NFC West: Jared Odrick

Rolando McClain's early retirement from the NFL comes three years after the Oakland Raiders made him the eighth overall choice in the 2010 draft.

While McClain is inviting derision, I wondered whether he was even the most disappointing choice from the first round of that 2010 class. He would fit right in with the 2009 group, for sure.

A quick check of games started by 2010 first-rounders showed four players with 48 starts in 48 possible regular-season games. Three of those four players were from the NFC West: Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis of the San Francisco 49ers, and Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks.

Tyson Alualu, the player Jacksonville controversially selected 10th overall, rounds out the quartet.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (42) and Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung (37) were relatively close behind. Dan Williams, chosen 26th overall by the Arizona Cardinals that year, ranked 26th on the list with 21 starts over the past three seasons.

All starts aren't quality starts, of course. McClain ranks relatively high on the list with 38 starts despite his bust status. Anyone familiar with the NFL would rather have Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas (23 starts) than Alualu, who has struggled with knee trouble and generally been just OK.

First-round picks from 2010 have combined for 21 Pro Bowl honors.

Maurkice Pouncey leads the way with three. Thomas is one of five players with two. Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Eric Berry and Jermaine Gresham are the others.

Iupati and Okung are part of an eight-man grouping with one Pro Bowl. Ryan Mathews, Thomas, Devin McCourty, Gerald McCoy, C.J. Spiller and Trent Williams are the others.

Iupati, Pouncey, Suh, Thomas and Pierre-Paul have been first-team Associated Press All-Pro once apiece.

Bradford was offensive rookie of the year. Suh won defensive rookie of the year.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals do not yet know which players will start at offensive tackle for them.

The Cardinals do have a pretty good idea which players those tackles will have to block in passing situations this season.

The list includes Jared Allen and Jason Babin, who combined for 40 sacks last season while ranking first and third, respectively, in that category. Overall, the Cardinals face nine of the 17 NFL players with at least 10 sacks last season, plus another player, John Abraham, who finished with 9.5. There are also players expected to reach double figures in sacks this season after failing to do so in 2011. Mario Williams and Clay Matthews head that list.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic identifies D'Anthony Batiste (left) and rookie Bobby Massie (right) as potential favorites to start at tackle after a triceps injury knocked out left tackle Levi Brown, perhaps for the season.

Batiste, 30, started four games for Atlanta in 2007. Massie, a fourth-round choice, started 29 consecutive games at right tackle to end his career at Mississippi.

The chart shows the Cardinals' 2012 schedule, plus projected top pass-rushers from the left and right sides of each opponent's defense. Those pass-rushers' sack totals from 2011 appear in parenthesis.

Last-minute look at mock drafts

April, 22, 2010
Nolan Nawrocki, Rob Rang, Rick Gosselin and Pat Kirwan have posted updated mock drafts recently.

The chart shows their predictions for NFC West teams, with links to their full mock drafts.

They agree on Sam Bradford at No. 1. Two think Eric Berry will land in Seattle at No. 6. Two like Anthony Davis to the 49ers at No. 13. None agreed on Seattle's choice at No. 14 or the 49ers' choice at No. 17. All predicted Arizona would take a linebacker -- Sean Weatherspoon or Brandon Graham -- at No. 26.

Rang has Seattle taking Jimmy Clausen at No. 6. Gosselin has Clausen going 30th to Minnesota. Not much of a consensus, in other words.

Note that Gosselin is the only one thinking Seattle will draft an offensive tackle in the first round. There's no question the Seahawks' obvious need for a tackle has made it easier to reach when making projections for Seattle at No. 6.

Around the NFC West: Cardinals' line

February, 24, 2010
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to move Levi Brown from right tackle to left tackle, with Mike Gandy leaving in free agency. Brandon Keith and Herman Johnson would compete for the starting job on the right side. I thought Johnson impressed during exhibition games as a rookie last season. He's huge and I'm not sure how he'll project as a blind-side protector for the left-handed Matt Leinart. On the other hand, Brown hasn't been air-tight in pass protection over the years, either. Getting Johnson in the lineup next to Deuce Lutui would give the Cardinals a huge offensive line.

Also from Somers: a look at issues facing the Cardinals this offseason. The team will not be rushing to extend Darnell Dockett, who has two years remaining on his deal.

Clare Farnsworth of expands on the idea that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll should have an advantage heading into the scouting combine after recruiting and coaching at the college level. Seattle holds the sixth and 14th choices in the 2010 draft. The team held the eighth overall choice in 1995, when Dennis Erickson was jumping to the NFL after a successful run at the college level. Seattle's draft class that year featured Joey Galloway, Christian Fauria, Jason Kyle, Henry McMillian, Eddie Goines and Keif Bryant.

Also from Farnsworth: a few thoughts on Ricky Foley's signing.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo as the Rams head to the scouting combine. Thomas expects the Rams to choose between Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen with the first overall choice. Devaney says he has some interest in seeing a medical report on Colt McCoy. Devaney on the draft in general: "I think wide receiver is going to be pretty deep. There may not be those stud impact guys, but it's a real good group. The offensive line -- tackles again. The past few years, there's been a pretty good run of tackles."

Jeff Gordon of thinks Marc Bulger could wind up with the Bucs. Gordon: "He is not going to retire. Several teams would covet him as a back-up next season, including Tampa Bay -– where Greg Olson is offensive coordinator. You will recall that Olson worked with Bulger as Scott Linehan’s nominal offensive coordinator. Bulger could regroup from his beatings in St. Louis, help tutor (Josh) Freeman and offer insurance if the kid needs to sit for a spell."

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring thoughts on the draft and free agency. Thomas: "If the Rams took Bradford at No. 1 overall, there's a lot of ways they could go in the second round. At DT, maybe (but not for certain) Dan Williams of Tennessee is still there. Or another DT, Jared Odrick of Penn State. The Rams could see if any of the edge rushers -- the best seem to be the 'tweeners this year -- are still on the board. The top of the second might be too high for RB Dexter McCluster. Then again, he might not be there at the top of the third."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says during a chat that the 49ers are almost certain to select an offensive lineman in the first round. Barrows: "I really don't see them bypassing an OL in the first round. Maybe if they felt confident a guy like Rodger Saffold (Indiana) could be had in the second, but that's risky. Nothing is a sure thing when it comes to the draft, but the 49ers taking an OL is as sure as it gets."

Also from Barrows: The 49ers visited with former Titans and Cardinals pass-rusher Travis LaBoy, who was forced out of football by injuries last season.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Aubrayo Franklin joins Julian Peterson, Terrell Owens and Steve Young as franchise players for the 49ers.

Also from Maiocco: He compares draft prospect Taylor Mays to Dana Hall, a first-round disappointment from the 49ers' past.

Around the NFC West: Backing Leinart

February, 19, 2010
Darren Urban of says coach Ken Whisenhunt expressed confidence in Matt Leinart as the team's starting quarterback. Whisenhunt: "Matt has been here for three years with us, he’s been in this offense, he understands the offense. We’re obviously going to do some things with Matt that fit his skill set, things we didn’t do with Kurt -- moving in the pocket, getting him out in open space, things Matt does well — but we have great confidence that Matt can execute the offense we have been running the last couple of years. He has shown progress in that." The Cardinals have responded when others have doubted them. They'll have plenty of chances for that in 2010 now that Kurt Warner is retired. But if Arizona was in the 9-7 and 10-6 range with Warner, it's realistic to think the Cardinals will be less than that with Leinart.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic thinks the Cardinals are taking a wait-and-see approach with Karlos Dansby. McManaman: "The team appears to be gambling that Dansby won't command as much as a free agent as he would as a franchise player, which could be as much as $16 million guaranteed."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sizes up the 49ers' wide receivers and says the team has sufficient talent at that position. I would agree, particularly with tight end Vernon Davis' ability to line up in various places and threaten defenses down the field. Maiocco: "It is rarely good strategy for teams to make big investments in more than one receiver. It only makes sense when teams are built around a passing game. The 49ers are not built around the passing game. That's why I think the 49ers have a lot of other needs that should be addressed long before they look at spending more money (or high draft picks) on this position."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at how Rolando McClain, Jared Odrick and C.J. Spiller might fit into the 49ers' draft plans. Barrows: "There's a sense that McClain was the beneficiary of an NFL-caliber defensive line at Alabama that included 370-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody."

Ted Miller of checks in with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at the NCAA hearings for USC, but there wasn't much to say on the first day. Miller: "He will be interviewed by the NCAA. The gist, of course, will be what he knew of former running back Reggie Bush's dealings with would-be agents. And if he should have known. Carroll has long contended that he knew nothing." This situation shouldn't affect Carroll's job with the Seahawks even if the NCAA finds fault with his compliance while at USC.

Gary Klein and David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times say Carroll spent the afternoon fielding questions inside the hearing room. Carroll: "I wanted to be on hand to support the university and the program and do what I could to help." Carroll heads to the combine with the rest of the Seahawks' brain trust next week.

Nick Wagoner of takes a detailed look at the Rams' new playing surface in the Edward Jones Dome. This story has been on the Rams' site for a week, but I missed it previously and found some of the details interesting. The new surface matches the surface at the Rams' indoor practice facility. It can be removed and stored, whereas the previous surface had to be thrown out each offseason to accommodate other events at the Edward Jones Dome. Surface changes tend to heighten interest in injury-related developments. Keenan Burton's knee injury last season stood out as one that seemed potentially surface-related, although it's tough to know for sure. The previous surface was new every year, but the Rams didn't think that had anything to do with their injury troubles. Executive Kevin Demoff: "There’s no data we have ever seen that says our field is unsafe or that the changing of the field made any difference. It was groomed and handled much the same way you would any other field. I think it was more a rash of bad luck than anything else. We have studied and we couldn’t find any relationship."

Tom Kowalski of thinks the Rams will select Sam Bradford with the first pick in the 2010 draft.

Around the NFC West: Rolle's strategy

February, 18, 2010
Darren Urban of says the Cardinals are speaking with Antrel Rolle about a new contract. Rolle's salary jumps past $8 million in 2010 and the Cardinals have to pay him a $4 million bonus by March 5 to prevent him from becoming a free agent. Urban: "If the Cards believe there is a good chance of getting something done, there really isn’t any urgency to reach a new agreement before needing to pay out the bonus because Rolle will get that money (and then some) anyway. But there’s an element of high-stakes poker to this too. Rolle doesn’t have to do anything and force the Cards' hand, although in this market, all players need to be wary of what they can get." If the Cardinals pay the $4 million, Rolle should just play out his contract and see what happens, in my view.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals plan to conduct business as usual this offseason. The Cardinals face quite a few challenges. They have a long list of free agents and their quarterback retired. It's a tribute to the coaching staff and organization if this team can get to .500 next season under the circumstances.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams succeeded in claiming tight end Derek Fine off waivers from Buffalo. Thomas: "With veteran Randy McMichael scheduled for unrestricted free agency and unlikely to return to St. Louis, the Rams are looking for options at tight end. Blocking specialist Billy Bajema returns in 2010 and Daniel Fells is scheduled for restricted free agency. Fine is viewed more as an H-back/receiving tight end." Injuries have limited Fine, a fourth-round choice in 2008. Four months ago, the Bills considered Fine a promising prospect. More on him in a bit.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says holding the No. 1 overall draft choice puts pressure on the Rams' leadership, particularly with a new owner waiting to take over the team. Miklasz: "The pressure on general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo is enormous. You see, this isn't just a question of hitting the lotto on that No. 1 pick. There's much more at stake than that. This draft could alter the future of the franchise, on and off the field. This draft could impact the job security of Devaney and Spagnuolo, who are working hard to overcome the football crimes and misdemeanors committed by the previous Rams' regime."

Also from Miklasz: Marshall Faulk has more harsh words for the Rams, this time via The Sporting News.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says ESPN's Mel Kiper thinks the 49ers could use running back C.J. Spiller. Kiper: "I think they need him. I think they need a return man of his skills, they need a back of his ability to complement Frank Gore, which I don't think Glen Coffee is. And most of these teams now, the majority of these teams have a stable of three backs that complement each other, so it doesn't matter who you have as your lead guy. You need that 2 and that 3. Certainly Spiller is something they don't have."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with former Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah, who points to Penn State's Jared Odrick as a defensive end the 49ers could consider in the first round. Jeremiah: "He's climbing really quick. He's a really good player. He's a perfect 5-technique guy. He's a perfect 3-4 end because he has the size with his height and length and he's really strong at the point, so he can hang in there and two-gap if he has to. He's really good against the run and he has some quickness he can use in the pass game. A lot of people are comparing him to Aaron Smith of the Bengals." This is a good read because Jeremiah is very specific.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald says Seahawks receiver Deion Branch would love to rejoin the Patriots this offseason if Seattle doesn't bring him back. Branch: "I never wanted to leave, nor did Coach [Bill] Belichick and his staff and the organization want me to leave, either. We just couldn’t get the contractual part down. We just couldn’t come to an agreement. And that stuff happens. ... For us to reunite, I don’t know. I would probably be crying at the press conference, if it happens. Look, I’ve enjoyed my time with the Seahawks. I would love to stay in Seattle. But if it happens, if it presents itself, that would be great."