NFC West: Dexter Davis

The Seattle Seahawks announced Dexter Davis' release from the team Tuesday. This was not big news. Davis was a seventh-round choice in 2010. Injuries had diminished his effectiveness. The team had released and re-signed Davis previously.


In the bigger picture, Davis' release provided an opportunity to revisit that 2010 draft. Three Seattle choices from that year have earned Pro Bowl honors, most in the league and one more than the division-rival San Francisco 49ers. Both teams had two first-round picks that year.

Pro Bowl selections can be a bit arbitrary as the league scrambles to fill holes in its all-star rosters. They're not a definitive measure of draft-class success. Having three draft choices achieve that status within three seasons is a good thing, however.

Sixteen teams drafted in 2010 at least one player who has subsequently achieved Pro Bowl status. The other 16 teams combined to draft zero from their 126 combined selections.

Russell Okung, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor earned Pro Bowl honors for Seattle. Mike Iupati and NaVorro Bowman did so for the 49ers. Daryl Washington did so for the Arizona Cardinals. Bowman and Washington have already signed contract extensions. The others are candidates for extensions in the not-too-distant future.

Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh Ric Tapia/Icon SMIPete Carroll's Seahawks and Jim Harbaugh's 49ers have continued their rivalry into the offseason.
The 2012 battle for NFC West supremacy between the San Francisco 49ers' and Seattle Seahawks' has turned into a perceived battle this offseason.

"It just feels like the Seahawks make a move, then the Niners make a move," former NFL quarterback Damon Huard said Wednesday during our conversation on 710 ESPN Seattle. "The Seahawks sign Percy Harvin, then the Niners go get Anquan Boldin. The Niners just signed Nnamdi Asomugha, they signed Colt McCoy, and now it's the Seahawks' turn to sign a quarterback. It really feels like this competition that was so fun to watch last fall has carried over into the offseason between the Niners and the Seahawks."

That's what it feels like from this angle, too. So, when ESPN's Bill Polian listed 49ers general manager Trent Baalke among his top six executives Insider without a mention of Seattle counterpart John Schneider, I knew some Seahawks fans would take offense.

"Schneider should be on there," SamW9801 wrote in commenting on the Polian piece.

I'm going to ratchet up the discussion with an assist from Tony Villiotti of draftmetrics.com. Tony identified ranges of picks by how frequently teams have found five-year starters within those ranges.

Using those general ranges, displayed at right, I've put together a chart at the bottom of this item comparing the 49ers' and Seahawks' draft choices since 2010.

Baalke took over the 49ers' draft room roughly a month before the 2010 draft. Schneider became the Seahawks' GM that offseason. The 49ers then underwent a coaching change after the 2010 season, at which point Baalke assumed the GM title officially. We might cut Baalke some slack for selecting Taylor Mays, a player then-coach Mike Singletary valued. There were surely other times when both GMs followed their coaches' input, for better or worse.

Seattle has drafted 28 players during this period, three more than San Francisco has drafted. The Seahawks had more to work with from a qualitative point as well. Their median choice was No. 130 overall, compared to No. 165 for the 49ers.

It's pretty clear both teams know what they are doing in the draft.

Aldon Smith, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and NaVorro Bowman have earned Pro Bowl and/or All-Pro honors for the 49ers. Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman have done so for the Seahawks.

Both teams have found franchise quarterbacks after the first round. Colin Kaepernick was chosen 36th overall in 2011. Wilson went to Seattle at No. 75 last year.

Neither team has missed in that first category, which includes players taken among the top 13 overall picks. Smith and Okung are elite players at premium positions.

Both teams have unanswered questions in that 14-40 range. The 49ers are waiting on receiver A.J. Jenkins to produce. The Seahawks haven't gotten much from guard James Carpenter. But in Iupati and Thomas, the 49ers and Seahawks, respectively, found players among the very best at their positions. Kaepernick's selection puts this group over the top for San Francisco. Seattle got eight sacks from Bruce Irvin as a rookie in 2012, so the Seahawks aren't far behind. It's just impossible to overlook the value a franchise quarterback provides.

Seattle has the edge in the 41-66 range. Mays is long gone from the 49ers. That leaves LaMichael James for the 49ers against Bobby Wagner and Golden Tate for Seattle. Wagner was an instant starter at middle linebacker and a three-down player who commanded consideration for defensive rookie of the year. Tate blossomed with Wilson at quarterback.

The Seahawks also have an edge in that 67-86 range, having selected Wilson.

Seattle holds a 7-3 lead in number of picks used between the 87th and 149th choices, a range producing five-year starters 16 percent of the time, according to Villiotti.

Both teams used picks in that range for players whose injury situations dragged down their draft status: Joe Looney in San Francisco, Walter Thurmond in Seattle. Both teams found starting linebackers in this range: Bowman to the 49ers, K.J. Wright to the Seahawks. Both teams found developmental running backs in that range: Kendall Hunter to the 49ers, Robert Turbin to the Seahawks. Both teams found Pro Bowl players: Bowman in San Francisco, Chancellor in Seattle.

Sherman, arguably the NFL's best cornerback, gives Seattle an edge in the 150 through 189 range of picks. Both teams found backup tight ends there. Anthony Dixon (49ers) and Jeremy Lane (Seahawks) have the potential to expand their roles.

The 49ers found starting fullback Bruce Miller in the final pick range, which runs from 190 to the end of the draft. Seattle found a projected starting guard there in J.R. Sweezy. Malcolm Smith is a candidate to start at linebacker for Seattle. Miller and Sweezy both played defense in college. Miller already has successfully transitioned to offense. Seattle believes Sweezy will do the same.

Summing it up: Both teams can feel good about their draft performance in the past three seasons. I doubt either team would trade its picks for the other team's. That makes sense. Teams draft the players they like best. The 49ers have six projected 2013 starters to show for their choices. The number is eight for the Seahawks, not counting Irvin or Tate. Seattle has had more choices and higher choices, and more openings in the lineup to accommodate those players. I think that shows in the results.

The Seattle Seahawks added defensive end Chris Clemons and kicker Steven Hauschka to their injured reserve lists this week.

Rookie Bruce Irvin, the 15th overall choice in the draft, will start in Clemons' place. Recently signed veteran Ryan Longwell will handle kicking duties for Hauschka.

Those moves led me to compile IR lists for remaining NFC playoff teams. I used the reserve lists at Ourlads.com, which updates its rosters daily.

Putting West's injury toll in perspective

December, 11, 2012
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Jeff Fisher's addition as head coach has surely helped the St. Louis Rams become more competitive this season. The team's current three-game winning streak is its longest since 2006.

Here is something else to consider beyond coaching: The Rams have zero established starters on their injured reserve list heading into the final three weeks of the season. That is down from as many as six at this point last season, although some of those players were on their way out for reasons related to performance.

There are three Rams players on IR at present, down from 12 following Week 14 last season.

The current injury situation in St. Louis more closely approximates 2010, when the Rams were hurting at wide receiver but healthy enough elsewhere to have a 6-7 record at this point. The current team is 6-6-1 heading into Week 15.

Many other variables beyond injuries differentiate a team from season to season, of course. But in looking at the chart, we can see why Arizona is having a hard time snapping what is now a nine-game losing streak.

The Cardinals have been the most injured team in the NFC West this season and it's not close. Their most significant injury, to quarterback Kevin Kolb, doesn't even show up in the chart. Kolb has not played since Week 6. The team has continued to carry him on its active roster in case he can return.

The numbers next to players' names in the chart show how many estimated starts each will have missed by season's end. I assumed Arizona's Ryan Williams would have started at running back until Beanie Wells' return. I also assumed Rams rookie Rokevious Watkins would have started at left guard if available for the final 15 games. That might be overestimating his role, but the situation appeared dire early in the season.
Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the Seattle Seahawks’ defense and special teams.

Defensive linemen (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.8

Safest bets: Red Bryant, Jason Jones, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Alan Branch

Leading contenders: Clinton McDonald, Jaye Howard, Greg Scruggs, Pep Levingston

Longer odds: Pierre Allen, Cordarro Law, Dexter Davis

Comment: The Seahawks finished the 2009 season with Bryant, Mebane, Craig Terrill, Colin Cole, Nick Reed, Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding and Darryl Tapp on their 53-man roster. Pete Carroll has transformed the line since becoming head coach before the 2010 season. The changes have been as much about fit as personnel. The group keeps getting stronger.

Linebackers (12)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.6

Safest bets: K.J. Wright, Leroy Hill, Bobby Wagner, Korey Toomer

Leading contenders: Heath Farwell, Matt McCoy, Malcolm Smith, Barrett Ruud

Longer odds: Michael Morgan, Allen Bradford, Kyle Knox, Jameson Konz

Comment: Toomer's arrival in the fifth round cranks up the pressure on Smith, a 2011 seventh-round choice. Farwell and McCoy could be competing for a spot. Farwell is better on special teams. McCoy offers more at linebacker. Bradford is converting from running back and has a chance to stick in some capacity. Ruud looks like insurance for Wagner, but his health is a concern.

Defensive backs (17)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.2

Safest bets: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman

Leading contenders: Jeron Johnson, Byron Maxwell, Roy Lewis, Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Winston Guy

Longer odds: DeShawn Shead, Ron Parker, Coye Francies, Donny Lisowski, Jeremy Lane, Phillip Adams, Chris Maragos

Comment: Three of the four starters went to the Pro Bowl last season; Sherman arguably should have gone. Trufant's conversion to a nickel role has the potential to upgrade Seattle's coverage. Injuries sidelined Trufant and Thurmond last season. Both can contribute at a reasonably high level if healthy. It's tough to bank on either one, however. Don't forget about Maxwell. He impressed in camp as a rookie, only to fade from the picture after suffering an ankle injury. Seattle likes its depth at corner. Johnson should be ready to take a step forward at safety. The Seahawks like what they've seen from Guy as well.

Special teams (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Safest bets: Jon Ryan, Steven Hauschka, Clint Gresham

Leading contenders: none

Longer odds: Carson Wiggs

Comment: Ryan led the NFL with 34 punts downed inside the 20 (against eight touchbacks). Opponents returned two punts for touchdowns, however.
Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. Insider singled out the San Francisco 49ers' passing game as one of the NFC's three most improved units this offseason.

Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James are among the newcomers he expects to upgrade that area.

A look at the areas where the 49ers' competitors have the greatest potential for improvement, in my estimation:
  • Arizona Cardinals: wide receiver. Michael Floyd's addition as a potential strong No. 2 wideout could upgrade two receiving spots by casting Andre Roberts into more of a slot role, which could suit him better. Floyd projects as the flanker, with Larry Fitzgerald remaining at split end most of the time. We should also mention the Cardinals' offensive line, simply because the team now has a few young players to develop. I'm just not sure how much Adam Snyder and rookie Bobby Massie will upgrade the right side initially.
  • Seattle Seahawks: quarterback. Adding Matt Flynn in free agency and Russell Wilson through the draft dramatically changes the outlook for the position in Seattle. We cannot know what Flynn or Wilson will become, and that is the point. The team will not go through another season with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst as the only viable options. That is progress. The Seahawks' pass rush deserves mention, too. Adding Bruce Irvin and Jason Jones changes the dynamic. A healthy Dexter Davis could be a factor, too.
  • St. Louis Rams: defensive line. The Rams also addressed their secondary, which was going to improve simply through better health. But with defensive tackles Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers joining the rotation, St. Louis now has four young starters on its line. Chris Long and 2011 first-round choice Robert Quinn are the others. The team still needs help at linebacker, but the brightened outlook at defensive tackle provides the foundation for improved run defense. That's important in a division featuring Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore, Beanie Wells and others.

That's how I see it, anyway. Now it's your turn.
Thoughts on Seattle Seahawks first-round pick Bruce Irvin after reading John Clayton's piece questioning the selection:
  • Specific role: The Seahawks envision Irvin as a situational pass-rusher for now and the evenutal successor to Chris Clemons in the "Leo" role. Clemons was a 236-pound linebacker coming out of college. He had a 4.7-second time in the 40-yard dash, went undrafted as a junior and floundered in Philadelphia. The Seahawks acquired him with a specific role in mind. Clemons ranks eighth in the NFL with 22 sacks over the last two seasons, more than Julius Peppers, James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Dwight Freeney, Trent Cole, Jason Pierre-Paul and others. Clemons now weighs 255 pounds and has become much stronger against the run. Irvin is Clemons' height (6-foot-3) and weighs 245 pounds, but he is much faster, having run the 40 in 4.4 seconds. The plan would be for Irvin to grow into a bigger role, not to remain a situational player forever.
  • Value at No. 15: Draft analysts did not anticipate Irvin's selection at No. 15. It's impossible to know whether the Seahawks could have drafted Irvin later than that. Three teams running variations of the 4-3 defense selected defensive ends in the first round. Irvin went first, followed by Shea McClellin to Chicago at No. 19 and Chandler Jones to New England at No. 21. Jacksonville, picking 38th, was the next 4-3 team to select a defensive end (Andre Branch). There was a six-pick window for 4-3 teams to select a pass-rusher in the first round. Seattle opened the window. Chicago and New England closed it, with the Patriots trading up to make sure the window did not slam on them. The Seahawks liked Jones, but concerns over a toe injury raised questions about how early they would select him. They were comfortable with the off-field issues Irvin carried into the draft.
  • Whether Irvin starts: Aldon Smith collected 14 sacks in a situational role with San Francisco last season. Robert Mathis had three seasons with double-digit sacks as a reserve at various points in his career with Indianapolis. Years ago, a young Anthony Smith put together three consecutive seasons with double-digit sacks despite rarely starting for the Los Angeles Raiders. The plan is for Aldon Smith to become a starter this year. Mathis continued to produce as a starter. Anthony Smith's sack numbers fell. Clemons is the best comparison for Irvin. They have physical similarities. They are playing in the same scheme. The same coaches and personnel people decided they fit the same role.

Irvin will be a fun player to watch during training camp. Dexter Davis is another Seattle pass-rusher to keep in mind. He missed all but one game last season after suffering a hip injury and could be overlooked heading toward the season.
A first-round draft choice isn't the only asking price for teams interested in Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent Mike Wallace.

Wallace, arguably the most formidable deep threat in the NFL, will command a fat contract as well.

How fat?

Matt Barrows of the Sacrament Bee says the San Francisco 49ers checked into Wallace, only to realize the receiver wanted a contract more lucrative than the one Larry Fitzgerald signed. Barrows: "Combine that with the first-round pick any team that signs Wallace to an offer sheet would lose if the Steelers didn't match the offer, and you start to understand why we've heard so little about Wallace in the last week and a half. That, of course, could change. Teams have another month to sign restricted free agents. But at that price, the 49ers aren't interested, and it's hard to imagine the Patriots, Bengals and Ravens paying that either." Noted: Restricted free agency has always been a mirage. It will remain one, largely, even though the price tag has come down now that the most expensive tender does not include a third-round choice on top of a first-rounder. Teams don't like giving up draft choices for the right to overpay.

Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee isn't buying Alex Smith's contention that there were no hard feelings when the 49ers pursued Peyton Manning. Voisin: "There isn't an athlete in pro sports who wouldn't be seething, wounded and increasingly distrustful of his bosses. Those chummy Smith-49ers family ties have been severely strained." Noted: The key variable is whether the 49ers were honest and forthright with Smith during the process.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News says Smith's coping ability serves him well. Purdy: "Will Smith be affected by Harbaugh's desire to seek a better quarterback alternative this offseason? Answer: Can't see why. Smith's mental toughness might have been an issue his first few seasons in the league, but his grittiness should never be questioned after that playoff performance against a New Orleans Saints team that, we now know, was just as concerned with maiming quarterbacks as stopping them."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers had to re-sign Smith after missing out on Manning.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com updates 49ers signings.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams can still install Gregg Williams' defense even without the indefinitely suspended Williams. Miklasz: "The Rams may have not known about the New Orleans bounties -- but they knew Williams was no angel. He is who they thought he was. To fire Williams now would be a phony, hypocrisy-filled move. Why would the Rams bring Williams back if Roger Goodell reinstates him? I can think of a few reasons. The Fisher-Williams friendship is a factor. Williams has been a successful coordinator who cultivates the kind of defensive mindset that Fisher wants. That's also a factor. I'm also assuming Fisher has empathy, figuring that Williams deserves a second chance if Williams cooperates with the league, helps the league educate players on this serious issue and convinces the league that he's a reformed coach." Noted: The question I have is whether Williams can ever again coach credibly in the NFL, or whether the unapologetic brashness that made him appealing can survive these sanctions.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rams sources as downplaying any interest in Tim Tebow.

Also from Thomas: a look at positions where the Rams have yet to address needs in free agency.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at how the NFL's punishment against Williams and the New Orleans Saints affects Arizona. Urban: "To begin with, the Cardinals will be the first team to play the Saints, since the teams will match up Aug. 5 in the Hall of Fame game to kick off the preseason. Wonder what the talking points will be during that broadcast? You wonder if the Cards are just going to be in the background, because it’s hard to see the Saints’ storylines not dominating. ... The Saints lose second-round picks this year and next. That’ll move up the Cards’ third-round pick a slot sooner. We’ll see what it means in 2013."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle quotes Seahawks general manager John Schneider on why free-agent defensive tackle Jason Jones was eager to sign with Seattle. Schneider: "He saw what Chris Clemons has done and what Raheem [Brock] has done and Dexter [Davis] in his first year. So to be able to come in here and be a situational interior pass-rusher -- which we've really been lacking over the last several years -- to come in here and be able to jump off the ball, really that noise factor was a big deal for him. We think he's got a big upside, and he thinks he's got a big upside as well, so he's looking at this as a proving ground. And again I think it's a credit to the 12th Man, because he saw this is a stadium he could come into and be incredibly effective."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says free-agent defensive end Dave Tollefson visited the Seahawks.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com notes that Marshawn Lynch will represent Seattle in the Madden cover contest.
The San Francisco 49ers have become the hunted in the NFC West.

Having already take aim at their 2011 turnover differential, let us consider another reason for a potential 2012 regression from 13-3.

"Repeating the 2011 relative lack of injuries on the 49ers may be as hard as replicating the turnover ratio," Michael Rally contended via Twitter.

Injuries did slow and/or sideline some of the 49ers' most important players, including running back Frank Gore and linebacker Patrick Willis. Starting receiver Josh Morgan missed most of the season. A freak jaw injury sidelined tight end Delanie Walker late in the season. A hamstring injury slowed defensive end Ray McDonald.

But in looking at injured-reserve lists, the 49ers definitely fared better than their division rivals. They finished the regular season with five players on IR. The other three NFC West teams had a combined 39.

I've broken out the IR lists by team and position, based on where teams stood after Week 17. In some cases, teams released and/or reached injury settlements with players placed on IR previously. Teams usually keep on IR the players they value the most, however. The players listed below are the most relevant ones.

St. Louis Rams (16)

Fullback: Brit Miller

Receiver: Danny Amendola, Mark Clayton, Greg Salas

Tight end: Mike Hoomanawanui

Offensive line: guard Jacob Bell, Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith

Defensive line: Jermelle Cudjo

Linebacker: Josh Hull

Cornerback: Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Al Harris, Brian Jackson, Marquis Johnson, Jerome Murphy

Comment: Quarterback Sam Bradford was injured much of the year without landing on IR. The Rams ran through several unlisted cornerbacks as well. That position was hit hard. Losing both starting offensive tackles is never good, but Smith wasn't a huge positive factor on the right side. The team was arguably better off without him in the lineup.

Seattle Seahawks (15)

Receiver: Kris Durham, Mike Williams, Sidney Rice

Tight end: John Carlson

Offensive line: John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Russell Okung

Defensive line: Jimmy Wilkerson

Linebacker: Jameson Konz, Matt McCoy, David Vobora, Dexter Davis

Cornerback: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Ron Parker

Comment: The Seahawks remained strong against the run largely because their line was healthier this season. Losing three-fifths of the starting offensive line could not stop Marshawn Lynch from producing at a high level. Rookie Richard Sherman capitalized on injuries at cornerback. Good, young depth helped Seattle weather injuries well.

Arizona Cardinals (8)

Quarterback: Max Hall

Running back: Ryan Williams

Offensive line: Brandon Keith, Floyd Womack

Defensive line: Dan Williams

Linebacker: Joey Porter

Cornerback: Crezdon Butler, Greg Toler

Comment: Ryan Williams' knee injury affected the team significantly. The injury situation was worse overall than the list would indicate. Quarterback Kevin Kolb missed seven starts with foot and concussion problems. Running back Beanie Wells played hurt much of the year and had a hard time producing late in the season. Adrian Wilson played through a torn biceps and got better as the season progressed.

San Francisco 49ers (5)

Receiver: Dontavia Bogan, Josh Morgan

Tight end: Nate Byham

Defensive line: Will Tukuafu

Cornerback: Curtis Holcomb

Comment: Byham was a solid blocking tight end. The team missed Morgan, especially late in the year. Gore's production diminished after he suffered an apparent knee injury in Week 10. Overall, though, the 49ers were healthy. They inflicted more injuries than they suffered, knocking out several opposing runners, including Felix Jones, LeGarrette Blount, Jahvid Best, Steven Jackson and Pierre Thomas.
The Seattle Seahawks can thank the division-rival San Francisco 49ers for adding a high-gloss shine to their 2010 draft class.

Kam Chancellor, a fifth-round pick for Seattle that year, is headed to the Pro Bowl after the 49ers' Dashon Goldson withdrew from the game, citing injury. Chancellor's presence on the NFC roster gives Seattle two Pro Bowl safeties from its 2010 class. Earl Thomas, chosen sixth overall that year, was named to the team as the starting free safety.

I went back through that 2010 class and noticed the St. Louis Rams (Mardy Gilyard) and Seattle Seahawks (E.J. Wilson) were the only NFC West teams to release players chosen earlier than the fifth round that year.

Chancellor and the Rams' Mike Hoomanawanui are the only current projected starters chosen later than the fourth round (they were taken one pick apart in the fifth). Hoomanawanui might not start; it's too early to say.

Taylor Mays and Jorrick Calvin were the only NFC West picks traded.

Seattle's Golden Tate, chosen 60th overall, is the highest choice remaining with his team as a backup, not a starter.

A quick run through the 2010 class for the NFC West:

Arizona Cardinals

Starters: Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, Andre Roberts.

Backups: John Skelton, Jim Dray, O'Brien Schofield.

Traded: Jorrick Calvin.

Released: none.

Comment: The Cardinals were picking later than their division rivals after winning the 2009 NFC West title. They still found four projected starters. Washington, a second-rounder, stands out as the best selection. Williams and Roberts have much to prove. Schofield appears to be ascending. He did not start in 2011, however, and will have to win the job.

San Francisco 49ers

Starters: Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, NaVorro Bowman.

Backups: Anthony Dixon, Nate Byham, Kyle Williams.

Traded: Taylor Mays.

Released: Phillip Adams.

Comment: Bowman's emergence as an All-Pro inside linebacker strengthens this class and helps offset Mays' disappointing stint with the team. Byham was emerging as a top blocker before suffering a season-ending injury. Iupati is a first alternate to the Pro Bowl. Williams is coming off a rough NFC Championship Game.

Seattle Seahawks

Starters: Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor.

Backups: Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, Anthony McCoy, Dexter Davis, Jameson Konz.

Traded: none.

Released: E.J. Wilson.

Comment: Thomas and Chancellor are making this a successful class. Okung might be the best of the three, but only if he can get healthy. Thurmond was a starter until suffering an injury at Cleveland. He'll have a hard time winning back a starting job now that Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman have locked down jobs. But he could still factor. Tate made strides late in the 2011 season.

St. Louis Rams

Starters: Sam Bradford, Rodger Saffold, Mike Hoomanawanui.

Backups: Jerome Murphy, Eugene Sims, Marquis Johnson, Josh Hull.

Traded: none.

Released: Mardy Gilyard, Hall Davis, Fendi Onobun, George Selvie.

Comment: This class will succeed or fail based on how Bradford develops under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Bradford and the rest of this class -- and the entire roster, pretty much -- struggled this past season.

The first chart breaks down NFC West teams' picks by projected status for 2012.

The second chart provides context. The Rams have released four players from their 2010 class, which could look bad. But they also had far more later-round picks than their division rivals. Those players have a harder time earning roster spots.

Assessing 2010 NFC West draft classes

August, 31, 2011
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The Arizona Cardinals' division rivals selected five players among the first 17 overall selections in the 2010 NFL draft.

The Cardinals weren't on the clock until they made nose tackle Dan Williams the 26th overall choice.

A year later, Arizona expects to have three members of its 2010 class starting in Week 1, a number that compares favorably within the division.

With the regular season less than two weeks away, I'll revisit the 2010 NFC West draft classes, pointing to injury considerations and key variables.

St. Louis Rams

Total 2010 picks: 11

No longer with team (1): Hall Davis, LB, fifth round (traded to Washington).

Projected starters (2): Sam Bradford, QB, first round; Rodger Saffold, LT, second round.

Others (8): Jerome Murphy, CB, third round; Mardy Gilyard, WR, fourth round; Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, fifth round; Eugene Sims, DE, sixth round; Fendi Onobun, TE, sixth round; George Selvie, DE, seventh round; Josh Hull, LB, seventh round; Marquis Johnson, CB, seventh round.

Injury considerations: Murphy underwent ankle surgery and is out indefinitely, a setback for the secondary. A series of injuries to Hoomanawanui makes it tougher for the team to count on him. If healthy, he's a key role player.

Key variable: Gilyard's development, discussed in some detail Tuesday. The Rams have other options at receiver. Gilyard suffered when the Rams lost their offensive coordinator heading into the NFL lockout.



Seattle Seahawks

Total 2010 picks: nine

No longer with team (1): E.J. Wilson, DE, fourth round (waived).

Projected starters (4): Russell Okung, LT, first round; Earl Thomas, FS, first round; Walter Thurmond, CB, fourth round; Kam Chancellor, SS, fifth round.

Others (4): Golden Tate, WR, second round; Anthony McCoy, TE, sixth round; Dexter Davis, DE, seventh round; Jameson Konz, DE, seventh round.

Injury considerations: Okung's repeated ankle sprains have kept him off the field for long stretches. The team needs him healthy to stabilize the line.

Key variable: Tate's development, discussed in some detail Tuesday. The section on Gilyard applies here. The Seahawks have other options. Tate suffered when the Seahawks fired their offensive coordinator heading into the lockout. It's looking like an upset if Tate becomes a key contributor this season.



San Francisco 49ers

Total 2010 picks: eight

No longer with team (1): Taylor Mays, SS, second round (traded to Cincinnati)

Projected starters (3): Anthony Davis, RT, first round; Mike Iupati, LG, first round; NaVorro Bowman, LB, third round.

Others (4): Anthony Dixon, RB, sixth round; Nate Byham, TE, sixth round; Kyle Williams, WR, sixth round; Phillip Adams, CB, seventh round.

Injury considerations: A season-ending knee injury will sideline Byham, who was looking like one of the better young blocking tight ends in the league.

Key variable: Davis' development. The 49ers need their young right tackle to gain consistency in his second season. Like other members of the 2010 draft class, Davis could have used a fuller offseason to develop in an organized setting. Instead, he's pretty much picking up where he left off last season.



Arizona Cardinals

Total 2010 picks: seven

No longer with team (1): Jorrick Calvin, CB, sixth round (traded to Philadelphia)

Projected starters (3): Williams, NT, first round; Daryl Washington, LB, second round; Andre Roberts, WR, third round.

Others (3): O'Brien Schofield, OLB, fourth round; John Skelton, QB, fifth round; Jim Dray, TE, seventh round.

Injury considerations: A high-ankle sprain has sidelined Skelton, the No. 2 quarterback. The team signed Brodie Croyle as insurance in the short term. Rich Bartel could push for the No. 2 job as well.

Key variable: Schofield's development. The Cardinals knew Schofield would require time to more fully recover from the knee injury he suffered during 2010 Senior Bowl practices. They've seen flashes from Schofield during the preseason and badly need whatever he can give them from a pass-rushing standpoint.
NFC West teams have drafted 22 defensive ends since 2002, a number smaller than I would have anticipated.

An even smaller number -- two! -- start for the teams that drafted them.

One, Antonio Smith, starts for another team.

A few notes relating to this latest item in a series examining various positions:
  • Kentwan Balmer appears as a defensive end because the San Francisco 49ers drafted him to play that position. Balmer played defensive tackle in college.
  • Darnell Dockett does not appear as a defensive end because the Arizona Cardinals drafted him to play defensive tackle. Yes, Dockett plays defensive end in the Cardinals' current scheme, but the NFL lists him as a tackle for Pro Bowl voting and he is not a typical defensive end even by 3-4 standards.
  • Of the 22, only Chris Long and Calais Campbell are starting for their original teams. Smith is starting for the Houston Texans.
  • Six of the eight most highly drafted ends since 2002 came from teams most recently affiliated with the ACC.
  • Long was the only player on the list drafted before the 28th overall choice.
  • Will Davis and Parys Haralson were listed as defensive ends coming out of college, but both projected as outside linebackers. That is why they do not appear below. Cody Brown also projects at linebacker.
  • I've used the term "not active" loosely in the charts to describe players who weren't on active rosters during the regular season recently.

Now, on to the charts. I've broken them up with italicized comments representing what NFL teams might have been thinking at corresponding stages of these drafts.

Playing it safe and hoping those NFL bloodlines pay off ...


Defensive linemen are at a premium, and we might find out why ...


The pure pass-rushers are gone by now ...


If these guys don't pan out, it'll be a while before we take another third-round end ...


It's an upset if we find a starter at this point ...


Time to fill out the practice squad, but you never know ...

The lockout will force NFL teams to rely more heavily on the draft than free agency, for now.

They'll need the players they chose in 2010 to step forward as well. That will be more challenging if the lockout prevents second-year pros from participating in the meetings and workouts that come with a typical offseason. It's still possible to make projections based on what 2010 draft choices showed as rookies.

I'll begin with the Seattle Seahawks.

"Our guys all the way through the picks, not everybody has stuck, but for the most part, we were counting on guys to play," coach Pete Carroll said from the NFL owners meeting last month. "You put together another year like that and another year like that, and your roster should be really be adjusted well."

The chart breaks down the Seahawks' 2010 draft choices based on how they could fit in 2011.

Why Seattle named Mike Williams inactive

December, 12, 2010
12/12/10
3:48
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Top receiver Mike Williams moved fairly well during warm-ups Sunday.

Williams' foot and ankle injuries threatened his ability to play a full game, however, and the Seattle Seahawks felt they could not commit a roster spot to him against San Francisco, particularly after Williams did not practice all week.

Williams does not play special teams, another consideration.

Keeping Williams active as a luxury would have required paring the roster elsewhere. The team did not feel comfortable sitting down one of its eight active defensive linemen.

The team needed to guard against depth issues on the defensive line in case nose tackle Colin Cole suffered another injury. Cole is coming back from an ankle injury and well ahead of Williams in the recovery process. He practiced all week.

Seattle kept eight defensive linemen active Sunday: ends Chris Clemons, Raheem Brock, Dexter Davis and Kentwan Balmer, plus tackles Brandon Mebane, Cole, Junior Siavii and Craig Terrill.

I would expect Williams to start against Atlanta in Week 15.
SEATTLE -- The Seahawks' list of players named inactive Sunday featured no surprises.

Cornerback Kelly Jennings and defensive end Brandon Mebane missed practices, so their inclusion on the inactive list had been expected. Mebane will have missed two games in a row after suffering a calf injury. Jennings suffered a hamstring injury in Week 6.

Also inactive for Seattle: Nate Ness, Dexter Davis, Allen Barbre, Chester Pitts, Anthony McCoy and E.J. Wilson.

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