NFL Nation: Greg Cosell

A few notes on the changing landscape at tight end for NFC West teams on this second day of NFL free agency in 2013:
  • Jared Cook's addition to the St. Louis Rams gives the team two tight ends drafted in the first three rounds. Lance Kendricks is the other. Both are 25 years old. The NFL has 11 other tight ends drafted that early and younger than 26. The list includes Arizona's Rob Housler. The group averaged 50 receptions for 573 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. Kendricks and Cook were just under those averages.
  • Delanie Walker's departure from the San Francisco 49ers did not happen in a vacuum. When the 49ers decided against naming Walker their franchise player, Walker became available to the Tennessee Titans. The Titans had an opening after Cook left Tennessee for the Rams.
  • Walker was one of five NFC West tight ends to play at least half of his team's offensive snaps last season. Vernon Davis (91.3 percent), Zach Miller (83.7), Kendricks (80.7) and Housler (61.7) were the others.
  • Housler led NFC West tight ends in receptions with 45 last season. However, the Cardinals were the only team in the NFL with no touchdowns from tight ends. The Rams and Seahawks got 11 touchdowns from tight ends in 2012 after getting zero from the position in 2010. The 49ers got eight touchdowns from tight ends in 2012.
  • Thanks to video producer Fran Duffy for passing along a link to Greg Cosell's breakdown on Cook and other free-agent tight ends this offseason. Cook has outstanding speed for the position. Walker's departure from the NFC West and Cook's addition to the Rams combine to give St. Louis the most dynamic set of receiving tight ends in the division, a major shift from the recent past.
  • Cosell's breakdown also differentiates Cook and other fleet tight ends from the less dynamic Brandon Myers, who caught 79 passes for Oakland last season. Myers caught my attention for his ties to Seattle Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable. The two were together on the Raiders. Seattle could use a second tight end, in my view, but with Percy Harvin joining the offense, might the Seahawks be more apt to use three wideouts than two tight ends? Harvin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate would seemingly need to play extensively along with Marshawn Lynch and Miller. Oh, and let's not forget about fullback Michael Robinson, who has had a good thing going with Lynch over the past couple seasons.
The St. Louis Rams tapped into an SEC power when they selected defensive tackle Michael Brockers from LSU in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.

They targeted quite a few players from less notable conferences throughout the remainder of the draft, selecting talent from the Southern, Gulf South, Big Sky, Mid-America, Mountain West and Lone Star conferences (along with the Big East, ACC and SEC, again).

Brian Quick from Appalachian State was one such player. The receiver, selected in the second round, wasn't widely mentioned as a player the Rams would consider early.

"Many will use the small-school component of Quick’s resume to suggest he will have a much larger learning curve to adjust to the NFL," NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell wrote. "Again, another myth tossed around as if it's gospel. Watch any college wide receiver, especially one that played in a spread, and you will see limited routes."

That would include Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, the player linked most strongly to the Rams before the draft.

"In fact, studying both extensively on film, you can make the argument that Quick, who’s significantly bigger than Blackmon, is more naturally athletic," Cosell continued. "Quick is a very fluid and smooth athlete with excellent lateral quickness and deceptive vertical speed due to stride length. It’s not a stretch at all, when you analyze Quick’s physical and athletic attributes, to understand why the Rams selected him early."

Cosell's NFC West review touches on several early choices from the division. He explains why he thinks each selection made sense for the various teams, and why criticism is premature. He seemed to like the selections, although he did not project Seattle's Bruce Irvin or San Francisco's A.J. Jenkins as first-round selections in his mock draft, which listed Rams second-round choice Janoris Jenkins as a top-five talent.

Apologies, up front, for forgetting who passed along the link for Cosell's review. I'm counting on reading a reminder in the comments section. Thanks much.

2012 Kiper mock 5.0: 49ers thoughts

April, 25, 2012
Mel Kiper Jr. is back Insider with his fifth and final 2012 NFL mock draft for the first round.

We discussed the previous ones in some detail and will not miss this opportunity to dine on the possibilities, beginning with this look at the San Francisco 49ers, owners of the 30th overall choice.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin

Kiper's give: The 49ers have gotten deeper at wide receiver in free agency, and if Stephen Hill and Coby Fleener are off the board, I think they go after a big need in the run game here. The 49ers may have more weapons on the edges, but if they can't run the ball effectively it won't matter. Zeitler can move people up front and start early.

Sando's take: Kiper's logic is sound here, but sound can mean boring, and that is certainly the case when we combine the 49ers' draft position (30th) with Zeitler's on-field position (interior offensive line). The 49ers have used first-round picks for their left tackle, left guard and right tackle. Using another first-rounder for an offensive lineman would seem like overkill, but it would also continue a trend that predates the team's current leadership. Drafting a guard makes sense for the 49ers because it fills a need. Teams should also be able to find a guard or two later in the draft. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was still available in Kiper's mock draft. I had the 49ers drafting him in the ESPN Blogger Mock we put together earlier in the week. NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell recently sent Jenkins to Tampa Bay with the fifth overall choice in a mock matching on-field football abilities with team needs. His mock disregarded off-field concerns, however, and Jenkins has plenty of those. Fleener's Stanford pedigree makes him a potential fit with Jim Harbaugh, but the 49ers appear set at tight end.

The 49ers and defending Calvin Johnson

October, 14, 2011
Chris Culliver's interception for the San Francisco 49ers against Tampa Bay announced his arrival as more than just a rookie fill-in for injured veteran Shawntae Spencer.

Culliver, a third-round pick from South Carolina, could serve as the third corner against the Detroit Lions in Week 6 strictly on the merits.

In fact, as coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Friday, the team went with Culliver against the Buccaneers even though Spencer, who has been slowed by a toe injury, could have played.

Which one will play in the nickel defense against Calvin Johnson and the Lions?

"Tune in on Sunday and find out," Harbaugh said.

As Grant Cohn notes, Greg Cosell of NFL Films told KNBR-AM radio in San Francisco that he expected Culliver to play a leading role in defending Johnson, who leads the NFL in touchdown receptions with nine.

"The one player who really stood out to me and I think will be critical this week when they play Detroit, and that’s Chris Culliver," Cosell told KNBR. "He’s now their nickel corner. He plays on the outside. He’s over 6 feet. He’s 200 pounds. He runs well. They play a lot of man coverage concepts with a safety helping so that their corners can really play physically with their receivers coming off the line of scrimmage. So, I think you’ll see Culliver matched up against Megatron this weekend."

The 49ers liked Culliver coming out of college for several reasons:
  • Raw physical talent: Culliver is 6 feet tall and has run the 40-yard dash in the 4.4s.
  • Versatility: Culliver converted from safety to corner for his senior season, giving him a broader perspective than a cornerback might normally possess.
  • Potential: Being relatively new to corner meant, at least in theory, that Culliver still had considerable room to grow at the position.

Culliver made his interception against the Bucs playing left cornerback against three-receiver personnel on a third-and-9 play, with starting corner Carlos Rogers moving inside to defend the slot on the other side of the formation.

The 49ers figure to face quite a few similar personnel groupings Sunday.

Only three teams -- Buffalo, Seattle and Philadelphia -- have run more plays than the Lions with three-plus wide receivers on the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Detroit has also used two tight ends quite a bit, but with more than two receivers on the field so frequently, the 49ers' nickel defense will be key.

So far this season, the 49ers have done a much better job limiting long pass plays.

The chart at right shows how the 49ers' opponents have fared this season versus last on passes traveling longer than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. They are one of two teams yet to allow a touchdown pass on these throws. They've allowed only three completions on such passes after allowing 24 all last season.

Thanks to Hank Gargiulo and Doug Clawson of ESPN Stats & Information for providing the chart info.