NFC West: Joe Haden

Using an early draft choice for an unusually young player can carry risks.

The upside: a potentially longer career window.

As noted earlier Thursday, the San Francisco 49ers' Anthony Davis and the Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas are among three players to start all 48 games over the past three seasons before turning 24. Davis has already received a contract extension. Thomas is in line for one.

The chart breaks out all others with more than 35 starts over the past three seasons before they turned 24. Rolando McClain stands out as an exception for the wrong reasons. Most of the others have met general expectations.

That doesn't necessarily mean teams should rush out to draft especially young players. In some cases, it means exceptionally talented players were good enough to attract teams' interest in the absence of college seasoning.

Four of the players in the chart have achieved Pro Bowl and first-team Associated Press All-Pro status: Thomas, Pierre-Paul, Rob Gronkowski and Maurkice Pouncey. Thomas and Pouncey have also been second-team All-Pro choices.
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.

710ESPN Seattle audio: Paying Sherman

April, 23, 2013
Kam Chancellor has a new contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Defensive teammates Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright can become free agents after the 2014 season. Each could be in line for a new deal in the next year or so.

Sherman's name and contractual future came up in conversation Monday when Brock Huard, Danny O'Neil, John Clayton and I got together for a segment on 710ESPN Seattle .

How much can a team justify paying a top cornerback? That will be a question for the Seahawks to consider when it comes to paying Sherman. Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey, Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan have all been earning at least $10 million per season. Revis, Carr, Joe Haden, Finnegan, Johnathan Joseph and Brandon Flowers have all gotten at least $20 million guaranteed.

The chart shows the NFL cornerbacks with the highest average salaries in the first three years of their contracts. The figures for Revis will be revised once details are known regarding his new deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sherman has made it clear he thinks there isn't a cornerback better than him in the NFL. He's been a bargain as a fifth-round draft choice. And while Sherman has sounded grateful over the opportunity Seattle has provided for him, expectations for a new contract should be exceedingly high if Sherman continues to play at a high level. Someone would pay top dollar for what he can provide.

It could be the Seahawks. The next couple drafts will be critical in giving the team cheaper alternatives at a few positions. Cornerback is one of those positions. Wide receiver is another. The team will want to have options at those positions while deciding how much to pay Sherman, Sidney Rice and possibly Golden Tate for the long term.
Arizona Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd was fifth and Seattle Seahawks pass-rusher Bruce Irvin sixth on John Clayton's list of 10 new draft choices likely to make the greatest immediate impact.

"Floyd's presence may force defenses into more zone coverages, because it will be hard to double Larry Fitzgerald and match up man-to-man against Floyd," Clayton theorized. "Irvin is probably the draft's best pass-rusher and should put up double-digit sack numbers early in his career."

Let's consider that a launching point for a discussion EDTGO jump-started from his luxury box in the comments section of an earlier item on Arizona's draft thinking.

"Floyd will be starting and will have the best position of the rookies to get stats," he wrote.

Rookie receivers making at least 10 starts from 2009 through last season averaged 46 receptions for 721 yards and five touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. Cincinnati's A.J. Green and Tampa Bay's Mike Williams had the most receptions of the group (65 apiece). Green, Williams and Julio Jones each topped 900 yards. Those three joined Torrey Smith as the only ones with more than six touchdown receptions.

We shouldn't forget about St. Louis Rams second-round receiver Brian Quick. He has a good chance at starting. The Rams thought Quick reminded them of Terrell Owens from a physical standpoint. Owens had 35 catches for 520 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, making 10 starts.

The status for San Francisco 49ers first-round receiver A.J. Jenkins could be tougher to define initially. He could wind up starting if the Randy Moss experiment does not work out. He could also ease into the role, getting fewer opportunities as the 49ers run their offense through other players primarily.

Double-digit sacks from Irvin might be enough to eclipse for impact the projected receiving numbers from Floyd, Quick or Jenkins.

Five rookies since 2009 have collected at least 10 sacks. San Francisco's Aldon Smith, with 14 sacks last season, was the only one to do so as a backup. Von Miller, Brian Orakpo, Clay Matthews and Ndamukong Suh -- all first-round choices, as were Smith and Irvin -- reached double digits in sacks while starting at least 13 games.

Carlos Dunlap had 9.5 sacks in 12 games, none of them starts, for Cincinnati in 2010.

Irvin should benefit from the Seahawks' very specific plans for him. The team got nine sacks in zero starts from Raheem Brock in 2010. Irvin will play a similar role and a similar percentage of the snaps, giving him a very good chance to eclipse Brock's total -- if he's talented enough to produce those numbers. Brock played about 50 percent of the snaps for Seattle in each of the last two seasons.

Who else deserves our consideration?

"Janoris Jenkins has a shot ... assuming he can keep his head on straight," ramm428a wrote.

"Yep," randdles wrote, "Jenkins will get to face five of the top QBs this year, he could make a big impact."

Matthew Stafford, Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are among the high-profile quarterbacks Jenkins, a second-round cornerback with first-round talent, will face in his initial season with the Rams. Jenkins will face those quarterbacks by Week 8, giving him a chance to shape perceptions early.

Devin McCourty and Joe Haden are the only drafted cornerbacks to exceed five interceptions as rookies over the past three seasons.

"Michael Brockers could have a huge impact," JohnnyP3180 wrote of the Rams' first-round choice. "Not flashy, but he could make the biggest difference for his team."

That might be true, but as a run stuffer, Brockers probably won't accumulate the stats players often need to draw acclaim. We'll be sure to monitor Brockers' contributions closely regardless.

Referee Ron Winter waved off one of the interference penalties against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson in Week 9.

"There is no foul for defensive pass interference," Winter announced. "The contact and the ball arrived at the same time."

Peterson has incurred nine assessed or declined penalties this season, one behind NFL leaders Brandon Browner, Rodger Saffold and Ryan Clady. Six of the nine were for coverage-related violations on defense.

But as Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton told reporters Friday, Peterson isn't the only one making an adjustment. The rookie's aggressive playing style might require officials to adjust as well. Winter's decision to pick up the flag for pass interference might indicate that is happening already. What looks like interference isn't always interference.

The chart shows NFL players with the most penalties for defensive pass interference, defensive holding and illegal contact this season. Peterson ranks tied for second on the list. He has additional penalties for roughing the kicker, jumping offside and illegal use of hands.

Peterson has impressive company on the list, notably Ike Taylor and Charles Woodson. A few other big names, including Nnamdi Asomugha, have three such penalties.

Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information provided the penalty info.

Current NFC West cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2009), Marcus Trufant (2007) and Nate Clements (2004) have been to Pro Bowls over the years.

None appeared on the 10-man ballot I submitted for's positional power rankings. The chart shows my ballot. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky has the overall results.

Rodgers-Cromartie would have made my list a year ago. He tied for the NFL lead with 15 penalties in 2010, up from two the previous season. Consistency was a problem.

Trufant started last season strong, but his play mirrored his team's play. Injuries struck the defensive front seven, sidelining Red Bryant, Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane. The ankle injury Trufant suffered against San Diego early in the season played a role. He is 30 years old and coming off a season in which he suffered two concussions during a 56-day period.

The 31-year-old Clements, like Trufant, started all 16 games last season. The 49ers' pass defense struggled, however, and Clements will not return to the 49ers under terms of his current contract. The team is expected to draft a cornerback this year.

Sizing up my ballot: I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to look at my ballot. His take: "The top two are far and away the best. And overall this list looks quite good. I would move up Flowers four or five spots. I think I would put Tramon Williams over his teammate, Charles Woodson. Antoine Winfield might be a little low as well. Joe Haden and Devin McCourty were equally good as rookies. Actually, I might even like Haden better. I am also pretty high on Vontae Davis. Asante Samuel just doesn't tackle or play the run. I would move him down some."

Name to keep in mind: Ron Bartell. The St. Louis Rams' corner earned one vote from our eight panelists, with Kuharsky ranking him 10th. Bartell defends the ball well. He tackles well. He supports the run. He has tremendous size for the position at 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds. Bartell can take the next step by making impact plays. He has no interceptions over the last two seasons. Top corners Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha also have few picks recently, but the playmaking ability they showed earlier in their careers made opponents wary. Bartell has not made that happen.

2011 NFL draft: Cornerback conundrum

March, 11, 2011
LSU's Patrick Peterson might be the best player in the 2011 NFL draft, but history stands firmly against him becoming the first overall choice.

A cornerback has never gone first overall in a draft.

Pat Yasinskas' piece on the matter got me thinking about the Arizona Cardinals' and San Francisco 49ers' outlook for the position this year. Arizona picks fifth. San Francisco picks seventh. A cornerback could stand as the highest-ranked player available when the Cardinals and 49ers choose. San Francisco in particular has a clear need at the position.

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireCoverage skills and the ability to return kicks make Patrick Peterson a valuable commodity.
What to do? And what about that history on taking cornerbacks early in the draft?

Let's set aside quarterback for the sake of this discussion. The 49ers and Cardinals both need one. Both would have to strongly consider drafting one in the first round if they had one of the prospects rated highly. Let's assume, for our purposes, that they head in another direction near the top of the draft.

Scouting reports on Peterson suggest he's a special talent, not only at cornerback but as a returner. The 49ers could use his services in both capacities.

The Cardinals have more pressing needs in other areas. Their new defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, is a former secondary coach and NFL cornerback. He'll have a strong opinion on Peterson, but he also badly needs pass-rush help at outside linebacker. If the Cardinals have an outside linebacker rated nearly as high as Peterson, they'll have to consider upgrading their pass rush.

A quick look at the eight cornerbacks drafted among the top seven overall choices in the past 15 drafts, ordered by overall position:

Third overall

Shawn Springs, Seattle Seahawks (1997): Springs picked off 33 passes and went to one Pro Bowl in 13 seasons. Injuries dogged him. He started 10 or fewer games six times. Springs also served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on steroids and anabolic substances. Springs was a good player for a long time, but his raw talent suggested he would make a greater impact.

Fourth overall

Charles Woodson, Oakland Raiders (1998): Woodson is a seven-time Pro Bowl choice. He was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. He played a key role in Green Bay's development into a Super Bowl champion. Woodson has 47 interceptions and has returned 10 of them for touchdowns. These are the sorts of credentials that will make Woodson a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Fifth overall

Terence Newman, Dallas Cowboys, 2003: Newman has two Pro Bowl appearances in his past four seasons and 28 career interceptions. He has started 16 games six times in eight seasons. The Cowboys signed Newman to a lucrative extension in 2008. They like him. Newman is a very good player. Sometimes that is good enough, even for prospects drafted this early. The two players drafted immediately after Newman -- Johnathan Sullivan and Byron Leftwich -- make the Cowboys' decision look quite smart by comparison.

Bryant Westbrook, Detroit Lions, 1997: Injuries derailed Westbrook's career, preventing complete analysis. Westbrook suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in his fourth season and another one in his sixth season. He was out of the league by age 28. Westbrook picked off 13 passes and bounced back from injuries admirably, but they caught up to him in the end.

Quentin Jammer, San Diego Chargers, 2002: The Chargers named Jammer one of the 50 greatest players in their history despite perceptions that he hasn't quite lived up to expectations. Those perceptions could be misguided. Jammer is not flashy, but he is a good, durable cornerback. Nnamdi Asomugha and Champ Bailey have overshadowed him in the AFC West and made it tough for Jammer to earn Pro Bowl recognition.

Sixth overall

Pacman Jones, Tennessee Titans (2005): Off-field problems ran Jones out of the league. He returned with Cincinnati but has not come close to meeting expectations.

Seventh overall

Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns (2010): Haden picked off six passes during his rookie season. It's too early to size up his career, obviously, but Haden is off to a promising start.

Champ Bailey, Washington Redskins (1999): Ten Pro Bowl appearances and shutdown coverage skills make Bailey an obvious choice for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not much more to say.

Seventh pick too much for Kevin Kolb?

February, 17, 2011
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.

Some asked before the draft whether the 49ers would invest both first-round picks in their offensive line.

I downplayed the odds. Generally the value doesn't line up with need to that degree.

The 49ers proved otherwise by selecting Idaho guard Mike Iupati at No. 17 after trading up for Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis.

San Francisco also added Mike Solari to coach its line this offseason.

The 49ers are acknowledging what fans knew -- that their offensive line let them down last season. Davis and Iupati give the 49ers building blocks to bolster a foundation already featuring tackle Joe Staley and center Eric Heitmann.

This move made sense after top defensive backs Eric Berry, Joe Haden and Earl Thomas were no longer available. This move also exposed the Jimmy Clausen rumors as smoke. If the 49ers really wanted Clausen, they wouldn't have taken a guard instead of him.

Case closed.

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.

Mailbag: Ginn's viability for 49ers

April, 14, 2010
Matt from Santa Cruz., Calif., writes: Hey Sando, could the Brandon Marshall trade still affect the NFC West? The Niners need a returner (and a third second/third receiver). Maybe they pick up Ted Ginn Jr.? Possible?

Mike Sando: The 49ers will probably take their chances in the draft. That is just my feel. They could draft a position player with return capabilities.

Adding Ginn for a later-round pick would make sense on one level because Ginn is young and has made impact plays in the return game.

But the 49ers would also inherit a contract paying more than $1 million in salary for 2010 and nearly $1.4 million for 2011, with an escalator that could add another $2.9 million in salary for 2011. I wouldn't give away a decent draft choice just to take a one-year flier on a return specialist if the 49ers didn't think Ginn could help at receiver.

The 49ers like bigger position players as a general rule. Ginn weighs 180 pounds.

The Rams' return game was fine with Danny Amendola back there. The Cardinals drafted LaRod Stephens-Howling in the seventh round and he nearly won the Tennessee game for them with a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Of course, Ginn isn't a bad player just because he might not fit with the Dolphins. He was a holdover from the previous leadership. As a high pick, his struggles have come to symbolize what was wrong with the Dolphins. They're moving in another direction now.

Ginn burned the Jets for two kickoff returns of 100-plus yards last season. He hasn't returned punts on a regular basis since his rookie season in 2007, and his punt-return averages have fallen off as well. Could just be a matter of opportunities.

Kevin from Phoenix writes: Mike, thanks for keeping us all up to date on everything NFC West! So, Brandon Marshall has been traded by the Broncos, leaving a huge void for them at wide receiver.

A while back, I asked if you thought the Cardinals would have been interested in dealing Anquan Boldin and a pick -- second or third round -- to get Elvis Dumervil from the Broncos. Obviously, this trade would have been contingent on Marshall moving on. My question was met with some scrutiny from you and some of your followers, but no team has really received what they wanted for their "marquee" trade bait.

With that in mind, and with how cheap the Ravens signed Boldin for, do you think the Broncos would have been better taking Boldin and a third for Dumervil? I also asked if the Cardinals would be able to get Antonio Cromartie for a second, and look what the Jets did. Frustrating!

Mike Sando: The Jets are winning the offseason, no question. We'll see how it all fits together. I'm usually a little skeptical. The offseason hype doesn't automatically translate. Tell me how well Mark Sanchez plays. That's the most important variable in determining whether the Jets improve.

Dumervil wasn't going anywhere. I just saw no reason for the Broncos to trade an excellent young pass-rusher. Getting rid of Marshall was bad enough. He also should have been a cornerstone player based on age, ability and recent production.

It's tough when the whole league knows you're trying to move an unhappy player. The value is never going to be as great. Denver did well getting a couple second-round choices for Marshall.

Jacob from Denmark writes: Hi Mike. If Stan Kroenke does gets full ownership of the Rams, do you think there would be any chance that he would move the team to London? Also, commissioner Roger Goodell has been very interested in the European market. Do you think he would be more likely to bend the cross-ownership rules if Kroenke wanted to make the Rams the first European NFL franchise?

Mike Sando: Kroenke does own a 29.98 percent stake in Arsenal of the Premier League, so his sports interests extend beyond U.S. borders, but we're probably a ways off from the NFL expanding across oceans. That is just my opinion. What a hassle it would be for teams to travel.

Kroenke would probably push for a new stadium in St. Louis before exploring options elsewhere.

I'm mostly interested in seeing what conditions might apply to his eventual approval as full owner of the Rams and whether any conditions would restrict his options to move the team. I think he'll get approved. The bigger question is just under what terms.

Brandon from Kirkland, Wash., writes: Hey Sando, thanks for reading. Do you think having the Williams duo trying out at camp had anything to do with the Hawks not pulling the trigger on Marshall?

Mike Sando: No. Mike Williams and Reggie Williams haven't had enough time to show the Seahawks anything to this point. Several factors could have affected how far Seattle was willing to go. It probably came down to price unless the Broncos preferred trading Marshall to Miami for unknown reasons.

Tim from Norfolk, Va., writes: Mike, I read the blog every day, so I was wondering what the prospect is of the 49ers drafting Joe Haden at 13, C.J. Spiller at 17, and then trading up in the second round for Rodger Saffold if we do not have a shot at one of the premier tackles?

Mike Sando: One general manager I spoke with recently thought Saffold would probably go in the first round. I also question whether Spiller would remain available that late. It's tough to say for sure because so many variables can affect the direction a team goes during a draft. Haden and Spiller seem like decent candidates for Jacksonville at No. 10.

Draft scenario for the 49ers

April, 11, 2010
Austin asks via Twitter: If both available for Niners, Haden or Bulaga at 13?

Mike Sando: Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga would have to be the choice, in my view, if he and Florida cornerback Joe Haden were both available to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 13. Bulaga is close to 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds. The scouting reports say he could play multiple positions on an NFL line, including tackle, and with Pro Bowl potential. There's seemingly a good chance Bulaga could be gone among the Top 10 overall choices.

Teams can mask weaknesses in their secondaries easier than they can mask weaknesses at offensive tackle. That's why I would take the tackle over the cornerback, particularly that early, even if their ratings were equal and a team had needs at both positions.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers highlights from an XTRA910 radio interview with Cardinals quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. Somers: "Miller was forthcoming with his opinions on the top quarterbacks in this draft. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is big, strong and throws a tight spiral. Like most people, Miller thinks the Rams will take Bradford with the first pick. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen is impressive, too, but Miller said teams have to wonder how much he will improve. Clausen played at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis in a pro system. Texas' Colt McCoy doesn't have a great arm and might have some trouble throwing some routes. But Miller likes McCoy's leadership ability and toughness and thinks he could be a good QB, maybe best suited for a West Coast attack."

Darren Urban of says new Cardinals kicker Jay Feely doesn't shy away from contact, same as predecessor Neil Rackers. Feely: "If you see the play develop and you have the guts and ability to go down and fill that hole at the 25-yard line, they only have two or three yards to beat you and you can make the play. That’s when I feel like a football player too."

Also from Urban: Catching up with globetrotting Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Brian McIntyre of passes along dates for the Seahawks' organized team activities. The team has a minicamp scheduled for next week.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks will not select Clausen in the first round, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper. I wasn't able to hear all of Kiper's media conference call Wednesday, but at one point I thought he said Seattle could consider Clausen. I'm in the minority on this one, though. Multiple reports are quoting Kiper to the contrary. The call lasted two-plus hours.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says there's too much smoke before a draft to make sense of various projections. Boling on Seattle: "Some of the talk suggests that they don’t need to expend high-end picks on offensive linemen because of the nature of the zone-blocking scheme brought in by new line coach Alex Gibbs. Baloney. This line has been dreadful and the tackle on that left side is still going to have to block the best pass rushers in the league regardless of scheme. Look at the big picture. How would it have been in 1997 if somebody had said they didn’t want to take Walter Jones because he didn’t fit the current scheme. The Seahawks are on their fourth head coach since Jones was drafted. Schemes have come and gone; great players persist."

Michael Lombardi of says the Broncos still want a first-round choice for Brandon Marshall, and that trade talks could accelerate. Seattle would not give up one of its current first-round choices for Marshall, in my view, unless the team received something more in return.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Clausen while noting that the Rams appear more likely to select Bradford. Clausen: "I've played in a pro-style offense for the past three years, played under center under coach (Charlie) Weis, and I feel that I'm the most ready guy out there. ... I think I translate the best to the NFL because I've already had to deal with what those guys are going to have to go through, which is learning a pro-style system and having growing pains growing up in a system."

Also from Thomas: Na'il Diggs is the newest Ram. Thomas: "Rams general manager Billy Devaney has continued to work on getting bigger in the front seven this offseason, in an effort to improve the team's run defense. Diggs, a 6-feet-4 and 240 pounds, had good size for an outside linebacker and has a reputation as a good run defender."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Diggs is most likely to play the strong side, contrary to expectations.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Diggs' addition gives the Rams three linebackers from Ohio State.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says during a chat that the 49ers would be wise to draft Dan Williams, if available, because teams running 3-4 defenses need good nose tackles and Aubrayo Franklin could leave after the 2010 season. Barrows on Alex Smith: "My gut feeling is that he'll have his best year yet but that there will be enough bad spots that at the end of the year we'll still be asking the same questions about him. Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but I just don't see it being black and white."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers draft advice for the 49ers. He lists Russell Okung, Trent Williams, Bryan Bulaga, Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Derrick Morgan and Sergio Kindle as players the 49ers should draft if available to them (the assumption being that Bradford, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy would be long gone).

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers should use mid-round picks for offensive tackles if the team cannot find one worth taking in the first round.

Kiper mock update: 49ers at No. 13

April, 7, 2010
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, available with commentary Insider to Insider subscribers, features quite a few changes.

I'm providing updated thoughts, focusing next on the 49ers (additional analysis here):

13. San Francisco 49ers

Mel's latest pick: Joe Haden, CB, Florida

My thoughts: Kiper likewise had Haden heading to the 49ers in his last mock draft after projecting Clemson running C.J. Spiller as the choice initially. Haden's disappointing 40-yard time at the combine was a focus previously, and an overrated one. Value could match need if Haden is available, although the 49ers arguably have a greater need at tackle. Unlike some of the second-tier tackle prospects that might be available in this spot, Haden has earned praise as a player ready to step into the starting lineup quickly and effectively. The 49ers still have Nate Clements, and Shawntae Spencer exceeded expectations following knee surgery. The team could use a talented young cornerback, though, and Haden seems to fit the profile. The choice should be easier for some 49ers fans to stomach if the more exciting Spiller isn't available here.

Kiper thinks 49ers can get tackle

April, 7, 2010
ESPN's Mel Kiper, still in the early stages of an extended conference-call session with reporters, thinks the 49ers might be able to find their next right tackle at No. 17, later than I was thinking.

Kiper sees the 49ers possibly getting a cornerback such as Joe Haden at No. 13, then having a shot at Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis four picks later. He thought the 49ers then might look for a receiver with return skills in the second round. Minnesota's Eric Decker and Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard were receivers Kiper mentioned as possibilities.

Kiper pointed to Davis as a tackle with top-five talent, but enough question marks to slip the way Michael Oher did last year. That would be a fortuitous scenario for the 49ers and one that seems a little unlikely, at least to me.

A general manager I spoke with this week said he thought a tackle could be off the board among the top three picks, with the Redskins selecting tackle Trent Williams at No. 4 under that scenario. If the Chiefs also took a tackle -- Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, for example -- an early run on tackles could make the 49ers sweat.