Mailbag: Draft busts aren't solely to blame

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kraig from Seattle writes: In evaluating a team's draft success, to what degree do you consider 1st round "busts" a part of the logic of the system, and not just a reflection on the draftee and/or the GM? It would seem that bad matches are especially likely in the earliest picks, as these rookies end up going to the most dysfunctional teams.

For example, there has got to be an asterisk next to every 1st round "bust" that has ended up with the Lions. Alex Smith's situation in SF has been a long and telling saga, too. Your GM analysis should be interesting in this light, as some of them never picked very high because their teams tended to be in better shape over the years.

Mike Sando: That is absolutely a factor. Smith's situation is a classic case. The team changed coordinators. The head coach mishandled the situation. Smith wasn't immediately ready for the NFL after playing in a spread passing game. The 49ers played him right away anyway and armed him with less-than-spectacular weapons.

Your point applies to quarterbacks in particular. The support system around a young quarterback is crucial. Steve Young offered his thoughts on the subject in this video last year.

Charlie from Lexington writes: Hey Mike, Keep up the good work! Got a quick question, I read articles about teams signing free agents. How is that possible considering the signing period hasnt started yet?

Mike Sando: Players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2009 do not hit the market until Feb. 27. That is when their contracts expire. Players without contracts already are free to sign at any time.

Rick from Charleston, W.Va., writes: Hey Mike, any thoughts on whether the Cards will receive a compensatory pick for Calvin Pace or Bryant Johnson?

Mike Sando: The NFL assigns compensatory picks in late March. I would expect the Cardinals to receive compensation in the final two rounds. That is an estimate.

Joey from New York writes: Mike, Great updates and analysis as always. So many questions so little room. Biggest two things obviously are the #4 pick and getting some WR help for Hass. Here is a bit of fantasy but let me know how you feel about this scenario.
Sign TJ Housh to a 5 year deal (and bring back Engram for a solid 4 WR though only Burleson would be under 30) and then trade the #4 pick to the Eagles for their two first rounders (as the Eagles take Crabtree to get them over the hump to the SB).

Seattle could then fill two spots by taking from a list of players including Eben Britton, William Beatty for OTs, Alex Mack or Max Under for C, Peria Jerry at DT. Then get Josh Freeman in round 2 to learn under Hass. What do you think???

Far fetched, maybe ... but it is reasonable to do?

Mike Sando: We don't see many moves such as that one. Teams rarely swoop into the top five from lower in the round. Those are better in theory than reality.

Signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh would make the Seahawks older and more expensive at a position where they've been injured. Seattle would also be better in the short term, no question, but at what price?

John from Great Falls writes: With DT Albert Haynesworth saying that he wants to test Free Agency, what do you think the chances are of him potentially landing with the 49ers or another (shudder) NFC West team? And also, assuming he does leave Tennessee, do you think he will still play at a high level after signing a potentially huge contract?

Mike Sando: Haynesworth played his best when he had the most to gain. I would have some initial reservations about handing him a record-setting deal.

I don't think the 49ers or another NFC West team will be in the hunt for Haynesworth. Haynesworth does not fit the 49ers' style of defense. He's more of an up-the-field player. They seem to be going with a 3-4 front. They'll want the linebackers to get up the field, not the interior linemen.

Kevin from Sylmar, Calif., writes: What do you think about the Niners trading back in order to receive more pick and add depth and talent to the team or do you think that they are sticking at the 10th spot

Mike Sando: The 49ers are picking late enough to make trades more feasible. I could see them moving back if they thought they could still get, say, an outside linebacker.

Scott from Bremerton writes: Niko Koudivides. Special Teams stud. Average Backup LB. Seattle should allow Hill to leave, and re-sign Niko to command our ST, leaving Will Herring, David Hawthorne, and D.D. Lewis to compete for the starting LB spot.
I think John Morgan alluded to this before, saving the cap room Leroy would cost to spend on draft picks and free agency. By my estimation this would do 4 things:

1. Weaken our rush defense. (This could be balanced by signing a stronger tackling safety than Brian Russell)

2. Strengthen our pass defense. (Since we rarely blitz from Leroys side)

3. Greatly strengthen our special teams (Field position is increasingly important the more teams emphasize the run)

4. Save us a ton of money. (Which we could spend on said Safety, Niko, and draft picks)


Mike Sando: Herring would be an "X" factor in that equation. I don't see why the choice has to be so difficult. The Seahawks could keep Hill with a smaller cap number on a long-term deal, then re-sign Koutouvides to help the special teams. Koutouvides and Herring could help on special teams. As willing as Hawthorne appears, is he able? Not sure the speed is there, but he does whack people sometimes.

Gabe from St. Louis writes: I feel obliged to ask a question due to 0 questions about the Rams (minus Fred Taylor one which wasn't Rams). First round pick will go to an OT undoubtedly, but I've heard different stories of who it actually is. Andre Smith and Jason Smith are the two I'm hearing. Who do you think and will the Rams go after a O-lineman after the first round?

Mike Sando: Andre or Jason? Let's go with Jason for now, but I wouldn't rule out the Rams drafting for something other than the offensive line with that second overall choice. Teams find starting-caliber offensive linemen later than the top few picks. The Rams haven't done a very good job of that and they are paying the price.

Daniel from Glendale, Ariz., writes: Mike, I read your blog constantly and I can safely say that you are one of few sports writers with whom I can often agree, which denotes your savvy analytical skills and prevents me
from losing my sanity! My question is, how does the fact the Cardinals are looking to Franchise Dansby mean anything about their confidence in signing Warner? They wouldn't franchise a player who is considering retiring -- so I am at a loss. Thanks!

Mike Sando: Great minds, as they say. My thinking was fairly simple. Kurt Warner's agent has made it pretty clear his client wants to play. Top quarterbacks are more valuable than top linebackers by a wide margin. Keeping Warner would rank as a higher priority than keeping Dansby, and yet the Cardinals used their franchise tag on Dansby. This tells me they're confident Warner will eventually re-sign with them, as opposed to leaving in free agency. But if Dansby had hit the market, he might have been gone.