NFC West: Matt Kalil
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 But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome.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
It features three first-round draft choices.
The Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams own the worst lines in the division.
Theirs feature no first-rounders.
These things came to mind Friday when Dan Bickley asked about potential draft plans for the Cardinals in 2013. Our conversation on XTRA Sports 910 AM covered additional ground, and lots of it, including what Oregon coach Chip Kelly would bring to the NFL.
We generally wouldn't discuss draft prospects for a team with a 4-5 record, seven games remaining and a recent history of finishing strong. But with the Cardinals losing five in a row and turning to rookie seventh-round choice Nate Potter at left tackle, it's time.
NFL teams list seven rookie tackles as starters heading into Week 10. Five were first- or second-round choices. The other two are starting for the Cardinals: right tackle Bobby Massie (fourth round) and Potter.
The receiver rankings were particularly interesting this time.
The one San Francisco selected in the first round, A.J. Jenkins, had higher ratings from teams than analysts suggested in their mock drafts. The Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams also differed over how to rate Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, the player Arizona drafted with the 13th overall selection. Floyd was the second of 33 receivers drafted.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team had Floyd ranked seventh on its board of 120 players fitting team needs, regardless of position. Floyd was the team's second-rated receiver, presumably behind Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. Urban: "Most analysts had six 'elite' players at the top of the draft, and assuming the Cards had the same guys -- Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kalil and Morris Claiborne -- in the top six, then Floyd was the guy right after and the natural pick at No. 13 overall."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams had their second-round choice, Brian Quick, rated as the second-best receiver in the draft, behind Blackmon. Thomas: "When a Rams contingent hopped a private jet a week ago to work out five wide receivers, they were so enamored of Quick, they rated him as 1B of the five, right behind Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon at 1A. Next came Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, followed by Michael Floyd of Notre Dame and Kendall Wright of Baylor. Yes, the Rams had Quick and Jenkins rated ahead of Floyd. So in the case of their first two picks, the Rams must trust their talent evaluators and have faith that their coaches can get [first-round pick Michael] Brockers and Quick up to speed as quickly as possible."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' unorthodox approach to evaluating players has worked well enough to secure the benefit of the doubt. Brewer: "When you examine them closely, you realize they've made the right move more times than not. And so far, even their mistakes haven't been of the franchise-killing variety. Despite all the confusion and debate they inspire, this has been a trustworthy front office. ... Because they're so thorough and believe so fully in themselves, it's wise to couch skepticism or at least delay unleashing it until you see the plan in action. They're eccentric, not stupid. Recognize the difference."
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with new 49ers receiver Randy Moss, who arrived for the team's offseason program. Moss: "It was eye opening. Today was the first day, and we were moving so fast. Today felt like we'd been out here for a week or two."
Also from Inman: comments from 49ers general manager Trent Baalke regarding Moss and other 49ers subjects. Baalke: "We actually talked with Randy’s agent a year earlier and wanted to know if there’s any interest. When we reached out to him, the response was, 'Not interested. Done. Hanging the cleats up.' So we just let it go. Obviously Randy didn’t come back (in 2011) and sat out the year."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers had interest in Irvin, the player Seattle drafted 15th overall. Barrows: "Before the draft, I wrote that West Virginia's Bruce Irvin was a possibility to the 49ers in the first round. (You collectively scoffed). It turns out that notion only was ludicrous because the Seahawks chose Irvin 15 picks earlier. It also turns out that the 49ers flew an assistant cross country to work out Irvin a mere two days before the draft, according to CBS Sports.com."
There's more consensus with the 30th overall choice than with the sixth overall choice. All four have San Francisco selecting a guard. Three of the four point to Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler as the one.
I'll revisit these after the draft and hand out awards as warranted.
Todd McShay's most recent mock draft has the St. Louis Rams selecting USC tackle Matt Kalil with the sixth overall choice, one spot before Jacksonville selects receiver Justin Blackmon.
The change reflects recent rumblings suggesting Minnesota might not select Kalil with the third overall choice. It also reflects a lack of consensus after the first two overall choices.
I'll pass along a link to McShay's mock once it's available. In the meantime, the video atop this entry outlines his top 10 choices.
This version would remove Michael Floyd from consideration for Arizona at No. 13, perhaps allowing them to select offensive tackle Riley Reiff instead, should they value him enough to justify addressing a need at the position. Linebacker Luke Kuechly would be off the board before Seattle selected at No. 12, perhaps increasing the likelihood of the Seahawks using that choice to address their pass rush.
St. Louis, meanwhile, would emerge with Kalil and 2009 first-round choice Jason Smith as its projected starting tackles, with incumbent left tackle Rodger Saffold presumably moving to guard. The Rams would then consider receiver options in the second round.
The team needs a No. 1 wide receiver, a difference maker. Justin Blackmon could be the choice. But what if tackle Matt Kalil or even running back Trent Richardson were available? Cornerback Morris Claiborne?
"Kalil has to be the pick if he's there," Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. said during our final NFC West conversation Tuesday.
Sando: The Rams recently reworked Jason Smith's contract in a manner that makes him the projected starting right tackle. Left tackle Rodger Saffold could conceivably play guard if Kalil were the choice. But the need for a top wide receiver is arguably greater.
Muench: Last year, A.J. Green went fourth and Julio Jones went sixth. I don't think Justin Blackmon is as good as either of those guys. But he separates better than Michael Floyd, and is better after the catch as well. Six is a little early. You can't ignore positional value.
Sando: The Rams do hold the 33rd and 39th picks, so they've got options.
Muench: This offensive tackle class is not as deep as the wide receiver class. You can find receiver help atop the second round better than you can find tackle help. Let's say they take Blackmon at No. 6. Mike Adams might be there in the second round, but he has issues. He is one of those guys who is off and on.
Sando: Why do you feel so strongly about Kalil?
Muench: There have been a number of sources coming out who are down on Kalil, four or five people we have talked to. I'm not backing off. They question his leverage, his run blocking, his ability to roll his hips and generate power that way. But to me he is the best left tackle in this class, a Day 1 starter, and he is going to help someone a lot. Again, I like Justin Blackmon and understand they want to get a playmaker at wide receiver, but you can wait and still find a guy to help you there.
Sando: The assumption here is that St. Louis stays at No. 6. We'll have a better idea once we see which players are available when the Rams select. Having two top players available unexpectedly would give the Rams flexibility.
Muench: They're in a great spot. I don't see how it unfolds where they don't get a good player. Richardson is going to go before the Rams pick. It could come down to Kalil or Blackmon. Either way, they will get a guy who helps their team. If Tampa trades ahead of Cleveland to get Richardson, then Cleveland possibly takes Claiborne. Minnesota would take Kalil and the Rams wouldn't have to make the choice to take Blackmon. Tampa is in one of the more interesting positions. The worst-case for Tampa is Claiborne going to Minnesota and Richardson to Cleveland. Then they're the one in a jam near the top.
Kevin Seifert of the NFC North blog tried to trade the third overall choice in the first-round mock draft we conducted Monday.
There were no takers, leaving Seifert to select USC tackle Matt Kalil -- a decision that seemed wholly unsatisfying for him.
What would it mean for the St. Louis Rams, owners of the sixth overall choice, if the Vikings selected, say, cornerback Morris Claiborne over Kalil? Cleveland, with perennial Pro Bowl choice Joe Thomas at left tackle, would have no use for Kalil at No. 4. Tampa Bay, picking fifth, has 2010 Pro Bowl choice Donald Penn at left tackle.
Most scenarios for St. Louis assume Kalil (and Trent Richardson) would be unavailable to the Rams, leaving them to choose between Claiborne, Justin Blackmon or a defensive tackle at No. 6. Could they justify passing on Kalil?
"I don't think he gets past St. Louis at six," Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench said in the video atop this entry. "I know they've drafted tackles high, i.e. Jason Smith, and it hasn't worked out with his concussion issues, but you still need that franchise left tackle and, again, I think that position is so important that you can't just pass on it because you haven't had luck in recent years."
Muench called Kalil a "no-brainer" selection for the Vikings, but will Minnesota agree? And how would the Rams respond if presented with an unexpected choice? They recently worked out a streamlined contract with Smith, allowing him to return as the projected starting right tackle. Rodger Saffold returns as the likely starting left tackle, but he could conceivably move to another position on the line if the Rams found a better option at tackle.
I'll follow up with Muench for additional thoughts -- not just on this situation, but on draft-related subjects around the division. Back in a bit.
That’s when James Walker, our AFC East representative, put out the word: “I’m willing to make a trade back with Buffalo at No. 10.”
Before anyone could respond, AFC South representative Paul Kuharsky announced he’d swung a deal with Dan Graziano of the NFC East. The Jaguars had traded the seventh overall choice and a sixth-rounder to Philadelphia for the 15th, 88th and 153rd selections.
The Eagles took defensive tackle Fletcher Cox at No. 7.
“By the way,” I wrote in an email to the group, “Seattle would love to trade back from 12.”
Then came the word from Walker, sent only to me, the NFC West rep: “Don’t make your pick at No. 12 yet. I have an offer from New England coming. Working out the point chart. First, I have to figure out Buffalo’s pick at No. 10.”
A few seconds passed before the AFC West’s Bill Williamson, unaware Walker had already made contact regarding the 12th pick, reached out to me in another email.
“If Melvin Ingram is on the board at 12,” Williamson wrote, “I might have San Diego come up from 18.”
This was intriguing. Seattle’s actual leadership had swung a deal with San Diego for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst a couple of years ago, so trade talks for the 12th pick seemed realistic. But the Seahawks also have a working relationship with the Patriots, having traded Deion Branch to them not all that long ago.
“Sounds good,” I replied to Bill. “James might also make an offer here.”
The potential deal with Williamson and San Diego was fleeting. Walker executed a trade with himself, allowing the New York Jets to move into Buffalo’s spot at No. 10. The Jets took Ingram, the player Williamson had wanted for San Diego.
The fun was only beginning.
Our eight divisional bloggers made four trades involving the seventh, 10th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 27th, 31st and 32nd overall choices, plus later considerations.
Five of our first-round selections in this mock failed to appear in our previous one. Jerel Worthy, Kevin Zeitler, Chandler Jones, Shea McClellin and Coby Fleener pushed out Rueben Randle, Andre Branch, Peter Konz, Kendall Wright and Mike Adams.
Courtney Upshaw, Dontari Poe and Stephen Hill made double-digit drops from then to now. Michael Brockers, Cordy Glenn, Stephon Gilmore and Cox climbed at least eight spots since last time.
We drafted seven defensive ends/outside linebackers, six offensive linemen, five defensive backs, four defensive tackles, three receivers, three quarterbacks, two inside linebackers, one tight end and one running back.
Mostly, we had some fun with the process. Thanks for coming along.
ESPN.com's NFL bloggers went through one final mock draft leading up to Thursday's start of the NFL draft. Here is how #ESPNbloggermock played out.
Analysis: We're going to hit at least one of the AFC South's four picks here, so we thank the Colts for that. Luck draws raves from all corners and gives Indianapolis another quarterback who could set high standards for more than a dozen years, like the guy he's replacing did. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: A no-brainer for Washington, which traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to move into this spot to take the young man they believe will be their next franchise quarterback. Skins fans have already been wearing Griffin's name and face on T-shirts for weeks. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: I burned up the email lines trying to drum up interest for this pick, much as I imagine Vikings general manager Rick Spielman will do in the coming days and heading into Thursday night. But my colleagues were too smart for that, and I was more than happy to scoop up Kalil and presumably put quarterback Christian Ponder's mind at ease. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Not buying into the Browns' interest in wide receiver Justin Blackmon or quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Richardson is clearly the best offensive player in the draft outside of Luck and RG3. The Browns' struggling offense needs an identity, and Richardson can instantly give it a tough one. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: Once Richardson went off the board, this became an easy call. The Bucs need to add a top-notch cornerback because Ronde Barber is nearing the end of his career and Aqib Talib could face prison time or a suspension. Even if Talib is able to play this season, he's headed into the last year of his contract. The Bucs addressed the position they needed to most. They can get a running back early in the second or third round. (Pat Yasinskas)
Analysis: Blackmon has long been a popular projection for the Rams. I'm not convinced he'll be the choice or even the first receiver drafted, but there was also a fear of overthinking the situation. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Eagles fell in love with Cox and were convinced he wouldn't get past Carolina at No. 9. So after the Rams picked Blackmon, Philadelphia offered Jacksonville the No. 15 pick and the No. 88 pick (third round) for the Jaguars' overall No. 7. Jacksonville countered by asking for a fifth-round pick (No. 153) and offering a sixth (No. 176), and the Eagles said yes. They get the guy they wanted and still have their two second-rounders. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: There was speculation that Tannehill wouldn't make it to No. 8. The Dolphins do the right thing by not trading the farm to move up to No. 3. Miami gets its quarterback of the future to reunite with Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. (James Walker)
Analysis: Defensive tackle is a consideration, but Cox is the only sure-fire player at that spot. With him gone, the Panthers go with another low-risk player. Kuechly was exceptionally productive in college and is NFL-ready. He can contribute right away and that's something the Panthers want from this pick. (Pat Yasinskas)
Analysis: Buffalo didn't like its spot at No. 10, and the Jets are hot on Ingram. So the two division rivals worked out a trade. The Jets get the dominant pass-rusher Rex Ryan covets, while the Bills get additional picks in the third, fifth and sixth rounds (Nos. 77, 154, 187). (James Walker)
Analysis: The Chiefs take a sure thing and an instant starter who strengthens a good offense. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: The Patriots pull off a blockbuster trade with Seattle by giving up their two first-round picks (No. 27 and No. 31) for No. 12 overall and a fourth-rounder (No. 106). The Patriots, who were 31st against the pass, get the best safety in the draft. (James Walker)
Analysis: Floyd is arguably the most promising wide receiver in the draft. He would fit well in the Cardinals' offense while providing better value than the offensive tackles available at this point. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: They wanted Barron, and after the Pats made the bold move to trade up and take him at 12, the Cowboys looked into trading down. But they found no takers, so they took the highest defensive player on their board -- a versatile defensive lineman who deepens them at a key position and allows them to be flexible both with roster decisions and on-field alignments. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: I didn't get a great haul in the trade. But the Jaguars could consider Gilmore at No. 7 and get him at 15 while picking up a third-rounder and swapping a sixth-rounder for a fifth-rounder. Corner is not the biggest need after the acquisition of Aaron Ross, but no defensive end or receiver screams to be taken at No. 7 or 15. Trade details: Eagles sent 15, 88, 153 to Jaguars for 7, 176. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Buffalo is happy it moved down six spots and still landed its target in Reiff. Left tackle was a rotating door in Buffalo last season, and Reiff has the ability to be a Day 1 starter to protect Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side. Trade details: Jets sent 16, 77, 154 and 187 to Bills for 10. (James Walker)
Analysis: Things didn't go as planned in the first half of the draft for the Bengals, who watched guard David DeCastro, safety Mark Barron and cornerback Stephon Gilmore all get taken in the top 15. Defensive end isn't a major need for the Bengals, but it would be hard to resist taking a talent like Coples. Even though Coples has boom-or-bust potential, this is a pick based on best player available. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Chargers go for the best value on the board and take an impact defensive player. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: The Bears were forced to play their starting defensive ends, Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, on more than 80 percent of their plays last season. Depth, and a possible replacement for Idonije, was sorely needed. Mercilus seemed a better fit than Syracuse's Chandler Jones or Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Perry provides a combination of size and speed that should round out the Titans' top four defensive ends and solidifies the position for the foreseeable future. If he can get to the quarterback with some regularity as a rookie, Tennessee can make a nice jump on defense. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: The decision here came down to Glenn, wide receiver Kendall Wright or cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. You could argue wide receiver is the bigger need, but Glenn is the better prospect. After failing to get DeCastro at No. 17, the Bengals turn to Glenn to make an immediate impact at right or left guard. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: This was a tough call because the Browns need speed at wide receiver, and Wright and Hill are sitting there. But that's the reason the pick is Martin. There are so many more wide receiver prospects available than offensive tackles, so the Browns have a better chance of seeing a wide receiver fall to them early in the second round. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Lions' secondary was their weakest link in 2011, and starter Eric Wright signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during free agency. General manager Martin Mayhew isn't a need-based drafter, but the position is a high priority. I had hoped for Kirkpatrick's former teammate Mark Barron here, but he was long gone, and I didn't have the guts to take North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Could the Steelers have envisioned a better draft unfolding than this? Pittsburgh would've been happy with Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw or even Amini Silatolu. Instead, Poe falls into their laps. He becomes the heir apparent to Casey Hampton. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Broncos would have pounced on Poe, but Worthy is a highly valued player who fills a huge hole. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: The offensive line was a team strength a year ago, but gone are the right guard (Mike Brisiel) and the right tackle (Eric Winston). Houston loves Wisconsin players, and Zeitler will be ready to be plugged right in. We also thought hard about Bobby Massie and Rueben Randle. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Trading back was the plan all along. Jones has the length Seattle covets in its players on defense (think Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor, etc.). Jones also fills an obvious need for a pass-rushing defensive end. Trade details: Patriots sent 27 and 31 to Seattle for 12 and 106. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: There were a number of possibilities here, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers loves to develop wrinkles off his 3-4 base, and McClellin is said to be versatile. It's possible the Packers could trade down and still get him at the top of the second round. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: The Ravens are always looking for pass-rushers, and Upshaw gives them another tone-setter on defense. He replaces Jarret Johnson in Baltimore's base defense and plays opposite Terrell Suggs as an edge rusher in passing situations. Upshaw has drawn comparisons to LaMarr Woodley, so you know he's an AFC North type of player. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The 49ers face a long list of top quarterbacks this season. They lack glaring needs and should be able to find guard help later in the draft. Coby Fleener was a consideration, but the 49ers like their existing tight ends and could extend Delanie Walker's contract. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Seahawks need another tight end after losing John Carlson to the Vikings in free agency. Adding Jones at No. 27 gave them flexibility in this spot. Seattle entered draft week with 19 players from the Pac-12. Fleener would give them 20. Trade details: Patriots sent 27 and 31 to Seattle for 12 and 106. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Bills aren't done with a busy day of trading. Buffalo gets back in the first round by swapping a second-rounder and two fourth-rounders with the Giants. Hill is a big-play receiver to pair with Bills starter Steve Johnson. Hill averaged an astounding 29.3 yards per catch last season. Trade details: Giants trade 32 to Buffalo for 41, 105 and 124. (James Walker)
But would the team really trade up two spots in the 2012 NFL draft to select Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon with the fourth overall choice? I do not think that is likely, but a recent report caught my attention.
"Rams and Eagles among about four teams interested in trading up to No. 4 with Browns, sources say," a headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer said Friday.
The story itself says nothing about the Rams expressing a specific interest in acquiring that choice to select Blackmon or anyone else. It refers to public comments from Rams coach Jeff Fisher suggesting Cleveland could be one potential trading partner.
"At the NFL owners meetings last month, Fisher said he'd consider trading up with the Browns depending on what they wanted in return," the story said. "He didn't specify which player he'd trade up for, but the Rams are believed to have interest in Blackmon. Fisher re-iterated Friday that he'll trade up, down or stay where he is."
If the Rams absolutely had to have Blackmon or any one player in this draft, they could have held onto the No. 2 overall choice. Instead, they traded that pick to Washington with an eye toward building for the long term. They are in position to choose from a group that could include Blackmon, tackle Matt Kalil, cornerback Morris Claiborne, running back Trent Richardson and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, among others.
We've discussed whether Blackmon would be worthy of such an early choice and, earlier, how the 6-foot-1, 207-pound prospect compares physically to wideouts drafted among the top three selections.
I've noticed a differentiation in physical attributes and career success among receivers based upon standing within the first round.
The first chart shows wide receivers drafted among the top three overall choices since 1990. All were at least 6-3. They averaged 220 pounds. Five of the six have been selected to a Pro Bowl as a wide receiver (as opposed to a returner).
The second chart shows receivers drafted fourth through sixth overall, also since 1990. Half were at least 6-3. They averaged 205 pounds. Two are just getting started, making it premature to evaluate their careers. One of the other four, Torry Holt, earned Pro Bowl honors as a wide receiver.
The mocks are arranged by which players the St. Louis Rams were projected to select sixth overall. A couple other mocks fell from consideration because they projected trades, throwing off the comparisons.
A quick look at the player counts per team:
- St. Louis Rams: receiver Justin Blackmon 7, cornerback Morris Claiborne 3, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox 3, tackle Matt Kalil 1.
- Seattle Seahawks: linebacker Luke Kuechly 7, defensive end Quinton Coples 5, Cox 1, defensive end Nick Perry 1.
- Arizona Cardinals: outside linebacker Melvin Ingram 4, guard Cordy Glenn 3, receiver Michael Floyd 2, tackle Riley Reiff, 2, tackle Jonathan Martin 1, Blackmon 1, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw 1.
- San Francisco 49ers: guard Kevin Zeitler 4, receiver Stephen Hill 3, defensive tackle Dontari Poe 2, tight end Coby Fleener 1, receiver Kendall Wright 1, defensive lineman Chandler Jones 1, defensive lineman Jerel Worthy 1, Glenn 1.
Each selection has the potential to affect subsequent ones, a big factor for mock drafts featuring more than one participant. Our ESPN.com Blog Network mock featured eight participants. The others featured one apiece.
These 14 mocks singled out 19 players for the four NFC West teams. There were five offensive linemen, four defensive end/outside linebacker types, four bigger defensive linemen, four receivers, one linebacker and one cornerback.
Most of the picks filled obvious team needs.
Adam Snyder is out, having signed with Arizona. Chilo Rachal appears to be out, having reached free agency without the 49ers showing much interest in him. Daniel Kilgore remains, but he remains a developmental player entering his second NFL season.
What about swing tackle Alex Boone?
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers are expected to give Boone a shot at the job. Former NFL center LeCharles Bentley, who helps train Boone during the offseason, had this to say about the idea: "Honestly, in their scheme, guards are a dime a dozen. A good young offensive tackle is such a premium. It would be a waste of ability. .. But if he's one of the five best, yeah, get him on the field." Noted: The 49ers paid more than a dime for left guard Mike Iupati, a first-round choice in 2010, the year before Jim Harbaugh arrived as the 49ers' head coach. Boone could, in theory, remain a backup option at tackle even while playing guard. At 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, however, Boone looks like a tackle, not a guard. Bentley thinks the team should move right tackle Anthony Davis to guard, but there are no indications the 49ers plan to head in that direction.
Also from Maiocco: lists players scheduled to attend the 49ers' pro day for local prospects.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers have shown interest in tight end Andre Hardy, a college basketball player.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers made little apparent effort to keep safety Madieu Williams, who reached agreement on a contract with the Washington Redskins. Noted: The 49ers signed Williams last offseason while Dashon Goldson remained a free agent. They then signed Goldson to a one-year deal. They had less need for Williams as an insurance policy with the franchise tag restricting Goldson this offseason.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points during a recent chat to Jeff Fisher's history in suggesting the Rams probably will not select guard David DeCastro with the sixth overall choice. What if Matt Kalil were available? Thomas: "No. 6 is too high for DeCastro. Plus, I think it's been pretty well established that Fisher would rather not taken an offensive lineman in the first round. He didn't do it once in 16 full seasons with Houston/Tennessee. So it'll be very interesting if Kalil's there at No. 6, as was the case in the P-D's latest mock draft from last Sunday. Do the Rams take him or trade down?"
Also from Thomas: The Rams might need to draft a punter after watching Donnie Jones sign with the Houston Texans.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com shares what various mock drafts are projecting for Seattle in the first round this year. Luke Kuechly showed up four times and Quinton Coples twice. Nick Perry and Fletcher Cox each showed up once. Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com: "The Seahawks could go in a few directions at this spot, but Kuechly makes the most sense to me to QB Pete Carroll’s defense. As Carroll said to me last week, linebackers in free agency moved off the board slowly because there are some very interesting linebackers in the draft."
Also from Farnsworth: Ricardo Lockette's speed overshadows other parts of the receiver's game.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times has this to say about new Seahawks guard Deuce Lutui: "Lutui was signed to a one-year deal. That's not a long-term investment. Rather, it's an opportunity for Lutui to play his way back into position to earn a longer-term contract, going to a team coached by a man he's familiar with. For Seattle, the upside is that if Lutui is motivated and in shape, the Seahawks are getting a former second-round draft pick who started for five seasons at a bargain of a price."
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle passes along Adam Schefter's note about former 49ers and Saints nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin paying a free-agent visit to the Seahawks. Noted: Former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan works for the Seahawks now, giving Seattle a feel for Franklin.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has details on Adrian Wilson's cameo appearance on "Hawaii Five-O" Monday night. Wilson was a prison guard on the show. Urban: "The scene was shot while Wilson was in Hawaii recently, although his spot in the show was somewhat of a fluke. One of his publicists, Carrie Carnie, got to talking to one of the producers of the show on an airline flight. Turned out the producer was a fan of Wilson’s and the role was created. It's not exactly Wilson’s arena, though. While the actual scene was being shot, it was fun, he said. But mostly, 'there was a lot of time in between shots, just waiting around.' "
Also from Urban: Cardinals guard Chris Stewart put on hold his pursuit of a law degree to play in the NFL. Urban: "He got his bachelor’s degree in history and political science in just three years at Notre Dame, and after redshirting his freshman year on the football field, he ended up with two years of football eligibility left with every option open for classes. The first year he took grad school courses trying to find his life’s direction, including some law courses. The next year -- his senior year on the football field -- he decided to work out the logistics, take the LSAT, and enter Notre Dame’s law school."
They could benefit again if the Miami Dolphins traded into the third overall spot from No. 8 to ensure landing Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Rams, picking sixth and uninterested in a quarterback that early, would have one additional non-passer to consider if Tannehill joined Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III to make this the first 1-2-3 draft for QBs since 1999.
What are the chances?
The new wage scale for top draft choices has led some to suggest teams will be more interested in trading into the top few spots from lower in the first round. ESPN's Bill Polian advocated this position in his latest column . He sees the QB-needy Dolphins having little choice but to make a strong play for Tannehill, which could mean leaping past Cleveland, owner of the fourth overall choice, for that opportunity.
But the price for moving up would seem to rise for two reasons. One, Tannehill plays quarterback, the most valuable position, giving Minnesota, owner of the third pick at present, additional leverage. Two, the third overall choice is more affordable for the Vikings than it would have been in the past, giving them less incentive to trade out of the choice as a matter of general principle.
The Vikings would presumably select USC's Matt Kalil third if they remained in that spot. Cleveland, picking fourth, already has a franchise left tackle in Joe Thomas. But if Minnesota traded back to No. 8, the Vikings could forget about Kalil, perhaps settling instead on another tackle, Riley Reiff.
Tampa Bay holds the fifth pick and would not pass on Alabama running back Trent Richardson, in Polian's estimation.
In that scenario, the Rams could choose from Kalil, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, among others. They would have tougher choices, but also superior options.
Their division rivals did make up ground as the season progressed.
The 49ers outscored Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis by a combined seven points in rematches last season, down from a 58-point gap the first time around. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers in Week 14 while winning seven of their final nine games. Two weeks later, Seattle led San Francisco with three minutes remaining in an eventual two-point defeat.
The question this offseason was whether the 49ers' rivals could do enough to close the gap. That quest will continue with the draft, where the 49ers will be picking much later than the rest of the West.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. joined the conversation Tuesday with a look at what NFC West teams have done and the possibilities that await. We begin with the Cardinals.
Best move: Using the franchise tag for Calais Campbell was smart, but also an easy call once the sides failed to reach agreement on a long-term deal before free agency. Williamson: "After that, picking up William Gay was probably their best move. Not that he is great, but he does not embarrass himself, the coordinator is very familiar with him, he can start and he is a solid nickel. I would rather have Richard Marshall, but not by leaps and bounds. Both are low-end starters. Signing Gay stops the bleeding a little bit. It means you don't feel the need to take a corner super high in the draft."
Worst move: Failing to buy insurance at tackle stands out as the obvious one. Demetress Bell was one option, but Philadelphia signed him for what amounts to a one-year deal with an option for more. Levi Brown's return to a cap-friendlier deal made some sense without upgrading anything. Williamson took issue with the team's decision to sign guard/tackle Adam Snyder from San Francisco for a deal including a $5 million signing bonus. Williamson: "The worst move would be an inability to upgrade on the offensive line. I don't like Snyder at all. I watched him and thought, 'Man, he is awful.' I can live with him as maybe the sixth guy because he can play multiple positions, but even then, I'm not thrilled. And the Cardinals played against him twice a year. I'll bet their defensive linemen are rolling their eyes."
Williamson's ideal first-round scenario: "I don't love where they sit based on their needs. They are a good candidate to trade down, and without a second-round pick, that makes more sense for them. They would jump on Michael Floyd, but I think he goes in the top 10. He would fit given their need for a solid receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald, but it almost has to be offensive line. I don't love the tackles who are likely to be available in this spot. I would live with Riley Reiff, but he might not be there and he looks like just an average starting offensive tackle. They would be reaching on Mike Adams there. He can work out fine. David DeCastro would be great, but that is not really the need. They need tackles more than inside guys."
San Francisco 49ers
Best move: We could single out re-signing Carlos Rogers or franchising Dashon Goldson or even making sure Ahmad Brooks did not reach free agency. Or we could focus on the collective, as Williamson chose to do. Williamson: "I was extremely impressed in their ability to bring back the best defense in the league. They had guys who easily could have left in free agency. You would expect them to take a hit or two. Instead, the 49ers kept their guys. That was the home-run move of the Niners this offseason."
Worst move: We won't take issue with the 49ers' inability to land Peyton Manning. They tried, but in the end, they could not force Manning to make what arguably would have been the best football decision for him. While there was much to like about the 49ers' offseason, Williamson questioned Brandon Jacobs' signing: "I just don’t think he is all that good of a football player. He needs room to operate and isn't a very good receiver. I would rather use a third-round pick on back than sign Jacobs. He is not consistent. If you just watch his highlights, he's great. But he gets hit in the backfield, it takes him a while to get going and the Giants started using Ahmad Bradshaw, a much smaller back, more as the goal-line guy a lot of the time."
Williamson's ideal first-round scenario: "Addressing the offensive line, I think. They are another team that could trade up or down. I don't see a wonderful fit for them. The guard from Midwestern State, Amini Silatolu, might be a really nice player to plug in at right guard. I'll bet Jim Harbaugh is high on Coby Fleener and I would understand that. Delanie Walker is entering the final year of his contract. Fleener would be one more weapon to make Alex Smith's life easier. Maybe a Rueben Randle type of guy would work, too, but all of a sudden you can't keep all these receivers on the roster."
St. Louis Rams
Best move: Easy call here. The Rams got good value for the second overall choice, sending it to the Washington Redskins for the sixth and 39th choices this year, plus first-round selections in 2013 and 2014. They've got a veteran first-year head coach with the job security to use those selections over the next few seasons. With Sam Bradford already in place at quarterback, the Rams were not interested in taking Robert Griffin III second overall, so moving out of that spot made sense.
Worst move: While the draft choices acquired from Washington help for the long term, the Rams still haven't done much to improve the odds for Bradford in 2012. Williamson and I could not point to any one example of the Rams failing to add a specific player. The team did not have obvious options, in other words. Williamson: "They did not screw up in one instance, but collectively, not doing anything at tight end, receiver or running back beyond signing Steve Smith was not good. They will probably use some high picks in the draft on offense, but is that going to help this year? You have to get a guy or two to make Bradford's life a little easier. It wouldn't kill them to get a Jerricho Cotchery, a chain-moving veteran. But it is a deep receiver draft and they probably want to go young."
Williamson's ideal first-round scenario: "Matt Kalil will be gone, but I sit there and take Morris Claiborne, Justin Blackmon or Trent Richardson. I probably would take Claiborne first considering their needs, but he is probably not there. Blackmon would be my last choice because he is not as good as those other guys, but he certainly would address the biggest need. Richardson is the best prospect and has the Jeff Fisher mentality. He could be his Eddie George for years and years. I love where the Rams sit. I do not want them to trade back. They should not trade to No. 10 and lose one of those stud players. They need studs. They have so many picks in the coming years. They have to stay in the top six and get one of those three players I mentioned. There's a drop after that."
Best move: The Seahawks made a few good ones, from keeping Red Bryant to re-signing Marshawn Lynch before free agency. Adding quarterback Matt Flynn at a reasonable price (for a quarterback) stands above the others. Williamson: "I don't love Flynn, but I don't know how you can't commend a team when they get better at quarterback. They are not leaps and bounds better, but they are better and it's such an important position. Of all their moves, I cannot come up with an unimpressive one. Jason Jones will be a really good fit as well."
Worst move: The team did not improve its outside pass rush, watching Mario Williams and Kamerion Wimbley sign elsewhere. But Williams in particular was not a serious consideration. Williamson pointed to David Hawthorne's departure as potentially the worst move. Williamson: "Letting Hawthorne go was probably a mistake. They made a desperation signing with Barrett Ruud in the meantime because they need bodies. It is a position you can find in the draft and free agency. It's better than being light at tackle or wideout. Ruud is a very overrated player and I said it a year ago when he left Tampa. He is a decent tackler, but he is not physical, he lacks range and makes a lot of plays chasing guys eight yards downfield. He is a backup now, but people probably look at him as a starter. I just don't agree with that."
Williamson's ideal first-round scenario: They have to be looking at Luke Kuechly. He would be a leader of your defense and a great fit. They have to consider the rush end from USC, Nick Perry, if Pete Carroll likes him. He could be the next Chris Clemons and line up opposite him on passing downs for now. Carroll would know. You add Jason Jones with a hand on the ground at defensive tackle and Brandon Mebane or whoever next to him, and suddenly the front four can get after people. The draft will probably work out well for Seattle. Someone better than Perry will fall to them, whether it's David DeCastro, Kuechly, Michael Floyd or even Ryan Tannehill. I think they would jump on Ryan Tannehill if he is there at No. 12 and maybe even consider moving up to seven to get him. To me, he is a franchise quarterback and they do not have one on their roster, even though they got better at the position."
Not seeing many hands out there. Not seeing any hands, actually.
OK, let's try this again.
Raise your hand if you had the Seattle Seahawks selecting James Carpenter at No. 25.
Hmmm. Not seeing many hands out there. Not seeing any, actually.
Do not feel bad. Even if you knew which 32 players would become first-round picks in a given NFL draft, there would be more than 263 decillion possible combinations.
The number looks like this: 263,130,836,933,693,530,167,218,012,160,000,000.
With that in mind, our 2012 NFL Blog Network mock draft comes guaranteed not for accuracy but for its ability to promote conversation, a process that has already begun here on the NFC West blog.
"Kendall Wright pick makes no sense" CHI-TOWN-BULLS protested upon seeing the Baylor receiver projected for the49ers at No. 30.
More on that in a minute.
We penciled in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III at the top with a reasonable degree of confidence. Matt Kalil, Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon fell third through sixth. Most choices seemed logical, but somewhere among the top five or 10 selections, an NFL team breaks from projected form, tapping into those 263 decillion combinations.
Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars obliterated mock drafts by selecting Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick. Last year, four quarterbacks went among the top 12 choices, with Christian Ponder a surprise choice for Minnesota at No. 12.
My thinking for the NFC West was rather straightforward:
- Rams at No. 6: Blackmon was an easy choice. The team has an obvious need for a wide receiver. Blackmon is widely regarded as the highest-rated one in this draft class, to the point that some question whether he will be available to the Rams. Going in another direction for this mock would have represented over-thinking a simple situation. Sure, St. Louis could trade back or select a player at another position. Richardson or Claiborne would carry appeal if available. But when Blackmon was available, I turned in the imaginary card right away.
- Seahawks at No. 12. I wondered going into the mock whether Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly might be available for Seattle in this slot. Would the team take an inside linebacker that early? San Francisco fared well taking Patrick Willis with the 11th pick in 2007. Scot McCloughan, now a top Seahawks personnel executive, was the driving force behind the Willis decision. Would the Seahawks see Kuechly in a similar light? They do need help at linebacker, after all. The thought became a fleeting one when Kuechly went to Carolina at No. 9. That made it easier to focus on the highest-rated pass-rushers. Quinton Coples was the choice because he seemed to be the most talented one available, based on scouting reports.
- Cardinals at No. 13. This choice was tougher than the previous two. I went with Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, figuring he might fit the profile for a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the Cardinals' 3-4 scheme. He's on the shorter side at not quite 6-foot-2, and there is no clear consensus on whether Upshaw projects as an outside linebacker. The height factor seemed less important given that Arizona patterns its defensive scheme after the one Pittsburgh has used under Dick LeBeau. The Steelers' LaMarr Woodley (6-2) and James Harrison (6-0) get the job done. Could Upshaw enjoy situational success the way Smith did as a rookie for San Francisco last season? Receiver Michael Floyd was a consideration for Arizona. I thought the Cardinals needed improved quarterback play more than they needed improved receiver talent.
- 49ers at No. 30. Wright was the choice simply because he appeared to be the highest-rated receiver available, but the 49ers could easily go in another direction. Quite a few mock drafts have linked Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill to the 49ers, but he was not available to them in this mock, having gone 22nd to Cleveland. I was drafting more for position than for the specific player. The 49ers could use another cornerback. Perhaps Janoris Jenkins would have been a better value choice. He went 31st to New England in our mock. The 49ers could use a starting right guard, but they might already have one in Daniel Kilgore, a 2011 draft choice. Besides, how many first-round picks can one team use for offensive linemen? Current starters Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis were first-rounders. Ultimately, the 49ers are picking this late for a reason. They don't have as many clearly defined needs as less successful teams. They're in good position to keep an open mind.
I used ESPN's 2012 NFL Draft Machine to make selections and keep general track of which players remained available as the mock unfolded. Toggling between the overall list and specific position lists made it easier to balance value with need.
This conversation is to be continued.
The NFL's transformation into a pass-happy league has sent teams scrambling for ways to keep up defensively.
Perhaps that explains why defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebacker types dominated ESPN.com's first NFL Blog Network mock draft for 2012.
AFC West blogger Bill Williamson snapped up three of them for the division he covers. Six other defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebackers found homes elsewhere in the first round.
Offensive linemen (seven), defensive backs (five) and wide receivers (five) accounted for most of the remaining first-round selections.
In keeping with the pass-oriented theme, Alabama's Trent Richardson was the lone running back selected, landing in Cleveland with the fourth overall choice.
And, of course, we kicked off the mock with a couple of quarterbacks.
Analysis: They look at Luck and see a young guy who reminds them of the quarterback the franchise selected first overall in 1998. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Not much mystery here. The Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to get to this spot, from which they believe they're taking their next franchise quarterback. The only way they don't take Griffin here is if the Colts take him, in which case the Redskins will happily take Luck. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: The Vikings would love to trade down a few spots, presumably with a team that wants to draft Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But barring a deal, Kalil is the best player remaining on the board and the Vikings just so happen to need a long-term starter at left tackle. We're not buying (yet) any of general manager Rick Spielman's posturing about LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Not buying the speculation that the Browns will take Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill here. The Browns tipped their hand when coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert skipped Tannehill's pro day to watch Richardson, the draft's only elite running back who can be the centerpiece of Cleveland's offense. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Bucs could be considering Richardson and he's a possibility if he stays on the board. But Claiborne is the top cornerback in this draft. The Bucs need a long-term replacement for veteran Ronde Barber and could need a short-term replacement for Aqib Talib, who could face prison time or a league suspension. (Pat Yasinskas)
Analysis: The Rams are eager to find weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford. They had a tough time addressing that area during free agency despite an aggressive approach that led to deals with Cortland Finnegan, Scott Wells and others. The last time the Rams drafted a WR sixth overall, they landed Torry Holt. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: If he catches on quickly and can have an impact as a pass-rusher, Ingram can be the final piece for a very good defense. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Tannehill shot up the draft boards fast and may be a tad overrated at No. 8. But Miami needs a quarterback of the future in the worst way, and this is the best of what's left. Both Matt Moore and David Garrard have one year left on their contracts, leaving it open for Tannehill to take over in 2013. (James Walker)
Analysis: There's a common assumption the Panthers are locked in on getting a defensive tackle. That could end up happening. But they're open to all options and Kuechly might be the best player available. This team needs help anywhere it can add it on defense. (Pat Yasinskas)
Analysis: Going receiver here is the sexy pick. But getting an offensive tackle to protect QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side is the smart pick. Reiff received great coaching at Iowa, which has become Offensive Tackle U. He closes Buffalo's revolving door at left tackle for the foreseeable future. (James Walker)
Analysis: The Chiefs would be thrilled to see Poe on the board at 11. He is the best player available who fits their biggest need. Poe has a chance to be a dynamic player on a defense full of young talent. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: The Seahawks ranked fifth in takeaways, seventh in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed last season, but their pass rush was lacking. Coples would give them a badly needed pass-rusher opposite Chris Clemons, who had 11 of the team's 33 sacks during the 2011 season. Linebacker is another need position. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Cardinals could also use an offensive tackle and possibly another receiver. Michael Floyd was a consideration here. But in Upshaw, the team would be targeting a potential No. 1 pass-rusher, providing welcome support for promising youngsters Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield. The Cardinals have no second-round pick, and pass-rush help is at a premium. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: They were hoping Upshaw would fall to them, as he'd upgrade the pass rush instantly and could make Anthony Spencer expendable before long. But with Upshaw gone one pick before, the Cowboys stick with the national champs and take a safety to upgrade their biggest 2011 weakness: the secondary. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: Michael Brockers was tempting, but the pick here is Cox because he provides a pass rush from the interior of the defensive line right away and could be more NFL-ready than Brockers at this point. The Eagles are a win-now team that relies on its defensive line to pressure the passer, and Cox fits nicely into their interior line rotation. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: The Jets would like to go defense here under head coach Rex Ryan. But with Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw and safety Mark Barron both off the board, drafting Floyd is a good fallback option. Floyd has a chance to start from Day 1 opposite Santonio Holmes and gives quarterback Mark Sanchez a much-needed weapon. (James Walker)
Analysis: The Bengals need a starting right guard, and DeCastro is the best guard in the draft. Smart and fundamentally sound, DeCastro is one of the safest picks this year and would extend the Bengals' recent good fortune in the draft. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: Mercilus is the best pass-rusher on the board at No. 18 and the Chargers would be happy to take him. He could be a slight over-draft, but he has big league potential. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: Coach Lovie Smith expressed confidence last week in left tackle J'Marcus Webb, but rarely will you hear a coach say otherwise until he has an upgraded replacement. Webb was penalized 15 times last season and gave up 12 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Martin would provide an upgrade at a key position. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: They can go many different directions, but Kamerion Wimbley doesn't solve their pass-rush issues by himself, and Perry can help. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Cincinnati has done a great job in bolstering the depth at cornerback in free agency, signing Jason Allen and Adam Jones. But the Bengals, who eventually need to replace veteran Nate Clements, can't pass on the second-best cornerback falling into their laps. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Browns need speed and a deep threat. Look no further than Hill, who averaged 29.3 yards per catch last season (albeit 28 receptions) and ran faster than Baylor's Kendall Wright at the NFL combine. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: ESPN.com colleagues chose Gilmore in my absence based on an obvious need the Lions have at cornerback. Starter Eric Wright departed via free agency, and the Lions' pass defense collapsed in the second half of 2011. General manager Martin Mayhew doesn't draft for need, but Gilmore would address a big one. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Inside linebacker is a big need for the Steelers after they released James Farrior. Hightower excelled in Alabama's 3-4 defense and was the unquestioned leader on the nation's top defense. Seems like a perfect fit. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Broncos would gladly snag Brockers. Defensive tackle is, by far, their most pressing need, and the versatile Brockers is a good value at No. 25. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: Randle's size will make him a nice target for Matt Schaub and the Texans, and he brings a lot of upside to an offense that's already quite good. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: The Patriots need athleticism on defense and the ability to rush the passer from the outside. Branch can help replace the combined 20 sacks New England lost this offseason with the departures of DEs Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. (James Walker)
Analysis: In my absence, ESPN.com colleagues chose Konz, the draft's top center, knowing that veteran Jeff Saturday is likely a one-year bridge from departed starter Scott Wells. General manager Ted Thompson will almost certainly draft a center, but he might wait until a later round knowing he has 2012 insurance in Saturday. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: The Ravens have a history of top prospects falling to them in the first round. Their luck would continue with Glenn, an athletic and versatile blocker who would start immediately at left guard. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: Receiver was the team's obvious top need heading into free agency. Adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham bought some flexibility, but Moss represents a short-term investment. The 49ers could use another young receiver to grow with Alex Smith and, eventually, Colin Kaepernick. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Patriots were surprised such a top-end talent is available at No. 31. Sure, Jenkins comes with some character concerns. But New England's strong locker-room leadership will make sure it gets the best out of Jenkins, who has the physical ability to develop into a legit No. 1 corner. (James Walker)
Analysis: This was a tough call, because Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones just looks so much like a Giants pick. He's a super-athletic, high-upside pass-rusher from Tom Coughlin's alma mater. I mean, if Adams weren't on the board, this would have been a slam dunk. And the Giants still could go this way, or with Nebraska LB Lavonte David or Stanford TE Coby Fleener. But there's nothing wrong with Adams' upside potential, either. He becomes the Giants' starting right tackle right away, and if Will Beatty doesn't pan out, Adams has the ability to someday play on the left side. (Dan Graziano)