NFC West: Madison Hedgecock
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team's quest to find a quarterback will impact Larry Fitzgerald's decision on whether to remain with the team past 2011. Urban: "Money will not be an issue. The Cardinals are expected to meet Fitzgerald’s desires in that area. As last season progressed, however, Fitzgerald talked more and more about wanting to make sure he played for a winner. He was always careful not to talk about having a better quarterback -- Fitzgerald is too smart for that -- but it was not difficult to read between the lines."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams went without a compensatory draft choice for only the second time in 10 years. Thomas: "Over the years, the Rams have had good success with compensatory picks, including two members of the current roster -- linebacker Josh Hull from the 2010 draft and linebacker David Vobora from the '08 draft. Vobora was Mr. Irrelevant in '08 as the last player taken in the draft. Three other former Rams compensatory picks are still playing in the NFL: quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo) and fullback Madison Hedgecock (Giants) were Rams comp picks in 2005; and linebacker Scott Shanle (New Orleans) was a comp pick in 2003."
Also from Thomas: The Rams expected improvement from quarterback Sam Bradford to help raise the level of play at receiver as well. Better luck with injuries would certainly help. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "Donnie Avery looks great. You know, when Donnie and I talked a year ago at the end of the (2009) season I said, 'You've got to be a durable guy, and that takes the offseason.' Because he would catch a pass and it seemed like every time he got up -- I told him this -- something was sore. So he worked on it last year, and of course he had the (knee) injury, and with this time with rehab that still rings in his ear. He has really taken a step to get his body ready to play an NFL season."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team is still formulating its draft opinions. General manager Billy Devaney: "We are not close to being there. I have a general idea. Being realistic, there are certain guys you know are going to be gone from pick one to five, six, seven. Then after that there is a cluster of names and they are darn good names. It’s exciting. It’s really exciting the possibilities that will be there at 14. We have a vague idea but we haven’t narrowed it down yet."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains why the 49ers received a second compensatory draft choice. Maiocco: "There were 21 compensatory picks awarded Friday based on the compensatory pick formula. By rule, 11 additional choices were awarded at the end of the seventh round to bring the total number of compensatory selections to 32, equaling the number of NFL clubs. The 49ers were among the teams given an extra draft choice based on the 2011 draft selection order."
Also from Maiocco: He makes the case against San Francisco using an early draft choice for a wide receiver. Maiocco: "Teams with good passing attacks can plug in receiver after receiver, and there is rarely a statistical drop-off. The 49ers have 10 picks in the draft, and they will almost assuredly use one of those selections on a wideout. But the team should be just fine with Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan as the starters -- as long as Jim Harbaugh can come up with somebody to throw the ball to them. The 49ers will look to upgrade the production from their No. 3 wideout. Veteran Ted Ginn had only 10 catches for 122 yards, and his spot on the roster is certainly not guaranteed. Kyle Williams did not get on the field much as a rookie, but he's a Trent Baalke draft pick. Baalke raved about Williams' combination of quickness and speed, attributes that serve him well as a slot receiver and in the return game."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates pre-draft workouts and visits for the 49ers. Barrows on Andy Dalton: "Dalton said on NFL Network that he has private visits set up with the 49ers among other teams. Jim Harbaugh attended Dalton's pro day workout earlier this month, and he is among a group of second-round prospects the 49ers are sorting out. Dalton's best attribute may be his accuracy, although like many passers in this year's class, he operated out of a spread system in college."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers, who already hold a league-high 12 draft choices, should trade back to acquire more in the hopes that quantity gives them a better shot at quality. Lynch: "In the last decade, the 49ers proved adept at drafting a Pro Bowl punter, long-snapper, middle linebacker and running back. But now they have to take chances on pass rusher, cornerback and quarterback. It would be best to go after those spots with two or three possibilities instead one potentially expensive miss."
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have a shot at continuing their recent successes in the latter rounds of drafts. The team holds five choices in the final two rounds. Josh Morgan, Ricky Jean-Francois and Anthony Dixon were recent finds in those rounds.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare would take a "hometown discount" to remain with the team. Mare: "Oh, absolutely. For sure. I would be stupid not to. The Seahawks gave me an opportunity. I always take that into consideration also. But we'll see. I have to get a offer first. What would be great would be is if there was a bunch and it would show that people appreciate what you do, and that's always flattering. Just to get all your options available. If you signed (for) three, four, five years, that would be your last contract. You want to make sure that everything was done right. But yeah, Seattle will definitely get a home discount. Besides, I like to go to the Sounders games, and I've got a lot going on there." Looks like the Seahawks don't have to worry about losing Mare in free agency.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com continues his series on the 35th anniversary team with a look at retired safety Eugene Robinson. Farnsworth: "For a guy who showed up in 1985 as an undrafted rookie out of Colgate, as a cornerback no less, Robinson left an indelible mark on the franchise. He is the Seahawks’ all-time leading tackler (984) and ranks second in career interceptions (42) to Dave Brown (50) and fumble recoveries (14) to Jacob Green (17) -- one of the ends on the reader-selected 35th Anniversary team."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says a small group of Seahawks fans protested the NFL lockout at Qwest Field. Said one fan: "It frustrates me because we paid for our tickets. We spend a lot of money during the season to watch these guys, and our say doesn't even get taken into any consideration."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The first six players NFC West teams selected that year have not met expectations: quarterback Alex Smith (49ers), cornerback-turned-safety Antrel Rolle (Cardinals), tackle Alex Barron (Rams), Spencer, guard David Baas (49ers) and running back J.J. Arrington (Cardinals).
The next four players NFC West players selected -- Lofa Tatupu (Seahawks), Ron Bartell (Rams), Frank Gore (49ers) and Oshiomogho Atogwe (Rams) -- have either achieved Pro Bowl status or become front-line starters.
The Seahawks, Rams and 49ers each have four members of their 2005 draft classes on their active rosters. The Cardinals have two.
The Rams found four current starters in Barron, Bartell, Atogwe and third-rounder Richie Incognito.
The 49ers found Gore and right tackle Adam Snyder, while Baas and Smith could wind up starting this season.
The Cardinals have only Rolle and backup guard Elton Brown to show for that 2005 class.
Tatupu and Gore are the only Pro Bowl players from the 2005 NFC West draft class.
We hear players and coaches talk about numbers games at various positions, but we don't always know specifically what they mean.
That's one reason I started tracking roster information in detail. Rosters provide predictive information that goes wasted unless gathered and harnessed with an eye for the big picture.
For this chart, I counted how many running backs each NFC West team kept on its opening-day rosters from 2003 through last season. Arizona kept five last season, five in 2006, six in 2005 and so on. The numbers allow us to generate averages. The bottom row shows how many running back each team is carrying today.
We now have a better idea how many running backs are on the bubble for each team.
Seattle is the only NFC West team entering camp without a declared starter at running back, although Julius Jones has declared himself ready to carry the load. I expect Jones to start and share time with Maurice Morris. The question for Seattle is whether the Seahawks truly have a gifted runner. Jones and Morris are more versatile than Shaun Alexander, but can the Seahawks scare defenses in the running game? We'll know more when Seattle puts on the pads.
The 49ers are carrying six running backs. That is a low number. Mike Martz likes to throw the ball, yes, but his Lions kept six running backs on their opening-day roster last season (Kevin Jones was inactive). The 49ers have flexibility at fullback because tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker can help at the position.
The Rams used tight end Randy McMichael in an offset-I backfield last season. They even released starting fullback Madison Hedgecock, who signed with the Giants and won a Super Bowl. The Rams have added former Steelers fullback Dan Kreider heading into camp.
The Cardinals have yet to identify a clear successor to Edgerrin James. James and Marcel Shipp turn 30 next month. Arizona drafted Tim Hightower in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, a bit later than some thought the Cardinals would address the position. James is confident his conditioning regimen will prevent the type of physical decline that hit other runners, including A
lexander, as their 30th birthdays passed.