NFC West: Michael Westbrook

The St. Louis Rams' need for a wide receiver has not diminished in recent days.

But would the team really trade up two spots in the 2012 NFL draft to select Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon with the fourth overall choice? I do not think that is likely, but a recent report caught my attention.

"Rams and Eagles among about four teams interested in trading up to No. 4 with Browns, sources say," a headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer said Friday.

The story itself says nothing about the Rams expressing a specific interest in acquiring that choice to select Blackmon or anyone else. It refers to public comments from Rams coach Jeff Fisher suggesting Cleveland could be one potential trading partner.

"At the NFL owners meetings last month, Fisher said he'd consider trading up with the Browns depending on what they wanted in return," the story said. "He didn't specify which player he'd trade up for, but the Rams are believed to have interest in Blackmon. Fisher re-iterated Friday that he'll trade up, down or stay where he is."

If the Rams absolutely had to have Blackmon or any one player in this draft, they could have held onto the No. 2 overall choice. Instead, they traded that pick to Washington with an eye toward building for the long term. They are in position to choose from a group that could include Blackmon, tackle Matt Kalil, cornerback Morris Claiborne, running back Trent Richardson and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, among others.

We've discussed whether Blackmon would be worthy of such an early choice and, earlier, how the 6-foot-1, 207-pound prospect compares physically to wideouts drafted among the top three selections.

I've noticed a differentiation in physical attributes and career success among receivers based upon standing within the first round.

The first chart shows wide receivers drafted among the top three overall choices since 1990. All were at least 6-3. They averaged 220 pounds. Five of the six have been selected to a Pro Bowl as a wide receiver (as opposed to a returner).


The second chart shows receivers drafted fourth through sixth overall, also since 1990. Half were at least 6-3. They averaged 205 pounds. Two are just getting started, making it premature to evaluate their careers. One of the other four, Torry Holt, earned Pro Bowl honors as a wide receiver.

Ciscokid questioned during the latest NFC West chat whether or not Michael Crabtree would fit in the San Francisco 49ers' new offense. I promised to investigate.

"I do like how his skill set translates to the new offense," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "They'll run a lot of quick-hitting routes where he can be big and physical, fight for the football and run after the catch with power."

Crabtree is coming off a 55-catch second season in which his numbers almost exactly matched established averages for wideouts in Jimmy Raye-coordinated offenses. The 49ers fired Raye after three games, but they ran essentially the same offense. San Francisco, like some of Raye's teams in Kansas City, had a prolific receiving tight end, which affected opportunities for wide receivers.

But there's still an expectation, I would think, for Crabtree's production to improve under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Crabtree has at times looked like a season pro, but I emerged from last season wondering what to expect from him.

"It will be a test for Harbaugh for sure from a coaching standpoint," Williamson said, "but besides developing a quarterback -- Colin Kaepernick will be great, by the way -- getting the most out of Crabtree has to be extremely high on Harbaugh's to-do list. I would like to see them add one more speed guy to the receiving corps."

Does Crabtree want to play for 49ers?

September, 10, 2009
9/10/09
4:07
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Questions, answers and observations as the 49ers prepare for their 2009 regular-season opener without first-round draft choice Michael Crabtree:
Crabtree
1. Is an agreement in sight? The evidence suggests not. Players tend to sign before missing regular-season game checks, but by now we would have seen more signs of movement. None is apparent. Crabtree's throwing session with Trent Dilfer took place three weeks ago, so I wouldn't read much into that. If Crabtree lets one game slip past without signing, we'll know he's as serious as he appears.

2. What is the holdup? It's impossible to know without trusting sources with a vested interest in how the arguments are framed. The cliche says the devil is in the details, and that is probably the case here. High-stakes negotiations for drafted rookies are about identifying which incentive terms will allow the player to maximize total value. What if Crabtree fears he could not hit those incentives in the 49ers' conservative offense? More on that in a bit.

3. Does Crabtree want to play for the 49ers? I'm starting to have doubts. The other first-round picks in this division had a hard time missing training camp practices, let alone exhibition games or the regular season. Beanie Wells traveled overnight to reach Cardinals camp without missing any more practices than necessary. Aaron Curry told reporters he had reached a breaking point after missing one week of camp. Crabtree? Not so much.

4. Why wouldn't Crabtree want to play for the 49ers? Perhaps he's been listening to Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye talking about how they want to run the ball 60 percent of the time, more than any NFL offense ran the ball last season. The way quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Alex Smith performed during the exhibition season probably didn't help. And if you look at Raye's history as a coordinator -- see the chart below -- he's clearly serious about running the football.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Anquan Boldin showed up at the Cardinals' facility for a physical examination Thursday. Perhaps that means Boldin will participate in the post-draft camp. Darnell Dockett also showed up. The Cardinals' success in the playoffs undermines players' leverage in these situations, I think. Urban: "Now, whether Boldin practices, we'll have to see. He came down with a sore hamstring at last year's minicamp -- about the time his contract issues first reached a boil. There might be some maladies for those seeking new contracts. Again, we will see. At least the drama of a missing guy will be avoided, and I would assume Boldin -- and to a lesser extent, Dockett -- will be tops on the media's interview list after practice." Holding out would not make much sense.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports from Chris "Beanie" Wells' introductory news conference at Cardinals headquarters. Quarterback Kurt Warner stunned Wells by sending a text mesage Saturday welcoming the running back to Arizona. Wells: "I was in shock. Kurt Warner was sending me a text message. I remember a few years ago, I was maybe in the sixth and seventh grade, we were watching the St. Louis-Tennessee Titans Super Bowl, and watching him."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams quarterback Marc Bulger on the eve of minicamp. Bulger: "Every year, winning cures all. Earlier in my career we were winning and my biggest attribute was that I was steady, low-key, and my teammates knew how much I wanted to win and everything was great. Then all of a sudden, you lose a few years and that's my greatest weakness."

Also from Thomas: "Assuming everyone is on hand today, and this minicamp is still 'voluntary' for the vets, there will be 87 players on the field this morning. Of that group, 47 have one season or less experience on an NFL regular-season roster. Only six of the 87 players are age 30 or older, headed by 34-year-old defensive end Leonard Little."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams want their veterans to show the rookies how to practice. Tempo is key.

VanRam of Turf Show Times addresses key questions facing the Rams. He thinks Bulger will bounce back this season.

Taylor Price of 49ers.com passes along comments from 49ers rookies as they arrived for post-draft minicamp. Michael Crabtree wasn't sure when he would be cleared to practice after recovering from offseason foot surgery, but he should be ready by training camp.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle expects Crabtree, Glen Coffee and Scott McKillop to contribute immediately as rookies. Crumpacker: "Coffee will back up Frank Gore, McKillop will do the same at inside linebacker behind Takeo Spikes, and Pascoe figures to see playing time initially as a blocking tight end."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says where he thinks the 49ers' rookie free agents fit in. Maiocco on running back Kory Sheets: "Sheets has a real chance to win a roster spot. His primary competition will be Thomas Clayton, the team's leading rusher during the past two exhibition seasons. If Sheets proves his worth, it's possible the 49ers could employ three backs, similar to what the N.Y. Giants had with Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw."

Also from Maiocco: checking in with the 49ers' draft picks. Coffee appears bigger than his listed weight of 209 pounds.

More from Maiocco: The 49ers haven't spoken to the Panthers about a deal for Julius Peppers, but such a move would be logical.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers rookie Nate Davis compares himself to Donovan McNabb.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Crabtree nearly gave up football for basketbal while in high school. The 49ers are happy Crabtree's father asked the youngster to reconsider.

Also from Brown: Current stories about Crabtree sound strikingly familiar to what people wrote about J.J. Stokes more than a decade ago, including this passage from Clark Judge's story in the Mercury News: "Though [George] Seifert compared Stokes to Dallas All-Pro wide receiver Michael Irvin, the move was reminiscent of the 49ers' 1985 draft-day deal for wide receiver Jerry Rice. Like then, the 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl season. Like then, they have two veteran wide receivers -- Rice and Taylor instead of Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon. Like then, they struck after two wide receivers -- Michael Westbrook and Joey Galloway instead of Eddie Brown and Al Toon -- disappeared early."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks coach Jim Mora on why it's important for Leroy Hill to attend minicamps. As Mora told KJR radio in Seattle: "A majority of what we're doing on defense terminology-wise and assignment-wise will be different than what Leroy has done his first four years here. So, he is missing valuable time when he's not here in order for him to be a productive football player for us on the field next fall. To ask a guy to come in, in a new scheme, a week before the first regular-season game -- which happens a lot of times with these franchise guys -- and be productive is a pipe dream. It just doesn't happen very often."

John Morgan of Field Gulls sketches out how he thinks the Seahawks might use Hill in conjunction with Lofa Tatupu and Aaron Curry.

Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts quotes Mora on how Hill could be used, based on what Mora told KJR: "Leroy will play the 'Will', which is the weak inside linebacker position. Aaron will play 'Sam', which is the strong outside linebacker position. The way we structure our defense is that they are both typically off the line of scrimmage, playing behind defensive linemen and using their athletic ability to run. There is not a whole lot of differences in what they do. Some small subtle differences, but you'll see three fast, physical, athletic, linebackers working together, and it will be exciting to see."

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