Mailbag: Concerns over 49ers' approach

Julian from the Bay Area thinks the 49ers targeted mostly developmental players in their draft at least in part because so many of their coaches are coming directly from the college level. He likes the Colin Kaepernick selection, but thinks it's impractical at the NFL level to select too many other players facing significant transitions.

Mike Sando: That's a valid consideration whether or not it applies in this case. Let's put Kaepernick off to the side. As coach Jim Harbaugh noted, just about all quarterbacks are developmental players. Let's also set aside the players San Francisco selected late in the draft. Sixth- and seventh-round picks generally aren't going to contribute quickly anyway.

We're then left with first-round choice Aldon Smith, third-rounder Chris Culliver, fourth-rounder Kendall Hunter and possibly fifth-rounder Daniel Kilgore. Hunter's transition will be typical. He was a running back in college and will be one in the NFL. Kilgore will convert from college tackle to NFL guard, and there's no expectation to play quickly.

That leaves us with Smith and Culliver.

The 49ers expect Smith to play quickly, but they realize he'll evolve over time. He's only 20 years old. He played defensive end in college and will have to convert to outside linebacker, although I think the 49ers will use him elsewhere as well.

General manager Trent Baalke said there would be a learning curve, but nothing extreme.

"We're not expecting for him to come in here and be a superstar from Day 1," Baalke told reporters during the draft. "It's hard to find a guy to come in to play the 3-4 outside linebacker position from the collegiate level that is game-ready, simply because there aren’t many 3-4 defenses played at the [college] level."

Culliver has played safety and cornerback. The 49ers think he can play corner in the NFL. He will likely be part of the rotation.

This team is taking a longer-range view with this draft. That's natural. Harbaugh is in his first year as a head coach. He's building for the long haul, not just for 2011. This is a transition year given the quarterback situation.

Dan from parts unknown wonders whether the Seahawks would have selected Ryan Mallett in the third round, if available. New England drafted Mallett one spot before Seattle selected guard John Moffitt.

Mike Sando: I don't think so. Mallett came with baggage. General manager John Schneider said the Seahawks weren't prepared to add riskier picks in this draft, given the state of the locker room. I also think Mallett's lack of mobility made him a less-than-ideal fit. Seattle likes its quarterbacks to move well enough to facilitate bootlegs.

Norm from Peoria, Ariz., wonders whether or not one team has produced the top offensive and defensive rookies in the same year, and whether or not Arizona has a good chance in 2011 with Patrick Peterson and Ryan Williams.

Mike Sando: Looks like some optimism has returned to the desert. The Detroit Lions claimed both awards in 1967 with running back Mel Farr and cornerback Lem Barney. Peterson has a decent chance for the Cardinals, although no defensive back has won the award since Charles Woodson in 1998. Williams is walking into a crowded backfield. I question whether or not he'll get enough carries to win the award.

Bill from Clearwater, Fla., likes the Rams' draft and wonders whether or not the team would consider signing defensive tackle Barry Cofield from the Giants in free agency. He thinks reuniting Cofield and Fred Robbins could work well on a line featuring Chris Long, James Hall and Robert Quinn.

Mike Sando: That makes a lot of sense. Cofield has five seasons in the NFL, however, and the standard for unrestricted free agency could be six seasons. It's tough to know for sure, but conventional wisdom says lifting the lockout in the absence of a new labor agreement would lead the NFL to impose the rules that were in effect for 2010. In that scenario, Cofield would qualify as only a restricted free agent, making it tough for the Rams to sign him.