NFC West: Rey Maualuga
St. Louis Rams
Best choice: James Laurinaitis, LB, 2009 second round. Chris Long provided the only serious competition for Laurinaitis, although that could change if 2012 fourth-rounder Chris Givens picks up where he left off following an impressive rookie season. A certain quarterback drafted first overall in 2010 might also factor into this discussion down the road. I went with Laurinaitis over Long because he was drafted 35th overall in his class, 33 spots later than where the Rams found Long one year prior. Laurinaitis has never missed a game in four seasons. He has seven interceptions. Conventional wisdom questioned the Rams' decision to draft Laurinaitis over USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. Laurinaitis has been the better player.
Worst choice: Jason Smith, OL, 2009 first round. Smith, chosen second overall in his draft class, started 26 games over three seasons with the Rams before the team traded him to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter. Smith, who made zero starts for the Jets last season, was released this week. Draft analysts saw Smith as tough, talented, ascending and possessing great potential not only as a player, but also as a leader. They saw similar traits in Aaron Curry, the linebacker Seattle selected fourth overall the same year. Both players mysteriously failed to deliver and I'm not sure how so many people could be so wrong.
Verdict pending: Sam Bradford, QB, 2010 first round. Bradford showed improvement last season, posting career highs for NFL passer rating (82.6) and Total QBR (51.6). Both figures were below league averages, however. So, while Bradford is ascending, he is still barely average. Most of the other quarterbacks drafted first overall played at a higher level. However, among those 10 QBs taken first overall, only Peyton Manning (82.9) and Cam Newton (64.9) had higher Total QBR scores than Bradford (56.1) over their teams' final eight games of the season. Is Bradford about to take a big step forward?
Related: 2011 draft rewind.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is active for Seattle despite a pectoral injury. The team announced no changes to its depth chart, an indication Jackson is expected to start. Receiver Mike Williams is inactive.
The Bengals, already playing without suspended running back Cedric Benson, will be without tight end Jermaine Gresham, who was named inactive with a hamstring injury. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is also inactive for the Bengals.
Best pick so far: James Laurinaitis, MLB, Ohio State. The Rams took him in the second round when some thought USC's Rey Maualuga was the better prospect. The Rams were right. Laurinaitis became a starter right away and he continues to improve.
Second-guessing: The Rams wound up using the second overall choice for a right tackle. Conventional wisdom says that's not great value even though Jason Smith looks like he'll be a solid starter for years to come. Smith looks better than some of the players taken immediately after him, including fellow tackle Andre Smith.
Key variable: Third-round choice Bradley Fletcher. The Rams paid a steep price for moving him into a backup role against the San Francisco 49ers.
The team selected Ohio State middle linebacker James Laurinaitis in the second round even though Rey Maualuga remained available. That move looks pretty good now that Maualuga is entering Stage 1 of the league's substance-abuse program, somewhat predictable after off-field incidents at USC shaped perceptions about him.
Laurinaitis provided light in a mostly dark Rams season. Maualuga was the bigger name among inside linebackers, but the Rams felt as though Laurinaitis was the safer pick, in part because Maualuga had those off-field incidents at USC. The rest of the league might have agreed. Maualuga remained available until the Bengals selected him 38th overall, three spots after the Rams selected Laurinaitis.
Also from O'Neil: Expect Jeremy Bates and Alex Gibbs to join Carroll's staff. Also, CEO Tod Leiweke apologizes to former coach Jim Mora. Leiweke: "While I apologized, it was also just one of those difficult awkward moments you find yourself in. Jim knew we were going to go have substantive discussions last week. We didn't know where those were going to come out. None of this was preordained. It was a fluid situation. The only thing preordained is we had to fix things here because what took place the last two years, to win nine games -- and with all due respect, four of those to the St. Louis Rams -- is simply not sustainable." Leiweke has repeatedly discounted victory totals by pointing out that some were against the Rams. That has to go over well in St. Louis.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Carroll's former players anticipate a smooth transition back to the NFL. Lawyer Milloy dates himself with this testimonial: "This is a guy who sat me down in his office and told me I was going to be the Tim McDonald in his defense. At the time, in my second year, I was like, 'Ah, what are you talking about?' "
Also from Farnsworth: Carroll's presence is palpable. Leiweke: "He's kind of the king of L.A."
More from Farnsworth: Carroll stresses competing. Carroll: "What you’ll hear a lot from us in this program, this program is about competition. We'll see in all aspects of the work that we do that we will be in a relentless pursuit of a competitive edge in everything we’re doing. We're going to compete like crazy. Maybe like you’ve never seen. And I hope that will be the theme that will rise to us and that will be the most important part of it, because we are in the most competitive world that you can be in in the NFL. I can’t wait to get this thing underway. I can’t wait to get it started."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times liked what he saw from Carroll in the coach's first news conference as Seahawks coach. Brewer: "Carroll was honest, raw, introspective, real. During the 40 minutes he spoke, his genuine enthusiasm and self-deprecating candor became so captivating that it obstructed skepticism about his so-so NFL record. Of course, as soon as he was done talking, the skepticism resumed, but, hey, trust isn't built in a day."
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says it's tough to know how Carroll will fare. USC fans initially shunned him. Kelley: "When the rancor reached a crescendo, the school had to shut down the phones and turn off its e-mail. Protests against Carroll went viral. But at USC, the haters became lovers. Carroll was the unvarnished truth. He was the answer. He won two national championships, won at least a share of seven consecutive Pac-10 titles and finished 97-19 in nine seasons. He resurrected a ramshackle program. Now at a much higher level, he's being asked to do it again."
Greg Johnson of seattlepi.com sees more exclamation points in the Seahawks' immediate future.
John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune tried to keep pace with Carroll at the news conference. It wasn't easy. McGrath: "Pete Carroll talks almost as fast as he thinks, and he thinks so fast you can imagine him working the New York Times crossword with his right hand as he turns the pages of a Solzhenitsyn novel with his left hand -- something to occupy him as he’s preparing the braised sweetbreads with mushroom sauce on the stove while breaking down an opponent’s zone-blitz tendencies on the speaker phone."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks interviewed John Schneider and Marc Ross for their general manager's job.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are using their experience to their advantage. Quarterback Kurt Warner: "I think the biggest thing is to try to just be a bit of a calming presence in these kinds of situations. You understand things are going to happen, crazy scenarios, and you understand that the teams that you're playing are all good."
Also from Somers: Injured receiver Anquan Boldin hopes to practice this week. Also, Russ Grimm expects to interview with the Bills for their head coaching job. Somers: "The time of the interview has not been set. According to NFL rules, the Bills can interview Grimm this week, but with the Cardinals playing Saturday, time is an issue. The interview would have to be conducted at a place and time of convenience to the Cardinals. It could happen Wednesday or Thursday evening in Arizona, or on Sunday, the day after the divisional playoff."
More from Somers: Cardinals players have received $42,000 for their postseason efforts so far, including $21,000 for winning the NFC West and playing in the wild-card round. The other $21,000 is for beating the Packers.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says inside linebacker Gerald Hayes was wearing a walking boot Tuesday, although it was unclear whether the injury was serious.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals' secondary is seeking redemption after a rough outing against the Packers. Urban: "Michael Adams said the secondary as a group was angry when they first watched the video of the game, but he did note the group had a hand in helping sack Rodgers five times while the Cards’ defense also forced three key turnovers. And in an interesting twist, the secondary was not only part of the turnover on the first play of the game -- DRC’s pick -- but also a turnover on the last play of the game, when Adams recovered from a four-penalty day to force a fumble that led to the game-winning points."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says former Rams coach Jim Haslett is the new defensive coordinator for the Redskins. Thomas: "After three seasons in St. Louis, including the last 12 games of 2008 as the Rams’ interim head coach, Haslett spent this past season as head coach of the Florida Tuskers of the fledgling United Football League. The Tuskers went unbeaten in the regular season, but were upset by the Las Vegas Locomotives in the UFL title game. Haslett met with Washington team officials earlier this week. Haslett became the front runner for the job once Mike Zimmer agreed to stay in Cincinnati as Bengals defensive coordinator."
Also from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring his thoughts on the quarterback position. Thomas thinks the Rams would have a better chance landing Michael Vick than Donovan McNabb if they wanted to target an Eagles quarterback. Thomas: "Since Spags spent so many years with the Eagles, their roster also bears watching. I think there has been some discussion of Vick. I guess it's possible the Rams would give up picks for the right player, particularly if it's an uncapped year, meaning there are many more restricted free agents than usual."
Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat lists 10 questions facing the Rams this offseason. Who will start at quarterback? Rodenbush: "In 2009, Rams quarterbacks combined to throw 12 touchdowns against 21 interceptions and completed 57.5 percent of their passes. Their TD total ranked 29th in the NFL and would have been worse if not for a 36-yard scoring pass from kicker Josh Brown to Daniel Fells during the team’s 17-10 win at Detroit on Nov. 1."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks the 49ers still have plans for Glen Coffee despite a 2.7-yard average last season. Coffee was a preseason sensation. It's far too early to write him off.
Also from Barrows: The 49ers have signed fullback Jehuu Caulcrick to a future contract.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have restructured the business side of their operation at the expense of Andy Dolich, team president Jed York announced to employees. Maiocco: "York will also assume the new title of chief executive officer. The new CMO will report directly to York, along with general manager Scot McCloughan, as well as chief financial officer Larry MacNeil, and executive vice president of football administration Lal Heneghan. During the transition, Dolich will remain as a senior advisor, York said. In Dolich's two years with the 49ers, he improved customer service for 49ers season-ticket holders, York said."
Also from Maiocco: an early look at how the 49ers might proceed in the draft. Maiocco on the 13th overall choice: "Like a year ago, the first thought is the 49ers will take their highest-rated offensive tackle. But the 49ers don't need to 'each' in this spot because they have another pick just a few slots later. If a cornerback, defensive lineman or linebacker falls to them, they're in the spot to choose one. One player who -- based on watching the BCS title game -- seems like a good fit would be Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. He reportedly has great passion and football smarts. Takeo Spikes is entering his 13th season and the final year of his contract. The 49ers were smitten with USC linebacker Rey Maualuga last year and tempted to move up a few spots in the second round to get him. They also wanted Lance Briggs a couple years ago. So the 49ers would love to get another young impressive player to line up next to Patrick Willis."
Lisa Fernandez of the San Jose Mercury News has a 49ers stadium update.
|AP Photo/Jeff Roberson|
|St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo has taken control of the Rams' locker room.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Steve Spagnuolo has much to prove as a first-time NFL head coach.
Winning over the St. Louis Rams' locker room is no longer one of them.
"Just the way he came in and took control of this building was impressive," quarterback Marc Bulger said in lauding the way Spagnuolo "captivates the team and has everyone focused on one goal."
Players tend to say nice things about their bosses, or else, but Rams players aren't just paying lip service as they work through an unusually physical training camp complete with live tackling.
Steven Jackson, a harsh critic of Rams dysfunction under previous leadership, nearly interrupted an important family matter in Las Vegas just to attend a voluntary March practice (Spagnuolo ultimately told Jackson not to worry about it). If Jackson weren't buying into Spagnuolo, we'd know it.
While others used Memorial Day Weekend as a respite during the ever-shrinking NFL offseason, new Rams center Jason Brown rented a U-haul and made the 13-hour drive from North Carolina to St. Louis. It was about the only time Brown could make the move without jeopardizing his perfect attendance in the Rams' offseason program.
Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe practiced with the team all offseason even though he remained unsigned until July, hoping to score a long-term deal.
"I thought he was very classy in the way (Atogwe) handled the franchise tag and I thank him almost every other day," Spagnuolo said. "That tells me a lot about him."
It might reveal plenty about Spagnuolo as well. The no-nonsense approach he adapted from mentors Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid has brought structure to a floundering organization. Brown, signed from the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, says he sees parallels to John Harbaugh.
Spagnuolo has gotten the Rams' attention and held it through the first two weeks of training camp. The vibe is unmistakably positive.
"The hiring of Coach Spagnuolo is definitely the biggest move this offseason, the right step for us," Bulger said. "You are either onboard or you are not. I respect that approach and I think everyone has bought into it."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says some Cardinals players supported Anquan Boldin's decision to change agents. Karlos Dansby said Boldin's reputation had taken a hit. Kurt Warner: "We understand public perception is a huge part of our business. But oftentimes, that public perception is wrong. You can't go out and dispute it all the time, but just thinking about a guy like 'Q,' the guy does everything right. He busts his butt, he's here every day, he's a great leader for us, and he just wants to be compensated fairly for what he's accomplished and what he brings to the table. None of us fault him for that. There's no way in our book that he should ever have a bad reputation because of that."
Alex Marvez of foxsports.com says he expects Boldin to hire agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra to replace Drew Rosenhaus. That is also my expectation, based on what other agents are saying, but expectations change quickly in the agent game. Boldin cannot hire another agent before Thursday. Nothing can become official before then.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams remain interested in re-signing cornerback Jason Craft. Other notes from his chat: The team does not appear likely to re-sign receiver Dane Looker; re-signing Oshiomogho Atogwe before the season is a priority; James Laurinaitis was the choice over Rey Maualuga in part because they saw the latter as a two-down player; and cornerback Tye Hill has looked better during organized team activities.
Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com looks for and finds signs of progress from Marc Bulger. Klutsarits: "I don't believe we will see Bulger with his shoulders slumped on the sidelines this year. I don't believe we will see Bulger roll his eyes at the head coach on the sidelines this season. I do believe we are starting to see signs that the real Marc Bulger is going to stand up and be counted in 2009."
VanRam of Turf Show Times takes a quick look at the Rams' situation at receiver.
John Morgan of Field Gulls renews criticism of Seahwaks safety Brian Russell and how the team has used him. This is a two-parter. Second part here. Signing Russell was in direct response to the long touchdown passes Seattle allowed routinely before his arrival. Morgan: "He's neither a sure enough tackler nor fast enough to break on the pass to limit long completions. He can at best limit very long completions. He won't contribute stopping the run the way a Tampa 2 safety must. I don't see why, even with the built-in cushion, teams would not challenge him deep. He's not fast, he's not a hard hitter and he hasn't shown an ability to get the jump ball. He's the right profile but the wrong talent for a scheme that probably won't work."
David Fucillo of Niners Nation sizes up the 49ers' situation at receiver. He gives Arnaz Battle or Dominique Zeigler a chance at earning a roster spot if the 49ers keep six this season. Here's how many receivers the 49ers have kept on their opening-day rosters over the previous six seasons: five in 2008, six in 2007, five in 2006, seven in 2005, six in 2004 and six in 2003. Injuries tend to shape decisions at this position. That was certainly the case in the NFC West last summer. Bryant Johnson (hamstring) and Ashley Lelie (calf) missed time at 49ers camp last season, affecting their futures with the team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Lee from Chandler, Ariz., writes: In regards to Anquan Boldin and Darnell Docket, they need to shut up and do their jobs, for which they are well compensated. There are a ton of us peons who will NEVER make as much money in our lifetimes as they make in one game. I love football and can't wait for September. I don't care if Boldin gets traded or not. He needs to "don't worry, be happy!"
Mike Sando: The Cardinals can bank on lots of people taking that view. I have taken that view at times. A little balance doesn't hurt, though.
|Check out the top highlights of Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin from 2008.|
People less frequently rip teams and owners for pocketing more in 5 minutes than some people will earn in their lifetimes. And we all know teams will not shut up and suffer underperforming players. Teams will release underperforming players and tear up their contracts without flinching.
Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett know they have short and unreliable windows in which to maximize their values. While it is indeed bad form to complain about riches, I think it's fine for players to use the leverage available to them for improving their financial situations. I just think some ways are more agreeable than others.
Boldin has crossed the line or come close to it at times, but he has generally "shut up and done his job" during the season. He was a Pro Bowl player last season. Also, Dockett stepped up and played very well in the Super Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com says the Rams' 2009 draft could hinge on whether the team made the right move with linebacker James Laurinaitis in the second round. Klutsarits: "If I were Billy Devaney, I would have gone with [Rey] Maualuga or even done something more daring and selected Eben Britton the offensive tackle from Arizona or Ron Brace the defensive tackle from Boston College. I believe all three of those players might have made a bigger impact than Laurinaitis will make. Time will tell. I hope I am wrong but keep those three names in mind to see how things will shake out."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detects a defensive flavor to the Rams' first draft under coach Steve Spagnuolo. General manager Billy Devaney joked that Spagnuolo took over the draft. Said a grinning Devaney: "It was kind of a stealth [move]. [Spagnuolo] never said it, but then all of a sudden the draft's going on, and I said, 'This thing's starting to get away from us. We've got to get some offensive guys.'" That type of joking between coach and general manager suggests they have a good working relationship.
Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked staffers which NFC West team fared best in the draft. The 49ers' and Seahawks' ability to land 2010 first-round choices set them apart, although not decisively. Bill Coats: "I think it was Arizona, and mainly because it landed RB Beanie Wells with the 31st pick. For a team desperately in need of a quality ballcarrier, that was a real coup."
Lisa Goodwin of 49ers.com says the team honored Tony Wragge after the guard finished his college degree this offseason. Goodwin: "During this offseason, Wragge also participated in the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurship Program at the Harvard Business School where he took classes on various topics including finance, real estate investments, tax law and overall personal finance analysis, among others. In July, Wragge is taking part in the NFL's Broadcast Boot Camp program that helps prepares players for the spot in front of the camera after their career."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are counting on Manny Lawson to improve as a pass rusher. Coach Mike Singletary: "It would be very easy just to go get a pass rusher or defensive end to appease someone, but I think it's very important for us to have someone who's going to actually upgrade what we already have. I feel very comfortable with Manny doing the things that he needs to do to get better. I think Manny is totally healed. I think he's been moving great. I think his confidence is going to be there."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says NCAA rules will prevent the Cardinals' first-round choice, Chris Wells, from participating in minicamps until June. Also, five players rehabbing from surgeries will miss the post-draft camp: Kurt Warner, Gabe Watson, Tim Castille, Matt Ware and Stephen Spach. The Cardinals' draft moves put Ware and the other backup safeties on alert.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind takes a closer look at the Cardinals' undrafted free-agent signings. On Memphis tackle Brandon Pearce: "Pearce is interesting only because he's an offensive tackle that played in a pass happy system and rarely gave up sacks. He's got good height but needs to add considerable bulk to his frame (6'6, 290), although some reports mentioned that he added 20 pounds of bulk before Memphis' pro day. Either way he'll have to get stronger as he's had very little experience as an in-line blocker."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Aaron Curry made a smashing first impression during his first news conference as a Seahawk.
John Morgan of Field Gulls reads between the lines in matching the Seahawks' pre-draft comments to their draft-day actions.
William P. Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts offers first impressions on Curry, Max Unger and the Seahawks' draft class. Tomisser: "Except for [general manager Tim] Ruskell's first year here when he only had a month to prepare for his first draft and to set up his draft board, every player from every draft made the team or practice squad in his rookie year (or was put on IR like longsnapper T. Schmitt). I think that once again, there's a very good chance of every pick being on the team come opening day."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
To review: I grade mocks by how many first-round projections wind up becoming first-round picks. Nawrocki and Somers hit 29 of 32. Somers missed on Eben Britton, Darius Butler and Rey Maualuga. Nawrocki missed on Butler, Maualuga and James Laurinaitis.
Rams fans should feel good about the Laurinaitis choice given how many evaluators projected the Ohio State linebacker as a first-round choice.
Nawrocki scouts the players and evaluates them in detail, assembling profiles for PFW's annual draft preview guide. The guide has remained a tremendous resource to me since Nawrocki succeeded the late Joel Buchsbaum as primary author. I have every copy since 1999.
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
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers would draft Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall choice, if available. He says the 49ers would draft Knowshon Moreno over Chris Wells in the unlikely event they decided to draft a running back early. The team would be happy to draft Andre Smith at No. 10, but taking Michael Oher in that spot might not be a slam dunk. LSU's Tyson Jackson could be the preferred defensive lineman, over B.J. Raji. The team probably wouldn't take Malcolm Jenkins at No. 10. Brian Orakpo? Probably not. And it's unlikely the team would take Aaron Maybin or Everette Brown that early, either. Rey Maualuga or Brian Cushing could be higher priorities than Maybin or Brown.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee forecasts which players he thinks the 49ers will select with each of their picks. The list: Oher, running back Shonn Greene, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, quarterback Stephen McGee, inside linebacker Scott McKillop, receiver Brandon Gibson, outside linebacker Pierre Walters, receiver/quarterback Julian Edelman and tight end Bear Pascoe.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says there's value in the later rounds. He points to Pat White, Brian Hoyer, Chase Patton, Austin Collie, Ramses Barden, Kory Sheets and Ian Johnson as later-round prospects to watch.
Gary Plummer of 49ers.com says NFL teams can't measure a player's heart. Plummer: "I was never even invited to the Combine and I was never drafted, but I went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL. With those experiences, I've always rooted for guys who don't get drafted."
Niners scout Todd Brunner says the team has spent recent days making sure it has discussed every draft-eligible player.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' public-relations department shielded coach Mike Singletary from reporters in the days leading to the draft. Crumpacker: "It's just as well. General manager Scot McCloughan put the 49ers' draft board together and will be making the call for the club."
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle made me chuckle with this description of the NFL draft: "Today is the worst day of the entire NFL draft process, because it is the day that all the speculation ends and your favorite team is stuck with the choice it made rather than awash in the dozens it could have."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic previews the Cardinals' draft in general terms. Forget about getting specifics from Rod Graves or Ken Whisenhunt.
Also from Somers: It appears receiver Anquan Boldin will remain with the Cardinals through the draft. Trades are often contingent on a player passing a physical. The acquiring team also needs time, in many cases, to work out a new contract with the player. Somers: "The Cardinals are surprised there hasn't been more interest from teams, who apparently think the cost is too high, considering they would also have to come to terms with Boldin on a contract that would pay him an average of $8 million to $10 million a year."
More from Somers: The Cardinals would have no interest in Titans running backs LenDale White or Chris Henry if Tennessee offered either player as part of a trade for Boldin.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com previews the Seahawks' draft options. Johns: "As much as teams talk of drafting the best player available regardless of position, there is an impetus to pick athletes who will be in line to earn starting roles before long in order to justify their draft position and salary slot."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' first-round picks haven't panned out all that well under general manager Tim Ruskell, who has one year remaining on a five-year contract. Yes, this draft is important for him and the organization.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com takes a peek inside the Seahawks' draft room at their new facility. It's 1,600 square feet, twice the size of the old one. The rapport between Ruskell and vice president Ruston Webster transcends location. Webster: "You know what's sad? When we say something at the same time. That scares me. But it really is good. I know how he thinks. And I think for him, it's important to have somebody who understands that. And he knows how I think. For the most part, we were kind of brought up in this business the same way, so our philosophy is the same."
Tyler Dunne of Scout.com says the Seahawks would draft Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn in the third round if available.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams are putting an emphasis on character in this draft. Wagoner: "Fortunately for the Rams, most of the players they are considering in this year's draft are about as well rounded and mature as any crop of recent potential draft picks. Offensive tackles Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe, linebacker Aaron Curry and USC quarterback Mark Sanchez have received rave reviews for their personality and attitude at every stop they've made along the way. Taking Curry as an example, he has invited 12-year-old Bryson Merriweather, a leukemia survivor from Madison, Ala., to be his special guest at the draft in New York City."
VanRam of Turf Show Times warns against dismissing talk that the Rams could draft Sanchez with the second overall choice.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says he would draft Curry from Wake Forest with the second overall choice if he were making the decision for the Rams. However, all signs point to the team selecting an offensive tackle.
Also from Thomas: The Rams' need at tackle appears too great to ignore early in the draft. Thomas: "Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver from Texas Tech, basically eliminated himself from consideration with what Rams Park sources said was a diva attitude during his pre-draft trip here. Apparently, his rock star mentality was a big turnoff to coaches and front office personnel. Couple that with his foot injury, and the feeling in Earth City was that he wasn't worth the trouble. As for Sanchez, what first looked like pure smokescreen seemed to turn into downright infatuation. To some at Rams Park, Sanchez possesses the leadership qualities -- the 'it' factor -- that may be lacking in Marc Bulger. But at the end of the day, the Rams appear committed to Bulger for at least one more season."
|Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images|
|Jay Cutler is out of Denver, but the trade that sent the quarterback to Chicago will help shape the Broncos' roster.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando and Bill Williamson
Jay Cutler's divorce from Denver is final. Now the Broncos, armed with the picks they acquired from Chicago for the Pro Bowl quarterback, must determine how to proceed in the draft.
AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and his NFC West counterpart, Mike Sando, debate the options while exploring how the Seahawks and 49ers could affect the Broncos' future at quarterback.
Mike Sando: Quarterbacks are a high-risk proposition at the top of the draft, but that's also where teams tend to find the great ones. Nine quarterbacks drafted since 1965 have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Seven of them were first-round picks, including a guy named Elway. If the experts are right in saying Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez are the franchise quarterbacks in this draft, shouldn't the Broncos consider trading up to get one? They certainly have the firepower.
Bill Williamson: There's no way the Broncos should trade up that high if it means giving up both the 12th and 18th overall picks. Sure, Denver could get a top-five pick in return, but I don't think it's worth the risk -- even for a quarterback.
The picks acquired for Cutler are too valuable to risk on Stafford, Sanchez or a player along the lines of Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji.
The idea is to get a lot of quality players here. If Denver is going to survive the Cutler trade, it will need to maximize those picks. Trading up and drafting Raji or Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry would be great for a needy defense, but the Broncos need to address multiple areas, not just one. The Cutler trade does allow the Broncos to address several areas in the draft instead of rolling the dice on just one.
Mike Sando: More than a few 49ers fans watched with interest while the Broncos figured out where Cutler would wind up. His destination wasn't San Francisco, but the 49ers and their NFC West rivals could still shape the Broncos' quarterback situation beyond the Cutler era.
The Rams probably have too many needs and too much money invested in Marc Bulger to consider a quarterback at No. 2, but the Seahawks and 49ers could draft one. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. told me he thought the 49ers would be crazy to pass on Sanchez at No. 10 if the USC quarterback remained available at that point. The NFC West could foul up Denver's plans if the Broncos are hoping to find a quarterback in the first round.
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.