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It’s been awhile since I’ve updated things on my team in the RSP Writers Project, so this post will explain what I was thinking on the six players I selected in rounds six through eleven.

Rounds 6/7

Already on team: QB Josh Freeman, WR Julio Jones, WR Brandon Marshall, LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE Paul Kruger

Taking the best available player was going to dictate my philosophy for one slot, while I felt time was running out to get started on my defensive line. I didn’t love what was left at running back, cornerback, tight end, or the defensive line — and I wasn’t going to take an inside linebacker — so I scanned the offensive line lists. I was a bit surprised to see that only six guards had been selected and that Alex Boone wasn’t one of them. Boone doesn’t have a long track record, but at age 25 last year he was one of the three or four best guards in the league. I love the physicality of all of the 49ers linemae, and Boone is no exception. At 6-7, he keeps my team firmly in the lead for “team most likely to be mistaken for a traveling basketball squad.”

Twenty-seven defensive ends and fifteen defensive tackles were drafted in the first six rounds, so I felt the need to take my first defensive lineman. With the first pick in the seventh round there were no obvious choices, but Desmond Bryant seemed like the best combination of production, youth, and physical ability. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now a backup and this fabulous mugshot, Bryant is the new person announcers will repeatedly tell us went to Harvard. Bryant played as a tackle in the Raiders 4-3 in 2012 and picked up 20 quarterback hurries and 11 hits last year. He also played end for the Raiders in ’11, but signed with the Browns this off-season (like Kruger) and will play as a 3-4 end in Cleveland. That’s where I see him lining up for me, too, but I like having the versatility of playing Kruger at end and Bryant inside if my team plays a 4-3.

Rounds 7/8

Already on team: QB Josh Freeman, WR Julio Jones, WR Brandon Marshall, LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE Paul Kruger, G Alex Boone, DE/DT Desmond Bryant

I had been penciling in “pass rusher” and “best available cornerback” for awhile with these picks. A pass rusher was needed just because the well was about to completely dry up if I didn’t take one, while I was already one of the few teams left without a single member of the secondary.

I like Courtney Upshaw for several reasons. He was a first round talent that slipped in the 2012 draft, allowing the Ravens to select him with the 35th pick last April. He’s only 23-years-old, and he has experience playing alongside my other pass rushing specialist. Upshaw isn’t your prototypical edge rusher, but he’s a young, improving player who can hold his own as the second outside linebacker in a 3-4. Good pedigree and decent production is the most you can hope for with a young player this late in the draft. Plus, Upshaw is also a member of this very selective group.

I then scanned the lists of available corners and determined that Vontae Davis was the best of an uninspiring bunch. Davis turns 25 in May, so his youth gave him an advantage over a dozen of other mediocre starting corners in the NFL. He has first-round athleticism and good size, making him one of the better cornerbacks in the league against the run. Davis isn’t a standout in coverage, but my hope is that I can add two other solid cornerbacks around him.

Rounds 10/11

Already on team: QB Josh Freeman, WR Julio Jones, WR Brandon Marshall, LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE Paul Kruger, G Alex Boone, DE/DT Desmond Bryant, 3-4 OLB Courtney Upshaw, CB Vontae Davis

Fifteen tight ends had been taken through the 31st pick in the 10th round, and I hadn’t drafted a skill-position player since the third round, so it felt like the appropriate time to dip back into that market. Greg Olsen seems like solid value at the 16th tight end off the board after his breakout season with the Panthers last year. Olsen fits in with my “big target” philosophy for Freeman, and his 6’6 frame worked just fine for Cam Newton in 2012. With 843 receiving yards in 2012, he ranked 4th among tight ends in that category. Olsen turned 28 last month, making him a little older than I’d like, but you can’t be too picky in the 10th round. He also ranked 4th in Pro Football Focus’ yards-per-route-run metric, behind only tight ends that caught passes from Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees.

If you thought things were ugly on the defensive line when I selected Bryant, it looked even worse at the start of round 11. With Kruger, Bryant, and Upshaw in place, I have the makings of a 3-4 defense, but need another end (anything resembling a difference-maker at nose tackle was long gone). At defensive end, most of the top remaining players (Brett Keisel, Mike Devito, Antonio Smith) were too old for my tastes. On the other hand, Pittsburgh’s Cameron Heyward won’t be 24 until May. The former first round pick hasn’t done much yet, but it’s too early to label him a bust, too. Dick LeBeau brings along his defenders slowly (Lawrence Timmons started two games in his first two years), but this is purely an upside pick in the hopes that the young, former first-rounder can develop into a quality 3-4 end. And if it doesn’t work out, I can always ask him what’s with this thingy.

Finally, Matt’s fantastic tome, the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, is now available for purchase.

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