NFC West: Larry English
They'll have one fewer option at fullback after naming starter Quinton Ganther inactive Sunday. Ganther has a knee injury. Michael Robinson played fullback some against the Denver Broncos in Week 2.
Also inactive for Seattle against San Diego: Nate Ness, Leroy Hill, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Chester Pitts, Russell Okung, Anthony McCoy and E.J. Wilson. Pitts could become available on the offensive line in Week 4. He has not played since undergoing microfracture knee surgery last season.
Inactive for San Diego: Ryan Mathews, Larry English, Stephen Cooper, Cam Thomas, Adam Terry, Vaughn Martin and Jyles Tucker. J.T. O'Sullivan is the third quarterback. Matthews had not been expected to play after suffering an ankle injury against Jacksonville in Week 2.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The chart compares mock drafts from four veteran NFC West beat reporters. The four -- Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic and Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times -- combined to project 39 players for first-round status.
Unanimous first-round choices (24): Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry, B.J. Raji, Brian Orakpo, Mark Sanchez, Michael Crabtree, Andre Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Oher, Chris Wells, Robert Ayers, Knowshon Moreno, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Brandon Pettigrew, Rey Maualuga, Josh Freeman, Peria Jerry, Ziggy Hood, Eben Britton.
Three first-round selections (8): Larry English, Aaron Maybin, Darius Butler, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kenny Britt, Vontae Davis, Hakeem Nicks, Donald Brown.
Two first-round selections: (1): Phil Loadholt.
One first-round selection (6): LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Alphonso Smith, Everette Brown, Eric Wood, Fili Moala.
Unanimous top-five picks (3): Stafford, Smith and Curry.
Unanimous top-10 picks (6): Stafford, Smtih, Curry, Monroe, Raji and Crabtree.
Unanimous top-15 picks (12): Stafford, Smith, Curry, Monroe, Raji, Crabtree, Jackson, Sanchez, Smith, Maclin, Oher, Orakpo.
Largest disparity, earliest vote to lowest vote: Ayers, 18 spots; Jenkins and Matthews, 16 spots, Butler (14), English (10), Pettigrew (10), Hood (10) and Britton (10).
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree has come off as a prima donna during pre-draft interviews with teams. Thomas: "There are questions about Crabtree's foot and attitude. His diva attitude during pre-draft visits turned off the Rams and the Browns (who pick fifth overall) to the point where neither team is considering Crabtree for their first-round pick." Televised interviews with Crabtree have raised questions in my mind about how the Seahawks might view him as well. Would veteran receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Nate Burleson be able to mentor him effectively? Might the prima donna tendencies grow worse with money in Crabtree's pockets and people around him telling him how great he is?
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at ways the Rams and other NFL teams process draft-related information. Former Rams coach Dick Vermeil says it's harder for teams to mislead one another.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects action from Rams general manager Billy Devaney during the draft. Burwell: "Devaney has said that he'll be aggressive. He is not afraid to take chances, to make moves, to wheel and deal his way around the draft board. I'm still not sure he can pull off a trade to move down in the first round. The better bet is that Devaney will work hard once the draft begins to move up out of that second-round pick (No. 35 overall) into the lower half of the first round."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic outlines what the Cardinals want in a running back to pair with Tim Hightower. Somers: "Hightower would seem to fit the role of the inside pounder, the gainer of tough yards. He proved adept last season at picking up first downs and scoring touchdowns. He struggled some when he was the featured back and ended up with more runs for negative yards than coaches found acceptable. Luckily for the Cardinals, the upcoming draft is deep in running backs. And it's possible that one of the top three -- Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, Ohio State's Chris Wells and Connecticut's Donald Brown -- will be there when the Cardinals pick at No. 31."
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean says nothing appears imminent between Tennessee and Arizona even though the Titans have inquired about Anquan Boldin. My take, lifted from our Thursday chat: "Knowing [Titans GM] Mike Reinfeldt, I'm questioning whether he would want to give up picks for a player, then meet that player's very high demands on a long-term agreement."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com also does not expect the Titans to move seriously for Boldin.
Also from Urban: Larry Fitzgerald is indeed sharing the cover on the 2010 version of John Madden's football video game.
More from Urban: Hightower has dropped 15 pounds and improved his conditioning. Scheduling issues had hurt his conditioning last offseason.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune describes Aaron Curry as the "safe pick [Seahawks general manager Tim] Ruskell covets" in the draft.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says no 2009 NFL draft prospect has made him waffle more than Crabtree. O'Neil: "Dude is a playmaker, flat-out. ... I've worried that the spread offense inflated his numbers, too much. That he might be a product of a system, but then you watch how the man runs after the catch and you imagine what he would do in the Seahawks' offense with the new emphasis on the play-action pass."
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com says the Seahawks hope to put substance before hype in determining which players to draft. Farnsworth: "There has been talk, from Ruskell, among others, that this draft lacks the franchise-quality players who justify being selected -- and paid -- as Top 5 picks. It's a situation that has prompted the Seahawks to look at top of this draft class differently."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle offers a first-round mock draft featuring the following NFC West selections: Jason Smith (Rams), Mark Sanchez (Seahawks), Knowshon Moreno (49ers) and Donald Brown (Cardinals). The Moreno pick would not shock me -- the 49ers would arguably be selecting the top back in the draft -- but it would probably shock Frank Gore.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider takes a round-by-round look at draft prospects who might help the 49ers on offense.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat lists the 49ers' top five needs in this order: pass-rusher, offensive tackle, receiver, running back and quarterback.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists seven players as possibilities for the 49ers with the 10th overall choice in the draft: Crabtree, Aaron Curry, Tyson Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Oher, Brian Orakpo and B.J. Raji. Barrows: "No one knows for sure, but it's a safe bet the following players are gone before the 49ers are on the clock: quarterbacks Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez, offensive tackles Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith. (And, yes, A. Smith will be gone)."
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 2009 draft could make or break Scot McCloughan's tenure as the 49ers' general manager.
Briandean of Niners Nation suggests which players the 49ers should draft in each round: Oher (1), Larry English (2), Ramses Barden (3), Coye Francies (4), James Davis (5), Devin Moore (5), Mike Reilly (6), Bear Pascoe (7) and Mich
ael Mitchell (7).
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals' search for quality outside linebackers continues. As Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic pointed out, none of the team's drafted linebackers has earned a Pro Bowl berth since E.J. Junior in 1985.
Division rivals Seattle (Lofa Tatupu) and San Francisco (Patrick Willis) have each drafted a Pro Bowl linebacker in the last four years. Perhaps the Cardinals' turn comes this year. The team figures to target the position, if practical, somewhere in the first few rounds. The Cardinals will look for players to fit the 3-4 tendencies Arizona will likely show under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis.
The chart -- showing every linebacker the team has taken this decade, with general manager Rod Graves in a leadership role the whole time -- adds perspective.
The Cardinals haven't drafted a linebacker higher than 33rd during that span. Going back further, Graves' teams twice used the 11th choice for the position -- John Thierry (1994) and Wilber Marshall (1984) in Chicago -- but eight of the 35 linebackers Graves' teams have drafted since 1984 have fallen among the 33rd through 51st picks. That was nearly three times the rate for the rest of the league during the same span.
Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. offered a few thoughts on the Cardinals' search for an outside linebacker in this draft:
- "That is going to be tough. If you look at our first-round mock, four positions will dominate: OLB, OT, QB and WR. Finding that hybrid guy in the late first round is going to be tough. The guy we have them taking is [Connecticut running back] Donald Brown just because of the value."
- "The guy they could reach a tiny bit for and a guy we are high on is Larry English, outside linebacker/defensive end from Northern Illinois. A lot of people are high on this guy. He is a home run in the second round. If you get him late first, we are not talking about much of a reach."
- "Another guy who could sneak into the late first round is Connor Barwin, who is just an amazing athlete and has the mental makeup to develop into a very good pass-rusher off the edge. He's going to come off the board fairly early in the second round."
- "[Connecticut defensive end] Cody Brown is someone we think they can get late in the second round. He could convert to outside linebacker. He is not as talented as the Larry Englishes and the Connor Barwins, but he is a solid outside rusher prospect in a 3-4 scheme."
- "You see eight guys in the second round [for Graves' teams since 1984]. The thing that jumps out is that out of all these years and all the linebackers, two in the first round, a great deal in the second and the middle rounds dominated, too. Maybe that is what you say. If their running back is there in the first, the good value for an outside linebacker could be from the second round on."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers' Web site provides Shaun Hill's answers to fans' questions. Hil on the widely held position that he doesn't have a great arm: "I think there are a lot of experts who have wrongly evaluated me, even going back to high school. That's kind of the way it's been for me, which is fine. The so-called experts are wrong a lot."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock for a look at the 49ers' options. Mayock: "They have to decide whether or not there's a franchise quarterback that they want. If Sanchez is the guy they feel can be the cornerstone for their franchise, they have to do everything they can to get him. If not ... I think they have to look at the best player at No. 10 amongst the edge rusher group and the wide receiver group. I would anticipate if a Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin was there, they'd have to look real hard at them and then you look at the defensive ends and outside linebackers. Brian Orakpo . . . I think it's too early for Aaron Maybin and for Larry English, probably Brian Cushing. I think you're looking at Orakpo. I doubt Aaron Curry is there, and the two wide receivers."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams should be able to find a quality receiver after the first round because the 2009 class has depth. Former Rams coach Scott Linehan wanted to take a receiver earlier last year, but he saw none worthy of the second overall choice in the draft.
Also from Thomas: The Rams could draft an offensive tackle in the second round if they selected Aaron Curry with the second overall choice.
More from Thomas: Quarterback Rhett Bomar is among the players visiting Rams headquarters.
More yet from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring his take on numerous Rams issues. Thomas on the Rams' new power structure featuring general manager Billy Devaney, coach Steve Spagnuolo and salary-cap manager Kevin Demoff: "So far -- and I underline so far -- the chemistry seems to be great between Devaney, Spags, and Demoff. And it looks like unlike past years, Devaney will have the biggest say in the draft -- as opposed to the head coach. More credence will be put in what the scouts say."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says it will be "nearly impossible" for the Cardinals to sign Anquan Boldin to an extension in 2009 because the team has other priorities. Somers: "The Cardinals don't think they've reached a point of no return with Boldin. They aren't worried that the relationship could become further poisoned if they listen to offers then decide to keep him. After all, things couldn't be any worse than they were last year, when Boldin vowed never to re-sign with the club."
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind sizes up the best defensive ends in Cardinals history. The list is admittedly incomplete because sacks are the primary measure for inclusion.
John Morgan of Field Gulls weighs Curry as a candidate to become the Seahawks' choice at No. 4 in the NFL draft. Morgan: "If Seattle selects him they will have effectively escaped the loser's curse, drafting a safe prospect with exceptional talent that should contribute for the life of his contract. Curry might be modestly overpaid, but short of calamity, that's about as bad as I can see things working out for the team that drafts Curry."
Also from Morgan: Would the Seahawks consider Wisconsin linebacker Jonathan Casillas with the 141st overall choice? That DUI arrest won't help Casillas' chances.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
What kind of linebackers have the 49ers preferred since general manager Scot McCloughan and coach Mike Singletary arrived in 2005? The chart shows which ones they wound up selecting, arranged by how early each was drafted.
We discussed the subject about three weeks ago. A subsequent conversation with Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muensch [see his latest chat] might help us identify linebackers fitting the 49ers' profile in the 2009 draft. A pass-rushing outside linebacker would fill one of the 49ers' biggest needs while the team finds out whether Manny Lawson will emerge in the role.
Muensch on the 49ers in the first round
Outside linebacker makes too much sense because of value, need and depth of the class. I keep hearing Aaron Maybin. He did not have a great combine, but on film he is just so quick off the ball.
I think Connor Barwin is a very interesting player, but probably later in the round. Brian Orakpo was the most sought-after guy. If he were to slide, they are in a good position to take a guy that early. With Manny Lawson and Patrick Willis, [McCloughan] has shown a willingness to go in the first round and take that guy.
If they for some reason did get a safety or corner in the first round, Larry English could be a guy for them [as an outside linebacker in the second round]. He is a small-school guy, played at Northern Illinois, but he performed really well at Senior Bowl week. He doesn't have great size and he doesn't have great timed speed, 4.82. But these are guys who are quicker on film than on the track. Certain guys run better in pads. He is just an excellent football player.Muensch thought English could play situationally as a rookie while making the conversion from defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker.
At inside linebacker, Takeo Spikes played well enough for the 49ers as a free-agent addition last season to project as the starter in the "Ted" role next to Willis. Muensch pointed to South Carolina's Jasper Brinkley as an inside linebacker to watch in the fourth or fifth round: "I think he would be a great fit there because he doesn't have to play for a year."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams would consider trading down from No. 2 if other teams were interested in the pick. Also: "Two more offensive tackles, Michael Oher of Mississippi and William Beatty of Connecticut, are making pre-draft visits next week to Rams Park, the Post-Dispatch confirmed Monday. Add North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate to the list as well."
Also from Thomas: He checks in with Billy Devaney following the Rams' trade for Laurent Robinson. Devaney: "He showed a lot of potential his rookie year. Good ball skills, smooth route runner. He's got some size, too."
VanRam of Turf Show Times says getting Robinson healthy should be a top priority for the Rams, who have too much experience dealing with hamstring injuries.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers' approach to the draft has changed since the Bill Walsh days. Assistant coaches have less input.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat quotes draft prospect B.J. Raji as saying he's been assured he did not fail a drug test. Raji is visiting the 49ers.
Also from Maiocco: Tennessee running back Arian Foster and USC linebacker Rey Maualuga were the first college prospects to visit the 49ers this offseason. Raji and Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree also arrived for visits. Also, the 49ers have remodeled their headquarters.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation says the 49ers are a team with needs but not necessarily one with holes heading into the draft. How should that affect draft strategy?
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the NFLPA has not yet received paperwork regarding Karlos Dansby's decision to fire agent Kirk Wood. Somers: "Dansby is close to Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson, who is represented by Eugene Parker. Sources close to the situation expect Dansby to hire Parker."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Cardinals nose tackle Alan Branch has lost weight. Does that mean Branch is serious about realizing his potential?
Also from Urban: He isn't sure what to make of Dansby's decision. Urban: "I don't know if the Cards and Dansby were necessarily about to consummate a deal, but you would think, at least in the short term, this would represent a step back if talks were progressing."
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 sizes up which players mock drafts are sending to Arizona. Running backs Knowshon Moreno and Donald Brown appear as first-round candidates, as does outside linebacker Larry English.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes former Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson on the trade that sent Peterson to Detroit. Peterson, via KJR radio: "It's business and I'm fine with it."
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune summarizes Matt Hasselbeck's comments to KIRO radio regarding the Seahawks' draft plans. Hasselbeck advises against drafting a quarterback with the fourth overall choice. "I'm a little biased here, right?" Hasselbeck said.
Also from Williams: Seahawks coach Jim Mora expects Hasselbeck to be healthy this season. Hasselbeck, slowed by a back injury last season, will be on the field for minicamp practices beginning Tuesday.
John Morgan of Field Gulls explains why he thinks Brian Orakpo wouldn't be a good fit for Seattle in the first round. Morgan: "Seattle doesn't need a defensive end, he marginalizes or forces out Baraka Atkins, he marginalizes Darryl Tapp and maybe Lawrence Jackson, and he has an extensive and worrisome injury history."
William Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts uses our draft-firepower Excel file to conclude that teams are unlikely to trade into the top two spots. The likelihood improves if teams use a modified draft-value chart in determining values for the top few picks, which the standard chart seems to overvalue. But rarely do we see teams trade into those spots.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says there's no reason for the 49ers to stand on the sideline while the Broncos try to trade Jay Cutler. Maiocco: "The 49ers failed in their bid to acquire free agent Kurt Warner during the opening week of free agency. The 49ers have plenty of cap room to acquire Cutler and sign him to a long-term extension. The big question is whether they can come up with the compensation to appease the Broncos."
Also from Maiocco: He'll be "mildly surprised" if the 49ers draft a quarterback with the 10th overall choice. General manager Scot McCloughan will watch Mark Sanchez at USC's pro day Wednesday.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle summarizes 49ers president Jed York's comments to the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. The subject: A new stadium. A stadium term sheet is in the works. York and the 49ers hope to get a stadium measure on a ballot in 2010. Santa Clara is the preferred site.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' contract talks with Karlos Dansby are proceeding at a slow pace. Also, nose tackle Gabe Watson and tight end Leonard Pope have signed their one-year offers as restricted free agents.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Watson might need follow-up surgery on his injured knee, but the procedure would set him back only three or four weeks. If Watson goes that route, he would stick around the facility with rookies to make up for lost time.
Also from Urban: He'll be attending USC's pro day after traveling to Los Angeles by air with Cardinals president and licensed pilot Michael Bidwell at the controls. That's apparently how they roll at azcardinals.com. Wait, Cardinals' scouts are coming along, too?
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 gives the Cardinals' secondary an A-plus grade. He hands out lower grades for the other NFC West teams' secondaries. I like the Cardinals' secondary, but Arizona's opponents did finish last season with 36 touchdown passes and a 97.0 passer rating. No defense in the division allowed more touchdown passes or a higher rating in 2008. The Cardinals' high-powered offense didn't even achieve those figures.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have already visited with free-agent cornerback Ken Lucas. This one slipped beneath the radar. League sources said they never saw Lucas' name on the internal NFL waiver wire, but Seattle obviously has interest.
John Morgan of Field Gulls puts together a Seahawks mock draft based on choices acquired through a mock trade. How about Knowshon Moreno at No. 21?
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom has written songs for country artist Dayna Lane. Rosenbloom: "I've been writing songs since I was a kid. And this girl in Nashville -- Dayna Lane -- recorded a bunch of my songs. Two of them I wrote with Lauren Christy, and eight other songs made the album, which is called Anything You Want. The single, I'll Keep Believing, is on over a hundred radio stations."
Also from Thomas: A chat in which he lists Larry English, Ziggy Hood, Tyson Jackson, Peria Jerry and Lawrence Sidbury as defensive linemen the Rams could pursue in the draft.
VanRam of Turf Show Times gives Aaron Curry to the Rams in a mock draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Brett from Anacortes, Wash., writes: Hey Mike, long time follower from the TNT days. I was wondering if you foresee the Hawks bringing in a veteran backer like Derrick Brooks to fill Julian Peterson's shoes?
I think competition between D.D. Lewis, Will Herring, David Hawthorne and Lance Laury for that starting spot could be healthy and good for the team in the long run. Of course, we could address the need in the draft, depending on how the chips fall, but I don't necessarily think investing a lot of money in Aaron Curry would be wise unless the team doesn't feel a long-term deal with Leroy Hill is imminent.
Is it realistic to think with our draft position, we should be able to bring in 3 quality starters for the 2009 season? The answer to that may hinge on whether we pull the trigger to a Hasselbeck replacement in the first round, who would obviously have to hold a clipboard for a few years. But if you do feel it is realistic, which three positions could you see a young player coming in and challenging for a starting spot right away?
Mike Sando: I wouldn't expect the Seahawks to consider Brooks until after the draft, if at all. The team will most likely try to find a young prospect in the draft. As you know, the Seahawks have done pretty well drafting linebackers in the second and third rounds. If the team can find another one, Brooks presumably would not be on the radar -- even though the Seahawks' personnel people hold Brooks in very high regard.
Seattle should get two rookie starters out of the draft. Three would be outstanding. Running back would be one position where the Seahawks could conceivably find a starter or at least a part-time starter. Linebacker would be another now that Peterson is in Detroit. The linebacker candidates you mentioned -- those already on the roster -- don't stand out as difference-makers. If the Seahawks drafted Michael Crabtree, I think he would probably start right away, even if it were from a three-receiver personnel grouping.
Nick from Kansas City writes: Sando! Im a huge Rams fan. I just wanted to ask your opinion on talent. See, I think that most players at the NFL level must be pretty athletic and have a high degree of talent. Do you think that coaching and chemistry are the biggest x-factors for success, or is it mostly the players on the field?
My old high school football coach said "you can't make chicken salad with chicken [you know what]!" I see that point but I'm not sure that is true at the NFL level. It seems like the system and the atmosphere make a better salad in the NFL. I see the Rams poised to be much better next year, despite all the "holes". Your thoughts.
Mike Sando: Coaches play a critical role in getting the most from the available talent. Great coaching by itself isn't going to overcome horrible talent at quarterback or in other critical positions. But I agree with your premise.
In 2007, I thought the Dolphins were a six- or seven-win team that won only one game. Last season, the Rams were a five- or six-win team that won only two games. Once things fall apart in the NFL, not every coach can pull things together, particularly if he's working within a flawed organization. I think that was the case for Jim Haslett in St. Louis last season.
The fresh start in St. Louis should help the Rams win more games in 2009. This could be a five- or six-win team that wins five or seven games. We'll have a better idea after the draft. I still have questions about the talent and even the coaching. The Rams have first-year coordinators and a first-year head coach. They have much to prove.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch outlines sweeping changes to the Rams' offensive line following the team's decision to release Orlando Pace. Stick with me here. The tentative plan would be for right tackle Alex Barron to take over at left tackle. Left guard Jacob Bell would move to right tackle. Second-year pro John Greco would take over at left guard. Free-agent addition Jason Brown, signed to a reworked contract Tuesday, takes over at center. Richie Incognito would remain at right guard. Selecting a starting left tackle with the second overall choice in the 2009 draft would change the picture again.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the quarterback race between Shaun Hill and Alex Smith also includes newly signed 49ers veteran Damon Huard. While the point is valid -- J.T. O'Sullivan emerged unexpectedly last offseason -- the organization won't be deferring to Mike Martz this time.Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat thinks the 49ers should install Hill as their starting quarterback from the beginning of the 2009 season. Maiocco: "The best way to handle Smith is to ease him back in. Hill should be the starter from Day 1. Generally, the most popular player on a team is the backup quarterback. At some point, Smith will probably get an opportunity to prove himself in that backup role. When that chance comes, he will be afforded a longer leash."
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle frames Smith's situation as an undefined reflection of the 49ers' undefined leadership. Ratto: "More intriguing, though, is the notion that this might be undefined rather than unfinished business that confronts Smith. He framed the competition as Smith v. Hill, but there is no real reason to think it might not be Smith v. Hill v. Unnamed Future Figure, or that it is a true competition between relative equals."
Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News says Smith's fresh start might not look like one from the outside. Killion: "Fans might not recognize that fresh feeling, at least not at quarterback. That competition looks like a do-over of 2006: Smith vs. Shaun Hill with Damon Huard in the role of Trent Dilfer. And, of course, there's a new offensive coordinator to break in. But since the 49ers are lacking bright ideas in regard to quarterbacks (instead taking a weird run at Kurt Warner) and they're unlikely to tie up another first-round pick on a quarterback, why not keep Smith in the fold? They might as well see if they can get something out of their enormous investment."
Peter King of SI.com says he expects the Cardinals to trade Anquan Boldin, probably to the Eagles. King: "The Eagles and Giants, two receiver-needy teams, are in position to deal for Anquan Boldin, who I continue to say will not be a Cardinal by July. Philly has [picks] 21, 28 and 53, the Giants 29, 45 and 60. I find it hard to believe the Eagles won't trade for Boldin. Very hard. He's a perfect fit, and they've got the cap room to sign him." Boldin played his worst game of the 2008 season during a blowout defeat at Philadelphia, but he's still one of the best receivers in the league.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals are interviewing candidates for their pro personnel department.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist is among those to interview.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind sizes up Northern Illinois outside linebacker Larry English as a potential Cardinals draft choice. Hawkwind: "Basically the case for English is the same as the case for Clint Sintim, he's a guy who will upgrade the pass rush and provide depth at outside linebacker. He doesn't have the experience that Sintim has with playing upright, but his upside is a bit higher. If the Cardinals feel like rolling the dice and going with a high upside, higher risk type of pick, English could be the guy in the first round."
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com checks in with Calais Campbell as the second-year pro prepares to replace Antonio Smith in the Cardinals' lineup at defensive end. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks the Cardinals will miss Smith. More on that in a future blog entry.
John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits Darryl Tapp's 2008 season with the Seahawks. The reviews are favorable. Morgan: "Tapp is solid exactly as he is. He's consistently disruptive, able to beat about any type of tackle, and not so bad in run support as to be a liability. Tapp has a great first step, good dip, good inside move, good rip and a capable bull rush, plus the kind of suddenness to convert penetration into a sack. He makes those around him better."
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks' Jim Mora was the only NFL head coach to attend the University of Washington's pro day. Mora is a UW alumnus, of course.
Note: Those seeking to track this blog in real time (or closer to it) can subscribe via RSS. Relatively advanced users might consider integrating the Twitter feed through Firefox via the Twitterfox application. It's pretty slick.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
INDIANAPOLIS -- Draft analyst Rob Rang is back with his best-case scenario for the Cardinals with the 31st overall choice of the 2009 NFL draft.
Rob Rang: I think there is going to be a running back there. Because there were some pretty disappointing times from the top two running backs, Knowshon Moreno from Georgia and 'Beanie' Wells from Ohio State. If Moreno were to slip all the way down there, that is truly the best-case scenario because they would get a superstar at that point in the draft.
I think if Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy is there, it would give them a speedier option to go along with Tim Hightower as a power back. That makes some sense.
If they wanted to go for a pass rusher and they would like to get a little younger on the outside, that is one of the strengths of this year's draft. You might be able to get one of those kinds of guys that was starting to slip down that way. Maybe a Brian Cushing is probably going to be gone, but Clay Matthews Jr. is a guy that could be available. Clint Sintim from Virginia could be available. Larry English from Northern Illinois.
There are a lot of those quote-unquote tweeners that go well as 3-4 rush linebackers that should be available at that point.