NFC West: Kiper mocks

2012 Kiper mock 5.0: Rams thoughts

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
3:20
PM ET
Mel Kiper Jr. is back Insider with his fifth and final 2012 NFL mock draft for the first round.

The San Francisco 49ers (Kevin Zeitler), Arizona Cardinals (Melvin Ingram) and Seattle Seahawks (Chandler Jones) went first in our analysis, reflecting reverse draft order.

The St. Louis Rams, picking sixth overall, round out the series.

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

Kiper's give: I had St. Louis as a team likely to move down, given that we know the front office has been openly interested in the idea. But if they're still here, I think Blackmon is the pick. He'll pay immediate dividends for the offense, and Sam Bradford will finally have a target most of us evaluators can see as a potential true No. 1.

Sando's take: Kiper had Morris Claiborne, Trent Richardson and Matt Kalil going with the third through fifth picks, respectively. It doesn't matter so much what order those players come off the board if they're gone among the top five picks. The Rams aren't likely to trade up. Blackmon was also the player I projected going to the Rams at No. 6, despite some concerns about value. The Rams have needs throughout their roster. They have acute needs at wide receiver, defensive tackle and outside linebacker, with a special emphasis on finding weapons to help quarterback Sam Bradford succeed. The Rams don't simply need a wide receiver. They have decent depth at the position. They specifically need a No. 1 receiver, the type teams seek near the top of the draft. The question is whether Blackmon projects as that type of player.

2012 Kiper mock 5.0: 49ers thoughts

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
1:05
PM ET
Mel Kiper Jr. is back Insider with his fifth and final 2012 NFL mock draft for the first round.

We discussed the previous ones in some detail and will not miss this opportunity to dine on the possibilities, beginning with this look at the San Francisco 49ers, owners of the 30th overall choice.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin

Kiper's give: The 49ers have gotten deeper at wide receiver in free agency, and if Stephen Hill and Coby Fleener are off the board, I think they go after a big need in the run game here. The 49ers may have more weapons on the edges, but if they can't run the ball effectively it won't matter. Zeitler can move people up front and start early.

Sando's take: Kiper's logic is sound here, but sound can mean boring, and that is certainly the case when we combine the 49ers' draft position (30th) with Zeitler's on-field position (interior offensive line). The 49ers have used first-round picks for their left tackle, left guard and right tackle. Using another first-rounder for an offensive lineman would seem like overkill, but it would also continue a trend that predates the team's current leadership. Drafting a guard makes sense for the 49ers because it fills a need. Teams should also be able to find a guard or two later in the draft. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was still available in Kiper's mock draft. I had the 49ers drafting him in the ESPN Blogger Mock we put together earlier in the week. NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell recently sent Jenkins to Tampa Bay with the fifth overall choice in a mock matching on-field football abilities with team needs. His mock disregarded off-field concerns, however, and Jenkins has plenty of those. Fleener's Stanford pedigree makes him a potential fit with Jim Harbaugh, but the 49ers appear set at tight end.

Kiper mock update: Rams at No. 1

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
8:00
PM ET
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, concluding with the Rams at No. 1 (additional analysis here):

1. St. Louis Rams

Mel's latest pick: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma.

My thoughts: No surprise here. Kiper went with Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in his initial mocks, but Bradford has been his projection for the last two. It's the right choice if the Rams are convinced Bradford will become an elite quarterback. We've gone from Suh as the no-brainer choice to hearing about how some scouts preferred Gerald McCoy to prevailing thoughts of Bradford as the only player under serious consideration. What changed? Bradford showed his surgically repaired shoulder had healed. Bradford impressed during interviews and his workout at Oklahoma. The Rams made personnel moves suggesting they'll add a prominent quarterback in the draft. Signs do point to Bradford as the choice. Teams have drafted counter to perception before, as when the Texans selected Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush (as Bernie Miklasz noted recently). The stakes and drama are always higher with quarterbacks.
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, focusing next on the Seahawks (additional analysis here):

6. Seattle Seahawks

Mel's latest pick: Trent Williams, LT, Oklahoma

My thoughts: Perceptions have come full circle in this spot. Kiper previously had the Seahawks taking Morgan, Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford in this spot. Both were gone by No. 6 in his latest mock. A general manager told me this week he thought the Redskins would take Williams at No. 4. Would the Lions or Bucs take Okung instead of one of the defensive tackles? They could, but that might be overthinking things. Williams does make sense for the Seahawks at No. 6 if he's available, based on need, his projected fit in the zone-blocking scheme and the potential talent evaluators see in him (despite concerns about his work ethic). Alex Gibbs, the Seahawks' influential line coach, has never been with a team that drafted a tackle higher than No. 20. The Seahawks' obvious need at the position might make Williams or the top-rated available tackle hard for Seattle to pass up.

Kiper mock update: 49ers at No. 13

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
6:37
PM ET
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, focusing next on the 49ers (additional analysis here):

13. San Francisco 49ers

Mel's latest pick: Joe Haden, CB, Florida

My thoughts: Kiper likewise had Haden heading to the 49ers in his last mock draft after projecting Clemson running C.J. Spiller as the choice initially. Haden's disappointing 40-yard time at the combine was a focus previously, and an overrated one. Value could match need if Haden is available, although the 49ers arguably have a greater need at tackle. Unlike some of the second-tier tackle prospects that might be available in this spot, Haden has earned praise as a player ready to step into the starting lineup quickly and effectively. The 49ers still have Nate Clements, and Shawntae Spencer exceeded expectations following knee surgery. The team could use a talented young cornerback, though, and Haden seems to fit the profile. The choice should be easier for some 49ers fans to stomach if the more exciting Spiller isn't available here.
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, focusing next on the Seahawks (additional analysis here):

14. Seattle Seahawks

Mel's latest pick: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

My thoughts: Morgan has been a common choice for Seattle in various mock drafts, although Kiper previously had Seattle choosing Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and USC defensive end Everson Griffen. Seattle needs to upgrade its pass rush. Scouts laud Morgan as a high-effort player from the ACC, making me think back to prospects former general manager Tim Ruskell coveted (Kelly Jennings, Josh Wilson, Leroy Hill, Aaron Curry, Mansfield Wrotto and Steve Vallos were all Ruskell picks from the ACC, while Ruskell free-agent addition Patrick Kerney also played in the conference). Every team likes high-effort types, of course, but that aspect stands out more than others in the assessments I've seen. Morgan also appears to have very good versatility, another plus. The Seahawks have significant enough needs to feel good about drafting any qualified prospect at one of the marquee positions. Pass-rusher is a marquee position.

Kiper mock update: 49ers at No. 17

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
5:00
PM ET
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, focusing next on the 49ers (additional analysis here):

17. San Francisco 49ers

Mel's latest pick: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

My thoughts: This scenario would work out well for the 49ers. They certainly could use a tackle. Davis would fill the need. As Kiper noted earlier Wednesday, he considers Davis a top-five talent with enough question marks to drag him down a bit, similar to Michael Oher's situation in 2009. Kiper thought Davis' draft status would have improved with another year of seasoning. The 49ers' new line coach, Mike Solari, could help get Davis ready. This choice needs to be a long-term selection anyway. And if Davis truly has elite talent, the 49ers wouldn't be reaching. I do wonder if Davis will remain available this late, and whether the 49ers could resist taking him at No. 13. In previous mocks, Kiper had the 49ers taking Texas safety Earl Thomas, Idaho guard Mike Iupati and Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams. He had the 49ers passing on Iupati this time, with Williams gone before the 17th pick.
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, focusing first on the Cardinals (additional analysis here):

26. Arizona Cardinals

Mel's latest pick: Sean Weatherspoon, ILB, Missouri

My thoughts: A consensus is building that the Cardinals will address inside linebacker early in the draft. This could be because their defensive coordinator, Bill Davis, said the team would take that approach. Drafting a nose tackle might make more sense in theory, but it's tough to find a highly-rated one likely to be available in this slot. The Cardinals addressed outside linebacker by adding Joey Porter in free agency. That move makes it easier to search for Dansby's replacement in the draft. Kiper had TCU outside linebacker Jerry Hughes headed to Arizona previously. Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams was his projection for the Cardinals before that. Hughes fell past Arizona in the latest mock, with Williams long gone.
Mel Kiper has replaced nose tackle Dan Williams with linebacker Jerry Hughes in projecting which player Arizona might select 26th overall in the draft.

I'm updating the pre-combine and post-combine items making sense of first-round choices for NFC West teams, concluding with the Cardinals:

26. Arizona Cardinals

Mel's latest pick: Hughes

My latest thoughts: The Cardinals seem confident that outside linebackers Will Davis and Cody Brown can develop well enough to pick up where Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry left off. Kiper projects Hughes as helping replace productivity lost when Karlos Dansby departed in free agency. Hughes was much more of a pass-rusher in college than Dansby, and that's OK. The Cardinals can use all the pass-rush help they can get. Hughes does seem to project as a potential force at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Dansby played inside, though, so Hughes would not replace him directly. Williams, the nose tackle from Tennessee, seemed like a good fit for Arizona, but Kiper had him off the board at this point in his revised mock.

Mel's previous pick: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

My pre-combine thoughts: This pick would make a great deal of sense. Veteran Bryan Robinson has exceeded expectations as the Cardinals' nose tackle, but he'll be 36 in June. The Cardinals have committed more fully to a Steelers-style defense, and that makes nose tackles more valuable. No complaints with this pick.

My post-combine followup: Williams made a positive impression at the combine and it's fair to wonder if another team running a 3-4 defense might select him somewhere among the top 25 choices. Arizona used the 33rd choice of the 2007 draft for nose tackle Alan Branch, with disappointing results (Branch has appeared more comfortable at end). That's one reason why the Williams choice would make sense. Another: The Cardinals might lose linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency. They expect young linebackers Will Davis and Cody Brown to play more and possibly start in 2010. Those guys will need protection in front of them and a nose tackle with Williams' credentials could certainly help. The Cardinals would look good on paper with Darnell Dockett, Williams and Calais Campbell across the defensive line. I could also see the Cardinals strengthening their offensive line in the first round. Idaho guard Mike Iupati looked the part at the combine. He carries 331 pounds very well and his size might help Arizona continue building its ground game.

Kiper mock update: 49ers at No. 17

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
5:23
PM ET
Mel Kiper has replaced offensive tackle Trent Williams with guard Mike Iupati in projecting which player he thinks the 49ers might draft 17th overall.

I'm updating pre-combine and post-combine items making sense of first-round choices for NFC West teams, adding post-combine thoughts, continuing with the 49ers:

17. San Francisco 49ers

Mel's latest pick: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

My latest thoughts: Kiper moved Williams into his top 10, then gave the 49ers the highest-rated offensive lineman remaining. The thinking is sound to the extent San Francisco could use help for its offensive line. The 49ers have generally taken guards in the second round, though, and it's unclear whether they would value Iupati enough to make him a first-round choice. One key could be whether the 49ers thought Iupati might project to right tackle. Scouts I've spoken with weren't convinced. They also warned against thinking Iupati is in the Steve Hutchinson mold as far as polish and overall ability. Niners general manager Scot McCloughan was with the Seahawks when Seattle selected Hutchinson with the 17th choice of the 2001 draft. Iupati looks like a very good guard prospect, not necessarily a great one. Is the value there?

Mel's previous pick: Williams, OT, Oklahoma (with the 49ers taking C.J. Spiller earlier, at No. 13)

My pre-combine thoughts: The 49ers would win the draft-day report cards if they emerged with Spiller and Williams, filling two obvious need areas. This might be a little earlier than the 49ers would like to find their next right tackle. They drafted left tackle Joe Staley at No. 28 in 2007. But based on how Staley has performed, the 49ers could have justified drafting him earlier. If Williams is the real deal as a right tackle, he would give the 49ers bookend tackles for years to come.

My post-combine follow-up: It's potentially a surprise if Williams lasts this long. The offensive tackles were mostly impressive at the combine. But if Williams is around, the 49ers could do worse. They would address an obvious need with a player at a low-risk position. Even some of the disappointing first-round offensive tackles wind up starting for long periods. For example, the Raiders whiffed on Robert Gallery when they drafted him second overall in 2004, but Gallery has still started 79 games. It's important for the 49ers to emerge from this draft feeling as though their offensive line is pretty much set, particularly at both tackle spots. This selection would look good on the post-draft report card, with a good chance of holding up over time.
Mel Kiper has kept USC defensive end Everson Griffen as his projection for Seattle with the 14th overall choice in his latest mock draft.

I'm updating the pre-combine and post-combine items making sense of first-round choices for NFC West teams, continuing with the Seahawks:

14. Seattle Seahawks

Mel's latest pick: Everson Griffen, DE, USC

My latest thoughts: Kiper has the Seahawks using their first-round picks for linemen, not playmakers. That sounds like a good way to build a team. Will the Seahawks be that patient? Someone has to score touchdowns for Seattle to regain its competitiveness. Kiper has Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant off the board at this point. He has C.J. Spiller dropping into the 20s. He's sticking with Griffen and Seattle certainly could use help for its defensive line.

Mel's previous pick: Griffen, DE, USC

My pre-combine thoughts: The Seahawks will take criticism if they fail to draft an offensive lineman among the first two choices. They'll probably take criticism if coach Pete Carroll seems to be filling the Lawrence Jackson Scholarship with this selection. If the top tackles are gone, however, the Seahawks do need to consider other options. And Carroll's combination of NFL and college experience should give him a good feel for whether Griffen or anyone else from USC is ready for the next level. It was telling, I thought, when Carroll suggested several recent NFL choices from USC might have been overvalued. It's not like Carroll drafted Jackson, after all.

My post-combine follow-up: This might be a little early for Griffen even though he impressed at the combine with a 4.66-second time over 40 yards and 32 reps in the bench press. Seattle does need pass-rush help, though, and Griffen could be a good choice on those grounds. If the Seahawks do draft Griffen, I might consider it a good sign for the team because Carroll probably wouldn't tap into the USC talent pool without being pretty sure about that player's ability to produce. Making mistakes in the draft happens. Carroll will invite harsh criticism if he makes mistakes on players he recruited and coached. The Seahawks have enough needs to justify targeting just about any position in this slot.

Kiper mock update: 49ers at No. 13

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
3:52
PM ET
Mel Kiper has replaced Clemson running back C.J. Spiller with Florida cornerback Joe Haden as the 49ers' choice at No. 13 in his latest first-round mock draft.

I'm updating the pre-combine and post-combine items making sense of first-round choices for NFC West teams, continuing with the 49ers at No. 13:

13. San Francisco 49ers

Mel's latest pick: Joe Haden, CB, Florida

My latest thoughts: Reading too much into Haden's disappointing 40-yard time could be a mistake. Antrel Rolle went eighth overall in 2005 after running a 4.52 among his times (Rolle also had a 4.49). Haden will make another run at the 40 during a March 17 pro day. If Haden does remain available, the value could prove irresistible for the 49ers, who had similar luck last year when Michael Crabtree fell to them. Offensive tackle could be more of an immediate need, but the 49ers have recently shown they'll put more emphasis on value.

Mel's previous pick: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

My pre-combine thoughts: The 49ers do need a return specialist. They could use a change-of-pace running back, too. Spiller would fill those needs and let's face it, mock drafts are mostly about matching teams needs with the prospects available. But as the 49ers found out when Michael Crabtree fell to them unexpectedly, surprises happen. It's important for the 49ers to keep things in perspective here. It's way too early to write off Glen Coffee as Frank Gore's backup. A running back drafted in the first round needs to play, in most cases, and this selection would invite more questions about Gore's role in an offense that ignored him for stretches once Alex Smith became quarterback. It's possible to find return specialists later in the draft. Spiller should be the pick only if the value is there, not just to fill a couple needs.

My post-combine follow-up: Spiller's 40-yard time validated expectations for him. I still wonder whether the 49ers would find enough playing time for him to justify the choice this early. Perhaps that is a good problem to have. However, the top of this draft is more likely to see a run on offensive tackles than a run on running backs. How quickly the offensive tackles come off the board will likely influence the 49ers' thinking in this spot. If the best tackles are gone among the top 12 choices, it's probably a disappointment for the 49ers. General manager Scot McCloughan recently reiterated his belief in the NFL as a big man's game. That doesn't rule out Spiller, but I think the 49ers might prefer to use this pick to get more physical.
Mel Kiper had quarterback Sam Bradford heading to Seattle with the sixth overall choice in his pre-combine Insider mock draft.

Kiper's latest Insider mock has Bradford and fellow quarterback Jimmy Clausen already off the board when Seattle chooses at No. 6, leaving the Seahawks with their choice of offensive tackles.

I'm updating the pre-combine and post-combine items making sense of first-round choices for NFC West teams, continuing with the Seahawks:

6. Seattle Seahawks

Mel's latest pick: Russell Okung, LT, Oklahoma St.

My latest thoughts: Having first choice at offensive tackle should be a great development for Seattle given the team's needs. The Seahawks found a Hall of Fame-caliber talent in Walter Jones with the sixth choice in 1997. Okung doesn't seem nearly as gifted, however, and I wonder if the Seahawks would value him this early when they need people to score touchdowns. Acquiring receiver Brandon Marshall from the Broncos would address the playmaking issue, giving Seattle excellent flexibility in the sixth spot. Either way, Seattle could have a shot at either the highest-rated tackle (Okung) or the highest-rated defensive back (Eric Berry). Berry was already off the board in Kiper's latest mock.

Mel's previous pick: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

My pre-combine thoughts: If Bradford is good enough to go sixth overall, the Rams should take him at No. 1. A good quarterback beats a very good defensive tackle. The Seahawks are in better position to take a chance on a quarterback early because they have another pick in the first half of the round. The second pick provides some insurance. Matt Hasselbeck's recent injury history should force the Seahawks to address this issue in the near term. Bradford could spend a season or at least part of a season on the bench, depending upon his health, Hasselbeck's health and Hasselbeck's production.

My post-combine followup: Bradford could be moving on a trajectory that makes it tougher to envision him lasting until the sixth overall choice. This can still be a good spot for the Seahawks to find a quality player and perhaps a player ranked No. 1 at his position. The five teams picking ahead of Seattle will make tough decisions. If Bradford, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are gone, as expected, the Seahawks could come away with one of the top offensive tackles. Offensive line coach Alex Gibbs might be able to work wonders with lesser talent on the line, but let's face facts. Any tackle the Seahawks draft will likely be in Seattle long after Gibbs moves on. And Seattle does need to upgrade its talent at tackle. Safety Eric Berry could be available, although his position works against him unless Seattle sees him as a Kenny Easley-type talent (Easley was more impressive physically at 6-foot-3, however).

Kiper mock update: Rams at No. 1

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
2:12
PM ET
Mel Kiper has a new mock draft/conversation starter posted with explanations for Insider subscribers. Todd McShay's projections are also there, but I've been using Kiper's choices as a starting point for discussion and that will continue.

I'll update the pre-combine and post-combine items making sense of first-round choices for NFC West teams, beginning with the Rams at No. 1:

1. St. Louis Rams

Mel's latest pick: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma.

My latest thoughts: The Rams probably aren't sure which player they'll take first overall, but the team has prepared itself for taking a quarterback. Signing quarterback A.J. Feeley gave the Rams a veteran player familiar with the offense. Feeley could mentor Bradford all offseason, start games as needed and hand it over to Bradford when the Rams were ready to take that step. Bradford's workout March 25 could be the final hurdle in the decision-making process for the Rams. The Rams have gone the safe route recently by selecting Chris Long and Jason Smith second overall. Bradford carries more risk, but also the possibility for more reward. And the Rams need all the reward they can get, particularly with a new owner itching to take over.

Mel's previous pick: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

My pre-combine thoughts: The Rams worked last offseason to rebuild their offensive line, with encouraging results. They need to rebuild the defensive line next and Suh would help them on that front. Long improved quite a bit last season. The team needs to replace aging defensive ends Leonard Little and James Hall, who might not be back. Adam Carriker's injury issues prove the Rams cannot count on him. Suh makes sense, in other words, even though the Rams should take a franchise quarterback if they see one in this draft.

My post-combine follow-up: The conversation turned to Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford during the combine, with Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy also seeming to gain ground in a conversation Suh once dominated. Let's not forget why Suh once ran almost unopposed as the leading candidate to land in St. Louis as the No. 1 overall choice. Suh was, by most accounts, better than those other guys during the 2009 season. The quarterback question deserves exploration. Bradford certainly looked the part of a franchise quarterback at the combine. He was bigger and appeared sturdier. The Rams will have to consider him if Bradford checks out medically this offseason and performs well during his workout.
Mel Kiper had nose tackle Dan Williams to Arizona with the 26th overall choice in his pre-combine Insider mock draft.

I'm revisiting the pre-combine item making sense of first-round choices for NFC West teams, adding post-combine thoughts, concluding with the Cardinals:

26. Arizona Cardinals

Mel's pick: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

My pre-combine thoughts: This pick would make a great deal of sense. Veteran Bryan Robinson has exceeded expectations as the Cardinals' nose tackle, but he'll be 36 in June. The Cardinals have committed more fully to a Steelers-style defense, and that makes nose tackles more valuable. No complaints with this pick.

My post-combine followup: Williams made a positive impression at the combine and it's fair to wonder if another team running a 3-4 defense might select him somewhere among the top 25 choices. Arizona used the 33rd choice of the 2007 draft for nose tackle Alan Branch, with disappointing results (Branch has appeared more comfortable at end). That's one reason why the Williams choice would make sense. Another: The Cardinals might lose linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency. They expect young linebackers Will Davis and Cody Brown to play more and possibly start in 2010. Those guys will need protection in front of them and a nose tackle with Williams' credentials could certainly help. The Cardinals would look good on paper with Darnell Dockett, Williams and Calais Campbell across the defensive line. I could also see the Cardinals strengthening their offensive line in the first round. Idaho guard Mike Iupati looked the part at the combine. He carries 331 pounds very well and his size might help Arizona continue building its ground game.

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