NFC West: Darrius Heyward-Bey

Two of the better receivers from the 2009 NFL draft call the NFC West home after the Seattle Seahawks acquired Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings

Harvin and the San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree, both first-round choices, rank first and second, respectively, in receptions among wide receivers from that 2009 class.

The chart at right shows where they rank among the 26 wide receivers from the 2009 draft with at least one reception. Of those players, Harvin has by far the most rushing attempts with 107. Mike Thomas is second with 34. Crabtree has 14. Harvin ranks second in kickoff returns with 114, behind Brandon Tate (119).

The chart below ranks 2009 drafted wide receivers by receptions. Missing the cut: Brian Hartline (183), Thomas (176), Brandon Gibson (174), Austin Collie (173), Kenny Britt (146), Darrius Heyward-Bey (140), Johnny Knox (133), Mohamed Massaquoi (118) and Louis Murphy (115). No other receivers from that class have more than 69 career receptions.

One way to think of Rams' LT upgrade

March, 18, 2013
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PHOENIX -- Had the 2009 NFL draft gone as planned for the St. Louis Rams, the team would be thinking about a contract extension for tackle Jason Smith.

The 2009 draft did not go as planned for the Rams -- or for a long list of teams.

Smith struggled before St. Louis traded him to the New York Jets last year for journeyman Wayne Hunter. The Rams recovered Sunday. They reached agreement on a four-year contract with tackle Jake Long, the first player chosen in the 2008 draft.

Think of it as the Rams upgrading from Smith to Long at left tackle.

Smith played right tackle during his Rams career, but that was because the team realized he wasn't the answer on the left side, contrary to expectations on draft day. Smith was supposed to be the Rams' franchise left tackle. Long fills that role now.

The Rams are betting on Long to regain good health following two injury-shortened seasons. Their general manager, Les Snead, has said the team had no concerns about Long's health following biceps and triceps injuries.

The Rams' future at left tackle appears brighter than at any time since the Orlando Pace era.
There's little sense in taking the bait when San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh tells a radio program Michael Crabtree "has the best hands I've ever seen on a wide receiver."

Anyone with a strong grasp of NFL history would place Cris Carter, Raymond Berry and Steve Largent on a short list for receivers with the surest hands.

Hall of Famer Ken Houston, speaking for a 2008 piece on all-time great wideouts, stood up for AFL stars Otis Taylor and Lionel Taylor.

"Lionel Taylor, I mean, he would catch a BB," Houston said.

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, speaking for the same piece, said Randy Moss, then with New England, had the best hands in the NFL at that time (2008).

"A lot of guys can catch," Thompson said then. "He can catch on any platform, as we say in scouting. He can adjust and catch it over the top of somebody's head, catch it falling down, and it doesn't matter if he is covered."

With Moss now on the 49ers, it is possible Crabtree does not possess the best hands among wide receivers on his own team.

Oops. I wasn't going to take the bait on this one, but now it's too late. Time to regroup.

Bottom line, I suspect Crabtree has impressed Harbaugh this offseason, and Harbaugh would like that to continue for as long as possible. By offering such strong public praise for Crabtree, Harbaugh is setting a standard for Crabtree to meet this season. He realizes Crabtree has the ability to meet that standard, or else he wouldn't make the statement.

We should all recall Harbaugh's calling quarterback Alex Smith "elite" and promoting him for the Pro Bowl last season. Then as now, Harbaugh was standing up for his guy. Smith enjoyed the finest season of his career and even outplayed the truly elite Drew Brees at times during the 49ers' playoff victory over New Orleans. The way Harbaugh backed Smith played a role in that performance, in my view.

Back to Crabtree. He has the ability to rank among the most sure-handed receivers in the game. He has not yet earned that status, but now he has little choice, right?

As the chart shows, Crabtree finished the 2011 season with 12.2 receptions per drop, which ranked 28th in the NFL among players targeted at least 100 times. Larry Fitzgerald led the NFL with 80 receptions and only one drop. Those numbers are according to ESPN Stats & Information, which defines drops as "incomplete passes where the receiver should have caught the pass with ordinary effort."

Crabtree suffered six drops last season by that standard, a few too many for the player with the best hands his head coach has ever seen on a wide receiver.
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.


Todd McShay set off alarms as he considered if NFL teams drafting sixth (St. Louis Rams) and 10th (Buffalo Bills) might consider selecting wide receivers with those choices.

The alarms grew louder as McShay, speaking in the video above, noted that Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, widely rated as the top receiver in the 2012 NFL draft, did not possess prototypical size.

Blackmon, though obviously talented, doesn't fit the physical mold for receivers drafted among the top three overall choices over the past 25-plus years. We discussed the reasons back at the combine, when the Rams held the second overall choice and Blackmon was a consideration for them.

The Rams subsequently traded the second overall choice to Washington. They now hold the sixth overall choice. Blackmon would be a more logical value there than at No. 2, except for those alarms going off.

Consider recent draft history.

First, take a look at receivers drafted among the top five overall choices since 2000, listed in the first chart below.

Three of the seven are superstars: Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Another, A.J. Green, is coming off an impressive rookie season. Braylon Edwards has enjoyed sporadic success. The other two, Charles Rogers and Peter Warrick, fell far short of expectations.

Those seven players have combined for 12 Pro Bowl appearances (Fitzgerald 5, Johnson 5, Johnson 1, Edwards 1).

The next set of receivers, listed below, were drafted sixth to 15th overall. I selected that range because three NFC West teams -- the Rams, Seattle Seahawks (12th) and Arizona Cardinals (13th) -- hold picks in that area.

The 16 players listed in the second chart have combined for two Pro Bowls, one by Roy Williams and the other by Koren Robinson as a return specialist in Minnesota, long after Robinson had bombed as a receiver.

Receivers talented enough to command selection among the top few overall choices have fared better than the ones with enough question marks to push them down into the next tier.

That is something to consider when weighing how the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals should use their first-round selections, even if the Rams did land Torry Holt with the sixth overall choice in 1999.

Cloudy future for Rams 2009 first-rounder

November, 25, 2011
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The St. Louis Rams placed right tackle Jason Smith on injured reserve Friday, citing concussion-related symptoms.

It's fair to wonder whether Smith has played his final game with the team after three seasons.

The contract Smith signed as the second overall choice in the 2009 NFL draft carries a $10 million salary for next season, money reflecting expectations Smith would become an elite left tackle. Instead, Smith as become an inconsistent right tackle with injury concerns relating to concussions. He will have missed 19 of 48 games to injury once this season concludes.

The 2009 draft produced more misses than hits early. Smith, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry, Andre Smith and Darrius Heyward-Bey were all chosen among the top seven picks. So was Mark Sanchez, who has enjoyed team success without becoming a consistent quarterback.

Jason Smith's deal runs through the 2014 season, which is a voidable year.

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Michael Crabtree and the 2009 receivers

February, 18, 2011
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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.

Seventh pick too much for Kevin Kolb?

February, 17, 2011
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As promised, Kevin Kolb's potential trade value has provided a starting point for additional discussion.

"Shades" from Chico, Calif., used the recently concluded NFC West chat to question why NFL teams seem to over-value draft choices, and specifically whether the San Francisco 49ers would be foolish to consider trading the seventh overall choice for Kolb:
These are unproven, college players. Kevin Kolb has been an NFL starting QB, has had success, and has a nice upside. If he were a collegiate player, he would surely go high -- perhaps even with the No. 7 pick if he were as he is today. Can somebody, anybody, please, please give me a triple Oy Vey? I'd be all teeth to see the 49ers land Kolb and it doesn't seem like a No. 7 pick is too much of a reach, given the state of the QB situation. Of course, I'd rather trade a large turkey leg, a Prince Purple Rain CD, a sack of frozen burritos, a case of frozen Otter Pops, a BBQ-slathered porksteak, and a gigantic bowl of corn for Kolb. Smile.

This is a question I'd like to throw open for discussion, then revisit Friday.

First, I'll provide a chart showing the last 20 players drafted seventh overall, with how many seasons they played and how many Pro Bowl seasons they have earned, courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Rapid Reaction: Raiders 33, Seahawks 3

October, 31, 2010
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What it means: Seattle needs to get healthier to bounce back from this defeat in the short term. The Seahawks have fared well in patching their roster, but their depth isn't good enough to overcome this many injuries. They played all or some of their game Sunday without starting left tackle Russell Okung, second-team left tackle Tyler Polumbus, No. 1 receiver Mike Williams, starting right cornerback Kelly Jennings, second-team right corner Walter Thurmond, starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, starting nose tackle Colin Cole and starting defensive end Red Bryant. Starting left guard Ben Hamilton left the game after getting poked in the eye, but his replacement, Chester Pitts, might have played anyway. Pitts wound up playing left tackle after Polumbus departed.

NFC West race: The Seahawks fell to 4-3. The Arizona Cardinals were in danger of falling to 3-4 as they trailed the Tampa Bay Bucs in the final minutes. St. Louis pulled close at 4-4. Even the San Francisco 49ers (2-6) gained ground.

What I liked: Leon Washington provided a spark on punt returns. Washington's role on offense has disappeared since the team acquired Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo. Washington's big-play ability does have value, however. His 43-yard punt return put the offense in prime position in the first half. Washington also had 45- and 37-yard kickoff returns.

What I didn't like: Seattle suffered some unsightly miscues on defense, resulting in big plays for the Raiders. Free safety Earl Thomas went for the pick, helping the Raiders score one long touchdown. Strong safety Lawyer Milloy and linebacker David Hawthorne collided on another Raiders touchdown. The offense suffered too many penalties, putting Seattle in unfavorable down-and-distances. On special teams, kicker Olindo Mare missed two field goal tries after previously making 30 in a row. This defeat was a team effort.

Trending: Seattle's run defense faltered some against Arizona last week. The Raiders had their way running the ball. Darren McFadden had more than 100 yards in the first three quarters. The Raiders also burned the Seahawks with misdirection plays, including when receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey busted a 30-yard run on a reverse. Losing Bryant hurt against the run. Seattle had owned the NFL's second-ranked run defense, but that ranking will surely fall. And with the New York Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw visiting Seattle in Week 9, the trend could continue.

What's next: The Seahawks face the Giants at home in Week 9, followed by trips to Arizona and New Orleans.

Wrap-up: 49ers 17, Raiders 9

October, 17, 2010
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Some thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 17-9 victory against the Oakland Raiders.

What it means: The 49ers can finally exhale. They won a game. They were not going to go 0-16, but it felt like they might until Sunday. And yet very little about this performance suggested the 49ers had turned a corner or fixed the problems that have held them back this season. They were the lesser of two evils in this game and that will have to suffice for now. It sure beat the alternative.

What I liked: Frank Gore carried 25 times for 149 yards, bouncing back from an uncharacteristically poor performance against Philadelphia. Quarterback Alex Smith tossed two touchdown passes without an interception, but he completed only 16 of 33 attempts and the offense was far from efficient. Gore's 25 carries sustained the 49ers. He hadn't carried that many times since getting 28 carries against Detroit late last season.

What I didn't like: The 49ers had to scratch and claw for this victory even though they held Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell to 83 yards passing and a 10.7 rating. It just shouldn't be this tough for the 49ers. They held a 349-179 advantage in total yardage. Oakland managed only 10 first downs. San Francisco still needed a touchdown pass with 7:14 remaining to afford any sort of breathing room.

Rookie comparison: The 49ers' Michael Crabtree caught four passes for 57 yards, with a 32-yarder for a touchdown. The Raiders' Darrius Heyward-Bey had three catches for 19 yards, with no reception longer than 8 yards. Crabtree should outperform Heyward-Bey because he plays in an offense with more weapons. But there's also little evidence the Raiders made the right choice when they selected Heyward-Bey over Crabtree in the first round of the 2009 draft.

Defense steps up: Linebackers Takeo Spikes and Manny Lawson picked off passes for the 49ers. Parys Haralson also had a sack. The Raiders accomplished virtually nothing on offense.

What's next: The 49ers visit Carolina in Week 7.

Around the NFC West: Rams' Gilyard eager

October, 15, 2010
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Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says injuries and illness have slowed the early development of Rams rookie Mardy Gilyard. Clayton's injury could give Gilyard additional opportunities. The Rams love the aggressive, borderline cocky attitude Gilyard brings to the game. Gilyard: "Through misfortunes, it's my turn now. And I do not want to let any of these guys down. I do not want to let James Hall down, I do not want to let Chris Long down, I do not want to let Steven Jackson down, I don't want to let Sam (Bradford) down, I don't want to let Brandon Gibson down, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry. I don't want to let any of those guys down, because I feel like I owe them everything. Especially the vets, who've just put their arm on my shoulder and haven't treated me like a bonehead rook." Count that quote as evidence the Rams have a good thing going on the team chemistry front.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Steven Jackson is closing in on Eric Dickerson in the team's record book. Thomas: "In his seventh season with the Rams, Jackson needs 141 yards rushing to surpass Dickerson's career record. Dickerson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, rushed for 7,245 yards in just five seasons with the Rams. Jackson is at 7,105 -- and counting."

Also from Thomas: The Rams' sponsors have bought enough tickets to the team's game against San Diego to avoid a local television blackout. Failing to sell out games hurts, but sponsors' willingness to scoop up tickets reflects strong TV ratings and, perhaps, confidence in the longer-term direction of the team.

More from Thomas: Brandon Gibson needs to pick up his game following Mark Clayton's season-ending injury.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team hopes to get a boost from its returning tight ends.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals guard Deuce Lutui is improving while his weight continues to drop. Lutui is one of the more hilarious people I've encountered in an NFL locker room. Bickley got Lutui going on his Tongan roots. Lutui: "The history of Tongan people, we were warriors! We were the Vikings of the South Pacific, the pearl of Polynesia. I come from the Kingdom of Tonga! That means, when I'm Tongan to the 'T,' I'm Tongan to the death! I'm a Lutui, and I come from a tiny nation, a dot in the middle of the map. Even if you look, you might miss it."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com thinks rookie Andre Roberts will be the Cardinals' fourth receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet once all the team's wideouts are healthy. That would leave coaches to choose between Stephen Williams and Max Komar for the final roster spot at receiver on game days. Seems like Williams needs to be part of the mix. He has worked ahead of Roberts in the rotation previously.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers highlights from practice Thursday, plus this quote from Matt Hasselbeck about Julius Peppers: "Julius Peppers is a great, great player. When he was in Carolina, they were playing him at wide receiver. It’s not often that a guy’s playing defensive end and wide receiver who’s not like in the sixth grade. It’s amazing that he’s doing it in the NFL." The play Peppers made in picking off Kurt Warner at University of Phoenix Stadium last season stands out as one of his more memorable ones.

Also from Farnsworth: Hasselbeck's presnap battle with Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher should be a good one. Hasselbeck: "Urlacher does a great job of audibling as a middle linebacker. He’s a great player and he’s well-coached. He’s been playing in this scheme a long time and you’ll see when an offense checks – a quarterback checks – he’ll check. Or, if he gets the sense that you’re pretending to check, then he’ll call it off. It’s one of those things where you make eye contact with him, you’re making a check, and he’s like, 'No. No. No. Let’s just leave this one on.' Or other times, he’ll be like, 'Yeah, let’s check.' And so he’s a great player."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who is eagerly anticipating his Seattle debut.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Chester Pitts missed practice to rest a sore knee Thursday. Pitts has had a tough time putting together back-to-back full practices on his surgically repaired knee. If the knee does improve enough, Seattle will have found an upgrade at left guard. That's why the team has been willing to carry him on its roster this long without getting any on-field contributions.

Also from Johns: Rains began falling just as the Seahawks' offensive linemen broke their season-long silence in compliance with NFL rules.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks center Chris Spencer as saying Seattle's line is beginning to jell.

Also from Williams: Lynch has never played at Soldier Field and he's looking forward to playing in Walter Payton's house. Lynch: "Sweetness did it there for a long time. So I mean probably to go in there and have one of those games that he would have had would be wonderful, wonderful for our backfield. But just to get out there with my guys and just put something together and hopefully come out with a win is my biggest thing."

John Morgan of Field Gulls explains Tyler Polumbus' perceived drop in play by noting that Seattle's game against the Rams marked the first time the team fell behind against a capable defense. Having to bounce between right and left tackle also had to present challenges.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald quotes Seattle line coach Art Valero this way regarding Russell Okung's matchup with Peppers: "They’re all good in this league. It’s like a rodeo. You’ve got to ride the bull that comes out of chute A. That’s yours, whether you want him or you don’t. You have no choice. If you’re afraid, go to church. They’ve got no choice. They’re all on full scholarship, so they’ve got to go play."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers want quarterback Alex Smith to play with a more aggressive mindset. Smith isn't naturally aggressive. His demeanor is reserved. He became more assertive throughout the offseason because he had a better understanding of the offense and he felt as though he had earned the starting job. But he's still not naturally aggressive. The question now becomes whether he can become more aggressive and play more freely without forcing the ball into coverage. Smith has been better this season when freed to "cut it loose" after the 49ers have fallen behind. Can he adopt that mindset earlier in games? He has actually been quite effective on opening drives recently.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sizes up the 49ers' evolving offense.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' improved prospects on third down.

Also from Branch: The Raiders-49ers rivalry is more between fans than players. Imagine my delight (dread?) upon hearing that my dear mother would be attending the Raiders-49ers game at Candlestick Park this weekend. She doesn't really follow football, but was invited to the game as part of a group outing. I told her to watch Nos. 21 and 52 on the 49ers. But mostly I'm hoping she doesn't find herself in the middle of a brawl between Raiders and 49ers fans. Keep your head on a swivel, Mom.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' run-heavy play calling on first down against Philadelphia was designed to produce more manageable third-down situations.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Michael Crabtree is excited to face the Raiders after Oakland drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey over him in 2009. Crabtree: "I'm not worried about Darrius. I'm focused on winning the game. But at the same time, I'm thinking about the Raiders."

The Associated Press says former 49ers guard Woody Peoples passed away at age 67.
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The NFC West is accustomed to catching its share of grief, and then some.

The St. Louis Rams own six victories over the past three seasons, the Seattle Seahawks own nine over the past two and the San Francisco 49ers haven’t posted a winning record since Mike Rumph was a promising rookie cornerback for them (2002). The Arizona Cardinals have been better lately, but now they’re reduced to Derek Anderson versus Matt Leinart.

No wonder AFC West blogger Bill Williamson thinks the new-and-improved Oakland Raiders would win the NFC West. But would they? NFC West blogger Mike Sando would put them third, behind the 49ers and Cardinals, even with Jason Campbell under center in Oakland.

[+] EnlargeCampbell/Russell
AP Photo/Ben MargotJason Campbell (8) is in, JaMarcus Russell (2) is out and that alone should make the Raiders a better team in 2010.
Bill Williamson: Advocating for the Raiders is neither easy nor perhaps sane. After all, the Raiders have been the bastion of football futility for much of the past decade. Oakland has lost 11 games or more for the past seven seasons. That is an NFL record for bad, bad times.

The misery has to end sometime and this year may be the year Oakland finally emerges from the dregs of the league and becomes a legitimate, competitive team. The horrendous JaMarcus Russell era has ended. Jason Campbell is far from an elite player, but he is an established NFL quarterback who knows what he is doing. That alone should allow Oakland to be much more productive on offense. This is a team that scored just 17 offensive touchdowns in 2009. Campbell could help the team score 20-25 more touchdowns this season.

Mike Sando: Let’s say Campbell posts a passer rating in the mid-80s and the Raiders back him with a defense ranked in the top 10. The Raiders would take that scenario, no questions asked. The reality, though, is that Campbell’s passer rating last season was 86.4 and the Redskins -- his old team -- fielded a defense ranked 10th in yards allowed. It all added up to a 4-12 record against a weak schedule. I like some of the Raiders’ talent on defense, but 25 teams allowed fewer yards per game last season. It’s a stretch to pencil in Oakland for a No. 10 ranking on defense in 2010 and a greater stretch to say they'd win the NFC West.

Williamson: The defense in Oakland is going to improve. The Raiders have added two potential stars in middle linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Lamarr Houston, both in the first two rounds of the draft. The run defense has been horrible in recent seasons, but it should be much improved.

Sando: I watched Frank Gore carry twice against the Raiders’ starting defense Saturday night. He gained 58 yards on those runs, and Mike Iupati, the 49ers’ rookie left guard, took out McClain pretty easily on one of those Gore carries. Preseason isn’t much to go on, but Gore probably could have had 150 yards if the 49ers had left him in the game.

Williamson: I can see why the 49ers removed Gore from the game. He’s always getting nicked up and that probably will be the case again this season. Follow me for a minute here. Oakland should easily compete to win eight games. Sure, it is not the stuff of playoff dreams -- at least in a real division -- and it won’t be enough to unseat San Diego in the AFC West, but this isn’t about the Raiders’ division. It’s about the NFC West, which managed a league-low 12 victories outside the division last season (the AFC West had 18). There is no anchor team in the NFC West, unless you count the sinking Cardinals. San Francisco? Come on. These teams are not markedly better than the Raiders. Arizona is a mess as it enters the post-Kurt Warner era and San Francisco always seems to fall short of its potential. Put Oakland in the NFC West and you’d have your 2010 division favorite.

Sando: There’s no way Campbell would hold up in the NFC West behind that horrible offensive line. The 49ers roughed him up Saturday night (Campbell has a stinger and wrist injury as a result). A week earlier, the 49ers roughed up Brett Favre (the Vikings had to yank him after only four plays). The Cardinals’ defensive front also would mangle Campbell. They feasted upon the Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler when both teams’ starting units were on the field Saturday night. Cutler had zero points, four sacks and two interceptions in five drives. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell would feast on the Raiders’ offensive line. It'll happen soon enough. The teams meet in Week 3.

Williamson: Let’s get back to the quarterbacks. No legitimate contender in the NFC West has one better than Campbell. Matt Leinart's career is on life support in Arizona and his replacement, Derek Anderson, is the quintessential stop-gap solution. Alex Smith is as fragile as a porcelain vase. Matt Hasselbeck is very much on the back nine of his career and Sam Bradford is just not ready to carry a team on his back. Not this year, at least.

Campbell is the most reliable of all of the above-mentioned quarterbacks heading into this season. He is a smart game manager who is not going to lose games. He will trust his young receivers and his potentially strong running game.

Sando: Granted, the whole Leinart-Anderson debate isn't helping the NFC West's credibility. But the coaching in Arizona is solid and the team still has good talent throughout its roster. Jason Campbell might be an upgrade for the Raiders, but the Redskins did bench him during an ugly loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last season. Last time I checked, the Chiefs weren’t good, even by AFC West standards.

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
AP Photo/Matt SlocumAlex Smith threw 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games last season.
Williamson: Campbell might not win games alone, but nine times out of 10, he won’t lose them alone, either. The Kansas City game was an aberration. Campbell posted a passer rating of at least 90 in nine regular-season games last season. Kurt Warner did it eight times despite playing with a far superior supporting cast. Campbell has the potential to lead Oakland to around 20 points a game while throwing 20-25 touchdown passes and limiting his interceptions to under a dozen or so. Can any quarterback in the NFC West say that this season? In a league where quarterbacks reign supreme, Campbell would be the best quarterback in the NFC West. He'd give Oakland a strong chance to be the best team in the division.

Sando: The 49ers had a chance to go after Donovan McNabb and they chose Smith instead. I didn’t think it was the wisest move, but it’s no stretch to think Smith will finish the 2010 season with better numbers than Campbell will post in Oakland. Smith had 18 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions in 10-plus games last season. Campbell was at 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions over a full season. Smith has a clear edge over Campbell in available weaponry, and he's finally getting comfortable. Don’t tell Al Davis this, but Michael Crabtree was a better choice than Darrius Heyward-Bey. Crabtree had more catches in 11 games last season (48) than any wide receiver for Oakland, and his total would have ranked tied for third on Campbell's Redskins. Better yet for Smith, Crabtree isn’t necessarily the best option in his arsenal. Vernon Davis is a first-team Pro Bowl tight end, Josh Morgan is a decent No. 2 and newcomer Ted Ginn Jr. looks like he’ll provide a welcome speed element on the outside. It’s ironic that the 49ers have the pure burners -- Ginn and Davis -- Oakland usually covets.

Williamson: Smith and Campbell have both faced tough circumstances in recent seasons. They've gone through coaching changes, gotten knocked around and faced criticism. Campbell has persevered far more impressively. He’s held up physically and finished with more touchdown passes than interceptions in each of the four seasons he has played. Smith has done it just once -- last season -- and never as a full-time starter. He couldn’t even beat out Shaun Hill heading into last season.

Sando: Drawing the NFC West as part of the NFL's scheduling rotation is going to help Campbell, but it’s not like the Redskins played a tough schedule last season. I heard Mike Shanahan call it soft during a recent radio interview. He's right. With Campbell at quarterback in 2009, the Redskins lost to the Lions, Panthers, Chiefs and Giants (twice). They barely beat the Rams, 9-7. They scored 17 points or fewer in 11 of 16 games. That doesn’t look very good on a quarterback’s résumé.

Williamson: The Raiders are not all about Jason Campbell. Quietly, Oakland has added some very talented pieces throughout its roster. While Oakland has crashed and burned in the first round lately, it has not gotten enough credit for late-round finds. The unheralded results form the makings of a solid roster.

There are legitimate stars on this team.

Start with left cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. If league observers would take their eyes off Revis Island for a minute, they would realize there is dominant cornerback play on the left coast, sans the snazzy nickname and lengthy contract holdout. Asomugha is one of the brightest, most instinctive players in the NFL. Consider that he plays a premium position and you have a highly valuable player.

The linebacking corps has a chance to be very good with McClain and Cleveland refugee Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley showed his pass-rushing potential with four sacks in a limited role against Chicago in the second preseason game. Three-time Super Bowl champion Richard Seymour is anchoring a new-look and potentially outstanding defensive front.

Offensively, Campbell has some young, intriguing weapons to play with. Tight end Zach Miller is a blossoming star and one Campbell should utilize often. Young receivers Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy and Heyward-Bey all have a chance to reach their immense potential very soon. Running backs Michael Bush and Darren McFadden could give defensive coordinators fits on a weekly basis because of their varied skills. There’s talent in Oakland that teams in the NFC West simply can’t match.

Sando: Asomugha arguably would be the best player in the NFC West, but Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Willis and Steven Jackson wouldn't be far behind. Kamerion Wimbley? I'll take Dockett, Adrian Wilson, Gore, Davis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Justin Smith, Matt Hasselbeck, Marcus Trufant -- the list goes on, and I've probably missed a few.

This debate will be tough to settle, but we can say the scheduling rotation should help one or more teams from each division pump up their records. NFC West teams eagerly can look forward to facing the Chiefs, Denver Broncos and possibly the Raiders. AFC West teams can feel the same way about games against the Rams and Seahawks, at least.

I'll be heading to Oakland in Week 2 for the Raiders' game against the Rams. St. Louis has managed only three victories over the past two seasons, but they're 1-1 against Campbell during that time, losing by two points at Washington in 2008 after suffering a fourth-quarter fumble inside the Washington 10.

If Bradford plays as well as he has recently, I won't be shocked if the Rams make it 2-1 against Campbell over the past three seasons.
Joel from Atwater writes: I love your pieces on the NFC West. I'm a huge 49er fan. I was wondering if you ever thought of putting a piece together on Vernon Davis and his blocking. I've been a huge fan of his since he entered the NFL.

Everyone takes for granted how good of a blocker he is. I recall a few games where he completely shut down an opponent's best pass rusher, i.e. Jared Allen, and it would have been Joey Porter also if it were not for the last play where Porter sacked Shaun Hill.

It's just something that I have been trying to see film on and I just cant find any. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Mike. Keep up the great work.

Mike Sando: I'm with you on Davis' blocking. It jumped out at me right away when I started watching every play of every 49ers game. The first time I broke it down was following a 2008 game against the Saints. Davis was absolutely dominant, even against defensive ends.

As I wrote then, "Watching this game made me think Davis was one of the best pass protectors on the team. He regularly blocked (Will) Smith and fellow defensive end Charles Grant, tough duty for any tight end. Davis was effective as a run blocker. During the third quarter, he blocked Smith twice and Grant twice on runs that gained 9, 9, 6 and 7 yards."

The 49ers did not ask Davis to block nearly as much in pass protection last season. That is the main reason his receiving numbers took off. Davis is an every-down player, so he's in there on running plays and he's a willing blocker. It's a great sign with a talented pass-receiving tight end is a willing and effective blocker. It means he loves the game and isn't just going after stats.


Ryan from Dallas writes: Hey Mike, got a Rams question for you. I was reading an article you posted a link to that said the Rams only rushed four players 65 percent of the time last year which was most in the league. I was a bit shocked to find this out because I really thought Spags would put together craftier schemes than just a soft four-man rush that often.

Two years ago, the Rams were blitzing like crazy and the claim was that they had to out of necessity due to lack of playmakers. So what do you think would be the better route? Or is there a happy medium to be found in here? Thanks as always. Keep it up.

Mike Sando: I could not find that blog post, but I did write one discussing blitz percentages.

The knock on the Rams previously was that their schemes weren't all that sound. I had heard that from opposing players. ESPN Stats & Analysis tracked blitz numbers last season and the Rams rushed four or fewer players 71 percent of the time. The league average was 65.2 percent. The Titans, Panthers and Bucs -- all teams with defensive coaches -- all rushed four or fewer at least 76 percent of the time.

The Rams were pretty inventive with some of their blitzes, according to coaches for other teams. For example, then-Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp counted 12 unscouted blitzes the Rams used in the regular-season opener. That was a high number. By unscouted blitzes, I mean blitzes the Seahawks hadn't seen from Spagnuolo on video.

It's tough to blitz without having players who are good at it, particularly when you're running a 4-3 scheme without good coverage players. I think the Rams should be OK from a scheme standpoint with Spagnuolo influencing the defense.


Rick from Boise writes: We all know there is a point value for each draft pick that teams use to determine vaule in trading picks. My question is, in any given draft, are picks for future years valued differently from current-year picks?

Mike Sando: Yes, they are valued differently. A pick next year generally loses about one round's value. For example, a 2011 third-rounder would be worth a 2010 fourth-rounder (update: I initially had the rounds transposed).


Jeremy from Vallejo, Calif., writes: Are the 49ers' training camp practices free to the public? How do I get info on times?

Mike Sando: Tickets are sold out, according to the 49ers. Sorry about that, Jeremy.


Trevor from Kelowna, B.C. writes: Assuming the Seahawks have no pass rush (probable), what's the solution? Don't see any free agents out there. Maybe a trade? Whadya think.

Mike Sando: I think the Seahawks are stuck. They do not have outstanding pass-rushers and they aren't going to land one before the season.


Chris from San Diego writes: Do you see the 49ers' Navorro Bowman playing this year and where, inside or outside?

Mike Sando: Bowman projects as an inside linebacker even though he's not the biggest guy. Look for Takeo Spikes to start this season, but Bowman could get in there, particularly if Spikes wears down. The 49ers think Bowman is an instinctive player. Instinctive linebackers tend to get on the field sooner than guys who lack that feel for the game. Lofa Tatupu in Seattle is one example. He became an immediate starter and Pro Bowl player as a rookie drafted outside the first round.


Andrew from Fort Worth writes: What really stands out about the "Fortunate 50" list is the fact that the list is flooded with big name-stars -- that is, until you come across recent high NFL draft picks such as Matthew Stafford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson and Mark Sanchez. All together, these second-year players will be collecting $103,487,280 in salary next year with none proving to be elite players or achieving any outstanding accomplishments (Sanchez did lead his team to the AFC title game).

This again highlights the NFL's issue with rookie salary structures and should be a major focus in the next CBA. While I have no sympathy for NFL owners, as they are by far the most powerful owners in professional sport, this is clearly a problem that deserves attention. Given that players can be cut at any moment and lose out on non-guaranteed portions of their contracts, is it somewhat surprising that you don't see more players hold out once they've outperformed their current contracts?

Mike Sando: Those NFL players are on the list largely because their rookie deals were structured to have massive payouts in the second year. Those players likely will not rank as high next year. I don't have a huge problem with player salaries in the NFL. These guys submit their bodies to brutal beatings. Their life expectancies shrink. They deal with life-long health issues.

NFL players generally do not hold out because teams hold the cards. Teams simply aren't beholden to a single player in the vast majority of cases. Football is such a team sport. Very few players are important enough to their teams for those teams to buckle when a player holds out.


Mitch from Austin, Texas writes: Sando, can you explain how the cap works? I'm lost. In your post about the uncapped year helping the Seahawks, it says that the 'Hawks basically would have had to eat Deon Grant's salary in a capped year, correct? I don't understand why a team is punished for cutting a player and therefore not paying his salary. In theory, if you cut a player, then you don't have to pay him, so why does it count against the cap?

Mike Sando: The base salary doesn't count against the cap after a team releases a player. Other aspects of the contract count against the cap (when there is a cap, obviously). Teams account for some bonus money over multiple years, not all at once. But when a player is released with time left on his deal, that money can accelerate against the current cap. In Grant's case, his base salary was about the same as the bonus money that accelerated upon his release.


Q from Victoria, B.C., writes: Hey Mike, do we give Louis Rankin any shot of making the team in Seattle?

Mike Sando: Yeah, he has a chance. I'm not sure whether the Seahawks will keep a traditional blocking fullback. If they do, it's tougher for Rankin.


Seth from Newport News, Va., writes: I saw article on NFL.com about the league pushing players to wear more padding this season and that something may be mandated for the 2011 season. The NFL anticipates a lot of resistance to this. I understand players want to maximize speed, but they need to compromise to protect their investment (themselves).

I was wondering if you could give some insight into how this would affect the CBA negotiations and if this gives the owners something to use ( i.e. wear more padding or we will pay you less). Thanks.

Mike Sando: This issue gives the owners an opportunity to show interest in player safety. I do think it's a valid issue, though. Even some linemen play without basic padding. I don't see this issue being a big one in CBA negotiations. Having padding built into pants is intriguing.


Jesper from Denmark writes: Hi Mike. I think you have already talked about this in an earlier chat, but I would like to hear your oppinion on Kevin Payne. As far as I have understood, he played strong safety in his second year with the Bears and was a really really good player. They then moved him to free safety, which did not work out so well. Now the Rams have moved him back to strong safety. Shouldnt that make him the starter over James Butler, who is solid at best?

Mike Sando: The book on Payne does say he was better at strong safety. I'm intrigued by his addition and wondering whether he'll take the starting job. Teams generally do not give away starting-caliber players, though, so we shouldn't assume Payne will win the job. He should be in the mix. It's one of the issues I'm interested in pursuing.


Scott from Boise writes: I don't understand why Seattle isn't hosting Pittsburgh next year. They only meet once every four years and last time around was in Pittsburgh. What's the justification for making it 12 years since the last time they were in Seattle?

Mike Sando: I don't understand the issue well enough to explain it as simply as I would like.

The NFL has made a couple alterations to its scheduling formula. One tweak spares teams from making two long trips to face West Coast teams. Also, the league reset the scheduling formula so that 2011 mirrored 2002 (instead of picking up where 2009 left off). The league wasn't able to make the home-and-home swaps match up evenly.

Let me try to get a better explanation for you. I know some readers of this blog follow scheduling stuff more closely than I do, and they might be able to explain it more concisely and definitively.


Keith from Seattle writes: Regarding your column, 'Much fantasy love for Gore, 49ers', where did you get those numbers for top TD scorers in 2009? I didn't even see Chris Johnson or Maurice Jones-Drew listed and they easily had over 10 TDs a piece!

Mike Sando: The chart showed NFC leaders but I did not make that clear. I've updated the item with clear labeling. Sorry about that.


Kyle from Tempe writes: Hey, Mike. I'm sure you record every nfc west game during the season and watch them when you return home. Is that how you plan on handling shark week being in the middle of training camp?

Mike Sando: I do record all the regular-season games and chart them. As for shark week, I'm sure my sons would like to watch that one with me. I wind up watching Top Chef with my wife. We also try to catch Pawn Stars and some true-crime shows.


Dave from Covington, Wash., writes: My question is regarding Earl Thomas. I just haven't heard many things on how he has done it organized team activities, and what we are to expect out of him this season and how close we are to signing both of our first-rounders. Thanks for your time and all the great insight you have for the blog.

Mike Sando: Hey, thanks for that. Earl Thomas looks like a cornerback out there. His ball-hawking ability shined through a few times at OTAs. He did not immediately dominate to the point where it was clear he would be an instant star. But I think he generally looked like a good coverage safety. As for signing statuses, I don't worry about them for early draft choices until training camps are nearly upon us. If they aren't signed when camp starts, we can evaluate the issue then. Right now, it's a non-issue.


Mastermind from San Francisco writes: Hi Mike, the 49er glory days were characterized by some great minds in the front office, coaching staffs and on on the field. Who are today's masterminds in the 49ers' organization in those three categories, and how to they compare to past greats? One of my nagging worries regarding the Niners is this aspect of what it takes to be a great franchise. I'm just not sure they have many great minds throughout their organization, even if they have much more talent than recent years. Even our best player, Patrick Willis, was noted for avoiding playcalling duties on the field and seemed to want to play mostly with his intincts. Thanks!

Mike Sando: If you're looking for Bill Walsh or Mike Holmgren types, keep looking. They don't exist in San Francisco or in most franchises. The people that made the 49ers great during the 1980s and beyond were exceptional people. They were exceptions. It's unrealistic to expect an organization to have those sorts of people forever.

The 49ers do have some sharp people. I think Paraag Marathe is very bright and he has shown himself to be capable in handling the team's contracts. That is one area where the 49ers are far ahead of where they were during the years that led to their salary-cap issues.


Fritz from Auburn, Calif., writes: Hi Mike. Interesting post on divisional age. Is there any correlation between division age and win/loss percentages? It would be interesting if divisional youth were a leading indicator for increased winning in a year or two. I don't have the raw data or I'd check myself. Thanks!

Mike Sando: I do not think we could safely make such a connection. Teams can be young for different reasons. For example, the Indianapolis Colts are among the very youngest teams year after year. It's the nature of how they build their team around a few big-time veteran stars. Other young teams tend to be rebuilding teams (the Rams last season, the Carolina Panthers this season). Going young is the easy part. Building that young team into a winner requires skill and good fortune.


Shane from Los Angeles writes: Sand-O, Can you believe Kurt Warner didnt even make an honorable mention on this list? As big as he has played in big games, I am shocked ESPN did not have him on here. Please comment on it in your mailbag or in your blog. Thanks!

Mike Sando: There have been quite a few great quarterback performances over the years. Which of Warner's games would you single out? I know he's had games with a perfect passer rating. Another time, he completed 20 of 23 passes for 323 yards, five touchdowns and one interception (against the 49ers in 1999). His playoff performance against the Packers has to go down as one of the great efforts. The list you cited covered regular season only, however.


Constantine from San Francisco writes: Mike, following up on your latest entries regarding the best lines in the NFC West, which team has the best linebacking corps? Receiving corps? One other question: I'm a bit confused as to why so many people are high on Josh Morgan, why is he considered an up-and-comer? His play has struck me more as a "split tight end" -- catching a few balls and being valued as a blocker. Is he really a legitimate second receiver? Thanks for the thoughts.

Mike Sando: The 49ers probably have the best linebackers in terms of how they've played recently. The Seahawks have the potential to have the best group, but it would help if they stayed on the field past Week 1. When you talk about receivers, do you mean wide receivers? The Cardinals probably have the best ones, even without Anquan Boldin. If you include tight ends, I could see giving the 49ers stronger consideration. On Morgan, I think he's viewed in the context of where the 49ers drafted him -- in the sixth round. That sets the bar lower for him. I think he can be a good No. 2 receiver.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says he expects the St. Louis Rams' contract talks with first-round draft choice Sam Bradford to begin this week. Miklasz: "Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, who will return from a brief vacation early next week, plans to get together with Bradford's agent, the Clayton-based Tom Condon." Condon has lots of experience representing highly drafted quarterbacks. Seems to me he and the Rams will find a way to get Bradford into camp on time or close to it. Having Bradford there from Day 1 benefits all parties. Everything we've seen from Bradford suggests he'll be eager to get into camp on time. And it's the player who can ultimately determine when he gets into camp. Players tend to have their breaking points. The San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree was an exception last offseason. In Seattle, 2009 first-round choice Aaron Curry reached his breaking point about one week into camp. A deal then got done quickly. The issues that delayed Crabtree's arrival -- namely his contention that he should have been drafted earlier and valued at a higher level than Darrius Heyward-Bey -- do not apply to Bradford's situation.



Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says during a chat he thinks the NBA's recent experience with Lebron James pretty much ensures the return of the franchise tag in the NFL, which will pretty much prevent someone such as Tom Brady from signing with the 49ers or anyone else. Maiocco: "No player is going to be bigger than the NFL. The Patriots will have the chance to place the franchise tag on Brady to retain his services. Now, if he's so disgruntled, he could demand a trade. But, I'd still say, there's a very slim chance Brady will be playing for the 49ers while he's still among the game's elite quarterbacks." Peyton Manning is probably the closest thing the NFL has to a player who is bigger than even his team, but his value is also highest to the Colts based on what all parties have invested over the years. Pro football is so much more a team sport than pro basketball. That is one reason why pro football players have a harder time commanding as much guaranteed money. An All-Star basketball player is generally worth more to his team than a Pro Bowl football player.



Greg Johns of seattlepi.com explains how to register for Seahawks practices at training camp. Johns: "Fans interested in attending Seahawks' training camp practices this summer will be able to pre-register on the team's website starting Monday at 10 a.m. Open practices at the team's Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton will be held from July 31 through Aug. 16, but will be available only to those who sign up in advance at seahawks.com. The team will also host an open practice at Husky Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 8 that will not require preregistration since the stadium has plenty of seating. Registration for the VMAC practices will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis and fans 15 years or younger must be accompanied by an adult. A $5 transportation fee will be charged per person, as fans will be required to park at an off-site location and be shuttled to the VMAC before and after each practice."

John Morgan of Field Gulls says the Seahawks' Olindo Mare will probably remain underappreciated even though the Seahawks named him their franchise player.

Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com profiles quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, whose coaching career began improbably with Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida. Malcolmson: "Fisch blindly and ambitiously packed up and went to school in Gainesville, with no connections to Spurrier or the program. He tried being an equipment manager for the team his freshman year, but that didn’t pan out. Then he decided to get back to hands-on coaching by volunteering at a high school just off campus. ... But then fortune struck and Fisch’s hard work began to pay off with a glimmer of hope. An assistant coach for the Gators was recruiting one of the players on Fisch’s high school team, and before long, he had invited Fisch to do odd jobs around the football office. (Fisch) spent a year quietly laboring before another assistant started giving Fisch higher-profile tasks."

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times lists three NFC West players -- Justin Forsett, Dashon Goldson and Calais Campbell -- among his potential breakout players for 2010. I thought Campbell broke out last season with 7.0 sacks, a high number for a 3-4 defensive end. Farmer on Forsett: "Forsett, in his third season out of Cal, is everything LenDale White wasn't — undersized, dedicated, productive, and an instant Pete Carroll favorite. The Seahawks had the league's 26th-ranked running game last season, but they might have been much more effective had they put the ball in Forsett's hands. The 5-foot-8, 194-pound back averaged 5.4 yards in 114 carries with four touchdowns, and caught 41 balls out of the backfield. He was far more explosive than Julius Jones, who was limited to fewer than 50 yards in more than half of his starts last season."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com thinks the Cardinals should be ranked higher than ESPN had them recently. He also wonders how Adrian Wilson's name could elude a CBS list of top NFL safeties. Urban: "Wilson isn’t better than Brian Dawkins these days? And even if you feel that strongly about Bernard Pollard or Nick Collins, Wilson has to be in the discussion, right?" Yes.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' top five draft choices remain unsigned after the team reached agreement with sixth-round choice Jorrick Calvin, a potential return specialist. Urban: "Calvin, a cornerback who did not play his senior season at Troy because he was academically ineligible, is trying to find a spot in the team’s secondary. But his most likely avenue to the active roster would be on returns, after averaging 10 yards a punt return and 25.7 yards a kick return in 2008."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jeremy Green of Scouts Inc. ranks the Rams' James Laurinaitis over the Seahawks' Aaron Curry in his latest Rookie Watch.

Both players remained in the top 10 this week despite falling. Two players some NFC West fans wanted their teams to select -- tackle Michael Oher and quarterback Mark Sanchez -- ranked higher.

Some guy named Percy Harvin -- the name sounds familiar -- tops the list.

Meanwhile, the Raiders' decision to select Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree remains a hot topic in the AFC West. Crabtree produced more Sunday than Heyward-Bey has produced all season.

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