NFC West: Lawrence Jackson

Aaron from Chicago wants to know why the Seattle Seahawks keep acquiring personnel from his favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings.

Cornerback Antoine Winfield was the latest addition to the "Minnesota West" roster in Seattle.

"Ever since we controversially signed Steve Hutchinson from them," Aaron writes, "it has seemed as though the Seahawks go out of their way to snatch whatever Vikings they can to stick it to us. It started with them signing Nate Burleson, then Sidney Rice and Heath Farwell, Darell Bevell and Tarvaris Jackson (for whatever reason). They even outbid us for T.J. Houshmanzadeh a few years back. They signed Ryan Longwell at the end of this past season. Obviously, it has continued with Percy Harvin and now Winfield."

Sando: It's a remarkable pattern, but there's likely no revenge factor. The people running the Seahawks during the Hutchinson controversy are long gone from the organization. They were involved in adding Burleson and Houshmandzadeh, but they had nothing to do with the Seahawks' more recent deals for Rice, Farwell, Bevell, Jackson, Harvin or Winfield.

Bevell's hiring as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator stands out as a factor behind the team's decisions to sign Rice and trade for Harvin.

John Schneider's presence as the Seahawks' general manager since 2010 provides a strong link to the NFC North in general. Schneider, after spending much of his career with the Green Bay Packers, played a role in Seattle adding former NFC North players such as Breno Giacomini, Will Blackmon, Cliff Avril, Steven Hauschka, Brett Swain, Frank Omiyale and others. Also, Schneider and Bevell were together in Green Bay. However, Seattle has added many more players without ties to the Vikings or the NFC North.

For a while, the Detroit Lions signed or otherwise acquired a long list of players with Seahawks ties. There were some connections between the organizations -- former Lions coach Rod Marinelli and former Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell shared a history with Tampa Bay, for instance -- but some of the overlap defied explanation.

Tyler Polumbus, Burleson, Will Heller, Rob Sims, Lawrence Jackson, Maurice Morris, Julian Peterson, Trevor Canfield, Marquand Manuel, Kole Heckendorf, Kevin Hobbs, Logan Payne, Chuck Darby, Keary Colbert, Billy McMullen, Travis Fisher, Cory Redding, John Owens, Joel Filani, T.J. Duckett, Kevin Kasper, Etric Pruitt and Mike Williams were among the players to play for both organizations.

Update: The Burleson signing did have a retaliatory aspect, as ZippyWasBanned noted in the comments section. Seattle signed him to an offer sheet featuring "poison pills" similar to the ones that helped the Vikings land Hutchinson.
The St. Louis Rams finished tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 52 last season.

William Hayes collected seven of them while playing on a one-year deal worth $900,000. That was a bargain by NFL standards.

The Rams rewarded Hayes on Tuesday with a three-year contract worth $10.5 million, ESPN.com's John Clayton reported. So, while other NFC West teams seek pass-rush help, the Rams can generally feel good about their abilities in that critical area.

Hayes, who played 34 percent of the defensive snaps last season, returns to a group already featuring 2008 first-round draft choice Chris Long and 2011 first-rounder Robert Quinn.

Long has 42 career sacks, more than any player from the 2008 draft class. Cliff Avril (39.5), Calais Campbell (27.5), Lawrence Jackson (19.5) and Jason Jones (18.5) are next on that list. Hayes, a fourth-round choice in Tennessee that year, ranks eighth on the list with 15 sacks. Rams teammate Kendall Langford is 10th with 9.5 sacks since 2008.

Quinn's 15.5 sacks in two seasons rank fifth on the list of 2011 draft choices. San Francisco's Aldon Smith tops that list with 33.5 sacks. Von Miller (30), J.J. Watt (26) and Ryan Kerrigan (16) also outrank Quinn.

Quinn's 10.5 sacks last season ranked fourth among 2011 draft choices.

On Early Doucet's unusually long run

March, 10, 2013
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Wide receiver Early Doucet might not feel like a success story following his release from the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.

Doucet struggled with drops and lost playing time last season, after all. Those were negatives, but the bigger picture looks upon his Cardinals tenure more favorably.

Consider that Doucet's departure from the Cardinals leaves NFC West teams with four players from the 28 they selected in their 2008 NFL draft classes.

Chris Long (St. Louis), Calais Campbell (Arizona), Red Bryant (Seattle) and Larry Grant (San Francisco) comprise that short list. Grant played three seasons with St. Louis before re-signing with San Francisco. That places Doucet on a shorter list of 2008 picks lasting five years with the teams that drafted them.

NFC West teams drafted Long, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Lawrence Jackson, Kentwan Balmer, Donnie Avery, John Carlson, Chilo Rachal, Campbell, John Greco and Reggie Smith before the Cardinals selected Doucet.

Doucet never became a regular starter, but Fitzgerald and Boldin were well-established as franchise cornerstones when he arrived. And after Arizona traded Boldin in 2010, the team used a third-round choice for Andre Roberts.

Doucet was scheduled to earn $2 million in salary and workout bonus in 2013. He is 27 years old and could help a team as a slot receiver, in my view.

Doucet has 1,213 yards receiving from the slot since 2008, third on the Cardinals behind Boldin (1,352) and Fitzgerald (1,221) over that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also has 14 drops on those plays, matching the total for Boldin (eight) and Fitzgerald (six).

Draft rewind: Seahawks' five-year recap

February, 20, 2013
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A look at the NFC West's best and worst from the past five NFL drafts, one team at a time.

Seattle Seahawks

Best choice: Russell Wilson, QB, 2012 third round. Wilson went from springtime curiosity to surprise opening-day starter to Pro Bowl quarterback in eight months. Seattle has hit big on some other draft choices during the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era, but Wilson stands apart from the rest. No rookie in the 36-year history of the organization has impacted the team as dramatically as Wilson did in 2012. That is a bold statement, but one that required about 30 seconds of verification. Wilson is the first QB draft choice in Seahawks history to succeed with the team. None of the other 15 came close (Mike Teel, David Greene, Seneca Wallace, Jeff Kelly, Josh Booty, Brock Huard, Rick Mirer, Dan McGwire, John Gromos, Sammy Garza, David Norrie, John Conner, Sam Adkins, Steve Myer and Chris Rowland). The 26 touchdown passes Wilson threw during the regular season exceed the Seattle career totals for every one of those other 15 drafted QBs except Mirer, who had 41 touchdowns over four seasons with the team.

Worst choice: Aaron Curry, LB, 2009 first round. The Seahawks thought they were making the surest choice of the 2009 draft when they made Curry the fourth overall choice. Instead, a franchise that had used top-10 picks for defensive stars Cortez Kennedy and Kenny Easley got an all-time bust. Curry had 5.5 sacks, 12 passes defensed and four forced fumbles while starting 28 of 30 games for the Seahawks over two seasons. Something wasn't right, however, and by Curry's third season, the team had seen enough. Seattle essentially bought out Curry's expensive rookie contract to facilitate a trade to Oakland. Lawrence Jackson was a distant second for this distinction.

Verdict pending: James Carpenter, OL, 2011 first round. Wilson's selection in 2012 offsets lingering regrets from the Seahawks' decision to draft Carpenter over Andy Dalton a year earlier. Still, Seattle cannot feel good about how Carpenter's career has unfolded. Carpenter was struggling in pass protection at right tackle before a severe knee injury convinced Seattle that Carpenter's future would be at left guard, next to tackle Russell Okung. The conversion did not go well last season because the knee injury continued to limit Carpenter's mobility. The coming season appears pivotal for Carpenter.

Related: 2011 draft rewind.
Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the Seattle Seahawks’ defense and special teams.

Defensive linemen (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.8

Safest bets: Red Bryant, Jason Jones, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Alan Branch

Leading contenders: Clinton McDonald, Jaye Howard, Greg Scruggs, Pep Levingston

Longer odds: Pierre Allen, Cordarro Law, Dexter Davis

Comment: The Seahawks finished the 2009 season with Bryant, Mebane, Craig Terrill, Colin Cole, Nick Reed, Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding and Darryl Tapp on their 53-man roster. Pete Carroll has transformed the line since becoming head coach before the 2010 season. The changes have been as much about fit as personnel. The group keeps getting stronger.

Linebackers (12)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.6

Safest bets: K.J. Wright, Leroy Hill, Bobby Wagner, Korey Toomer

Leading contenders: Heath Farwell, Matt McCoy, Malcolm Smith, Barrett Ruud

Longer odds: Michael Morgan, Allen Bradford, Kyle Knox, Jameson Konz

Comment: Toomer's arrival in the fifth round cranks up the pressure on Smith, a 2011 seventh-round choice. Farwell and McCoy could be competing for a spot. Farwell is better on special teams. McCoy offers more at linebacker. Bradford is converting from running back and has a chance to stick in some capacity. Ruud looks like insurance for Wagner, but his health is a concern.

Defensive backs (17)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.2

Safest bets: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman

Leading contenders: Jeron Johnson, Byron Maxwell, Roy Lewis, Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Winston Guy

Longer odds: DeShawn Shead, Ron Parker, Coye Francies, Donny Lisowski, Jeremy Lane, Phillip Adams, Chris Maragos

Comment: Three of the four starters went to the Pro Bowl last season; Sherman arguably should have gone. Trufant's conversion to a nickel role has the potential to upgrade Seattle's coverage. Injuries sidelined Trufant and Thurmond last season. Both can contribute at a reasonably high level if healthy. It's tough to bank on either one, however. Don't forget about Maxwell. He impressed in camp as a rookie, only to fade from the picture after suffering an ankle injury. Seattle likes its depth at corner. Johnson should be ready to take a step forward at safety. The Seahawks like what they've seen from Guy as well.

Special teams (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Safest bets: Jon Ryan, Steven Hauschka, Clint Gresham

Leading contenders: none

Longer odds: Carson Wiggs

Comment: Ryan led the NFL with 34 punts downed inside the 20 (against eight touchbacks). Opponents returned two punts for touchdowns, however.
Tight end John Carlson's five-year contract agreement with the Minnesota Vikings leaves Seattle with three remaining draft choices from the Mike Holmgren era.

Carlson
Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Ben Obomanu are the survivors.

The NFC North now outranks the NFC West in players entering the NFL as draft choices under Holmgren: Rob Sims and Lawrence Jackson in Detroit, Mansfield Wrotto and Chris Spencer in Chicago, and now Carlson in Minnesota.

Seattle drafted all of those players when Tim Ruskell was making the Seahawks' personnel decisions as the general manager. Carlson was the one Holmgren was most responsible for drafting. He pushed hard for Carlson because he badly wanted a versatile tight end for his offense.

Carlson set a franchise single-season receiving record with 55 catches as a rookie in 2008. Injuries, quarterback issues, roster atrophy and coaching turnover affected Carlson and the offense in subsequent seasons.

The Seahawks' current leadership was not opposed to bringing back Carlson, but the team's decision to pay $6.8 million per season to Zach Miller last offseason redefined where Carlson stood on the roster. There was less room for Carlson to become the player Holmgren envisioned when Seattle made Carlson a second-round draft choice.

Expanded list: Most sacks per pass play

December, 8, 2011
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Expanding on an earlier post, this one ranks NFL players by most sacks per pass play through Week 13.

The San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith ranks fourth on the list. The St. Louis Rams' Chris Long is 10th. The Arizona Cardinals' Sam Acho ranks 19th. Ex-Seattle Seahawk Lawrence Jackson is 14th. Ex-Ram Adam Carriker ranks 21st.

Smith is keeping impressive company. The next step for him, likely next season, will be to maintain his pass-rush production as an every-down player, when he'll also have to hold up against the run more frequently. So far, so good.

The St. Louis Rams' Robert Quinn did not quite make the chart. He has five sacks and a 2.2 percentage. Seattle's Chris Clemons has eight sacks and a 2.1 percentage.

Sacks are not the only measure of a player's performance, of course. The best pass-rushers tend to collect a lot of them, however.

.
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.
NFC West teams drafted four players in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft.

The St. Louis Rams' Chris Long is the only one employed by an NFC West team.

Kentwan Balmer, chosen 29th overall by the San Francisco 49ers that year, had been holding on with Seattle. The Seahawks released him Wednesday after re-signing running back Vai Taua.

This may or may not be the end for Balmer in the NFC West, but with him gone for now, here's a quick look at what became of that 2008 first-round class in the division:
  • Long: The Rams are increasingly getting sufficient return on a sizable investment after making Long the second player chosen overall. Long has become a consistently productive player since moving to the left side of the line. He had 8.5 sacks last season.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: The Cardinals chose him 16th overall and liked what Rodgers-Cromartie offered. "DRC" went to one Pro Bowl before suffering through a down 2010 season. The Cardinals sent him to Philadelphia in the Kevin Kolb trade.
  • Lawrence Jackson: The Seahawks drafted the defensive end 28th overall. Jackson started slowly and didn't fit when the team changed its scheme. Seattle traded Jackson to Detroit, where defensive ends face favorable matchup situations thanks to Ndamukong Suh's presence on the interior. Jackson had six sacks in 2010.
  • Balmer: Nolan Nawrocki's pre-draft assessment for Pro Football Weekly ended this way: "Can disappear and fail to make an impact, and his overall career production is discouraging. ... Has some intriguing natural tools, but must first demonstrate that he is not motivated strictly by a contract. Could be satisfied as a career underachiever."

Among the good value picks for NFC West teams in that 2008 draft: Calais Campbell, Red Bryant, Tim Hightower, Josh Morgan, Brandon Keith and Justin Forsett.
Justin SmithAP Photo/Paul SakumThe 49ers' Justin Smith has collected 8.5 of his 21.5 sacks after the third quarter since 2008.

The try-hard guy, long revered by NFL fans for overcoming physical limitations with all-out effort, has not been universally loved.

Established veterans with a feel for how to practice during long, demanding regular seasons can become resentful when the try-hard guy's misplaced fury produces unwanted collisions.

So, for the sake of clarity, the try-hard guy is excused from this conversation about pass-rushers so relentless, they wear down opponents over the course of a game.

We're talking about players with enough talent to command significant playing time, many as high draft choices or big-ticket free agents. We're talking about the San Francisco 49ers' Justin Smith, one of two NFC West players to receive votes in ESPN.com's Power Rankings for defensive players. Patrick Willis was the other.

"Justin Smith is a relentless player who wears down opponents by coming after them each and every play," BigBrad184 wrote in response to this item Wednesday morning. "I don't have any stats to back this up, but it seems like he often gets many of his sacks in the fourth quarter because of the fatigue he causes to offensive lineman."

Interesting thought.

"Maybe breaking out Smith's sacks by quarter over the past few years is a project for Sando," BigBrad184 concluded.

Done deal. John Fisher of ESPN Stats & Information responded to my request for the statistical evidence BigBrad184 was seeking. Smith does rank among the NFL leaders for fourth-quarter sacks in recent seasons, but two other NFC West players, including one of Smith's teammates, rank higher on the list.

More on the results in a bit. First, a look at the methodology.

Fisher provided a file with quarter-by-quarter sack totals for every player since 2001. I filtered the information to consider:

  • The last three seasons. There was no sense comparing totals for eight-year veterans against players entering the league more recently. At the same time, three seasons was long enough to pile up adequate numbers.
  • Players with at least 10 sacks. This reduced qualifying players from 668 to 99, a more manageable number featuring more "name" players.
  • Late-game production. I then divided the remaining 99 players' fourth-quarter and overtime sack totals by their total sacks, producing percentages that might tell us which players tend to wear down opponents.

The 49ers' Smith collected 8.5 of his 21.5 sacks in fourth quarters or overtimes since 2008. That worked out to 39.5 percent, which ranked 22nd among the 99 qualifying players.

Philadelphia's Darren Howard, who did not play in 2010, led the way with 75.8 percent of his sacks (11.5 of 16.5) after the third quarter. He was on the Eagles' roster for two of the three seasons in question and never played even half the defensive snaps in either year. But he was highly effective as a situational player, at least when measured by sack totals. Only Jared Allen (15) and Joey Porter (14) had more total sacks after the first three quarters.

There was no way to tell whether players with higher late-game sack percentages had more or better late-game opportunities for reasons unrelated to being relentless. Players operating within superior schemes or alongside better teammates certainly benefited. Overall, players collected more sacks in second and fourth quarters, no surprise given that teams attempted 6,130 additional passes during those quarters over the past three seasons, a likely reflection of two-minute situations.

The San Francisco 49ers' Parys Haralson (52.9 percent) and the St. Louis Rams' Chris Long (48.6 percent) ranked highest in fourth-quarter sack percentage among current NFC West players with at least 10 sacks over the past three seasons. Haralson was seventh in the league. Long was ninth. Former 49er Tully Banta-Cain was 10th (48.4 percent), while Arizona's Joey Porter (44.4 percent), St. Louis' Fred Robbins (44.4 percent), ex-Seahawk Lawrence Jackson (44.0 percent) and current Seahawk Chris Clemons (41.0 percent) ranked among the top 20.

Were these guys merely slow starters? Were they strong finishers? Did they wear down opponents over the course of games? The numbers do not answer those questions definitively, but they provide a starting point for discussion.

I was also interested in seeing which players collected a disproportionate number of sacks earlier in games. They were, at best, tone setters. At worst, they failed to finish or failed to adequately wear down opponents. The previous disclaimers applied to them as well.

As the chart below shows, three of the 10 qualifying players with the lowest percentages of late-game sacks have NFC West roots.

Arizona's Calais Campbell has 5.5 of his 13 sacks in first quarters, but only one in fourth quarters or overtimes. The 49ers' Manny Lawson collected 11 of his 12 sacks in the first three quarters. Darryl Tapp, traded from Seattle to Philadelphia in the deal for Clemons, has 4.5 sacks in each of the first two quarters, but only two in second halves (one after the third quarter).

A few other observations with an eye toward the NFC West:

  • Porter (six) and Campbell (5.5) rank among the top seven in most first-quarter sacks. The 49ers' Smith is right behind with five.
  • Arizona's Darnell Dockett has nine of his 16 sacks in second quarters. Eight players have more second-quarter sacks over the past three seasons, but all are edge-rusher types. Dockett plays end in a 3-4 scheme.
  • Pittsburgh's James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are a third-quarter nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Harrison leads the NFL with 15.5 sacks in third quarters. Woodley is second with 12. Former Cardinal Calvin Pace ranks in the top 10 with 7.5.
  • Porter and Allen are tied for the most fourth-quarter sacks in the NFL over the past three seasons. Each has 14 (Allen also had one in overtime). DeMarcus Ware and Robert Mathis are next with 13.5, followed by Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers with 12.5.

Back to the original question: Is the 49ers' Smith a relentless player who wears down opponents, producing fourth-quarter payoffs?

He might be, but he produces well enough across all quarters to transcend the try-hard label and probably even the relentless label as well. He's a beast.
Michael from Seattle asked whether I noticed that the Seahawks had ranked last among NFL teams in Rick Reilly's recent re-drafting of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 first rounds, with cornerback Kelly Jennings going 210 spots later.

Mike Sando: Not only were the Seahawks last, but the St. Louis Rams were second-worst and the San Francisco 49ers third-worst. The Arizona Cardinals finished 22nd. Poor draft choices drag down teams, no doubt, but bad teams also drag down questionable draft choices. Some of these players walked into rough situations.

One of the Seahawks' recent first-round picks, Lawrence Jackson, appears better suited for Detroit's scheme. He had a career-high six sacks for the Lions last season and could get close to double digits playing with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. But he was never going to enjoy that sort of success in Seattle, particularly as the team sought different qualities in its linemen. Jennings, Kentwan Balmer (49ers), Tye Hill (Rams) and Matt Leinart (Cardinals) dragged down their teams' drafts as well.

A quick look at the NFC West picks Reilly mentioned, and how many spots earlier or later they would have gone on a re-draft:
  • Cardinals (minus-192): Leinart fell from 10th to undrafted (2006); Levi Brown fell from fifth to 32nd (2007); Steve Breaston rose from 142nd to 28th (2007); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie fell from 16th to 50th (2008). Breaston was the only NFC West player to jump into a first round from lower in his draft class. Rodgers-Cromartie has played at a Pro Bowl level for stretches. He wasn't as good last season, but was he bad enough to fall 34 places? Reilly made him the seventh cornerback selected.
  • 49ers (minus-323): Vernon Davis fell from sixth to 19th (2006); Manny Lawson fell from 22nd to 99th (2006); Patrick Willis jumped from 11th to third (2007), trailing only Adrian Peterson and Darrelle Revis in his class; Joe Staley dropped from 28th to 46th (2007); Kentwan Balmer dropped from 29th to undrafted (2008). Willis was the only NFC West first-rounder to gain ground in the re-draft. Reilly had Davis going one spot after Marcedes Lewis. Both are good tight ends. Both have been to the Pro Bowl.
  • Rams (minus-351): Hill fell from 15th to undrafted (2006); Adam Carriker fell from 13th to 100th (2007); Chris Long fell from second to 26th (2008). Reilly had Long going after Pierre Garcon in the re-draft. I'd much rather have Long. Garcon would be far easier to replace. The Rams had less to gain in these rankings because they've drafted so early. The best Long could do was gain by one spot.
  • Seahawks (minus-377): Jennings fell from 31st in 2006 to 241st; Jackson fell from 28th in 2008 to 195th. Seattle had no first-round choice in 2007. The team was picking late in the other first rounds, giving Seattle plenty of room for improvement. That makes the 377-point cumulative drop even more problematic. Adding 2009 wouldn't improve matters, either, as Aaron Curry would fall from No. 4 overall.

I've been meaning to address this re-draft. Thanks for bringing it up.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic thinks Kevin Kolb tops the Cardinals' list of quarterbacks to pursue this offseason. Somers: "There is no question the Cardinals are interested, and I get the feeling Kolb is their first choice to be their starter in 2011. The Cardinals liked Kolb when he was coming out of the University of Houston, and he has the type of personality (gym rat) that Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt likes in a quarterback. The Cardinals are leery, however, of what the Eagles might want for Kolb." Somers says the Cardinals would likely go along with a trade similar to the one Houston orchestrated for acquiring Matt Schaub from the Falcons. I don't recall any reporter from the Arizona market previously saying without qualification that Arizona has more interest in Kolb than it has in other options, and enough interest in Kolb to trade for him. Might be time to update the Cardinals' QB timeline.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com passes along initial jersey numbers for the Rams' 2011 draft class. First-round choice Robert Quinn gets No. 94. Second-rounder Lance Kendricks gets No. 88. Wagoner: "No player on the active roster wore 94 last year. DT Jimmy Saddler-McQueen wore it on the practice squad. Victor Adeyanju had it previously. Tight End Derek Schouman wore 88 last year. He is not under contract for 2011."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis looks at DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Bush, Darren Sproles, Tim Hightower, Ronnie Brown, Jerome Harrison and Mewelde Moore as running backs for the Rams to consider in free agency.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers have fired Lal Henhegan, their executive vice president of football administration since 2006. Maiocco: "The departure of Heneghan is not believed to be related to any hiring in the team's personnel department. When Heneghan was hired in March 2006, owner John York cited the valuable experience he would bring to a youthful front office and coaching staff. Heneghan was vice president of football operations and general counsel for the Cleveland Browns from 1998 to 2004 prior to joining the 49ers. Heneghan spent seven years with the NFL Management Council as director of labor relations. He supervised the daily operation and interpretation of the NFL salary cap." The 49ers continue to tweak their front office. Henhegan had always worked in the background. I cannot recall hearing his name associated with any decision regarding the 53-man roster, the draft or free agency.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat takes a closer look at Bruce Miller, the player San Francisco is projecting as a fullback. Miller played defensive end at Central Florida. One of the defensive assistants there, John Skladany, had this to say about Miller: "The biggest thing is he’s just relentless. He really enjoys that part of the game. He goes and looks for the contact. He just keeps going and going and going. You’re going to have to shoot him to stop him. If he’s going to be blocking, some linebacker is going to have a long day."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says defensive tackle Craig Terrill is headlining a concert in the Seattle area Saturday night. Farnsworth: "Terrill’s previous musical adventures have included singing the National Anthem prior to the Seahawks’ wild-card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 and a show-stopping performance at the team party in Detroit after the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL. He also has played the House of Blues in Chicago and Orlando, as well as several venues in Seattle."

Also from Farnsworth: Seahawks draft choice Kris Durham was working out with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst before the draft. Farnsworth: "It was a revelation that slipped through the cracks on a very busy third day of the draft for the Seahawks -- when they selected seven prospects in the final four rounds and also held an introductory news conference with first-round pick James Carpenter, a tackle from Alabama. But the Whitehurst-to-Durham connection definitely is worth revisiting. Whitehurst was born in Green Bay, when his father, David, was playing for the Packers. But he grew up in the Atlanta area and went to Clemson. He spends time there in the offseason."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says there's a better than 50-50 chance Matt Hasselbeck will re-sign with Seattle, according to ESPN.com's John Clayton. Henderson: "Clayton thinks the market shrunk for Hasselbeck when Tennessee and Minnesota, the two teams with the "most urgent" quarterback needs, filled those vacancies by drafting quarterbacks in the first round. Arizona, which didn't draft a quarterback and has a clear need at the position, would seemingly have at least some interest in Hasselbeck. But Clayton believes Marc Bulger would be the Cardinals' preference over Hasselbeck."

Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News says Matt Leinart could be an option for the Seahawks. Wolf says the Seahawks spoke with Leinart about joining the team next season. I'm not sure when this would have happened, given that there has not yet been a free-agent signing period. It's also worth noting that Seattle has shown no apparent interest in Leinart previously. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has been selective in pursuing his former players at USC. He placed strict conditions on receiver Mike Williams. He quickly released running back LenDale White after determining White wasn't serious enough in his approach. He traded defensive end Lawrence Jackson to Detroit, where Jackson appears to be a much better fit.
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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NFC West teams have drafted 22 defensive ends since 2002, a number smaller than I would have anticipated.

An even smaller number -- two! -- start for the teams that drafted them.

One, Antonio Smith, starts for another team.

A few notes relating to this latest item in a series examining various positions:
  • Kentwan Balmer appears as a defensive end because the San Francisco 49ers drafted him to play that position. Balmer played defensive tackle in college.
  • Darnell Dockett does not appear as a defensive end because the Arizona Cardinals drafted him to play defensive tackle. Yes, Dockett plays defensive end in the Cardinals' current scheme, but the NFL lists him as a tackle for Pro Bowl voting and he is not a typical defensive end even by 3-4 standards.
  • Of the 22, only Chris Long and Calais Campbell are starting for their original teams. Smith is starting for the Houston Texans.
  • Six of the eight most highly drafted ends since 2002 came from teams most recently affiliated with the ACC.
  • Long was the only player on the list drafted before the 28th overall choice.
  • Will Davis and Parys Haralson were listed as defensive ends coming out of college, but both projected as outside linebackers. That is why they do not appear below. Cody Brown also projects at linebacker.
  • I've used the term "not active" loosely in the charts to describe players who weren't on active rosters during the regular season recently.

Now, on to the charts. I've broken them up with italicized comments representing what NFL teams might have been thinking at corresponding stages of these drafts.

Playing it safe and hoping those NFL bloodlines pay off ...


Defensive linemen are at a premium, and we might find out why ...


The pure pass-rushers are gone by now ...


If these guys don't pan out, it'll be a while before we take another third-round end ...


It's an upset if we find a starter at this point ...


Time to fill out the practice squad, but you never know ...

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