NFC West: Rob Rang
Their first-round picks for NFC West teams appear in the chart.
Mock drafts tend to make sense from a need standpoint. That is the generally the case here. The four analysts have Arizona seeking help at quarterback or on the offensive line. All four have Seattle targeting help for its defensive line or receiving corps. Defensive line and receiver are the positions projected for San Francisco.
The St. Louis Rams own two first-round selections, providing greater flexibility. Offensive line, receiver, running back, safety and defensive line were the positions targeted for the Rams by these four analysts.
Brandt, the NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys executive, has the Rams taking Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. That pick would give the Rams two highly drafted young backs (Lacy and 2012 second-rounder Isaiah Pead), plus Daryl Richardson, who was a find in the seventh round last year.
The Rams' all-time rushing leader, Steven Jackson, would not return under such a scenario. Jackson has a $7 million salary for 2013 and the ability to opt out of his contract.
- Only eight players appear in the chart. That seems like a small number given that four analysts are making predictions for four teams.
- The eight players in question play four positions: quarterback, defensive line, cornerback or receiver.
- It's still a mild upset, in my view, if the Arizona Cardinals select a quarterback in the fifth spot. They want immediate impact from their first-round selection and have said they do not see a sure-fire quarterback available in this draft.
And now, on with the chart.
- Matt Hasselbeck's unsigned status makes it easier for analysts to send a quarterback to Seattle with the 25th overall choice. Bunting thinks Ryan Mallett's strong arm would fit well in Seattle's weather. Rang notes that Seahawks general manager John Schneider attended Mallett's workout, and Seattle seems to like the quarterback's strong arm.
- The Seahawks' new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, would presumably value accuracy over raw arm strength in assessing a quarterback for his West Coast offense. Our Insider scouting report on Mallett gives him high marks for accuracy, including short accuracy. Schneider and ultimately coach Pete Carroll will be making the call.
- Cam Newton heads to Arizona at No. 5 on two of three mocks. The Cardnials' need for a quarterback is obvious. McShay sees Newton as a Ben Roethlisberger type, and therefore a good fit for Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals. There are some similarities. The Cardinals have also indicated it's tough to take a quarterback that early unless the team has no questions or concerns "on both the ability side as well as the character and passion for the game and fit and intangibles." Is Newton that guy?
- The projections for the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams follow familiar patterns. The 49ers will go for a cornerback or pass-rusher, while the Rams will take a defensive lineman if one of the top two wide receivers is not available, the thinking goes. These are logical thoughts, but the 49ers could be in the quarterback mix as well.
The chart shows how McShay, Rang and Bunting project the NFC West in the first round.
Earlier: Kiper 1.0, Kiper 2.0 and Kiper 3.0.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic lists nose tackle and inside linebacker as the Cardinals' top needs heading into the draft. Somers, looking ahead: "Depending upon the outcome of labor negotiations, the Cardinals could have a number of starters become unrestricted free agents after the season, including guards Reggie Wells and Deuce Lutui, center Lyle Sendlein, receiver Steve Breaston and cornerback Bryant McFadden."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals generally do not value offensive linemen in the early rounds, making Levi Brown an exception. General manager Rod Graves: "Personally, I’d rather stay away from drafting offensive linemen in the first round … [unless] you have an exceptional guy you do, like left tackles, who are rare. Beyond that, you can look across the league and find starters who are middle- to-late round types. If you have an excellent offensive line coach, which we have, a good system, which we have, and if you’ve got kids who are tough and smart and decent athletic ability, you have a chance to mold those guys."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times profiles Tacoma high school teacher Rob Rang, better known to NFL fans in general and Seahawks fans in particular for the work he does as a draft analyst. O'Neil: "Of the first 32 players picked last year, Rang accurately predicted 28 of them would be chosen in the first round. That doesn't mean he forecast exactly where they would be picked, but it shows how accurate he is in gauging talent."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks will take an offensive tackle and a safety in the first two rounds. Johns: "That's why I see Seattle snapping up Tennessee standout Eric Berry if he's still available at the No. 6 position Thursday, given he's not only regarded as one of the best players available, he fills a huge need. But as every Seahawks fan knows all too well, offensive tackle is also a gaping trouble-spot. Ray Willis, who started at right tackle last year, was working at left tackle in minicamp as the new regime flip-flopped Sean Locklear to the right side. But Willis clearly is more of a placeholder than a long-term solution there."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Rang for defensive backs who could fit with Seattle. Georgia Tech's Morgan Burnett gets mention as a candidate in the second round.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams sent offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Dick Curl to watch Sam Bradford's latest workout. Bradford: "It was a little bit different. They come in and obviously they want to go through some of their reads, and some of the footwork’s a little bit different. Some of this stuff is similar but some of the things I’ve never done before. But I felt like it went good. I felt like I adjusted fairly quickly and picked up some of the things they were wanting me to do."
Also from Thomas: The Rams are not concerned about having the first overall choice signed before the draft. Executive vice president Kevin Demoff: "I don't think it's important to have the first pick signed before the draft. That doesn't mean it's not worth trying. And it doesn't mean we haven't talked to people -- all four candidates -- about the numbers they would want as the first pick. But it's not a priority for us to have the deal done before the draft. There's still three months essentially before the start of training camp to get a person under contract. We want to make sure we spend our time, and make the right deal for the Rams and a fair deal for the player."
Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams' experiences in the 2006 draft show why teams should value character in prospects. That was the year St. Louis drafted Claude Wroten with the 68th overall choice despite known issues with marijuana.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee gives nose tackle Dan Williams and guard Mike Iupati to the 49ers in his latest mock draft. Barrows on Williams: "He may only be a backup this year, but the 49ers find someone who can protect their prized possession, Patrick Willis, over the long haul." The 49ers liked Aubrayo Franklin enough to name him their franchise player, but would they sign him for the long term? Not if his performance tailed off this season, and probably not if they drafted Williams to fill the role.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are hoping to land at least four eventual starters in the draft. Maiocco: "Because this is considered a deep draft, Baalke said there might be an opportunity for the 49ers to select a player in the fourth round that the club has valued as a second- or third-round pick."
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News expects the 49ers to draft Jimmy Clausen if the Notre Dame quarterback remains available at No. 13.
101ESPN St. Louis: Jim Hanifan, part one
101ESPN St. Louis: Hanifan, part two
101ESPN St. Louis: La'Roi Glover
101ESPN St. Louis: reporter Jim Thomas
101ESPN St. Louis: running back Steven Jackson
101ESPN St. Louis: Steve Spagnuolo (video)
KNBR680: snapper Brian Jennings
KNBR680: Ronnie Lott
KNBR680: tight end Vernon Davis
KNBR680: Steve Young
KNBR680: Kurt Warner (video)
KNBR680: Mike Singletary
KNBR680: reporter Matt Maiocco
XTRA910: safety Adrian Wilson
XTRA910: punter Ben Graham
azcardinals.com: Ken Whisenhunt (video)
azcardinals.com: Cardinals Underground
azcardinals.com: In the Red Zone
710ESPN Seattle: The Huddle with Warren Moon, Darryl Tapp and David Hawthorne
710ESPN Seattle: Jim Mora
KJR950 Seattle: receivers Nate Burleson, Deion Branch and T.J. Houshmandzadeh
KJR950 Seattle: draft analyst Rob Rang
KJR950 Seattle: Seahawks Round Table
Young's interviews on KNBR are almost always interesting. He offered thoughts on Brett Favre, JaMarcus Russell, the Colts and more.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The latest in our periodic spin around the NFC West radio dials:
KNBR680: Kelly Stouffer (on Michael Crabtree)
KNBR680: center Eric Heitmann
KNBR680: Former QB Steve Young
KNBR680: Jed York
KNBR680: Ronnie Lott
WQAM: Shaun Hill
XTRA910: opposing quarterback David Garrard
azcardinals.com: Cardinals Underground
710ESPN Seattle: Seahawks Huddle with Robbie Tobeck
710ESPN Seattle: guard Max Unger
950KJR Seattle: draft analyst Rob Rang
950KJR Seattle: Mike Holmgren with Joe Montana
950KJR Seattle: Holmgren
950KJR Seattle: Seahawks Round Table
101ESPN St. Louis: Steve Spagnuolo
101ESPN St. Louis: D'Marco Farr
101ESPN St. Louis: general manager Billy Devaney
stlouisrams.com: various interviews
As always, please leave links to additional audio in the comments section, if possible (comments feature has had some issues). I'll add items as needed.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu can feel a difference in how the team is practicing under new coach Jim Mora. The team focused more on pursuit drills during its recent minicamp. Tatupu: "A little hard work never hurt anybody. Not to say we weren't working hard before, but I feel the difference in the practices. And I tell you one thing, we'll be one of the best conditioned teams in the league. So it won't be for a lack of effort if we suffer any losses."
Also from Williams: He checks in with new Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
John Morgan of Field Gulls thinks Arizona State tackle Eben Britton could help the Seahawks' offensive line, and that Seattle could have interest in him if Britton slips past the middle of the first round.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says Tatupu is seeking redemption following a 4-12 season in 2008. At least he no longer challenges opponents to fights following defeats.
VanRam of Turf Show Times looks at what might be one of the worst NFL drafts at the top, according to analysts. VanRam: "Trading down would be great, but it just doesn't seem like a very realistic possibility. That might depend on USC QB Mark Sanchez's draft stock, which seems to be rising based on comparison to [Matthew] Stafford. If conventional wisdom emerges that he's the better NFL QB, taking him at #2 isn't a stretch, which means the Rams could possibly lure a QB hungry team into a trade."
The 49ers' Web site provides a transcript of Damon Haurd's interview with reporters after the team signed the backup quarterback. Huard on head coach Mike Singletary: "I like him a lot. I think he's very honest, straight-forward. He tells it like it is and as a player, you appreciate that. Everyone respects him, not only as a coach, but for what he did as a player. I think when your head coach is a former player and has been through those battles that we've all been through, he understands the experience and knows how to treat the players. He knows how to relate to the players. I think at the end of the day that just makes you a better football team."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says pass-rusher could be the 49ers' biggest need heading into the draft. Draft analyst Rob Rang: "Cody Brown of Connecticut is getting a lot of attention in the third or maybe fourth round. If you want to go up a round, probably Clint Sintim of Virginia. He played on one of the very few teams that run a 3-4 defense in college. He was coached by Al Groh, so he's going to come in and be more pro-ready than a lot of guys. So he makes some sense."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee explains why he thinks the 49ers will not draft Aaron Maybin with the 10th overall choice. Barrows: "For one thing, he's an underclassman who started only one full season at Happy Valley. GM Scot McCloughan prefers seniors. More concerning, however, is Maybin's size. He weighed in at 249 pounds at the combine in February but played at Penn State at a much lower weight, about 235 pounds."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are visiting with college running backs, no surprise. Donald Brown, Knowshon Moreno, Shonn Greene and Chris Wells could interest them.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 sizes up the Cardinals' all-time offensive line. Dan Dierdorf, Ernie McMillan, Conrad Dobler and Ken Gray make the cut. Still undecided: whether Bob DeMarco or Tom Banks will be the center. I never saw either man play. Hopefully I'll remember to ask someone who did.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com describes Larry Fitzgerald as "totally recharged" following his adventure through Africa and the Middle East. Fitzgerald: "Best trip ever. I am totally recharged. It feels so good to get back in here. I'm so happy to see a good turnout and getting ready to get it again. I was itching to get back in the gym. It's home away from home." Fitzgerald has lots more planned for his offseason, starting with a trip to Minnesota for the annual golf tournament honoring his late mother, Carol.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind says Karlos Dansby's unsettled contract situation could affect the Cardinals' draft plans. I think the team needed to address linebacker anyway. The need certainly grows if getting a deal with Dansby isn't likely.
Dave Mahler of Seattle's KJR radio checks in with Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones. This link goes directly to an audio file. Jones sounds relaxed and upbeat in discussing the change from Mike Holmgren to Jim Mora. Jones says he feels good, still loves competition and feels invigorated learning a new offense. Jones on the Cardinals: "They are a team that won the conference, they won the division, so they are the team to beat. That is your motivation."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com found a grateful prospective Seahawk in former Western Washington linebacker Shane Simmons. Simmons has worked construction and as a personal trainer since the Raiders released him after the 2008 preseason. Simmons is participating in the Seahawks' minicamp on a tryout basis.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Jim Mora appears comfortable in his new role as the Seahawks' head coach in the post-Mike Holmgren era. Boling: "Here's a difference that's fair to mention, although probably meaningless: Mora has a whistle. Holmgren let others blow the whistle. Draw your own conclusions."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Jones and Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari. Solari says the Seahawks installed zone concepts last season in anticipation of using them in 2009. The team did not use them in 2008.
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts isn't buying talk that the Seahawks are seriously considering Matthew Stafford with the fourth overall choice. Steffes: "[Matt] Stafford maybe, but choosing Mark Sanchez would be counter to everything this team has done since 2005. Hopefully there is enough hype that someone wants to move up, but I wouldn't count on it."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck expressed frustration over how his injury situation was handled last season. Hasselbeck put it this way: "Knowing that there's a high likelihood that I'm not going to play and not necessarily being able to come out and say."
Also from O'Neil: Seahawks long-snapper Tyler Schmitt says he's 100 percent after undergoing back surgery last season.
Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News Tribune says Holmgren watched practice at the University of Washington. Holmgren and new Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian have strong ties to USC.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times says Holmgren watched practice Wednesday at the University of Washington. Holmgren's son-in-law coordinates recruiting for the Huskies. Sarkisian: "It's an honor and hopefully our kids recognized that and hopefully he can continue to come out. It's fun. ... Hopefully we play a little better as a team the next time he comes out."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat leans on draft analyst Rob Rang in assessing which running backs the 49ers might consider in the draft. Iowa's Shonn Greene is one candidate. Rang also thinks Chris Wells could go in the top 10. Rang: "I have a hard time thinking they would do that because I think they have too much respect for what Frank Gore brings. They don't want to [upset him]. But Beanie Wells is a spectacular talent. He's a Larry Johnson -- almost an Adrian Peterson -- kind of talent. But he needs to be coddled, and Mike Singletary's strength probably is not in coddling players."
Also from Maiocco: The 49ers are sprucing up their facilities while expanding square footage from 45,000 to 54,000.
Florida Danny of Niners Nation unveils a roughly 4,500-word dissertation on the 49ers' draft history since 1994. Lots of information in here. I checked some of it against my own information and it matched up. For example, the 49ers have indeed drafted 20 players from Pac-10 schools and 19 from SEC schools since 1994, more than they have drafted from other conferences.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Norfolk State cornerback Don Carey is visiting the 49ers and Seahawks, among other teams. Purdue running back Kory Sheets is also visiting the 49ers.
VanRam of Turf Show Times wonders how the Rams can upgrade at receiver, noting that Football Outsiders has suggested Eagles restricted free agent Hank Baskett. VanRam: "That seems unlikely until you consider that the Eagles are interested in some big names like [Chad] Ocho Cinco and earlier talk about being a player for Anquan Boldin. If that happens, they might be willing to let Baskett walk since they also have Kevin Curtis, DeSean Jackson and Reggie Brown on the roster, unless they see his productivity from last season as a sign of things to come."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says holding training camp away from their facility wasn'
;t practical for the Rams this year, in part because changes to the coaching staff and front office left little time to formulate plans.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Steve Spagnuolo is anxious for the Rams' to open their first minicamp under his leadership. They'll get going at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. Spagnuolo: "I was telling somebody the other day that when you finally get to this point, you finally feel like this is what you got hired to do. We're coaches, that's what we do, that's what we enjoy so now we get a chance to get out there and do exactly what we enjoy doing."
Adam Caplan of ScoutNFLNetwork.com says the Seahawks and Rams are among the teams expected to meet with Utah pass rusher Paul Kruger before the draft.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's report about Gus Frerotte's expected deal with the Rams drew a couple of wisecracks in the comments section. The first: "Great, when will Jamie Martin report for camp?" The second: "Re-sign Jeff Smoker too." Not bad, but in reality, who were the Rams supposed to sign as a reasonably priced backup?
Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune says the Bears want to make Orlando Pace their starting left tackle. He also says the Bears' interest in former Panthers and Seahawks cornerback Ken Lucas is only "lukewarm" at this point. Don't be surprised if Lucas re-signs with Seattle.
Sonja Haller of the Arizona Republic provides details from Kurt Warner's appearance at Muhammad Ali's annual charity event. Ali's wife, Lonnie, honored Warner with a sports leadership award. Lonnie Ali on Warner: "If there ever was an athlete that I think epitomizes everything that this man sitting next to me [Ali] is, he's sitting right there."
Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune says Phoenix, New Orleans and Miami have submitted bids to land the 2013 Super Bowl. Owners plan to make a decision during their May meetings.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals invited a limited number of college prospects to their headquarters before the draft. The team didn't value such visits when Dennis Green was the head coach and it's tough to argue with some of the results. Ohio State running back Chris Wells is expected to visit soon.
Also from Somers: Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and general manager Rod Graves attended USC's pro day. Coach Ken Whisenhunt and owner Bill Bidwill did not.
CBSSports.com quotes Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin as saying he wants to re-sign with the Cardinals. Boldin: "Hopefully, something gets done. We'll see what happens. At this point I'm leaving it up to everyone else and just trying to enjoy life."
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with draft analyst Rob Rang for a look at how the Seahawks might approach the draft. Rang says he would be surprised if the Seahawks passed on Aaron Curry if given a chance to draft the Wake Forest linebacker. Rang on Michael Crabtree: "He's a spectacular talent. I really think he's an Anquan Boldin type of player. He doesn't have that elite speed, but you know, for me the fact that he wasn't able to run for scouts matters very little. Even the [foot] surgery matters very little, because Jonathan Stewart had the same surgery and he was every bit the player his rookie season that I thought he would be. Michael Crabtree will be as well."
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts looks at the Seahawks' offensive linemen and tight ends heading toward the draft. The team did not draft an offensive lineman in 2008. Expect that to change this year.
Aaron Weinberg of nextseasonsports.com looks at the six players Seattle has drafted among the top five overall picks. Steve Niehaus, Kenny Easley, Curt Warner, Cortez Kennedy, Rick Mirer and Shawn Springs were the players chosen.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists USC's Mark Sanchez among the college prospects expected to visit with the 49ers before the draft. Barrows: "The 49ers are wise to show interest. In Sanchez does fall to 10 on April 25, there will be plenty of teams clamoring to grab him, creating an opportunity to trade down. Who knows, maybe the Broncos will still be stuck with unhappy Jay Cutler on draft day and will be willing to make a deal."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks the 49ers might have their best group of receivers since Terrell Owens departed. Lynch: "After a rocky start to the offseason, the 49ers have seemingly recovered. In the last week, they've signed a possible replacement to the departing Jonas Jennings at right tackle in Marvel Smith and now have an assurance [Isaac] Bruce will come back."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
INDIANAPOLIS -- The combine media workroom is closing soon. I'll be heading back to the hotel to write a column and process information gathered in the last few hours.
At some point soon, I'll share NFC West-specific thoughts from two prominent draft analysts: Mike Mayock of NFL Network and Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout and cbssports.com.
Rob shared best-case and worst-case draft scenarios for each team in the division. Mayock thought the Seahawks needed to strongly consider Michael Crabtree in that fourth overall spot.
Rang was reassessing Everette Brown after the Florida State pass rusher measured shorter than expected. I'll share much more over the next 24 hours. First I need to exit the media room before it closes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
MEQUON, Wis. -- The Seahawks' scrimmage at Qwest Field wasn't televised here at Rams camp, but I've been in touch with a guy whose eyes I trust. Rob Rang of nfldraftscout.com was in attendance and passed along a few notes over the phone. I'll summarize:
- Kicker Brandon Coutu connected on a 57-yarder to end the scrimmage, but Olindo Mare was more consistent on field goals and superior on kickoffs. Coutu seems to get a little erratic outside 40 yards.
- Third quarterback Charlie Frye generally played well. He found Jordan Kent for a long pass on what looked like a go route. Kent beat tight coverage from Omare Lowe at the line. The Seahawks want Frye to play well enough for No. 2 quarterback Seneca Wallace to get some snaps at receiver without without worrying about an injury at the position.
- Justin Forsett continues to impress, but it's unclear if he can earn a roster spot at running back. The team will probably keep five. Julius Jones, Maurice Morris, Leonard Weaver, Owen Schmitt and T.J. Duckett would presumably be the five.
- Receiver Logan Payne dropped a pass, something he rarely does. Ben Obomanu showed his versatility. The Seahawks move him inside and out. He's too versatile not to stick, Rob notes. Courtney Taylor missed the scrimmage to rest an injury.
- Rookie tight end John Carlson impressed. Rookie defensive end Lawrence Jackson batted down a couple of passes.
- The Seahawks rested numerous starters and prominent players, including both Joneses (Walter and Julius), Patrick Kerney, Lofa Tatupu, etc. Matt Hasselbeck hardly played.
- Seattle needs center Chris Spencer back, Rob notes. Guard Rob Sims struggled some today. Steve Vallos was the center because Spencer and veteran backup Chris Gray are hurt.
I'll link to additional reports as they become available. And then I'll be heading to Seattle tomorrow, with expected visits to Seahawks camp this week.
Update: Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune and Jose Romero of the Seattle Times have filed reports.