Mailbag: Taking inventory from past drafts

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Josh from Victor, N.Y., writes: Your chart showing who's left from the '97 draft is really interesting.

Would you have access to other years? I'd be curious to know how many players are still around from other years in the 90s, or even 1st and 2nd rounders from the first few years of this decade.

Mike Sando: I do maintain those breakdowns based on the rosters I maintain for every NFL team. The chart show how many players from each NFL draft class since 1990 are counting on 53-man rosters. The figures do not count eight unsigned franchise players.

The decline is steady. Fewer players remain with the teams that drafted them.

The 49ers are one of only three teams with more than one member of their 2000 draft classes on the roster, for example (linebacker Jeff Ulbrich and snapper Brian Jennings in San Francisco).

The Cardinals still employ three members of their 2003 draft class, tied for the league high. Gerald Hayes, Reggie Wells and Anquan Boldin remain for Arizona.

The Seahawks' Walter Jones stands as one of three players from the 1997 draft class to remain with their original teams. Ronde Barber (Bucs) and Tony Gonzalez (Chiefs) are the others.

Going way back, the Lions' Jason Hanson remains from Detroit's 1992 class.

If Junior Seau comes back, he'll be the only player from the 1990 draft class.

Adam from Missouri writes: Mike, don't you think that the Rams will have to go with Curry in the first round? Although the Lions seem like they will take Stafford at #1, the GM of the lions can't be stupid enough to put a young quarterback behind that weak o-line. With that said, they should take OT Justin Smith at #1 and Sanchez or Freeman with their later first round pick.

Back to my question. With Smith gone, is there really another OT that is worth a #2 pick? I think the Rams should go for Curry and stick him in the middle between Witherspoon and Pisa, that would be a fun linebacking core to watch. And in regards to the OT position, Barron will do fine at LT. He only let up 3 1
/2 sacks in 2007 when he played LT for injured O. Pace. We could easily get a RT out of the second round and have a solid O-line since we added Brown in the middle.

Mike Sando: That depends on how much the Rams like Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe. They could always take him with the second overall choice. Jim Thomas, longtime Rams beat reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, thinks the Rams need to take a tackle. He has also pointed to Monroe as a potential choice for them in that slot.

I do think adding Curry to the defense would help the Rams. He projects as a playmaker and a leader. He would help strengthen that front seven, which also has to be a priority for the Rams. I would put it this way: As long as the Rams do still find a starting tackle, they could justify drafting for another position in the first round.

Gruguidez from Boston writes: Mike, you're completely off on the 49ers. First Alex Smith is coming off 2 shoulder surgeries in the last 4 years. He came from a spread option system at Utah. His best season was when he threw 16 pick and 16 TD's. Why so high on him? The guy is a bust.

Hill is journeyman. I like him but in noway should the 49ers not pick up Mark Sanchez who would clearly be the best QB on the roster.

Lastly, I highly doubt Matt Cassell can attribute his success to sitting behind Tom Brady. Matt has always been a good QB just like all the Trojan QB's. That is why they drafted him. I think Matt Lienert is ready to explode. He reminds me big time of Matt Cassell.

Mike Sando: I don't recall being "so high" on Alex Smith, other than saying I would give him less than a 50 percent chance of succeeding, based in part on his inability to stay healthy to this point. You can be sure the 49ers will give him every chance to emerge. No excuses this summer. No one can blame Mike Nolan or Mike Martz or anyone else if Smith fails to beat out Shaun Hill and Damon Huard in training camp.

Not so sure on Leinart. If you're the Cardinals, can you bank on him as the answer after Warner?

Errol from Renton, Wash., writes: Crabtree ... CRABTREE ... CRABTREE!!!

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a little bigger & younger Bobby Engram, a very valuable 32-year-old possession receiver, but not a #1. Injuries seem to have made Branch a bust. Burleson is a nice guy and a feel-good story but sadly, not a premier receiver. We NEED CRABTREE. At 21 we will have a legit #1 for many years.

A team needs more than one good wideout. No one else can come in & bring the immediate & long term benefit he will. I don't hear anyone else saying it, but we need a Center unless Vallos can fill that. (Unger at 2?), a bigger corner, safety, guard, a pass rusher, unless Lawrence Jackson REALLY steps up. We have a LOT of needs. We can't fill them all in one draft but Crabtree can bring the most benefit for one pick.

Mike Sando: Neither one of us knows whether Michael Crabtree will realize his potential, but adding a top-flight receiver would certainly protect Seattle for the long term. I suspect the Seahawks are scratching their heads in this draft, wishing the draft class were stronger at the top. Identifying players at the very top doesn't seem clear cut.

Your point about needing a center is well taken. Chris Spencer always seems to be battling injury. Perhaps he plays through them more effectively in a contract year. Sometimes it's just human nature. I don't know. But this draft is known to be deep for centers. Perhaps the Seahawks find one for the longer term, in case Spencer does not seize the job.

Mackay from Pleasant Grove, Utah, writes: Sandman -- I am wondering why the Cardinals haven't given Karlos Dansby a contract extension. Do you think it has anything to do with wondering if he can stay healthy? I would imagine it is in the Cardinals' best interest to get a contract done, first because he is such a great player, second because it would free up more cap space.
I think that this next year is going to be a breakout year for him, so waiting is only going to make his contract bigger. Do contract extensions with franchise players always take this long? Does Dansby having signed the franchise agreement eliminate the possibility of getting a contract done? I couldn't imagine why it would affect it at all.

Second question of the day is what do you think of Calais Campbell? Do you think he will do well enough to fill the void that Antonio Smith is leaving? I hope so, if he can turn into a great asset, like Dockett, the Card's D will finally be top notch.

Finally, Donnie Avery is not a #1 receiver, and the Rams need a go to WR or they will have horrendous problems next year. I don't see why they don't snatch up Crabtree and go with an OT in the second round. I think that Avery can become on of the best compliment receivers in the game, but will go no where on his own. Adding Crabtree would give the rams a great asset for years to come, kind of like Boldin and Fitz.

Mike Sando: Cap space isn't a pressing concern for the Cardinals. Dansby will eventually get a lucrative deal, but lucrative deals take time, particularly when neither party faces much urgency. Dansby has a guaranteed one-year deal for nearly $9.7 million. The Cardinals have until July to reach a long-term deal before rules prevent franchise players from striking long-term contracts with their current teams. It's a priority, but not an urgent one. That means a deal could get done at any time, but often these things drag on for a while.

Campbell showed promise. He also played extensively on special teams. I'm not convinced he'll step in and play at a high level right away. I recently discussed Antonio Smith's departure with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. Here is what he said:

I thought it was a great signing by Houston. He'll be such a good run stuffer opposite Mario Williams. He can slide inside. He is versatile. He can play in a 3-4 and 4-3. It's hard to find a 280-pound defensive end who can play the run and still rush the passer.

The average fan doesn't realize how important that guy was. He frees up the guy on the other side to be the star. He will never be the star, but he will make plays against a so-so right tackle, or if you double him in the run game, someone will make plays.

The Cardinals had other priorities this offseason, so losing Smith wasn't a surprise. But they will probably miss him some, figuring Campbell will need time to develop.

Brad from parts unknown writes: Hey mike love the coverage, I'm a 49ers fan i keep reading bout how they might draft a QB which we all know is crazy since the draft is weak on
QB's ,and they have two decent candidates set to compete for the job. I have never given up on Smith; if you look at his career he was making progress after his second year heading into his third even the first 2 games he won before his injury. And the offense they are implementing is similar to his second year.

Although I do think maybe Hill has earned it. I mean the guy's not pretty but he gets the job done (7-3 as a starter) and he might have that "IT" factor we all know exists, which is what I think Singletary saw in the Rams game when he almost benched Hill. Even though it doesn't sound like coach is sold on him.

What i think they need is a tackle, but i think they could get that in the second round. I think one player would greatly improve their chances and that is Chris "Beanie" Wells. I mean if you want to pound the rock then what a combo of Wells and Gore would be. If you look around league at teams that have a good 2 back tandem they are the top contenders like Tennessee, Carolina and Minnesota.

The defense is well on its way to those teams' caliber if you look at the last 6 weeks of season. They 49ers were in the top 10 for most defensive stats under Singletary. They are only going to get better i think especially if they can get a decent pass rusher in round 3 and get Manny Lawson to return to form from his knee injury.

Yes, the 10th pick might be high for Wells, but I think the combo of him and Gore is to0 much to pass up. Especially when that's supposed to be the offense they want to run. What's your comments Mike?

Mike Sando: A running back at 10 for the 49ers? I don't see it. Frank Gore is 25 years old. He probably has three, maybe four more good seasons. The 49ers will presumably have players rated higher than Wells on their board at No. 10. They should hope the value lines up with a more pressing need.