree. Otherwise, the 49ers have invested very little draft capital in the position recently. They used sixth-round picks for Ronald Johnson (2011), Kyle Williams (2010) and Josh Morgan (2008). Before that, they used third-rounders for Jason Hill (2007) and Brandon Williams (2006). Those are the only receivers San Francisco has chosen in the last six drafts. Under a best-case scenario, the 49ers would re-sign Morgan, who is out for the season with an injury. They would also upgrade the position through the draft.

Kiper mock 1.0: Thoughts on Rams

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
1:20
PM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2011 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.

I'll continue with a look at his plans for the St. Louis Rams, who hold the No. 14 overall choice.

14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Kiper's give: When they drafted No. 1 overall last year, many people thought the Rams could be looking at wideouts within the top 5 of this year's draft. But their great improvement has them further down the board. Good thing for them, Jones offers top-10 talent at a bargain in this spot. Big and physical, Jones showed a more refined game this past season, eliminating drops and making catches all over the field from every formation. A perfect fit to grow with Sam Bradford.

Sando's take: Kiper's reasoning makes sense. The Rams do need to add weapons for Bradford. That was obvious throughout the 2010 season and particularly when the Rams failed to make game-altering plays with a postseason berth on the line in Week 17. Jones is listed at 6-4 and 211 pounds. He projects as a big-play threat with the speed St. Louis badly needs for its offense. Under Kiper's scenario, Jones would be the second receiver drafted, trailing only Georgia's A.J. Green. I would have a hard time arguing against this choice on the basis of need. It's a bonus for the Rams if Mark Clayton and Donnie Avery return to previous form following season-ending knee injuries.

Kiper mock 1.0: Thoughts on 49ers

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
1:00
PM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft for 2011 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.

I'll continue with a look at his plans for the San Francisco 49ers, who hold the No. 7 overall choice.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

Kiper's give: It's an understatement to say that Quinn will be fresh. After sitting out his entire junior year at Chapel Hill, it's a testament to Quinn's talent that he's this high on the draft board. And make no mistake -- scouts think extremely highly of Quinn. If his preparations for the draft process are up to par, at this spot he offers the Niners a pure pass-rusher at defensive end that can only be matched by Bowers.

Sando's take: Quinn is listed at 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, so he's an outside linebacker type in a 3-4 scheme. The 49ers ranked 14th in sacks per pass attempt in 2010. They would have ranked higher if their offense had put their defense in more favorable situations. The 49ers were solid at outside linebacker with Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Travis LaBoy and Ahmad Brooks. Drafting another pass-rusher could still make sense. Lawson is eligible for free agency. LaBoy finished the season on injured reserve after missing the 2009 season entirely. Brooks remains best suited for a situational role. Cornerback is another position for the 49ers to consider, but adding pass-rush help upgrades the secondary as well. Kiper's mock has only one quarterback, Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, off the board at this point. The 49ers obviously need one.

Kiper mock 1.0: Thoughts on Cardinals

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
12:37
PM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft for 2011 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.

I'll start with a look at his plans for the Arizona Cardinals, who hold the No. 5 overall choice.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Kiper's give: The Cardinals were a mess at quarterback in 2010, and while Max Hall and John Skelton showed glimpses, both are projects, and there's no real solution in place for next season outside of a trade. Gabbert will be under the microscope during the testing process perhaps more than any other player, but at this stage he's the most NFL-ready QB in the draft. Arizona is in a tough spot: If the Cardinals pass on Gabbert, there won't be a QB who can do more for them sooner than Skelton or Hall later in the draft. Gabbert offers a strong arm, prototype size, reads the game well and has a lot of upside.

Sando's take: Arizona's obvious need for a quarterback validates Kiper's thinking, but the Cardinals' approach to the position in the draft could hinge on what the team does in free agency. Might the Cardinals sign Marc Bulger or another experienced quarterback? The team could conceivably go that route while continuing to develop Skelton and/or Hall. The team could even sign more than one veteran. Arizona has enough needs throughout its roster to clear the way for the Cardinals to consider going multiple directions with the fifth overall choice.

Kiper mock 1.0: Thoughts on Cardinals

January, 21, 2010
1/21/10
2:43
PM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2010 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.

After assessing projections for the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers, I'll continue with a look at Kiper's plans for the Cardinals, who hold the 26th choice.

26. Arizona Cardinals: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

Kiper's give: I see this position as the second-biggest need for the Cardinals, and Williams is a great value here. Tremendously strong in the lower body, he is a disruptive force against the run.

Sando's take: Teams running 3-4 defenses do need strong nose tackles. The Cardinals have leaned heavily on veteran Bryan Robinson. Gabe Watson and Alan Branch haven't provided the consistency a 3-4 team craves from the position (Branch has been better at end). I wouldn't fault the Cardinals for considering an outside linebacker somewhere in this range. They're old at the position and 2009 second-round choice Cody Brown is recovering from serious wrist surgery. It's easier to fill needs this late in the round. Arizona did a good job that way by drafting Beanie Wells at No. 31 last year.

Kiper mock 1.0: Thoughts on 49ers

January, 21, 2010
1/21/10
2:04
PM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2010 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.

After assessing the Rams' and Seahawks' projections, I'll continue with a look at Kiper's take on the 49ers, who hold the 13th and 16th or 17th choices (pending a coin toss at the combine).

13. San Francisco 49ers: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

Kiper's give: I consider the right tackle position a big need for the 49ers, and getting Williams here should strengthen them immediately both in the run game and as they look to further develop a potentially dangerous passing game with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.

Sando's take: Offensive line has to be a priority for the 49ers even if the team doesn't take one in this spot. The 49ers found starting left tackle Joe Staley with the 28th choice of the 2007 draft. The 13th spot is earlier than the team would ideally select a right tackle and far earlier than the team would consider most guards. That makes it a little tougher to project a tackle in this spot, even if it makes sense from a need standpoint.

16 or 17. San Francisco 49ers: Earl Thomas, S, Texas

Kiper's give: The 49ers need help in pass coverage, and Thomas fits because he's a great value here, whereas reaching for a CB at No. 16 wouldn't represent good value at all. Thomas isn't a huge guy but can cover a tremendous amount of real estate.

Sando's take: The 49ers have a rangy young free safety in Dashon Goldson. Thomas, a strong safety in college, might put this group over the top. Strong safety Michael Lewis turns 30 in April and suffered three concussions last season. The 49ers also have some age at linebacker (Takeo Spikes) and cornerback (Dre Bly, Walt Harris). But as general manager Scot McCloughan proved in selecting Crabtree last year, the 49ers aren't afraid to bypass need positions if they see greater value in another player.

Kiper mock 1.0: Thoughts on Seahawks

January, 21, 2010
1/21/10
12:32
PM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2010 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.

After assessing the Rams' projection, I'll continue with a look at Kiper's plans for the Seahawks, who hold the sixth and 14th choices.

6. Seattle Seahawks: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech.

Kiper's give: Many in Seattle will view the offensive line as a greater need, but Morgan fills another huge hole for a team that simply couldn't get to the quarterback in 2009. He represents great value because he can rush the passer, is productive against the run and can even drop back -- a versatile talent. Pete Carroll knows defense and should love what Morgan can offer.

Sando's take: Carroll has the ultimate authority, but new general manager John Schneider will influence how the Seahawks value players and positions. Schneider's teams have used five first-round picks for offensive linemen, more than they've used at any other position, but that includes none since Schneider's Seahawks selected Chris McIntosh in 2000. New offensive line coach Alex Gibbs has made a career out of developing less talented linemen into effective zone blockers. Like Kiper, I could see Seattle looking elsewhere early.

14. Seattle Seahawks: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

Kiper's give: He's not an offensive lineman, but Spiller could be a Reggie Bush-like option for the Seahawks. For a coach uniquely familiar with what Bush can do, Spiller is a missing home run threat in the run game, a good receiver and a valuable returner. Fans will want O-line help, and I'd expect it in Round 2.

Sando's take: The Seahawks badly need offensive playmakers. If Spiller is a dynamic threat out of the backfield, as advertised, I could see the Seahawks considering him. Carroll mentioned Bush's specific skill set during the news conference to introduce Schneider. Schneider's teams have used one first-round choice for a running back (Shaun Alexander in 2000). Seattle lacks front-line talent at the position and Carroll wants to build around the running game.

Kiper mock 1.0: Thoughts on Rams

January, 21, 2010
1/21/10
11:39
AM ET
Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2010 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.

I'll start with a look at his plans for the Rams, who hold the No. 1 overall choice.

1. St. Louis Rams: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska DT.

Kiper's give: Nobody questions that the top need for the Rams is a quarterback. But unless St. Louis trades down -- an extremely difficult proposition on multiple levels -- it shouldn't take a quarterback with its first pick. Suh is maybe the most dominating defensive tackle I've seen in 32 years of doing this. He can be effective immediately for the Rams, and they may address the QB with a trade.

Sando's take: The thinking makes sense. Steve Spagnuolo is a defensive-minded head coach looking to establish a strong, deep rotation up front. The Rams have whiffed on defensive tackles early in past drafts, but it's tough to find anyone with anything bad to say about Suh's prospects. The Rams do need to find a quarterback one way or another. They cannot pretend the next Peyton Manning is available if none of the quarterback prospects appear that good.

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