Travis from Portland writes: Patrick Willis can shut down Beanie Wells with one hand tied behind his back, so your article was really not the best player in the division, but the "easiest to claim I know is the best player because of accumulated numbers at the end of the season" award. Not a Niners homer, just a realist.
Mike Sando: Not so fast, Trevor. The item you're referencing listed Wells atop a list of five sleeper candidates for 2010 player of the year in the NFC West. Sleepers were defined as players who had never been to a Pro Bowl or had not been to one in recent years. The list included Wells, Alex Smith, Matt Hasselbeck, Michael Crabtree and Matt Leinart.
You are right about Willis being a dominant player, but Wells carried 15 times for 79 yards -- an average of 5.3 yards per attempt -- with one touchdown at Candlestick Park last season. This included a 24-yard run on third-and-1, followed later in the drive by a 1-yard scoring run.
I'm pretty sure Willis had both arms available on these plays. He's a great player, but Wells is an ascending one and someone even the best linebackers need to take seriously in 2010.
Brent from Montana writes: Sando, I asked you on a chat who you would take, Matt Leinart or Alex Smith. You said you would take Peyton Manning. Totally understandable. If you could only choose from the two given upside, age and experience, who would you take?
Mike Sando: Alex Smith. No one has ever questioned Smith's commitment to the game. Smith also played reasonably well last season. Leinart didn't play nearly as much. There are simply fewer questions regarding Smith than Leinart right now. Leinart can still have the better career, but if I had to choose one of them right now, Smith would get the call.
Will from Cincinnati writes: Hey Mike, love the blog. Quick question, though. The Rams are in need of a true No. 2 running back and if Bryan Westbrook doesn't work out, what are the chances of them getting a deal with LenDale White? He's not really a change-of-pace back like some suggest they need, but he certainly would hold up in protection with his size and that could prove to be more useful given a possible rookie quarterback. What are your thoughts/insights? Thanks. I appreciate your time.
Mike Sando: Very few moves should come as a surprise to those who have a feel for what teams are thinking. White's situation in Seattle stands out as one nobody read right. I had the wrong feel for how the Seahawks were going to handle him. I was blinded by the fact that White's weight was under control. The Seahawks' decision to release White after only five weeks does two things. One, it sends a strong message through the Seattle roster that Pete Carroll isn't going to give preferential treatment to players from his USC past. Two, it forces us to reevaluate White.
I'd stay away from White if I were the Rams. The potential four-game suspension diminishes White's value to the team even more. He's not the best fit, anyway, because he would provide no change-of-pace qualities, as you mentioned, and it's pretty clear he's a high-maintenance player. Teams can tolerate high-maintenance players who are also productive. I don't think White would offer enough at this point for the Rams to put up with the little things that drove away Seattle. The Rams are still in the early stages of building their team and it's important for them to have the right types of veteran players. White would not fit into the Fred Robbins/A.J. Feeley/Hank Fraley/Na'il Diggs mold. Too much baggage.
If I were the Rams, I would rather give Chris Ogbonnaya a chance than waste my time with White. Ogbonnaya showed some good things late last season. If White couldn't fit in Seattle with Carroll, where can he fit?
Cliff from Edmonds, Wash., writes: Sando! With the release of White, what are the odds Seattle tries to make a play for beast mode a.k.a. Marshawn Lynch? Or do you think he'd have the same bad attitude as White presumably had and we wouldn't want to risk a 2011 draft pick/Leroy Hill for him? I'm not a huge fan of Juilus Jones, but I like Justin Forsett and I think Washington will help things out, too. Adding Beast Mode would make our running back situation pretty solid. What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear a piece from you about it. I feel the Bills' asking price was too high before the draft, but now I don't think they have a need for him and he obviously doesn't' want to be there. Thanks for reading.
Mike Sando: You're welcome. I would not rule out Lynch. The Seahawks have shown they're willing to throw players against the wall to see which ones stick. For example, Reggie Williams was busted for cocaine possession at one point and the Seahawks still gave him a tryout and signed him. Lynch is unhappy in Buffalo. No big deal by comparison.
I would not put White and Lynch in the same category. The book on White coming out of USC was that he had questionable work habits, wasn't a willing pass protector and didn't run tough enough for his size. The book on Lynch was that he was a very tough runner who would fight for extra yards, and that he caught the ball well enough to be a very good all-around back.
Seattle might be happy enough with its current backs to proceed without adding another veteran. Lynch would be intriguing, though, at least in part because he roomed with Forsett at California and Forsett, who shows a positive attitude while doing everything coaches ask of him, might help smooth Lynch's transition to the Northwest.