How to make Matt happy: put these guys in blue and green in 2013. - Kevin C. Cox
The second in a series of mock drafts looking at undervalued prospects with elite talents at the Seahawks' positions of need.
Hey look, it's Matt, the guy who doesn't write as much as he should, but when he does, he writes more than he should! I'm back for another go-around at this whole mock draft deal. In case you missed the first edition, go check out Part 1. It was a whopper. Danny told me that I don't always have to write thesis papers when I get around to actually writing articles, so I tried to keep it more concise this time. It didn't work.
Anyways, before we dive in, let me explain one more time the whole philosophy behind this series. I didn't want to do a bunch of generic mock drafts that recycle consensus first-round picks. We've seen that Seattle place literally zero stock in what anyone else thinks of any player's value. They only care about how they rate players, which can be pretty unique. They've shown an ability to identify prospects with absolutely elite skillsets who happen to have distinct weaknesses that cause other teams to value them less, and they've capitalized on that by being simultaneously patient and aggressive on draft day.
Some have gotten a little too carried away with this concept and started to act like Seattle just look to overdraft unbalanced guys who they can piece together into some bizarre mural of a competitive roster. I don't think that's the case at all. But I do think Seattle are an exceptional scouting organization who now have a stacked, young roster that can afford certain players who have major upside tempered with enough downside to drop them under the radar.
So my goal in this series is to break down several of those players and why Seattle might be attracted to them. It's more interesting for me to study and write about these guys, and it gives me the opportunity to highlight them for those of you who might not have the time or desire to study them like I do. I've had a list of six specific guys since this project was in its infancy shortly before Christmas. Jordan Reed, the athletic TE out of Florida, was first on the list. To find out who the next guy is, keep scrolling...
But first, a quick caveat: I only projected a single quarterback in the first round this time around. I think ultimately more than one will be taken, but most will involve trades, and I'm not even going to get into those. Right now, Buffalo are the only team I see as being in a position to draft a QB in their native draft slot. I don't think Andy Reid wants to stake his career (potentially) on a QB with a second-round grade. Same with the Raiders. I don't think Arizona or the Jets are in a position to spend a high pick on a player who isn't going to be a day-one significant upgrade over their current talent, particularly with the chaos their rosters are currently in. So don't take this mock as gospel, but rather a detailed look at what could be.
Sharrif Floyd -- DT, Florida -- 6'3", 303
This is probably the first time you've ever seen this pick. So here's the rationale: there's not a QB worth the first overall pick; the Chiefs very well may solve their offensive tackle problem before the draft, whether by re-signing Branden Albert or by dipping into free agency, where it's a buyer's market for tackles; the Chiefs do need a defensive tackle; Floyd is the top DT on my board; thus, Sharrif Floyd for number one overall pick! Line starts here, folks. Get in before it's cool.
When you watch that video keep in mind that he won't turn 21 until a month after he's drafted.
Barkevious Mingo -- DE, LSU -- 6'4", 240
Good ol' Gus Bradley is taking Pete Carroll's Leo scheme to sorta-South-Beach-but-actually-not-really-more-like-five-hours-away-but-thanks-for-ruining-the-joke-anyways. Of all the guys on the roster right now, Jason Babin is probably the leading candidate to start as the Leo, and there are several guys later in the draft who could have high ceilings as a Leo. But since they're sitting at the number two slot, they have their choice of any Leo in the draft.
I think Mingo is nearly as prototypical as Bruce Irvin was last year. He underwhelmed statistically this last year, but I believe much of that was due to LSU's scheme; they asked him to rush to contain and set the edge, rather than pin his ears back and get the quarterback. Jacksonville can set him free to terrorize QBs. The Jaguars could also use an upgrade at DT, but they can get pretty creative with Tyson Alualu, Terrance Knighton, C.J. Mosley, and Jeremy Mincey.
Sheldon Richardson -- DT, Mizzou -- 6'3", 295
Another contentious pick! You could yell at me and tell me that I'm dumb and that the Raiders would TOTALLY be picking Star Lotulelei here, and I'd say, "Ok, that's fair." The Raiders need a DT, and Richardson is the next one on my board. He's really flexible, in that he can play at either 4-3 DT position and as a 3-4 defensive end.
Personally, I'm really high on his potential as a penetrating 3-tech, so he could step right in to their line in the place of Desmond Bryant (assuming they let him walk). His ability to create interior pressure will enhance Lamarr Houston's impact as a passrusher, and I think he could actually take some pressure off of Tommy Kelly.
Star Lotulelei -- DT, Utah -- 6'3", 320
Many people have projected a left tackle here, usually Luke Joeckel. However, if Jason Peters has fully recovered by the beginning of the year, he can return to his status as one of the best left tackles in the game. In that case, I doubt Chip Kelly would want his first pick as an NFL head coach to be a right tackle.
Star can step in immediately as a nose tackle in the Eagles' new 3-4 defense, flanked by last year's first-round pick Fletcher Cox and recent free agent addition Cullen Jenkins. My lands, that would be a dominant line against the pass and the run. If Star can hit his potential, he has Haloti Ngata upside. Otherwise, his floor his Sione Pouha at the very least.
Bjoern Werner -- DE, FSU -- 6'4", 256
The Lions have some pretty big needs in the secondary, so I could definitely see them selecting Dee Milliner here. However, Cliff Avril likely won't be returning, and they cut Kyle Vanden Bosch, and "no defensive ends" is worse than "bad cornerbacks," so today the Lions go with Werner.
In a year with elite talent at the top of the draft, Werner would probably drop to the middle of the round. He's not a technically proficient passrusher and his motor tends to run hot and cold. But he's quick off the snap and has powerful hands, and he shows good awareness on the field, despite limited football experience before his three years at Florida State. He should lock down a starting spot as a rookie (hard to lose to nobody!).
Dion Jordan -- DE/OLB, Oregon -- 6'7", 240
When Ray Horton was introduced as the defensive coordinator for the Browns, he described the types of players he wants on his squad: "Big guys who can run and little guys who can hit." This big Duck definitely fits in the former category. He may be the best passrusher to come out of the first round, and his flexibility as a potential 3-4 outside linebacker, 4-3 defensive end, or even nickelback will fit in well with the 3-4/4-3 hybrid Horton plans to establish. Ideally, they will cut him loose to rush the passer as much as possible, but he could probably add 20 pounds and play a straight-up 4-3 DE, much like Michael Johnson.
Eric Fisher -- OT, CMU -- 6'7", 305
The en-vogue pick for the Cardinals is Mike Glennon, the gangly QB out of NC State. While he's a good fit for that offense, I just don't see that front office deciding to stake their jobs on him as their franchise guy, especially with their offensive line in shambles. It's not sexy (like Jacson Bevens), but adding the top tackle in the class is the first step to building this offense into something worth investing in a top QB. (For what it's worth, I think Tyler Bray would be a great fit as a developmental guy in the second or third round.)
Eric Fisher is my top tackle this year. He hails from Central Michigan University, where he didn't face much elite passrushing talent, but he held his own and even flashed dominance at the Senior Bowl against the likes of Datone Jones and Alex Okafor. He's long and nimble and plays with a fire in his belly. With his quick feet, he can already be an asset in the run game. A year or two in an NFL workout program will give him the requisite strength to pair with his agility and tenacity to become one of the top pass-protecting tackles in the league.
Matt Barkley -- QB, USC -- 6'2", 230
Despite much debate and consternation over Barkley's athleticism and ability to advance to the next level, he's still my top QB in the class. A large portion of that grade is due to his off-the-charts intangibles; I think he'll blow away some general managers at the combine, and someone is going to bite. If any team can afford to take a QB in the first round, it's Buffalo (well, Kansas City is well-suited for a rookie QB, but #1 is too high). They have a young and talented offensive line, explosive playmakers in Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller, and a solid and reliable tight end in Scott Chandler. They've invested heavily in their defense, and they have a lot of talent. It's time to grab a QB they can build around and move their offense forward.
New head coach Doug Marrone is a protege of Sean Payton, who has this one QB who came into the league with concerns about his size and arm strength. He'll likely run an offense similar to the Saints', an up-tempo, pro-style scheme with various run looks. Barkley is well-suited to such an attack. He's a heady kid and already fluent in a pro-style passing system. Among four of the top QBs in the draft this year, he actually completed the most passes beyond 20 yards, so he wouldn't be at all out of place in an aggressive passing offense.
Kenny Vaccaro - S, UT - 6'1", 218
The Jets have a myriad of needs, and very little capital wherewith to solve those needs. Former Seahawks' cap guru John Idzik will have his hands full as he finagles New York's local circus into a more manageable cap situation. They'll certainly be stuck with Mark Sanchez and his immovable contract for another year, and the last thing they need is to add drama by reaching on another guy who may or may not be the answer. They could use a some linebacker depth to replace Bart Scott, Jason Smith, and Calvin Pace, but no players on the board merit a top 10 pick. Chance Warmack would be an upgrade to their interior line, but both Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry are free agents, so Idzik looks to fortify his defensive backfield for the foreseeable future with Earl Thomas's replacement at Texas. Poetic, ain't it?
Vaccaro is a rangy free safety with good length. He's instinctive in coverage and aggressive in run defense. He was used in single-high looks a lot at Texas, and he has the agility and technique to cover the slot. He's not quite as fast or ballhawking as Thomas is, but he's bigger and usually a more reliable tackler. He's the best safety in the class, and can step in as a day one starter. If they decide to re-up with LaRon Landry, the pair could form a pretty dynamic backfield duo.
10. Tennessee Titans
Chance Warmack -- OG, 'Bama -- 6'2", 322
This pick is a no-brainer. Warmack is the clear best player available, and the Titans would be giddy to land the top guard in the draft, and perhaps in a decade. It's not often a team can land a transcendent talent at a position of need, especially in the 10th slot of the draft. Starting right guard Leroy Harris is a free agent and Steve Hutchinson is old and declining. The big Alabama guard can step in either spot and dominate from the get-go. Jake Locker and Chris Johnson would both be delighted with this pick.
Luke Joeckel -- OT, TAMU -- 6'6", 310
Another clear pick. The Chargers are in desperate need of offensive line help. Last season's big free agent signing, Jared Gaither, succumbed to injuries of a questionable sort and almost certainly will not be back. They're fortunate for the opportunity to draft his immediate replacement. Joeckel is the best player in the draft, according to some, and his ceiling is undeniably high. He's great on the move, a big athletic specimen with good technique. He struggles in pass pro against powerful rushers, but he's talented and intelligent, and will grow as a pro.
12. Miami Dolphins
Dee Milliner -- CB, 'Bama -- 6'1", 198
Lots of people have mocked a wide receiver to Miami, but I have a sneaking suspicion they may choose to address that position in free agency and touch it up in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, where they happen to have four picks this year (an exceedingly enviable position). Starting cornerback Sean Smith wants to get paid this offseason, and while the Dolphins do have some cash ($42,978,906, to be exact), Milliner would be a great insurance policy if they aren't able to negotiate a workable deal.
He's widely considered the top cornerback in the prospect. I haven't yet scouted the class as thoroughly as I will in the next few weeks, but of what I've seen so far, I agree with that assessment. He's a little bit raw in some aspects of his game, but he's a strong corner with great size who excels in press coverage. If he has a good combine, his stock could easily rise into the top 5.
Xavier Rhodes -- CB, FSU -- 6'1", 217
If Vaccaro or one of the top three DTs lasted this long, you could consider them as good as gone. Ronde Barber is past his prime and a free agent, and Roy Miller could be improved upon. However, as the board falls, the Bucs miss out on all of the above and the top CB in the class. They still get a good one, though.
There's been talk of Rhodes passing Milliner for top CB in the draft, but I think that's a bit hasty. He's a good size for the position, and he's got a great jam at the line. He'll excel in a bump-and-run scheme, though he doesn't have top-flight speed. If he runs under a 4.50, his stock will really heat up. Apart from that, though, he has smooth mechanics, great ball skills, and strong tackling ability. He can be a little too grabby, but he'd be essentially replacing Aqib Talib, so that'd be nothing new.
Cordarrelle Patterson -- WR, UTK -- 6'3", 205
The Panthers really get the shaft in this situation. They really need interior defensive line and secondary help, but each of the top players at all of those spots is gone already. Without a clear synchrony of need and available prospect, they bite on Patterson's potential and decide to give Cam Newton another toy. I'm not completely sold on Patterson in the first round.
I'm a bit turned off by some of his demeanor on the field and his attitude in interviews despite his extreme rawness (only one year at the FBS level), and I think there's some real coachability risk there. But his potential is just ridiculous, especially in an offense that's already as dynamic as Carolina's. He's basically a 6'3" Percy Harvin. The more I think about it, the more I think the Panthers are uniquely suited to take full advantage of his skillset, as a receiver, a runner, and a returner.
Lane Johnson -- OT, OU -- 6'6", 302
This pick will probably be a big surprise, and I reserve the right to change it down the road if the Saints resolve their left tackle issue. As it stands right now, Jermon Bushrod is a free agent and given their cap situation, they may have to let him walk. If that happens and they can't sign one in free agency, this pick is all but guaranteed.
Johnson is a fantastic athlete. A former QB, TE, and DE, he's only played tackle at for two years, one year on the right side and one year on the left. On many drives this last year, he actually switched back and forth from left to right within the same drive. He's explosive and long (35" arms). With some coaching, he could ultimately be the best tackle from this class.
16. St. Louis Rams
Keenan Allen -- WR, Cal -- 6'3", 210
The Rams have two picks in this first round, and they have a number of positions to address. They need to give Sam Bradford some more guys to throw things at, and they really need a capable safety to replace the adorably hapless Craig Dahl (the Rams have their very own B-Russ, you guys!)
With their first selection, they take a solid wide receiver out of Cal. The poor guy managed to put together some pretty decent tape despite forcing himself to play with a terribad QB. Allen doesn't have elite size, speed, or quicks, but he's big, fast, and quick. The Bears ran a lot of bubble screens and quick slants through him just to get the ball in his hands. I'm terrible with comps, but I've heard him compared to both Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, and I think those are both pretty apt. He'll be a consistently solid, reliable target for Bradford.
Jonathan Cooper -- OG, UNC -- 6'3", 298
I know, I know, the Steelers drafted a guard in the first round last year, and look where that got them! The Steelers may use this pick on a defensive player, like Jesse Williams, Damontre Moore, or Kevin Minter. But Cooper is probably the best player available, and he wouldn't necessarily be blocked. David DeCastro will have the RG spot locked down next year, but Ramon Foster is an unrestricted free agent and isn't a world-beater.
If the Steelers select Cooper, he'll join DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey as the best young interior offensive line in the NFL. That'd be a lot better than spending this pick on a running back to dance behind an unstable line.
18. Dallas Cowboys
D.J. Fluker - OL, 'Bama - 6'5", 335
Dallas needs defensive line help as well, especially at nose tackle with the recent legal troubles of Josh Brent and Jay Ratliff. In this case, their need for reliable offensive line play trumps all else. Tony Romo is great at manufacturing plays outside the pocket, but he's not the greatest decision-maker, and sending him running for his life brings out his inner interception. This is probably a make-or-break year for him, so the Cowboys would do well to give him every chance to succeed.
Fluker is a massive mauler who could potentially start at RT. He's pretty heavy-footed (he weighs 335 pounds!), but he has freakishly long arms that make up for some of the deficiencies in his kick-slide. When he gets his big meathooks on a defender, it's curtains. He's absolutely dominant as a run-blocker, and if he is eventually forced to move inside to guard, he might turn out a better guard than either Warmack or Cooper.
19. New York Giants
Ezekiel Ansah -- DE, BYU -- 6'5", 275
I've changed this pick a whole bunch of times, often for nothing other than just being different than all the other mock drafters out there. This projection feels so lazy, but it does fit. Osi Umenyiora and Rocky Bernard are leaving as free agents, Chris Canty was already cut, and Justin Tuck is getting older.
People have gotten carried away with the Jason Pierre-Paul comps, but JPP and Ziggy are only similar in that they'll both enter the league as raw prospects with untapped potential. Pierre-Paul is a freak against the pass and the run, but Ansah doesn't have nearly his natural explosiveness as a passrusher. He is, however, extremely stout against the run, perhaps one of the best run-defending defensive linemen in the draft. He lined up all over for BYU, from 3-4 OLB to 5-tech DE to 3-4 NT. He projects most favorably to the 5-tech spot where he can hold strong at the point of attack and develop a pass rush repertoire. He may be Justin Tuck's heir apparent.
20. Chicago Bears
Kevin Minter -- LB, LSU -- 6'1", 245
Speaking of heirs apparent, the Bears have to be delighted this guy slipped past the Giants so he can step in as Brian Urlacher's successor. He's a little bit undersized, but like Urlacher, he's a heady, instinctive player with sound fundamentals. He has a relentless motor and he's an intense, vocal leader on the field. Though he relies more on instincts and awareness that speed and athleticism in coverage, he's a savvy defender with a penchant for the big play. As long as he runs under a 4.65, he should be the first inside linebacker off the board in April.
Jonathan Cyprien - S, FIU - 6'0", 209
The Bengals have eight draft picks and almost $55 million in cap space. That's a good thing, because they also have a whopping 28 free agents. They're likely to place the franchise tag on DE Michael Johnson, but strong safety Chris Crocker and MLB Rey Maualuga will need to be replaced. Arthur Brown could be an option, as with Minter if he drops past New York and Chicago. In this case, Cyprien is the higher-rated player, and he's at a position of need.
If you haven't watched Cyprien yet, go do it. He's an exciting player. While he's classified as a strong safety, he's got the range to play in single-high if need be. He's at his best playing downhill, exploding into ballcarriers and ranging from sideline to sideline blowing up plays. He was often used down in the box as an undersized linebacker, similar to the way the Seahawks use Kam Chancellor. He can pair with Reggie Nelson to form a versatile, dynamic pair of safeties in a league where such versatility is becoming an essential part of the safety position.
22. St. Louis Rams
Travis Kelce -- TE, Cincinnati -- 6'5", 260
And here's where the wheels come off! The Rams aren't taking an offensive lineman?! Bear with me though. Something felt a little funny to me about Jeff Fisher drafting an offensive lineman in the first round, so I did a little researching. As it turns out, Jeff Fisher-coached teams have drafted a total of sixteen offensive linemen in eighteen Jeff Fisher-coached years. Out of those sixteen, NONE were drafted in the first round, and only TWO were drafted as high as the second round (Jason Layman, esteemed OG, second of two second-round picks in 1996, and Michael Roos, Eastern Washington T, 2005).
If this was a sample size of one Jeff Fisher across one team in four years, or one Jeff Fisher across four teams in eighteen years, I might be inclined to brush it off as circumstantial. One Jeff Fisher with one team across seventeen years? That gets my attention. (Note: my colleagues Jared Stanger and Mike Chan were quick to point out that Fisher inherited LT Brad Hopkins and the famous Bruce Matthews, who he had until 2005 and 2001, respectively, so that should be considered).
So the Rams take the most complete tight end in the draft. He's a savage blocker who can help along the offensive line, but he's also a fantastically underrated receiver who should provide another level of depth to the Rams developing offensive attack. With Danny Amendola, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis, Keenan Allen, Lance Kendricks, and Kelce, the Rams will actually have a terrifying stable of pass-catchers.
DeAndre Hopkins -- WR, Clemson -- 6'1", 200
Christian Ponder isn't good enough to succeed while throwing to the likes of Devin Aromashadu, Jerome Simpson, and Michael Jenkins. The Vikings have some interesting developmental guys like Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, but whether Percy Harvin leaves or not, they need to give Ponder another reliable target or move on from him.
Hopkins will likely be the most reliable receiver in this class. He may never top "best wide receiver in the NFL" lists, but he'll be a consistent 75-90 reception guy who may top out over 100 at his peak. His crisp routes and huge catch radius would be a huge asset to a streaky QB who needs to be supported by his surrounding talent. If Hopkins drops this far, book this pick.
Johnathan Hankins - DT, OSU - 6'3", 320
The Colts drafting at 24 is a lot like the Seahawks drafting at 25 in the 2011 draft. Neither team really belonged in the playoffs. The Colts wrangled themselves a playoff spot despite being outscored by 30 points overall and posting an 18th-ranked offense and 31st-ranked defense. Though they certainly owe a ton to Andrew Luck, they were definitely playing over their heads and appropriately aren't going all-in to win now. They're letting Dwight Freeney walk and building their defense. Josh Chapman spent most of last year on the IR, but he should be able to compete with Drake Nevis for the starting NT job. Cory Redding will likely return as a defensive end, but they could use another defensive lineman.
Hankins was expected to challenge for a top 10 pick this season, but he ended up having an underwhelming year. He's an underrated mover for such a big man, but his effort waxes and wanes, particularly as he gets upright and struggles with leverage. He's a fantastic space-eater, though, and can be effective as a 3-4 end or as a nose tackle. His flexibility and strength against the run will be valuable for an Indianapolis unit that ranked in the bottom of the league last year.
25. Seattle Seahawks
Da'Rick Rogers - WR, TTU - 6'3", 210
A WIDE RECEIVER!!!!
***see below for write-up***
Khaseem Greene -- ILB, Rutgers -- 6'1", 236
I had Alec Ogletree here until his recent DUI news came out. I'm still open to the idea of him going in the first round, especially to a team like Green Bay; but I feel like I'd be making a mockery of my mock by not adjusting his stock at all, relative to the first edition. So I've replaced him with a pick I may actually like better.
If you've been reading this site and Seahawks Draft Blog for awhile, you're pretty familiar with this guy. Former safety, consummate leader, dynamic playmaker, turnover machine. In case you didn't see this picture floating around the Twitters recently, check it out. I think he's going to be a consensus first-round pick after the combine. Green Bay ranked 26th in defending receiving RBs this season, and were famously shredded by Colin Kaepernick in the NFC Championship game this year. A fast, instinctive, playmaking inside linebacker could change that.
27. Houston Texans
Arthur Brown -- ILB, KSU -- 6'1", 228
Brian Cushing is coming off an ACL injury. Bradie James and Tim Dobbins are both free agents. Daryl Sharpton is a perpetual member of the Injured Reserve Club. Barrett Ruud isn't very good. The Texans need help at inside linebacker.
Brown is undersized, but he's bigger than Sharpton, about the same size as Dobbins, and slightly smaller than James and Ruud. And he plays a lot bigger than he looks. He's strong and uses his size to his advantage, playing with great leverage. He's natural and instinctive in coverage, and times his blitzes well. He'd be a great fit in Wade Phillips' attacking defense.
28. Denver Broncos
Robert Woods - WR, USC - 6'1", 190
The Broncos really need an inside linebacker to replace free agent Keith Brooking (assuming they don't re-sign the the 15-year veteran), so it's unfortunate for them that Minter and Brown have already left the board. They could spring for Te'o, but I'm not sure Denver is the place for him. They could also use a defensive tackle, so Jesse Williams or Kawann Short are possibilities. But they ranked 5th against the pass and 4th against the run last season, and I think they're better suited providing Peyton Manning with weapons to maximize his time with them.
I'm sticking by this pick. With a game that closely resembles Reggie Wayne, Woods could replace Brandon Stokely as a third receiving option, after Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. He can win on the outside, but he might be best-suited out of the slot in their offense. He could develop great rapport with Manning and end up one of the best rookie wideouts from a statistical angle.
Tavon Austin -- WR, WVU -- 5'9", 175
This would just be unfair, and you already know why. Wes Welker won't be back with the Patriots next year, and Deion Branch may be gone too. So while the Patriots need better talent in their secondary, they need any talent at wide receiver.
And if any team can maximize this little speedster's value out of the slot, it's Tom Brady and The Hoodie. I could even see them incorporating him in their bizarrely-effective run game. This would be a dream scenario for the West Virginia receiver who actually resembles a more explosive Welker than Harvin, to whom he's often compared.
30. Atlanta Falcons
Damontre Moore -- DE, TAMU -- 6'4", 250
Some signs point to Tony Gonzalez returning for another year, and if that happens, Atlanta will likely look for a defensive end. John Abraham is getting older and starting to experience perpetual nagging injuries. Kroy Biermann is a talented passrusher with some flexibility dropping into coverage, but he's certainly not elite. Moore would be an upgrade in run support.
This may be the most surprising pick of the draft. I don't think Moore will actually fall this far, but I think every pick ahead of him is realistic, so there's a legitimate possibility something like this happens. If someone is going to slide, it's going to be a player who doesn't stand out in any particular way, apart from his stat sheet and ever-revving motor. If the Falcons actually move to a 3-4 defense, they would be an even better fit for Moore as an OLB, as I think he needs space to work most effectively.
Matt Elam -- S, UF -- 5'10", 202
The 49ers' secondary may be the weakest part of their team right now, particularly with Dashon Goldson a free agent. They need to prioritize re-signing him. They can save a little over $4 million by cutting Donte Whitner, which wouldn't be a bad move with the safeties that will be available to them in the draft. They're over the cap slightly right now, so any little bit helps.
Elam would bring the same hard-hitting level of intensity to their defensive backfield that Whitner has provided for the last couple years, but he's a lot better in coverage. He's experienced in single-high coverage and man-to-man work against slot receivers in college, and he's right at home as an in-the-box enforcer. He could step into Whitner's job and maybe even end up an improvement right away.
32. Baltimore Ravens
Manti Te'o -- ILB, ND -- 6'2", 255
This pick doesn't take much explaining. Ray Lewis retired, Baltimore needs a middle linebacker, Manti Te'o fits the bill perfectly. From a talent standpoint, this is great value for the Ravens. They will have to decide for themselves if they're willing to weather the media cloud that will inevitably hang over Te'o's head for at least the first couple years of his career. If they decide it's not worth it, Alec Ogletree or even maybe Kiko Alonso could be a consideration.
* * * * * * * * * *
Discussing the Seahawks' Pick
Da'Rick Rogers is an extremely gifted receiver with a sky-high ceiling. On talent alone, he could be a top 15 pick any year. His game is built more on strength than speed, though I wouldn't be surprised to see him run in the 4.5 range.
He's experienced with nearly every route on the tree, and he runs them with precision, particularly across the middle, where he shows no hesitation in going after the ball and securing the catch. I've seen him take some huge hits in the middle of the field, and he always pops up with the ball. He has large strong hands and a big catch radius, as he uses his powerful frame to box out defenders.
After the catch, his strength and agility isn't far from Cordarrelle Patterson. He's got great open field vision and isn't afraid to run people over. He has good balance and the burst to pull away from all but the fastest defensive backs. He's actually a lot like both Michael Crabtree and Julio Jones, though he almost surely won't run in the 4.3s like Jones did.
So what's the downside? He has character issues. He was initially signed by Tennessee in 2010, where he played opposite Justin Hunter. They formed a fearsome duo until Hunter was felled by a knee injury in 2011. Rogers took over and led the SEC in receiving for the year, with 67 catches for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. He was expected to push for a high first-round selection this year, but he hit a speed bump.
In August, he was suspended indefinitely by Tennessee for "multiple team policy violations," which Rogers himself later identified as failed drug tests. There had been previous issues. He was arrested for his role in a barroom fight in 2010, and there were several locker room "incidents that were so troubling to some staffers that they felt [head coach Derek] Dooley was risking the locker room dynamic by allowing Rogers to remain in the program." Rogers transferred immediately to Tennessee Tech, where he went on to catch 61 passes for 893 yards and ten touchdowns for the Golden Eagles.
So there are definitely some red flags. He'll need to ace his combine interviews for any team to choose to draft him in any of the top three rounds, much less the first. Fortunately for Da'Rick, he comes across as pretty thoughtful and well-spoken, unlike his similarly dynamic former teammate. His junior year at TTU was entirely uneventful, which is a positive thing. He seems like the type of guy who could benefit from a lot of structure and good leadership, and that's something the Seahawks can offer in spades.
In return, he can be an elite possession receiver with dynamic run-after-catch ability and shot-play potential. He's clearly a driven, passionate player who has worked hard to get to where he is. He's made some dumb choices, but he's owned up to them, accepted his consequences, and moved forward.
If Pete and John decide to invest in Rogers, I think the culture they've nurtured in the Seattle locker room can bring out the best in him. Is he worth it in the first round? It depends on the impression he makes on other teams. If there's a chance he's not there by the time they pick in the 2nd round, I'd be thrilled to take him at 25.