Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
jim (east coast)
Do you think Seattle might have some sort of "under the table" deal with Philly for Kevin Kolb involving 2012 picks whenever the league year starts again?
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
I have no reason to think that would be the case. Things can change too quickly. There is no way Seattle could go through the draft process banking on something that isn't in writing. What if the Eagles got a better offer? What if the league changed the rules concerning 2012 draft choices? There are too many unknowns to make that sort of gamble at the most important position.
jim (east coast)
If the Seahawks are indeed interested in Kevin Kolb, do you think they'd also be interested in Matt Flynn? For what price (in 2012 draft picks)?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
The Seahawks did not, to my knowledge, pursue Matt Flynn last offseason, even though general manager John Schneider had come to Seattle directly from the Packers. I've seen nothing to suggest anyone is viewing Flynn as a starter for acquisition.
Felipe (Frederick, MD)
Hey Mike. I am a loyal 49ers fan and one open to bringing back Alex Smith, especially with all this uncertainty for the 2011 season. I still believe that he can produce with the right coach and system behind him. Looking at the schedule and if Alex is back, do you think we can make a strong push to win the division? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
The 49ers' schedule isn't very favorable in terms of structure. There are some significant challenges associated with travel, early kickoffs, etc. I do think the offensive coaching will improve with Harbaugh, but that the 2011 season will also be one of discovery. It'll take a while to figure out how the team will use certain players. As for the division, it is still open, in my view. I make the Rams a favorite based on expectations and having a settled quarterback situation. But I also think the other teams can be in the mix.
I know mock drafts are just opinions and to treat them as such, but I see a lot of them have the Rams taking a tight end by the third round. Do you think the Rams will draft a tight end fairly early or do they seem content with Daniels Fells, Fendi Onobun and Billy Bajema manning the position?
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
I don't see Josh McDaniels being content with the position, necessarily. But it's not like the Rams are going to draft one early no matter what. Teams do not value the position enough, traditionally, to have that sort of mandate. The Rams could get by with their current group and consider bringing in a free-agent such as Daniel Graham, who was with Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Denver.
I'll be upset with the Cardinals if they draft the QB from Missouri or any QB in the first round. None of them come close to what Sam Bradford accomplished in college. The Cards need a QB, but missing on another one like Matt Leinart would be far worse. I would rather have John Skelton play than a first-round draft pick. Priorities at No. 5 should be: Von Miller, Patrick Peterson, trading down and Robert Quinn.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
It's amazing how many mock drafts are sending Blaine Gabbert to the Cardinals at No. 5. I was looking at the latest mocks from Rob Rang, Nolan Nawrocki, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper. All four have Gabbert going to the Cardinals. My own feeling as been that Arizona would go in another direction and that Gabbert might not even be available, anyway. I see both sides of this one. A team should not draft a quarterback just because it needs one. At the same time, there's no sense in being too choosy, either. The Cardinals need to trust their evaluations of the players and weigh the value of the quarterback position when making this decision. They do not need to find the next Dan Marino with this pick. But if Gabbert has enough talent to lead a team to the Super Bowl, they should take him and develop him.
What are the chances that the 49ers trade back late in the first round to draft a QB such as Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Who would want to trade from toward the end of the first round into the top seven spots? I think that is the problematic part.
Gary (Austin, Tx)
Mike, The 49ers almost have to take a quarterback somewhere in this draft. It seems like they would need to grab one in the second round, and might need to trade up in order to do that. Assuming they had their choice of passers between the second tier guys do you think they would choose Dalton, Kaepernick, Ponder, or Mallett?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Probably Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton, based on their college careers and how they might fit. Ponder has more ability to move, which could be appealing to Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers are positioned in a tough spot, quarterback-wise. They pick seventh overall, after other QB-needy teams. And then their second-round pick is not until the 13th slot of the round.
Do you see Matt Leinart being anything more than a backup in the NFL for the rest of his career?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Leaning toward backup only at this point. No one is going to name him the starter. He will have to earn it.
Hey Mike, I wanted to get your take on what you think the Niners' thinking is with the #7 pick. If Gabbert, Peterson, and Miller are off the board, do you think it's possible that we could take a look at either AJ Green or Julio Jones if they are available. I don't think WR is a huge need but they would be the best players available. Thanks!
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
I tend to think the 49ers are still more likely to go defense with that pick, but Trent Baalke was there a couple years ago when they made the Michael Crabtree selection. I don't think they would do Julio Jones in that spot, but based on where people rank A.J. Green, that could be tempting.
AJ Feeley was viewed as a serviceable backup in St. Louis last season (although he wasn't needed), but that was in large part due to his knowledge of the system. With Shurmur gone, is he still viable as a No. QB? Could you see the Rams taking a flyer late on a QB and hoping McDaniels works his magic?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Yeah, I could see the Rams doing that, no question. Feeley is less viable in the No. 2 rule now that the Rams are not running Shurmur's offense. Much of the previous staff has held over. There could be an emphasis on not making too dramatic of changes, particularly with the lockout. But this will be McDaniels' offense still and Feeley has no history with him.
Shaj (El Dorado Hills, CA)
What is the primary root cause behind Michael Crabtree's sophomore slump?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
His youth and inexperience showed at times. Poor quarterback play was a big factor. How Crabtree handled that poor quarterback play was a factor. The offensive system was a factor. He still caught six touchdown passes, four more than as a rookie, and upped his yards per reception by half a yard. His season was disappointing, but not a disaster.
Mickey (Saint Louis)
Hey Mike, love your work, If the Rams miss out on Julio Jones, would picking up a receiver in the second round (say Leonard Hankerson) be an upgrade for that position on the Rams roster or just another route runner?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
Thanks, Mickey. I do not personally scout the college players, but based on what I've read about Hankerson, I'm not convinced he would upgrade the position overall to the desired extent. The Rams already have several secondary-type receivers. They have some guys coming off injuries. Some of those players will produce, but none will strike fear in opposing defenses. Neither will Hankerson, according to the scouting reports. I'd consider using that second-round choice for best player available before targeting a receiver specifically. Hey, if they don't get a difference-making wideout at No. 14, they aren't going to get one in the second round, most likely (unless there's another DeSean Jackson out there).
Keith (Berkeley )
Hey Mike, do you think 49ers DT Aubrayo Franklin will be back next year and for the long-term? If not, do you think the 49ers should try to look at a nose tackle within the first three rounds?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
The 49ers need to consider that position whether or not they think they can re-sign Franklin. They will not know any more about Franklin's future come draft day, so they will have to plan. I've seen no indication the 49ers plan to break the bank on a long-term deal for Franklin. Perhaps the labor situation will create a climate eventually where both sides decide to do something shorter-term for another year. It is hard to know. I do think naming Franklin their franchise player complicate efforts to define his value in the future.
Max (San Francisco)
To your knowledge, has any other franchise stuck with an under-performing quarterback as long as the 49ers have stuck with Alex Smith? It seems that given the same amount of time (6 years), any other team would have been able to evaluate a QB, and even take a good strong look at 1 or 2 other QB options.
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Bringing back Smith for one more year is not really sticking with him. It's acknowledging the fact that Smith could be their best option for the short term.
Shaj (El Dorado Hills, CA)
"Alex Smith has already cost two coaches their jobs" True or False?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
False. Those coaches did enough on their own, and they mishandled the quarterback situation.
Manny (Tempe, AZ)
If the Cardinals make the playoffs this year with a better quarterback, does Larry Fitzgerald stay?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Yeah, I think that would do it, because Arizona has already shown it will pay Fitzgerald. But it's an upset if they reach the playoffs. Still need to see what they do at quarterback.
Alex B (New Philadelphia, OH)
Would the 49ers shy away from taking Dalton considering he played in a shotgun-heavy offense after their experiences with Alex Smith?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
They would take that into consideration, but remember, Jim Harbaugh is new in San Francisco. Trent Baalke was not yet with the 49ers when the team drafted Smith in 2005.
Where in the 2nd round do you see Ryan Mallet being drafted? Also, do you think he could be a good fit in Jim Harbaugh's West Coast offense?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
I don't think he moves well enough, based on all the reports, and I also have a hard time seeing Mallett as the face of a franchise, based on how he projects himself. He just does not have that franchise player feel to me. Nothing about him says he has the polish of Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan or other recently drafted franchise quarterbacks. Now, taking a quarterback in the second round isn't declaring him the face of a franchise. I think teams will be careful with him. I don't know who will take him.
Alex B (New Philadelphia, OH)
Mike, which team is in the best position to separate themselves from the pack via the draft?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
The teams with the most early picks. New England is already a good team. The Patriots have tremendous firepower and a real chance to get even better.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Rank in order of likelihood of breaking out next season: Beanie Wells, Michael Crabtree, Danario Alexander, Mike Williams.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Wow, that is a tough one. Crabtree and Williams already produced at a decent level last season. They combined for 120 receptions. I think that makes them most likely to have a breakout year. Alexander's knees are a concern and I question whether he can make it through a season. Wells has had his own injury issues. I've been expected him to break out by now, but it has not happened. My ranking would go like this: Crabtree, Wells, Williams and Alexander. I would put Crabtree in the clear, then Wells and Williams in a second tier, then Alexander in a third tier. Which means Alexander will probably catch 90 balls next year, of course.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Wow, that is a tough one. Crabtree and Williams already produced at a decent level last season. They combined for 120 receptions. I think that makes them most likely to have a breakout year. Alexander's knees are a concern and I question whether he can make it through a season. Wells has had his own injury issues. I've been expected him to break out by now, but it has not happened. My ranking would go like this: Crabtree, Wells, Williams and Alexander. I would put Crabtree in the clear, then Wells and Williams in a second tier, then Alexander in a third tier.
Tim (Los Angeles)
Do you think the 49ers are set for the long-term at tackle with Joe Staley and Anthony Davis? Is it possible that down the road that they will switch sides or one of them will be replaced?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
The 49ers have paid vast sums to both men. I would expect them to remain starters. Staley is, by his own estimation, more of an "athletic" guy (I do not like the word "finesse" in this context because football is a rough game). But right tackles are generally more likely to be bruisers. Davis is more cut out for that physically.
Billy Showbiz (Los Angeles, CA)
Hey Mike, are you going to take any Seahawks questions today? Here's one: Do you think that Charlie Whitehurst could develop into a solid starting QB? My feeling is that Darrell Bevell will run a less risky offense than we saw with Jeremy Bates last year.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
I would tend to lean against thinking Whitehurst would become a solid starting quarterback, mostly because he's been around quite a while without threatening to crack a starting lineup on merit (or even the No. 2 role when he was with San Diego). His strengths seemed better suited for Bates' offense than the one you think Bevell is going to run. I do think Whitehurst could have a better chance to start this coming season. But it's an upset if he plays well enough to keep the job outright heading into 2012.
Billy Showbiz (Los Angeles, CA)
Do you see the Seahawks grabbing Mallett at 25 if he's there? How about potentially picking up Leinart to compete? I would think that Carroll would know how to utilize him.
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
I'd be very surprised if the Seahawks drafted Ryan Mallett with the 25th overall choice. There are too many question marks about Mallett to select him that early, in my view. On Matt Leinart, remember that Pete Carroll knows the good and the bad. He showed no interest in him when Arizona was trying to unload him, to my knowledge.
Is there any chance the Rams look at Jimmy Smith in the first round? He is a physical prototype for press corners and could shut down half the field (masking huge safety issues with Atogwe gone) if he develops. That seems to be a good fit in a pressure focused Spags defense.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
The Rams have generally gone for safer choices early in the draft, and coach Steve Spagnuolo seems OK with the situation at corner. Seems to me the Rams would be more apt to address their defensive front. That is just my read, based on the evidence.
Chris (Rochester, NY)
You have said the Seahawks would like to move back. What is your feeling on how far back they would like to go, and is the third round the goal in getting extra picks?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Yeah, they would want to get a third-rounder. I could see the Seahawks moving back a couple times, even into the early 40s. They realize they are in the early stages of building the roster and they aren't picking high enough to get someone along the lines of Russell Okung or Earl Thomas.
Shaj (El Dorado Hills, CA)
It seems the 49ers' entire management structure is comprised of people who are in their positions for the first time in the NFL. Paraag Marathe, Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke, even Jed York. Is this of concern?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Yes, it is a primary concern and has been for some time, but not necessarily a fatal flaw. It is important to have the right people. Jim Harbaugh's hiring intrigues me. I do think the organization could have benefited from having an experienced person in that position, but there's enough upside with Harbaugh, I think, for 49ers fans to have some excitement in seeing how things play out.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat.
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