NFC West: Todd Marinovich

The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, among others, tried to maneuver in the 1983 NFL draft for a shot at selecting John Elway.

So did the Los Angeles Raiders.

Now, former Raiders coach Hue Jackson says via Peter King that the team also badly wanted Colin Kaepernick, another strong-armed quarterback whose athletic background included baseball.

King's piece has plenty of detail, including a captivating visual: Raiders owner Al Davis throwing a glass across the room when San Francisco traded up to select Kaepernick with the 36th choice of the 2011 draft.

Of course, teams miss out on players they wanted in every draft. Some of those players wind up leading their teams to the Super Bowl, as Kaepernick did last season. Other players fail to make much of an impact.

Since 1983, when Elway landed in Denver via the Baltimore Colts, the Raiders have drafted the following 13 quarterbacks: Tyler Wilson, JaMarcus Russell, Andrew Walter, Marques Tuiasosopo, Billy Joe Hobert, Todd Marinovich, Major Harris, Jeff Francis, David Weber, Steve Beuerlein, Rusty Hilger, Randy Essington and Scott Lindquist.

Those players were, by definition, quarterbacks the Raiders really wanted. To hear selectively about the ones that got away makes me wonder how many other forgettable ones the team also wanted at various points. We're unlikely to hear about those.

We should also acknowledge the role an organization plays in developing quarterbacks. Kaepernick had more than one season of seasoning in the 49ers' system before joining a talented, superbly coached offense, one that was backed by a strong defense. He gets credit for doing his part, but the situation obviously would have been tougher in Oakland.

The 49ers deserve tremendous credit for landing Kaepernick in the second round. They went into that 2011 draft without knowing how well Alex Smith would perform. They had the seventh overall choice and could have taken Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder. Instead, they used that pick for Aldon Smith, who has already set their franchise single-season record for sacks. Kaepernick, meanwhile, is looking far more dynamic than every other quarterback the 49ers were in position to select in that draft.

Note: The headline refers to JaMarcus Russell. Some in the comments section thought "Russell" referred to Russell Wilson. I'm sure the Raiders would like to have him, too, but they'll have to settle for Matt Flynn.
John Clayton's take on whether the Philadelphia Eagles should trade Kevin Kolb describes as "good" the chances of an NFC West team acquiring the quarterback.

"While it seems unlikely the Eagles can get a first-round pick in 2011 because the time is running out to get a CBA done before the draft, a first-round pick in 2012 still works," Clayton wrote.

For trading purposes, a first-round pick in 2012 would be worth less than a first-round choice in the current year. Teams interested in trading for Kolb could benefit if a lockout extended past the draft because the Eagles wouldn't be able to command a 2011 draft choice in return.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. previously said he would part with the 25th overall choice for Kolb if he were the Seattle Seahawks.

OK, but what about using that choice for a quarterback in the draft?

Teams selecting quarterbacks in that range have struggled to find good ones. Aaron Rodgers (24th in 2005) and Dan Marino (27th in 1983) stand out as exceptions. The last 10 quarterbacks selected in the 20s: Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn, Rodgers, Jason Campbell, J.P. Losman, Rex Grossman, Jim Druckenmiller, Tommy Maddox, Todd Marinovich and current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
Clinching the NFC West title and winning a playoff game has dropped the Seattle Seahawks from eighth to 25th in the 2011 NFL draft order.

The slide will continue with every additional Seattle victory.

Beating St. Louis and New Orleans over the last two weeks has not filled draft needs, of course. Seattle still needs to identify its long-term quarterback. With that in mind, I've put together two charts showing quarterbacks drafted around where Seattle could have and currently would select.

The first chart shows every quarterback since 1990 drafted between the fifth and 15th overall choices, including six selected between fifth and seventh. Seattle would have been drafting in this general range if St. Louis had won the NFC West.

Arizona (fifth) and San Francisco (seventh) hold picks in this range, so the chart adds context for their choices as well.

Five of the 11 quarterbacks drafted fifth to 15th since 1990 have earned Pro Bowl honors. The three with plus signs next to their career start totals appear likely to start considerably more games in the future.

As the second chart shows, one of the nine quarterbacks drafted 20th through 30th since 1990 has earned Pro Bowl honors. One other, Tim Tebow, remains early enough in his career to qualify as a potential candidate for such honors down the road. Again, plus signs highlight totals likely to increase substantially over time.

Aaron Rodgers, the lone Pro Bowl choice from this group so far, was an exception as the 24th player chosen in the 2005 draft.

NFL teams have drafted 22 quarterbacks among the top four choices since 1990. I'll list them below by overall draft spot.

First overall: Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, David Carr, Michael Vick, Tim Couch, Peyton Manning, Drew Bledsoe, Jeff George.

Second overall: Donovan McNabb, Ryan Leaf, Rick Mirer.

Third overall: Matt Ryan, Vince Young, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Steve McNair, Heath Shuler.

Fourth overall: Philip Rivers.
Ryan from Lakeport, Calif., writes: Hi Sando, love the blog. All this talk about stripping people of their achievements -- namely Lawrence Taylor and Brian Cushing -- got me thinking. If they do make Jairus Byrd the rookie of the year, what about Lofa Tatupu? Does anyone remember how Shawne Merriman got busted for steroids? Lofa should be handed that honor. Granted, it's been five years, but this Seahawk fan wants something from 2005 to not get cheated from us.

Mike Sando: Good memory, Ryan. Merriman beat out Tatupu for defensive rookie honors after both turned in Pro Bowl rookie seasons in 2005. Merriman then served a four-game suspension during the 2006 season. If they strip Brian Cushing of top rookie honors after his positive test, why not strip Merriman? Sounds reasonable to me, although the timing of Merriman's positive test could be an important factor to consider. The San Diego Union-Tribune said the initial positive test was during 2006.

Note: This answer was updated to reflect the timing of Merriman's suspension, which was served from Weeks 8-11 of the 2006 season, not the first four games. News of the suspension broke in October 2006. As former player Eric Allen put it for ESPN.com at the time, "The Rookie of the Year award and Pro Bowl honors we all thought Merriman earned ... have now been sullied completely by his imminent suspension."


Mark from Clinton, Utah, writes: Mr. Sando, First off let me say that you coverage is something I look forward to as a Rams fan and it helps me pass through the downtime while deployed out here in Afghanistan. My question is this: I recently read a post that there hasn't been a successful lefty QB since Steve Young. While there have been 'lefty' flashes of brilliance, I do consider this to be pretty valid. The post also went on to say that this is a league for right-handers. Do you think that this is due to so much emphasis going to the left (blind) side of the line? If not, why the left-handed QB drought?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Mark. There have never been very many left-handed quarterbacks in the NFL to begin with, so the sample size is probably too small for us to make sweeping proclamations about these players' professional fates. It's possibly coincidental that some of the best ones -- Steve Young, Mark Brunell and Boomer Esiason -- played in the same general era.

Current NFC West teams found room for some of the better ones, from Young to Jim Zorn to Frankie Albert. Young is the only left-handed quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This analysis posted on the Rutgers University website includes stats for left-handed quarterbacks. Todd Marinovich and Cade McNown didn't help the cause as left-handed first-round draft picks during the 1990s.

Your initial thought could be on the right track. Football is traditionally a right-handed game. Offenses are set up to go that way. Left-handed quarterbacks could be at a disadvantage even at the lowest levels of the game, and this could influence how many of them eventually make it in the NFL. Meanwhile, baseball puts a premium on left-handed throwers, so talented lefties are probably funneled toward baseball and away from football as they come up through the ranks.

I like the subject matter. It's something I'd like to ask Matt Leinart about at some point. Anyone have any theories?


Zachary from San Francisco writes: Are the 49ers mishandling Alex Smith's contract situation? What if he has a breakout season? Even if Alex has a "breakout" season, I can't imagine the 49ers being in a position to place the franchise tag on him this offseason. Have the 49ers burned bridges with Alex? They've kept him on an awfully short leash and signed Davis Carr this offseason while telling him, 'No. It's still your job, Alex.'

Wouldn't Alex rather go and start for Minnesota in 2011? What if Kevin Kolb doesn't work out? Maybe he lands a job in Philadelphia. If Alex succeeds this season, he'll have the 49ers on a short leash.

Mike Sando: Smith made it clear he wanted to stay in San Francisco. He could have gone after more money as a free agent if he had refused to rework his rookie deal. The people most responsible for mishandling Smith early in his career no longer work for the 49ers. If Smith plays well this season, yes, the 49ers will have to step up. But they would welcome such a problem. I also think Smith will have more value to the 49ers than he will to other teams, based on his familiarity with the system.


Neil from Jackson, Miss., writes: Sando, your article on the best QB in the NFC West considered Matt Leinart but not Derek Anderson. Anderson could easily end up the Cardinal's starter and, for that matter, the best QB in the division. Not at all saying I think he will, but with the QB situation so weak across the division, he deserves to be considered a contender.

Mike Sando: You're right in that we should at least allow for the possibility. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. addressed the Anderson signing in Arizona for a recent Insider piece. He thought the Cardinals could have done better than Anderson even in looking only for a backup. I'm interested to see what happens with Charlie Whitehurst in Seattle given that Arizona was also trying to acquire him from the Chargers. Which player delivers more value -- Whitehurst or Anderson -- could impact the division this year or next.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan as saying the 49ers would not rush a rookie quarterback onto the field. This is consistent with what McCloughan has said during the offseason and a reflection of what the team learned from throwing Alex Smith into action as a rookie.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says McCloughan's draft news conference failed to influence him much either way. Maiocco does not expect the 49ers to draft an outside linebacker at No. 10 unless Aaron Curry is available. If the 49ers do target that position, expect them to draft someone at least 6-foot-2 and roughly between 240 and 260 pounds. Also from Maiocco: "For the first time I can remember, the 49ers did not make their head coach available for any pre-draft media session. Mike Singletary, leading up to the first draft as head coach, was nowhere to be seen today. It's pretty clear that this draft is McCloughan's baby."

Also from Maiocco: 49ers executive Terry Tumey has left the organization.

More from Maiocco: A look at the 49ers' draft needs, position by position.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat wanted to see more urgency from McCloughan after six consecutive losing seasons. I suspect the 49ers are very comfortable with their position in the draft. The 10th overall spot seems like a good place to be.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee quotes McCloughan as calling Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins a cornerback with the ability to play safety.

Also from Barrows: The 49ers will not trade up in the first round.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News quotes McCloughan as saying the 49ers have not had discussions with the Browns regarding Brady Quinn. 

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says it all with this lead paragraph: "Two of the Cardinals biggest needs entering the NFL draft this weekend are at outside linebacker and tight end. That's a sentence that could have been written before most of the club's previous 21 drafts since moving to Arizona."

David Dorsey of the Fort Myers News-Press says 1,000 mourners gathered to honor Andia Wilson-James, mother to Edgerrin James' four children. Dorsey: "Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Bubba Franks, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Nate Webster were among the players in attendance along with James's agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Wilson, 30, died last Tuesday after a year-long battle with acute myeloid leukemia. Her doctors and friends spoke of her courage, tenacity, strength and faith throughout her ordeal. They also talked about how James ... took weekly cross-country trips from Arizona throughout last season to care for Wilson and their children."

Richi Cimini of the New York Daily News says the Jets have interest in Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals require versatility from the linebackers they draft.

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind notes that Todd Heap, a player the Cardinals could conceivably acquire from the Ravens as part of a Boldin trade, has played all 16 games in three of the last four seasons.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks have a 50-50 chance of finding their future franchise quarterback if they select Mark Sanchez in the first round. Finding quality quarterbacks after the first round becomes more difficult. The last three first-round quarterbacks from USC: Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer and Todd Marinovich.

John Morgan of Field Gulls took Seahawks-related draft questions during a marathon session Wednesday. Morgan on a quarterback: "I think [GM Tim] Ruskell would be overjoyed to get someone like Jason Campbell that is 'established.' I think interest in [Matthew] Stafford is real, interest in Sanchez could be real -- but would be a bit surprising -- but the real favorite is the field with mid-round pick. Someone like John Parker Wilson, Nate Davis or Tom Brandstater."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says former Rams receiver Torry Holt is ready to continue his career. Thomas: "Once Jim Haslett was told he was not being retained as head coach, Holt sensed that the end was near. In the final weeks leading up to his release, Holt said he talked several times with general manager Billy Devaney. The only time Holt could recall speaking with new head coach Steve Spagnuolo was after he was cut."

Also from the Post-Dispatch: A letter from Holt to St. Louis fans. Holt: "I will miss the fans, coaches and teammates, but I will always have two important memories -- being part of a Super Bowl Championship team and representing the remarkable city of St. Louis to the world!"

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch questions whether the Rams drafted Chris Long for the right reasons in 2008. He says the team needs to stay true to its player rankings this year, even if it means taking more of a risk.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The ESPN.com fan rankings left Seattle at No. 20. A few readers weren't any too pleased, either. The relatively low ranking reflected in part local rules prohibiting tailgating at Qwest Field. But that just wasn't right, apparently.

Larry from Seattle writes: Sando, Sando, Sando! You lost serious credibility by hammering the Seahawks for the tailgate atmosphere. Next time you are at a game, go 2 blocks due west of the stadium (to just barely east of the viaduct and behind the set of warehouses that you will run into) and check out the tailgate party.

Other stadiums likely still have us beat, but it is pretty damn good. Just because there is no tailgating in the stadium parking lot does not mean that there is no tailgating. If you are going to evaluate the tailgate experience, I think you have an obligation to actually examine the issue a little more than peering out into the parking lot of Qwest and concluding that there is none.

If interested, shoot me an email and you can stop by my tailgate at your next game and see the experience firsthand. Despite my rant and your obviously limited knowledge of tailgating in Seattle, your blog is still the best thing going. Keep it up!

Mike Sando: You've got a deal, Larry. I would be honored to drop by your tailgate party one of these times. The only thing I ask is that you have something ready on the grill. And it better be good. The last thing you need is another negative review on ESPN.com.


John from California writes: Mike, What are your thoughts on the Seahawks opening game against the Bills? Hopefully our Defense will be awake and and ready to play.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks should win that game. I think they will win that game. But this team needs to prove itself in early games in the Eastern time zone.


Greg from Phoenix writes: Mike, I'm wondering what Alex Smith's chances are of starting over with another team and fulfilling his unrealized potential. It seems like there are so many high draft picks get only one shot and, despite the experience they get in those first years, in most cases if they don't succeed then they are labeled "busts" and don't get another. Why is this so and what are Smith's prospects for following this same path?

Mike Sando: I think a fresh start elsewhere is exactly what Alex Smith needs. I would think he'll enjoy success somewhere down the road. He's only 24 years old. A few players have enjoyed success after stumbling early. Vinny Testaverde comes to mind. Trent Dilfer, to a degree, and Kerry Collins. Tommy Maddox several years aback, and Jim Plunkett years ago.

But some quarterbacks never recover from a poor start. David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Ryan Leaf, Jim Druckenmiller, Heath Shuler, Rick Mirer, David Klingler, Dan McGwire, Todd Marinovich, Andre Ware, Kelly Stouffer.

At a certain point we might conclude that these players weren't as good as advertised. A quarterback must possess so many traits to succeed. Some of these players possessed certain traits that caught scouts' eyes, but they lacked the total package or couldn't overcome severe deficiencies in other areas.

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