2010 NFL Draft Recap: NFC West

Here are quick-hit 2010 NFL Draft observations for the NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals
Nose tackle Dan Williams is a great fit for the Cards, who were fortunate he slipped to them at No. 26. The team has been trying to fill the nose tackle position for years and they may have found the player to do it in Williams, who is explosive off the line. There’s a great chance he’ll beat out Gabe Watson for the right to start in Week 1. I also really liked Arizona’s second round pick, linebacker Daryl Washington. He’ll play alongside Geno Hayes in the Cards’ 3-4 alignment and might rack up 100 tackles with his sideline-to-sideline style of play. Citadel receiver Andre Roberts is a sleeper and will help out immediately as a punt returner. Third-rounder O’Brien Schofield had a first round grade on him before tearing his ACL in the Senior Bowl. He’s a prototypical 3-4 edge-rusher and has high upside, although he may need more time to fully recover from the injury. I also love the selection of John Skelton in the fifth. He’s athletic, has a cannon for an arm and he was a gamer at Fordham. He could be a great developmental project down the road, especially if Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson don’t pan out. All in all, this was one of my favorite drafts of any team this year.

San Francisco 49ers
I loved what the Niners did with their first three picks, which is where teams usually find starters and players that can make an impact right away. Anthony Davis will compete with Adam Snyder for the starting right tackle job, while Mike Iupati will battle David Bass at the starting left guard position. To nab two potential starters with their first two picks was excellent for San Fran. I also really liked the Taylor Mays selection in the second round because it showed great value, although he has a lot to prove after a sub par senior season at USC. The good thing for the Niners is that he has a chip on his shoulder, is a great athlete and will be working close with Mike Singletary, who is an excellent motivator. I didn’t like the pick of Navorro Bowman in the third round, only because he’s too small to play inside linebacker in a 3-4 and might wind up being a career special teamer if he stays in San Fran. It was a little early to be selecting special teamers in the third round. I did really like what San Fran did in the later rounds, however, nabbing bruising runner Anthony Dixon and burner Kyle Williams in the sixth.

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2010 NFL Draft Second Round Recap: Head-Scratchers, Values & More

Best Value: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Panthers
The Panthers wanted to wait to select a developmental quarterback late in the draft and had targeted a wide receiver with their selection in the second round. But as Clausen continued to fall, they couldn’t pass on the opportunity to nab him at No. 45. He’s going to a great situation where he won’t be pressed to start right away, but he could also challenge Matt Moore in preseason. It’s hard to argue that Carolina didn’t get tremendous value for a player that could have went in the top 15.

Potential Steal: Vladimir Ducasse, G, Jets
The J.E.T.S. followed up the first round steal of cornerback Kyle Wilson with the selection of Ducasse in the second. At 6’5”’ and 330 pounds, Ducasse is a mauler in the run game and is a candidate to start at guard once Alan Faneca is released later this offseason. I thought the Jets might take a guard to replace Faneca at No. 29, but they did well to nab Ducasse at No. 61, seeing as how he had a first round grade and they were able to land Wilson earlier.

Another potential steal is the Patriots’ selection of linebacker Brandon Spikes with the 62nd overall pick. Spikes ran a 5.0 40 in pre-draft workouts and teams decided to avoid him the smelly kid in class thereafter. But he was extremely productive at Florida, he played against top competition and he could do wonders playing alongside Jerod Mayo in Bill Belichick’s 3-4 scheme. And while we’re on the subject, the Patriots did well to add tight end Rob Gronkowski in this round, too. The Arizona product had a first round grade but slipped due to concerns about his back.

Biggest Head Scratcher: Brian Price, DT, Buccaneers
Price is a fine prospect, but I’m a little confused by the Bucs’ plan of attack here. They used the third overall pick on Gerald McCoy (who is also a three-technique player like Price) and also have a promising youngster in Roy Miller already on the roster. Price must have been the top player on Tampa’s board, or else why would Raheem Morris and company draft the UCLA DT with so many other needs to fill? I like the player, but I don’t know what the Bucs’ strategy was behind the pick.

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49ers might be the perfect fit for Mays

The book is already out on Taylor Mays and it reads: Can’t cover, terrible ball skills, isn’t a reliable tackler.

But if there’s one coach that can turn a great athlete into a football player (there’s a fundamental difference between the too), it might be the 49ers’ Mike Singletary.

San Francisco took Mays with the 49th overall pick in the second round on Friday night, which is roughly 15 spots lower then where the safety was projected to go. Many pundits had Mays falling to the bottom of the first round or even the early second, but the 49th overall pick is pretty low for a player that runs a sub-4.4 40 and terrific size (6’3”, 230 pounds). (Not to mention one that was also considered a top 10 pick in 2009.)

All of Mays’ weaknesses aren’t correctable. He’ll probably never be good in man-to-man coverage because he has a tough time keeping up with backs and tight ends in open space. But his inconsistent tackling technique is something Singletary can correct and one day, maybe he’ll mold Mays into a solid strong safety that can mask his weaknesses with excellent athleticism and a good football IQ.

Two years ago, people were ready to give up on former top 5 pick Vernon Davis. Highly regarded as a phenomenal athlete, Davis struggled to learn the nuances of the game and what it meant to challenge himself when preparing for Sundays. Then Singletary came along and made Davis not only realize his potential, but fulfill it. Now he’s considered one of the better playmaking tight ends in the league and he only appears to be getting better.

It’s not surprising that Mays slipped as far as he did, but he could wind up being one of the steals of the draft. He’s going to a good situation in San Francisco and will be able to learn from a coach in Singletary that has a knack for molding young men.

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Taylor Mays: Second round sleeper or bust in the making?

Imagine you’re USC safety Taylor Mays on Thursday night, sitting patiently by the phone waiting for a team to call to tell you that you’re headed to the NFL.

But the phone never rings. Then you watch as two safeties (Eric Berry and Earl Thomas) are selected in the top 15, one of which (Thomas) by your former coach at USC, Pete Carroll.

Granted, Thomas was a better prospect than Mays and would have gone ahead of him in most scenarios. Plus, had Seattle taken Mays at 14 it would have been viewed as a major reach. But it nevertheless must be unsettling that the man that scouted Mays at SC decided to go with a Longhorn when it came time to address his needs in the secondary.

A year ago, Mays was considered a top-10 prospect. But scouts knocked him for not making big plays last season and then flat out ignored the fact that he ran a sub-4.4 40 at the Combine. He’s tough as nails, durable and has a ton of experience versus elite completion.

So what’s the problem then?

The problem is that teams don’t know whether or not he’s a safety or a linebacker. He’s brutal in coverage, doesn’t play the ball well and takes bad angles. Those aren’t exactly great qualities to have in a safety – even a strong safety that would likely play close to the line of scrimmage. Plus, he’s not the most reliable tackler, so even as a linebacker he has some major question marks as well.

That said, Mays is an all-around solid football player and as previously mentioned, he was once viewed as a top 10 pick. He knows how to play the game and if he gets in the right system (Chicago, Minnesota, San Francisco, Cleveland), then he might wind up being a steal in the second round. (Although the Bears would have to trade up for him or hope he falls to the third because they don’t have a second rounder.)

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The Scores Report’s 2010 NFL Mock Draft

This is it – this one is for all the marbles. The two previous mock drafts I put together mean nothing, unless of course one of those is better than the one below. In that case, please consider that to be my final mock so I can save some face.

We’re just days away from the 2010 NFL Draft and as usual, the uncertainty surrounding which player will be drafted by which team is at an all-time high. Teams are sending out smokescreens, it’s hard to figure out which GM is telling the truth (probably roughly around none of them) and all the while, the media is trying to keep up with all the rumors.

But here it is – my final crack at predicting the first round. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section, but remember that they’re only valid when you make predictions before the draft. Don’t be the tool that comes back here a week from now boasting that you knew that Team A would take Player X, or else you will be made fun of mercilessly by your peers.

Let the games begin and once again, Happy NFL Draft time fellow draftnits.

Originally posted: Monday, April 19

1. St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Ndamukong Suh is the best player in the 2010 draft and if teams only drafted based on talent, then the Nebraska defensive tackle would be the first player selected in round one. But Suh plays a position that most teams can’t justify investing a truckload of guaranteed money in. That’s why Bradford will be the No. 1 pick, along with the fact that the Rams desperately need a quarterback to help revitalize their morbid franchise. I’ve never wavered with this pick – I’ve believed that Bradford was going to be the Rams’ selection at No. 1 all along. If they believe that he’s a franchise quarterback, then Suh and every other prospect in this draft becomes inconsequential in the Rams’ eyes. There’s no more important position on a football field than the one that lines up under center every week. Is taking a quarterback this high a risk? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, a franchise can’t function without a good QB. That’s why St. Louis won’t hesitate to take Bradford here.

2. Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
The Lions want everyone to believe that they’ll take an offensive tackle like Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung with this pick and they may very well might. But if Suh is still on the board when the Lions are on the clock in the first round, then they’d be nuts to pass on him. Suh is the best player in the draft on either side of the ball and could be the player current Lions (and former Titans’ DC) head coach Jim Schwartz builds his defense around, a la Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
McCoy has kind of become the forgotten top 5 prospect in this draft because he’s overshadowed by Suh. But he’s a difference maker and a force against the run. If the Rams take Bradford at No. 1, one of the two defensive tackles will fall to Tampa here, which is exactly what it wants. The Bucs need an interior presence in the middle of their line that can be effective both against the run and pass. McCoy can potentially be that player.

4. Washington Redskins: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
As long as Mike Shanahan’s claims that the Redskins will take a quarterback with this pick are untrue, then Williams could very well be the third Sooner to come off the board in the first four picks this year. Okung is regarded as the best offensive tackle in the draft, but Williams is a better fit for Washington’s new zone-blocking scheme, making him the choice here. He’s an excellent all-around blocker and has the potential to immediately fill the void left by Chris Samuels on the Redskins’ O-line.

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