Mailbag: Elite tackles found early

S.L. from Tulsa writes: Your blog item on Pro Bowl players versus draft position was quite interesting. Because the Pro Bowl selects all 22 positions, I would expect certain positions (kicker, center, guard, safety) to have far fewer very high picks than, say, quarterback, defensive end or cornerback. If you filter for position and apply this standard, it might show that the top choices at each position produce even more Pro Bowlers. I would like to see this extra detail to prove or disprove the apparent value of early picks. It could give you a followup column.

Mike Sando: Good idea. I did have a positional filter at my disposal. The filter lumped all defensive backs together, and some positional designations changed or could use updating (Leonard Davis was listed at tackle coming out of college, for instance, but he has gone to Pro Bowls as a guard).

I toyed with a couple ways to answer your question. In the end, I created categories for players with no Pro Bowls, one to two Pro Bowls and three-plus Pro Bowls. I then set up a table showing average draft positions for these players, sorted from earliest to latest. The chart shows defensive ends were drafted about 120th on average, with punters and kickers drafted in the 160s on average. This information covered the 2000 through 2009 draft classes.

Check out the row for players listed as offensive tackles. They were drafted 126th overall on average from 2000 to 2009, but the averages changed dramatically based on Pro Bowl appearances (134th for tackle with no Pro Bowls, about 39th for tackles with one or two Pro Bowls and about third overall for tackles with three-plus Pro Bowls). The latter group featured Davis, Joe Thomas and Chris Samuels.

2000-2009 NFL Drafts: Positional averages

Nick from Tampa writes: Mike, with the state of QBs in this year's draft and the need by the Rams to hit the nail on the head with this pick, how does this senario fare for you:

  • Pick up Jason Campbell from Washington with possibly a third- or fourth-round pick;

  • Use your first-rounder on Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy to help give immediate improvement to the defensive line.

I see the QB pool in this year's draft to be extrememly slim, with the top three prospects coming off injuries. Instead of taking a big-money and possibly not fully healed guy in this draft and thowing him head first to be eaten alive, pick up Campbell, who still has gas in the tank, draft your QB in the second round, or wait until the pool inproves. Additionally, there is a large chance that you can get Colt McCoy or another project QB at the No. 33 spot, making the No. 1 pick a greater chance of success.

Mike Sando: It depends wholly on what you think of Sam Bradford relative to Jason Campbell. The Rams want a face-of-the-franchise guy, someone to lead the team and rouse the fan base. I don't think Campbell would be that guy. The book on Campbell says he's not much of a leader. That was the read on him coming out of Auburn in 2005. For the Rams, drafting a quarterback first overall would provide some needed sizzle. Now, does that mean Bradford will be any good? Not necessarily.

Your idea has some appeal. Trent Dilfer, speaking on 101ESPN St. Louis, suggested the Rams go that route. It makes sense if the Rams aren't sold on Bradford. But if they think Bradford is the franchise quarterback they want to build around, picking him is pretty easy to do.

Doug from Washington, D.C., writes: Hey Mike, big fan of the blog and the Seahawks. I was just wondering why no one is talking about the Seahawks being interested in Jared Gaither? I understand that he's likely to fetch a high second-rounder, but couldn't the Hawks package their late second-rounder and a fourth- or fifth-round pick to grab a young left tackle with lots of upside?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Doug. Gaither is 6-foot-9 and 340 pounds. The Seahawks won't want someone that massive for their zone blocking scheme. Also, a young left tackle on the rise should be worth more than the price you outlined. Something isn't right with the Gaither picture. Any young starting tackle available for that price must have some drawbacks.

Kenny from Spokane writes: It doesn't seem like Pete Carroll is making any major moves yet. In fact, it seems like he's getting rid of more players than he's adding. A lot of his deals so far haven't made any sense. One of the theories I have is that Carroll really wants Washington quarterback Jake Locker as the future of the Seahawks franchise, even if it means throwing away a season. Do you think this is on the back of Carroll's mind?

Mike Sando: No. New coaches identify players they do not want before they can add players they do want. Free agency doesn't provide many good opportunities for upgrades. The Seahawks will probably go young and build through the draft. This is a long-term rebuild.

Lon from Okanogan, Wash., writes: Why does it seem like most people don't trust Pete Carroll and (general manager) John Schneider? Why are they so impatient about letting them have a chance to get something done? It seems to me that they deserve a chance to at least put a team on the field before people look to have them canned.

Mike Sando: Some people want immediate results. They want to feel as though the team is making progress every day of the offseason. It's not realistic. Of course, you can't single out only the fans. The Seahawks themselves fired Jim Mora after only one season.

Travis from Socorro, N.M. writes: I can't help but think that the dethroning of Ndamukong Suh at No. 1 is, in some part, due to the 24/7 sports news cycle. Having the No. 1 pick pegged so early just doesn't build a story. I'm vaguely reminded of the Mario Williams/Reggie Bush 'controversy' -- which surprisingly went the 'safe' route, which would be a case where management diverged from the media as opposed to this draft, where there seems to be convergence between management and media. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: The Rams have hardly discouraged the Bradford talk. They've made roster moves suggesting they'll add a franchise quarterback. If they wanted to discourage the Bradford talk, they could have floated concerns about Bradford's health.

Kevin from Sylmar, Calif., writes: Hey, Mike, I've seen you say that it is a good possibility that all the top-tier tackle prospects could be gone by the 13th pick. If you're right and C.J Spiller is gone as well, and let's say that the 49ers pick up someone like Joe Haden with the 13th pick and Sergio Kindle with the 17th pick, do you think that they go with a tackle in the second round? Or do you think that's too early for the second-tier of tackles and they should go with someone like Jahvid Best from Cal, who would be a change-of-pace that they could really use?

Mike Sando: I have wondered what would happen if the top four tackles were gone by No. 13. It does seem like a possibility. You're probably right in thinking there might not be a tackle worth the risk in the second round. A general manager I trust told me he thinks Rodger Saffold will also be part of the first-round group. At running back, Best could go in the first round if a team feels OK about his medical. They'll have a value judgment to make at tackle in the first round, I think. Someone will be there for them, but will the value line up?

Spenser from Danville, Calif., writes: Hey Sando, with the release of Flozell Adams from the Dallas Cowboys, and the growing concern that there won't be a top-tier tackle available at pick No. 13 of the draft, why haven't the 49ers considered signing Flozell Adams? This team seems primed for a playoff run this year, and I think they could benefit from having a proven starter, like Adams. What do you think?

Mike Sando: That could be a move best left for after the draft. If the 49ers draft a tackle at No. 13 or even No. 17, Adams might not be worth what he would otherwise command.