NFC West: Aaron Maybin
The San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith ranks fourth on the list. The St. Louis Rams' Chris Long is 10th. The Arizona Cardinals' Sam Acho ranks 19th. Ex-Seattle Seahawk Lawrence Jackson is 14th. Ex-Ram Adam Carriker ranks 21st.
Smith is keeping impressive company. The next step for him, likely next season, will be to maintain his pass-rush production as an every-down player, when he'll also have to hold up against the run more frequently. So far, so good.
The St. Louis Rams' Robert Quinn did not quite make the chart. He has five sacks and a 2.2 percentage. Seattle's Chris Clemons has eight sacks and a 2.1 percentage.
Sacks are not the only measure of a player's performance, of course. The best pass-rushers tend to collect a lot of them, however.
Butler, chosen 41st overall that year, joined a growing list of disappointments from the class. The Patriots' division rival, Buffalo, already cut ties with Aaron Maybin, chosen 11th overall in 2009. At least six of the players drafted ahead of Maybin -- St. Louis' Jason Smith, Seattle's Aaron Curry and San Francisco's Michael Crabtree among them -- have yet to meet the high expectations that came with their draft status.
Back to Butler. His availability on waivers this week caught the San Francisco 49ers' attention. They were one of four teams to claim the third-year cornerback, ESPN's John Clayton notes. Carolina's claim prevailed because the Panthers had the worst record in 2010.
The 49ers put in a claim for former Patriots tight end Lee Smith earlier in the week. The team kept only two tight ends on its initial 53-man roster after losing Nate Byham to a season-ending knee injury.
San Francisco's needs at cornerback have been obvious since the team struggled against the pass last season. Addressing the position early in the draft wasn't a realistic option once the Arizona Cardinals, choosing two spots ahead of the 49ers at No. 5 overall, selected Patrick Peterson. The 49ers then took outside linebacker Aldon Smith. They're happy with Smith but could still use young talent at corner.
The St. Louis Rams could also use cornerback depth. Their corners are generally taller and heavier than the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Butler. Whether or not that was a factor in their restraint remains unclear. Every team grades players a little differently.
- The 49ers and Maybin: The Buffalo Bills released Aaron Maybin at least in part because he wasn't a good fit for a 3-4 defense. The 49ers run a 3-4 defense. Not all 3-4s are created the same. Perhaps the 49ers could find a spot for Maybin. It's easy to see why Maybin would want to play for the 49ers. He and 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman were roommates at Penn State. Maybin, Bowman and 49ers tight end Vernon Davis grew up in Maryland. Side note: Maybin was the 11th player chosen in the 2009 draft. The 49ers used the 10th pick that year for Michael Crabtree. Update: Rule out Maybin.
- Separation at quarterback: So, starting quarterback Alex Smith has tightened his grip on the job over the past couple days. It's an upset if Smith isn't the starter for Week 1 of the regular season. As a former quarterback, coach Jim Harbaugh should know when a quarterback needs a boost. Smith might have needed one after a rough preseason opener and speculation over the 49ers' intentions for the position amid news that Daunte Culpepper worked out for the team.
- No deal yet for Culpepper: Taking a look at Culpepper opened the 49ers to easy ridicule. Were they really desperate enough at quarterback to consider a 34-year-old UFL passer whose last NFL snap came during the 2009 season? Yes and no. The team would like to add a veteran backup before the season. Doing so wouldn't necessarily affect the team's broader plans for the position. The 49ers know they can wait on Culpepper. Other teams aren't rushing out to sign him. In the meantime, the team can consider its options.
Any Buffalo Bills fans out there with thoughts on Maybin?
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic: Jerheme Urban is having a very good camp, which leaves Early Doucet on the outside for a second consecutive season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "He's really stood up and has had as good a camp as anybody. He's made a number of plays on the ball that were uncharacteristic of what he had done consistently. ... He's always been a player with good speed, but sometimes when he's had a contested catch, there had been some inconsistencies and that has not been the case here at all."
Also from McManaman: The Cardinals' signing of free-agent cornerback Bryant McFadden might have been an underrated move. McFadden certainly brings a more physical presence to the Arizona secondary. That was obvious from the start of camp. Whisenhunt says he loves the Cardinals' improved depth in the secondary.Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says running back Tim Hightower isn't content simply beating out Beanie Wells for the starting job in Arizona. Hightower: "I want to redefine the position of running back, period. I want to redefine the game. That's what I want to do. You can look at that from stats and numbers, from a team and setting team records, individual records, whatever it is. When people think running backs from years and years to come, I want them to think Tim Hightower." Dare to dream.
Also from Urban: LeRod Stephens-Howling will have a hard time earning a 53-man roster spot with Arizona even though he has impressed of late.Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind looks at Cardinals players whose stock has risen or fallen during camp to this point. Urban is up. Doucet is down.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com says Dre' Bly and Adam Snyder are enjoying strong camps for the 49ers. Price: "While several of Snyder's teammates on the line have been playing together for a couple of years, he remains the only one who has taken snaps at both guard and tackle positions on both sides of the line."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle checks in with 49ers free-agent defensive lineman Khalif Barnes. Barnes: "I'm having the time of my life. Each practice is important for me because I'm practicing for an NFL team. I'm still in position to get a job. [Defensive coordinator] Greg Manusky said it's not where you start, it's where you finish. My finish is going to be on the 53."
Also from Crumpacker: Alex Smith says he plans to say hello to Mike Nolan on the field before the Broncos-49ers game.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider checks out the 49ers' depth chart, as issued by the team for its exhibition opener. Tarell Brown is listed ahead of Bly at cornerback even though he hasn't practiced since the start of camp.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Dashon Goldson picked off a pass for the first time since camp started. The 49ers need more of that from their free safety.
Also from Maiocco: a player-by-player breakdown of the 49ers on defense. He says it's clear Parys Haralson is the best pass-rusher on the team, and that Manny Lawson has shown improvement over the past week. If you are a 49ers fan, your fingers are presumably crossed. Meanwhile, Reggie Smith remains hot and cold.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee remains skeptical to claims that Michael Crabtree's contract dispute is preventing No. 11 overall choice Aaron Maybin from getting a deal.
Also from Barrows: 49ers rookie Bear Pascoe is bouncing back from a tough start to camp.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Smith is taking a low-keyed approach to his matchup against Nolan's defense. Smith: "I'm not going out there trying to win the Super Bowl. I just want to execute the offense. I'm not trying to do too much. I don't want to go out there and show the world anything."
Also from Brown: 49ers rookie Kory Sheets is finding out how rough life can be for an undrafted free agent.
Monte Poole of the Bay Area Newspaper Group says Crabtree is to blame for not signing with the 49ers.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at Darryl Tapp's potential role -- make that roles, plural -- in the Seahawks' defense this season. O'Neil: "We'd like to use him specifically as a third-down pass-rusher, and then as a spot guy on first and second down. I think someone made a comment [Monday] that Tapp always looks good in training camp, and then sometimes disappears in the season. I wouldn't dispute that, but I think this year, it'll be a different story."
Also from O'Neil: quite a few Seahawks players are sitting out with injuries.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says first-round pick Aaron Curry had nightmares about blown assignments during his contract dispute with the Seahawks. Curry: "I tried to relax, but I stressed out about what I was missing and I worried about if I was going to get too far behind. I would have nightmares that I wasn't blitzing when I was supposed to be blitzing. And that I was giving up touchdowns. I had nightmares about letting my teammates down, and those were the kind of dreams that you wanted to make sure stayed dreams and didn't become reality."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Kelly Jennings continues to look good for Seattle in one-on-one coverage drills. But Patrick Kerney left practice with a sleeve on his calf.
Also from Williams: The Seahawks are stressing communication on defense.
Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Tapp, who is getting more opportunities as a weakside pass-rusher. Cory Redding and Lofa Tatupu are among those in frequent contact.
William P. Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts summarizes recent radio interviews involving Seahawks players. We find out Redding was a top discus thrower in high school.
John Morgan of Field Gulls takes a look at Seahawks rookie receiver Deon Butler. The initial review wasn't very positive.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams linebacker Will Witherspoon has big plans -- on and off the field. Coats: "They range from day-care centers for dogs to small-scale construction to investment planning to his burgeoning farm, situated about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis." Witherspoon: "Thirty-five head of cattle, 14 hogs, three sheep, 20 chickens, four dogs ... and I'm about to buy 20 more head of cattle. It's all coming together piece by piece."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Marc Bulger's arm is holding up well in camp to this point. Bulger is throwing less than in the past, with coaches limiting his throws to 60 or 70 per practice. The approach is in direct contrast to how the Seahawks are handling their starter. Matt Hasselbeck's arm is working overtime and he's missing the days when NFL Europe exemptions allowed teams to carry five quarterbacks in camp.
Also from Thomas: a chat in which he says Laurent Robinson could be a good addition for the Rams this season. Also, none of the younger corners have impressed him much.
More from Thomas: The Rams brushed up on their special teams in preparation for the exhibition opener.
Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams have time before deciding whether to add a receiver while Donnie Avery remains sidelined.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Bulger expects extensive playing time in the first exhibition game. Also, Steve Spagnuolo isn't feeling sentimental heading back to Giants Stadium for his first game as Rams coach.
Turf Show Times' ram_rod will be watching Larry Grant, among others, as the Rams face the Jets.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Previously: The draft and meaningful free-agent signings have passed. Trades remain possible, but less likely as training camps approach. Barring a surprise or two, what you see on NFC West rosters is pretty much what you're going to get for the 2009 season. Where are the Rams, 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals most vulnerable?
Today: I've weaved my thoughts into the conversation and posted the results below. Thanks for participating. We'll begin with the defending NFC champion Cardinals, followed by the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' decision to draft James Laurinaitis over Rey Maualuga in the second round could be a defining one for general manager Billy Devaney. Thomas: "These are the types of decisions that can shape franchises and put their stamp on coaching and general manager tenures. For those reasons and more, no Rams draft pick, not even No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith at offensive tackle, will be under as much scrutiny during his rookie season as Laurinaitis."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides several notes from the Rams' minicamp. I liked Marc Bulger's quote about getting to know center Jason Brown. Bulger: "We're getting there. It's just a feel thing ... you know, literally." Any levity from Bulger is a good thing for the Rams because it suggests he's having fun after a couple of tough seasons.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' perceived emphasis on helping Bulger persists even though the team has probably done more to help Steven Jackson. Of course, anything that helps Jackson also helps Bulger.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' 2008 draft class -- notably defensive end Calais Campbell -- needs to step forward. Good quote from the 6-foot-8 Campbell, who is working on technique: "I've got to be consistent and show them I'm an every-down player. Being 6-8 definitely can be a problem if you don't play with great technique. If you get high and an offensive lineman gets under you, you're going for a train ride."
Also from Somers: Speed isn't a problem for rookie cornerback Gregory Toler.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says former Rams backup Anthony Becht hopes to become the Cardinals' starting tight end. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "There's going to be a lot of competition with that group this year, I'm sure of it. We like what we have. I liked what we had last year, too, but we were dealing with a lot of injuries there. It'll be interesting to see how things develop moving forward." Becht's ties to Whisenhunt from their days together with the Jets should help him, to a point. Jerame Tuman also had ties to Whisenhunt.
Ed Thompson of Scout.com caught up with Seahawks rookie Deon Butler before the former Penn State receiver participated in the team's post-draft camp. Butler hadn't made a pre-draft visit to the Seahawks. He had no idea the team was interested in him. Former Penn State teammate Aaron Maybin, who did visit the Seahawks, put in a good word for Butler. The Seahawks liked Maybin, but in drafting Aaron Curry with the fourth overall choice, Seattle selected another player who did not visit team headquarters before the draft.
Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog thinks Aaron Curry has a good chance at becoming defensive rookie of the year in 2009. Staton: "The last six defensive rookies of the year were all linebackers."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Matt Hasselbeck is moving well at Seahawks practices. Hasselbeck surprised and then outran defensive end Darryl Tapp on a bootleg.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Hasselbeck and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are working well together. Receiver Courtney Taylor also stood out.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers rookie linebacker Scott McKillop reminds him of Derek Smith. Brown also touches on the quarterback situation and other rookies. Brown: "Based on his strong play from last season, I think Shaun Hill has the upper hand in the quarterback competition. And he looked crisp on Saturday, betraying his reputation as a shaky practice player."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The chart compares mock drafts from four veteran NFC West beat reporters. The four -- Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic and Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times -- combined to project 39 players for first-round status.
Unanimous first-round choices (24): Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry, B.J. Raji, Brian Orakpo, Mark Sanchez, Michael Crabtree, Andre Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Oher, Chris Wells, Robert Ayers, Knowshon Moreno, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Brandon Pettigrew, Rey Maualuga, Josh Freeman, Peria Jerry, Ziggy Hood, Eben Britton.
Three first-round selections (8): Larry English, Aaron Maybin, Darius Butler, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kenny Britt, Vontae Davis, Hakeem Nicks, Donald Brown.
Two first-round selections: (1): Phil Loadholt.
One first-round selection (6): LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Alphonso Smith, Everette Brown, Eric Wood, Fili Moala.
Unanimous top-five picks (3): Stafford, Smith and Curry.
Unanimous top-10 picks (6): Stafford, Smtih, Curry, Monroe, Raji and Crabtree.
Unanimous top-15 picks (12): Stafford, Smith, Curry, Monroe, Raji, Crabtree, Jackson, Sanchez, Smith, Maclin, Oher, Orakpo.
Largest disparity, earliest vote to lowest vote: Ayers, 18 spots; Jenkins and Matthews, 16 spots, Butler (14), English (10), Pettigrew (10), Hood (10) and Britton (10).
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers would draft Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall choice, if available. He says the 49ers would draft Knowshon Moreno over Chris Wells in the unlikely event they decided to draft a running back early. The team would be happy to draft Andre Smith at No. 10, but taking Michael Oher in that spot might not be a slam dunk. LSU's Tyson Jackson could be the preferred defensive lineman, over B.J. Raji. The team probably wouldn't take Malcolm Jenkins at No. 10. Brian Orakpo? Probably not. And it's unlikely the team would take Aaron Maybin or Everette Brown that early, either. Rey Maualuga or Brian Cushing could be higher priorities than Maybin or Brown.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee forecasts which players he thinks the 49ers will select with each of their picks. The list: Oher, running back Shonn Greene, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, quarterback Stephen McGee, inside linebacker Scott McKillop, receiver Brandon Gibson, outside linebacker Pierre Walters, receiver/quarterback Julian Edelman and tight end Bear Pascoe.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says there's value in the later rounds. He points to Pat White, Brian Hoyer, Chase Patton, Austin Collie, Ramses Barden, Kory Sheets and Ian Johnson as later-round prospects to watch.
Gary Plummer of 49ers.com says NFL teams can't measure a player's heart. Plummer: "I was never even invited to the Combine and I was never drafted, but I went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL. With those experiences, I've always rooted for guys who don't get drafted."
Niners scout Todd Brunner says the team has spent recent days making sure it has discussed every draft-eligible player.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' public-relations department shielded coach Mike Singletary from reporters in the days leading to the draft. Crumpacker: "It's just as well. General manager Scot McCloughan put the 49ers' draft board together and will be making the call for the club."
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle made me chuckle with this description of the NFL draft: "Today is the worst day of the entire NFL draft process, because it is the day that all the speculation ends and your favorite team is stuck with the choice it made rather than awash in the dozens it could have."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic previews the Cardinals' draft in general terms. Forget about getting specifics from Rod Graves or Ken Whisenhunt.
Also from Somers: It appears receiver Anquan Boldin will remain with the Cardinals through the draft. Trades are often contingent on a player passing a physical. The acquiring team also needs time, in many cases, to work out a new contract with the player. Somers: "The Cardinals are surprised there hasn't been more interest from teams, who apparently think the cost is too high, considering they would also have to come to terms with Boldin on a contract that would pay him an average of $8 million to $10 million a year."
More from Somers: The Cardinals would have no interest in Titans running backs LenDale White or Chris Henry if Tennessee offered either player as part of a trade for Boldin.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com previews the Seahawks' draft options. Johns: "As much as teams talk of drafting the best player available regardless of position, there is an impetus to pick athletes who will be in line to earn starting roles before long in order to justify their draft position and salary slot."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' first-round picks haven't panned out all that well under general manager Tim Ruskell, who has one year remaining on a five-year contract. Yes, this draft is important for him and the organization.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com takes a peek inside the Seahawks' draft room at their new facility. It's 1,600 square feet, twice the size of the old one. The rapport between Ruskell and vice president Ruston Webster transcends location. Webster: "You know what's sad? When we say something at the same time. That scares me. But it really is good. I know how he thinks. And I think for him, it's important to have somebody who understands that. And he knows how I think. For the most part, we were kind of brought up in this business the same way, so our philosophy is the same."
Tyler Dunne of Scout.com says the Seahawks would draft Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn in the third round if available.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams are putting an emphasis on character in this draft. Wagoner: "Fortunately for the Rams, most of the players they are considering in this year's draft are about as well rounded and mature as any crop of recent potential draft picks. Offensive tackles Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe, linebacker Aaron Curry and USC quarterback Mark Sanchez have received rave reviews for their personality and attitude at every stop they've made along the way. Taking Curry as an example, he has invited 12-year-old Bryson Merriweather, a leukemia survivor from Madison, Ala., to be his special guest at the draft in New York City."
VanRam of Turf Show Times warns against dismissing talk that the Rams could draft Sanchez with the second overall choice.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says he would draft Curry from Wake Forest with the second overall choice if he were making the decision for the Rams. However, all signs point to the team selecting an offensive tackle.
Also from Thomas: The Rams' need at tackle appears too great to ignore early in the draft. Thomas: "Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver from Texas Tech, basically eliminated himself from consideration with what Rams Park sources said was a diva attitude during his pre-draft trip here. Apparently, his rock star mentality was a big turnoff to coaches and front office personnel. Couple that with his foot injury, and the feeling in Earth City was that he wasn't worth the trouble. As for Sanchez, what first looked like pure smokescreen seemed to turn into downright infatuation. To some at Rams Park, Sanchez possesses the leadership qualities -- the 'it' factor -- that may be lacking in Marc Bulger. But at the end of the day, the Rams appear committed to Bulger for at least one more season."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers could use an offensive tackle even after picking up Marvel Smith in free agency. Would they select one with the 10th overall choice?
I discussed the matter with Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. while also researching how 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan's teams have valued offensive tackles in the draft since 1994. The chart shows the tackles McCloughan's teams have drafted, with a few notes worth factoring into your thinking:
- Aaron Taylor was a college tackle who wound up playing guard.
- Ross Verba played guard most of his career.
- Sean Locklear was a potential guard prospect who has become a tackle.
- Adam Snyder, a third-round choice in 2005, has played some tackle, but I left him off the list because guard is his natural position.
The chart shows McCloughan's teams drafting 10 tackles, half between the 16th and 30th overall choices. In some cases, McCloughan's teams drafted tackles as early as they could have drafted them (his teams weren't holding the 10th pick every year, obviously).
But if we consider where the 49ers drafted starting left tackle Joe Staley -- 28th overall in 2007 -- we might wonder whether the team would target a right tackle 18 spots earlier. Would the value line up given that teams generally value left tackles higher than right tackles? With that in mind, I have wondered whether any tackle the 49ers drafted at No. 10 would have to project as a starter on the left side, with Staley eventually moving back to the right side. That might be overthinking things, but it's a consideration.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers' plans for the 10th overall choice in the draft remain unknown. I haven't seen anything close to a consensus among the familiar analysts.
Which player do you have the 49ers selecting in the first round? Let me know in the comments section of this blog entry and I'll make sure those making the right choice receive honorary genius status here on the blog.
Deadline: The moment the first team selecting -- Detroit at this point -- goes on the clock Saturday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
'The Dude in Brooklyn' writes: Sando, I'm going to take off my "49ers Starter jacket" and address a serious question with your journalist's objectivity: why does the 49ers' defense get no cred?
I'd like to point a finger (I've got a first choice of fingers) at the offense but I'd rather appreciate that SF's D ranked 13th in yards per game and 10th in yards per play in 2008. No defense faced more plays or dealt with more turnovers (35 giveaways, thanks for the memories, Mike Martz!) and ranked higher in total defense. The defense is led by seven players that have or will make a Pro Bowl in their career (Willis, W. Harris, J. Smith, Spikes, Lewis, N. Clements, Haralson), few holes (FS, OLB depth, NT maybe), and solid depth at most positions.
They are the class of the division on defense and likely to crack the top 10 this year. Arizona had an average defense last year that relied on a lot of luck both in terms of injuries and bounces (17 of 20 FF's recovered?!). This year they're older (think Berry, Okeafor, even Wilson) and without Antonio Smith. Seattle had no excuse on defense last year despite plenty of good ones on offense. 30th in total defense is just bad. Why are you so high (7-9 is high for them) on that team rebounding when they have a D like that? St. Louis...enough said.
Mike Sando: The 49ers did have the best defense in the division. They also do not have a starting quarterback. They have changed offensive coordinators again. They have a new head coach. They have not necessarily solved their problems at right tackle, depending on what we should make of Marvel Smith's back. And the pass rush remains unproven.
I need to see more from the 49ers' offense before buying their legitimacy and making an offer on that Starter jacket.
My analysis on the Seahawks -- criticized as too harsh by most of the Seattle fans offering feedback -- balanced the unusually severe injuries they faced last season with questions I still have about the team this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers' Web site provides Shaun Hill's answers to fans' questions. Hil on the widely held position that he doesn't have a great arm: "I think there are a lot of experts who have wrongly evaluated me, even going back to high school. That's kind of the way it's been for me, which is fine. The so-called experts are wrong a lot."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock for a look at the 49ers' options. Mayock: "They have to decide whether or not there's a franchise quarterback that they want. If Sanchez is the guy they feel can be the cornerstone for their franchise, they have to do everything they can to get him. If not ... I think they have to look at the best player at No. 10 amongst the edge rusher group and the wide receiver group. I would anticipate if a Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin was there, they'd have to look real hard at them and then you look at the defensive ends and outside linebackers. Brian Orakpo . . . I think it's too early for Aaron Maybin and for Larry English, probably Brian Cushing. I think you're looking at Orakpo. I doubt Aaron Curry is there, and the two wide receivers."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams should be able to find a quality receiver after the first round because the 2009 class has depth. Former Rams coach Scott Linehan wanted to take a receiver earlier last year, but he saw none worthy of the second overall choice in the draft.
Also from Thomas: The Rams could draft an offensive tackle in the second round if they selected Aaron Curry with the second overall choice.
More from Thomas: Quarterback Rhett Bomar is among the players visiting Rams headquarters.
More yet from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring his take on numerous Rams issues. Thomas on the Rams' new power structure featuring general manager Billy Devaney, coach Steve Spagnuolo and salary-cap manager Kevin Demoff: "So far -- and I underline so far -- the chemistry seems to be great between Devaney, Spags, and Demoff. And it looks like unlike past years, Devaney will have the biggest say in the draft -- as opposed to the head coach. More credence will be put in what the scouts say."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says it will be "nearly impossible" for the Cardinals to sign Anquan Boldin to an extension in 2009 because the team has other priorities. Somers: "The Cardinals don't think they've reached a point of no return with Boldin. They aren't worried that the relationship could become further poisoned if they listen to offers then decide to keep him. After all, things couldn't be any worse than they were last year, when Boldin vowed never to re-sign with the club."
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind sizes up the best defensive ends in Cardinals history. The list is admittedly incomplete because sacks are the primary measure for inclusion.
John Morgan of Field Gulls weighs Curry as a candidate to become the Seahawks' choice at No. 4 in the NFL draft. Morgan: "If Seattle selects him they will have effectively escaped the loser's curse, drafting a safe prospect with exceptional talent that should contribute for the life of his contract. Curry might be modestly overpaid, but short of calamity, that's about as bad as I can see things working out for the team that drafts Curry."
Also from Morgan: Would the Seahawks consider Wisconsin linebacker Jonathan Casillas with the 141st overall choice? That DUI arrest won't help Casillas' chances.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
What kind of linebackers have the 49ers preferred since general manager Scot McCloughan and coach Mike Singletary arrived in 2005? The chart shows which ones they wound up selecting, arranged by how early each was drafted.
We discussed the subject about three weeks ago. A subsequent conversation with Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muensch [see his latest chat] might help us identify linebackers fitting the 49ers' profile in the 2009 draft. A pass-rushing outside linebacker would fill one of the 49ers' biggest needs while the team finds out whether Manny Lawson will emerge in the role.
Muensch on the 49ers in the first round
Outside linebacker makes too much sense because of value, need and depth of the class. I keep hearing Aaron Maybin. He did not have a great combine, but on film he is just so quick off the ball.
I think Connor Barwin is a very interesting player, but probably later in the round. Brian Orakpo was the most sought-after guy. If he were to slide, they are in a good position to take a guy that early. With Manny Lawson and Patrick Willis, [McCloughan] has shown a willingness to go in the first round and take that guy.
If they for some reason did get a safety or corner in the first round, Larry English could be a guy for them [as an outside linebacker in the second round]. He is a small-school guy, played at Northern Illinois, but he performed really well at Senior Bowl week. He doesn't have great size and he doesn't have great timed speed, 4.82. But these are guys who are quicker on film than on the track. Certain guys run better in pads. He is just an excellent football player.Muensch thought English could play situationally as a rookie while making the conversion from defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker.
At inside linebacker, Takeo Spikes played well enough for the 49ers as a free-agent addition last season to project as the starter in the "Ted" role next to Willis. Muensch pointed to South Carolina's Jasper Brinkley as an inside linebacker to watch in the fourth or fifth round: "I think he would be a great fit there because he doesn't have to play for a year."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at some of the 49ers' predraft visitors, noting that Aaron Maybin is the only top pass-rush specialist known to have visited. Crumpacker thinks Ole Miss tackle Michael Oher will be available when the 49ers pick at No. 10.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat isn't sure if Kentwan Balmer will become a good player, but the 49ers' first-round draft choice does seem to work hard. Balmer played about 18 percent of the snaps for the 49ers last seaon, according to a scout I know.
Also from Maiocco: Would the 49ers add a third quarterback to their competition for the starting job in 2009? Mark Sanchez visited team headquarters recently.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks B.J. Raji will go fourth to Seattle or fifth to Cleveland, assuming the defensive tackle did not test positive for drugs at the combine, as some reports have suggested. I don't see Raji as a likely candidate for Seattle after the team added Cory Redding and Colin Cole, but he would give them an interior defensive lineman to push the pocket.
Florida Danny of Niners Nation takes a look back at how the 49ers drafted under Carmen Policy from 1994 to 1998. An overemphasis on free agency at the expense of the draft might have contributed to the 49ers' eventual fall, he reasons.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals nose tackle Alan Branch is at a career crossroads after a disappointing start to his career. Branch: "Last year I really didn't understand how much the weight was important to the coaches. Last year, I thought even if I was a little overweight, even if I played well, it wouldn't matter. But what Coach Whisenhunt told me was not coming in at the weight he wanted proved that he couldn't fully trust me."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks back at Larry Fitzgerald's run through the playoffs. Fitzgerald: "The whole experience, those five weeks, man, the practices leading up to the game, it was just amazing. Simply amazing."
Matt Pawlikowski of the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal says Dan Kreider is happy to enhance the Pittsburgh flavor on the Cardinals' roster. Pawlikowski: "Kreider says he is not sure how much time he will see on the field considering the Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. But [Ken] Whisenhunt has said he wants to run the ball more, so the Manheim Central graduate might figure prominently in 2009."
John Morgan of Field Gulls sizes up Oklahoma receiver Juaquin Iglesias as a potential choice for Seattle with the 68th overall choice in the draft. Morgan: "I'm a sucker for good route runners, and Iglesias is a good route runner. I'm gaga for players with poor timed speed that excelled at speed-dependent skills like rushing and returning. Iglesias was a top twenty return man his first two seasons, peaking at 28.48 yards per return in 2007, but saw his return production drop as his receiving production improved."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com previews receivers available in the NFL draft. The Rams could certainly use one. Wagoner: "One year after taking two wideouts in the first four rounds, the Rams will again be on the hunt for help catching the ball in this year's draft. ... Armed with the No. 2 selection in the draft, the Rams have showed at least some interest in Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Mizzou's Jeremy Maclin. ... Perhaps more likely, though, is the possibility that the Rams would use a second or third round choice on a receiver."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu can feel a difference in how the team is practicing under new coach Jim Mora. The team focused more on pursuit drills during its recent minicamp. Tatupu: "A little hard work never hurt anybody. Not to say we weren't working hard before, but I feel the difference in the practices. And I tell you one thing, we'll be one of the best conditioned teams in the league. So it won't be for a lack of effort if we suffer any losses."
Also from Williams: He checks in with new Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
John Morgan of Field Gulls thinks Arizona State tackle Eben Britton could help the Seahawks' offensive line, and that Seattle could have interest in him if Britton slips past the middle of the first round.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says Tatupu is seeking redemption following a 4-12 season in 2008. At least he no longer challenges opponents to fights following defeats.
VanRam of Turf Show Times looks at what might be one of the worst NFL drafts at the top, according to analysts. VanRam: "Trading down would be great, but it just doesn't seem like a very realistic possibility. That might depend on USC QB Mark Sanchez's draft stock, which seems to be rising based on comparison to [Matthew] Stafford. If conventional wisdom emerges that he's the better NFL QB, taking him at #2 isn't a stretch, which means the Rams could possibly lure a QB hungry team into a trade."
The 49ers' Web site provides a transcript of Damon Haurd's interview with reporters after the team signed the backup quarterback. Huard on head coach Mike Singletary: "I like him a lot. I think he's very honest, straight-forward. He tells it like it is and as a player, you appreciate that. Everyone respects him, not only as a coach, but for what he did as a player. I think when your head coach is a former player and has been through those battles that we've all been through, he understands the experience and knows how to treat the players. He knows how to relate to the players. I think at the end of the day that just makes you a better football team."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says pass-rusher could be the 49ers' biggest need heading into the draft. Draft analyst Rob Rang: "Cody Brown of Connecticut is getting a lot of attention in the third or maybe fourth round. If you want to go up a round, probably Clint Sintim of Virginia. He played on one of the very few teams that run a 3-4 defense in college. He was coached by Al Groh, so he's going to come in and be more pro-ready than a lot of guys. So he makes some sense."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee explains why he thinks the 49ers will not draft Aaron Maybin with the 10th overall choice. Barrows: "For one thing, he's an underclassman who started only one full season at Happy Valley. GM Scot McCloughan prefers seniors. More concerning, however, is Maybin's size. He weighed in at 249 pounds at the combine in February but played at Penn State at a much lower weight, about 235 pounds."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are visiting with college running backs, no surprise. Donald Brown, Knowshon Moreno, Shonn Greene and Chris Wells could interest them.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 sizes up the Cardinals' all-time offensive line. Dan Dierdorf, Ernie McMillan, Conrad Dobler and Ken Gray make the cut. Still undecided: whether Bob DeMarco or Tom Banks will be the center. I never saw either man play. Hopefully I'll remember to ask someone who did.