NFL Nation: Kendall Hunter

Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.

Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
11:52
PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few observations from the San Francisco 49ers' 34-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

What it means: The 49ers, who are 11-4 and who have won five straight games, have qualified for the playoffs in all three seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh. And the possibilities abound. The 49ers can still be the No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the NFC. They will win the NFC West and get a first-round bye if Seattle loses to visiting St. Louis and the 49ers win at Arizona on Sunday. If the 49ers beat the Cardinals, the lowest seed they will be is No. 5.

Bowman goes from goat to hero: 49ers star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman made a huge mistake when he let an onside kick get past him. The Falcons recovered the ball, down 27-24, with 2 minutes, 9 seconds to play. The Falcons quickly moved inside the red zone and appeared ready to tie the game or take the lead. But Bowman redeemed himself dramatically as he caught a tipped ball (after a nice play by San Francisco cornerback Tramaine Brock) and took it 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the game. It was a signature Candlestick Park play.

Party night: The 49ers went out in style in the final regular-season game at Candlestick. It was a party atmosphere all night, with plenty of 49ers stars of the past and present on hand as well as a variety of tributes. It was also a terrific 50th-birthday gift to Harbaugh.

Stock Watch: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Michael Crabtree took over in the third quarter, when the 49ers outscored Atlanta 10-0. Kaepernick hit Crabtree four times for 99 yards in the period. Kaepernick had three big runs in the second half for 35 yards.

Ground game: Atlanta scored to make it a 20-17 game with 8:34 to play in the fourth quarter before Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combined on a six-play, 76-yard touchdown drive -- all six plays were on the ground -- to give San Francisco a 27-17 lead with about five minutes to go.

What's next: The 49ers visit the red-hot Cardinals. Arizona can still make the playoffs if it wins and the Saints lose at home to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
4:11
PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 33-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday:

What it means: This was an impressive victory for San Francisco, its fourth in a row. There was concern of a letdown after the big victory over the Seattle Seahawks combined with the long flight east. It would have been easy for the 49ers to come in flat. But this is a Jim Harbaugh team; that type of thing doesn’t happen. The 49ers stay the course. They are now 7-0 against teams with losing records. Most importantly, San Francisco (on the strength of five- and four-game win streaks) is 10-4. Because Minnesota beat Philadelphia, the 49ers can clinch a playoff berth if Tennessee beats visiting Arizona on Sunday afternoon.

Stock Watch: Frank Gore surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the seventh time in his career. He was instrumental in a long fourth-quarter drive in which the 49ers took several minutes off the clock and sealed the win. Gore’s backup, Kendall Hunter, also had a good day on the ground and scored a touchdown on a fumbled kickoff with four minutes to go to make it 30-14. The 49ers finished with 187 rushing yards on 40 carries.

Dawson stays hot: 49ers kicker Phil Dawson had four field goals for the second straight game. He has made 24 straight attempts. The 49ers need to find a way to get in the end zone more, but Dawson has been terrific.

Crabtree makes up for mental lapse: On the key drive in the fourth quarter, Michael Crabtree hurt the 49ers by throwing a pass he didn’t catch into the stands. He was penalized 15 yards. But he saved the drive with a big catch on third-and-12.

What’s next: It’s going to be a special week. The 49ers will play their final game at Candlestick Park on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons. They will move to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara next season. Many tributes are planned.

As early season games go, this is about as big as they come. NFC West rivals, some would say bitter rivals, in a Week 2 showdown to see which team has the upper hand in the division and, if the preseason prognosticators are correct, in the race to the Super Bowl.

So let’s get right to it:

Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are rising stars in the NFL, dynamic team leaders who are masters in the read-option and dangerous with both their legs and their arm. So who has the upper hand?

Terry Blount: I'll say Wilson in this one, strictly because the home-field advantage is so big in CenturyLink and it's the home opener. These two guys are so similar in how they play the game, but much different in terms of personality. Wilson is more of a buttoned-up-businessman type of guy, while Kaepernick is more colorful and a little more carefree in his approach; at least that is how it looks. But I know Wilson has the utmost respect for Kaepernick and his abilities as a quarterback.

Bill Williamson: Terry, this reminds me of the argument I had to make last year when the question was who was having a better comeback season, Denver's Peyton Manning or Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. There was no wrong answer. I have the same issue here. Kaepernick and Wilson are two of the reasons why the game going to be so great in the next decade. It’s difficult to disparage or poke holes in the game of either one. However, for the sake of this exercise, I will back Kaepernick. I’m sure the Packers would agree. Any time a guy beats a team with 181 yards on the ground and then comes back with 412 yards in the air, that is the work of a special player. I think Kaepernick may be just a tad more dangerous the Wilson. I’d lean on Kaepernick’s side, but again, I’d take Wilson on my side most Sundays. Kaepernick was nearly flawless against Green Bay. It was stunning.

What do you think will be the key defensively as the Seahawks try to contain Kaepernick?

Blount: Last week, Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said they wanted to keep Cam Newton from running because they didn't think he could beat them throwing. He was right, but that plan won't work with Kaepernick. The Seahawks' line will have to get more pressure on Kaepernick than it did on Newton. Defensive end Cliff Avril would help if he could finally get on the field. So would defensive end Chris Clemons, although that seems unlikely. And Seattle needs the return of cornerback Brandon Browner, who missed the opener with a hamstring issue. Walter Thurmond played well in place of Browner, but Browner's size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) is such an asset against a strong receiver like Anquan Boldin.

Williamson: After the Green Bay game, San Francisco safety Donte Whitner said he can’t wait to see the season develop because Kaepernick can beat defenses so many different ways. If the Seattle secondary keeps Kaepernick from going wild, perhaps he will beat them with his feet. That’s the thing about Kaepernick -- he will get you. He will make his impact. Keeping it under control on the ground and in the air is the key for Seattle.

Let's talk about the running backs -- Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch. Might one of these guys determine the outcome of the game?

Williamson: I certainly can see both veterans playing a major role. Gore was pretty quiet against the Packers -- until he needed to be loud. Yes, he had just a paltry 44 yards on 21 carries, but Gore made a difference with some key, clock-eating runs. At 30 years old, that is Gore’s role in this multidimensional offense. He is not going to be the lead dog, but the 49ers rely on him when needed. His days of carrying this offense are over, but he can help. I expect him to come up with a few solid runs Sunday. As for Lynch, he is clearly an emotional spark plug for the Seahawks. He will come at the 49ers. But this is a defense that will be ready. San Francisco allowed 3.7 yards a carry last season, the third-fewest in the NFL. And the 49ers shut down a revamped Green Bay run game Sunday, allowing the Packers 63 yards on 19 carries -- a 3.3-per-carry average. Green Bay’s longest run was 7 yards. In the end, I think both Gore and Lynch may have their moments, but neither will take over the game.

Blount: Lynch had a terrible game in the opener, rushing for only 43 yards on 17 carries. That won't work if Seattle hopes to win Sunday. With all the talk of Wilson and Kaepernick, the Seahawks still are a power-running team. Pete Carroll made the running game a point of emphasis at practice this week. Gore has enjoyed some of his best games against Seattle, rushing for 1,238 in 14 games against the Seahawks. But I think Lynch will go into Beast Mode on Sunday to prove last week was an exception. And it’s worth noting that Lynch has four 100-yard rushing games in his last six meetings with the 49ers.

It will be interesting to see how emotions come into play in this game. The 49ers are coming off an emotionally charged win over the Packers, and we all know about the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry. Do you think it will carry over to the field?

Blount: I really don't think it matters for this one. Both teams have been pointing to this matchup since the end of last season. And let's tell it like it is: Regardless how much they try to downplay it, these teams really don't like each other. The issues between Carroll and Jim Harbaugh go back to their Pac-12 days. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman has made it clear he has no love lost for Harbaugh, his coach at Stanford. So a little bad blood going in makes it even bigger.

Williamson: Teams can play emotionally for only so long before they wear down. Still, no team is going to wear down emotionally in Week 2. The 49ers are coming off an emotionally draining win over the Packers, but there is zero chance for a letdown. Harbaugh will see to that. He will get his team up for this game. There is serious disdain involved here. I expect plenty of pushing, shoving and yapping. In this case, it will only enhance the game, and I don’t think it will be a detriment to either team unless someone loses control.

49ers wide receiver Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis are coming off huge performances last week. Can the Seattle defensive backs -- whom many believe are the best in the league -- slow them down?

Williamson: That will be the goal for sure. The biggest question mark about the 49ers going into the season was at receiver with Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham out. But Boldin and Davis answered that question. In their first game together, Boldin and Kaepernick looked like they had played together for five years. Nearly every yard of Boldin’s 208 yards came in the clutch. Kaepernick and Davis combined for just six catches total in the final six games of the regular season last year. But they connected well in the postseason, and they were terrific together Sunday. Seattle will likely slow down both Boldin and Davis some. Don’t expect for Boldin and Davis to dominate. The 49ers will have to find other options. The key for San Francisco is to get rotational receivers Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton involved, as well as Kendall Hunter out of the backfield. I think San Francisco is varied enough to do it, but Boldin and Davis will have to make some kind of impact as well.

Blount: No secondary, no matter how good it is, can stop Boldin and Davis entirely. Free safety Earl Thomas said what that they want to do, not just in this game but in every game, is lure a quarterback to throw to the middle of the field. Thomas often cheats up near the line, leaving only Kam Chancellor deep, to entice throws into the middle. The Seahawks see it as a trap. They believe they have enough talent to force turnovers and mistakes by any offense if they throw consistently over the middle, so Davis, especially, will get his chances. Seattle’s defensive backs have a knack for forcing turnovers, and I expect they will come up with one or two Sunday.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Issues with Ryan Williams' surgically repaired right knee sent the Arizona Cardinals' third-year running back to the sideline less than three full practices into the team's first training camp under coach Bruce Arians. An MRI exam showed no new damage, Arians said Monday, but Williams will seek a second opinion just to be sure. No one is quite sure when the 2011 second-round draft choice might be cleared for return.

The occasion provides an opportunity to examine as a group Williams and the other prominent halfbacks NFC West teams selected in 2011 and 2012. None was selected to start immediately, so we shouldn't evaluate them solely on production. This sixsome has endured a torn Achilles' tendon (Kendall Hunter), a torn patella tendon (Williams) and a one-game suspension (Isaiah Pead). All will likely serve as backups or in committees.

Williams, who has sometimes appeared dynamic on the practice field for his ability to change direction without losing much speed, could face a make-or-break season after knee (2011) and shoulder (2012) injuries kept him off the field. "I would think so," Arians said.

NFC West teams continued drafting running backs in 2013. They selected a league-high six of them: second-rounder Christine Michael (Seattle), fourth-rounder Marcus Lattimore (San Francisco), fifth-rounder Zac Stacy (St. Louis), fifth-rounder Stepfan Taylor (Arizona), sixth-rounder Spencer Ware (Seattle) and sixth-rounder Andre Ellington (Arizona). Ware has played some fullback in the past and is playing that position now.

The division parted with two incumbent starters when Arizona released Beanie Wells and St. Louis let Steven Jackson out of his contract. The Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch and the 49ers' Frank Gore appear likely to produce at high levels again this season, but their teams are increasingly in position for the future.
Two of the NFC West's top receivers, Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin, headline a list of players declared physically unable to perform (PUP) as training camps gain momentum.

PUP designations carry different meanings at different times of the year. With that in mind, now is a good time to freshen up on the implications.

Players on PUP lists entering camp continue counting against the 90-man roster limit. They cannot practice while on the list. However, their teams can activate them from the list at any time before the mandatory roster reduction to 53 players, provided the players pass a physical exam.

This year, teams must reduce to 53 players by 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 31.

Players remaining on PUP lists at the reduction to 53 players must remain on the list for their teams' first six games. They do not count against the 53-man roster limit during that time. After six games have passed, players on PUP have a three-week window to resume practicing. Once a player begins practicing within that window, the team has another three weeks to activate the player from the PUP list onto the 53-man roster.

In effect, a player on the PUP list at the reduction to 53 players could return after his team's sixth game or as long as six weeks after that. The NFL had discussed expanding the three-week window for practicing by two weeks. I'm checking on the status of that proposal, which would have required collaboration with the NFL Players Association.

Update: The window has indeed been extended from three weeks to five weeks, according to the NFL.

Thirteen players from the NFC West are on PUP lists. Five others are on non-football injury (NFI) lists. The rules for NFI mirror those for PUP, the difference being that players on NFI lists suffered injuries unrelated to football. For example, the San Francisco 49ers recently activated defensive lineman Lamar Divens from the NFI list. They did not disclose the source of his injury, but teammate Ahmad Brooks had struck him in the head with a bottle in June, according to authorities.

Separately, the 49ers have also activated linebacker Darius Fleming and receiver Kyle Williams from their PUP list.

With training camp approaching, the San Francisco 49ers have listed eight players expected to remain on the sideline for the time being.

Linebacker Darius Fleming, running back Kendall Hunter, receiver Mario Manningham and receiver Kyle Williams landed on the active/physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Defensive lineman Tank Carradine, defensive lineman Quinton Dial, running back Marcus Lattimore and tackle Luke Marquardt landed on the active/non-football injury list.

Those players will continue to count against the current 90-man roster limit. The team could activate any once they pass a physical examination. Players still unable to practice when the season starts often land on the reserve/PUP list, which forces them to miss at least the first six games of the season.

All of the players San Francisco listed remain eligible for Week 1 at this point. Lattimore is expected to miss most or all of his rookie season. Williams is expected back sooner. Manningham's status is less clear.

Receiver Michael Crabtree, rehabbing from a torn Achilles' tendon, was not mentioned in that group. He could be a candidate for the injured reserve list with a designation for return after the first eight weeks of the season. Players on various reserve lists do not count against roster limits.

All the players mentioned in this item continue to count against the 90-man limit.

Eight in the Box: RB status check

May, 24, 2013
5/24/13
12:06
PM ET
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each NFC West team look at running back, and what still needs to be done?

Arizona Cardinals: This is a transitional year at the position for Arizona. Free-agent addition Rashard Mendenhall gets a shot to revive his career following a disappointing finish with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's familiar with Bruce Arians' offense, giving him a head start over the competition. Ryan Williams has a shot at the job, too, but he's been injured and recently admitted to playing scared last season while trying to protect his surgically repaired knee. General manager Steve Keim was a huge fan of the speed and cutting ability Williams offered coming out of college. Knee and shoulder injuries have taken a significant toll. Can Williams bounce back? Arians wants his backs versatile enough to play on third down as well. The team used a 2013 fifth-round choice for Stanford career rushing leader Stepfan Taylor with that in mind.

St. Louis Rams: Youth will be served in the Rams' offensive backfield now that Steven Jackson has left in free agency. The Rams could have kept Jackson, but they let him out of his contract with an eye toward building a younger roster. Rookie fifth-round pick Zac Stacy will get every chance to earn a prominent role on early downs. Isaiah Pead, a second-round choice in 2012, projects as more of a change-of-pace back. Daryl Richardson, a seventh-rounder last year, should also figure into the mix. The Rams anticipated moving forward from Jackson with a committee setup. It's an upset if one of the backs on the roster commands a huge majority of the carries. The Rams have assumed more of a fast-break look at the skill positions without Jackson as an offensive centerpiece.

San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore remains the primary back at age 30 after holding up physically through a 19-game season in 2012. The 49ers have set up themselves for life after Gore by drafting Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore in recent seasons. The position has obviously been a priority for San Francisco. The 49ers know what the numbers say about running backs declining in their late 20s. Gore has resisted the trend to this point and doesn't seem to be declining. The dynamics behind Gore are fluid. Hunter could remain the No. 2 back if he can bounce back from ACL surgery, but James demonstrated during the playoffs why he should factor as well. Lattimore, a fourth-round pick this year, will get the full 2013 season to recover from a career-threatening knee injury suffered in college. This amounts to a redshirt year for him.

Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch blows off postgame interviews, shows up for the Seahawks' offseason program at his leisure and has a DUI case pending in the courts. He is even tougher to tackle on the field. The Seahawks know they have a great thing going with the hard-charging Lynch -- for as long as it lasts. They've been hedging their bets for two years running. Robert Turbin, a fourth-round choice in 2012, fits the power mold and has a promising future. The same goes for 2012 second-rounder Christine Michael. And if those picks weren't enough, Seattle used a 2013 sixth-rounder for Spencer Ware, who projects as a combination halfback/fullback. Lynch is arguably the best back in the division. Michael's addition gives the Seahawks outstanding young depth, too.
The San Francisco 49ers reached the Super Bowl last season without requiring much from their 2012 draft class.

They remain in position to bring along prospects slowly and that is reflected in two draft selections through four rounds in 2013. Second-round choice Tank Carradine and especially fourth-round choice Marcus Lattimore are coming off injuries that could benefit from additional rehabilitation time. Both players would have been drafted earlier if they were healthier.

So, if all goes well for the 49ers, Carradine and Lattimore will return high value to the team down the line, if not right away. Carradine, a potentially important addition to the defensive front seven, has said his knee is healthy and he'll be ready to contribute this season. Lattimore suffered a more serious knee injury and, while ahead of schedule in his recovery, might not factor in 2013.

The 49ers do not have immediate needs at running back. Frank Gore remains productive. Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James appear to be quality players. Both could handle increased roles if Gore declined this season.

Lattimore's addition puts the team in better position to move on from Gore after the upcoming season, should that move make sense for the 49ers. Gore turns 30 next month.

Eight in the Box: Breakout player

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
12:00
PM ET
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Who is one potential breakout player for each NFC West team in 2013?

Arizona Cardinals: Tight end Rob Housler comes to mind as a talented young player likely to benefit from an upgraded quarterback situation. Housler had 45 receptions, so it's not as though he was a nonfactor entirely. Based on that figure alone, we might just as easily point to receiver Michael Floyd, who also had 45 catches, as a breakout candidate. Why Housler? The Cardinals were the only team in the NFL without a touchdown reception from a tight end last season. Housler should catch a few of them with Carson Palmer taking over at quarterback. Last season, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians coordinated an Indianapolis Colts offense featuring rookie tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Those two combined for 111 receptions and five touchdowns. Other breakout candidates for the Cardinals in 2013 could include Sam Acho and/or O'Brien Schofield. Both figure to get extensive opportunities rushing the passer.

St. Louis Rams: Running back Isaiah Pead is a close choice over receiver Brian Quick. Both came to mind immediately as leading candidates for breakout seasons after neither produced much as a second-round choice in 2012. Quick caught two scoring passes among his 27 receptions as a rookie. Pead was a nonfactor with only 10 carries. That gives him more room for growth. Pead should see a significant increase in opportunities now that Steven Jackson is with the Atlanta Falcons. When I asked quarterback Sam Bradford about breakout candidates last summer, Pead was one of the first players he mentioned based on physical abilities alone. Bradford wasn't sure whether Pead could contribute right away after missing organized team activities, because of the graduation schedule at the University of Cincinnati. In the end, Pead never gained much traction. Bradford did think Pead had the talent to be "special" in a change-of-pace role, at least. The thinking here is that Pead should be just as talented now as he was then, and that he'll benefit from a year in the offensive system and additional opportunities.

San Francisco 49ers: Running back LaMichael James stands out as the obvious choice after carrying 27 times for 125 yards as a rookie. James and fellow 2012 draft choice A.J. Jenkins would be the leading candidates for breakout seasons based on players already on the roster. Of the two, only James has shown enough at this point to warrant a clearly defined role in the offense for 2013. There are some obstacles in James' path. Frank Gore remains the projected starter at running back for the upcoming season. Kendall Hunter is returning from injury and could take away carries from James. Still, there should be room for James to contribute over the course of the season. Having the shifty James in the backfield with quarterback Colin Kaepernick gave the 49ers a welcome dimension in the playoffs. James carried 11 times for 65 yards (5.9 average) in the postseason. The 49ers could also have breakout players at free safety and in the No. 2 tight end role behind Vernon Davis; however, it's not yet clear which players will fill those roles. The team could find solutions in the draft later this month.

Seattle Seahawks: Guard J.R. Sweezy is a logical candidate in the truest sense. He projects as the starting right guard after arriving in 2012 as a seventh-round choice from NC State. Sweezy played defensive tackle in college. The Seahawks converted him to guard and loved what they saw, so much so that coaches rushed him into the starting lineup before Sweezy was ready to make the jump. Sweezy played 100 percent of the snaps in Seattle's first, 15th and 16th games last season. He played most of the snaps through two postseason games. Having a full offseason in the starting lineup should send Sweezy on his way. It's possible little-known linebacker Malcolm Smith will break out as a starter after seeing his playing time increase over the final five games last season. Sweezy appears more clearly positioned to start, however. Cornerback Jeremy Lane is another young player to watch. I excluded receiver Golden Tate from consideration because he broke out last season with eight touchdown receptions.
Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh Ric Tapia/Icon SMIPete Carroll's Seahawks and Jim Harbaugh's 49ers have continued their rivalry into the offseason.
The San Francisco 49ers' and Seattle Seahawks' 2012 battle for NFC West supremacy has turned into a perceived battle this offseason.

"It just feels like the Seahawks make a move, then the Niners make a move," former NFL quarterback Damon Huard said Wednesday during our conversation on 710ESPN Seattle. "The Seahawks sign Percy Harvin, then the Niners go get Anquan Boldin. The Niners just signed Nnamdi Asomugha, they signed Colt McCoy, and now it's the Seahawks' turn to sign a quarterback. It really feels like this competition that was so fun to watch last fall has carried over into the offseason between the Niners and the Seahawks."

That's what it feels like from this angle, too. So, when ESPN's Bill Polian listed 49ers general manager Trent Baalke among his top six executives Insider without a mention for Seattle counterpart John Schneider, I knew some Seahawks fans would take offense.

"Schneider should be on there," SamW9801 wrote in commenting on the Polian piece.

I'm going to ratchet up the discussion with an assist from Tony Villiotti of draftmetrics.com. Tony identified ranges of picks by how frequently teams have found five-year starters within those ranges.

Using those general ranges, displayed at right, I've put together a chart at the bottom of this item comparing the 49ers' and Seahawks' draft choices since 2010.

Baalke took over the 49ers' draft room roughly a month before the 2010 draft. Schneider became the Seahawks' GM that offseason. The 49ers then underwent a coaching change after the 2010 season, at which point Baalke assumed the GM title officially. We might cut Baalke some slack for selecting Taylor Mays, a player then-coach Mike Singletary valued. There were surely other times when both GMs followed their coaches' input, for better or worse.

Seattle has drafted 28 players over this period, three more than San Francisco has drafted. The Seahawks had more to work with from a qualitative point as well. Their median choice was No. 130 overall, compared to No. 165 for the 49ers.

It's pretty clear both teams know what they are doing in the draft.

Aldon Smith, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and NaVorro Bowman have earned Pro Bowl and/or All-Pro honors for the 49ers. Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman have done so for the Seahawks.

Both teams have found franchise quarterbacks after the first round. Colin Kaepernick was chosen 36th overall in 2011. Wilson went to Seattle at No. 75 last year.

Neither team has missed in that first category, which includes players taken among the top 13 overall picks. Smith and Okung are elite players at premium positions.

Both teams have unanswered questions in that 14-40 range. The 49ers are waiting on A.J. Jenkins to produce. The Seahawks haven't gotten much from James Carpenter. But in Iupati and Thomas, the 49ers and Seahawks found players among the very best at their positions. Kaepernick's selection puts this group over the top for San Francisco. Seattle got eight sacks from Bruce Irvin as a rookie in 2012, so the Seahawks aren't far behind. It's just impossible to overlook the value a franchise quarterback provides.

Seattle has the edge in the 41-66 range. Mays is long gone from the 49ers. That leaves LaMichael James for the 49ers against Bobby Wagner and Golden Tate for Seattle. Wagner was an instant starter at middle linebacker and a three-down player who commanded consideration for defensive rookie of the year. Tate blossomed with Wilson at quarterback.

The Seahawks also have an edge in that 67-86 range, having selected Wilson.

Seattle holds a 7-3 lead in number of picks used between the 87th and 149th choices, a range producing five-year starters 16 percent of the time, according to Villiotti.

Both teams used picks in that range for players whose injury situations dragged down their draft status: Joe Looney in San Francisco, Walter Thurmond in Seattle. Both teams found starting linebackers in this range: Bowman to the 49ers, K.J. Wright to the Seahawks. Both teams found developmental running backs in that range: Kendall Hunter to the 49ers, Robert Turbin to the Seahawks. Both teams found Pro Bowl players: Bowman in San Francisco, Chancellor in Seattle.

Sherman, arguably the NFL's best cornerback, gives Seattle an edge in the 150 through 189 range of picks. Both teams found backup tight ends there. Anthony Dixon (49ers) and Jeremy Lane (Seahawks) have the potential to expand their roles.

The 49ers found starting fullback Bruce Miller in the final pick range, which runs from 190 to the end of the draft. Seattle found a projected starting guard there in J.R. Sweezy. Malcolm Smith is a candidate to start at linebacker for Seattle. Miller and Sweezy both played defense in college. Miller has already successfully transitioned to offense. Seattle thinks Sweezy will do the same.

Summing it up: Both teams can feel good about their draft performance over the past three seasons. I doubt either team would trade its picks for the other team's picks. That makes sense. Teams draft the players they like best. The 49ers have six projected 2013 starters to show for their choices. The number is eight for the Seahawks, not counting Irvin or Tate. Seattle has had more choices and higher quality choices, and more openings in the lineup to accommodate those players. I think that shows in the results.

You might recall the high school kid who parlayed an old cell phone into a $9,000 convertible through a series of online trades.

I wonder what he could get for a third-round draft choice.

We considered earlier how the San Francisco 49ers could conceivably parlay one of their 2013 NFL draft choices into 2014 picks. That item focused on getting value for one of the second-round choices the 49ers possess. Later selections can also return future capital.

The 49ers aren't the only team to demonstrate this, of course, but with a league-high 14 selections this year, they provide a good example.

Last year, the 49ers turned the 92nd and 125th picks into the 117th and 180th choices, plus 2013 picks in the third, fifth and sixth rounds. Those 2013 picks are 74th overall from Carolina, 157th overall from Indianapolis and 180th overall from Miami. The picks from Carolina and Miami were the 12th choices within their rounds. The one from the Colts was the 24th choice of its round.

The chart shows what the 49ers gave and received in each of the four trades. The underlined picks are the ones San Francisco started and finished with in their possession. The 49ers moved down in the first three trades before moving up to select guard Joe Looney in the fourth one.

A look at how those trades went down:

Trade One

What happened: San Francisco sent the 92nd overall choice to Indianapolis for the 97th choice and a 2013 fifth-rounder.

Immediate fallout: The Colts used the 49ers' pick to select receiver T.Y. Hilton, who finished his rookie season with 50 receptions for 861 yards and seven touchdowns. Hilton had five games with between 100 and 113 yards receiving.

Comment: The seven players San Francisco drafted hardly played until an injury to Kendall Hunter forced second-rounder LaMichael James into duty. The 49ers had to figure their rookies weren't going to play much. The Colts had different needs. They were turning over most of their roster. They needed young players to contribute right away. They had a spot for Hilton and made the most of the pick. The 49ers put that 2013 fifth-rounder in their pocket before using the 97th pick in the next trade.

Trade Two

What happened: San Francisco sent the 97th choice, acquired from Indianapolis, to the Miami Dolphins for the 103rd and 196th choices, plus a 2013 sixth-rounder.

Immediate fallout: The Dolphins used the 97th choice for running back Lamar Miller, who rushed for 250 yards and a touchdown while playing 13.7 percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie.

Comment: Quarterback Kirk Cousins was among the players selected between the 97th pick, which the 49ers owned, and the 103rd pick, which the team acquired. Washington took him 102nd overall. The 49ers could use a young quarterback now, but there would have been no reason for them to select one at that point. Alex Smith was the starter and Colin Kaepernick was next in line. The 49ers pocketed that 2013 sixth-rounder. The 103rd and 196th picks factored into trades below.

Trade Three

What happened: The 49ers traded the 103rd pick, acquired from Miami, to the Carolina Panthers for the 180th pick and a 2013 third-rounder.

Immediate fallout: The Panthers used the 103rd pick for defensive end Frank Alexander, who had 2.5 sacks while playing 52.3 percent of the Panthers' defensive snaps as a rookie. The 49ers used the 180th pick for safety Trenton Robinson, who did not play on defense and was inactive for the final 13 games.

Comment: Getting that 2013 third-rounder worked out well for the 49ers after Carolina finished only 7-9. The Panthers were coming off a 6-10 season when they made the trade, but they had relatively high expectations after Cam Newton's promising rookie season. Finishing below .500 meant the third-rounder Carolina sent to San Francisco would fall 12th in the round.

Trade Four

What happened: The 49ers were the ones trading up this time. They traded the 125th choice, which was their own, and the 196th choice, acquired from the Dolphins, to the Detroit Lions for the 117th choice.

Immediate fallout: The 49ers used the 117th pick for Looney, who was recovering from surgery and would not be ready right away. Alex Boone emerged as a solid contributor for the 49ers at right guard, diminishing the immediate need for Looney. But general manager Trent Baalke noted on draft day that Looney could project at center eventually as well. The Lions used the 125th choice for linebacker Ronnell Lewis, who played one snap on defense in eight games. Detroit used the 196th pick for cornerback Jonte Green, who played 38 percent of the defensive snaps while appearing in 15 games.

Comment: The 49ers must have felt as though Looney would not be available to them at No. 125. There was much activity in this range of picks. The 118th, 119th and 120th choices also changed hands. So did the 123rd through 126th picks. That meant eight of the 10 picks from No. 117 through No. 126 changed hands. Looney was the only offensive lineman selected in that range and the only guard picked until Washington used the 141st choice for Adam Gettis.

NFL big plays: Who and what makes them

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
10:54
AM ET
NFL teams spent Sunday watching running backs and wide receivers work out at the NFL scouting combine. As always, teams are looking for players with big-play ability.

But what is a big play?

In my experience, NFL teams tend to see them as runs covering 12-plus yards and passes covering 16-plus yards.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch used different measures in a recent piece suggesting the St. Louis Rams need to find a game-breaking player in the draft. But the idea is the same across the board. The longer the play, the better for offenses.

I've put together a couple charts showing where NFC West teams stood last season in big plays, using NFL teams' definition of them. The Rams had 102, which is about the same as they had in 2011 (100) and 2010 (100). They had 89 in 2009.

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford led the NFC West with 66 of these 16-plus completed passes. Seattle's Russell Wilson was second with 64. San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick (41) and Alex Smith (32) combined for 73. John Skelton (26), Kevin Kolb (20), Ryan Lindley (12) and Brian Hoyer (4) combined for Arizona's total of 62.

The San Francisco 49ers had 126, up from 108 in each of the previous two seasons. Seattle had 121, a rise from 95 in 2011, 100 in 2010 and 80 in 2009. Arizona had 84, down from its totals in 2011 (103), 2010 (102) and 2009 (122).

The first chart shows totals for last season. The chart below shows individual NFC West leaders, also from last season.

The Seahawks and 49ers pumped up their totals for rushing with additional quarterback runs covering at least 12 yards. Wilson (14) and Kaepernick (11) combined for 25 of them. Smith added two for the 49ers. Kolb had five. Bradford had three.

We can revisit in the future whether the 12- and 16-yard cutoffs are most meaningful. I just know those are the cutoffs teams cite when evaluating players and offensive production.

Closer look at Wells and NFC West RBs

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
1:00
PM ET
At his best, Beanie Wells can be a big, physical runner with a wicked stiff arm and a strong nose for the end zone.

Wells was not at his best last season.

The Arizona Cardinals' running back had 88 carries for 234 yards and five touchdowns in eight games. He was on the field for 152 snaps, a career low and down from 583 in 2011, when Wells rushed for 1,099 yards and 10 touchdowns.



"I think Beanie had a tough stretch this year because of the injuries," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told reporters from the NFL scouting combine. "He showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness late in the year when he was able to. He's had some injuries, so he had a difficult time with his cut ability and his lateral movement, but Beanie is still a big horse who can finish runs and create yardage after contact, which is something that excites us."

That last comment ran counter to my perception of Wells last season.

Of the 74 backs with at least 200 yards rushing last season, Wells ranked 73rd in yards after contact per rushing attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Wells was at 1.12 yards per carry after contact. Only New Orleans scat back Darren Sproles had a lower average (1.0) among those 74 players. The average for those 74 players was 1.7. Adrian Peterson was at 2.9.

Keim was alluding more to the ability Wells has shown in the past, when he was healthier. Wells averaged 2.2 yards per carry after contact in 2011. The average was 1.9 in 2010 and 2.1 as a rookie first-round choice in 2009.

Wells is scheduled to earn $1.4 million in base salary for 2013, the final year of his contract. The comments from Keim made it sound like the team was leaning toward sticking with Wells for another season, but that could change depending upon what happens in free agency and the draft. The team has envisioned fielding a strong one-two punch in the backfield with Wells and 2011 second-round choice Ryan Williams, but injuries have intervened. Williams has missed 29 of 32 games.

"I saw Ryan in our weight room the other day and he's doing fantastic," Keim said. "He's a guy that, watching film with Bruce (Arians), because he got injured early in the season, you forgot the type of run skills Ryan had. We watched him against Philadelphia, we watched him against New England, his lateral quickness, his natural run skills, his avoidability is something he brings to the table. Plus, he's a three-down back. We're expecting big things out of Ryan moving forward."

NEW ORLEANS -- Safety Ed Reed and cornerback Cary Williams were the only Baltimore Ravens defenders to start every regular-season game for the AFC champions this season.

The NFC champion San Francisco 49ers had nine defenders start every game.

Overall, the 49ers had 17 players start 16 games during the regular season. Eight Ravens players started 16 games apiece.

Roster health won't grab headlines the way brotherly coaching rivalries will grab them at the Super Bowl this week, but we all know which subject matters more.

The Ravens have gotten healthier lately, welcoming back Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis to their defensive lineup. But in looking at injured reserve lists for each Super Bowl team, the 49ers come out OK.

Baltimore's IR list features top cornerback Lardarius Webb, inside linebacker Jameel McClain and guard Jah Reid, all starters. It features special-teams contributors LaQuan Williams and Bobby Rainey, plus lesser contributors such as Damien Berry, Emanuel Cook, Christian Thompson, Tommy Streeter and Anthony Levine.

The 49ers' IR list features starting receiver Mario Manningham, No. 2 running back Kendall Hunter, third/fourth receiver Kyle Williams, backup outside linebacker Parys Haralson and backup tight end Demarcus Dobbs.

Defensive lineman Justin Smith's ability to return from a triceps injury suffered in Week 15 has been key for the 49ers. Smith, Suggs and Lewis all returned from arm injuries that threatened to end their seasons.

SPONSORED HEADLINES