NFC West: Brandon Spikes

Last month, San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said the team could look at some veteran inside linebackers as star NaVorro Bowman recovers from a torn ACL in his knee. Bowman could be out for half the season.

The 49ers have yet to add any veteran help, but they have been looking. The team showed interest in free agent Brandon Spikes before he signed with Buffalo. Spikes’ price tag was too big for the 49ers, who are simply looking for some depth and a veteran option in case they must turn to one. The 49ers like Michael Wilhoite, who spelled inside linebacker Patrick Willis successfully for a short period last season, and second-year player Nick Moody. CSN Bay Area reported this week that the 49ers are still exploring the veteran market.

Perhaps one reason why the 49ers haven’t signed anyone is that there are not a lot of great options.

Here are some names that could potentially interest the 49ers: Desmond Bishop, Dan Connor, Jonathan Vilma, Paris Lenon, Larry Grant, Nick Barnett, Bryan Kehl and Larry Foote. Bishop and Kehl are coming off torn ACLs themselves, and players like Vilma, Barnett and Foote are at the end of their careers.

The bright side for the 49ers is they don’t need much from any addition. They are just looking for depth options.

Cardinals beat run on linebackers

April, 24, 2010
The Arizona Cardinals traded up in the second round to take linebacker Daryl Washington for good reason.

The Dolphins had taken linebacker Koa Misi with the 40th choice. The Ravens then took linebacker Sergio Kindle at No. 43.

Arizona entered the draft holding the 58th choice. The Cardinals successfully anticipated a run on linebackers when they traded up to take Washington with the 47th pick.

The Steelers took linebacker Jason Worilds at No. 52 and the Patriots took linebacker Jermaine Cunningham at No. 53. Dallas then took linebacker Sean Lee at No. 55. The Patriots selected linebacker Brandon Spikes at No. 62. The Colts drafted linebacker Pat Angerer with the next choice.

Eight linebackers had come off the board in a span of 24 choices. Teams running 3-4 defensive schemes -- Arizona among them -- drafted seven of the eight. It's tough to know for sure whether Washington would have been gone at No. 58, but with all those linebackers coming off the board so quickly, Arizona played the odds well.
The Seahawks were convinced Philadelphia had leaped over them in the first round to draft safety Earl Thomas, the player Seattle wound up drafting at No. 14.The Eagles drafted linebacker Brandon Graham instead. Seattle wanted Thomas because the Seahawks saw him as a play-making safety with the ability to match up against wide receivers in coverage. Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider couldn't immediately think of a similar player in the NFL when I asked for a comparison. Schneider finally said he thought Nick Collins had similar abilities that way.

  • I must have missed the announcement naming Mike Solari as the 49ers' new general manager. Solari, the team's new offensive line coach, came out of the first round with tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati. Position coaches stress over whether their teams' personnel people will find help for them in the draft. Solari will be the envy of the 49ers' coaches' meetings after this first round.
  • The Rams got their quarterback, as expected, and now they have an opportunity to help him, starting with the first pick of the second round. The top two receivers and the top tight end are gone. Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate is available. Would he make an immediate difference? The Rams have already invested quite a bit in their offensive line, but with Rodger Saffold available and Alex Barron's long-term future in question, would taking a tackle make any sense? What about a defensive end such as Everson Griffen? The Rams have enough needs to feel good about whichever player they take next.
  • The Cardinals hold three of the next 57 choices and they've already landed Dan Williams, widely considered the best nose tackle in the draft. They could move up if they chose or sit back and use the 58th, 88th and 89th choices. The team could use another linebacker and Florida's Brandon Spikes, described by scouts as a thumper with good instincts and strong work ethic, remains available.

Digging deep on all things 49ers

February, 15, 2010
Facebook friend Matt asks: Mr. Sando, I'm going nuts without any Niners news! Throw me a nibble! The easy way to go in the draft this year is offensive tackle and then safety, but there are a few things I'm curious about:

Love your stuff. Representing the Faithful from SoCal.

Mike Sando: OK, let's knock these out one by one. Smith is a converted cornerback. I'm a little skeptical about him transitioning into a starting-caliber safety anytime soon. The 49ers can try to develop him along those lines, but they probably should not count on him. That means they should address strong safety this offseason. Michael Lewis had three concussions. Even without those concussions, he was getting to the point in his career where the 49ers needed to address the future of the position.

On Spiller, there's no way the 49ers should draft him as a defensive move. That is not how good teams draft. The 49ers need to worry about their own draft priorities. I wouldn't have a problem with them drafting a dynamic change-of-pace running back. They already brought in Glen Coffee as a direct backup to Frank Gore. Their styles were not dissimilar enough for the 49ers to justify putting Coffee on the field much as a running back when Gore was healthy. Spiller would get on the field two ways. One, he would qualify as a change-of-pace back, providing value on offense (sort of the way Arizona worked in LaRod Stephens-Howling during the 2009 regular season). Two, Spiller has shown a tremendous knack as a return specialist. He could potentially win a game in that capacity, based on what he has shown in college. Taking him in the first round would qualify as a bit of a luxury pick, but the team does have two first-round choices.

At linebacker, how wise is it to use first-round picks for inside linebackers? It's pretty wise if you're getting Brian Urlacher or Patrick Willis, but it's harder to justify investing so much in that position without getting a dynamic athlete in return. Perhaps McClain is that type of guy. I do not know. But the 49ers have indeed gotten more from Takeo Spikes than they might have reasonable expected. Getting some young help for Willis inside would be a wise move. As much as the 49ers were happy to add Scott McKillop in the draft last year, he is not a dynamic athlete by NFL standards.

On the Peppers/Porter front, I could see adding Porter if the price were reasonable. Why not add to the depth? If he doesn't look like a good fit, cut him before the season. Peppers is in another category. A 3-4 team such as the 49ers would have to really do its diligence before committing huge money for a player who has previously been effective as a 4-3 defensive end. I'm not yet convinced that would be the wisest use of the 49ers' resources, although it would sure look good on paper.

At offensive tackle, I think the 49ers need to view Barry Sims and Tony Pashos as depth. They should not bank on those players as starters. In other words, they should not automatically remove offensive tackle from first-round consideration just because Pashos could be one option.

Your observation about playmakers in the playoffs has some merit, I think, but those teams you referenced also had Pro Bowl quarterbacks. I would rather have a Pro Bowl quarterback than Bush, Harvin/Peterson, Jackson or Jones.

As for making a statement about being only one or two players away, I can't stand that sort of thinking. The Browns tried that a few years ago. They traded away picks and tried to make that final push after finishing 10-6 and out of the playoffs. Everyone got fired.