NFC West: Ronnie Brown

Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, J.J. Arrington and Eric Shelton were the running backs selected ahead of Frank Gore in the 2005 NFL draft.

Gore, the San Francisco 49ers' career rushing leader, has kept those players' names in mind as motivation over the years.

This is pretty typical thinking in the NFL.

Tom Brady famously kept in mind the six quarterbacks selected ahead of him in the 2000 draft, and what it felt like to be selected 199th overall. He teared up when recalling his draft-day experience for a documentary more than a decade later.

"Of all the quarterbacks selected before Brady in the 2000 draft, none hurt Brady more than [Geno] Carmazzi" going to the 49ers because Brady had been a huge fan of Joe Montana and the team while growing up in California, Mike Reiss noted two years ago.

Gore has company among third-round choices in the NFC West.

Brandon Weedon was among the quarterbacks selected ahead of 2012 Seattle Seahawks third-rounder Russell Wilson. Rolando McClain and Sergio Kindle were among the linebackers selected ahead of 2010 49ers third-rounder NaVorro Bowman.

Back to Gore: He has 8,839 career rushing yards. Benson (6,017), Brown (5,171), Williams (4,038), Arrington (654) and Shelton (23) have combined for 15,903 yards.

On Rams giving Jason Smith a chance

February, 27, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- The St. Louis Rams have not given up on 2009 first-round draft choice Jason Smith.

Their new coach, Jeff Fisher, and new general manager, Les Snead, said during the NFL scouting combine that they hoped to bring back Smith following three disappointing seasons.

The strategy makes sense if Smith agrees to reduce his scheduled $10 million salary. The team might as well find out whether new line coach Paul Boudreau can help salvage some return on a massive investment. Better luck with injuries might help Smith more than anything. The concussion he suffered against Dallas came on a freak play when Smith was making a tackle following a turnover.

For the Rams, there's no sense in making tackle a bigger need by dumping Smith prematurely. Publicly declaring interest in Smith sets a positive tone for expected negotiations on a new deal.

Smith has started 26 of 48 games for the Rams, the third-lowest total for three seasons among players drafted second overall from 1990-2009.

The chart ranks three-year start totals for players drafted second overall since 1998, beginning with Ryan Leaf. The final column shows total starts each player has made for his original team.
Steven Jackson, more than any other St. Louis Rams player, commands the respect and attention of teammates.

Even he realizes Sam Bradford is the Rams' future, but when players voted on team captains this year, they elected Jackson to represent the offense.

"I wear it with pride and hopefully I can continue to do so and continue to show these guys the way," Jackson said at the time.

Now, following an 0-4 start to the season, the Rams need Jackson to utilize whatever power he has to affect positive change.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jackson stopped practice Monday and gathered the offense around him for a motivational talk. He declined to discuss what was said. Coach Steve Spagnuolo on what Jackson was getting at: "Yeah, just some determination. Some will to succeed, some drive for excellence. Just some key points and we appreciate that. I'm sure the guys on defense were doing the same thing. James Hall and I talked this morning. He's great. They get it. These guys are warriors. They've been through this and we've just got to fight our way out of it."

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis passes along a summary of Jackson's remarks via backup guard/center Tony Wragge: "He just reaffirmed what we've talked about as a group, being positive. Play fast, be productive, play hesitant-free football."

Matt Maiocco of has this to say about tackle Anthony Davis during his player review from the 49ers' victory at Philadelphia: "Started at right tackle, and had a good game in run-blocking but struggled in pass protection. . . . He was called for tripping, when he leg-whipped Jason Babin on 49ers' second play. He did it again in the third quarter and was caught again. . . . Got to the second level to block on Gore's 40-yard run. . . . Babin twice beat Davis twice for sacks. The other sack came when Davis blocked down and Babin sailed untouched toward Smith."

Also from Maiocco: a defensive player review from the game. On first-round choice Aldon Smith: "He saw extensive action in the 49ers' nickel defense and played on both sides of the formation. It was his best game, as he recorded four tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for a loss and three quarterback hurries. . . . Nearly got his first career sack in the second quarter, but Michael Vick escaped and gained five yards. Two plays later, he did get his first sack when he split right guard Kyle DeVan, who was holding, and Ronnie Brown. . . . Got pressure at Vick's feet and nearly had sack. Vick threw incomplete pass instead. . . . Recorded split sack with Ray McDonald."

Brock Huard of 710 ESPN Seattle cannot figure out why the Seahawks' Aaron Curry ran out of the play when Michael Turner broke free for a 21-yard touchdown run Sunday, but he also says other players, notably Earl Thomas, could have done more on the play. Huard thought Thomas wasn't excited about taking on the bigger Turner one-on-one.

Clare Farnsworth of hands out awards one-fourth of the way through the season. Thomas is his top Seahawks player. Farnsworth: "This has been apparent to anyone who's watched the Seahawks during their 1-3 start. The second-year free safety is good, and only getting better by the game. Thomas leads the team in tackles (26) and also has been forcing plays by forcing the issue."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks found an impact player in undrafted Stanford receiver Doug Baldwin. Williams: "Half of Baldwin’s 12 receptions have gone for first downs. Those six receptions for first downs have taken place on the all-important third down, with Baldwin tied for ninth in the league in those situations."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says this is the fourth consecutive season the Cardinals have faced the Vikings, and yet another chance to revisit Arizona's decision to draft tackle Levi Brown over running back Adrian Peterson. Somers: "It proved to be a mistake. Four-plus seasons later, there is no arguing that. Peterson has missed two games over the years and averaged 1,445 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns a season. Brown has been durable, too, missing three games in his career. But his performance has been pedestrian, at best, and a liability, at worst. And, because of the way his contract is structured, it will be a surprise if he is with the Cardinals beyond this season."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with surprisingly productive rookie nose tackle David Carter, who reveals, among other things, that he was on his high school debate team.

Darren Urban of says Kevin Kolb's pocket presence should improve with experience. Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner captured perfectly the idea that a quarterback becomes more purposeful in his movement when he has a fuller grasp of an offense. Warner: "If you are thinking, 'OK, I’m going from one to two to three' (in your progressions) and you know what’s going on and you have a big-picture sense of what the offense is doing, it’s much easier to say, 'OK, I’m going to slide a little bit (in the pocket) because I know I’m going to throw the ball here.' When you have those questions of, 'OK, that’s not open and … I’m not really sure what the next move is,' then you think to yourself, 'OK, I’m just going to get out of here and make a play.' That comes down to feeling comfortable with what you are seeing. To me, it looks like. 'This is my comfort zone right now. It’s not going through my reads, it’s get out on the move and we can make something happen.' "

Intelligence report: Arizona Cardinals

September, 1, 2011
Five things to know about the Arizona Cardinals, straight from our newly published 2011 preview:

1. Kolb has to be the guy: The Cardinals are paying Kevin Kolb about what Sam Bradford will receive for the next five years. That puts Arizona's commitment level in perspective. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is all-in on this one. The team should know this season whether Kolb is going to be the answer. Early returns are encouraging. Kolb has shown a dynamic personality that lends itself to leadership. He has shown a clear understanding of the No. 1 rule in Arizona: Throw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald when he's open, and throw it to him anyway when he's not.

2. Ray Horton is not a magician: The Cardinals' new defensive coordinator has the right pedigree. He learned under Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh. It doesn't get much better than that. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Horton could not bring with him from Pittsburgh the outside pass-rushers who have helped the Steelers field such a strong defense. Neither can Horton wave a magic wand to make Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho turn into elite edge rushers. Look for the Cardinals to get creative with their inside linebackers. They also need to generate pressure with their safeties. Adrian Wilson can be a formidable blitzer, but he's dealing with a biceps injury.

3. Kolb's health is in focus: Kolb left the Eagles' 2010 regular-season opener with a concussion. He's now joining a Cardinals team without elite pass protectors at either tackle spot. Running back Beanie Wells hasn't been consistent in protection, either. It's important for Kolb to keep his competitive nature in check when scrambling or deciding what to do with the ball. Fitzgerald has praised Kolb for getting rid of the football quickly. Kurt Warner set the standard in that area. Kolb must follow suit. He's not the sturdiest or most physical quarterback. He needs to be smart with his body because the Cardinals don't have a backup with nearly the same abilities.

4. The schedule sets up favorably: The Cardinals face some tough stretches, but they begin and end the season with games that appear quite manageable. Carolina (home) and Washington (road) are first on the schedule. Arizona plays four of its final five games at home. None of the Cardinals' final five opponents even had a winning record last season. Arizona struggled late last season despite playing a cushy schedule. The addition of Kolb gives the Cardinals a better chance to beat the teams they're supposed to beat. Even average play from Kolb could be enough to challenge for a division title.

5. Make-or-break year for Beanie Wells: The third-year back finds himself in position to become the week-to-week starter now that Tim Hightower (traded) and Ryan Williams (injured) aren't options. Wells remains an intriguing prospect. He has 292 carries for 1,190 yards and nine touchdowns during his first two seasons, with only two starts. Wells has the ability to double his career production in a single season as the full-time starter. Backs starting every game last season averaged 288 carries. It's just tough to trust Wells over the course of a full season. He has been hurt too much and running back is a brutal position. Steven Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall, Cedric Benson, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte and Ronnie Brown were the only running backs to start all 16 games last season.
I'm heading over to Seattle Seahawks headquarters Tuesday afternoon before catching a flight to Arizona for Cardinals camp. In the meantime, a few NFC West-related notes and thoughts:
  • Rams running backs: The St. Louis Rams are visiting with Atlanta Falcons free-agent running back Jerious Norwood. A deal could be in the works, Tony Softli notes. Cadillac Williams is another option. Finding a backup for Steven Jackson stands as a priority for the Rams this offseason. Norwood is 28 years old and played in only two games last season, but Rams general manager Billy Devaney knows him well. Devaney and Norwood were together on the Falcons. Devaney also knows what the Rams need behind Jackson. This could be a good fit. But not everyone is sold. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has been bold in saying Jackson has a lost a step and is declining. Given his thinking, Williamson thinks the Rams need more of a workhorse back in the No. 2 role. Williamson: "Norwood is not good enough. I don't think he is physical enough or reliable enough or durable enough to be Jackson's backup. Other than that, the Rams have done great in free agency. Maybe they could still get a Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams. A big, physical back to lighten Jackson's load would be great, and you can get backs cheap now. I don't know why they would settle for Norwood. He's fast in a straight line and good in a dome, but he hasn't done anything in a long time."
  • Seahawks defensive linemen. Free-agent defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson agreed to terms with Seattle, the team confirmed. Seattle fared well last offseason by signing Raheem Brock to one-year deal for a reasonable rate. Brock had 9.0 sacks, but at age 33, he wasn't going to get a long-term deal from a Seattle team looking to go young. Wilkerson, 30, will sign a one-year deal. Will Brock return? It's possible, but I'd be a little surprised. Also for Seattle: Former Rams fullback Mike Karney is visiting, Jim Thomas reports. Oakland tight end Zach Miller already visited. No word yet on his plans.
  • Kevin Kolb signed his contract. The Cardinals made the announcement Wednesday. Kolb's deal runs through the 2016 season. The moves Arizona has made on its offensive line stand out as critical to giving Kolb a chance. Re-signing Lyle Sendlein and adding Daryn Colledge helped. Getting Deuce Lutui almost accidentally was a bonus. Lutui has more motivation to succeed after failing his physical in Cincinnati. The Cardinals would be nervous about Lutui's conditioning had they given him a big contract in free agency. Adding Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack as insurance rounded out the depth. Rex Hadnot is still there, too. Those things said, drafting a few linemen would help, too.
  • The 49ers' plan in free agency. The 49ers are taking heat for doing little in free agency. Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke are new to their roles. They've been guarded about revealing their plans. I get that part of it, but they should and probably will become more adept at explaining their approach. There's no shame in laying low during free agency. Green Bay and Pittsburgh can attest to that. But if the 49ers are going to take that approach, they could help their fans by explaining why.

OK, time's running short. I'll check in as soon as the travel schedule allows.

Note: This item initially referred to Wednesday instead of Tuesday because I'm horrible at remembering days of the week. They run together.
John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World checks in with the Rams' Sam Bradford after the University of Oklahoma honored its former quarterback with a statue commemorating his status as a Heisman Trophy winner. Bradford: "I never thought I'd be standing here giving a speech in front of a statue of myself. Pretty cool, though." Hoover: "At the end of the festivities, Bradford pulled a golden rope that dropped a crimson veil from his 10-foot statue. His right leg is planted, his right arm is cocked and his hair is short. Bradford teammate Gerald McCoy, who used to kid Bradford about all the attention he got by calling him 'King Sam', said Bradford's statue was the only one of the five in Heisman Park 'with a crown on it. ... I'm just gonna get me a Gerald McCoy bobblehead doll and glue it onto the bottom. ... Nah, man. Sam definitely deserves it.'"

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at free-agent possibilities for the Rams this offseason. Thomas: "At running back, a crater-size hole remains on the depth chart behind Steven Jackson. There are some interesting names on this list, including Joseph Addai of Indianapolis, Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants and DeAngelo Williams of Carolina. But none of those three would be unrestricted if six-year free agency is in place. However, Cedric Benson of Cincinnati, Ronnie Brown of Miami, Darren Sproles of San Diego and Cadillac Williams of Tampa will be unrestricted whether the required experience level for free agency is four years or six." Adding Sproles in particular would liven up the Rams' offense considerably by diversifying the backfield.

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis sizes up potential free-agent guards and projects how they might fit with the Rams. He thinks the Cardinals' Deuce Lutui would fit nicely at right guard. Softli: "Interior blocker that lost mindset in 2010, but has the athletic ability and nasty attitude to compete like a Pro Bowler when focused and is what the Rams need leading the way for Steven Jackson."

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams need improvement from second-year players to realize their potential in 2011.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who says he felt as though the team did not have him in its plans. The sides spoke only generally about a new contract before the lockout. Mebane: "When you go over that stuff, I guess it’s time to pack up and put the house up for sale. I feel like I wasn’t in their plans. And I feel like I have that right to think that because I got a third-round tender. If they really wanted me, they had plenty of time to do what they had to do. Me personally, from my experience, I don’t think I was in their plans. I would love to come back here, but I don’t know what their plans are. But it’s all good. I’m blessed. I thank God that I haven’t had any surgeries. I’ve had some nagging things here and there. But God put me in a good position." General manager John Schneider used the term "steady pro" to describe Mebane at the scouting combine, an indication the team wasn't planning to break the bank for him. But when Seattle did not address the position in the draft, Schneider indicated that re-signing Mebane could become a higher priority. Mebane also says his job got tougher once the team lost Rocky Bernard.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle doesn't see Kyle Orton as a good fit for the Seahawks. Huard: "Darrell Bevell's system that he is going to implement is going to be the quick passing game. It's a system that's built, to some extent, on having a mobile, at least athletic quarterback and that is what Kyle Orton is not. Think Ryan Mallett, not quite as big an arm, more accurate. I just think from a fit standpoint from what they want to do schematically, Kyle Orton is not the guy."

Clare Farnsworth of makes available an audio link to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's conference call with Seattle season-ticket holders.

Also from Farnsworth: He catches up with former Seahawks punter Rick Tuten, who relays a funny story about his first game with the team. Tuten had played with Buffalo previously. Tuten: "When I was in Buffalo [he punted for the Bills in 1990], we got our parking tag and you just parked wherever in the players’ lot. Well, I come out after my first game as a Seahawk -– feeling pretty good about what I’d just done -– and my car was gone because I didn’t park in the right place. It had been towed. So I had to take a taxi to the impound lot to bail my car out. And a rental car, at that."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers a few highlights from Goodell's call with Seattle fans.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick underwent "minor" leg surgery after the draft, when Kaepernick finally had time to address an undisclosed injury that bothered him late last season. Barrows: "Agent Scott Smith said NFL teams were aware of Kaepernick's condition prior to the draft. He said Kaepernick could have waited to have the procedure but, given the current labor impasse, decided to get it taken care of now."

Also from Barrows: thoughts on rookie Chris Culliver's conversion from receiver to safety to cornerback.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo! offers thoughts on what first-round choice Aldon Smith might add to the 49ers.

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers do not see running back Kendall Hunter as only a change-of-pace back. General manager Trent Baalke: "This is a guy we feel can run the power game, can run between the tackles, can get out on the edges, can pass protect, can come out of the backfield and catch the football, can return kicks (and) can play on coverage teams, if we ask him to."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers expect the offensive tackles they drafted to play guard and/or center in the NFL.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says former Cardinals linebacker Seth Joyner is establishing a football camp for kids in Arizona. Joyner: "Ultimately, my goal is to create an Arizona combine that really does something with the young football players in Arizona. We want to teach everything from learning how to tackle properly to avoiding concussions, to just the basic fundamentals."

Also from Somers: general thoughts on the Cardinals, including one about Orton. Somers: "I think the Cardinals have some interest in Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who might be available via trade. Any team trading for Orton, however, has to examine what happened to him and the Broncos offense in the latter part of the season. If the Cardinals think that Orton was a victim of circumstances (coaching change, coach firing, etc.), they will go after him. I still think their first call is to the Eagles, however."

Darren Urban of says the team has never adequately replaced former tight end Freddie Mitchell. Rookie third-round choice Rob Housler is the latest prospect. Urban: "Housler will get a chance to show what he has, and there is a chance the Cards also look in free agency. Jim Dray should be back, and Stephen Spach could be too; Ben Patrick may be more iffy depending on who else is signed. The Cards will have at least four tight ends in training camp."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' strength-and-conditioning coaches could use some company in the weight room.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic thinks Kevin Kolb tops the Cardinals' list of quarterbacks to pursue this offseason. Somers: "There is no question the Cardinals are interested, and I get the feeling Kolb is their first choice to be their starter in 2011. The Cardinals liked Kolb when he was coming out of the University of Houston, and he has the type of personality (gym rat) that Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt likes in a quarterback. The Cardinals are leery, however, of what the Eagles might want for Kolb." Somers says the Cardinals would likely go along with a trade similar to the one Houston orchestrated for acquiring Matt Schaub from the Falcons. I don't recall any reporter from the Arizona market previously saying without qualification that Arizona has more interest in Kolb than it has in other options, and enough interest in Kolb to trade for him. Might be time to update the Cardinals' QB timeline.

Nick Wagoner of passes along initial jersey numbers for the Rams' 2011 draft class. First-round choice Robert Quinn gets No. 94. Second-rounder Lance Kendricks gets No. 88. Wagoner: "No player on the active roster wore 94 last year. DT Jimmy Saddler-McQueen wore it on the practice squad. Victor Adeyanju had it previously. Tight End Derek Schouman wore 88 last year. He is not under contract for 2011."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis looks at DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Bush, Darren Sproles, Tim Hightower, Ronnie Brown, Jerome Harrison and Mewelde Moore as running backs for the Rams to consider in free agency.

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers have fired Lal Henhegan, their executive vice president of football administration since 2006. Maiocco: "The departure of Heneghan is not believed to be related to any hiring in the team's personnel department. When Heneghan was hired in March 2006, owner John York cited the valuable experience he would bring to a youthful front office and coaching staff. Heneghan was vice president of football operations and general counsel for the Cleveland Browns from 1998 to 2004 prior to joining the 49ers. Heneghan spent seven years with the NFL Management Council as director of labor relations. He supervised the daily operation and interpretation of the NFL salary cap." The 49ers continue to tweak their front office. Henhegan had always worked in the background. I cannot recall hearing his name associated with any decision regarding the 53-man roster, the draft or free agency.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat takes a closer look at Bruce Miller, the player San Francisco is projecting as a fullback. Miller played defensive end at Central Florida. One of the defensive assistants there, John Skladany, had this to say about Miller: "The biggest thing is he’s just relentless. He really enjoys that part of the game. He goes and looks for the contact. He just keeps going and going and going. You’re going to have to shoot him to stop him. If he’s going to be blocking, some linebacker is going to have a long day."

Clare Farnsworth of says defensive tackle Craig Terrill is headlining a concert in the Seattle area Saturday night. Farnsworth: "Terrill’s previous musical adventures have included singing the National Anthem prior to the Seahawks’ wild-card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 and a show-stopping performance at the team party in Detroit after the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL. He also has played the House of Blues in Chicago and Orlando, as well as several venues in Seattle."

Also from Farnsworth: Seahawks draft choice Kris Durham was working out with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst before the draft. Farnsworth: "It was a revelation that slipped through the cracks on a very busy third day of the draft for the Seahawks -- when they selected seven prospects in the final four rounds and also held an introductory news conference with first-round pick James Carpenter, a tackle from Alabama. But the Whitehurst-to-Durham connection definitely is worth revisiting. Whitehurst was born in Green Bay, when his father, David, was playing for the Packers. But he grew up in the Atlanta area and went to Clemson. He spends time there in the offseason."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says there's a better than 50-50 chance Matt Hasselbeck will re-sign with Seattle, according to's John Clayton. Henderson: "Clayton thinks the market shrunk for Hasselbeck when Tennessee and Minnesota, the two teams with the "most urgent" quarterback needs, filled those vacancies by drafting quarterbacks in the first round. Arizona, which didn't draft a quarterback and has a clear need at the position, would seemingly have at least some interest in Hasselbeck. But Clayton believes Marc Bulger would be the Cardinals' preference over Hasselbeck."

Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News says Matt Leinart could be an option for the Seahawks. Wolf says the Seahawks spoke with Leinart about joining the team next season. I'm not sure when this would have happened, given that there has not yet been a free-agent signing period. It's also worth noting that Seattle has shown no apparent interest in Leinart previously. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has been selective in pursuing his former players at USC. He placed strict conditions on receiver Mike Williams. He quickly released running back LenDale White after determining White wasn't serious enough in his approach. He traded defensive end Lawrence Jackson to Detroit, where Jackson appears to be a much better fit.

A few notes on the RFA market

March, 15, 2010
This is about the time in free agency when we start hearing more about the restricted market.

It's generally not much of a market. As Pro Football Weekly noted, only 62 RFAs have changed teams over the past 17 years.

Perhaps this offseason will be different in the NFC West.

The Seahawks and Cardinals have interest in Chargers RFA Charlie Whitehurst. Seattle has also visited with Broncos RFA Brandon Marshall. Rams RFA Oshiomogho Atogwe could hit the market without restrictions if St. Louis doesn't increase its one-year offer to him from $1.226 million to nearly $7 million by June 1.

In sizing up the RFA market, I noticed that 16 of the first 32 players chosen in the 2005 NFL draft are RFAs. All but three of them -- Braylon Edwards, Travis Johnson and Fabian Washington -- remain with their original teams.

The chart ranks them by draft order while showing RFA tender levels for each. Of the 16, only the Rams' Alex Barron was tendered at less than a first-round level.

What Pro Bowlers command as RFAs

March, 4, 2010
NFL teams have or will be announcing tender levels for their restricted free agents.

I've put together an unofficial early list of Pro Bowl players and their known tender levels.

All but the Jets' Leon Washington would command at least a first-round choice if their current teams declined to match offers or negotiate a lower price via trade.

I think the price tags are mostly prohibitive, particularly given that each would require a long-term contract to justify the investment.

Gridiron Challenge: Is my wife reading?

November, 19, 2009
A down week from Miles Austin could not knock "Steak for Dinner?" from the top spot in our weekly fantasy game.

MaverickUWash scored 179 points in Week 10, more than anyone in the field of 2,000-plus entrants, thanks to a lineup featuring Philip Rivers (17), Peyton Manning (29), Ronnie Brown (15), Adrian Peterson (26), Randy Moss (29), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (16), John Carlson (9), Jeff Reed (12) and the Baltimore defense (26).

The sandowife entry outscored mine in Week 10, but it's going to take more than that to disrupt the household hierarchy, unless she reads this.

Finally, what's with the two "SINGH IS KING" entries in the top 10?

Posted by's Mike Sando

Sensing the shortage of mock drafts this time of year, I joined's other divisional bloggers in putting together our own version.

A confession: I sent Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe to the Rams at No. 2 knowing the decision helped avert a dilemma with Seattle at No. 4.

Sending another player to the Rams -- specifically receiver Michael Crabtree -- might have complicated the choice I was facing two picks later.

If Crabtree disappeared from the available pool at No. 2 and my AFC West counterpart, Bill Williamson, snagged Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry for the Chiefs at No. 3, then what for Seattle? I wasn't ready to join the Mark Sanchez-to-Seattle hype machine, but the possibility seemed more realistic without Crabtree and Curry available as alternatives.

The Rams need a tackle more than Seattle needs one, the thinking goes, so it's convenient for St. Louis to take one, leaving the Seahawks with more palatable options two picks later.

Alas, these are all theories built on assumptions. Reality figures to diverge significantly.

Four of Scouts Inc.'s 32 highest-ranked players -- Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers, Florida receiver Percy Harvin, Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas and Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler -- failed to find their way into our divisional bloggers' mock. Two players appearing on our mock -- Rutgers receiver Kenny Britt and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith -- did not earn spots on the Scouts Inc. top 32.

I doubt whether any two NFL teams share the same rankings for the top 32 players.

There is no consensus, in other words.

With that, I'll break down where each of my projected NFC West projections could break down.

(Read full post)

Pick 2008 2007 2006 2005
Chris Long Calvin Johnson Reggie Bush Ronnie Brown
Brandon Flowers Arron Sears
Rocky McIntosh
Reggie Brown
Kendall Langford
Usama Young
Eric Winston
O.J. Atogwe
William Hayes
Isaiah Stanback
Brad Smith
Antonio Perkins
138 Robert James
Jay Richardson
Pat Watkins
Boomer Grigsby
176 Jalen Parmele
Rufus Alexander
Kevin Booth
Nick Speegle
211 Nate Garner
Oscar Lua
Pat McQuistan
Calvin Armstrong

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Rams hold the second, 35th, 66th, 103rd, 138th, 176th and 211th choices in the 2009 draft. For perspective, I've singled out the last four players chosen in those spots.

Two of those players play for the Rams now: defensive end Chris Long, chosen second overall by the Rams last year, and free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, chosen 66th overall by the Rams in 2005.

Going back one additional year would have shown Rams guard Jacob Bell as the 138th player chosen in 2004, by Tennessee.

Quick look at current 2009 draft order

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Seahawks' victory over the Rams leaves St. Louis in the lead for the No. 2 overall choice in the 2009 draft.

The next two weeks will probably affect the eventual order at the top of the draft, but here's how the top 10 would shake out at present, according to the league:

1. Detroit (0-14)
2. St. Louis (2-12): The last five players drafted second overall were Chris Long (Rams), Calvin Johnson (Lions), Reggie Bush (Saints), Ronnie Brown (Dolphins) and Robert Gallery (Raiders).
3. Kansas City (2-12)
4. Cincinnati (2-11-1)
5. Seattle (3-11). The last five players drafted fifth overall were Glenn Dorsey (Chiefs), Levi Brown (Cardinals), A.J. Hawk (Packers), Cadillac Williams (Bucs) and Sean Taylor (Redskins).
6. Oakland (3-11)
7. Cleveland (4-9)
8. San Francisco (5-9): The last five players drafted eighth overall were Derrick Harvey (Jaguars), Jamaal Anderson (Falcons), Donte Whitner (Bills), Antrel Rolle (Cardinals) and DeAngelo Hall (Falcons).
9. Jacksonville (5-9)
10. Green Bay (5-9)

The Rams would be picking second overall for the second year in a row. They've addressed the defensive line early in recent drafts. This might be time to help the offensive line. Orlando Pace certainly worked out well for them as an early pick.

The Seahawks haven't picked in the top five since selecting Shawn Springs third in 1997. They also picked up Walter Jones (sixth overall) that year.

The 49ers last picked among the top eight when they selected tight end Vernon Davis sixth overall in 2006.

Around the NFC West: Rams candidates

December, 11, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will have a hard time retaining Jim Haslett as coach given the team's struggles. Potential candidates: Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Cardinals assistant head coach and offensive line coach Russ Grimm, Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, Titans offensive line coach Mike Munchak, Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris and Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe has at least one takeaway in seven of his last 10 games. Atogwe is responsible for 10 of the Rams' 17 takeaways this season.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains why the Rams are benching Corey Chavous in favor of Todd Johnson. Age is one factor. Johnson also played relatively well against the Cardinals in Week 14, according to Haslett.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Rams receiver Dane Looker is the emergency kicker while Josh Brown rests a groin injury.

Also from Korte: Chavous declined comment following his job loss.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin points to improved conditioning and more creative play calling as reasons for his success this season.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says 49ers tight end Vernon Davis could play a role in blocking Dolphins pass-rusher Joey Porter.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with Franklin and linebacker Patrick Willis, key players in the 49ers' defense. Willis thinks he has improved since last season even though his stats aren't as prolific.

Also from Maiocco: NFL rules prevent teams from signing interim coaches to long-term deals until after the season. They 49ers cannot hire Mike Singletary before Dec. 29.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat explains why 49ers coach Singletary carries around a black book with gold leafing on the pages. Singletary has been a prolific note taker since his retirement from the NFL in 1993.

Also from Cohn: A transcript of his conversation with Singletary.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee doesn't understand why the Dolphins and other teams have had success with the Wildcat offense.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the Dolphins' Ronnie Brown has 47 carries for 249 yards from the Wildcat this season. Singletary credits the Dolphins' coaches. Also, the 49ers' confirmed that offensive coordinator Mike Martz is no longer a candidate for the San Diego State coaching job.

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic explains how Cardinals pass-rusher Bert Berry became an advocate for children. His wife overcame leukemia when both were in middle school. 

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Vikings' Adrian Peterson expected the Cardinals to draft him.

Darren Urban of explains why the Cardinals drafted Levi Brown instead of Peterson. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted to build a strong offensive line. Meanwhile, Brown isn't interested in rehashing the draft.

Also from Urban: Kurt Warner is taking a low-key approach to the Cardinals' success. The quarterback is projecting a business-as-usual demeanor.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer expects Seneca Wallace to start at quarterback against the Rams in Week 15. Wallace is getting the meaningful coaching in practice.

Also from Farnsworth: Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones also might miss the St. Louis game.

John Morgan of Field Gulls explains why selecting a quarterback in the first round can make sense. That's where teams tend to find the great ones.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times thinks Jones might not prevail in Pro Bowl voting for the first time in years.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are reluctant to let Hasselbeck play while the quarterback still feels a "tingle" stemming from his back injury.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Julian Peterson and other Seahawks are eager to get another shot at Rams guard Richie Incognito, whom they accused of dirty play.

Glass suddenly half full for 49ers

September, 22, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

The 49ers' schedule doesn't look quite so difficult now that the Saints and Patriots have fallen short of widespread expectations. Why can't the 49ers win at New Orleans in Week 4? Why can't they beat the Patriots at Candlestick Park the following week?

I ask the questions because the next two games provide the 49ers with an unexpected opportunity to have a 4-1 record heading into a tough three-game stretch featuring the Eagles, Giants and Seahawks. Losing the next two games would leave the 49ers at 2-3 heading into those games.

The 49ers are playing with great excitement and confidence on offense. That excitement is affecting the rest of the team. Now is the time for the 49ers to ride their momentum into games against flawed teams.

The Saints' defense ranks among the NFL's five worst in total yards, yards per play, yards per rush, passing yards, sacks per pass attempt and points. The Patriots just made Ronnie Brown look like a Hall of Famer.

I like the 49ers' chances on offense against the Saints. The 49ers' defense won't have to worry about Saints receiver Marques Colston or tight end Jeremy Shockey, both injured. That makes it easier for the 49ers to focus on Reggie Bush.