NFC West: Brian Robiskie

We should schedule a Michael Crabtree discussion periodically just to get the blood pumping.

Linking to Matt Maiocco's piece from our latest "Around the NFC West" post got us talking Thursday morning.

"While fans expect 1,000-yard seasons from a player chosen with the No. 10 overall draft pick," Maiocco wrote, "the 49ers' offense is not one that features the outside receivers.

"Some view Crabtree as a bust. I am certainly not in that camp."

Indeed, there are mitigating factors to explain why Crabtree's production has lagged compared to other highly drafted receivers from the 2009 NFL class. A rookie contract dispute, injuries, the 2011 lockout, coaching turnover, a run-oriented scheme and spotty quarterback play come to mind. Of course, every team has its issues. The 49ers weren't the only ones.

"I agree with Maiocco," red n g0ld wrote. "Pretty hard to judge 'Crabs' when you consider our run-heavy scheme and that Alex Smith prefers the short passing game and tight ends."

"Yep, we're not built to have any flashy numbers out of our WRs," randdles added, "which is why I think that Randy Moss isn't gonna be particularly happy, especially with the other WRs we brought in. He might not even have one catch per game."

"It hurts me to say it," 4tni9er wrote, "but I think Crabtree would have prospered more with an offense that has more emphasis on the passing game (with another QB). There is a resistance from his side to Alex Smith, but it's getting better."

"Of all the 10 people who drafted ahead of Crabtree (Aaron Curry included), only Matthew Stafford, B.J. Raji and possibly Mark Sanchez are better value," 4949centennial wrote.

"I guess one could say it isn't primarily Crabtree's fault for the type of offense they have been running," Prominent_49ers wrote. "You would think he would produce just a bit more than what he has done so far for the team."

"I think the definition of 'bust' needs to be flushed out while trying to view Crabtree," joe_cool585 wrote. "While Maiocco may not view him as a bust, Crabtree sure as heck hasn't lived up to the reasonable expectations of a top 10 draft choice."

The first chart shows where Crabtree ranks among the eight receivers chosen in the first two rounds of the 2009 draft. The chart below shows stats for all eight of those players.
Ed from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., thinks the St. Louis Rams have sufficient draft needs to stand pat at No. 6 and select a player that falls to them. He thinks there's no reason to panic if Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon is not available.

"There are two first-rounders to use for the next two years, and free agency might be kinder to the Rams next season," Ed writes. "This will take some time to get right."

Mike Sando: Offensive players currently on the Rams' roster combined for 10 touchdowns last season. Marshawn Lynch (13) and Beanie Wells (10) had at least that many for division rivals. Finding players to score touchdowns has to be the Rams' top priority as they help Sam Bradford and, of course, win games.

Quite a few projections suggest that Blackmon and Alabama running back Trent Richardson will not last past the fifth pick. In that case, we're seeing LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne listed as a logical Rams choice based more on value than need.

Adding Claiborne would not help Bradford directly. But the draft does go beyond the sixth overall pick. The Rams also hold the 33rd and 39th choices. They could use those second-round choices to trade up into the first round for a shot at a wide receiver. They could even trade one of the second-rounders for a 2013 first, giving them three next year.

Teams have drafted eight receivers from 30th through 42nd since 2008, a range that approximates where the Rams are scheduled to pick. The eight: Arrelious Benn, Kenny Britt, Brian Robiskie, Donnie Avery, Devin Thomas, Jordy Nelson, James Hardy and Eddie Royal.

Blackmon would not be a sure bet at No. 6, but the list of receivers drafted in that slot shows the potential value. James Lofton (1978), Tim Brown (1988) and Torry Holt (1999) were the last three receivers taken sixth until the Atlanta Falcons, led in part by new Rams general manager Les Snead, selected Julio Jones in that slot last year.

Charles from Atascadero, Calif., wants to know which pick the San Francisco 49ers received for safety Taylor Mays, who was traded during training camp last offseason.

Mike Sando: The 49ers will receive a 2013 seventh-round choice. That is why there was no additional pick for San Francisco when the 2012 draft order came out.

Jeff from Las Vegas thinks the Seattle Seahawks should have been ranked higher than 22nd in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings. He points to their defense, running game and an upgraded quarterback situation in suggesting the Seahawks can challenge the 49ers for the NFC West title and possibly earn a wild-card playoff berth.

Mike Sando: I ranked Seattle higher than 22nd, but the Seahawks have quite a bit to prove. Matt Flynn offers hope, but no guarantees. Can he produce over a full season? Is he durable? Will offensive linemen Russell Okung, John Moffitt and/or James Carpenter be healthy enough to contribute? What about Sidney Rice?

These are subjects we can discuss in greater detail Wednesday when following up the item soliciting opinions on which team is best positioned to overtake the 49ers.

I'm expecting to hear from Arizona Cardinals fans then as well, if not in the mailbag (been quiet on the Cardinals front recently, but I know you're out there).
A couple of people thought the best questions went unaddressed during the recently completed NFC West chat (see comments at the bottom of the chat transcript).

Fire away. I'm listening.
Jeff (Cedar Rapids, IA): Good day Mike. Everyone seems fixated on the Rams drafting a WR and, honestly, I don't see it. Sure, if A.J. Green or Julio Jones falls, that makes sense but realistically that's not going to happen. Both Kiper and McShay have the Rams taking a receiver in the secnd round but logically it doesn't make much sense to me to add another No. 2 guy. Would a WR in the second round be a huge improvement over a healthy Donnie Avery, Danario Alexander or Brandon Gibson? I think that second-round pick would be so much more valuable in getting an outside linebacker, safety or guard. Just wondering your thoughts on that second-round pick. Thanks!

Mike Sando: Your take and my take line up nicely. The last 10 receivers taken in the second round were Arrelious Benn, Golden Tate, Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi, Avery, Devin Thomas, Jordy Nelson, James Hardy, Eddie Royal and Jerome Simpson. There have been some good ones over the years -- DeSean Jackson, Greg Jennings, Vincent Jackson, Anquan Boldin -- but I agree that a rookie receiver tends to make less impact. We have seen NFC West teams find good linebackers in the second round. Daryl Washington looks promising for Arizona, while Karlos Dansby worked out well as a second-rounder previously. James Laurinaitis is working out well for the Rams. Lofa Tatupu went to three Pro Bowls for Seattle.

Shane (Los Angeles, CA): Sando, if the Cards do get Von Miller, the LB corps, which was the Achilles heel of the defense last year, should be much better with O'Brien Schofield and Daryl Washington. Depth concerns aside, shouldn't the Cards' starting defense fare much better next year? Of course, having a QB that doesn't put your defense in bad positions all year long will help also!

Mike Sando: I expect improvement. Injuries to Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson were also factors. The Cardinals are optimistic on Schofield and Davis. Their optimism on young players in the past held up in a couple instances, notably with Calais Campbell after the team let Antonio Smith leave in free agency.

Corey (D.C.): Please comment on my analysis of the QB situation in the draft. It seems to me that Arizona is in a perfect situation to take a DEF player like Von Miller at #5, then sitting back and waiting for a QB like Ponder or Dalton in early rd 2 (trading up slightly if need be). Seattle needs to take a QB at #25 if they want to because they will all be gone by their 2nd pick. SF wont take a QB at #7, and surely all will be gone by their 2nd round pick. Based on this, and not to mention Tennessee, Washington, Buffalo, Minnesota, and Carolina will all have taken QBs with either their 1st or 2nd picks, it seems to me the one team left out in the cold is the 49ers. Does this make them the most likely to trade for Kolb?

Mike Sando: I like the way you have thought through things, but it all comes down to whether the 49ers would value Kolb enough to part with a high pick for him. I do not see them making that trade with their first-rounder this year, should trades for veteran players even be permissible. Would the Eagles take a high second-rounder for him? Not so sure that would make a great deal of sense for them.

Jeff (Bellevue, WA): If you take stock in what McShay and Kiper believe, it appears to be rather likely that Jake Locker will stay in Seattle. Should that happen, I would think that would be one of the best scenarios for Matt Hasselbeck because that would increase the pressure on Seattle to bring him back. They would need a smart, veteran West Coast QB to teach alongside Darrell Bevell. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: Drafting Locker would preclude the team from acquiring a Kevin Kolb and paying Kolb big money over the long term. Keeping Hasselbeck as a veteran mentor would have greater appeal. I'm just not so sure Seattle would feel that pressure to the point that it would compel the team to start guaranteeing money to Hasselbeck on a longer-term deal.

The lockout could make quarterback selection in the draft interesting for Seattle. The team wouldn't be able to communicate directly with Hasselbeck to let him know its thoughts on the position and where he would fit if he did re-sign. They could explain the situation publicly.

Michael Crabtree and the 2009 receivers

February, 18, 2011
NFL teams selected 34 wide receivers in the 2009 draft.

Of those 34 players, the San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree finished the 2010 regular season ranked seventh in receptions, eighth in yards and sixth in touchdowns.

The 49ers had reason to expect better from Crabtree, the 10th overall choice and second receiver taken in his draft class. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. hits on some of the keys for Crabtree heading into the receiver's third season. He sees vast potential for Crabtree in the red zone specifically.

I've put together a couple charts for perspective.

The first chart shows 2010 production for the wide receivers NFL teams selected in the 2009 draft (minimum nine receptions). Note that the St. Louis Rams' Brandon Gibson entered the NFL with Philadelphia.

The second chart shows average 2010 stats by draft round for all wide receivers selected in 2009, minus the Denver Broncos' Kenny McKinley, who passed away in September.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Larry Fitzgerald has been providing glimpses into his ongoing workout regimen through periodic Twitter updates. I'd like to thank Facebook friend Kevin for pointing out Darren Urban's link to Jim Trotter's more detailed accounting of Fitzgerald's efforts.

Fitzgerald has organized workouts in Minnesota, arranging for Jerry Rice and Cris Carter to provide coaching. He credits former offensive coordinator Todd Haley for stressing the importance of avoiding complacency. Trotter lists Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans, Greg Jennings, Michael Clayton, Sidney Rice, Brian Robiskie, DeAngelo Hall, Malcolm Jenkins, Matt Spaeth, Dominique Byrd and James Laurinaitis among those who have attended, with Tony Romo possibly planning to attend next week.

I'm not sure of each player's connection to Fitzgerald, Minnesota or this workout program in general, but it's a good sign when players take the initiative to seek out this type of training. Laurinaitis will likely start as a rookie linebacker for the Rams. Byrd is battling for a roster spot as a tight end in Arizona and to change his image (Carter called him a wide receiver in a fat man's body, according to Trotter).

Lots of players work out effectively and without the fanfare associated with Rice or Carter. Still, the fact that Fitzgerald would organize these workouts, even providing food for players at his home, reinforces everything we've learned about Fitzgerald's work habits and approach.
Rd. Pick Scouts Inc. Projection Pos. College
2 Jason Smith
T Baylor
35 James Laurinaitis
LB Ohio St.
66 Brian Robiskie
WR Ohio St.
103 Mike Goodson
RB Texas A&M
160 Louis Vasquez
G Texas Tech
196 Troy Nolan
S Arizona St.
211 Brandon Long
DE Michigan St.

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Rams are scheduled to be on the clock at the NFL draft within 24 hours. That might sound like a short period of time, but Rams fans have been waiting for the draft since late September.

I've broken out Scouts Inc.'s projected picks for the Rams.

St. Louis will presumably add a defensive tackle at some point. The other projected picks lined up with potential needs.

I sent Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe to the Rams with the second overall pick in our bloggers' mock draft.

Draft Since 2000
Rd. Pick Devaney's Team Receiver College Conference
2008 2 33
Rams Donnie Avery Houston
3 75 Falcons Laurent Robinson
Illinois St.
Gateway (I-AA)
4 111 Chargers Trevor Gaylor
Miami (Ohio) MAC
4 124 49ers
Brandon Lloyd
Illinois Big Ten
4 128 Rams Keenan Burton
Kentucky SEC
6 169 49ers Cedrick Wilson
6 184 Falcons Adam Jennings Fresno St.
6 197 49ers Arnaz Battle
Notre Dame

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Rams could certainly use a starting-caliber wide receiver. Donnie Avery and perhaps the newly acquired Laurent Robinson join Keenan Burton as the Rams' top three receivers. None has proved himsel
f as a consistent starter to this point.

For that reason, I expect the Rams to strongly consider drafting a receiver in the first three rounds. If Michael Crabtree isn't a consideration at No. 2, the Rams might need to hope one of the more talented wideouts falls to them in the second round.

What will the Rams do? Let's start by looking at which receivers their general manager's teams have selected during the 2000s. We see right away from looking at the chart that Billy Devaney's teams -- the Chargers, 49ers, Falcons and Rams -- haven't used first-round choices for the position.

The pattern holds even if we expand the range to 1990, when Devaney broke into the NFL with the Chargers under GM Bobby Beathard (Devaney was there from 1990 through 2000).

Avery still stands as the only receiver Devaney's teams have drafted among the top 40 overall choices. From 1990 to 1996, the Chargers did draft five receivers in the second and third rounds (picks 41 through 70). Throw in Burton's selection at No. 75 last year and we see where Devaney might strike for a receiver in 2009.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the matchup between the Cardinals' defensive line and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

John Faherty of the Arizona Republic credits Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt for changing the team's culture. Whisenhunt said it's just a matter of changing expectations.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic sizes up the relationship between Kurt Warner and the Cardinals' receivers. Warner's appreciation for Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin developed over time.

Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic asks former Eagles assistant Mark Whipple for a Super Bowl prediction. Whipple, who has reportedly taken a job at the University of Miami, doesn't bite.

Darren Urban of says Cardinals general manager Rod Graves experienced a delayed emotional reaction to winning the NFC title.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith is playing his best. Coaches and teammates describe Smith as a hard worker.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says Steelers fans have extra incentive -- cold weather in Pittsburgh -- to descend upon Tampa for the Super Bowl. 

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Neil Rackers' rise from St. Louis-area high school player to Super Bowl kicker for the Cardinals.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks plan to become more of a run-oriented team. Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett can expert their roles to increase.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks can't have it both ways on the character issue. General manager Tim Ruskell has repeatedly talked about enforcing high standards for off-field conduct, but his roster features numerous players with rap sheets. And if the team re-signs the recently arrested Leroy Hill? McGrath: "If Leroy Hill isn't told that he's no longer wanted in Seattle, then Tim Ruskell needs to stop talking about character. If the behavior of a potential draft choice raises red flags, pick somebody else. Just don't tout the guy you do get for sainthood. Don't even go there."

Doug Farrar of Field Gulls looks at three players the Seahawks met with at the Senior Bowl. He likes Ohio State receiver Brian Robiskie.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have multiple options in the draft. Thomas: "With left tackle Orlando Pace's great career winding down and right tackle Alex Barron completing another so-so season, you could make a case that offensive tackle is the Rams' greatest need."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles new Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. Burwell: "Steve Spagnuolo has more in common with Dick Vermeil than a shared legacy as passionate coaching workaholic in charge of leading the Rams out of another dark tunnel."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says he has no idea what the 49ers have in store as they continue to search for an offensive coordinator.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee can't envision the 49ers moving Nate Clements to safety, even though the team could use an upgrade at the position.

Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury News looks into the prospects of the 49ers and Raiders sharing a stadium. Such talk is in its early stages.