NFC West: Trent Williams

Rolando McClain's early retirement from the NFL comes three years after the Oakland Raiders made him the eighth overall choice in the 2010 draft.



While McClain is inviting derision, I wondered whether he was even the most disappointing choice from the first round of that 2010 class. He would fit right in with the 2009 group, for sure.

A quick check of games started by 2010 first-rounders showed four players with 48 starts in 48 possible regular-season games. Three of those four players were from the NFC West: Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis of the San Francisco 49ers, and Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks.

Tyson Alualu, the player Jacksonville controversially selected 10th overall, rounds out the quartet.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (42) and Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung (37) were relatively close behind. Dan Williams, chosen 26th overall by the Arizona Cardinals that year, ranked 26th on the list with 21 starts over the past three seasons.

All starts aren't quality starts, of course. McClain ranks relatively high on the list with 38 starts despite his bust status. Anyone familiar with the NFL would rather have Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas (23 starts) than Alualu, who has struggled with knee trouble and generally been just OK.

First-round picks from 2010 have combined for 21 Pro Bowl honors.

Maurkice Pouncey leads the way with three. Thomas is one of five players with two. Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Eric Berry and Jermaine Gresham are the others.

Iupati and Okung are part of an eight-man grouping with one Pro Bowl. Ryan Mathews, Thomas, Devin McCourty, Gerald McCoy, C.J. Spiller and Trent Williams are the others.

Iupati, Pouncey, Suh, Thomas and Pierre-Paul have been first-team Associated Press All-Pro once apiece.

Bradford was offensive rookie of the year. Suh won defensive rookie of the year.
Trent Williams' substance-abuse suspension for the final four games of the 2011 season delivered another blow to the 2010 draft's offensive tackles.

Five of the first 10 tackles drafted that year are unavailable to their teams, including the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Okung and the St. Louis Rams' Rodger Saffold.

Seven of the 10 are starters or would be starters if healthy.

Okung was playing as well as any of them when Trent Cole's takedown ended his season. Saffold, slowed by back and ankle problems at various points, was struggling in his second season starting with the Rams. The San Francisco 49ers' Anthony Davis, though improved, continues to struggle some in pass protection.

The chart shows the first 10 tackles drafted. A few other potential tackles, including Denver's Zane Beadles, projected to guard in the NFL. They were not listed.

The Oakland Raiders' Bruce Campbell remains on the list even though he has been a backup guard to this point. He projected at tackle coming out of college and still could wind up there.

2011 Seahawks Week 12: Five observations

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
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Five things I noticed while watching the Seattle Seahawks' most recent game, a 23-17 home defeat to the Washington Redskins:
  • About those young safeties. The Redskins enjoyed early success against Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor when Rex Grossman found Fred Davis for a 31-yard gain to the 2-yard line on Washington's first drive. Thomas blitzed and got into the backfield quickly, only to chase a ghost. Grossman faked a handoff inside, then faked one to Jabar Gaffney on an end-around. Thomas followed Gaffney long enough for Grossman to find Davis. Chancellor, having already leveled Santana Moss earlier in the drive, whiffed on Davis when trying to hit him instead of wrapping up. These were errors of aggression.
  • Competitive battles on the lines. The Seahawks' left tackle, Russell Okung, continues to play better as his ankle injuries fade from memory. He faced difficult matchups against the Redskins' Stephen Bowen and Brian Orakpo. All parties made positive plays. Okung stood out early when the Seahawks got the Redskins' front flowing to the offensive right, setting up Marshawn Lynch's cutback for a big gain. Okung drove Bowen across the formation and landed on him. Okung took an awkward hit from teammate Breno Giacomini late in the game and was limping. Trent Williams, the Redskins' left tackle, was jabbering at various Seahawks throughout the game. He was the aggressor and seemed to get the better of his matchups. Two young Seattle linemen, center Max Unger and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, looked good.
  • Guards were hustling. Robert Gallery and Paul McQuistan made excellent blocks well downfield to spring Lynch's 20-yard scoring reception.
  • Redskins' trippy field-goal team. Red Bryant's power was part of the story behind the field-goal attempt he blocked in the second quarter. The Seahawks bunched defenders over the right side of the Redskins' protection. A twist left the Redskins' Will Montgomery trying to block two players at once, including Bryant. He had no chance. The tighter splits linemen use when blocking for field goals prevents them from moving backward freely without tripping over teammates' legs. Montgomery tumbled over backward as Bryant rushed through.
  • Sprinting through the whistle can help. The Seahawks allowed their first rushing touchdown since Week 4 when Roy Helu sprinted around the left side for a critical 28-yard run with 9:57 left in the fourth quarter. It's unrealistic to expect every player on defense to run his absolute hardest throughout every moment of every play. The Seahawks would have been better off her if Leroy Hill had done that on this play, however. Hill let up when Chancellor appeared likely to make a tackle near the line of scrimmage (after Helu hurdled Roy Lewis). Hill accelerated when Helu broke free, but he let up again when Helu reached the 10-yard line. Hill was a couple yards behind and to the inside. He wasn't going to catch Helu, most likely. This was the signature play in a poor tackling game for Seattle.

That's it for now. I'm heading to Qwest Field early for the Thursday night game.

Final Word: NFC West

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 3:

[+] EnlargeDarnell Dockett
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesDarnell Dockett and the Cardinals have a chance to be the early leaders in the division.
Big opportunity for Arizona. Yes, the Cardinals looked horrible in Week 2, but of all the NFC West teams, Arizona appears most likely to win in Week 3. The Cardinals are better than the Oakland Raiders and they're playing at home with much to prove. If San Diego beats Seattle and the Cardinals beat the Raiders, Arizona would stand atop the division with a 2-1 record heading into Week 4. Just another reminder that this division race could be close and the Cardinals, for all their struggles, figure to remain a part of it. I think San Francisco will be there in the end, but Arizona has a chance to buy some breathing room while the 49ers play road games against Kansas City and Atlanta (the 49ers have a 2-21 road record since 2005 in early games against teams other than the St. Louis Rams).

One week late on Chris Long hype. Rams defensive end Chris Long was supposed to break through in Oakland a week ago, but Raiders tackle Langston Walker played better than I anticipated. Long and fellow Rams defensive end James Hall should have a better opportunity in Week 3 because they're playing at home and their opponent, Washington, has issues on the offensive line. Rookie left tackle Trent Williams suffered knee and toe injuries while allowing a sack to Houston's Mario Williams last week (Williams had three sacks in the game).

Barometer game for Seattle. Beating the Chargers at Qwest Field could reveal plenty about the Seahawks' prospects this season. The team appears to lack the pure pass rush and overall talent to claim many victories away from home. Coach Pete Carroll has been hopeful that crowd noise at home can make his pass-rush more effective. It happened in Week 1 against San Francisco. Beating the 49ers and Chargers to go 2-0 at home would make it easier to envision the Seahawks going, say, 6-2 or 7-1 at home season. And if that happened, the team could get into the .500 range by winning one or two games on a road schedule featuring the Rams, Raiders and Tampa Bay Bucs.

Alex Smith needs help. The 49ers' quarterback made strides by leading the fourth-quarter drive to a tying touchdown and two-point conversion against New Orleans on Monday night. Smith was effective largely because the Saints had to worry about the 49ers' running game. Smith will need more of the same from Frank Gore and his offensive line against Kansas City in Week 3. The Chiefs have allowed 3.8 and 2.8 yards per carry in their victories over San Diego and Cleveland, respectively. They haven't faced a running back with Gore's credentials, however. Smith and the 49ers have won three road games with fourth-quarter comebacks over the years. They had a 100-yard rusher in two of those games.

About those Cardinals. They lost three of their first four home games last season and needed an interception return for a touchdown, plus a goal-line stand, to beat Houston in the one home game Arizona won during that stretch. Arizona plays its 2010 home opener against the Raiders on Sunday and I've seen nothing from Oakland suggesting an upset is coming. But the Cardinals seemed to lack fight and urgency against the Falcons last week. The Raiders improbably won at Denver and Pittsburgh during the final month of the 2009 season. Arizona needs to win this game before facing San Diego (road) and New Orleans (home).

Around the NFC West: Waiting games

July, 31, 2010
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Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times sees no signs of protracted contract disputes involving the Seahawks' remaining unsigned draft choices. O'Neil: "In fact, just the opposite. Friday's slew of signings started with left tackle Trent Williams, who plays the same position as (Russell) Okung and was chosen two picks earlier. Eric Berry, the safety chosen fifth by Kansas City, one spot ahead of Okung, also signed. That gives the Seahawks and Okung's agent a good idea for establishing the ceiling for Okung's deal. Similarly, the player picked ahead of (Earl) Thomas in the draft -- defensive end Brandon Graham -- reached a five-year agreement with the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday. Those deals will help set the parameters in negotiations between Seattle and its two remaining unsigned rookies."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com asks 10 questions heading into Seahawks training camp. Johns: "The Seahawks ranked 30th in the league in pass defense last year, largely because of the lack of rush (see No. 3 earlier), but also because of some injury woes. That's why two of the most critical players to watch this preseason are cornerback Marcus Trufant and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says during a chat he doesn't think Justin Forsett will reach 1,000 yards this season. Williams: "I don't think Forsett is going to get enough touches to rush for a 1,000. I expect Forsett and (Julius) Jones to split the carries down the middle, with a sprinkling of (Leon) Washington, who likely will contribute more on special teams. But we'll see. If Forsett can stay healthy and get 15-18 rushes a game, it's possible."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to sign first-round choice Dan Williams sooner rather than later. He also says the Cardinals placed inside linebacker Gerald Hayes on the physically unable to perform list. Rookie O'Brien Schofield landed on the non-football injury list. Also, the Cardinals signed a contract to keep their training camp at Northern Arizona University for the next three summers.

Also from Somers: a look at the Cardinals' roster heading into camp. Whisenhunt: "There's going to be a lot of interesting things going on this training camp. There are going to be battles for positions. There are going to be battles for playing time. We're going to get an opportunity to see if some of the young players are ready to step up."

More from Somers: The Cardinals' conditioning test holds special appeal this year. Somers: "Saturday morning's conditioning run usually holds little interest. But guard Deuce Lutui will be on center stage. If he completes the runs in the prescribed time, Deuce can tell everyone that he knew he had things under control at all times. If he doesn't, well, coach Ken Whisenhunt won't be happy. No word on what Deuce is weighing. He's under 396, which he weighed in mid-June, but more than the 340-or so he weighed in December."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the surgery Hayes underwent earlier this offseason was similar to the procedure Monty Beisel underwent a year ago.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rams executive Kevin Demoff this way after the team signed rookie Sam Bradford: "I kept hearing during this process, especially early in the process, that maybe Sam didn't want to be here. But I've never heard Sam say anything but how excited he was to be in St. Louis, and how excited he is about the opportunity to help make this team successful again. I talked to Sam earlier tonight, and he's very excited. I'm excited that every fan will want to see the beginning of a new era with him and the Rams and our other new players."

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Donnie Avery showed up to Rams camp at 193 pounds, reflecting an effort to become stronger and more durable.

Also from Nelson: Rams tight end Fendi Onobun appealed to the team for his natural ability. He needs seasoning.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams guard Roger Allen III, who is back from knee surgery.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch polls colleagues for their thoughts on camp battles for the Rams. Thomas: "As of Thursday, it became clear that the left tackle position was up for grabs between last year’s No. 2 overall pick, Jason Smith, and this year’s second-round pick, Rodger Saffold. The coaching staff likes Saffold’s athleticism as a pass blocker, and Smith isn’t even practicing fully as he comes back from a June fractured toe. At right guard, versatile vet Adam Goldberg enters camp as the favorite, but Hank Fraley and John Greco are in the mix as well. And of course, the No. 1 question entering camp is when does Sam Bradford take the reins from A.J. Feeley at quarterback?" The Rams previously said Saffold projects at right tackle. The team subsequently said Saffold could wind up on the left side. I would think the basic plan remains in place, however. Smith projects as the left tackle unless Saffold appears better suited to the position -- in which case St. Louis used the second overall choice for a right tackle.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says it's only a matter of time before Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati crack the 49ers' starting lineup. Maiocco: "Although coach Mike Singletary said he expects the incumbents to continue to work with the first team at the outset of camp, the rookies will clearly be given their chances to prove themselves. And it's clear both Davis and Iupati have designs on earning their way into the starting lineup sooner than later."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates the 49ers' rookie signings and says Kyle Williams spent his offseason fielding punts from former NFL mainstay Tom Rouen, 42. Williams: "He's been in the league forever. He told me a lot about what punters are going to do. He's about 100 years old, but he can still do it."

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat explains why the 49ers' Taylor Mays waited before signing his rookie deal. Mays didn't want to sign until Jimmy Clausen's deal was done. Barber: "Me and Jimmy actually have the same agent, so it was kind of waiting for Jimmy to get his contract done (with Carolina), so it would kind of be based upon what Jimmy did. That was kind of a little bit of in-house stuff ... I know my agent Gary (Wichard) had to get Jimmy taken care of first."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says it's time to update the 49ers' roster to reflect the true form of a certain third-round pick's first name. Remember Navorro Bowman? Well, forget about him. Brown: "Bowman clarified that his first name is spelled with a capital V -- as in, NaVorro -- even though it's been written repeatedly in lowercase, including on the 49ers' roster."

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers weren't sure whether franchise player Aubrayo Franklin would report to camp on time.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers haven't committed to naming first-round picks Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati as starters on opening day. Barrows: "(Coach Mike) Singletary said that Davis and Iupati were two of the most physical offensive linemen in the draft. He said there was one other offensive lineman -- Oklahoma's Trent Williams -- they had in the same category."

Also from Barrows: Acting general manager Trent Baalke says the 49ers traded up two spots in the first round because they were afraid someone else would jump ahead of them to draft Anthony Davis. The price was a fourth-round pick. Barrows: "The biggest knock on Davis entering the draft was his commitment to the game. As a freshman, he arrived at Rutgers weighing 363 pounds -- far heavier than what the Scarlet Knights' coaches were expecting. He was suspended for a game in 2008 for violating team rules, and he also was benched for a quarter the following season for undisclosed reasons."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat expects Baalke to continue in his current role after the draft. Maiocco: "He made a decisive move to trade up two spots to secure the services of tackle Anthony Davis. It was a questionable strategy, considering the 49ers surrendered a fourth-round pick to jump over a couple teams that did not have any needs at offensive tackle. But Baalke did not want to take any chances of losing out on Davis to a team trading up. Baalke said he'd do the same thing '100 out of 100 times.' " It still seemed unnecessary and impatient, but we'll never know for sure. And if Davis becomes an outstanding player, no one will care.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers' moves in the first round broke from tradition. Maiocco: "Since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger, the 49ers had not previously chosen an offensive tackle within the top 20 picks, and they've never gone with a guard in the top 30."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says it's clear Singletary is running the draft, and that was a good thing Thursday night, in his view.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News quotes Singletary as saying the 49ers put "very little" thought into drafting a quarterback in the first round.

Also from Kawakami: Singletary reveled in the 49ers getting bigger and more physical through this draft.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says first-round choice Dan Williams was the 11th-rated player on the Cardinals' draft board. Was this the full board or the separate 120-player board? Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "You start to let your mind think, 'OK, we're going to have a chance to get this player,' and you start to worry. You know how superstitious I am, you don't want to think about it because you might jinx it."

The Arizona Republic runs a photo showing the Cardinals' new alternate uniform, to be worn occasionally: "NFL teams can wear the alternate uniform as many as three times per season -- once in the preseason and twice in the regular season (not permitted in the postseason). It has not yet been determined how many times or in which games the Cardinals will wear their alternate uniforms."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says defensive end Darnell Dockett was excited when the team drafted Williams. Dockett via Twitter: "IT'S A CELEBRATION. NOW I GOT TO TRAIN THE DOG and we shall GO BITE!"

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are open to trading the 33rd pick of the draft. General manager Billy Devaney on the time between first and second rounds: "It does at least give us more time to weigh options if we do get calls, which is kind of neat. And hopefully there might be a team that thinks that's their last chance to get a certain position ... so maybe they'd be willing to move up."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams No. 1 draft choice Sam Bradford felt all the way back from a shoulder injury during a workout for the team in Florida a couple weeks ago. Bradford: "We were down in Pensacola (Fla.) throwing, and it was just one of those workouts where I was accurate. My ball, it was coming out quick. My arm strength felt good."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Bradford offers a new beginning for the Rams. Miklasz: "The Rams must be aggressive in doing everything they can to find Bradford an elite wide receiver and a good-hands tight end. The Rams' offensive line is better than most people assume, but still requires sprucing. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and staff will have to prove they know what they are doing. And that they can find the right balance by handling this gift with care — but without being overly protective. Already there are questions about how soon Bradford will start."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says it's important to be patient with Bradford.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat offers options for the Rams in the second round. Balzer: "The end of the first round left numerous talented players available. It appears the Rams’ most likely choices would be a defensive end or wide receiver. They could choose between receivers Golden Tate, Arrelious Benn and Damian Williams, or defensive ends Sergio Kindle or Everson Griffen. However, Kindle has off-field issues, which could be why he lasted through the first round. Griffen also has maturity questions."

Jim Rodenbush for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat quotes Devaney this way on Bradford: "There’s going to be a learning curve. But at the end of the day, that’s going to be one of his assets. He’s extremely intelligent. The more work he gets here, and he gets exposed to that, that’s going to be one of the real pluses about Bradford. He’s going to be great at that part of the game."

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times offers approval for the Seahawks' new leadership -- coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider -- after the team drafted Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the first round. Kelley: "In the postdraft news conference Carroll and Schneider were almost giddy, teasing each other about their bowling night with Okung and kidding about the camera in the Hawks' war room that caught Schneider flexing his muscles at the end of the day. But he deserved a few flexes. Schneider made the right calls. He found two starters to help fill his skinny roster."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times was surprised Okung was available for Seattle. O'Neil: "The biggest surprise about Okung's selection was the fact he was available. For months he was considered the top offensive lineman available, and he was one of two offensive tackles Seattle would have been willing to pick No. 6 overall. The other, Trent Williams of Oklahoma, was drafted No. 4 by Washington. When Kansas City chose safety Eric Berry with the fifth pick, it cleared the way for Seattle to take Okung."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks filled two major needs.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks know they didn't land a professional bowler in Okung, but they hope they've gotten a future Pro Bowler. Okung: "I come from very humble beginnings. You learn how to be a hard worker, and be somebody who has a lot of drive, who is self-motivated."
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Alex Gibbs generally doesn't spend much time speaking with reporters, but he couldn't hide his excitement Thursday night.

Gibbs said he went into the draft hoping to land tackles Russell Okung or Trent Williams. Okung will start at left tackle from the beginning, Gibbs said, and recently signed guard Ben Hamilton will mentor him.

Hamilton, who played for Gibbs in Denver, previously mentored the Broncos' Ryan Clady. Gibbs said he wouldn't want to throw a rookie into action right away without having a veteran experienced in the offensive system to line up nearby. The team signed Hamilton with that in mind, Gibbs said.

Gibbs said Okung appealed to him because of his work ethic, love for football, long arms, talent and overall attitude.

What the Seahawks want early

April, 22, 2010
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RENTON, Wash. -- This just in from ESPN's Shelley Smith, reporting from Seahawks headquarters:
A source close to the team tells me Pete Carroll wants an offensive tackle, a defensive tackle and a safety and that the only OT Carroll wants is Trent Williams from Oklahoma or else he won't draft an OT early.

The top players at those positions could be gone, in which case we start thinking about ... Jimmy Clausen? C.J. Spiller?

Last-minute look at mock drafts

April, 22, 2010
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Nolan Nawrocki, Rob Rang, Rick Gosselin and Pat Kirwan have posted updated mock drafts recently.

The chart shows their predictions for NFC West teams, with links to their full mock drafts.

They agree on Sam Bradford at No. 1. Two think Eric Berry will land in Seattle at No. 6. Two like Anthony Davis to the 49ers at No. 13. None agreed on Seattle's choice at No. 14 or the 49ers' choice at No. 17. All predicted Arizona would take a linebacker -- Sean Weatherspoon or Brandon Graham -- at No. 26.

Rang has Seattle taking Jimmy Clausen at No. 6. Gosselin has Clausen going 30th to Minnesota. Not much of a consensus, in other words.

Note that Gosselin is the only one thinking Seattle will draft an offensive tackle in the first round. There's no question the Seahawks' obvious need for a tackle has made it easier to reach when making projections for Seattle at No. 6.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers highlights from an XTRA910 radio interview with Cardinals quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. Somers: "Miller was forthcoming with his opinions on the top quarterbacks in this draft. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is big, strong and throws a tight spiral. Like most people, Miller thinks the Rams will take Bradford with the first pick. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen is impressive, too, but Miller said teams have to wonder how much he will improve. Clausen played at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis in a pro system. Texas' Colt McCoy doesn't have a great arm and might have some trouble throwing some routes. But Miller likes McCoy's leadership ability and toughness and thinks he could be a good QB, maybe best suited for a West Coast attack."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says new Cardinals kicker Jay Feely doesn't shy away from contact, same as predecessor Neil Rackers. Feely: "If you see the play develop and you have the guts and ability to go down and fill that hole at the 25-yard line, they only have two or three yards to beat you and you can make the play. That’s when I feel like a football player too."

Also from Urban: Catching up with globetrotting Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Brian McIntyre of scout.com passes along dates for the Seahawks' organized team activities. The team has a minicamp scheduled for next week.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks will not select Clausen in the first round, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper. I wasn't able to hear all of Kiper's media conference call Wednesday, but at one point I thought he said Seattle could consider Clausen. I'm in the minority on this one, though. Multiple reports are quoting Kiper to the contrary. The call lasted two-plus hours.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says there's too much smoke before a draft to make sense of various projections. Boling on Seattle: "Some of the talk suggests that they don’t need to expend high-end picks on offensive linemen because of the nature of the zone-blocking scheme brought in by new line coach Alex Gibbs. Baloney. This line has been dreadful and the tackle on that left side is still going to have to block the best pass rushers in the league regardless of scheme. Look at the big picture. How would it have been in 1997 if somebody had said they didn’t want to take Walter Jones because he didn’t fit the current scheme. The Seahawks are on their fourth head coach since Jones was drafted. Schemes have come and gone; great players persist."

Michael Lombardi of NFL.com says the Broncos still want a first-round choice for Brandon Marshall, and that trade talks could accelerate. Seattle would not give up one of its current first-round choices for Marshall, in my view, unless the team received something more in return.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Clausen while noting that the Rams appear more likely to select Bradford. Clausen: "I've played in a pro-style offense for the past three years, played under center under coach (Charlie) Weis, and I feel that I'm the most ready guy out there. ... I think I translate the best to the NFL because I've already had to deal with what those guys are going to have to go through, which is learning a pro-style system and having growing pains growing up in a system."

Also from Thomas: Na'il Diggs is the newest Ram. Thomas: "Rams general manager Billy Devaney has continued to work on getting bigger in the front seven this offseason, in an effort to improve the team's run defense. Diggs, a 6-feet-4 and 240 pounds, had good size for an outside linebacker and has a reputation as a good run defender."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Diggs is most likely to play the strong side, contrary to expectations.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Diggs' addition gives the Rams three linebackers from Ohio State.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says during a chat that the 49ers would be wise to draft Dan Williams, if available, because teams running 3-4 defenses need good nose tackles and Aubrayo Franklin could leave after the 2010 season. Barrows on Alex Smith: "My gut feeling is that he'll have his best year yet but that there will be enough bad spots that at the end of the year we'll still be asking the same questions about him. Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but I just don't see it being black and white."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers draft advice for the 49ers. He lists Russell Okung, Trent Williams, Bryan Bulaga, Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Derrick Morgan and Sergio Kindle as players the 49ers should draft if available to them (the assumption being that Bradford, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy would be long gone).

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers should use mid-round picks for offensive tackles if the team cannot find one worth taking in the first round.
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, focusing next on the Seahawks (additional analysis here):

6. Seattle Seahawks

Mel's latest pick: Trent Williams, LT, Oklahoma

My thoughts: Perceptions have come full circle in this spot. Kiper previously had the Seahawks taking Morgan, Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford in this spot. Both were gone by No. 6 in his latest mock. A general manager told me this week he thought the Redskins would take Williams at No. 4. Would the Lions or Bucs take Okung instead of one of the defensive tackles? They could, but that might be overthinking things. Williams does make sense for the Seahawks at No. 6 if he's available, based on need, his projected fit in the zone-blocking scheme and the potential talent evaluators see in him (despite concerns about his work ethic). Alex Gibbs, the Seahawks' influential line coach, has never been with a team that drafted a tackle higher than No. 20. The Seahawks' obvious need at the position might make Williams or the top-rated available tackle hard for Seattle to pass up.

Kiper mock update: 49ers at No. 17

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
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Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, focusing next on the 49ers (additional analysis here):

17. San Francisco 49ers

Mel's latest pick: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

My thoughts: This scenario would work out well for the 49ers. They certainly could use a tackle. Davis would fill the need. As Kiper noted earlier Wednesday, he considers Davis a top-five talent with enough question marks to drag him down a bit, similar to Michael Oher's situation in 2009. Kiper thought Davis' draft status would have improved with another year of seasoning. The 49ers' new line coach, Mike Solari, could help get Davis ready. This choice needs to be a long-term selection anyway. And if Davis truly has elite talent, the 49ers wouldn't be reaching. I do wonder if Davis will remain available this late, and whether the 49ers could resist taking him at No. 13. In previous mocks, Kiper had the 49ers taking Texas safety Earl Thomas, Idaho guard Mike Iupati and Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams. He had the 49ers passing on Iupati this time, with Williams gone before the 17th pick.

Sizing up NFC West mock drafts

April, 6, 2010
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Draft analysts Nolan Nawrocki and Rob Rang posted updated mock drafts Monday.

I've singled out their selections for NFC West teams and run them alongside the Insider projections Mel Kiper and Todd McShay made March 11.

Nawrocki says he thinks Williams' skills mesh perfectly with what the Seahawks want to do offensively, offsetting questions about Williams' work ethic.

Three of the four analysts have Clemson running back C.J. Spiller landing in the NFC West.

Nawrocki and Rang line up on Sam Bradford (Rams), Williams (Seahawks), and Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

Weatherspoon would replace Karlos Dansby at inside linebacker in these projections. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was with the Steelers when they used a second-round choice for a 3-4 inside linebacker with similar height and weight (Kendrell Bell).

I'm just not sure if using a first-round pick for an inside linebacker qualifies as an ideal scenario. Nose tackle Dan Williams remained available for the Cardinals' choice at No. 26 on Nawrocki's mock draft (landing with San Diego at No. 28).

Anatomy of a Gibbs-coached lineman

April, 1, 2010
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The earlier item about Rob Sims' status led to a Facebook discussion featuring thoughts on Alex Gibbs' preferences for offensive linemen.

Gibbs is the line coach in Seattle and probably the most influential assistant in the NFC West as far as shaping draft priorities in 2010. That is partly because Gibbs is a high-profile coach. It's also because he demands a specific type of player for his scheme.

I've gone through every offensive lineman Gibbs' teams have drafted (download sortable list here). Patterns have emerged. I filtered out the years he spent in the league prior to 1995, his first with Denver, when analyzing player weights across specific positions. The thought was that player weights from the 1980s and even early 1990s might be outdated. Also, Gibbs might have been less influential early in his career, particularly when with the Raiders.

Since 1995, the players listed as guards averaged 289 pounds. Gibbs' teams drafted them in the second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. The players listed as centers averaged 302 pounds. Gibbs' teams drafted them in the third, fifth and seventh rounds. The players listed as tackles averaged 313 pounds. Gibbs' teams drafted them in the first, fourth, fifth and seventh rounds.

The Facebook discussion brought to light a Florida State-related blog entry summarizing comments Gibbs made during a coaching video (extra credit for anyone who can find the video). The summary suggested Gibbs was most particular about centers, then guards, then tackles.

An inexperienced or less intelligent player would have a harder time starting right away at one of the interior positions. Look up scouting reports for Gibbs' interior linemen and they'll mention smarts and a lack of size. "Very, very smart and plays smart," the late Joel Buchsbaum wrote about eventual Broncos draft choice Lennie Friedman in his 1999 report for Pro Football Weekly. "Average size, speed and physical tools."

Broncos guard Ben Hamilton, one of the free agents Seattle has considered this offseason, fits the description. Buchsbaum summed up Hamilton this way in his 2001 preview: "Very smart and dedicated. ... Might be able to play guard or center for a team like the Broncos. ... Lacks great natural size and ability. Is a pumped-up 250-pounder."

Sims is much bigger and more powerful, which doesn't matter in a Gibbs blocking scheme.

Since Gibbs entered the NFL in 1984, his teams have drafted one offensive lineman among the top 20 overall choices -- 338-pound tackle George Foster, selected 20th in 2003 despite not really fitting the Gibbs mold. Gibbs' teams have held a dozen choices higher than 20th during that time. His teams have held 43 choices among the top 59 overall picks, using three of them for offensive linemen (all tackles).

Gibbs' teams have held 11 picks between the 60th and 77th slots. They used five of them for offensive linemen, all guards or centers, including Dan Neil and Will Shields. Seattle holds the 60th pick this year. Three of them were 6-foot-3, one was 6-2 and one was 6-4. That's another thing about the linemen on Gibbs' wish lists. The guards and centers aren't very tall.

It's a little tougher to project what kind of tackle Seattle might select. The Seahawks' need at the position could be great enough to justify taking the most talented player, with less regard for the things Gibbs demands from his interior offensive linemen. That might be a justification for projecting Trent Williams to Seattle at No. 6, as some have done lately.

Following up on the offensive tackles

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
11:22
AM ET
The Seahawks and 49ers could be in the market for an offensive tackle in the first half of the draft's first round.

The pecking order for tackles can be open to interpretation. Andre Smith wasn't a consensus Top 10 choice heading into the 2009 draft, but the Bengals saw him in that manner, and that is all that mattered. They selected him sixth overall.

Seattle holds the sixth pick this year and I've heard increasing chatter about them targeting Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams in that spot. Analysts Nolan Nawrocki and Rob Rang both have Williams going to Seattle at No. 6 in their latest projections.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. saw Williams as a right tackle when we discussed the position in November. I followed up with Muench this week and wanted to share some of his thoughts.

Mike Sando: Could Williams make sense for Seattle that early?

Steve Muench: I talked to one scout recently who said he thought Williams was the best tackle on the board. That is not my opinion.

Mike Sando: Who do you see as the best tackle in the draft?

Steve Muench: I think talent-wise it is Anthony Davis, who from what I understand is dropping big-time. People are very concerned about how hard he is going to work after getting that first paycheck. I would not take him first. I also have concerns about Russell Okung. I like how tough he is. I really like how he is just physical. He does a good job riding guys past the edge. But I don't think he is an elite athlete like some of the other guys we have seen come through. He has a hard time sinking his hips, which could affect his ability to anchor and change direction. I would like to see him play lower at times.

Mike Sando: Let's get back to Williams.

Steve Muench: He has really kind of surprised us with how athletic he has looked, but he has had a hard time with speed rushers off the edge. That is why we have said he is better at right tackle. Him running a great time at the combine, frankly, doesn’t change that for me. He is a tough kid. He is not as long as Okung. If you asked me, I think Okung might start at right tackle as a rookie and then develop into a very good left tackle. whereas I think Trent Williams is going to be a Pro Bowl right tackle for years.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks would have to like the fit for their zone scheme to take Williams that early. Another prospect, Bryan Bulaga, has been rated everywhere from early first round to down in the 20s.

Steve Muench: I think he has some work to do in terms of technique. He gets caught flat-footed in pass protection and that gives him a hard time with athletic rushers. Spin moves give him some problems because of that. The thing I love about him, he is not a great athlete but his balance and ability to absorb is really, really good. He doesn’t have to be in perfect position to hold his ground all the time. You'll see guys running full speed into him and he will just stone them. The jury is still out because he is a younger kid.

Mike Sando: What you're saying, basically, is that this is yet another draft class without a great tackle prospect.

Steve Muench: These guys are not as athletic as a Joe Thomas. There is no Joe Thomas. Bulaga is not elite in that sense, but he has a chance to be a very good NFL player. Davis is dropping. Bruce Campbell is interesting because he is such a freak with his workouts. The sky is the limit, but he does not have a lot of experience at Maryland. He is just a three-year starter. He has had problems staying healthy. He is an interesting prospect, but not a guy I would touch that early in the first round.

Mike Sando: How early might Davis make sense?

Steve Muench: He is one of the more fascinating picks. He becomes an interesting pick there at No. 13, where the 49ers are picking. Davis is more of a left tackle. He is so talented in terms of value. If Mike Singletary sits down with him and thinks he can make him work, great. Otherwise, it could be Vernon Davis going the wrong way.

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