NFL Nation: Mike Person

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When it comes to the health of left tackle Jake Long, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher & Co. have consistently played the hits throughout the offseason.

They've repeatedly insisted that Long's rehabilitation from offseason surgery on his right anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament is coming along just fine and reiterated their faith that Long will be ready to go in time for the regular-season opener Sept. 7.

Long
At last week's organized training activities, Fisher offered an even more optimistic outlook for Long's expected return.

“Jake is coming along. He’s doing the individual stuff. Jake’s injury was a little bit later than Sam’s," Fisher said, referring to quarterback Sam Bradford. "We expect him back somewhere middle part of training camp.”

If Long is indeed able to return to practice on that sort of timetable, there's reason to believe he can be ready to take his usual spot at left tackle against Minnesota in the opener. That would allow him a few weeks to round into shape and test his mobility, perhaps even play a series or two in one of the final two preseason games.

In many cases, when it comes to injuries like Long's, it's common for teams to offer the standard lines about being ahead of schedule or, at least, on pace for a timely return. For what it's worth, Long had his surgery in late January, and although he isn't participating in OTAs, he is doing some work on the side.

But in this case, the Rams so far are doing more than offering optimistic lip service when it comes to Long. The team is following through on its belief in his rehab with how it's handling his vacant spot during OTAs.

With obvious left tackle fill-in options such as rookie Greg Robinson and Rodger Saffold available to take the reps in Long's place during practice, Fisher and the Rams have made it clear they prefer not to disrupt the stability of the line at the four other positions. Robinson and Saffold are projected to start at left and right guard, respectively, and neither has extensive experience at those positions.

So instead of moving Robinson and/or Saffold around, Fisher prefers to keep them in their current spots to prepare them for the spots they're expected to start the season.

“We want to go through OTAs and most of camp with players playing the position they’ll play in the opener," Fisher said. "You assume Jake comes back, so we’ll just plug someone else in out there.”

So far, "someone else" has meant a rotation between younger, developmental tackles Mike Person and Sean Hooey. The Rams claimed Person from Seattle last season and thought enough of him to keep him on the roster throughout the season. Hooey was an undrafted free agent in 2013, but the Rams stashed him on the practice squad for the season. Like Person, Hooey is another player the team thinks has some future potential.

If worse comes to worst by the time the season begins, the Rams could simply slide Saffold over to left tackle, with someone like Davin Joseph or Barrett Jones ready to step in at guard. For now, their faith in Long's return persists.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- If nothing else, you’d be hard pressed to find a team in the league that looks more intimidating getting off the bus than the St. Louis Rams.

With the official addition this week of tackles Mike Person and Max Starks, the Rams are now carrying a whopping 12 offensive linemen on their roster, enough to fill out an entire NBA roster.

[+] EnlargeMax Starks
AP Photo/Scott BoehmMax Starks joins a crowded offensive line with the Rams.
The offensive line room is now so crowded that Starks joked he didn’t have anywhere to sit.

“I sat on some boxes earlier,” Starks said, laughing. “This is the first time I’ve seen that. The most I’ve seen before is 11, so to see 12 is like, ‘Wow, we’ve got a lot of extra bodies.’ It’s like training camp almost.”

Starks was just kidding about the boxes, but there’s no doubt that a dozen large men can fill up a room quickly. With right tackle Rodger Saffold out this week with a knee injury and two games in a five-day span, the Rams are clearly taking no chances that they’ll be caught short-handed along the line.

Of course, the bulk of the team’s Sunday inactives will likely come from the offensive line group, but the idea remains that they’d like to have as many linemen up to speed or close to it as possible entering this stretch.

“We’re just making sure that we’ve got numbers there for backups and that kind of thing,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “It’s a little unusual that we carry 12 on the active, but you’re probably going to see more than the normal deactivated on Sundays.”

As it stands, the Rams have a starting five of left tackle Jake Long, left guard Chris Williams, center Scott Wells, right guard Harvey Dahl and, most likely, right tackle Joe Barksdale.

From there, the Rams can mix and match backups with versatile options all over the place. Starks and Person are more true tackles, but Person has the ability to move around. Guards Brandon Washington and Shelley Smith are more pure guards, but Washington has the ability to move out to tackle. At center, Tim Barnes and Barrett Jones provide depth, but could play guard as well.

In all likelihood, the Rams will keep no more than eight of their linemen active against Dallas, which means the more likely options to stay up are guys who can move around.

The addition of Starks gives the Rams a veteran option in a relatively green group of backups. Starks played in 123 games in nine seasons with Pittsburgh at both tackle spots.

Although he just arrived in St. Louis yesterday, Starks said he’s familiar with the offense, and it seems entirely possible he’ll serve as the team’s swing tackle in Dallas.

“I’m sure there’s an opportunity,” Starks said. “I feel like I have the opportunity as long as I get in my books and learn enough and show working knowledge of the offense, I wouldn’t see it as too far-fetched.”

Person, meanwhile, is a younger option who said he’s played a little bit of everything since coming into the league. That was part of his appeal, according to Fisher.

“He can play all the positions,” Fisher said. “He’s a smart guy, a tough guy, and we liked what we saw on film.”

It's just a bonus that Person qualifies as almost a perfect spy, an Agent 0073, so to speak.

Person entered the league in 2011 with San Francisco and spent last season with Seattle. In between those two stops, he even spent a week with now Arizona coach Bruce Arians in Indianapolis when Arians was offensive coordinator there.

To this point, Person’s focus has been on acclimating to an offense much different than the one he knew in Seattle.

“It’s a lot different,” Person said. “It’s completely new terminology, but that’s what you sign up for in this business. You have to learn new stuff.”

With so many linemen -- average size nearly 6-foot-5, 317 pounds -- the Rams might need a bigger airplane, but if nothing else they can rest easy in the knowledge that they won’t run out of bodies anytime soon.

“That’s definitely something I have never seen in my short career,” Person said, laughing. “But hey, next guy up, right?”
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For the second consecutive year, St. Louis Rams safety Matt Daniels' season has come to an early end.

Daniels
Daniels was placed on injured reserve Monday because of a fractured ankle he suffered against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon. Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Daniels will have surgery sometime this week to repair the ankle.

Losing out on his second season in as many years is a tough blow for Daniels, who had worked vigorously to return from a torn ACL and MCL suffered against New England on Oct. 28, 2012. Although this injury is different, it occurred in a similar way.

The knee injury happened when Daniels was blocking on a punt return and receiver Austin Pettis rolled into him. On Sunday, it was a kick return and a similar situation with returner Benny Cunningham rolling into Daniels. Clearly, Daniels simply has bad luck.

"It’s difficult for Matt," Fisher said. "He worked so hard to come off the ACL, then to have this thing happen, it’s difficult for him. He’ll bounce back. He’s a tough young man."

In other injury news, or non-news, Fisher said more information would be available on right tackle Rodger Saffold's injured knee on Wednesday. Saffold left the game in the second quarter and did not return. He left the locker room on crutches after the game.

Perhaps in a sign of Saffold's status for this week, the Rams added yet another offensive lineman to the roster to take Daniels' spot. The Rams claimed offensive tackle Mike Person off waivers from Seattle on Monday afternoon. They now have 11 offensive linemen on the active roster.

Joe Barksdale replaced Saffold against Atlanta. Person was a seventh-round choice of San Francisco in 2011 and has also spent time with Indianapolis.
Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh Ric Tapia/Icon SMIPete Carroll's Seahawks and Jim Harbaugh's 49ers have continued their rivalry into the offseason.
The San Francisco 49ers' and Seattle Seahawks' 2012 battle for NFC West supremacy 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 710ESPN 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 for 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 over 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 A.J. Jenkins to produce. The Seahawks haven't gotten much from James Carpenter. But in Iupati and Thomas, the 49ers and Seahawks 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 has already successfully transitioned to offense. Seattle thinks Sweezy will do the same.

Summing it up: Both teams can feel good about their draft performance over the past three seasons. I doubt either team would trade its picks for the other team's picks. 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 quality choices, and more openings in the lineup to accommodate those players. I think that shows in the results.

SEATTLE -- We've got sunshine and temperatures in the high 30s as the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams warm up on the field at CenturyLink Field.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is the only non-specialist I see on the field at this time. He's working on his backpedal and breaking on passes thrown by a Seahawks staffer. Sherman has every reason to revel in the opportunity Sunday after dodging a four-game suspension on Thursday.

Sherman will start for Seattle. The team will be without injured linebacker Leroy Hill. The speedy but inexperienced Malcolm Smith will start in Hill's place.

Also inactive for Seattle: safety Winston Guy, cornerback Walter Thurmond, cornerback DeShawn Shead, guard Rishaw Johnson, guard John Moffitt and tackle Mike Person. Moffitt, a former starter, is inactive for a second consecutive week. The team has decided it's better off with rookie seventh-round choice J.R. Sweezy in the lineup at right guard. Sweezy started in Week 1 and again against San Francisco last week.

The Rams' inactive list includes quarterback Austin Davis, receiver Steve Smith, running back Terrance Ganaway, tight end Cory Harkey, linebacker Sammy Brown, tackle Joe Barksdale and defensive tackle Matt Conrath. No surprises there.

Three early games and flurry of inactives

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
12:09
PM ET
CHICAGO -- All four NFC West teams are playing early games Sunday. As a result, news regarding inactive players hit all at once.

Let's sort through what it means.
  • Arizona Cardinals: With Andre Roberts out, rookie first-round draft choice Michael Floyd is starting at wide receiver. Early Doucet is active after missing the game last week. Floyd, second-year tight end Rob Housler and possibly Doucet could see more targets. The defense will suffer again without injured end Calais Campbell, arguably the best player on the team not named Larry Fitzgerald.
  • St. Louis Rams: Top receiver Danny Amendola is out. That probably means more chances for emerging rookie Chris Givens, who topped 100 yards last week while a foot injury limited Amendola to 14 percent of the offensive snaps. Linebacker Mario Haggan's absence affects the base defense, which figures to play more against a 49ers offense that favors heavier personnel groupings.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Jacobs is active. Rookie LaMichael James is not. That puts Jacobs in prime position to make an impact as the 49ers play their first game of the season without injured No. 2 back Kendall Hunter. Rookie first-round pick A.J. Jenkins is active, a rarity. The team needed him after losing third/fourth receiver Kyle Williams to a season-ending injury. It's unclear whether Jenkins will play much, however. Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss are the top three receivers. Moss and Williams had been getting a similar number of snaps. Will Jenkins get some of those, or will the veteran receivers absorb all of them? Tough to say.
  • Seattle Seahawks: Walter Thurmond makes his 2012 debut and will serve as the nickel corner after the team named Marcus Trufant inactive with a hamstring injury. Thurmond is better than Trufant at this stage of their careers if both are healthy. Thurmond hasn't been able to stay healthy. This is a big game for him. Seattle is without linebacker Leroy Hill. He's been playing hurt and it has shown in his game.

49ers at 53: Roster with practice squad

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
4:44
PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers announced their initial eight-man practice squad Saturday.

That provides a chance for me to pass along an updated version of the 49ers' roster for download. This Excel file features 27 columns for every 49ers player, plus those no longer on the roster (dating to roughly 2007, when I started maintaining theses for each team).

The chart shows positional counts for the 49ers' active roster and practice squad.

San Francisco signed to its practice squad two linebackers (Cam Johnson, Michael Wilhoite), two offensive linemen (Kenny Wiggins, Al Netter) and two defensive linemen (Matthew Masifilo, Tony Jerod-Eddie). The 49ers also signed receiver Nathan Palmer and safety Michael Thomas.

Johnson provides practice depth at outside linebacker. Wilhoite was one of the NFC West's more impressive young inside linebackers during preseason. Thomas was a player 49ers veteran safety Donte Whitner singled out as likely to stick on the practice squad, with a chance to develop into a regular-season contributor.

The New York Jets claimed tight end Konrad Reuland off waivers. The Indianapolis Colts claimed offensive lineman Mike Person.

Colts add three via waivers

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
4:00
PM ET
The Colts picked a favorite player at three spots of need off the waiver wire, adding former Patriots safety Sergio Brown, former 49ers offensive tackle Mike Person, and former Jets defensive tackle Martin Tevaseu.

To create room for the waiver claims, Indianapolis cut safety Jermale Hines, cornerback DJ Johnson and offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe.

Brown has appeared in 26 games (three starts) and has totaled 34 tackles (25 solo) and one interception. Last season, he played in 15 games with three starts and made 26 tackles (18 solo) and one interception. He played collegiately at Notre Dame.

Person (6-foot-4, 299 pounds) was originally selected in the seventh round (239th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Last year, he was inactive for all 16 regular season and two preseason games.

Tevaseu (6-2, 325 pounds) bounced between the Jets' practice squad and roster last season, seeing action in five games and totaling three tackles.

The Colts still have the No. 1 slot in the waiver claiming order and could continue to grab people as the rest of the league makes moves.

San Francisco 49ers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
10:36
PM ET
Most significant move. The San Francisco 49ers' decision to keep running back Anthony Dixon played into a broader special-teams theme. Veteran fullback Rock Cartwright, once seen as a key special-teams addition following Blake Costanzo's departure in free agency, received his release. The 49ers traded another core special-teams player, safety Colin Jones, to Carolina for what was thought to be a 2014 seventh-round choice.

The 49ers' decision at quarterback was also among those I found most significant. The team kept Scott Tolzien over Josh Johnson in the No. 3 role even though Johnson played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. Johnson also outplayed Tolzien in the final exhibition game. Keeping Tolzien appealed, however, because his ceiling appears less defined. Johnson has played in the NFL without setting a sharply upward career trajectory. Colin Kaepernick's emergence as a stronger No. 2 quarterback bought some insurance for carrying a less-experienced third-stringer, perhaps.

Onward and upward: Linebacker Michael Wilhoite, offensive lineman Mike Person and safety Michael Thomas appear to be young players with futures in the NFL. Defensive lineman Matthew Masifilo impressed in the final exhibition game. The 49ers' practice squad will be an option for some of the players let go, but I won't be surprised if waiver claims from other teams get in the way. The 49ers have done a good job building talented depth throughout their roster.

The team also released Eric Bakhtiari, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Derek Hall, Joe Holland, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Cam Johnson, Anthony Mosley, Kyle Nelson, Al Netter, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Brett Swain and Kenny Wiggins.

Reuland could get another chance. It was a mild surprise, perhaps, to see Garrett Celek stick ahead of Reuland as the third tight end.

What's next: The 49ers will watch closely to see which players clear waivers. Wilhoite is one they would like to re-sign, according to his agent, but teams looking for young depth at linebacker could submit claims. The team could use another outside linebacker, at least on paper, but the 49ers got through last season with only three of them.

The 49ers are carrying only eight offensive linemen. Their swing tackle, Alex Boone, is starting at right guard. If there's an offensive tackle out there worth claiming, the 49ers could consider adding one. But two of their division rivals, Arizona and St. Louis, have greater needs and higher waiver priorities.
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints offered no surprises when declaring which players would be inactive for their NFC divisional playoff game Saturday.

Niners tight end Delanie Walker (broken jaw) and Saints receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) will not play. The Saints ruled out Moore on Friday. The 49ers did not officially rule out Walker at that time, but coach Jim Harbaugh had previously said Walker would almost certainly miss the game.

Also inactive for the 49ers: quarterback Scott Tolzien, receiver Joe Hastings, cornerback Shawntae Spencer, guard Daniel Kilgore, guard Mike Person and nose tackle Ian Williams.

For the Saints: cornerback Leigh Torrence, linebacker Nate Bussey, guard Eric Olsen, tight end Tory Humphrey, tight end John Gilmore and defensive end Turk McBride.

The 49ers will have receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams after both missed late-season games with injuries. Their presence upgrades the 49ers on special teams as well. Walker's absence makes the 49ers' less dynamic in their two-tight end personnel packages. Walker was also a solid contributor on special teams.

Rams find way to protect Sam Bradford

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
3:16
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Picture-perfect California weather only marginally improved the St. Louis Rams' view from the visitor's sideline at Candlestick Park.

Bradford
Bradford
The Rams watched backup quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Tom Brandstater warm up, but there was no sign of starter Sam Bradford. The more time passed, the clearer it became Bradford would not play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

Bradford, slowed by an ankle injury, was among the players St. Louis declared inactive 90 minutes before the 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff. Feeley, 1-1 as a starter for the Rams this season, will start against San Francisco. The Rams also declared safety Darian Stewart, running back Cadillac Williams, linebacker Josh Hull, guard Kevin Hughes, tackle Mark LeVoir and defensive end C.J. Ah You inactive.

The 49ers' list featured quarterback Scott Tolzien, receiver Braylon Edwards, cornerback Shawntae Spencer, fullback Moran Norris, guard Daniel Kilgore, guard Mike Person and nose tackle Ian Williams.

Bradford missed practice during the week after aggravating the high-ankle sprain he suffered this season. There was no sense risking his physical well-being behind an offensive line playing without both starting tackles, in my view.

Giants will have top wideouts vs. 49ers

November, 13, 2011
11/13/11
3:08
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- The New York Giants' list of inactive players carried quite a bit of interest for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10.

Receivers Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks are both active despite injuries. How well they hold up will be the next big question. The 49ers' secondary has been a hard-hitting group this season. Their secondary has also been vulnerable, at times, against the best quarterbacks it has faced, notably Tony Romo and Michael Vick.

The Giants will be without running back Ahmad Bradshaw, as expected. Their full list of inactive players Sunday: receiver Jerrell Jernigan, cornerback Prince Amukamara, Bradshaw, fullback Henry Hynoski, guard Mitch Petrus, defensive tackle Dwayne Hendricks and tackle James Brewer.

The 49ers' list carried little suspense. Defensive end Ray McDonald is active, though it's unclear whether he'll start after missing Week 9 with a hamstring injury. Quarterback Scott Tolzien, cornerback Shawntae Spencer, offensive lineman Mike Person, offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, fullback Moran Norris, receiver Brett Swain and nose tackle Ian Williams are inactive.

Gallery, Hawthorne, Rice miss for Seattle

September, 11, 2011
9/11/11
3:10
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Seattle Seahawks will be without three starters for their regular-season opener against San Francisco.

Two came as little surprise. Guard Robert Gallery (knee) and receiver Sidney Rice (shoulder) did not practice all week. A third, linebacker David Hawthorne, was limited during practice, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had sounded optimistic about Hawthorne's chances.

Rookie K.J. Wright will start at middle linebacker in Hawthorne's place. Carroll has lauded Wright as being ready to play as a rookie, but Hawthorne's experience would have carried value.

James Carpenter will start at left guard for Gallery. Breno Giacomini starts at right tackle, where Carpenter had played during preseason.

Seattle inactives: quarterback Josh Portis, receiver Kris Durham, Rice, Hawthorne, Gallery, tackle Jarriel King, defensive tackle Al Woods.

San Francisco inactives: quarterback Scott Tolzien, receiver Kyle Williams, free safety Dashon Goldson, offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, offensive lineman Mike Person, nose tackle Ian Williams and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs.

Veteran safety Madieu Williams will start in Goldson's place, as expected. Reggie Smith is also active among safeties after missing time to injury over the summer. He's expected to play on special teams as well as on defense.
The Seattle Seahawks were on the clock with the 99th overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft when the Minnesota Vikings called to inquire about a trade.

Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider had a decision to make. The team wanted to add more picks, so sliding back into the Vikings' spot at No. 106 carried some appeal. But the Seahawks had not addressed defense to that point in the draft, and Mississippi State outside linebacker K.J. Wright was a player they had been targeting.

Seattle decided to stand pat at No. 99.

"It is rare that you would find a linebacker with that much length (6-foot-4) and 4.6 speed," Carroll said after the draft. "We need that flexibility."

[+] EnlargeK.J. Wright
AP Photo/Michael ConroyK.J. Wright, who was drafted by the Seahawks with the No. 99 pick, was the last 4-3 strongside linebacker drafted.
This seemed a bit improbable. After all, teams selected 24 more linebackers over the remaining 155 selections. Surely one of them could have provided what the Seahawks wanted from Wright, right? Not necessarily. The more I studied those selections, the more I understood what Carroll was talking about. Wright was the fourth and final 4-3 strongside linebacker selected in the draft. All were gone among the top 100 selections.

The NFL has become so specialized, particularly on defense, that players are increasingly difficult to categorize. Seeking fresh perspective on the 2011 draft, I reclassified the 254 players chosen into 20 positional categories, based largely on how teams plan to use them. The process was imperfect because teams view players differently, and some players transcend easy categorization. But patterns that emerged were helpful in bringing the big picture into clearer focus.

Breaking down linebackers into five categories across 3-4 and 4-3 schemes was particularly helpful.

Teams selected one 4-3 strongside linebacker in each of the first four rounds, but none thereafter. They selected 12 4-3 weakside linebackers -- none in the first two rounds, five in the sixth and three in the seventh. That position carried less value relative to others based on when the players came off the board.

Nine of 11 4-3 defensive tackles went in the first three rounds, affirming how much teams value that position. Teams selected five 4-3 defensive ends in the first two rounds, then none until taking one in the fifth and four more in the seventh. Teams selected four five-technique defensive ends in the first round and one in the second, but none over the next four rounds.

I ultimately divided players into percentiles based on where they were selected in relation to other players from the same positional categories. Three NFC West players were the first players chosen at their specific positions. They were in the top percentile for their positions. Three, including Wright, were the last players chosen at their specific positions. They were in the bottom percentile.

The percentiles say nothing about whether individual players will succeed in the NFL. In some cases, players with lower percentiles probably carried more value at that moment in the draft based on how few prospects remained available at their positions.

Without categorizing players more specifically, we might not have any idea.

Overall, this draft featured 37 cornerbacks; 28 wide receivers; 24 running backs; 21 interior offensive linemen; 20 offensive tackles; 16 safeties; 13 tight ends; 12 quarterbacks; 12 4-3 weakside linebackers; 11 4-3 defensive tackles; 10 4-3 defensive ends; 10 3-4 outside linebackers; eight five-technique defensive ends; seven 3-4 inside linebackers; seven fullbacks; six 4-3 middle linebackers; four 4-3 strongside linebackers; four nose tackles; and two specialists. Two defensive linemen -- Kansas City's Allen Bailey and Baltimore's Pernell McPhee -- qualified as nickel pass-rushers.

And now, a look at all 35 NFC West draft choices, listed by how early they were drafted in relation to other players at their specific positions:

First quarter: 75th percentile and higher

Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals: First of 37 cornerbacks selected

Aldon Smith, OLB, San Francisco 49ers: First of 10 3-4 outside linebackers

Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams: First of 10 4-3 defensive ends

Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals: Second of 24 running backs, putting him in the 91.7 percentile for the position (FBs excluded)

Lance Kendricks, TE, Rams: Second of 13 tight ends (84.6)

James Carpenter, T, Seattle Seahawks: Fourth of 20 offensive tackles (80.0)

Chris Culliver, CB, 49ers: Eighth of 37 cornerbacks (78.4)

Rob Housler, TE, Cardinals: Third of 13 tight ends (76.9)

John Moffitt, G, Seahawks: Fifth of 21 interior offensive linemen (76.2)

Second quarter: 50th to 74th percentile

Anthony Sherman, FB, Cardinals: Second of seven fullbacks (71.4)

Austin Pettis, WR, Rams: Eighth of 28 wide receivers (71.4)

Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers: Tenth of 24 running backs (58.3)

Bruce Miller, FB, 49ers: Third of seven fullbacks (57.1)

Kris Durham, WR, Seahawks: 12th of 28 wide receivers (57.1)

Daniel Kilgore, C, 49ers: 10th of 21 interior offensive linemen (52.4)

Sam Acho, OLB, Cardinals: Fifth of 10 3-4 outside linebackers (50.0)

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers: Sixth of 12 quarterbacks (50.0)

Greg Salas, WR, Rams: 14th of 28 wide receivers (50.0)

Third quarter: 25th to 49th percentile

Richard Sherman, CB, Seahawks: 24th of 37 cornerbacks (35.1)

Mark LeGree, S, Seahawks: 11th of 16 safeties (31.3)

Quan Sturdivant, ILB, Cardinals: Fifth of seven 3-4 inside linebackers (28.6)

Byron Maxwell, CB, Seahawks: 27th of 37 cornerbacks (27.0)

David Carter, DE, Cardinals: Sixth of eight five-technique defensive ends (25.0)

Jermale Hines, S, Rams: 12th of 16 safeties (25.0)

Fourth quarter: Zero to 24th percentile

Colin Jones, S, 49ers: 13th of 16 safeties (18.8)

Jabara Williams, LB, Rams: 10th of 12 4-3 weakside linebackers (16.7 )

Ronald Johnson, WR, 49ers: 24th of 28 wide receivers (14.3)

Mikail Baker, CB, Rams: 32nd of 37 cornerbacks (13.5)

Pep Levingston, DE, Seahawks: Seventh of eight five-technique defensive ends (12.5)

Mike Person, C, 49ers: 19th of 21 interior offensive linemen (9.5)

Malcolm Smith, LB, Seahawks. Eleventh of 12 4-3 weakside linebackers (8.3)

Jonathan Nelson, S, Rams: 15th of 16 safeties (6.3)

K.J. Wright, LB, Seahawks: Fourth of four 4-3 strongside linebackers (0.0)

DeMarco Sampson, WR, Cardinals: 28th of 28 wide receivers(0.0)

Curtis Holcomb, CB, 49ers: 37th of 37 cornerbacks (0.0)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider