49ers

10 Observations from Week 3 in the NFL

1. The Steelers are now heavy favorites to win the AFC in my opinion. A 3-0 start with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch at quarterback is no fluke. As long as they stay healthy, they’re the deepest team in that conference and no one can stop them. But health was an issue for them last year, so nothing is guaranteed.

2. I’d like to know the real story behind Trent Edwards’ release in Buffalo. How does a Week 1 starter not even have a spot on the roster two weeks later? There has to be something going on behind the scenes that we all aren’t aware of.

3. It’s nice to see Darren McFadden finally living up to expectations. He went over 100 yards again this week and has 345 on the season. Now if only Oakland could get some consistency at quarterback…

4. The 49ers are panicking already by firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. How long before they panic some more and pull Alex Smith in favor of David Carr or Troy Smith? He’s already thrown five interceptions this season and I can’t imagine Mike Singletary will have the patience to let him keep up that pace for much longer.

5. That was a great road win for the Titans against the Giants this weekend. But I think we’ll know a lot more about the Titans over the next three weeks. They’re at home against the Broncos, then at Dallas, then at Jacksonville on Monday night. All three of those games look winnable. But they could just as easily go 1-2. If they come out of that stretch with a 5-1 record, they could be headed towards a playoff berth.

6. The Chargers are lucky Marcus McNeill is coming to the rescue soon. But they better hope his temporary replacement Brandyn Dombrowski doesn’t get Phillip Rivers killed in the meantime. It seemed like Rivers was under pressure all day against the Seahawks – a team that doesn’t even have a great pass rush.

Cleveland Browns

Peyton Hillis nearly led the Browns to an upset in Baltimore

7. Peyton Hillis is a beast. His 144 yards on Sunday were the most the Ravens have ever allowed to a division opponent. That’s in a division that has featured Jerome Bettis, Corey Dillon, Eddie George and plenty of other quality running backs over the years.

8. Want proof that Peyton Manning is a miracle worker? Austin Collie is the NFL’s leader in receiving yards.

9. I think the Broncos are a lot better than I expected, but they’re still going to finish in the bottom third of the league. They don’t have a running game, and no one on that roster appears ready to emerge as the answer to that problem. I’m even starting to wonder if it’s time to consider Knowshon Moreno a bust? It’s still early, but it rarely takes 1st-round running backs this long to develop. It’s not as though he’s playing in an inept offense. The Broncos have a solid passing game and a respectable offensive line. He should be producing by now.

10. The Chiefs may be 3-0, but I still put their chances of making the playoffs at well less than 50 percent. They’re off this week, then at Indy and at Houston. They’ll be 3-2 by mid-October and looking more like the team we all expected them to be.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, Steelers, Titans Comments Off

10 Most Overrated NFL Players

10. A.J. Hawk
Hawk will someday enter college football’s Hall of Fame as one of the greatest linebackers of his generation. But his production simply hasn’t translated to the NFL. He’s a solid starter on a good defense in Green Bay, but far from the star that some Packers fans believe him to be.

9. Nate Clements
Since cashing in on a monster contract from the 49ers its been all downhill for Clements. He was benched at one point last season before suffering a season-ending injury. The 49ers inexplicably decided to bring him back – fat contract and all – in hopes that he returns to form.

8. Eric Steinbach
On an offensive line which featured Rex Hadnot, John St. Clair and Pork Chop Womack, it was Steinbach who was the weak link. He’s an acceptable pass blocker, but struggles to open up holes in the running game. The Browns spent big money to bring him north from Cincinnati a few years ago, and he’s been a consistent disappointment. He easily earns the title of most overrated offensive lineman.

7. Dunta Robinson
When he wants to be, Robinson can be great. But he rarely cares enough to put in the effort. Knowing a contract was on the line he stepped up his game down the stretch last season and got a nice deal from the Falcons. He may start out the year looking like a star, excited by the change of scenery, but as soon as the Falcons are out of the playoff picture, Robinson will do his disappearing act.

6. Shawne Merriman
Based on last year’s performance, Merriman should probably be No. 1 on this list, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt due to the fact that he was coming off an injury. Since being suspended for steroid use, we haven’t really seen much out of Merriman and this year could be the end of the road for him in San Diego with Larry English waiting in the wings.

5. Reggie Bush
The “explosive” Reggie Bush returned 27 punts last season, for an average of 4.8 yards. Of the 38 players with at least 12 punt returns only Arnaz Battle had a worse average. Ouch. He can be a nice little weapon and break off a big play from time to time. But so can Jerome Harrison, Justin Forsett, Steve Slaton… you get the point.

4. Brandon Jacobs
Jacobs was a bulldozer when the Giants first handed him the starting job, but part of that success was due to the depth around him. He takes more abuse than any running back in the league and the human body just simply isn’t built for it. He isn’t capable of being a feature back, as the Giants learned last season. His carries will be reduced this year in hopes that his production improves.

3. DeSean Jackson
He’s explosive and fun to watch, sure, but he’s also terribly inconsistent. He had as many games with fewer than 35 receiving yards last season as he did games over 100 yards. His route running is, well, basically limited to going deep. And he is too small and completely unwilling to set a block. He’s a great weapon to have, but not a true No. 1 receiver.

ATLANTA - AUGUST 13: Jamaal Anderson  of the Atlanta Falcons sacks quarterback Matt Cassel  of the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on August 13, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Cassel hasn't lived up to the hype in Kansas City

2. Vernon Davis
Davis is the offensive version of Dunta Robinson. When he wants to be, he can be dominant. But the effort just isn’t always there. He developed into a legitimate fantasy football star last season, but in real life he’s still a liability. His blocking, if you can even call it that, is atrocious. And his hands are as inconsistent as anyone in the game. He dropped 13 balls last season, a whopping four more than any other tight end in the game.

1. Matt Cassel
What exactly has Cassel done in his career? Sure he was decent in 2008 with the Patriots. But considering it was one of the greatest offenses of all time in 2007, couldn’t most backup quarterbacks have thrown 21 TD and 11 interceptions on that team? In 2009 he came back down to earth and looked pretty much like Tyler Thigpen, Brodie Croyle or any other average quarterback would have looked in Kansas City.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Packers, Saints 32 Comments

Ten guys who should be looking over their shoulder

10. Greg Olsen
Mike Martz says he’s committed to Olsen, but he shouldn’t get too comfortable. Martz traditionally doesn’t utilize the tight end and prefers to rely on them as blockers. Olsen is an adequate blocker but he’s no Brandon Manumaleuna, who’s waiting in the wings to take snaps away.

9. Matt Leinart
The Cardinals will be patient with Leinart, but if they’re in contention and he’s not getting the job done, Derek Anderson will be called upon. Leinart has all the skills necessary to be an elite quarterback, but the work ethic just hasn’t been there. Maybe this is the year it all clicks.

8. Nate Clements
Clements was benched briefly last season, less than three years into his monster contract in San Francisco. He’s firmly on the hot seat once again, but luckily for him the 49ers secondary is extremely thin. Given the size of his contract though, the 49ers may be quick to cut ties with him if he fails to perform up to expectations.

7. James Harrison
Two years removed from Defensive Player of the Year honors, the clock is ticking loudly for the 32 year old Harrison. His starting position may not be in jeopardy yet but he’ll likely start to lose snaps to rookie Jason Worilds, who is being groomed as his replacement.

6. Chad Clifton
The 34-year-old Clifton returns for another season in Green Bay, but 1st-round pick Byran Bulaga is breathing down his neck. The starting job belongs to Clifton for now, but at the first sign of struggles Bulaga could get the call.

5. Albert Haynesworth
Haynesworth and Mike Shanahan haven’t exactly gotten off on the right foot, making him an obvious addition to the list. The only reason he isn’t higher is the fact that an adequate replacement isn’t readily available. The decline in talent from Haynesworth to Jeremy Jarmon, Ma’ake Kemoeatu or Darrion Scott is significant.

4. Jake Delhomme
Since returning to the NFL in 1999, only one Browns quarterback has started 16 games (Tim Couch, 2001) and Delhomme isn’t likely to join the list. Browns fans will be calling for Seneca Wallace (or even Colt McCoy) after every interception.

3. Darren Sharper
For much of the offseason it looked as though the Saints weren’t even interested in bringing Sharper back for another season. It now looks as though he’ll be playing in New Orleans, but his job may not be safe. 2009 1st-round pick Malcolm Jenkins has switched over to free safety and should see significant playing time, even if it is in a reserve role.

Nov 1, 2009; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman (56) celebrates after a tackle in the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 24-16. Photo via Newscom

If he doesn't return to form, it could be "lights out" for Merriman in San Diego

2. Brandon Jacobs
The Giants have become frustrated with Jacobs, who seems to have worn down faster than the average running back. He’s 28 years old and is coming off a disappointing season in which he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Ahmad Bradshaw, who has averaged 5.2 yards per carry for his career, could steal away a significant chuck of his carries this season.

1. Shawne Merriman
Health issues and a steroid suspension have derailed Merriman’s once promising career. After missing nearly the entire 2008 season, Merriman totaled just four sacks in 14 games in 2009. The Chargers expect to compete for a Super Bowl title this season, so they’ll waste no time turning over Merriman’s duties to 2009 1st-round pick Larry English if necessary.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Browns, Cardinals, Chargers, Giants, Packers, Redskins, Saints, Steelers Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: 49ers

The 49ers had a chance to make a splash with their two 1st round picks, but I’m not sure they accomplished that.

They reached for Anthony Davis. He just isn’t polished enough to have been selected 11th overall. There’s no denying his potential, but he has yet to show that he can be consistent. That said, San Francisco just might be a perfect place for him. He’s best suited at right tackle, at least early in his career, and that’s likely where he’ll play with the 49ers.

I love the selection of Mike Iupati. He’ll be a starter from day one and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He’s the best interior lineman to enter the draft since I started scouting in 2004.

The issue I have with their two 1st round picks, however, is the fact that they’re showing an awful lot of confidence in Alex Smith by selecting two offensive linemen. Essentially they’re saying: you’ve got your star receiver, you’ve got your star running back, you’ve got your offensive line, now go lead us to the playoffs. If he doesn’t make major strides this year the 49ers will be back to the drawing board sooner rather than later.

The 49ers may have landed one of the top steals of the draft by snagging Taylor Mays in the 2nd round. At some point in the past year Mays became so overrated that I think he’s now actually underrated (if that makes any sense). Yes, he struggles in coverage, but he does a lot of other things very well. He’s a force against the run and he has the athleticism necessary to improve his coverage skills.

Navorro Bowman is a big risk due to his character concerns, but the 49ers look like a good place for players like him to land. Mike Singletary isn’t afraid to put players in their place, and in the 3rd round there’s very little risk involved.

I love the selection of Anthony Dixon in the 6th round. I honestly have no clue why he fell that far. He has impressive size and adequate speed. He actually reminds me of Frank Gore to an extent. He should be given an opportunity to compete with Glen Coffee for the backup job.

Nate Byham was also a great pick. They needed a blocking tight end and Byham can fill that role perfectly.

Kyle Williams, the son of White Sox GM Kenny Williams, is a decent late-round pick. He can potentially help out as a return specialist, but I don’t see him being much of an asset as a receiver.

The one thing missing from this draft was a cornerback, which they didn’t land until the 7th round with Phillip Adams. He’s a decent athlete but he doesn’t look like anything special. He’ll compete for a backup job, but the 49ers really needed to do more to address this need.

I was very surprised at the way the 49ers draft shaped up. They’ve spent the past two drafts building an offense that should be able to compete immediately, but if Alex Smith doesn’t make major strides this season it may be all for nothing. It would be devastating to have spent this much effort rebuilding an offense only to be forced to start over again at quarterback in next year’s draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Draft Grades - 2010 Comments Off

10 Bold Predictions for the NFL Draft

10. The Raiders will be criticized for their 1st-round pick
Ok, so maybe this isn’t quite a bold prediction. No one has any idea who the Raiders are going to draft, but I can all but guarantee it will be a reach.

9. C.J. Spiller will be a top-10 pick
And he can thank Chris Johnson for paving the way. The NFL is a copycat league and now everyone wants to the next Johnson. Spiller is an option for the Browns, Raiders and Jaguars. Someone such as the 49ers may also try to trade up for him.

8. Two TCU players will be drafted in the 1st round
Jerry Hughes is all but locked into the 1st round, but his teammate Daryl Washington could join him. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts and Saints and could sneak into the late 1st round. It would be the first time since 1939 that two Horned Frogs went in the 1st round.

7. Bruce Campbell will fall to the 2nd round
Al Davis will consider him with the 8th pick, but he’ll pass. And so will everyone else. Someone will eventually scoop up the most overrated draft prospect to come along in years in the early-to-mid 2nd round.

6. Pete Carroll will reach for someone from USC
Taylor Mays? Everson Griffen? Both could be options for the Seahawks in the 1st round. He may even be tempted to reach for someone like Jeff Byers later on. College coaches are always blinded by familiarity when they move to the NFL game.

5. The Cowboys will draft a WR in the 1st or 2nd round
Motivated by the Redskins acquisition of Donovan McNabb, Jerry Jones will feel the need to bolster his offense. The NFC East could feature a number of shootouts in 2010 and Jones wants to stay ahead of the curve.

4. A  Pro Bowler will be traded
Ronnie Brown? McKinnie? Umenyiora? Roethlisberger?

3. The Steelers will draft a quarterback
Not necessary in the first two rounds, but they’ll grab a signal caller at some point. Maybe Dan LeFevour in the 3rd round? Tony Pike in the 4th? John Skelton in the 5th?

2. There will be at least 5 trades in the 1st round
This could be one of the busiest 1st rounds in recent memory. With so much talent in this year’s class, teams will be motivated to move in two directions. On one hand, some great players will fall and teams will want to move up to grab them. On the other hand, as those great players fall, more good players will be available in the late 1st and early 2nd round.

1. At least 3 quarterbacks will be selected in the 1st round
We know Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen will be 1st round picks. But don’t be shocked when a third comes off the board in the late 1st. The Vikings could take Tim Tebow. The Bills or Browns may also trade up for Colt McCoy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Colts, Cowboys, Jaguars, Raiders, Saints, Steelers, Vikings 95 Comments

There could be a run on cornerbacks in the 1st round

Just about every year there is a run on players from a certain position. This year we know a good number of offensive tackles and defensive linemen will go in the 1st round. Joining them, could be a number of cornerbacks.

Back in my first post-regular season mock draft in January I had only one cornerback in the 1st round – Joe Haden. Since then, Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson, Patrick Robinson and Kareem Jackson have all entered the conversation. While I don’t believe all five deserve to be 1st-round selections, its not out of the question that they could all sneak into the top 32 picks.

Runs on a specific position happen when teams need to fill a position and are worried that they’ll be left with a significantly worse player by the time they’re on the clock again. For example, if the Eagles want a cornerback in the 1st round they may reach for Kareem Jackson rather than settle for Perrish Cox in the second round.

Just a few weeks ago it seemed reasonable to assume that only two cornerbacks would come off the board in the 1st round. So lets run through a scenario in which all five could come off the board.

10. Jaguars – Joe Haden
The Jaguars are definitely in the mix to land Haden. They need someone opposite Rashean Mathis, who turns 30 in August.

17. 49ers – Devin McCourty
There are reportedly a number of teams in the top 20 that have an interest in McCoury, and the 49ers are likely one of them. Nate Clements has been a huge disappointment, and was benched at one point in 2009. McCourty could allow them to part ways with him and enormous contract.

24. Eagles – Kyle Wilson
The Eagles traded arguably their best cornerback, Sheldon Brown, to the Browns in an effort to get younger on defense. However, it depleted their depth at cornerback in the process and left them with with Ellis Hobbs as their best option to start opposite Asante Samuel.

25. Ravens – Kareem Jackson
Both Lardarius Webb and Dominique Foxworth are coming off ACL injuries and may not be ready for the start of the season. Having two key injuries in their secondary has the Ravens worried, and they’ve done their homework on the majority of the top cornerbacks in this year’s class.

31. Vikings – Patrick Robinson
Robinson is the long shot of the group, but if the top four cornerbacks are off the board by No. 31 the Vikings may take chance on him. Depth at the position was a weakness of the Vikings in 2009 and to make matters worse Cedric Griffin’s season ended with a serious knee injury which could cause him to miss the start of the 2010 season. They’re desperate for help in the secondary and may not have  a choice but to add someone in the 1st round.

This is just one of multiple scenarios in which five corners could come off the board. Other teams such as the Titans, Steelers and Packers are also interested in cornerbacks early in the draft.

If a scenario such as this plays out, the real winners will be the teams drafting early in the 2nd round. A number of 1st-round talents will fall if teams start to reach for guys at a specific position. It could cause multiple big names to still be on the board on Friday.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars, Packers, Ravens, Vikings Comments Off

How high could Mike Iupati go?

We haven’t seen an offensive guard go in the top 20 picks since the Seahawks selected Steve Hutchinson 17th overall in 2001. That could change this year with Mike Iupati.

2010 NFL Combine - Day OneIupati’s size (6’5″, 331 lbs) makes him look like a prototypical mauler. He’s big, physical and plays with a nasty demeanor. He has all the attributes to be a truly dominant run blocker. But what makes him stand out, much like Hutchinson, is his surprising athleticism for an interior lineman.

Many highly-touted guards in recent years, Vince Manuwai and Deuce Lutui for example, end up falling on draft day and failing to play at an elite level in the NFL due to their lack of athleticism. While both Manuwai and Lutui flash the ability to dominate as run blockers, they’re aren’t the complete package.

On the flip side, others such as Ben Grubbs, excel as pass blockers but struggle in the running game. They have the quick feet and strong lower body to hold up against faster pass rushers and bull rushers. However, they lack the brute strength to knock guys backwards on the line of scrimmage.

Every so often a player like Steve Hutchinson or Mike Iupati comes along who appears to be able to put it all together.

At this point, the latest I could envision Iupati going would be at No. 23 to the Packers. They’ve re-signed Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, but still need to upgrade the interior line. Iupati would provide a drastic upgrade over Daryn Colledge/Jason Spitz/T.J. Lang at left guard.

The Bengals are another strong possibility. They’ve let their best lineman from 2009, Bobbie Williams, test the free agent waters. This has opened up a gaping hole on the line, which would currently be filled by Nate Livings, who has bounced on and off the practice squad for much of his career.

Perhaps the most likely land spot is Pittsburgh, which needs an upgrade over Trai Essex. The Steelers are transitioning back into more of a power-running team with Rashard Mendenhall as the starter now, and a powerful run blocker like Iupati is needed.

Here’s a few other options:

13/17. 49ers – Guard isn’t a glaring need, but he would certainly be an upgrade over David Baas.

15. Giants – Their offensive line is getting up their in age and Jerry Reese strongly believes it taking the best available player.

14. Seahawks – Rob Sims may be traded, which would open up an immediate starting spot for Iupati.

11. Broncos – They have other needs, but if they view Iupati as the best available player he would provide their offensive line some much needed stability.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bengals, Broncos, Giants, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers 1 Comment

How the Donovan McNabb trade could impact the draft

We’ve heard all sorts of crazy rumors about Donovan McNabb over the past two weeks. Based on the number of trade rumors out there, it would certainly seem as though he’s headed out of Philly sooner rather than later. But rather than break down where he may end up, lets take a look at how the draft will change based on where he could land…

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys - Wild Card Round

McNabb doesn't want to leave, but if he does it will shake up the 1st round

If McNabb lands in St. Louis…
The most obvious repercussion of this scenario is that Sam Bradford is no longer projected as the top pick. Ndamukong Suh would likely go No. 1 overall and Gerald McCoy No. 2. Suddenly the Bucs would be on the clock with no need for a quarterback, but with a highly sought after prospect on the board. The Redskins would be holding their breath hoping no one trades up, while the Browns, Bills and possibly others would be on the phone with Tampa trying move up for Bradford. Assuming he fell to Washington, Jimmy Clausen would then fall to the Bills at No. 9. The real winner could be Eric Berry who suddenly becomes an option at No. 3 for Bucs.

If McNabb lands in Oakland…
Not much should change in this scenario, but you just never know with Al Davis. In an effort to keep McNabb happy, and around for longer than one season, Davis may decide to draft Dez Bryant. It sounds ridiculous at first thought, but it may not be such a bad idea. Heyward-Bey was a terrible selection last year, and he showed no signs of being a meaningful contributor anytime soon. Bryant has the potential to be an immediate impact receiver. Or, since Davis tends to shy away from receivers who run in the 4.5 or 4.6 range, maybe he goes way off the board for someone else. Jermaine Gresham? Golden Tate? Crazier things have happened.

If McNabb lands in Buffalo…
This may be the best scenario for McNabb, but its the worst scenario for Clausen. Assuming Bradford goes No. 1 and the Redskins take Russell Okung, Clausen could fall far. The Browns and Seahawks don’t appear to have an interest. The 49ers may be an option, but wouldn’t be a guarantee. If he slides past them at No. 17, there isn’t an obvious landing spot until the Vikings at No. 30. Its likely that someone would need to trade back into the 1st round to stop Clausen’s free fall.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Eagles, Raiders, Redskins, Vikings Comments Off

Could the Seahawks or 49ers make a move for Bradford?

Sam Bradford was impressive at his workout on Monday.  But personally, I’m not concerned with how Bradford looked. The fact that he showed up and completed the workout without showing any significant lingering issues with his shoulder was enough.

What I do find interesting about his workout, however, is who showed up. As expected the Rams and Redskins were well represented.

Among the others in attendance were the Browns (Homgren and Mangini), Seahawks (Carroll and and GM John Schneider) and 49ers (Singletary and Dir. of Player Personnel Trent Baalke). The odds of Bradford falling to any of these teams is very small, however, they may be interested in trading up.

The Seahawks and 49ers are the most interesting teams that were in attendance due to the fact that, with two 1st-round picks, the have the ability to trade up for Bradford. In fact, trading for the No. 1 overall selection isn’t out of the question, especially for Seahawks.

If the Seahawks wanted to trade up for Bradford, it may only take their two 1st-round picks. According to the trade value chart, the Seahawks picks hold a value of 2,700 points. The No. 1 pick is worth 3,000 points. It isn’t an exact match, but these trades rarely work out perfectly. When you factor in the money the Rams would save by not having to pay the top pick in the draft, they may be willing to make the swap.

It would be nearly impossible for the 49ers to trade up to No. 1 without also sacrificing a 2011 pick, but if the Rams pass on Bradford they could try to jump the Redskins and move up to No. 3. The 3rd pick, owned by the Bucs, is worth 2,200 points in the trade value chart. The 49ers 1st-round picks add up to 2,100 points – essentially an even value.

Obviously both of these scenario’s hinge on the Rams losing interest in Bradford. He appears to be the heavy favorite to go be the top pick in the draft, but each team needs to be prepared for every scenario. In the event that the Rams do sour and Bradford, both the 49ers and Seahawks could be ready to make their move.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Browns, Rams, Seahawks Comments Off

5 players with an outside shot at the top 10

Every year there are one or two players that sneak into the top 10 on draft day despite rarely showing up that high in mock drafts. Last year it was Darrius Heyward-Bey, in ’08 it was Derrick Harvey, in ’07 it was Ted Ginn Jr., in ’06 it was Donte Whitner… the list goes on.

So who are the candidates this? Here are a few names to keep in mind that could come off board higher than expected on April 22:

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
McClain has occasionally shown up in mock drafts at No. 5 to the Chiefs (including ours) but Scott Pioli has shown little interest in him thus far. It could just be a smoke screen, but he appears genuine in his interest in the offensive tackles in this year’s class. If they pass on McClain, his odds go down, but Buffalo could be another option. In Buffalo he would be an ideal fit at inside linebacker next to Paul Posluszny, replacing the aging Kawika Mitchell.

4. Earl Thomas, Texas
Thomas’ top-10 hopes depend on where Eric Berry is selected. If Berry goes in the top five (Bucs? Chiefs?), then Thomas becomes an option for the Browns at No. 7. They’re looking for a replacement for Brodney Pool at free safety, and Thomas would be a perfect fit. Another option could be Jacksonville. The Jaguars may be ready to give up on 2007 1st-round pick Reggie Nelson at free safety.

3. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Spiller is absent from the top 10 in every mock draft I’ve seen, primarily because no one in the top 10 has a need for a running back. However, numerous teams in the 10-20 range (Dolphins, Seahawks, 49ers, Steelers) could be interested. Its possible that someone will decide to trade up for Spiller – the Browns would be a likely trade partner – in an effort to jump all the teams that could snatch him up in the middle of the 1st round.

2. Charles Brown, USC
Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis and even Bruce Campbell are frequently talked about as potential top-10 picks. So why is Brown, who’s viewed as a potential 1st-rounder, left out of the discussion? Brown’s top-1o chances hinge on where the others prospects fall. But if there’s a run on tackles in the top 10, as expected, its possible that someone trades up into the top 10 to ensure they land one of the top prospects. The 49ers would be a likely candidate to do so, thanks to their two 1st-round picks.

1. Dan Williams, Tennessee
Williams isn’t showing up in the top 10 in many mock drafts, but he’s one of the most popular prospects out there. He’s viewed as a potentially elite 3-4 nose tackle who also has the ability to play in a 4-3 scheme. The earliest he could come off the board would be at No. 6 to the Seahawks. He would be a significant upgrade over Colin Cole as the space eater on their defensive line. The Browns and Bills, who both runs 3-4 schemes, are perhaps the most likely options. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers has been rumored in multiple trade discussions. If he’s shipped out on draft day, it could be to make room for Williams. As for Buffalo, they’re transitioning to a 3-4 defense this year and don’t have a true nose tackle on their current roster.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars, Seahawks Comments Off