NFC West: Mike Pouncey

The trade sending Gabe Carimi from the Chicago Bears to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shines light on the 2011 draft for offensive linemen.

I've singled out the first round because that is where the Seattle Seahawks selected James Carpenter that year.

Carpenter started immediately, only to suffer a devastating knee injury during his rookie season. He returned to play in seven games last season, but the knee held him back. Carpenter lasted seven games. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee this offseason in another attempt to right the knee.

Coach Pete Carroll called the surgery a success and said Carpenter will compete for playing time this season. There are still question marks.

Imagine how different the NFC West might look if the Seahawks had used the 25th overall choice in the 2011 draft for Colin Kaepernick instead of Carpenter. Seattle needed a quarterback at the time. Kaepernick was available and would go to the San Francisco 49ers with the 36th overall choice.

It's 20-20 hindsight now, of course. Injuries have prevented Carpenter, Carimi and fellow 2011 first-round offensive lineman Derek Sherrod from contributing much. Sherrod suffered a broken leg during his rookie season and is still fighting his way back. Carimi appeared to be on a promising path before a knee injury ended his 2011 season. Carimi underwent multiple surgeries and hasn't been the same.

Seattle went into the 2011 draft wanting to rebuild its offensive line. Carpenter was supposed to become the team's right tackle opposite 2010 first-round choice Russell Okung. Carpenter will project to guard when he returns.
NFC West teams have loaded up on offensive linemen over the past several seasons.

They used first-round choices for Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, Jason Smith, Levi Brown, Russell Okung and James Carpenter since 2007.

Only the AFC North (eight) and NFC North (seven) have used as many first-round choices for offensive linemen over the same span.

It was a little concerning, then, to see only one NFC West player on Matt Williamson's list Insider of 15 offensive linemen with the brightest long-term futures. Iupati, entering his third season as the San Francisco 49ers' left guard, was sixth behind Jake Long, Tyron Smith, Joe Thomas, Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Pouncey.

"This is the season that Iupati will establish himself as one of the elite guards in the NFL," Williamson wrote. "A project coming out of college, Iupati has progressed well and is loaded with great tools for playing the position. He is huge, extremely powerful and nasty. Run blocking isn't a problem at all, and his pass protection has consistently improved. Iupati and Joe Staley quietly make up one of the best left sides of any offensive line in the NFL and should continue to improve going forward."

Staley, the 49ers' left tackle, earned Pro Bowl honors last season. Williamson gave Staley and Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung honorable mention outside the top 15. Williamson has previously been extremely high on Okung, but injuries have made it tougher to project Okung's fortunes for the longer term.

Williamson was projecting for the 2015 season. The seven NFC West linemen mentioned above should remain in their prime years at that time. A quick look at where each of them stands heading toward 2012 training camps:
  • Staley, 49ers: started all 16 regular-season games and two playoff games last season after missing 14 games over the previous two.
  • Iupati, 49ers: played all but four snaps last season and has started all 32 games.
  • Davis, 49ers: improved last season and should benefit some from increased familiarity with the offense.
  • Smith, Rams: Rams think he'll benefit from Paul Boudreau's coaching in what could be a make-or-break year for Smith.
  • Brown, Cardinals: improved late last season and must continue on that trajectory after receiving $7 million signing bonus.
  • Okung, Seahawks: talented and possesses a nasty temperament, but hasn't been able to stay on the field.
  • Carpenter, Seahawks: devastating knee injury threatens his 2012 season, while Breno Giacomini's emergence could relegate Carpenter to guard.
NFL teams rarely select offensive guards among the top overall choices in a given draft.

Mike Pouncey (15th 2011) and Mike Iupati (17th in 2010) were the only projected guards drafted among the top 17 overall selections in the last 10 drafts.

Before that, Steve Hutchinson was on a short list of highly drafted guards as the 17th player chosen in 2001.

So, how seriously would the Seahawks consider selecting a guard, David DeCastro, with the 12th overall choice this year?

Kevin Calabro, Jim Moore and I spent about 10 minutes Monday discussing that and other issues relating to the Seahawks on 710ESPN Seattle (audio here).

History says 12th overall is earlier than teams select guards, but I would not rule out the possibility.

The Seahawks did not value guards at a high level, in theory, when Mike Holmgren and Ted Thompson decided to select Hutchinson. But they obviously thought Hutchinson was good enough to warrant an exception. On a side note, current Seahawks general manager John Schneider was the Seahawks' player personnel director at the time.

Note: The chart shows guards drafted among the top-17 overall picks since 1995. Robert Gallery and other tackles have moved to guard during their NFL careers. The chart shows only those players drafted as guards. Damien Woody, chosen 17th overall by New England in 1999, was a candidate for inclusion. He was drafted as a center, however.
Twenty-one 2011 first-round draft picks have started at least one preseason game this summer.

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).

Highlights and interpretations from Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider's recent conversation with Sports Radio 950 KJR's Mitch Levy (thanks for the assist, by the way):
  • The team plans to find its starting left guard in free agency. Addressing the quarterback situation and the defensive line will also be high priorities. Schneider said the Seahawks have multiple quarterback plans. He said there was a 50-50 chance Charlie Whitehurst would go into training camp as the starter. That was his way of not answering a question that would be difficult to answer.
  • Tackle Nate Solder was the college offensive lineman Seattle rated highest. James Carpenter, the player Seattle drafted at No. 25, was second on Seattle's list. The team saw him as a guard/tackle that would project at right tackle for Seattle. The first four offensive linemen drafted: Tyron Smith (ninth to Dallas), Mike Pouncey (15th to Miami), Solder (17th to New England), Anthony Castonzo (22nd to Indianapolis) and Danny Watkins (23rd to Philadelphia). Did the Seahawks' reach for Carpenter? Time will tell, but they obviously had him rated higher than Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod, who went 29th and 32nd, respectively. No more offensive linemen were selected until the 46th pick.
  • The Seahawks thought Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Buffalo and Cleveland liked Carpenter enough to take him early. Those teams held picks between Nos. 26 and 34. The Browns traded back to No. 26 and then forward to No. 21, where the team took Phil Taylor. Seattle had an offer for the 25th pick from Pittsburgh and used the full time allotment before staying in the spot. Schneider: "When Cleveland moved back, there were questions regarding Phil Taylor's medical. Cleveland was the other team that was really high on James. When they traded back with Atlanta, I thought they were going to stay put (at No. 26) and take James."
  • Schneider said the Mushroom Group, a collection of old-school line coaches (is there any other kind?), loved Carpenter. There wasn't much buzz about Carpenter and Schneider said he tried to keep it that way by misleading a national reporter before the draft. The reporter had asked Schneider for surprise first-round selections along the lines of Tyson Alualu, the player Jacksonville picked 10th overall in 2010. Schneider said he thought about Carpenter, but provided another name to the reporter. The Seahawks loved Carpenter's toughness and versatility. Those qualities were at a premium after the team used 11 starting combinations on its line last season.
  • It sounded like Seattle was never serious about drafting a quarterback early. Schneider: "As much respect as we had for Andy Dalton and everything, it was hard to figure out where to take this guy (Carpenter) and finally I said, 'Let's take him here.' " More on Dalton later.
  • Seattle did not feel comfortable using choices for players with off-field concerns. Schneider applauded Baltimore for taking cornerback Jimmy Smith, noting that the Ravens' locker room had enough established veterans to handle the situation. He said the Seahawks weren't in position to make such a move at this stage.
  • Minnesota called the Seahawks about moving up into the 99th slot, where the Seahawks took linebacker K.J. Wright. Schneider: "We almost made a trade with Minnesota. They called. I wanted more picks. We hadn't addressed the defensive side of the ball ... and we decided to sit there and pick K.J. Minnesota called and they were like, 'You guys, that was our guy.' " The Vikings took defensive tackle Christian Ballard at No. 106.
  • Selecting receiver Kris Durham in the fourth round drew criticism from draft analysts. Schneider differentiated between those analysts and the real ones when answering a question on the matter. Schneider: "I'm pretty sure people in the league were on top of it. A lot of people had him, some in the third, some in the fourth, fifth round, right in that area."
  • The Seahawks will be targeting 6-8 players as undrafted free agents. The team considered all of them draftable. The list includes a safety, linebacker and quarterback.
  • Schneider joked about luring Trent Dilfer out of retirement to play quarterback. Dilfer, of course, criticized the Seahawks' draft, specifically the decision to pass over Dalton. Without that pointed criticism, I doubt Schneider would have mentioned Dalton in the above-referenced comment about taking Carpenter.

On Carpenter, the pick would look like a reach if Seattle had taken him just as the run on offensive linemen was ending. But with two more tackles coming off the board right after Seattle picked, it was clear the Seahawks had him rated high enough to take at No. 25.
A few notes upon looking back at the six 2011 NFL mock drafts discussed here last week:
  • Most had the right players in the right slots for most of the first six picks. Everything fell apart when the San Francisco 49ers selected Missouri's Aldon Smith at No. 7. Drafting a pass-rusher came as no shock. That it was Smith ran counter to expectations.
  • Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Mayock each had nine of the 32 players slotted correctly, regardless of which team wound up making the selections.
  • Rob Rang had 29 of the 32 first-round selections going in the correct round. He missed on Da'Quan Bowers, Akeem Ayers and Andy Dalton. Rang was the only one of the six to predict James Carpenter and Christian Ponder as first-round selections. He had Carpenter going to Pittsburgh and Ponder in the 28th slot (later acquired by New Orleans from New England).
  • All six mocks incorrectly thought Bowers would be a first-round selection. Five missed on Ayers and Aaron Williams.
  • All six mocks correctly had Mike Pouncey landing with the Miami Dolphins at No. 15.
  • Five of six mocks had Ryan Kerrigan going 16th overall. Kerrigan did go 16th, but only after the Washington Redskins acquired the pick from Jacksonville.
  • Kiper had Jake Locker going 12th, higher than anyone else projected. Locker went eighth.
  • Four teams drafted quarterbacks in the first round. All six mocks had Cam Newton going to Carolina. None of the six had quarterbacks going eighth to Tennessee or in the No. 10 slot, which Jacksonville acquired from Washington. Three of the six had quarterbacks going to Minnesota at No. 12. Kiper thought it would be Locker. Rang and the bloggers -- Kevin Seifert in this case -- thought it would be Dalton.

The first chart shows how many players the six mock drafts correctly saw as first-round picks, and how many went in the predicted slots within the first round.

The second chart shows which players appeared in the six first-round mocks, only to be selected in a later round. I've included their actual draft slots in parenthesis.

Kiper mock 5.0: Thoughts on Seahawks

April, 28, 2011
Mel Kiper's fifth mock draft Insider for 2011 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed.

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

25. Seattle Seahawks: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

Kiper's give: There is talk that Seattle would be happy to move off this pick, but if not, Dalton is a guy who makes a lot of sense. A darling of the draft process, Dalton has impressed with his accuracy, smarts, better-than-expected arm strength and the suspicion that he might be as ready or more than any other quarterback in the draft to step in and manage an NFL offense.

Sando's take: Kiper had gone with Jake Locker in this spot for his previous two mocks, but the University of Washington quarterback was not available this time. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey were Kiper's choices for Seattle in his first two mocks. Mallett doesn't fit the profile from a mobility standpoint. Coach Pete Carroll has always valued at least some movement from his quarterbacks to maximize the running game. Dalton isn't particularly mobile, but he's not a statue, either, and that is important. Overall, it's no upset from a need standpoint if Seattle does take a quarterback at No. 25. I do believe the team wants to move down in theory to add picks and get younger throughout its roster. It's just tough to make a projection without knowing how teams value quarterbacks in this draft. There is no consensus publicly, that's for sure. I tend to think value will pull the Seahawks away from the quarterbacks likely to be available here. We're more apt to see the team draft the best available lineman unless a player at another position -- cornerback, running back, etc. -- falls unexpectedly.
Mark from Sacramento wonders why Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy isn't rated higher among quarterback prospects based on his college career.

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 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.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic puts into perspective information about the Cardinals receiving trade inquiries regarding the fifth overall choice. General manager Rod Graves says the conversations have been nothing out of the ordinary. Graves: "There are going to be some excellent football players there in the top 10. Many of those guys will be deemed as franchise-type players. So there will be interest to get up in there, and I wouldn't be surprised that we will get more calls as we get closer to the draft and even on draft day."

Darren Urban of passes along thoughts from Cardinals personnel director Steve Keim regarding draft strategy. Keim: "There is a difference between ‘now’ and building an organization correctly the long-term way, and the only way to do it correctly long-term is to go in with the mindset of the best available. There are need-based thoughts to that process, but we can’t get consumed with the aspect of need. It’s something you fight every year. That’s just natural. But if you stay focused on long-term goals it keeps you safe."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch joins colleagues in explaining why Alabama receiver Julio Jones should appeal to the Rams. Burwell: "Jones is a play maker, fast, strong, amazing athleticism and an outstanding downfield blocker. He has everything it takes to be a No.1 receiver. But allow me to ponder what might happen with that No. 14 pick because Jones will not be there. Would the Rams be tempted to go with Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey or Boston College G/T Anthony Castonzo to tighten up the interior offensive line? Just throwing out other possibilities for draftniks to mull over." Ideally, any offensive lineman drafted 14th overall would project at tackle, a position the Rams have covered in recent drafts.

Nick Wagoner of assesses the Rams' cornerback situation heading into the draft. Wagoner: "As injuries and inconsistencies mounted in the nickel position last year, the Rams rifled through a number of options without ever truly settling on one. At various times, the Rams tried Kevin Dockery, Justin King, rookie Jerome Murphy and Quincy Butler in the nickel role. None ever staked a full claim to the job, leaving it as a potential question mark heading into next season. Of that group, 2010 third-round pick Murphy might have the most potential. Murphy proved to be unafraid of the moment in his opportunities last season and is just scratching the surface on his potential as a strong press corner."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers general manager Trent Baalke downplayed the team's ability to land a quarterback with experience in the West Coast offense. Also: "One more point about Jim Harbaugh's praise of Alex Smith, which has been interpreted by some as evidence that Harbaugh absolutely adores Smith. Harbaugh told me the other day that he's gone over every NFL snap that Smith has taken. And as we all know, there are more than a few uglies in that group. Harbaugh knows very well that Smith isn't the second coming of Joe Montana. His effusive words are calculated. Harbaugh not only has to convince Smith to return to a town that boos him at every incompletion. He also is trying to pump Smith up if indeed he is Harbaugh's starting quarterback on Sept. 11."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider offers thoughts on Harbaugh and what he'll need from the 49ers to succeed. Lynch: "Recently, I've talked to a few people who have spent time observing Harbaugh at Stanford and here's what they say. First, Harbaugh's greatest attributes are his ability to motivate and his reputation as a quarterback whisperer. Harbaugh believes he could coach an Oompa Loompa into spinning NFL-quality spirals, and that's why he wants Alex Smith to stay so badly. Harbaugh believes he can unleash Smith's first-pick talent. But interestingly, Harbaugh is not a great X's and O's man. In fact, Stanford really took off after Harbaugh hired Greg Roman on offense and Vic Fangio on defense. Offensively, Roman, now the 49ers offensive coordinator, was known as the brains of the operation with his use of motion and emphasis on the run. Roman also had the luxury of an extremely bright quarterback in Andrew Luck who sometimes called three plays in the huddle and then chose the best one at the line of scrimmage."

Jeff Dickerson of checks in with former Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell for thoughts on how Chicago's draft process has chanced since Ruskell and Bears general manager Jerry Angelo joined forces again. Ruskell: "A lot of the things I incorporated in Seattle are things Jerry and I worked on in Tampa and maybe he got away from. I've taken them and went further with them, and some of them are things we re-instituted, things Jerry is familiar with in terms of the draft boards. There are no earth-shattering changes, but we've talked, and the best of both worlds is what it's felt like. It's felt good to the scouts, it's felt good to the coaches in terms of the way we went about our business. Everyone got their say and the work was thorough. No matter how you get to that point, that's the goal."

The Almanac Online says Seahawks owner Paul Allen plans to discuss his new book Monday at the Computer History Museum in Menlo Park, Calif. The admission price -- $32 for one person and $40 for two -- includes a copy of the book.
Andrew from Hong Kong leads off the mailbag with a question about the San Francisco 49ers' potential interest in Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson. Andrew cites Johnson's connections to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in asking whether San Francisco and Tampa Bay could agree in principle to a trade before the draft, then execute the deal once the lockout ended.

Mike Sando: Teams could not enter into an official, binding trade agreement. No one would know if they had conversations about trades and wound up making those trades later. But nothing could be firm.

Johnson did play for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. We've routinely seen new head coaches pursue quarterbacks from their pasts. Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt brought in Brian St. Pierre, whom he had known in Pittsburgh. Mike Holmgren brought Matt Hasselbeck from Green Bay to Seattle. Steve Spagnuolo signed A.J. Feeley, a quarterback he knew from Philadelphia.

Johnson is entering the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay. The 49ers would presumably want to extend that contract if they were going to acquire Johnson in a trade of any consequence. They could not do that during a lockout, which would complicate any unofficial talks they had with Tampa Bay.

I've gone back through the Pro Football Weekly draft guides I keep around to re-read Nolan Nawrocki's assessment on Johnson coming out of the 2008 draft. The report lauded Johnson's intelligence, quick release, athleticism, improvisational ability, vision, work ethic, leadership, ability in the clutch and background in a pro-style offense.

The report raised concerns about the competition Johnson faced in college before concluding with, "Could take a few years to digest an NFL playbook, but could be very effective in a West Coast offense and develop into a dynamic starter. Has as much upside as any passer in the draft."

That is a glowing assessment and one that supports the thinking that Harbaugh could have interest.

Will from Bloomington, Ind., read the recent NFC West transcript and wondered whether Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey could be a sleeper consideration for the St. Louis Rams with the 14th overall choice in the 2011 draft.

Mike Sando: Wow, what a surprise selection that would be. Pouncey has played center and right guard. The Rams have their center in Jason Brown, but they could use a front-line starter at right guard. Pouncey would provide insurance at center and could even start there in the future.

These sorts of scenarios gain appeal when the quarterback is in place. Taking a quarterback was everything for the Rams a year ago. Now, they are in better position to pluck a player from any number of positions, based on value more than specific need.

Sure, they could use an outside receiver to open up their offense. They could use a change-of-pace running back. They need a defensive tackle and outside linebacker. A defensive end could make sense.

Addressing the offensive line at No. 14 might qualify as overkill after the team used the second and 33rd choices for linemen in recent drafts. I wouldn't do it unless I thought Pouncey were a Pro Bowl-caliber guard and a natural leader -- and the other options appeared much riskier.

Mick from Brooklyn, N.Y., wonders why we haven't heard more about the Seahawks possibly having interest in quarterback Ricky Stanzi. He sees a tall, smart, poised leader who has stepped up against better competition and wouldn't need a strong arm playing in a West Coast system.

Mike Sando: So much draft coverage focuses on the first round at the expense of players available later. Some have projected Stanzi as a third-round choice; Seattle does not own a selection in that round after sending its pick to San Diego in the Charlie Whitehurst deal.

With Whitehurst already in the No. 1 or No. 2 role pending Matt Hasselbeck's status, would Seattle be adding any clarity to the position given that Stanzi would be more of a developmental player?

There's also some uncertainty about how much Seattle will change its offense with Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable assuming leadership roles.

Those are a few potential reasons we haven't heard much linking Skanzi to Seattle more than to other teams.

Josh from Redding, Calif., wonders whether the Cardinals would use the fifth overall pick for A.J. Green or Patrick Peterson if they were available, both top quarterbacks were off the board and trading down were not a realistic option.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals have been pretty adamant about making sure their early draft choices fill needs. Texas A&M pass-rusher Von Miller would be a logical choice if he were available under that scenario. The perceived value and need would line up with that selection.

The Cardinals have invested heavily at receiver and hope to do so again by extending Larry Fitzgerald's deal. Selecting Green could throw off the balance, although the team did select Fitzgerald when Anquan Boldin was an emerging star. The team used a first-round selection for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2008, so it might be a little soon to select another one in the first round, particularly with needs elsewhere.
Mel Kiper's fourth mock draft Insider for 2011 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed.

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

25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

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

Sando's take: Kiper is sticking with Locker in this spot for his second mock in a row. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey were the choices previously. The Seahawks need a quarterback, no question. Long-time starter Matt Hasselbeck remains unsigned and it's unclear whether the team will bring him back. Selecting Locker would allow the Seahawks to say they addressed the position, but would they have found their next quarterback? They likely would not find out in 2011. It's tough taking a higher-risk, long-term quarterback project in the first round without having a veteran with the ability to win games in the interim. Would Locker fit the Seahawks' offense? It's safe to assume the Seahawks would make their offense fit Locker if they drafted him in the first round. We know coach Pete Carroll wants Seattle to become a hard-nosed running team. Perhaps Locker's athletic ability would help the Seahawks take fuller advantage of play-action fakes.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers moved up from the second round to snag a quarterback. Barrows: "My sense is that the 49ers - who have the 13th pick in the second round - would be willing to move up in that round, or even climb into the bottom of Round 1, to get the quarterback they desire. In previous years, when the 49ers were in rebuilding mode, they cherished every one of their picks. Now, however, there is a feeling that the overall roster is strong, especially if they use their No. 7 pick on a pass rusher like Von Miller or Robert Quinn or on a cornerback like Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara. Furthermore, general manager Trent Baalke already has shown he's willing to trade up to get his man. He did so last year in order to land Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis."

Also from Barrows: a potential setback in the 49ers' efforts to get a stadium built.

Matt Maiocco of addresses whether the 49ers could have a reason not to pursue a tampering case against the Eagles after learning that Andy Reid had been in contact with running back Brian Westbrook. Maiocco: "First, we don't know the 49ers are unwilling to pursue this matter. That's only speculation. But we might be onto something here. The 49ers are believed to be one of the teams interested in obtaining Eagles backup quarterback Kevin Kolb. So the 49ers might not want to create any acrimony between the two organizations. But, ultimately, it'll come down to which team offers the Eagles the best level of compensation for Kolb. And, of course, no trades can take place until the owners and players hammer out a new CBA. Teams are allowed to speak to each other during this time to gauge interest. I do not know if the 49ers and Eagles have spoken on this matter, but my guess is there has been some level of communication."

Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group checks in with Jerry Rice for thoughts on a potential lockout.

Clare Farnsworth of says instincts and production helped Lofa Tatupu earn a spot on the team's 35th anniversary squad. Chad Brown, Fredd Young and Rufus Porter were the other linebackers. Farnsworth on Tatupu: "His contributions have been across the board: 551 tackles in the regular season, including a career-high 123 in 2006; 66 tackles in the postseason, making him the franchise leader; 10 interceptions, including three in a 2007 game against the Philadelphia Eagles and two returned for touchdowns; 8.5 sacks, including four in his rookie season; 41 passes defensed; seven forced fumbles; three Pro Bowl selections, the most for a linebacker in club history."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald is everywhere these days, and his contract situation is what everyone is asking about. Somers: "Money won't be an obstacle for the Cardinals. Or at least it shouldn't be. Their payroll was near the lowest in the NFL in 2010, and management is smart enough to know that low-balling Fitz will alienate even avid fans. The biggest challenge will be opportunity. Like any elite receiver, Fitzgerald wants the ball. He won't complain publicly because he's sensitive about being labeled as a diva. And he has that right. Over the years, Fitzgerald has developed a work ethic that's hard to match. Last year, he was overthrown more than a Little League first baseman, yet never complained publicly."

Darren Urban of says Fitzgerald was speaking only about Tommie Harris and not his own situation when he said a change of scenery can help.

Nick Wagoner of passes along thoughts from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. regarding the Rams' draft plans. Kiper: "If the top two receivers are gone then they could look defensive tackle because that’s the value. Outside linebacker, I don’t see anybody that would fit what they are doing defensively there if you are looking for a traditional outside linebacker. Maybe an interior offensive lineman they could look at. It’s a little early maybe for (Florida OL Mike) Pouncey, who I don’t think is as good as his brother Maurkice. That’s early. I wouldn’t take Mike Pouncey ahead of where Maurkice went because I don’t think they are similar players. I think Maurkice was a much better prospect."

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis sounds unconvinced about the Rams' potential interest in former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress.
Mel Kiper's third mock draft Insider for 2011 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

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

25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Kiper's give: After a season widely considered disastrous in terms of his overall draft stock, I have Locker bouncing back some during the lead-up to the draft. He was impressive enough at the combine, proved that he's every bit the athlete that Cam Newton is (they ran identical times in the 40), has a big-time arm, and just needs to prove that his accuracy is something that will develop when he has time to throw. This isn't an endorsement of Locker as a guy who should step in and start for the Seahawks if Matt Hasselbeck isn't back in 2011, but even if Seattle makes a move for a short-term answer at quarterback, Locker could be hard to pass up if Pete Carroll thinks he's a solution for the long run.

Sando's take: Kiper had the Seahawks taking quarterback Ryan Mallett in his first mock and offensive lineman Mike Pouncey in his second. He's on the right track from a need standpoint. The big question here is whether concerns over Locker's accuracy will disqualify him from consideration in the first round. Every NFL system demands accuracy from its quarterback. Seattle's new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, has roots in a West Coast offense. West Coast offenses traditionally emphasize pinpoint throws. Re-signing Matt Hasselbeck could buy the Seahawks another year at the position. They could also address the position by trade. I'll have more on the subject in a piece later Thursday revisiting Kevin Kolb's viability in the NFC West.
Matt Maiocco of says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't the only NFL person taking a conservative approach at the combine. Maiocco: "These were different days at the scouting combine with the lockout looming. Typically, free agency is right around the corner. When all the team executives and agents gathered in one place, downtown Indianapolis turned into ground zero for tampering. Illegal free-agency deals were not always struck at the combine, but agents would know which teams were the serious players for the top free agents. This year, there was little of that going on, one agent said. Teams were ultra-cautious about discussing players who are set to become free agents. There will not be free agency this year until the owners and the union agree on a new collective bargaining agreement."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Texas A&M pass-rusher Von Miller might not be available when the 49ers select at No. 7 overall. Barrows: "Von Miller is turning heads at the combine the way that Aaron Curry did two years ago. Curry was picked fourth overall by the Seahawks in 2009 even though he wasn't known as a sack master. Miller is, which makes you figure he could go at least as high. Miller proved today the extra nine pounds he gained in February wouldn't slow him down. He's still fast -- he ran an official 4.51-second 40 -- and fluid enough to play all over the field. Another thing that scouts like about him: arm length. They measured 34 inches, which, to put it in perspective, is a half inch longer than Cal's Cameron Jordan, who is two inches taller and 40 pounds heavier."

Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News says former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci has the team selecting LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson first overall.

Clare Farnsworth of says the team has re-signed cornerback Kennard Cox, a contributor on special teams. Farnsworth: "Cox played in 11 games and his highlight play was blocking a punt in the Week 12 game against the Kansas City Chiefs that rookie Earl Thomas returned for a touchdown."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune points to offensive line and quarterback as areas the Seahawks could address in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. Williams: "Still a little early to pin down, but OL still is a glaring weakness, and I like Mike Pouncey because he can play both guard and center. And he will make an impact right away. But don't discount the fact they might take a QB there."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with former Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who had little choice but to move past the team's 16-6 defeat at Seattle in Week 17. Thomas: "Shurmur was part of a rebuilding process in St. Louis, helping the Rams crawl out of a 1-15 hole in 2009 to a 7-9 finish last season. He'll face a similar task in Cleveland, where the Browns have had only one winning season since 2002. In St. Louis, Shurmur played a major role in the development of quarterback Sam Bradford and spent tons of time with him over the past year. But things materialized so quickly with the Browns and have been so hectic since, that Shurmur never had a chance for much of a goodbye with Bradford."

ESPN's Adam Schefter says via ESPN Insider that the Cardinals quietly extended a restricted free-agent tender to wide receiver Steve Breaston. Breaston has played four seasons. He could qualify as an unrestricted free agent under a new labor deal, if and when one is reached. Breaston's totals for receptions have fallen from 77 to 55 to 47 over the past three seasons. He remains valuable to the team as a receiver and as a leader by example. The game-saving tackle and forced fumble he made at St. Louis in the 2010 regular-season opener symbolized that value. Knee problems stand as the only significant long-term concern for Breaston, whose role has changed since the team traded Anquan Boldin to Baltimore. Larry Fitzgerald's potential free agency following the 2011 season could heighten the importance of keeping Breaston.

Kiper mock 2.0: Thoughts on Seahawks

February, 16, 2011
Mel Kiper's second mock draft for 2011 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.

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

25. Seattle Seahawks: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida

Kiper's give: When Seattle was at its best, it was a running team built behind the left side of Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson. The Hawks addressed the tackle position in last year's draft, adding Russell Okung for the left tackle spot. Pouncey, who has good bloodlines and good smarts as an interior blocker, can help at either guard or center. Seattle needs better blocking after starting many different line combinations this past season, and Pouncey will shore it up.

Sando's take: Kiper had the Seahawks taking quarterback Ryan Mallett in his previous mock draft. Mallett fell out of the first round entirely in Kiper's updated mock. It's tough to argue against building along the offensive line. Seattle has funneled resources toward its line, with underwhelming results. Chris Spencer was a first-round pick in 2005. He might not be back. Max Unger was a second-rounder in 2009. He's coming off a season-ending toe injury and could replace Spencer at center. Mike Wahle was a moderately priced signing in free agency a few years ago, but he could not hold up physically. Drafting Okung a year ago was a very good start in the rebuilding process. Adding Pouncey to the mix would help upgrade the ground game.