NFC West: Mark Ingram
ESPN.com Seattle Seahawks reporter Terry Blount makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Green Bay Packers
All the pregame hype will center around the so-called Inaccurate Reception, the controversial Hail Mary catch by Golden Tate two years ago that won the game over the Packers at Seattle on a Monday night. Tate has moved on to Detroit, but the Seahawks now have too many weapons for the Packers to stop, no Hail Mary required. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers better hope they play a lot better than they did in the preseason game at Seattle, a 41-14 victory for the Seahawks on Aug. 15. San Diego will play better, but not good enough to beat a much better team. Prediction: Win
Week 3: Denver Broncos
The Broncos and their fans got a tiny bit of meaningless Super Bowl revenge in the preseason opener with a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks in Denver. Enjoy it while it lasts, boys. Repeating that outcome in Seattle is not an option. Prediction: Win
Week 5: at Washington Redskins
Traveling coast to coast to play on the road for a Monday night game is a tough task against any NFL opponent, and even tougher against quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Seahawks catch a break in this one by coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare and be fresh for the journey. Prediction: Win
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Seattle a little bulletin-board material last month when he said the Seahawks were to blame for the increase in penalty flags during the preseason. There won't be near enough flags against Seattle for the Cowboys to win this one. Prediction: Win
Week 7: at St. Louis Rams
Any division game in the NFC West is a rugged battle. The Rams have a defensive line that gave the Seahawks problems a year ago. But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks were fortunate to win the season opener at Charlotte a year ago. That Panthers team was better than this one, but back-to-back road games against very physical defensive teams will end the Seattle winning streak. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Oakland Raiders
Coming off their first loss of the season and returning home against an outmanned opponent, is there any doubt? Prediction: Win
Week 10: New York Giants
The Seahawks easily defeated the Giants 23-0 last year in New Jersey, a dress rehearsal for their Super Bowl victory at the same location -- MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks won't need a rehearsal to roll past the Giants in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs
This likely will be a low-scoring game between two strong defensive teams. Odds are against any team that has to try to win by matching its defense against the Seahawks' D. Prediction: Win
Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
The last time the Cardinals played at CenturyLink Field was last December when they handed the Seahawks a 17-10 loss. That won't happen again unless the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to the 49ers game. The Seahawks don't look ahead. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers
It's a Thanksgiving night, national TV game in the 49ers' shiny new stadium against the hated Seahawks. If San Francisco can't win this one, its time as a championship contender is over. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles
This is the toughest part of the season for the Seahawks with back-to-back road games against likely playoff contenders. But the 10 days between games will help and be enough of a cushion to keep Seattle from losing two in a row. Prediction: Win
Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
This is a game that could decide which team wins the NFC West. No way the Seahawks lose to the 49ers twice in three weeks, especially not in front of a rabid full house of 12s. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals probably will be fighting for a playoff spot, and the Seahawks already will be in at 12-2. That difference will be just enough for Arizona to win at home in the same stadium where the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: St. Louis Rams
For the second consecutive year, the Rams close the regular season in Seattle. And for the second consecutive year, the Seahawks will beat them without much trouble. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 13-3
- Leader: Da Ramzz, for the first time this season, by two points. Da Ramzz has scored at least 130 points in seven of the eight weeks. Very solid. Previous leader mboles52 is only seven points back after leading four weeks in a row.
- High score of the week: Coleyfudge, with 170 points. Getting 31 points from the Buffalo Bills' defense certainly helped.
- Lowest score on first page of leaderboard: Try Not to Suck, with 88 points. This was a calculated gamble or an oversight. Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Sebastian Janikowski and the Green Bay defense stayed on his roster despite having bye weeks. Try Not to Suck remains tied for 31st and in the 98.4 percentile anyway. Not bad.
- My team: tied for 208th out of 1,619 entries, 88.9 percentile. Up from 280th and 83.0 percentile. Cam Newton, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Steve Smith scored 99 of my 131 points in Week 8.
- My wife's team: tied for 679th place, 59.7 percentile. Down from 584th and 64.8. She's been under the weather, but that's no excuse. Mark Ingram was her running back. Olindo Mare was her kicker.
- Dan Graziano's team: tied for 340th, 80.7 percentile. Up from 408th and 75.1. Lots of NFC East flavor on our NFC East blogger's roster. Michael Vick, Tony Romo, Ryan Torain.
- Note of the week: Buying back Aaron Rodgers at $7.9 million hurt, particularly after getting only 14 points from Joe Flacco as a bye week replacement. I picked up Matt Cassel on the relative cheap and will go with Frank Gore and Matt Forte as my running backs. The St. Louis Rams were a cheap pickup on defense and a gamble, but with the Cardinals' quarterback situation unsettled, it could work out OK.
Graziano is keeping on the pressure. Can't see him leaving Torain in his lineup against San Francisco's defense.
Nine of 12 ESPN.com football reporters are picking the St. Louis Rams to win the NFC West this season. Three others are taking the Arizona Cardinals. And that is only a small sampling of results from our NFL predictions for the 2011 season.
NFL divisional bloggers joined John Clayton, Adam Schefter, Matt Williamson, Ashley Fox and Jeff Chadiha in voting for eight division winners, two wild-card teams per conference, AFC champion, NFC champ, Super Bowl champ, coach of the year, MVP, top offensive rookie and top defensive rookie.
A quick look at voting results:
- Super Bowl champ: Six of 12 votes, including mine, went for the New England Patriots. Chadiha and Seifert took Green Bay. Four other teams drew votes: New Orleans (Paul Kuharsky), San Diego (Dan Graziano), Pittsburgh (Fox) and the New York Jets (Bill Williamson).
- AFC champ: Nine votes for New England. One apiece for the Chargers, Steelers and Jets.
- NFC champ: Green Bay drew four votes, including mine. New Orleans and Philadelphia drew three votes apiece. Atlanta (Bill Williamson) and Dallas (Schefter) drew one apiece.
- NFC West: I was among nine picking the St. Louis Rams. Chadiha, Kevin Seifert joined Graziano in picking the Arizona Cardinals.
- NFC North: It was unanimous. Twelve votes for the Packers.
- NFC South: Six for New Orleans, six for Atlanta. I took the Falcons.
- NFC East: Eleven votes for the Eagles. Schefter took the Cowboys.
- NFC wild cards: The Saints and Cowboys were my picks, in part because Dallas plays the NFC West this season. There were six votes for Atlanta, five for New Orleans, four for Dallas, three for Detroit, three for Tampa Bay, one for Minnesota (Chadiha), one for Philadelphia (Schefter) and one for the New York Giants (Yasinskas).
- AFC West: Eleven votes for San Diego. Kuharsky took Kansas City.
- AFC North: Eight votes for Pittsburgh, including mine. Four for Baltimore.
- AFC South: Seven votes for Houston. Five votes for Indianapolis, including mine.
- AFC East: I was among 10 voting for the Patriots. Graziano and Bill Williamson picked the Jets.
- AFC wild cards: Baltimore and the Jets were my picks. There were eight votes for the Jets, five for the Ravens, four for the Steelers, three for the Colts, two for the Patriots, one for the Texans (Kuharsky) and one for the Chiefs (Bill Williamson).
- Coach of the year: Bill Belichick was my choice. There were three votes for Jim Schwartz, two for Jason Garrett, two for Belichick and one apiece for Steve Spagnuolo (Kuharsky), Sean Payton (James Walker), Mike McCarthy (Clayton), Andy Reid (Chadiha) and Gary Kubiak (Pat Yasinskas).
- MVP: I was among four voting for Aaron Rodgers. Philip Rivers drew three votes. Tom Brady and Michael Vick drew two apiece. Kuharsky cast the lone vote for Brees.
- Offensive rookie: I was among nine voting for Julio Jones. There were two votes for Mark Ingram (Clayton, Schefter) and one for Cam Newton (Bill Williamson).
- Defensive rookie: I was among nine voting for Von Miller. Adrian Clayborn (Kuharsky), Ryan Kerrigan (Graziano) and Jimmy Smith (Walker) drew one vote apiece.
Take these to the bank, but please do not try depositing them. I'm sure our perceptions will change -- "evolve" sounds better -- as these teams reveal more about themselves.
For me, the biggest challenge is following four teams so closely every day of the year, then trying to make sense of faraway teams that cross the radar screen far less frequently. I'm interested in your picks, too. Fire away.
Seattle's James Carpenter is the only one from the NFC West to start so far. He has struggled in pass protection while showing promise in the running game. Like some other rookie offensive linemen -- Green Bay's Derek Sherrod comes to mind -- Carpenter is facing growing pains in his transition to the NFL.
Arizona's Patrick Peterson is the only player drafted among the top six overall picks without a start. He returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown Saturday night. The Cardinals like their depth at cornerback. Coach Ken Whisenhunt also tends to make rookies earn their starting spots. Greg Toler's injury could lead to increased snaps for Peterson.
The two first-round NFC West pass-rushers, Aldon Smith (San Francisco) and Robert Quinn (St. Louis), are easing into their roles. Smith has at times looked like a favorite to start right away, but he continues working with the backups. The Rams have no plans to push Quinn into the starting lineup right away. They're set at defensive end. Quinn could use seasoning after missing the 2010 season.
Three of the 11 first-rounders without starts this summer have been sidelined by injuries: Nick Fairley (Detroit), Prince Amukamara (New York Giants) and Jon Baldwin (Kansas City).
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Kendall Hunter from the San Francisco 49ers, receiver Austin Pettis from the St. Louis Rams and running back Ryan Williams from the Arizona Cardinals were among 36 rookies scheduled to appear, according to an NFL Players Association list distributed Wednesday.
The flag-football game is scheduled for Friday at UCLA's North Athletic Field. It begins at 5 p.m. PT and features current and former players in addition to the rookies. It is open to the public.
The object of the game: avoid injuries.
First-round selections Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Jake Locker, Mark Ingram, Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert and Julio Jones were also listed.
The event, sponsored by the NFLPA's licensing and marketing wing, features community-service events, sports-card photo shoots, a flag-football game and billiards tournament.
Twenty-six teams have at least one rookie scheduled to attend. The New England Patriots have three. The 49ers were among eight teams with two.
Players are scheduled to visit students at a local elementary school and veterans at the West Los Angeles Medical Center.
"Can't wait to get down there," Kaepernick tweeted.
- Twelve defensive linemen were drafted in the first round. That’s the most ever in the common draft era (since 1967).
- The SEC had 10 players selected, including five of the first six overall choices. This was the second time in the common draft era that one conference accounted for five of the first six picks. It happened last year with the Big 12. Alabama had four first-rounders this year, a first for the Crimson Tide in the common draft era.
- Mark Ingram was the only running back selected. He went 28th, lower than the first running back has been selected in the common draft era. Only once before, in 1984, had fewer than two running backs been selected in the first round. But as Don Banks noted before the draft, 1984 was also the year three running backs were first-round selections in the USFL dispersal draft. Banks: "In 1984, just one running back (Greg Bell of Notre Dame) was taken in the first round of the NFL's regular draft, but three other runners (Mike Rozier, Kevin Mack and Buford Jordan) were selected in the ensuing first round of the 84-player USFL dispersal draft."
- The San Francisco 49ers have a league-high 11 picks remaining in this draft. No other team has more than nine. But the New England Patriots have the most second-day value with three second-round choices.
- There were four trades in the first round, down from eight last year. Teams could not trade veteran players this year.
- This was the first year since 1999 that no tight ends went in the first round.
St. Louis and Seattle both passed on Ingram at points in the draft when some had seen the running back as a sleeper candidate for them. The picks the Rams and Seahawks made in the first round made more sense from a need standpoint.
A few notes:
- There's a growing sense Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert could be the choice for the San Francisco 49ers at No. 7. Not long ago, conventional wisdom said Gabbert would land in Arizona if he made it past the first four picks. What to make of the shifting opinions? Not much. It's easy to over-think these things.
- Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget is not quite a consensus choice for the St. Louis Rams at No. 14, but he is a popular one. Every selection listed here has the Rams taking a defensive lineman under the assumption receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones will not be available. That makes sense.
- The Arizona Cardinals should have multiple attractive options at No. 5. There's been talk of the Cardinals trading back, but this team also needs difference-makers. Getting the top-rated player at a position should have appeal.
- It's very difficult projecting what might happen for the Seattle Seahawks at No. 25. Trading the pick is one plausible scenario. No one seems to know how the team will value the quarterbacks. Mike Mayock's projection of Marvin Austin is intriguing, but some reports see Austin as a high-risk prospect. The same goes for cornerback Jimmy Smith, who is not listed but could appeal if he remains available late in the first round.
- The chart's final row contains my projections, based mostly on perceived value and fits. I'll yield to the growing feel that Von Miller will not be available for Arizona at No. 5, so let's plug in LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. I'll fight the growing Gabbert talk in relation to the 49ers by sticking with North Carolina's Robert Quinn, although a cornerback could make sense in that slot as well. I went with an offensive lineman for Seattle, one of several viable options making the Seahawks difficult to project.
The link to the Scouts Inc. selections take you to a seven-round mock draft. That is Insider content, as are the mocks for Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. I wanted to include a link to an updated mock from Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki; if you find one, please pass it along. Thanks.
Mike Sando: Analysts don't see the raw physical talent. That is the main reason. But analysts are wrong sometimes, as are the teams.
How the NFC West proceeds in this draft will tell us plenty about how the league views quarterbacks in the draft overall. Every team in the division but St. Louis needs a quarterback to build around. Yet, every time I talk about these teams, I find myself explaining why each could steer away from the position.
The book on McElroy says he's smart and will work hard to get the most from his abilities. What are those abilities? Our Scouts Inc. report breaks it down in detail, but the marks are "below average" under the "release/arm strength" heading, which reads:
"Has a very quick, compact release. However, he shows below average arm strength. Can get adequate zip on intermediate throws. Deep out route velocity is only adequate. Deep ball tends to sail. Does not shows the arm strength to drive the ball vertically in the NFL, especially in windy conditions."
Schmidt from Everett, Wash., didn't like seeing Mark Ingram headed to Seattle in the recent bloggers' mock draft. He wondered how running back could be considered a value selection for Seattle given the team's needs on both lines.
Mike Sando: Ingram was my choice based only on which 24 players were chosen previously. It wasn't a suggestion or even a projection. The way our mock went, Ingram appealed because 11 defensive linemen were off the board. I could have gone with an offensive lineman instead, but several of those were gone, too.
Mason from San Diego thinks the 49ers should consider trading up three spots with Cincinnati to ensure a shot at LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, figuring the team wouldn't value Robert Quinn, Da'Quan Bowers or Blaine Gabbert as much. He thinks the 49ers would lose Peterson to Arizona at No. 5 otherwise. In this deal, the 49ers would send the seventh and 76th choices to the Bengals for the fourth and 101st selections.
Mike Sando: The old draft-value chart would disapprove. That chart would assign 1,800 points to the fourth choice and 96 points to the 101st choice. The Bengals would be giving up nearly 1,900 points in exchange for picks worth 1,500 (seventh) and 210 (76th) points. The seventh and 76th picks would not even equal the fourth.
In 2003, the New York Jets sent the 13th, 22nd and 116th picks to the Chicago Bears for the fourth overall pick. That was the year the Jets got Dewayne Robertson.
If I were the 49ers, I'd rather stay at No. 7 and take the best available player. The 49ers could wind up getting Peterson anyway. They could get an arguably comparable cornerback in Prince Amukamara. They could still wind up with a pass-rusher or even a shot at a quarterback. Those aren't bad options. And they would still pick 76th.
Randy from Peoria, Ariz., thinks the Cardinals should avoid drafting a quarterback in the first round, instead opting for a veteran later. He thinks Colin Kaepernick, then Andy Dalton and finally Ryan Mallett would make sense for Arizona if the team did decide to draft quarterback this year.
Mike Sando: People I speak with around the league think the Cardinals' obvious need for a quarterback would force them to take Blaine Gabbert at No. 5, if available. Those of us who follow the team regularly think Arizona is more likely to go another direction -- not only amid question marks about Gabbert, but because there's a chance Gabbert will not be available at that point, anyway.
If the Cardinals take Gabbert, they do so knowing the risks and in response to the obvious need. No one would be shocked, but some of us would be surprised.
Paul from Manalapan, N.J., lays out a logical case for why Eli Manning should have ranked higher than, say, Josh Freeman on the ballot I submitted for our quarterback power rankings. He points to Manning's status as Super Bowl MVP, near-perennial playoff performer and apparently bright future at age 30.
Mike Sando: Those are good points. I've never considered Manning to be a particularly consistent passer. People used to point to Kurt Warner's time with the Giants as a career low point, and in some ways it was, but Warner's rating that year (86.5) was higher than any single-season rating for Manning outside 2009.
I've also arguably overvalued Freeman's potential. He did have 25 touchdowns with six interceptions for a 10-6 team last season, however. Manning had 25 interceptions. I'd put Manning on the cusp of that Top 10 list and wouldn't laugh at anyone who put him in the Top 10, that's for sure.
Arlan from San Francisco wonders why concerns over a brain tumor and one-year suspension haven't removed Robert Quinn from consideration as a potential pick for the 49ers at No. 7.
Mike Sando: The NCAA banned Quinn for his involvement with an agent. That is not good, but also not a deal breaker. The benign brain tumor doctors discovered in 2007 could be more problematic to the teams holding high choices. At that level, teams are looking for reasons to exclude prospects, and that could factor.
The 49ers could be looking for a safer prospect to start the Jim Harbaugh era. That is plausible. But Quinn's pure pass-rushing potential puts him on the radar.
Alex from Davis, Calif., asks why Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have discussed a possible trade between the Cardinals and Texans in the first round.
Mike Sando: This one has been discussed informally for a while. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle raised the idea during a chat back in February when he wrote, "It would take a first-round pick next year and more to go high enough to get CB Patrick Peterson, I believe. I think trading up with Arizona to get OLB Von Miller would be realistic -- if the Cardinals want to trade down."
More recently, Don Banks of SI.com indicated in his mock draft that he thought the Texans would try to move up for Peterson or Miller. It's pretty well known the Texans have interest in adding players for their new 3-4 defense. It takes two teams to work out a deal, though, and Arizona needs players, too.
Kevin from Sylmar, Calif., saw the blogger mock draft and wondered two things. First, might the 49ers trade back from No. 7 with a team seeking receiver Julio Jones, allowing San Francisco to take Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt later in the round. Second, he wonders whether Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey a strong consideration for the Rams with the 14th selection?
Mike Sando: Moving back for those purposes does have some appeal from a 49ers perspective, but only if the No. 1 prospects at cornerback and outside linebacker were not available in that spot, and if they weren't interested in a quarterback that early. We could not trade selections for the purposes of this mock, however.
I did consider Pouncey for the Rams but ultimately thought they could use more help along the defensive front. Even then, I did not feel great about my selection in terms of fit and arguably should have leaned toward Corey Liuget. The Rams have put so much into their offensive line already -- two highly drafted tackles and millions of free-agent dollars for guard Jacob Bell and center Jason Brown.
Adding a guard somewhere in the draft would make sense. Adding one in free agency would help as long as the player represented an upgrade over Adam Goldberg, a valuable player but somewhat miscast as a starter.
Shane from Los Angeles thinks the absence of free agency helps the Cardinals by preventing them from trading choices to Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb. He'd rather see the team draft Von Miller or Patrick Peterson, then offer a 2012 first-round pick with a conditional 2012 third-rounder for Kolb once free agency opens.
Mike Sando: That's not a bad way to look at things. I'm not sold enough on Kolb to mortgage the future for him, anyway, and I wouldn't want to give up multiple high picks next year without feeling better about his prospects.
Rich from San Francisco thinks the 49ers' new chief strategic officer, Gideon Yu, could emerge as a sports-related owner/investor after helping the team through its ongoing stadium efforts. He also notes that Yu earned his MBA from Harvard after graduating from Stanford.
Mike Sando: Thanks for the correction on Yu's educational background. I had it the other way around and have updated the item.
This hiring fascinates me. The 49ers haven't promoted it much because the draft is approaching and this was not a football-related move -- news came out through the tech world -- but adding someone with Yu's background seems like a strong and unusual "get" for an NFL team. I'd pass along more on his hiring in the future.
Jeff from Whitby, Ontario thinks the Seahawks should focus much more on cornerback and along both lines than on drafting a quarterback early. He wonders whether Vince Young could be an intriguing option later, and if it did not work out, the team could go after a quarterback in the draft next year.
Mike Sando: The Seahawks appear to agree. We'll see if they're bluffing, but right now the feeling is that they aren't bent on any one of these quarterbacks early, and that the needs along the lines are great enough to command their attention.
I'd be reluctant to bring in Young to a locker room without a shrinking cast established leaders. Seattle is remaking the roster. Young would bring along baggage. His approach to the game has come into question. Now, if there wasn't much commitment required, what would Seattle have to lose? The team should have the inside scoop on Young from the Titans' perspective given all the former Seattle staffers working in Tennessee.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along thoughts on Perry. Maiocco: "Perry came to the 49ers after team owner Tony Morabito personally scouted him as a player for the Alameda Naval Air Station. Perry and Morabito developed a close bond. ... Perry also received comfort from Morabito, as he went through some difficult times early in his career." Perry recounted his experiences in 2005: "I was one of the few black players in the league, so I'd get the hell kicked out of me. Wherever you went, it was the same thing. It didn't matter whether it was Los Angeles, San Francisco or anywhere. You got the N-word and all of that stuff. I'd just say, 'Bring it on.' That's what I got from Tony. He'd tell me, 'Whenever they hit you hard, just hit back harder.'"
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sits down with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for thoughts on how to find quarterbacks. Harbaugh: "Watching their athletic instincts, watching them play basketball, watching them play football. Being around them. Being around them, seeing if they're fiercely competitive guys, courageous guys when they play. A lot of qualities -- just being around them -- they've got it. The ability to light up a room and people really want to follow them, a lot of qualities like that."
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are leaning heavily on Harbaugh to identify their next quarterback.
Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle checks in with Seahawks receiver Mike Williams for thoughts on whether players will show up at team headquarters following the ruling to end the lockout. Williams is in Florida and will not show up Tuesday. He thinks players will have time to report and collect workout bonuses should the league open for business in the coming days. Williams: "The offseason has been long enough. I think players across the league are ready to get back to the facilities and get back to building their teams and putting on shows for the fans on Sundays. We hope this thing gets figured out. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying the sunshine in either Florida and L.A. and I'll get to Seattle as soon as this is ready to go. If the lockout was over today, I would be totally fine with coming up there tomorrow and weighing in and making my money on the bonus, showing these guys that this first year wasn't really a fluke and I'm ready to come back this year and do even better."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com runs through six first-round projections for Seattle, including his own: Baylor guard Danny Watkins.
Also from Farnsworth: a look inside Paul Allen's new book as it relates to his ownership of the Seahawks. Allen says his love for basketball pulled him toward purchasing the Portland Trail Blazers, while a sense of civic duty was the driving force behind his decision to purchase the Seahawks. Allen: "Football is much more than a civic chore for me now. I’ve gotten hooked on the weeklong buildup to Sunday, to the point where I can’t tell you which I enjoy more, the Seahawks or the Blazers."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with draft analyst Rob Rang for thoughts on which running backs could make sense for Seattle by round (the team has no third-round selection). The list: Mark Ingram, Jon Baldwin, Tandon Doss, Jeremy Kerley, Anthony Allen and Kealoha Pilares.
Also from Williams: The Seahawks' troubles begin on the offensive line.
More from Williams: a chat transcript featuring Rang's thoughts on the draft. Rang: "I understand the perception that Andy Dalton is flying up the board, but I spoke to NFL scouts back in February that anticipated his dramatic ascension. I didn't grade him as a first-round pick then -- and still don't -- but he is considerably more pro-ready than some of the other options and teams are desperate for QB help."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune explores how acquiring Charlie Whitehurst has muddied the situation at quarterback for Seattle. Boling: "If Whitehurst had been better last season, he might have taken over from Matt Hasselbeck and proven himself as the man for the future. And if he’d been worse, he wouldn’t have been effective enough to lead the Hawks to the win over St. Louis, an effort that got the Hawks in the playoffs, but also cost them more than a dozen spots in the draft -- and probably took them out of the range of landing one of the few elite prospects."
Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest says the Seahawks should do Jake Locker a favor by not drafting him.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals need an outside pass-rusher such as Von Miller. Somers: "The Cardinals haven't had an elite outside pass-rusher since end Bertrand Berry had 14.5 sacks in 2004. That's the most-recent time the Cardinals had a player with double-digit sacks. Since then, the pass rush has been performed by committee. Ends Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell have some skills, and safety Adrian Wilson is a dangerous blitzer. But the Cardinals haven't had that one player who keeps offensive tackles and coordinators awake at night."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with scout Malik Boyd for thoughts on finding lesser-known prospects such as Michael Adams and Brandon Keith. Boyd: "Scouting, I wouldn’t call it a science. It’s very subjective. You may have seen two or three of his best days, and I may have seen him at his worst. We’ve got to try and be realistic, give him his best day in court so to speak. What can he bring to the team?"
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch does not expect the Rams to find a receiver in the first round of the draft. That might be fine, too, based on what former 49ers scout Dave Razzano said: "Back in the glory days with the Niners, I always pointed out that we completely de-emphasized the position, because we believed in quarterback and defense. Our first Super Bowl [with San Francisco], we had two free agents at receiver: Dwight Clark and Mike Wilson. It's proven over and over again that you don't need [first-round] receivers. Look at the Steelers and the Packers. They have a bunch of second-, third-, fourth-round-type guys."
D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams should draft for need this year. Farr: "There are some positions on this team that are so talent depleted and under-skilled that trying to compete another season with the same players would be folly. The needs of this team should far outweigh the allure of drafting purely based on talent alone."
I'm breaking out my selections on a team-by-team basis, with explanations that hopefully will invite your points and counterpoints. Running back Mark Ingram unexpectedly landed with Seattle at No. 25.
Let's continue in reverse order, with the St. Louis Rams at No. 14.
The selection: J.J. Watt, DL, Wisconsin
Off the board: Quarterbacks Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Andy Dalton; defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Aldon Smith; cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara; outside linebackers Von Miller and Robert Quinn; receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones; and offensive lineman Tyron Smith.
The thinking: The more I consider rampant comparisons between Watt and Adam Carriker, the less solid this selection seems to be on the surface. Carriker found himself caught between positions and ultimately caught between coaching staffs after the Rams made him the 13th choice of the 2007 draft. He played 31 of 32 games, starting 25, in his only two seasons with the Rams. He also needed shoulder surgery last offseason, complicating efforts to earn a spot in the Rams' rotation. Carriker's versatility was seen as an asset when he was coming out of college. The Rams' experience with him changes the outlook for Watt. It's fair to wonder whether Watt would fit well enough into any one position to maximize his value. Could he play primarily inside, adding to the rotation at defensive tackle? Would he possess the quickness and pass-rush ability to play enough on the perimeter? Would he even remotely fit the physical mold of the defensive linemen Steve Spagnuolo's teams have drafted early in the past -- guys such as Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Jerome McDougle, Corey Simon, Jay Alford and Derrick Burgess? Those are valid questions. Watt could fit more naturally in a 3-4 scheme. The way this mock draft unfolded, however, Watt projected as a good value selection at a position where the Rams are seeking young reinforcements. The top two receivers weren't available. This was too early, it seemed, to fill needs at outside linebacker. Drafting for the offensive line seemed like a luxury for a team already set at both tackle spots. It's arguably a year early to spend such a high selection on a running back, although Ingram was available when I made this selection. Watt became the choice by default -- a big, versatile defensive lineman adding depth where coach Spagnuolo values it the most.
Odds of this happening: Outside shot. I spent the last paragraph all but apologizing for the selection. I do think there's a good chance the Rams will select a defensive lineman, however.
I'll break out my selections on a team-by-team basis, with explanations that hopefully will invite your points and counterpoints.
Let's begin in reverse order, with the Seattle Seahawks at No. 25.
The selection: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Off the board: quarterbacks Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Andy Dalton; defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, Da'Quan Bowers, Cameron Jordan, Justin Houston, Muhammad Wilkerson, Corey Liuget and Adrian Clayborn; cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara and Jimmy Smith; outside linebackers Von Miller and Robert Quinn; receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones; and offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Mike Pouncey and Anthony Castonzo.
The thinking: This was a value selection all the way. Seattle has said it wants to trade down from the 25th spot, and that makes sense given how badly general manager John Schneider wants to add young prospects, and lots of them. We could not trade selections in this mock, however. The Seahawks would ideally use this selection for an offensive or defensive lineman if they weren't sold on Jake Locker or any of the other available quarterbacks. I didn't see any highly rated defensive linemen available at No. 25 in this mock (11 were off the board). Taking an offensive lineman still had some appeal, but with Russell Okung entrenched at left tackle and Max Unger projecting at center, Seattle would essentially be selecting a right tackle or guard if it went that route. That could make sense, but I figured Ingram would be the highest-rated player remaining. He would be the first running back off the board. The Seahawks' need for a running back is not immediate, but neither is the team set at the position. Marshawn Lynch is entering the final year of his contract. In 2000, the Seahawks used a first-round choice for Shaun Alexander just as Ricky Watters was entering the final year of his deal. The team sought to acquire a quarterback one year later, landing Matt Hasselbeck from Green Bay.
Odds of this happening: Slim. The Seahawks would be more likely trade back or select a lineman in this spot, in my view. I'm not convinced so many defensive linemen will be off the board at this point. I'm also curious to know how tempted Seattle might be to add a right tackle or guard at this point in the draft. The San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams have targeted bookend tackles in recent drafts.
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Jim Harbaugh was happy to get onto the practice field in a coaching capacity, even if 49ers players could not be there with him. Stanford fullback Owen Marecic: "You could see he was just excited to be coaching somebody again. don't think he's done this since we played in the Orange Bowl. This is how he always is. Very energetic, very excited about what he does. That's what makes him a great coach."
From Eric Branch: The 49ers extended an "olive branch" to quarterback Alex Smith before the lockout. Now, Smith must decide what he wants to do.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers general manager Trent Baalke wants Smith "in the mix" as the team puts together its roster of quarterbacks for the 2011 season.
Also from Maiocco: Running backs Shane Vereen and Roy Helu highlight the 49ers' local pro day.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News does not think the 49ers will select a quarterback with the seventh overall choice. Kawakami: "I think the 49ers will take LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukumara or North Carolina pass rusher Robert Quinn, or they will trade down. And they will get their hand-picked Harbaugh quarterback at a later point." That seems reasonable.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic has this to say about the Cardinals possibly selecting Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the fifth overall choice: "If Gabbert fails at the NFL level, it won't be because of a poor work ethic. By all reports, he's smart, loves the game and is willing to put in the time. But like Newton, he was antsy when pressured in college and wasn't always accurate. He doesn't have the college track record of Sam Bradford, the first pick in 2010. Gabbert has the tools to succeed, but it's a gamble taking him at No. 5. Look for the Cardinals to pass." I'll have more thoughts on Gabbert and the Cardinals during our weekly Draft Watch feature, which runs later Thursday. I tend to agree with Somers, but wonder if the team could truly pass on Gabbert if there wasn't another obvious selection to make with the fifth pick. As much as the Cardinals cannot afford to take undue risk at quarterback, there's also a point at which it's tough to risk not addressing the position sufficiently. A team cannot bank on picking first overall when a safer prospect is available.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says picking later than in recent seasons opens the Rams to much longer list of potential scenarios in the first round of the 2011 draft. General manager Billy Devaney: "We're going to take the same approach we've taken in years past: pick the best player available. And we're going to let our board drive us to that player, take us there. I'll bet you every scout, every coach, anybody that's looking at tape, I think the work is the same. Where it's different is the number of scenarios. When you're at two or three or top five, conventional wisdom says you only have to evaluate, or be ready for, five possible (players). Here, it's 14; it's a little bit different. And then you've got all the things that go with it: going up, going down, taking a player there." Sam Bradford arguably was not the best player available. Ndamukong Suh was better, I would say, but the Rams' need for a quarterback and the far greater value of the position made selecting Bradford the right choice.
Also from Thomas: a look at some of the local prospects attending a Rams pro day.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch does not envision the Rams selecting running back Mark Ingram in the first round. Burwell: "It’s hard to imagine that a team with so many other higher-priority needs would use the first-round pick on a running back, even one as talented as Ingram. With needs at wide receiver, linebacker and interior offensive line, it seems more likely that any Ingram conversation is a misdirection."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com sizes up offensive linemen in the 2011 draft.
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle offers thoughts on the Seahawks' schedule for 2011. Huard sees some positives, but also some drawbacks: "On the flip side are consecutive road games to begin the season and the second most frequent flyer miles (26,918) in the league, behind only San Francisco’s 29,196 miles. Going to Pittsburgh, to the Giants and then playing the Falcons at home in the first five weeks will be a daunting challenge before the bye week in early October. ... I wouldn’t trade places with Arizona or St. Louis and give back that playoff victory and NFC West crown of last season; however, the Hawks better find some impact starters in the upcoming draft, and hope they can start spending some of Paul Allen’s money on the free agents they will need to improve on the eight wins from season ago."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the San Francisco 49ers will meet with Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Maiocco: "Gabbert has already met with the teams holding the top four picks in the April 28 draft: Carolina, Denver, Buffalo and Cincinnati. The Arizona Cardinals, who hold the No. 5 selection, may also be in the market for a quarterback. Veteran David Carr is the only quarterback the 49ers have under contract for 2011. The 49ers own the No. 7 overall draft pick. Coach Jim Harbaugh also attended Gabbert's pro day on March 17."
Also from Maiocco: a look at some of the local prospects scheduled to visit the 49ers on Wednesday.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers are looking at bigger wide receivers.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Harbaugh has valued fullbacks as blockers, not as multidimensional players. Branch: "Harbaugh’s use of his fullback obviously could change in the NFL, but the way he used Owen Marecic and Jon Polk primarily as lead-blocking battering rams reflects a trend in the league. Last year, for example, Atlanta’s Jason Snelling was the only fullback with more than 25 receptions. In 2000, eight NFL fullbacks had more than 25 catches and five had at least 35. The 49ers will no doubt be looking for a fullback in the draft, if for no other reason than the 250-pound Moran Norris, who had seven touches in 2010, will turn 33 in June."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says Seahawks general manager John Schneider offers "cool, confident and quirky" leadership. Brewer: "Schneider will guide the franchise through a well-thought-out and solid process next week. And when he's finished, he'll make some self-deprecating jokes, tease Pete Carroll, crack on reporters and make it seem like he didn't do anything but entertain the masses. Don't let him fool you, though. He knows his stuff. His staff knows its stuff. All kidding aside, the Seahawks figure to do a trustworthy job in this awkward draft."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along Schneider's thoughts on the quarterback situation, noting that Seattle hopes to draft at least one quarterback every year. O'Neil: "That is not a formula followed recently in Seattle, though. In Tim Ruskell's five years as president, the Seahawks chose just two quarterbacks: David Greene of Georgia in 2005, and Mike Teel of Rutgers in 2009. Neither developed enough to ever appear in a regular-season game."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune joins Brian McIntyre for a Seahawks chat. McIntyre on Aaron Curry: "I'm not as down on Curry. Needs to make more splash plays (sacks, forced fumbles, INTs), but he did a lot of the grunt work last year, playing tackle and nose in dime and 'Bandit' packages, allowing teammates to make plays. Is signed through 2014. Most ($8M) of his base salary in 2011 and 2012 base salaries are guaranteed."
Doug Farrar of Sportspress Northwest says Schneider has settled into his role.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic will be watching to see how many 10 a.m. PT games the Cardinals get when the NFL announces dates and times for its 2011 regular-season schedule. Somers: "Under Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals have adjusted their travel schedule on East Coast trips. They usually leave on a Friday, giving them two days to acclimate to a possible time change. In 2008, the Super Bowl, they stayed in Washington D.C., the week between games against the Redskins and Jets. The Cardinals lost both of those games."
Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis sizes up draft needs and possibilities for NFC West teams. He sees Gabbert and Von Miller as first-round possibilities for Arizona. Softli: "John Skelton coming into his second season could be called upon to deliver in flashes but is not ready to compete at the level coach Ken Whisenhunt needs."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com introduces the Cardinals' latest video in their "All In" series. The video shows the Cardinals meeting with Blaine Gabbert and others at the combine.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com looks back at the team's inaugural season. Jim Zorn: "We only won two games that first year, but you would have thought we almost went to the playoffs. That’s how enthusiastic not only we were, but the fans were. Everybody was excited."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times lays out draft expectations for the Seahawks during his latest chat. O'Neil: "Well, if Seahawks are on the clock at No. 25 and Mark Ingram is still there, the Seahawks would have to look long and hard at that one, and it would be tough to justify passing up a young back with that power and that talent just because you have Marshawn Lynch signed for another year. Remember back in 2006 when a quarterback went tumbling down the draft order, and Green Bay -- with John Schneider in that front office -- didn't have a pronounced need at quarterback. But they took Aaron Rodgers. I think the evidence points to the fact that say all you want about drafting to fit the team, but if you've got a player who is seen as a significant value at an important position, they're going to draft him." O'Neil thinks Seattle is most likely to select a defensive end.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks the Seahawks should address their defensive line in the first round. Williams: "I would take Corey Liuget if he is on the board at No. 25 if I was Seattle. He will be an impact player, and with all the injuries they had along the defensive line last year, with Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant and Colin Cole missing a combineed 19 games, I think he makes some sense. Both Pete Carroll and John Schneider said getting more physical up front on both sides of the ball is the team's top priority."
John Clayton tells 710ESPN Seattle he thinks there's a good chance Matt Hasselbeck will not re-sign with the Seahawks. Clayton: "I'm not optimistic now. I'm starting to think that it may not happen. It seems like they did put a good effort in, but they didn't come to the right number. And now it's put the Seahawks in a position where I think what'll happen is, if free agency would start -- and we all don't know when -- I think they'll let him test the market. And that could be dangerous because he could go someplace else. But at this stage I'd say the odds are now slipping away that Matt's going to be here (in Seattle)."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch previews visits the Rams have set up with draft prospects. Thomas: "Heading the list of scheduled visitors is Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, but several other potential Rams selections at No. 14 overall are scheduled to visit Rams Park today and Wednesday. Among them are Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith, Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget, North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn and California defensive end Cameron Jordan. At least four scheduled visitors are running backs, a sign that the Rams may mean business this year in finding a bona fide backup to Steven Jackson."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com looks at receiver options for the Rams in the draft. Wagoner: "Should A.J. Green or Julio Jones somehow fall into the Rams’ range, though, they would both almost certainly draw serious consideration for the pick. More likely, should the Rams opt to land a pass catcher; it will have to come after the first round barring a trade down in the first round. There are some intriguing options after Green and Jones. Boise State’s Titus Young, Maryland’s Torrey Smith, Kentucky’ Randall Cobb and Indiana’s Tandon Doss figure to land somewhere in the second round or early in the third."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com revisits Gary Plummer's dismissal as the 49ers' radio color commentator. Maiocco: "Plummer certainly did not sugarcoat what he witnessed. There were two separate episodes last season in which Plummer's words on the broadcasts angered many in the organization. In games against Seattle and Philadelphia, Plummer stated flatly that receiver Michael Crabtree and guard Chilo Rachal should be benched. The organization, which controls the broadcasts on flagship station KNBR, does not deny there was friction over those isolated occurrences. But the man in charge of the move is adamant Plummer was not fired because he criticized the team. He says Plummer was given freedom to criticize as he saw fit."
Also from Maiocco: a look at how fans envision the first seven picks of the draft unfolding.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says ex-49ers quarterback Gio Carmazzi decline to participate in an ESPN piece looking at the six quarterbacks drafted ahead of Tom Brady in 2000. Barrows: "The second quarterback taken that year was Hofstra's Gio Carmazzi, who was selected by the 49ers in the third round. The 49ers were so jazzed about Carmazzi that one of the offensive coaches at the time -- I will spare him the embarrassment and not identify him -- stood up on a table during a draft meeting and passionately extolled Carmazzi's virtues. He was the 49ers' quarterback of the future, the heir to Joe Montana and Steve Young. Carmazzi, as any decade-long suffering 49ers fan knows too well, never threw a regular-season pass for the 49ers. (And if you saw his preseason passes, you know why). The Boston Herald, which had a sneak preview of the 50-minute feature, writes that 'Carmozzi (sic) is now a yoga-obsessed farmer who has five goats. He was the only one who did not agree to an interview.' "
Also from Barrows: Two running backs are scheduled to visit the 49ers.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Cam Newton's ability to lead comebacks at Auburn reminds him of Joe Montana's comeback efforts at Notre Dame.
Hall of Famer and current Seattle Seahawks radio analyst Warren Moon, who played for Seattle before the team's move back to the NFC West in 2002, is also on the guest list revealed Monday.
The NFLPA took criticism when news broke that it planned to discourage players from attending the draft itself, but these events have been scheduled to give players flexibility should they choose to attend both.
"The series of events is a celebration of legacy -- of past, present and future football players coming together to honor those making the journey from prospect to professional," the NFLPA said in a news release.
The NFLPA has scheduled a welcome meeting and dinner with families for 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, the first day of the draft, which begins at 8 p.m. ET. Draft prospects attending would then have time to appear at the draft, should they choose to do so, as both will be headquartered in New York.
The NFLPA has scheduled media access for Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, followed by a lunch and dinner with reception at 4:30 p.m. A fitness and skills clinic is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in Harlem, followed by lunch and a party beginning at 9 p.m.
NFL teams generally fly first-round choices to their facilities in the day or two following the first round. Rules will allow that to happen again, despite the lockout. Players heading to their new teams' facilities for news conferences could miss NFLPA-sponsored events for Friday and/or Saturday.
The initial guest list, subject to change, features the following current and former NFL players: Charlie Batch, Cornelius Bennett, Dwayne Bowe, Bradford, Ahmad Bradshaw, Craig, Zak DeOssie, Dickerson, Eddie George, Faulk, Felix Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Dustin Keller, Brandon Marshall, Kevin Mawae, Willie McGinest, Brian Mitchell, Moon, Morey, Shaun O'Hara, Ray Rice, Tony Richardson, Spikes and Mike Vrabel.
The list of draft prospects includes Prince Amukamara, Marvin Austin, Adrian Clayborn, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Blaine Gabbert, A.J. Green, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, Corey Liuget, Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson, Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, Daniel Thomas and J.J. Watt.