Mailbag: Trading up in the NFL draft

Brian from Pennsylvania writes: With the reality of an uncapped year looming, doesn't the difficulty for teams improving by stripping other teams of unrestricted free agents make trading for the first overall pick more attractive? I can see big-market teams like Dallas or Washington deciding to go for the No. 1 overall pick if they can't get the players they really want through free agency. What are your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Washington already picks fourth. Dallas picked DeMarcus Ware 11th in the 2005 draft. The top 10 picks that year were Alex Smith, Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards, Cedric Benson, Carnell Williams, Pacman Jones, Troy Williamson, Antrel Rolle, Carlos Rogers and Mike Williams. Why trade up unless there's a great quarterback available? And if there's a great quarterback available, why would anyone trade down (the assumption being that any team drafting No. 1 overall probably doesn't have a great quarterback already).

Seth from Newport News, Va., writes: How come Steven Jackson gets no love? I understand he is on a terrible team, but how do 'analysts' say Adrian Peterson is a better back? The only back better is Chris Johnson, but they have two completely different running styles. Maybe you could say something to all those guys on TV who are 'experts' and would pick a back who fumbles way too much.

Mike Sando: I'm not sure which TV analysts you are talking about, but Steven Jackson gets no shortage of respect in these parts. He has always been a dynamic back. He was an inspirational one this past season, playing hurt and putting the team first, even when the cause was lost.

Paul from Santa Barbara, Calif., writes: Hey Sando, with the upcoming 2010 season being uncapped, we keep hearing how there will be so few free agents because fewer players will qualify as UFAs, and teams will have no cap and can pay more to keep their players. This has been portrayed as a negative for teams looking to get talent through FA. However, for a re-building team like the Seahawks, could this be a 'sellers market' to unload some older and/or expensive players in exchange for future draft picks? As a second part of this question, could a smart team unload players during this slim-pickings free agency this year, in exchange for high 2011 draft picks that might actually have a rookie wage scale, thus really saving the team some dough for some elite talent?

Mike Sando: Good thinking, except for one part: The Seahawks would be dumping older, overpriced players. Who is going to give up much for Deion Branch or Patrick Kerney?

Sailing Nomad from Sausalito, Calif., writes: Is there any buzz on who the 49ers might chase in the free-agent market? Darren Sproles would be a dream-come-true possibility and there are some great vets at wide receiver, not to mention linemen on both sides. How aggresive do you think SF will be now that they're headed in a good direction?

Mike Sando: The 49ers have been quite disciplined in free agency recently. That will probably continue because the free-agent crop will not be strong. They plugged with middle- and lower-tier free agents last offseason (Brandon Jones, Moran Norris). The 49ers have two first-round choices this season. No need to overpay in free agency, most likely.

Serg1007arch from Ventura, Calif., writes: Bucky Brooks from NFL.com released his Mock Draft 1.0 and he had the Niners in this position:

  • 13. 49ers - Eric Berry, S, Tennessee: The 49ers' emerging defense needs a ball hawk like Berry in the middle of the field to ascend to the next level.

  • 16. 49ers Joe Haden, CB, Florida: Mike Singletary fortifies the defense by adding another playmaker to the secondary.

Now, I completely understand both picks. This would built an elite Defense. I just feel like the need in the OL outweighs almost any other position. We need some one that would open up the line for Gore and It would give Alex time to trow. I don't know how wise is to wait to the second round when so many teams in the league are soaring at this positions.

Mike Sando: It's possible the 49ers' first-round picks could be a little higher than where a team might normally find a right tackle. That could be the consideration there.

Brad from Portland, Ore., writes: It seems most of the 49er questions you get are centered around the quarterback position. To be honest, there's no question. Smith has to be the guy. Nobody seems to be talking about the back up running back position. Glenn Coffee did very well in preseason, but was short of amazing during the year. What would you think of the niners picking up a back in the draft?

Mike Sando: That would make sense if the back in question offered a change of pace from Frank Gore and Coffee, particularly if that back offered something on returns.

Ryan from Lynchburn, Va., writes: Mike, the 49ers offensive line was a week spot for the team all season. If the 49ers are smart and use at least one of their 1st round picks to bolster the offensive line and now with the addition of Mike Solari; how much improvement can us fans expect to see next season.

Mike Sando: The line was already improving. I expect it to be better from the start of next season. Adding Solari only helps.

Aron from St. Louis writes: Hey Mike, what would you think of a guy like Mississippi's Dexter McCluster as a playmaker for the Rams? Seems to be a guy who could be a change of pace RB, or receiver to complement Jackson!

Mike Sando: Works for me in theory. McCluster would indeed provide a change of pace -- not that you want Jackson coming off the field much.

Abbas from San Francisco writes: Hey Mike, with the Eagles most likely not picking up the option for Michael Vick this offseason, what are the chances Vick comes to the Bay? Vick can still throw and he will pose a bigger threat than Alex Smith.

Mike Sando: Never say never, but I'm not sure Vick is the quarterback to get the most out of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. Smith might not be, either. But Vick would have to come at a reasonable price for me to like that type of move for the 49ers.

Chris from Surprise, Ariz., writes: With all this talk about Kurt Warner retiring (while I hope he doesn't, I hope he does what's best for him and his family -- super respect for him), it made me think of Michael Vick. Vick vs. Leinart, what are strengths/drawbacks of each given the changing dynamic of the Cardinals' offense?

Mike Sando: I would like to see that training camp battle. Vick's playmaking ability would endear him to teammates, I think. It's tough putting together a list of positives on Leinart. He simply hasn't looked great most of the time. His accuracy has been shaky, so it's tough to say that would necessarily be an advantage for him relative to Vick.

Dan from Seattle writes: Mike, with that little tidbit of information during John Schneider's news conference about the Seahawks considering a switch to a 3-4 scheme, how does the defensive line stack up? It seems that the Hawks have four linebackers able to fill in but what about the DE's and NT? Can Colin Cole be a NT in a 3-4?

Mike Sando: The Seahawks have four linebackers on paper, but they haven't been healthy at the same time. Is Leroy Hill suddenly going to be durable? Tough to bank on that one. Will he even be on the team after the 2010 season? No guarantees, based on his contract. Cole could probably be a decent 3-4 nose tackle. I don't see great personnel for either scheme, frankly.

Eric from Montreal writes: Hey, Mr Sando, first off, love your work. My question for you is, like the Eagles last year when they traded a first-round pick for Jason Peters, could the Niners do the same for a guy like Marcus McNeil of the Chargers? McNeil is a free agent and likely to be franchised by the Chargers and command a lot of money. I think that it would be equal trade as the Niners would then have two young solid tackles and the Chargers with two first-round picks could either get an elite RB (C.J. Spiller) or maybe trade up to get Ndamukong Suh if the Rams pick Jimmy Clausen No. 1 overall.

Mike Sando: Interesting thought. I just can't see the Chargers giving away a Pro Bowl-type tackle who is 26 years old.

Jeff from Ellensburg, Wash., writes: Mike, I'm finding it hard to muster up any enthusiasm for next year as a Seahawks fan. I believe the Hawks are in for another down year because they have more problems on offense and defense than what the draft and trades can remedy during the offseason. You said in an earlier post that you didn't believe Pete Carroll was the right coach, but that there was no evidence that he is the wrong man for the job, either. That doesn't sound reassuring. What is your take on the SOTSS (State of the Seattle Seahawks), assuming they draft based on pertinence?

Mike Sando: I said I wasn't sure if Carroll was the right coach even though I don't see overwhelming evidence saying he's the wrong guy, either. I see the Seahawks getting younger and probably suffering through another losing season.

Justin from Reno, Nev., writes: How does Adrian Wilson get named All-Pro and get all the respect when Dashon Goldson outplayed him, and put up better numbers? Dashon Goldson: 94 tackles, 2.0 sacks, three forced fumbles, four interceptions. Adrian Wilson: 74 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, five interceptions.

Mike Sando: Respect isn't earned all at once. Wilson has been a good player for a long time. Goldson was pretty quiet before coming on strong to finish the season.

Travis from Gilbert, Ariz., writes: Love your blog. I was wondering your thoughts on moving Levi Brown to left tackle where he played most of his college career and looking for a right tackle somewhere else?

The whole Antrel Rolle thing is a big deal because having him out in coverage is big to free up Adrian Wilson. Do you think he will be back? I have wondered if losing Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby could be bad for the team chemistry because the players say they are the heart of the team. What do you think?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Travis. My hunch is that Levi Brown would struggle at left tackle, or at least require an adjustment period. Rolle could very easily force the Cardinals' hand and get out of Arizona, figuring the money will be better elsewhere. It's tough for me to think the Cardinals could make him happy on a long-term deal after paying Wilson. On the chemistry front, winning cures everything. I think the Cardinals would have a harder time winning if they parted with good players.

Justin from Johnstown, Pa., writes: With the talk of the 49ers wanting another running back why not look at LaDainian Tomlinson? He doesnt have to go far from San Diego and he's only 30 years old. Would be a great compliment to Frank Gore and could teach Glen Coffee as well. Would LT be a good choice to go after?

Mike Sando: Afraid not. The 49ers need playmakers more than they need mentors. Tomlinson appears about finished.