NFC West: Tharold Simon

The Seattle Seahawks had 11 draft picks in 2013, but only one of them is likely to get much playing time in the season opener at Carolina.

Back-up tight end Luke Willson, a fifth-round selection from Rice, will be on the field in Seattle’s two-tight sets and probably have a few passes thrown his way after his impressive showing in the preseason.

But other than Willson, don’t look for much action from the other draft picks. That’s a big difference from a year ago.

As a rookie, Russell Wilson started every game at quarterback. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner started 15 of 16 regular season games at middle linebacker. J.R. Sweezy started the season opener at guard.

First-round pick Bruce Irvin played in every game at defensive end and led all NFL rookies with eight sacks. Running back Robert Turbin played in all 16 games as the backup to Marshawn Lynch.

The verdict is out on the 2013 draft choices, but it’s clear they won’t contribute as much as some of the 2012 picks did at the start of the season.

Three seventh-round picks in 2013 -- offensive linemen Ryan Seymour and Jared Smith, along with linebacker Ty Powell, were placed on the practice squad.

Here’s a rundown on the other seven 2013 draft choices:
  • Second-round pick Christine Michael: He showed his talent and had some flashes of explosiveness in the preseason, rushing for 200 yards on 40 carries, including a touchdown on a 43-yard run. But he’s the No. 3 running back for now behind Lynch and Turbin.
  • Third-round pick Jordan Hill: The defensive tackle from Penn State has a sprained shoulder and won’t play this weekend. When he does return, Hill probably will be a back-up and the 3-technique tackle spot.
  • Fourth-round pick Chris Harper: He’s long gone. Harper, a wide receiver from Kansas State, was a big disappointment in camp. However, the Seahawks wanted to place him on the practice squad before the San Francisco 49ers added him to their 53-man roster. The 49ers are considering converting Harper (6-1, 235) to a tight end.
  • Fifth-round pick Jesse William: The defensive tackle from Alabama is out for the season, placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.
  • Fifth-round pick Tharold Simon: The cornerback from LSU still is recovering from a fractured foot in spring practices. He’s on the PUP list and isn’t likely to contribute until midseason, if at all in 2013.
  • Sixth-round pick Spencer Ware: The LSU product looked good enough in the preseason games at fullback and running back for the Seahawks to part way with veteran fullback Michael Robinson. But Ware is the backup fullback to Derrick Coleman for now, and the fullback spot won’t get a ton of plays anyway in the Seahawks offense.
  • Seventh-round pick Michael Bowie: The offensive lineman from Northeastern State in Oklahoma is listed as a third-team tackle for now. He suffered a slight shoulder injury in the final preseason game.

However, the Seahawks are likely to receive meaningful contributions this weekend from two undrafted rookies. Benson Mayowa, a defensive end from Idaho, is expected to see significant playing time Sunday after an impressive preseason when he had 3.5 sacks. And John Lotulelei, an outside linebacker from UNLV, probably will see some action backing up K.J. Wright.

Taking stock of 2013 NFC West picks

September, 3, 2013
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Eighty-six of the first 88 players drafted in 2013 remain on 53-man rosters entering Week 1. The two exceptions play for NFC West teams.

The Arizona Cardinals' Jonathan Cooper, chosen seventh overall, suffered a season-ending leg injury during preseason. He is on injured reserve. The San Francisco 49ers' Tank Carradine, chosen 40th overall, remains on the reserve/non-football injury list while recovering from a knee injury.

Twenty-five of 39 NFC West choices this year remain on their original teams' 53-man rosters. That includes all seven picks for the St. Louis Rams and seven of nine for the Cardinals. The 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had a higher number of picks arranged lower within each round, and fewer open roster spots to accommodate them.

Injuries have left six picks from the division on various injured lists. Three of the Seahawks' top five picks will not help the team anytime soon. That includes Harper, defensive tackle Jesse Williams (injured reserve) and cornerback Tharold Simon (reserve/physically unable to perform). Percy Harvin, who cost Seattle its 2013 first-round choice, is also injured.

Five 2013 draft choices from the division landed on their original teams' practice squads. One of them, fourth-round choice Chris Harper, subsequently left his original team (Seattle Seahawks) to sign with the 49ers' 53-man roster.

Three picks from the St. Louis Rams and one from the 49ers are scheduled to start in Week 1. Cooper would have started for the Cardinals if healthy.

Harper wasn't the only NFC West draft choice to land on another team. The 49ers' Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round choice, wound up with Kansas City after the Chiefs claimed him off waivers.

NFC West rookie review: Snap leaders

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A few notes on playing time for 2013 NFC West draft choices after each team played its second game of the exhibition season:

Seattle Seahawks: Seventh-round choice Michael Bowie played extensively yet again and remains on course to earn a roster spot as one of the backup tackles. He and undrafted free agent Alvin Bailey are combining to give Seattle much greater depth on the line than the team enjoyed in previous seasons. ... Fifth-round tight end Luke Willson blocked effectively against Denver. ... Tharold Simon remains sidelined by injury, making it impossible for him to compete for relevance at cornerback, the position where Seattle might have its greatest depth.

San Francisco 49ers: I was struck by how many special teams snaps third-round outside linebacker Corey Lemonier and sixth-round inside linebacker Nick Moody played. Both figure to contribute in that regard. ... Quarterback B.J. Daniels inserted himself into the conversation with Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien in the race to become the No. 2 quarterback. Having both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick was a luxury last season. Now, the 49ers are like most teams: in big trouble if an injury knocks out their starting quarterback. ... Too bad second-rounder Vance McDonald was hurt. He flashed ability in the preseason opener.

Arizona Cardinals: Second-round inside linebacker Kevin Minter has been overshadowed at times, through no fault of his own. I noticed him right away during camp practices for the hits he was delivering on special teams. The Cardinals are happy with him. ... The starting offense went 10 plays longer than it had in the preseason opener, giving first-round pick Jonathan Cooper welcome reps. Arizona needs Cooper and its offensive line up to speed for quarterback Carson Palmer to connect on the deeper passes coach Bruce Arians favors. ... Running back Andre Ellington had a 24-yard run and a 28-yard kickoff return, a pretty good debut.

St. Louis Rams: I wondered on draft day whether Zac Stacy would factor as the potential starting running back. That obviously isn't going to happen right away. Stacy missed this game to injury and hasn't seriously challenged Daryl Richardson for the starting job. ... The Rams need to develop young offensive line depth, so it was good for Barrett Jones to get 37 snaps. ... Nick Wagoner has the full Rams rookie review for those seeking a deeper look.

Two of the NFC West's top receivers, Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin, headline a list of players declared physically unable to perform (PUP) as training camps gain momentum.

PUP designations carry different meanings at different times of the year. With that in mind, now is a good time to freshen up on the implications.

Players on PUP lists entering camp continue counting against the 90-man roster limit. They cannot practice while on the list. However, their teams can activate them from the list at any time before the mandatory roster reduction to 53 players, provided the players pass a physical exam.

This year, teams must reduce to 53 players by 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 31.

Players remaining on PUP lists at the reduction to 53 players must remain on the list for their teams' first six games. They do not count against the 53-man roster limit during that time. After six games have passed, players on PUP have a three-week window to resume practicing. Once a player begins practicing within that window, the team has another three weeks to activate the player from the PUP list onto the 53-man roster.

In effect, a player on the PUP list at the reduction to 53 players could return after his team's sixth game or as long as six weeks after that. The NFL had discussed expanding the three-week window for practicing by two weeks. I'm checking on the status of that proposal, which would have required collaboration with the NFL Players Association.

Update: The window has indeed been extended from three weeks to five weeks, according to the NFL.

Thirteen players from the NFC West are on PUP lists. Five others are on non-football injury (NFI) lists. The rules for NFI mirror those for PUP, the difference being that players on NFI lists suffered injuries unrelated to football. For example, the San Francisco 49ers recently activated defensive lineman Lamar Divens from the NFI list. They did not disclose the source of his injury, but teammate Ahmad Brooks had struck him in the head with a bottle in June, according to authorities.

Separately, the 49ers have also activated linebacker Darius Fleming and receiver Kyle Williams from their PUP list.

An NFL-high five of the Seattle Seahawks' 11 draft choices from 2013 played in the Southeastern Conference.

Christine Michael, Jesse Williams, Tharold Simon, Spencer Ware and Ryan Seymour joined K.J. Wright, Pep Levingston, Kris Durham, James Carpenter, Winston Guy and Jaye Howard as Seattle draft choices since 2010 from college programs currently aligned with the SEC.

The unusually large SEC haul left Seattle with a league-high 11 players selected from the conference since 2010. But in an indication that the results could be largely random, the Seahawks selected zero SEC players in 2010. New England led the way with six that year, but the Patriots selected none in 2013.

The chart shows current conference affiliations for NFC West teams' draft choices over the past four years. The four-year window appealed because 2010 was the year the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers' current general managers took control of their teams' drafts.

The leaguewide totals since 2010: SEC 203, Big Ten 136, ACC 128, Pac-12 127, Big 12 100, Big East 68, Mountain West 42, C-USA 32 and Sun Belt 22, followed by 27 other conferences with between one and 19 selections.

NFC West teams have selected eight players from LSU over the time period in question, including first-rounders Patrick Peterson (Arizona Cardinals), Michael Brockers (St. Louis Rams) and Eric Reid (49ers).
The San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams earned praise around here for maneuvering their way around the 2013 draft.

Both teams entered the draft with considerable capital -- enough to facilitate significant trades up and down the order.

The Arizona Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer from Oakland for late-round draft considerations, a low price for a starting quarterback.

The Seattle Seahawks, meanwhile, pointed to Percy Harvin's acquisition as the centerpiece of their 2013 draft efforts.

A glance further down the draft order showed Seattle adding two players in the later rounds with picks acquired for long-forgotten veterans. Neither new draft choice projects as an immediate contributor. Both still have to prove they are worthy of spots on the 53-man roster. But for a team that has occasionally found starters in the later rounds -- Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were fifth-round choices, for example -- those selections also deserve some attention.

So, when we hear about LSU cornerback Tharold Simon and Vanderbilt guard Ryan Seymour at Seattle's rookie minicamp beginning Friday, we should remember how those players made their way onto the Seahawks' roster.

Seattle selected Simon, a 6-foot-2 corner, with the 138th overall choice, acquired from Oakland as part of the Aaron Curry trade. The Seahawks selected Seymour 220th overall with a pick acquired from New Orleans in the Barrett Ruud trade.

Curry and Ruud were players the Seahawks were looking to unload. Both were candidates for release if trades could not be worked out. The value they returned via trade has names and faces now that the 2013 draft class is in place.

Simon in particular appears to be an interesting prospect. Seattle selected him in the fifth round, the same round where the Seahawks drafted Sherman, another tall and rangy corner, back in 2011. Sherman became an All-Pro, which assures nothing for Simon beyond unrealistic expectations. The chart compares combine measurements for both corners, capped by a headline warning against reading too much into the similarities.

As Seahawks general manager John Schneider warned before the draft, "The mistakes that we've made -- or perceived mistakes -- have been things where I’m trying something that I probably shouldn’t have. And then I learn my lesson and don’t do it again -- two in particular. One was comparing a player to another player that we’d had in the past. You never know what’s in somebody’s heart, so you can’t do that. Then the other was just assuming that a player was completely locked away from a football standpoint because he’s been productive, and that he was squared away and confident."
Predicting which teams will draft specific players can be tough work.

Last year, for instance, the seven-round mock draft Insider from Scouts Inc. went 0-for-28 in projecting players to NFC West teams. Some of the projections lined up from the standpoint of position. For example, the Seattle Seahawks did select a linebacker in the second round, but it was Bobby Wagner, not Lavonte David. The St. Louis Rams did take a receiver in the second round, but it was Brian Quick, not Rueben Randle.

One unexpected turn in a draft can throw off subsequent projections. The 2013 draft appears particularly tough to handicap. John Schneider, the Seattle Seahawks' general manager, recently said he could not recall a draft quite like this one from that standpoint.

So, good luck, mock drafters.

The Scouts Inc. seven-round mock for 2013 Insider provides a conversation starter as we navigate the final day before the real draft begins.

A run through the picks for NFC West teams (with a head nod to similar pieces from Kevin Seifert and Jamison Hensley for the divisions they cover):

Arizona Cardinals

Jordan's availability at No. 7 might come as a surprise. The Cardinals would, in theory, improve their outside pass rush with that selection.

The Barkley projection might catch you off-guard after Carson Palmer's arrival changed the subject away from quarterbacks. Drew Stanton has some salary guarantees, too. I'm skeptical.

The Scouts Inc. projection would extend to six the streak of drafts without Arizona selecting an offensive lineman in the first three rounds. Jordan Mills, the projected choice in the fifth round, wouldn't help the situation at guard, where the team has a need, in my view.

The Cardinals would also come away without immediate help at safety and without a speed receiver. The offense wouldn't improve enough right away through this draft.

St. Louis Rams

Safety, running back, receiver, guard and outside linebacker might be the five top needs for the Rams, not necessarily in that order.

The Scouts Inc. mock addresses each of those needs with the Rams' first five picks.

The Rams will have to balance clear needs at safety and elsewhere against a big-picture desire to continue building the roster for the long term with additional choices secured from the Washington Redskins.

At 231 pounds, Lacy would fill the Rams' need for a bigger back after the team allowed Steven Jackson out of his contract. Lacy, Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson would give the Rams a talented young committee at the position.

San Francisco 49ers

There's very little chance the 49ers will hold onto all 13 of their selections, of course. They'll have the flexibility to move forward, move back or even trade into the 2014 draft.

The projection for Brandon Williams in the third round caught my attention.

Williams is a 335-pounder from Missouri Southern State. He cranked out 38 reps in the bench press at the scouting combine, most among defensive tackles. Scouts think he projects to multiple positions across multiple schemes in the NFL. That would appeal to a team such as the 49ers.

Williams played at the NCAA Division II level. Would the 49ers use a third-round choice for a Division II prospect? They used a sixth-rounder for Western Oregon's Jason Slowey last year, the only time San Francisco has selected a Division II player over the past two drafts.

It's an interesting thought. The 49ers do have a need for a big, talented, versatile defensive lineman. They could bring along a prospect such as Williams with an eye toward 2014.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are one of two teams without a first-round selection after sending theirs to Minnesota in the Percy Harvin deal.

The second-round projection, Sio Moore of Connecticut, would give the Seahawks a weakside linebacker to play with Wagner (middle) and K.J. Wright (strong side).

The team also has plans for Cliff Avril at linebacker, at least in some capacity. There's room for a standard weakside linebacker after the Seahawks allowed Leroy Hill to reach free agency.

Tavarres King, the Georgia receiver projected in the fifth round, is known as a vertical threat. He averaged 22.6 yards per reception last season.

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