NFC West: Riley Reiff
RENTON, Wash. -- Where NFC West teams still have needs heading into the final four rounds of the 2012 NFL draft:
- Arizona Cardinals: offensive tackle. The team chose receiver Michael Floyd over tackle Riley Reiff in the first round. That was understandable, but without a second-round choice, the Cardinals weren't going to find a starting tackle in this draft, most likely. Taking cornerback Jamell Fleming in the third round drove home that reality.
- St. Louis Rams: outside linebacker. Other teams in the division have found starters after the first couple of rounds. Seattle did it with K.J. Wright in the fourth round last year. Previously, San Francisco found NaVorro Bowman in the third. The Rams have the first pick of the fourth round Saturday. Perhaps there's a linebacker worth taking there.
- San Francisco 49ers: guard. The 49ers traded back from the third round into the early fourth. Finding an interior offensive lineman isn't a huge priority at this point. Only seven linemen are active on game days, anyway. But if the 49ers saw one good enough to push Daniel Kilgore and Alex Boone for the starting job at right guard, that could be a consideration.
- Seattle Seahawks: tight end. The team lost John Carlson in free agency and decided against signing 32-year-old Visanthe Shiancoe before the draft. Shiancoe could still be a fallback, presumably, but with only three tight ends off the board in the first three rounds, that could be a position to consider.
Should be another fun day. I'm set up and ready to go. The video above does feature some NFC West talk. Jon Gruden's thoughts on Russell Wilson were interesting. Gruden likes the new Seattle quarterback's potential.
Using a third-round choice for Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming, chosen 80th overall Friday, showed the Cardinals weren't going to reach for help at tackle.
The team liked its depth at corner and felt as though four of its players at the position could start: Patrick Peterson, A.J. Jefferson, William Gay and Greg Toler. But with Toler coming off knee surgery and valuable veteran Richard Marshall having left in free agency, necessitating the move to sign Gay, the Cardinals had room for another young prospect at the position.
Coordinator Ray Horton expects his corners to support against the run. Scouts Inc. gave the 5-foot-10, 206-pound Fleming high marks in that area. Others weren't as convinced.
As for the need at tackle, consider that Kansas City selected Oklahoma's Donald Stephenson with the 74th choice, the first pure tackle selected since Cleveland chose Mitchell Schwartz with the 37th pick. The Cardinals aren't the only team avoiding tackles in this range of the draft, in other words. Arizona's next pick is 112th overall.
RENTON, Wash. -- There were no bold strikes up the draft board for NFC West teams Thursday night.
There was resignation among those hoping the St. Louis Rams would emerge with a No. 1 wide receiver for quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams traded down instead, taking LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers after wideouts Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd vanished from the talent pool right before St. Louis picked.
There was the expected in Arizona, where the Cardinals went with Floyd over tackle Riley Reiff, no slam dunk but a widely projected scenario in recent weeks.
There was waiting in San Francisco, where the 49ers did not pick until No. 30, where they selected Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins shortly after two top guards landed elsewhere.
And then there was utter shock in Seattle, where the Seahawks used the 15th overall choice for a player with more time logged in jail than in the mainstream media mock drafts circulating recently.
The Seahawks could have had pass-rushers Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram or Chandler Jones, but instead they went with West Virginia's Bruce Irvin, a former junior-college transfer with a rough past, a sensational first step and a history with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who once recruited him to USC.
Irvin is not Charles Haley, Chris Doleman, Derrick Thomas or Dwight Freeney. He is not even Von Miller or Jevon Kearse. The Seahawks think he'll become that type of player quickly, however, and they are not shy about leaving that impression. It's an upset if Irvin fails to reach double digits in sacks this season, to hear the Seahawks speak of him.
"This guy comes off the ball like Dwight Freeney and Von Miller and Jevon Kearse," general manager John Schneider said.
Irvin is not for everyone. At 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds, he's a pure pass-rusher, not a player with the strength to anchor against the run on early downs. Irvin represents what Carroll wants for the "Leo" role manned capably by Chris Clemons in recent years. Irvin will play immediately as a situational pass-rusher. The plan will be to groom him as Clemons' successor eventually.
"He is exactly the makeup that you are looking for," Carroll said. "This goes all the way back to Charles Haley and Chris Doleman and Derrick Thomas. That is the kind of effect this guy has a chance to have. He has a lot to learn. He is going to have to grow up with us and learn our system. But the makeup of this player is so rare. He looks like a carbon copy of Von Miller rushing the passer."
Seattle spent big to retain run-stuffing defensive end Red Bryant in free agency. The money Bryant commanded means he'll be on the field for early downs. And with Clemons coming off an 11-sack season, that meant the Seahawks weren't looking for an every-down defensive end. They were looking for a player with a unique set of skills, and Irvin fits on that front. His 6.7-second time in the three-cone drill was the fastest for any player at the scouting combine.
"This position is so rare to find a guy that runs this fast," Carroll said.
Irvin follows a pattern in Seattle. Bryant is much bigger than the typical defensive end. Brandon Browner (6-4) and Richard Sherman (6-3) are taller than the typical cornerback. Kam Chancellor is the biggest strong safety in the league. Earl Thomas might be the NFL's fastest free safety. Linebacker K.J. Wright stands 6-4 and is rangier than most.
Now comes Irvin, who played wide receiver in high school before flunking out as a junior. Irvin was living on the streets for two years, at one point keeping his possessions in a bag. He spent a couple weeks in jail after allegedly robbing a drug dealer. Irvin pulled himself together, earned his GED and landed, eventually, on the football team at Mount San Antonio College.
"I went through a lot of stuff in my life," Irvin said. "I've seen a lot. The average person would not be on this call."
Nothing came of a more recent arrest for destruction of property.
A year ago, the Seahawks shocked draft analysts by selecting tackle James Carpenter with the 25th overall choice. Carpenter hadn't appeared in many first-round mock drafts, but the Seahawks weren't the only team with a first-round grade on him. Pittsburgh and Green Bay also liked him. An injury derailed Carpenter last season, making it tough to evaluate that choice. The Irvin selection was similar in that virtually no one projected the move.
So far, though, Carroll has usually been right when targeting specific defensive players for specific roles. And there is precedent within the division for surprise first-round selections making an immediate impact.
The 49ers selected Aldon Smith seventh overall last year when few projected the Missouri pass-rusher to San Francisco. Smith, unlike Irvin, was widely considered a top-15 prospect by analysts. Smith finished his rookie season with 14 sacks, finishing behind only Miller in defensive-rookie-of-the-year balloting, even though conventional wisdom suggested Smith would need time to develop.
Smith succeeded right away largely because the 49ers used him properly, asking him to do the one thing he could do best: rush the passer.
The bar has been set high for Irvin.
"I'm just a great athlete," Irvin said. "I'm going to do great things for this organization. The sky is the limit for me."
Both teams have needs at offensive tackle and wide receiver.
But with the Bills using the 10th choice for cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the Cardinals' pick approached with tackle Riley Reiff and receiver Michael Floyd both available. Kansas City (11th) and Seattle (12th) stand between Arizona and having a shot at those players.
Tackle is the bigger need for Arizona, in my view. How will the Cardinals value Reiff against the other available players?
Also: With linebacker Luke Kuechly going to Carolina at No. 9, the Seahawks appear more likely to address linebacker later than No. 12.
By the time the chat ended, word had come that no such talks had taken place.
Just another NFC West chat, this one was not. Let's hit some highlights:
Birdman from Arizona thinks the Cardinals could use a first-round choice for a cornerback. He calls into question the team's quality depth at that position and says Stephon Gilmore or Dre Kirkpatrick would be the choice if tackle Riley Reiff were not available.
Mike Sando: That would be purely a value pick, Birdman. The Cardinals like their corner situation. They think they have four starting corners (Patrick Peterson, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson and William Gay). They also have Michael Adams, who has played a lot in sub packages. Corner is not really a big priority position for the Cardinals right now. I think we saw that in the value decision they made on Marshall. So, if they take a corner that early, it's because the value screamed at them, not because the need was primary.
Kyle from St. Louis asks whether the Rams appear likely to trade back from the sixth overall pick.
Mike Sando: My general feel is that the Rams have moved back enough in the first round, and now they need to maximize the value of the pick (unless someone makes a crazy offer). Right now, the Rams have the best of both worlds: a pick high enough to get the top-rated player at a position, but also additional picks (this year and in the future).
Gus from Seattle asks about the Seahawks possibly drafting a "touchdown maker" instead of a pass-rusher in the first round. "Does any part of you think they are playing possum and may jump on a Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright or Doug Martin instead?" he asks.
Mike Sando: Yeah, I could see them going in that direction. Mostly, I think they would like to trade back and then take what falls to them. We should account in our minds for the fact that Jason Jones' addition in free agency was seen by the team as a move to upgrade the pass rush. They could also get Dexter Davis back, with some thought he could help their pass-rush. So I would not lock in a pass-rusher as the pick in the first round. It would make a lot of sense, however.
Chex Norris from San Diego asks whether the 49ers would select Kendall Wright or Stephen Hill at No. 30 if other prospects, notably Kevin Zeitler and Janoris Jenkins, were not available.
Mike Sando: Wright was the projection to the 49ers at No. 30 in our initial Blogger Mock Draft. Hill might be the better fit from a physical standpoint. I might lean toward Wright on overall value, but Hill as the more likely fit because of his physical dimensions. Maybe they could move back a couple spots if faced with that dilemma? Thinking out loud here.
We're down to the final few hours before the draft. I'll be heading over to Seattle Seahawks headquarters and getting set up over there in the not-too-distant future.
We discussed the San Francisco 49ers' projection at No. 30 (Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler was the choice).
The Arizona Cardinals, picking 13th, are next up.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Kiper's give: They could really use an offensive tackle, but Ingram is a steal in this spot. (Seattle could certainly be in play for him.) While we can quibble with short arms and a lack of height, Ingram is a disruptive pass-rusher with an arsenal of moves, and doesn't get engulfed by bigger tackles the way you'd worry he might. Arizona won't pass on a guy many consider the best sack artist in the draft.
Sando's take: Giving defensive coordinator Ray Horton another pass-rushing weapon to go with young linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield could help the Cardinals sustain the defensive momentum they generated late last season. The Cardinals finished the 2011 season with good sack numbers, but they have lacked a single dominant pass-rushing force. Ingram has the potential to line up in multiple places, including outside linebacker. The value would seem to be better with Ingram than with offensive tackle Riley Reiff, who Kiper has falling to San Diego at No. 18. A dynamic pass-rusher carries much greater potential for impact than even the best right tackles. It would be tough to argue with the Cardinals' thinking if they selected Ingram.
Any team with Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver would seem to be set at the position, or close to it.
But as Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. explained when we discussed receivers Tuesday, there's a reason Mario Manningham made the key reception for the New York Giants against New England in the most recent Super Bowl.
"They talked about Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl saying, 'Give them Manningham,' and then Manningham makes that crazy catch," Muench said. "That was because they didn't want Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to beat them."
The concept, explored further in the "First Take" video above, could justify any decision Arizona might make to select a wide receiver, most likely Michael Floyd, with the 13th overall choice in the draft Thursday.
A few more thoughts on the Cardinals' options, lifted from my conversation with Muench ...
Sando: You like where the 49ers stand in this draft. What about Arizona?
Muench: The Cardinals are not in a bad spot. They are going to get Michael Floyd or Riley Reiff, the way I see it. And really, I don't think you are upset about either one of those picks. To me, it's Buffalo and Arizona. What Buffalo does, Arizona will take the other player. Buffalo needs a tackle and would like to get a playmaking wide receiver. The same for Arizona.
Sando: I've felt as though improved quarterback play would be the key to maximizing the Cardinals' existing weapons. That might be the case, but your point on Manningham and the Giants resonated, too.
Muench: Kansas City tried to get Jonathan Baldwin to play next to Dwayne Bowe. San Diego had some success with Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson. It's what those guys make defenses do in coverage and also to defend the run. When you have two guys on the outside, it's tough.
Sando: Arizona used third-round choices for Andre Roberts and Early Doucet. Without a second-round choice this year, those are the types of receivers that might be available to them if Reiff is the choice in the first round.
Muench: The Cardinals haven't had that guy to draw attention away from Fitzgerald. Steve Breaston was a good complimentary receiver, a good sub-package receiver, but he was not going to force a coordinator to make a tough decision. Floyd could do that.
Sando: OK, then, let's say your theory plays out, but the Bills take Floyd.
Muench: Riley Reiff would start at right tackle from day one. I don't think he's a left tackle, but some of Matt Kalil's weaknesses are Reiff's strengths. He is a tough, hard-nosed guy -- not the most athletic, but he finds a way to get it done and is tough in the run game. Sort of like the Jon Runyans of the NFL. He immediately makes you better and starts for years.
Sando: Best-case scenario, then, which player would the Cardinals get at No. 13?
Muench: With no second-rounder, from a roster standpoint you would almost rather them get Reiff because it's a deeper receiver class and you could find some guys in the third round to come in and contribute, like a Brian Quick from Appalachian State. He has a lot to work on, but if he realizes his potential, he's going to be a starter on the outside.
Another season with that record would feel like stagnation.
That is one reason the Seahawks would be best off, at least in theory, using their early draft choices for immediate contributors. Selecting a quarterback in the first round Thursday would qualify as more of a long-term move -- and perhaps as a redundant one, given Matt Flynn's addition through free agency.
Art Thiel of Sports Press Northwest says there's no way the Seahawks should select Ryan Tannehill in the first round. Thiel: "Carroll had so many good quarterbacks at USC that he tends to see the world behind center in Trojan colors. But as has been pointed out to him numerous times, relative to their respective empires, the Seahawks aren’t the Trojans. Tannehill isn’t the next Matt Leinart. Actually, maybe he is, which is even worse." Noted: Carroll and general manager John Schneider continue to speak glowingly of Tannehill. The team could be interested in Tannehill and/or trading back in the draft with a team eager to land him.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com has this to say about the team's needs: "An edge pass-rusher is high on Carroll's list, but he’d also like to add to competitive aspect of the roster by adding a touchdown-maker on offense, a young quarterback and depth and unique qualities at linebacker. Carroll said he’s even open to adding to the already large pile on the offensive line and the talented collection in the secondary, if the right player is there."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times likes what he sees from Carroll and Schneider. Carroll on going young: "One of my favorite coaches ever, Bud Grant, said one time, 'For every young guy you start, you lose a game.' That was classic, traditional thinking. I was of that mindset in classic fashion until I had to be in charge of calling all the shots, and then it just flipped in me that we don't know where we're going unless we find these guys out."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along notes from the Seahawks' pre-draft news conference Monday, including this one: "Barrett Ruud, Seattle's projected starting middle linebacker, is not healthy. Carroll said he’s still recovering from groin, knee and shoulder injuries that landed him on the injured reserve while he was with Tennessee last year." Noted: Seattle will presumably find a starting linebacker in the draft. Ruud is veteran insurance, but not a player to count on at this stage.
Draft analyst Rob Rang considers wide receivers and running backs Seattle could consider, one per round in the upcoming draft.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams ran top receivers Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright through last-minute pre-draft workouts. Thomas: "A six-person Rams contingent traveled from site to site via private jet, a contingent that included coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Les Snead, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Kevin Demoff, the Rams' executive vice president for football operations, joined the others for the Blackmon workout."
Also from Thomas: Gil Brandt thinks the Rams strongly need to consider selecting Blackmon. Thomas: "Former Rams general manager Billy Devaney was known to say that you could always find a receiver. Thus, it is not a surprise that the team has not used any of its 14 first-round picks since 2000 on the position. The only second-round receiver was Donnie Avery. Instead, the Rams have hoped that lesser-known names would produce. Since drafting Holt they have picked 13 receivers, who have averaged 1 1/2 years with the team each and produced a combined 450 catches, 5,420 yards and 26 touchdowns."
More from Thomas: The Rams need help at linebacker. Thomas: "There are some legitimate options for the Rams in rounds 2-4, including Mychal Kendricks of California and Sean Spence of Miami, who paid pre-draft visits to Rams Park. Kendricks was named Pacific-12 Conference defensive player of the year last season after racking up 107 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions. Under defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, Cal ran a complex scheme, and Kendricks was used in a variety of ways -- playing inside, outside and used as a blitzer. (He had 8.5 sacks in 2010.)"
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic asks whether the Cardinals would select receiver Floyd even if offensive tackle Riley Reiff were available to them with the 13th overall choice.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Floyd-Reiff dilemma is a tough one. Somers: "And depending upon the day, I've taken both players. I guess I have myself covered. My thinking today is that the Cardinals will take Reiff, figuring that they are good enough at receiver with Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet and whomever emerges from the rest of the pack. They haven't taken an offensive lineman above the fifth round since 2007, so it's time."
Also from Somers: The Cardinals have become more apt to trade draft choices since Ken Whisenhunt succeeded Dennis Green as head coach, with mixed results. Somers: "Green, who coached the team from 2004-06, preferred to stay rooted in the team's original draft slot. His mantra was to never fall in love with players. But since 2007, coincidentally the year Ken Whisenhunt became coach, the Cardinals have been more active during draft week. That year, they made two trades on draft week. In 2010, they made three during the draft in addition to two others that came before. The results have been mixed, but the Cardinals have shown they won't always sit still during the three days of the draft."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks the 49ers will address guard, running back and wide receiver in the 2012 draft. Barrows: "While the need for an offensive tackle in 2010 and a quarterback last year helped narrow the list of draft candidates, San Francisco's stacked roster this year means it can go in many directions."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com picks one player per round for the 49ers. On first-round projection Kevin Zeitler: "Right guard might be the only starting job on the team that's up for grabs, and Zeitler would enter that competition against Alex Boone and Daniel Kilgore. Zeitler fits the 49ers' style. He started three seasons and won the Badger Power Award for he weight-room dedication. At the combine, he bench-pressed 225 pounds 32 times -- 14 more than his former Wisconsin teammate Peter Konz."
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)
The latest: I selected Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd for the Arizona Cardinals with the 13th overall selection.
My rationale: Tackle Riley Reiff was available and would have filled the greater need. The scouting reports on Reiff suggested he might not be a great value choice at No 13, however. The Cardinals have learned their lesson drafting an offensive tackle for need, having selected Levi Brown fifth overall in 2007. Floyd has the physical dimensions generally associated with receivers drafted among the top three overall selections. He also comes with question marks, but Larry Fitzgerald should be the perfect mentor. Floyd steps into the starting lineup and gives the Cardinals a player scouts consider ideally suited for the "Z" receiver role. With this pick, the Cardinals finally find a No. 2 receiver to succeed Anquan Boldin. Early Doucet is ideally suited for the No. 3 role. And if Andre Roberts takes another step in his development, all the better.
What's next for the NFC West: The Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to pick 27th, followed by the San Francisco 49ers at No. 30 and the Seahawks again at No. 31, following a trade with New England.
The chart below shows new projections from reporters covering the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams.
All three have the Rams and Seahawks drafting for defense. They all have the Arizona Cardinals drafting an offensive lineman and the 49ers drafting a pass-catcher of some sort.
I'll be participating in a live mock draft Monday at 1 p.m. ET, with trades permitted. Details to come.
Moving along ...
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves regarding the Cardinals' draft options. Somers: "Addressing the offensive line in the first round makes considerable sense. The Cardinals haven't drafted a lineman the past two seasons. They haven't taken one above the fifth round since selecting Brown fifth overall in 2007. They have tried to plug holes with veterans at the end of their careers (guard Alan Faneca) and low-round picks they hoped would develop (right tackle Brandon Keith). The results have been mixed at best."
Also from Somers: Whisenhunt points to continuity with Graves and personnel director Steve Keim as keys to success in the draft.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at whether the Arizona Cardinals need a stronger No. 2 receiver to pair with Larry Fitzgerald. Urban: "The Cardinals went to a Super Bowl with Anquan Boldin alongside Larry Fitzgerald, but one of the reasons the Cards were eventually comfortable with dealing Boldin was the success Fitzgerald and the passing game had even in games Boldin missed with injury." Noted: Kurt Warner was the constant.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune has the Seahawks selecting Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower in his 2012 first-round mock draft. Williams: "Hawks might move down to get Hightower, but he fills an obvious need and will be the team's quarterback on defense for the next 10 years."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at the Seahawks' need for a linebacker, noting that general manager John Schneider says this draft has more good ones than the previous draft offered. Schneider: "It's completely different than it was last year. There's good numbers up there." Noted: Value could lead the Seahawks to draft a linebacker in the first round, but if there are more to be found throughout the draft, the team could have reason to draft early at a position featuring fewer talented prospects.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune explains why he thinks Melvin Ingram might have more appeal to the Seahawks than Luke Kuechly. Boling: "Carroll and his staff like to find players with unique skills and then develop ways to work them into a scheme. While Kuechly looks to be a conventional middle linebacker type, Ingram could be more of a fun toy for Carroll."
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle makes two observations after attending a charity event featuring most of the team: Team chemistry appears strong, and the Seahawks have become a much bigger team physically.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch projects LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne to the Rams with the sixth overall pick after teams picking among the top five selected Justin Blackmon and Trent Richardson, among others.
Also from Thomas: The Rams need help at defensive tackle, but none of the top three prospects appears worthy of the sixth overall choice. Thomas: "In a deep defensive tackle class, there should be multiple options for the Rams at the top of the second round and perhaps even at the top of the third."
More from Thomas: a closer look at Claiborne and the cornerbacks. Thomas: "From a pure coverage standpoint, there are those who feel Claiborne is a significantly better prospect than his much-ballyhooed predecessor at LSU, Patrick Peterson, who went No. 5 overall in the 2011 draft to Arizona."
More yet from Thomas: New Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar has good things to say about Gregg Williams.
Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com says HBO has interest in the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers as "Hard Knocks" alternatives to the Atlanta Falcons, who declined to participate. Noted: Tough to envision the 49ers accepting. Their football leadership has sought to close ranks.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along thoughts from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on GM Trent Baalke's suggestion the team has one player in mind for the 30th overall choice. Maiocco: "I think Trent's trying to be dramatic with you guys -- build the drama. There's several -- there's a lot of good guys. There are a lot of good guys we'd love to have at that pick. Having been through this once, most of the guys you recognize as great football players are going to be playing against you. That's just the fact of business. But getting the right guy, the right fit for our team, is what we're all focused on."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has the 49ers drafting receiver Stephen Hill with the 30th pick.
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at history precipitating the 49ers' impending stadium move from San Francisco to Santa Clara.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says new 49ers running back Brandon Jacobs has great speed -- on the highway.
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat outlines five positions to watch in the draft for San Francisco.
The San Francisco 49ers' move to Santa Clara, celebrated with a stadium groundbreaking Thursday night, feels much different.
Both the Rams and 49ers were running from stadium problems, but the 49ers have a stadium solution.
Securing a new 49ers stadium to keep the team in the Bay Area stands as a defining achievement for CEO Jed York and the organization, and for Silicon Valley.
The groundbreaking ceremony was a victorious moment for corporate and civic types. This was their day to rejoice, but there's not much in a groundbreaking ceremony for fans to get excited about. The ones I know would rather discuss linebacker depth than what steps builders are taking to comply with environmental regulations.
Besides, those holding tickets to games at Candlestick Park will continue watching games there for the next couple seasons, some knowing they won't be able to afford seats in the new place. Fans nearer Santa Clara have nothing yet to show for the groundbreaking at this early stage. Their time will come once the stadium is completed.
Team headquarters have been in Santa Clara for years. Players and employees tend to live in that area, some 40 miles south of San Francisco down U.S. Highway 101. Relocating two exhibition games, eight regular-season games and home playoff games to Santa Clara will be great for them, even as the organization loses a tangible link to San Francisco.
Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle calls the groundbreaking a bittersweet moment for the 49ers. Lynch: "The timing for staying in San Francisco was never right. If Jed York was the head of the 49ers when the team was negotiating with the City for a new stadium, maybe something would have been done. However, his father was at the helm then, and several sources said John York was incapable of moving forward because of the risks involved in such an immense project. So is the ground-breaking to be celebrated? Yes, but in muted fashion because the 49ers will soon have a state of the art facility that should keep the team competitive and even though saying 'San Francisco 49ers' will be somewhat of a falsehood when the team moves South, at least it’s better than saying 'Los Angeles 49ers'."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee outlines the 49ers' vision for the stadium, with an emphasis on environmental considerations. Barrows: "One of the problems Jack Hill, the project executive for the 49ers' new $1.2 billion stadium, currently is facing is how to transport 2,000 tons of dirt and top soil 150 feet in the air. ... The dirt is intended for what the 49ers are hoping will be the signature feature of the venue, a 27,000 square-foot green roof that will support a garden of native plants, which in turn will soak up rainwater and provide insulation for the tower of luxury suites it sits atop."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams hope tackle Jason Smith can adjust his approach to become more consistent. Line coach Paul Boudreau: "He's so intense in everything he does. He does everything in a hurry. I'm trying to show him some patience. And trying to get him to use his hands more than leaning into blocks. Just trying to slow him down. Trying to make the game slower by using good technique as opposed to going out and killing every guy you play. Because when he goes out there, if he hits (the defender), he hits him. But if he misses, it's a dead shot on the quarterback. So we're trying to get him to think a little bit more about his balance and his base, and where he is at the collision point."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals' decision to draft Ryan Williams in the second round last year was one example of going with value over need. Urban: "The Cardinals’ greatest need remains offensive tackle, but as with the Williams pick a year ago, the Cards have been careful not to lock themselves into needs. Early in the draft, when difference-makers can be found more often than not, chasing need can hamstring a team. There has been plenty of speculation whether or not a tackle like Iowa’s Riley Reiff will be there at 13, but for all the middle-of-the-road comments made Thursday, Whisenhunt made clear the Cards weren’t going to held hostage to an offensive line vacancy."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along an anecdote from Cardinals general manager Rod Graves regarding running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, a player Graves might not have selected without their assurances from coach Ken Whisenhunt and personnel director Steve Keim that Stephens-Howling could make an impact despite standing 5-foot-7.
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle identifies five Seahawks players needing strong offseasons. On Golden Tate: "The emergence of Doug Baldwin and most assuredly a draft pick at wide receiver next week, an enhanced look at last year's fourth-rounder Kris Durham and super-freak Ricardo Lockette means it's sink or swim time for Tate (and possibly Mike Williams). Tate has as much if not more explosion and dynamic ability as any receiver on the roster not named Ricardo. Now, he has to prove to Pete Carroll, the offensive staff and his new quarterback that the commitment and 'want-to' will consistently align with his talent."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates injury situations for Seahawks tackle James Carpenter, cornerback Walter Thurmond, receiver Sidney Rice and others. GM John Schneider on Rice: "This is the healthiest he's going to be since he's been a professional."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com quotes Schneider on the potentially trading back from the 12th overall choice. Schneider: "Now we’re in a position, especially at 12 -- I look at 12 like at 11, 12, 13 there’s a little bit of a ledge there, there’s a little bit of different players -- so if we want to stay and pick, I think it’s a really cool place to pick. If somebody does something that's really attractive, then we feel comfortable with the way we’ve prepared that we can go back, too. We feel like we’ve covered some things so we can go ahead and just take the good players that come to us."
Joe from Fort Worth asked about the Arizona Cardinals' chances for acquiring a second-round choice to replace the one they sent to Philadelphia in the Kevin Kolb trade.
"I'd like to hear your thought process regarding your answer -- the philosophy of the decision makers, needs of the team, depth and/or positional strength of this draft, etc.," Joe wrote.
The Cardinals hold the 13th overall choice, so we start there.
In 2001, Buffalo traded the 14th pick to Tampa Bay for the 21st and 51st picks.
In 2010, Denver traded the 13th overall choice (acquired from San Francisco) to Philadelphia for the 24th choice and two third-rounders (70th, 87th).
In other cases, teams moved back five or six spots from No. 13 for packages including a pick in the 70s or 80s overall, plus lesser considerations.
Sliding back five or six spots would be a realistic expectation for the Cardinals.
San Diego picks 18th and Chicago 19th, to name two potential trading partners in such a scenario. Both teams have acted aggressively and with urgency this offseason. That could indicate a willingness to move up in the draft for a specific player.
The Chargers' front office and coaching staff narrowly averted getting fired following a disappointing 2011 season. The Bears replaced general manager Jerry Angelo with Phil Emery, who traces some of his philosophy to New England's Bill Belichick via Atlanta's Thomas Dimitroff.
Dimitroff, who orchestrated the Falcons' bold trade to acquire the sixth overall choice of the 2011 draft, described Emery as "aggressive" and part of a new wave of GMs.
"I believe this is indicative of where we are as team builders in this league as far as making bold, aggressive moves if we deem they’ll be impactful for our team," Dimitroff told the Chicago Sun-Times, speaking of Emery's move to acquire receiver Brandon Marshall.
Arizona needs a tackle and might see little choice but to select one if, say, Riley Reiff or another highly rated prospect were available. But if the tackle-needy Bears were willing to part with the 19th and 50th choices for a chance to move up, would they consider it?
San Diego could use a guard to replace the recently retired Kris Dielman. Would the Chargers part with the 18th and 49th choices for a shot at, say, David DeCastro? Might they consider moving up for other players, as AFC West blogger Bill Williamson suggested they might? And what might they pay to do so?
We cannot answer such questions definitively. The teams themselves might not know the answers. But we can have fun considering the possibilities, and hopefully learn something along the way.
Thanks, Joe, for advancing the conversation.
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.
Mike Sando: The decision to draft Brown fifth overall was understandable. Brown started for five seasons, then received a $7 million signing bonus as part of a second contract. The Cardinals do not consider him to be a bust, in other words.
In retrospect, it's easy to say Arizona should have drafted Adrian Peterson over Brown, but the Cardinals had already invested heavily in free-agent running back Edgerrin James. They were looking to give their new line coach, Russ Grimm, a player to build around. Brown has not met expectations associated with his draft status, but he's going to start for at least a sixth consecutive season.
The Cardinals' need for another offensive tackle is acute. That is one reason the team felt compelled to bring back Brown. Arizona does not hold a second-round pick, so there will be added pressure to help the offensive line early. Free-agent options appear severely limited. This will be a recipe for reaching if the situation remains unchanged heading into the draft.
As much as I think the Cardinals need line help, I did send Upshaw their way in the NFL Blog Network mock draft we put together last week, for several reasons. The chart shows quite a few prominent draft analysts projecting defensive players to the Cardinals with the 13th overall pick. Perhaps you'll get your way, Phil.
Most analysts seem to think Upshaw will go later than 13th overall. The fit in Arizona could be right, however, as the Cardinals head into their second season running the scheme coordinator Ray Horton brought from Pittsburgh. As Pro Football Weekly analyst Nolan Nawrocki put it, Upshaw is "not as athletic as [Steelers outside linebacker] LaMarr Woodley, but could best fit a similar type of role as an intimidating 3-4 rush linebacker."