Mailbag: 49ers and draft position

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

PiersMorgan4949 from the Bay Area writes: Greetings Mike. Though beating a big team in contention for the playoffs in the Bills is a confidence booster (along with the cold climate weather/10am PST start) for the 49ers, doesn't winning games hurt them in the draft and possibly take away that potential player that could've helped them? Are the 49ers better off playing for the draft, or do you think it really doesn't make a difference?

Should the 49ers trade their draft picks or keep them? I was thinking if they got a high value first round pick, I'd trade it for multiple picks. Is that a good idea? What do the 49ers need to get better, multiple draft picks or FAs?

Mike Sando: It's not feasible for the 49ers to lose games on purpose. Doing so would send the wrong message to players and fans. Besides, Mike Singletary has a job to keep. He can't do that tanking games in an effort to help the next head coach procure talent.

As for trading down, I'm not so sure. One, teams generally aren't rushing to move into the higher-priced picks. Two, the 49ers need an impact player.

Patrick Willis is the best player on the 49ers' defense. The 49ers drafted him with the 11th overall choice in 2007. They did not trade back. In looking at the players drafted after Willis in the first round that year, it's tough finding anyone better.

Adding free agents sounds good in theory, but where has it gotten the 49ers to this point? They've patched together a defense filled with veterans from other teams: Nate Clements, Michael Lewis, Walt Harris, Mark Roman, Takeo Spikes, Justin Smith, Aubrayo Franklin, etc.

While some of those players helped compensate for poor drafting, the 49ers' approach isn't looking like a blueprint other teams will be borrowing.

Mandy from Miami writes: How are the Cards gonna fix the run game ? Simple. Theyre just gonna have to wait another year. They need an upgrade at tight end who can run block and a RB that has big-play potential. Hightower has been most effective complimenting James, but he's not the future everyday back. The most frustrating part here is that the Cards have Russ Grimm coaching the O-line and the running game is non-existent. I had higher expectations just on the fact that he's the O-line coach. Its week 14, and false hope is coming for a big running game with the Rams in town. But for 1 week I wanna forget about the running woes and hopefully celebrate a division title for the first time since I was 3. LOL.......
Mike Sando: Agreed on the tight end. This is something I'm very interested in figuring out. I'll spend more time looking into it and put together thoughts in a piece for Wednesday.

Tom from San Diego writes: Are players like Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, or Kerry Collins possibilities for the 49ers next year? If any of them are, who seems most likely/best fit?
Mike Sando: Yes, at this point, the 49ers would be interested in players fitting those profiles. The next head coach and his staff will influence any decision along those lines and the 49ers' ability to land certain players. Until we know the coach, we can't make intelligent projections about the quarterback.

For example, J.T. O'Sullivan became a factor for the 49ers once they hired Mike Martz as coordinator. The team signed veteran backup Jamie Martin as insurance during the season because Martin had experience in this specific offense.

A year ago, no one was saying O'Sullivan might become the starter in 2008. We could not have known that because we had no idea Martz would succeed Jim Hostler as coordinator.

Alan from Maine writes: Who would have the 6th seed in the nfc? Dallas or Atlanta? and Why?
Mike Sando: The Falcons would prevail on the tiebreaker because they have a higher winning percentage in games against NFC opponents. Not that the Cowboys' defeat to the Rams matters much.

Ed from Manhattan Beach writes: Mike, thanks for keeping tabs on the Cards. It's an excellent resource! But could you give me some clubhouse insight? What do the coaches and players say/think the problem is on the East Coast? I've been a Cardinals fan since they arrived in Phoenix and have seen some horrible games and embarrassing moments, but Thanksgiving was the most painful. I understand it's a short week, but it was a short week for everyone. The entire team seemed unprepared and unmotivated. What gives?
Mike Sando: You're welcome, Ed. The Cardinals aren't the only Western team that has a hard time winning games on the East Coast. Most of the teams in the East are better teams. In this case, I think the Cardinals ran into a desperate opponent. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles were refocused after a brutal showing against the Ravens. The Cardinals were coming off an emotionally draining home game, then turning around on a short week.

I expected Arizona to play better and the Philadelphia to play worse. That said, the outcome wasn't shocking under the circumstances. The Cardinals weren't as good as they thought they would be, but I wouldn't make sweeping judgments on either team based on one game.

Since their Week 6 victory over Dallas, the Cardinals have struck me as a team that would be good enough at home to win 10 games, win the division and host a playoff game. They have not proven to be good enough to win road games under tough circumstances.

Charlie from Lexington writes: Mike, As I watched the 49ers game, do you agree that the play calling is horrible? why put shaun hill in the shotgun, why run a reverse?
Mike Sando: I thought they got away from the running game for a stretch, but they came back to it and did enough to put away the game. Yes, the reverse struck me as an unnecessary risk. That's Mike Martz, though. He's going to try to fool people. Sometimes it's going to backfire. Sometimes he's going to look really smart. At least the 49ers avoided a turnover.

Ryan from Phoenix writes: Hey Sando, with the Cardinals ranking last in running and Hightower having a massive dip in production since playing against the horrid Ram's defense, is it possible that JJ Arrington will start before the season is over? And who do you see starting next season? Hightower, Arrington, James or maybe even a rookie?
Mike Sando: Of the current backs, Hightower would have the best shot at starting. I could see the Cardinals drafting a running back. Edgerrin James will not be back. Arrington probably projects in a change-of-pace
role. The Cardinals need to reevaluate their identity on offense to see if they can become more effective as a running team.

J from parts unknown writes: Mike, You have any numbers on the NFCW teams cap situations going into 2009?
Mike Sando: Good question. I'll check.