NFC West: Kiper Mock 4.0

Kiper mock 4.0: Seahawks thoughts

April, 13, 2013
Our Saturday series analyzing Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth 2013 mock draft Insider concludes with a look at his projection for the Seattle Seahawks.

This Kiper mock, unlike its predecessors in 2013, runs through the second round. That provides an opportunity to check out what Kiper has in mind for the Seahawks, who traded their first-rounder (25th overall) to Minnesota in the Percy Harvin deal.

56. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

Kiper's give: He's fallen due to draft depth at the position, but Hankins helps at a need position.

Sando's take: The players Kiper projected to Seattle at No. 25 in his first and second mock drafts were both available when the Seahawks selected in the second round of this one. Hankins was one of them. Kiper had Seattle taking him 25th overall in his second mock. Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, projected to Seattle at No. 25 in Kiper's initial mock for 2013, went to Houston at No. 57 in this one. Teams generally don't allow the most talented defensive linemen with size to slip very far in the draft, so it's worth asking whether Hankins would be available this late.

Selecting an interior defensive lineman would make sense for the Seahawks. Alan Branch, a free-agent addition before the 2011 season, provided value at the position over the past two seasons. The Seahawks weren't willing to make much room in their budget for Branch this offseason, leaving Branch to sign with Buffalo in a soft market. Seattle has more than $25 million in 2013 cap space committed to veteran defensive linemen Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Michael Bennett. The team could use a lower-cost player to develop at defensive tackle. Hankins would qualify as one.

Seattle signed veteran defensive tackle Tony McDaniel to a one-year deal. He's a low-cost addition to the rotation. McDaniel has five starts in seven NFL seasons.

Kiper mock 4.0: Cardinals thoughts

April, 13, 2013
Our look at Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth 2013 mock draft Insider continues with projections for the Arizona Cardinals.

We previously considered projections for San Francisco and St. Louis. The Seattle Seahawks do not have a first-round choice. They do have a second-rounder, however. Back in a bit with some thoughts on options with that selection.

7. Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan

Kiper's give: It's true the Cardinals saw their offensive line improve over the second half of 2012. But they also just acquired Carson Palmer, who has all the maneuverability of a Brink's truck. They need to be able to form a pocket on a consistent basis in 2013, and that means even if Fisher is off the board here, they could still look to a tackle such as Lane Johnson. They also have a need at guard, so the presence of Fisher could allow them to move someone inside. Yes, they have other needs, but keeping Palmer upright should be the top priority.

Sando's take: Kiper is right about Palmer lacking mobility. However, mobility is not a prerequisite for avoiding sacks. Palmer ranked seventh among qualifying quarterbacks last season in sacks per drop-back. Palmer has shown he'll risk interceptions to get the ball out before pressure arrives.

This is the second time in four mocks Kiper has sent Fisher to the Cardinals at No. 7. It's the third time in four mocks Kiper has projected an offensive lineman to Arizona. Guard Chance Warmack was the projection in Kiper's initial mock for 2013. Quarterback Geno Smith, Kiper's much-debated choice for Arizona in his third mock, went fourth to Philadelphia in this one. He wasn't going to be a consideration this time, anyway, after the Cardinals acquired Palmer from the Oakland Raiders. Warmack was available this time, but Kiper went with the tackle instead.

Teams traditionally value tackles more than they value guards. The Cardinals arguably have a greater need at guard than at tackle, particularly if coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim are right in their public comments about the state of the line.

Arians has called incumbent left tackle Levi Brown an "elite" player at the position. Keim has suggested Bobby Massie could take another step forward at right tackle after improving significantly in the role as a rookie in 2012. As we discussed Friday, drafting for the offensive line could represent the best value for Arizona even if perceptions about need are overstated.

Pass-rusher could be another logical consideration this early in the draft if the Cardinals have questions about O'Brien Schofield's durability and/or Sam Acho's long-term outlook. Ezekiel Ansah and Dion Jordan were not available at No. 7 in this Kiper mock. Barkevious Mingo (ninth) and Jarvis Jones (15th) went a bit later. We should remember that Arizona, despite not having a single elite outside rusher, ranked sixth last season in sacks per opponent drop-back.

38. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

Kiper's give: A perfect fit in their scheme, Jones is an interior penetrator at defensive end.

Sando's take: This would have to qualify as a value selection as opposed to a need-oriented one based on Arians' comments about receiver and defensive line being two positions the new coach doesn't worry about. Kiper had Jones going 31st to San Francisco in his previous mock draft. Scouting reports cast the 6-foot-4, 283-pound Jones as an effective all-around defensive lineman without great ability in any one area. The Cardinals could always use young depth on defense.

Kiper mock 4.0: Rams thoughts

April, 13, 2013
Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth mock draft Insider for 2013 covers two rounds. After a look at projections for the San Francisco 49ers, we continue with the St. Louis Rams.

First round

16. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

Kiper's give: Danny Amendola will be catching passes from Tom Brady in 2013, so the Rams can certainly afford to place a high priority on a slot weapon. Austin is one of the true home run threats in this draft, and while he's perfect to work in the slot, given his speed, route-running skills and soft hands, this is a player you can get creative with. The loss of Amendola leaves a void, but Austin could even be an upgrade.

Sando's take: There's a tendency to overstate the Rams' need level at wide receiver after the team parted with Amendola and Brandon Gibson in free agency. Chris Givens and Brian Quick could grow into a productive combination. Free-agent addition Jared Cook will help the receiving game even though he's listed as a tight end. The same goes for Lance Kendricks. The Rams have already invested quite a bit in their efforts to arm quarterback Sam Bradford. Quick and Kendricks were second-round picks. Austin Pettis was a third-rounder. Cook cost $19 million in guaranteed money. There are still question marks about this group, however. Austin's presence would only improve the odds for St. Louis. He would probably help in the return game right away even if he needed time to develop as a receiver. Kiper had Austin going 14th overall in his previous mock. He did not project Austin as a first-round selection in either of his two previous mocks for 2013.

22. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

Kiper's give: The departure of Craig Dahl for San Francisco isn't what I'd call a personnel emergency, but there's not a lot left behind him. Darian Stewart and Rodney McLeod are currently penciled in as the starters, so drafting Vaccaro guarantees you an upgrade at safety in a division where safeties are vital. San Francisco, Seattle and Arizona all can test you deep, and in a couple of cases, you need safeties who can fly up to make plays on QBs who are willing to run.

Sando's take: Dahl's departure tells only part of the story. The Rams' move to release Quintin Mikell reduced Mikell's cap charge to $6 million for 2013, a substantial savings, but it also increased the team's need at the position overall. The Rams need young talent at safety whether or not Mikell re-signs at a lower rate sometime in the future.

Second round

46. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

Kiper's give: Minus Steven Jackson, their depth chart at running back is set with this addition.

Sando's take: Scouting reports on Ball suggest he runs like the big running back Rams coach Jeff Fisher wants to add. While Ball isn't especially large by NFL standards at 5-foot-10 and 214 pounds, the Rams could use him in committee. Isaiah Pead, a second-round choice in 2012, projects as the change-of-pace back. Daryl Richardson was a revelation as a seventh-round choice last year. Kiper's partner in draft analysis, Todd McShay, thinks the Rams could consider drafting a bigger back after the first couple rounds. He pointed to Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Stony Brook's Miguel Maysonet as players to consider if Ball weren't the choice in the second round. Neither was selected during the first two rounds of this latest mock from Kiper. Eddie Lacy, a running back Kiper projected to Green Bay at No. 26, would be a reach for the Rams in the first round, according to McShay. "This running back class is not very good," McShay said, "but I think you can get a Le'Veon Bell, who can catch the ball out of the backfield very well, or a Miguel Maysonet. There are other guys you could bring in to help at the running back position, even if it's Montee Ball in the second round."

Kiper mock 4.0: 49ers thoughts

April, 13, 2013
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.
Torry Holt got the timing right for his retirement news conference Wednesday at St. Louis Rams headquarters.

The Rams' seven-time Pro Bowler offered a formal goodbye while NFC West teams searched for receivers with comparable skill.

The latest 2012 NFL mock draft Insider from Mel Kiper Jr., a two-rounder with explanations for every selection, sends three receivers to NFC West teams in the first round alone.

We get the hint even though this division features a couple all-time greats in Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald. The Rams in particular need upgraded weapons, but the other teams in the division could use help as well.

And while Kiper did not send a receiver to Seattle in the first round, knowledgeable Seahawks fans know their team hasn't had a Pro Bowl player at the position since Brian Blades in 1989 (another receiver, Alex Bannister, made it as a special-teamer in 2003).

The symmetry with Holt and the Rams is striking. The team drafted Holt sixth overall in 1999, and a trade-down with Washington this offseason has given them the sixth pick again this year. That is where we pick up the conversation, using Kiper's mock as a starting point.

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

Kiper's give: The possibility remains that St. Louis could move off this spot, but if they stay here and get Blackmon, they'll immediately upgrade a huge weakness, which is the lack of talented options for Sam Bradford in the passing game. Blackmon's speed is adequate, but his smarts, ball skills, route-running and work habits translate to a guy that can contribute immediately, which is what this offense desperately needs.

Sando's take: Kiper had cornerback Morris Claiborne heading to the Rams in his previous mock. Blackmon went to Cleveland at No. 4 in that scenario, but with running back Trent Richardson working out impressively following knee surgery, Kiper has the Browns taking Richardson instead of Blackmon. That left Blackmon for the Rams. We've debated on the blog whether Blackmon would be a reach with the sixth pick. We do know Blackmon would address a primary need, and that most analysts consider him a legitimate choice among the top 10 selections. The Rams are trying to bolster the position in free agency to diminish the need heading into the draft, but they aren't going to find a young talent such as Blackmon on the market at this time. The Rams own the 33rd and 39th picks as well, giving them an opportunity to find playmakers beyond the sixth choice, should they prefer to do so. Kiper had the Rams taking Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and Ohio State tackle Mike Adams in the second round.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

Kiper's give: Even if [Boston College linebacker Luke] Kuechly is still on the board, it would be tough for Seattle to pass on perhaps the safest 4-3 DE option available. Coples has prototypical size, can play every down as a pass-rusher and has a solid arsenal of moves to get to opposing quarterbacks, but with the size and discipline to be a force against the run. Seattle can't go wrong here with either the top LB or DE available. This defense is close to being considered among the NFL's finest.

Sando's take: The word "safest" isn't particularly comforting for Seahawks fans. Aaron Curry was considered the safest pick in the 2009 draft. Coples was my choice for Seattle in the recent NFL Blog Network mock. Then, Kuechly was not available. Kiper previously had Seattle taking Ryan Tannehill in this spot, but Tannehill was off the board this time and the Seahawks weren't in the QB market, anyway, after signing Matt Flynn. Some have criticized Coples for inconsistent effort. Pete Carroll constantly emphasizes competition, but the Seahawks have shown they can get good results from defensive players with varied résumés and reputations. Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Alan Branch come to mind. The draft plot thickens considerably for Seattle if Kuechly does slip past the top 11 choices. The word "safe" has applied to Kuechly as well. The Seahawks have obvious needs for a pass-rusher and a linebacker, so Coples and Kuechly make sense as projected picks. Kiper had the Seahawks taking Oklahoma linebacker Ronnell Lewis in the second round.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Kiper's give: Another pick I'll stick with, Floyd is a great complement to Larry Fitzgerald and will help Arizona maximize the options for Kevin Kolb. The offensive line could use help, but Floyd has proven that he'd be a good value here. Think of Atlanta getting Julio Jones to take some pressure off Roddy White last year. Floyd could fill a similar role.

Sando's take: Some might recall Kiper sending Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin to the Cardinals a couple mocks ago. Martin fell from the first round entirely in Kiper's next version before resurfacing in the 20s of this one. The Cardinals need help at tackle after failing to address the position in free agency. (Demetress Bell's agreement with Philadelphia takes away one option under consideration for Arizona.) I get Kiper's thinking on Floyd. Arming Kolb with sufficient options is important. I've offered a counterpoint in the video posted atop this entry. In short, the Cardinals have already armed Kolb with highly drafted weapons at running back, receiver and tight end. The case can be made that Kolb needs to make better use of the existing weapons. To do that, he'll have to gain a stronger grasp of the playbook this offseason. He'll also need to stay on the field, something he hasn't been able to do. Improved pocket awareness would help. Landing a tackle seems like a necessity, but how? I sent Courtney Upshaw to the Cardinals in our Blog Network mock, figuring pass-rushers are more valuable than receivers or offensive linemen. Stanford guard David DeCastro was available to Arizona in Kiper's latest mock. Would the Cardinals draft him to play guard, then move Adam Snyder to right tackle? Kent Somers raised that possibility and it's an interesting one. I'm not sure Snyder projects as the long-term solution at guard, let alone tackle.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

Kiper's give: Hill is the biggest home-run threat in the draft when you combine his speed and size, and it's no secret the 49ers need some help at wide receiver, even with the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. He'll need an adjustment period as he gets used to doing more in terms of scheme than he was asked at Georgia Tech, but he's the kind of weapon this offense needs to expand.

Sando's take: The thinking makes sense, but the 49ers have options in this spot. Players drafted this late in the first round will likely need time before developing into starters. There's no pressure to target the most immediate need on the roster. Landing a receiver does have appeal. Moss is 35 years old and might not offer much at this stage. But the 49ers can count tight end Vernon Davis as one of their receiving options. They use two tight ends frequently. This team does not run a spread offense requiring three top-flight wideouts, in other words. And there's still a chance Michael Crabtree will take another step forward after finally getting a full offseason in the 49ers' offensive system. The team has flexibility heading into the draft, in other words. San Francisco could target just about any position with the 30th choice (quarterback would be a surprise). The 49ers can sit back and wait to see which talented players with question marks fall to them. Kiper had the 49ers taking Brandon Brooks, a guard from Miami of Ohio, in the second round. The need for guard help could subside if the 49ers sign a veteran in free agency, however. They've visited with a few.
Mel Kiper's fourth mock draft Insider for 2011 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

I'll conclude 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: I could also see Arizona getting creative and looking for a veteran arm such as Kolb, but Gabbert is the quarterback in the draft most likely to help a team soonest, and if he's available here, it might be tough for Arizona to pass on him.

Sando's take: Kiper previously had Texas A&M pass-rusher Von Miller heading to Arizona in this slot. Miller went third to Buffalo in this latest mock, and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was also gone. That left Gabbert as Kiper's highest-rated quarterback remaining. This pick makes sense. The scouting reports on Gabbert describe him as competitive, smart, hard-working, athletic and talented. They raise questions about his deep ball. The Cardinals were not always proficient with the deep ball when Kurt Warner was under center. More than deep passing, Arizona needs greater efficiency from the position and a player the team can rally around. The reports on Gabbert suggest he could deliver on both fronts, but not necessarily right away. Arizona wants its first-round choice to make an immediate impact. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has said he doesn't see a Sam Bradford or Matt Ryan type in this draft. That could make it tough for the team to select a quarterback fifth overall.

Kiper mock 4.0: Thoughts on 49ers

April, 6, 2011
Mel Kiper's fourth mock draft Insider for 2011 serves as the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

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: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Kiper's give: I picked Peterson to fall to this point in my previous mock draft, and I still do. And consider the history of top athletes falling: In 1987, I had Rod Woodson rated similarly, and he fell to No. 10 overall. In 1989, Deion Sanders was far and away the best athlete on the board, yet he fell to No. 5. I had Champ Bailey as the best athlete and the top corner available in the 1999 draft, yet he fell to No. 7.

Sando's take: The 49ers haven't invested a high draft choice in a cornerback since selecting Shawntae Spencer in the second round (58th overall) of the 2004 draft. They used a 2008 third-rounder on Reggie Smith, but he moved to safety. The team has not used a first-rounder on a cornerback since taking Mike Rumph 27th overall in 2002 and Ahmed Plummer 24th overall in 2000. Peterson is in a different class. Selecting him would fill an immediate need on defense while providing potential value in the return game. The 49ers' new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, was with Houston in 2004 when the Texans tried to build around a pass-rusher (Jason Babin) and a cover corner (Dunta Robinson), selecting both in the first round. The highest-rated pass-rusher in the 2011 draft (Von Miller) was no available at No. 7 in Kiper's mock, making cornerback a more logical choice.

Kiper mock 4.0: Thoughts on Rams

April, 6, 2011
Mel Kiper's fourth mock draft Insider for 2011 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

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: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

Kiper's give: A selection I'm sticking with from the previous mock, Liuget is a relentless player who displays leverage, power and the ability to locate the ball well against both the rush and the pass. He fills an immediate need at defensive tackle. I said before that if a receiver were to fall to this position, I think St. Louis would jump, but their position of biggest need doesn't offer a sensible value matchup right here.

Sando's take: Adding a physically dominant wideout should remain a top priority, but how likely would it be for a rookie receiver to become such a force? Conventional wisdom says there's no chance the Rams will have a shot at Georgia's A.J. Green, the most coveted receiver in the draft. I could see the team drafting a defensive lineman at No. 14 even if Alabama receiver Julio Jones were available. Kiper has Green and Jones going among the top six. As for Liuget? The Rams could feel good about continuing to build a defensive line that exceeded expectations in 2010, but lacked something in the middle even with Fred Robbins enjoying a very strong season. The Rams have struggled drafting defensive tackles over the years -- Claude Wroten, Jimmy Kennedy and Damione Lewis come to mind -- but their current leadership did not make those mistakes. In fact, the Rams have drafted only one defensive tackle, 2009 fourth-rounder Darell Scott, since general manager Billy Devaney arrived. That trend should change during this draft.
Mel Kiper's fourth mock draft Insider for 2011 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed.

I'll begin with a look at his projection for the Seattle Seahawks, who hold the No. 25 overall choice.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Kiper's give: Locker has worked hard to help scouts forget about a bad season of tape, and did enough at his recent pro day to get more positive vibes attached to his stock among evaluators. As we've said before, Locker has a big-time arm, a great attitude, elite athleticism for the position, but has unfortunately lacked accuracy, the one trait most of us believe is the most innate.

Sando's take: Kiper is sticking with Locker in this spot for his second mock in a row. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey were the choices previously. The Seahawks need a quarterback, no question. Long-time starter Matt Hasselbeck remains unsigned and it's unclear whether the team will bring him back. Selecting Locker would allow the Seahawks to say they addressed the position, but would they have found their next quarterback? They likely would not find out in 2011. It's tough taking a higher-risk, long-term quarterback project in the first round without having a veteran with the ability to win games in the interim. Would Locker fit the Seahawks' offense? It's safe to assume the Seahawks would make their offense fit Locker if they drafted him in the first round. We know coach Pete Carroll wants Seattle to become a hard-nosed running team. Perhaps Locker's athletic ability would help the Seahawks take fuller advantage of play-action fakes.