Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
When I look at the '11 QB draft class, because of the need and the labor situation, I think of parents rushing out to buy Beanie Babies or Tickle Me Elmo when they were the must have Christmas toy. It seems like next year's QB class can provide better value with a new labor agreement for all these teams who have filled the need, and it is arguably a better class, unquestionably at the top with Andrew Luck.
Mike Sando (12:59 PM)
I'm in no position to evaluate the quarterbacks selected based on their bodies of work in college. I did not scout them. However, based on ratings assigned to these players ahead of time, I think there's some merit to the idea that teams reached some. The Christian Ponder selection at No. 12 stands out. That is why I thought Seattle was generally OK not taking a QB at No. 25 under the circumstances.
Watching the 49ers' draft, I got confused. Robert Quinn was supposed to be the superior choice over Aldon Smith. And I am still confused why Smith was chosen seventh overall. I get that he has "potential" and is athletic. But I live in a state where our NBA team has tons of "potential" and it results in the worst record in the NBA. Please make me feel better for them taking Smith over Quinn.
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
Not sure I can help on this one. It is possible Quinn projects as more of a 4-3 defensive end. Also, Quinn carried risks (brain tumor, sitting out the 2010 season under suspension). The 49ers thought they were making a safer choice at No. 7. The Rams felt more comfortable with the risk on Quinn picking seven spots later. The Rams were probably in better position here.
STEVE HEINDL (LAKEPORT,CA)
Who is the frontrunner to win the NFC West and why?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
The St. Louis Rams, because they have the best starting quarterback right now.
There seem to be a lot of questions about the Rams' draft and the fact the they did not fill some perceived areas of need (guard, No. 1 receiver, backup running back). The tight end they took remains a hot topic around the Rams' board. I think they did well to help Sam Bradford reach the next level. I just hope they can sign some players in free agency. How do you feel they did? Did they blow some chances to help themselves in the draft?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
The Rams were in position at No. 14 to wait for one of the top talents to fall for one reason or another. It happened with Quinn, presumably based on medical concerns. I applaud the Rams for staying patient and getting value in that spot. There was no sense charging up the board for one of the wide receivers, and that wasn't happening, anyway, given how much Atlanta paid to move up for Julio Jones. The Rams view Lance Kendricks as a very good receiver. He plays tight end, but he's going to be featured as a target for Bradford. You just have to trust Josh McDaniels on that one. This was a pick he influenced. The receivers they drafted add depth and competition without transforming the position. Perhaps they plug in John Greco at right guard. They need to use free agency for other needs, including linebacker. I expect they'll do that. They had some success getting Na'il Diggs previously. He was better than expected, but injury clouds his future.
Andrew (Charlotte )
Sando, if you had the choice, what would you give up for Kyle Orton if he was on the trade block for the Cardinals?
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
I would give up a conditional 2012 pick and have it pegged to how well the team does and how many games Orton starts. That way you're comfortable with it. I do think adding Orton would make sense for Arizona.
Chris (San Francisco )
Hey Mike. Earlier in the week Donovan McNabb worked out in Arizona with Cardinals like Larry Fitzgerald. Do you think he is a lock to go to Arizona? And if so, do you think the Seahawks are then the front runner to get Kevin Kolb?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
I do not think Donovan McNabb is a factor for the Cardinals at all, and I doubt he would be in play for Seattle, either, although the Seahawks' passing game will have similarities to the one McNabb ran in Philadelphia. I do not think McNabb's stock is going to be very high.
If I were the Cardinals' general manager, I'd trade a 2012 first-round pick along with Beanie Wells for Kevin Kolb. If Philly wanted Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie instead of Wells, then I might call Denver to see if Orton could be had for a second-round pick.
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
I'd much rather give up a 2012 second-rounder for Orton than a 2012 first and Beanie Wells for Kevin Kolb. Is Kolb even better than Orton?
Sando love the blog! I am a huge Hawks fan and do not understand why analysts are saying the Seahawks reached for each of their first two lineman. They obviously wanted size and versatility on their line. Both of the picks fit that description perfectly, so why can't other people notice that?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Because the team's quarterback situation remained unresolved. Also, the draft analysts did not, in general, have James Carpenter ranked as a first-round selection. So, when Seattle made Carpenter a first-round pick, analysts were surprised. They did not see Carpenter as a first-rounder. They did not know it would happen. So they called it a reach without knowing whether it was a reach from a talent standpoint. Remember, a lot of people had Da'Quan Bowers and Akeem Ayers as sure first-round picks. Those were surprises too.
jesse (Hayden, Idaho)
I think the Seahawks are gambling in getting their QB in free agency, they might not get their man. If they do not get their QB, it is going to be a long season, if they have a season. Charlie Whitehurst really did not prove anything last season to lead me to believe he can win. If the Seahawks miss on Kevin Kolb and Carson Palmer, what then? Matt Hasselbeck is asking for too much money. What is your idea of what they would do?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Just remember that you are focusing on one thing (2011 season) while the organization focuses on another thing (building for long-term success). You feel more urgency over the quarterback situation than I suspect the Seahawks' leadership feels. They will not invest in a quarterback just because they need one. They will invest in one when they like one enough to invest in one.
Bigtexhawk (Fort Worth)
Alright, the biggest draft loser in the minds of "pundits" were the Seahawks. How do you view their draft? Was it as bad as so many people have said it was?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
I don't scout the college players. From a need standpoint, I have no problem with Seattle using its first two picks for offensive linemen. The line was a big problem last season. They want to transform their overall identity and they believe that starts on the line. They want to get bigger, tougher and more versatile up front. They did that, on paper, with these two selections. Now we find out whether they can play.
Trust McDaniels on his draft judgement? As a 49er fan, I'm loving that. Aldon Smith is young and raw, but he's a physical freak. I think the pressure is on the coaches to find schemes that use him effectively. PFW ranked him the number 3 end behind Bowers and Jordan, so beware the Quinn hype.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Fair criticism on McDaniels. His personnel decisions were problematic in Denver. If he is wrong on Lance Kendricks, it's a wasted pick. I would think he knows what he wants specifically for that offense. On Quinn, the question is not where the players rank in the big picture. It's what the values were based on where the teams were picking, and what the teams wanted for their schemes. Both teams could be right, in other words.
Mike, I want to ask you one question. Why are the 49ers bringing back Alex Smith? It's time to move on.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
The 49ers agree that it is time to move on. That is why they traded up nine spots to draft Colin Kaepernick. They'll bring back Alex Smith to help them get through the upcoming season, allowing for flexibility as they determine how quickly Kaepernick is ready to take over.
Kyle (Cleveland, OH)
If I can bring up an old issue, I was unhappy the Rams passed up a chance to trade their second-round pick for Vincent Jackson. Instead, they get Lance Kendricks, then use third- and fourth-round picks on other receivers. Had they picked up Jackson, those other picks could have gone for other needs like DT, RB. I'd like your opinion on it, but I think they missed an opportunity by not trading.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
The rules prevented trading veteran players during the draft. I agree in theory that having a true No. 1 wideout would have set up the Rams better in this draft. It's also fair to wonder whether giving up draft capital for Jackson would make sense when Jackson would also require a huge new contract.
Chris (Lake Anna, Virginia)
What's your gut feeling on Kaepenick? Do you think he can be their franchise guy?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
My gut feeling is positive based on the projection that Jim Harbaugh knows what he's doing at QB.
Do the Seahawks have the best OL in the NFC west as of right now? We have to have the most potential at least. Sounds even more likely that we will be getting Robert Gallery too. Sounds like we are set for years.
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Whoa, very premature to make that projection. The Rams and 49ers should have better lines.
I was as shocked as anyone when Ryan Williams was taken in the second round when there were good outside lienbackers right there waiting to be taken. One in particular, Brooks Reed, would have also added some near-hometown appeal. Does hometown fan support, such as for Reed, add any to where a team may draft them?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Not necessarily. Sometimes, it's a negative. Sometimes, teams aren't excited about keeping the hometown hero around. Fan expectations can become unrealistic. The player's friends and family can be a distraction. In this case, the Cardinals said they made the move for Williams purely on value. They said they ranked him 15th on their board. I cannot complain about the reasoning given that the last outside linebacker they took in the second round, Cody Brown, never became anything.
Do you think Carroll and Schneider are trying to setup a team for next years draft? It feels to me like they are banking on taking a quarterback in next years draft unless they get Kevin Kolb. I think they don't have a problem with Whitehurst starting because it lets their young players grow a year while they wait to draft the franchise QB in 2012.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
There's merit in what you are saying. I do not know if it has been deliberate. Several factors put Seattle in this position. One, Charlie Whitehurst did not play enough last season for the team to know for sure what it has at the position. That was a big downer from an organizational standpoint, but the coaches -- Jeremy Bates, Jedd Fisch -- were squarely behind Hasselbeck, no question. Management wasn't going to force coaches to play Whitehurst, which is a good thing, probably. And Hasselbeck gave Seattle its best chance, arguably. Two, the team played in a bad division. Winning the division at 7-9 knocked Seattle out of the top 10 in drafting order. A loss to St. Louis in Week 17 would have put the Seahawks in line to draft Blaine Gabbert. I think they would have taken him. But winning that game and winning a playoff game left Seattle drafting 25th overall. Then it became tougher to justify taking a more marginal QB prospect at the expense of building-block needs along the line. Throw in the lockout, which prevented trades and kept the Hasselbeck talks on hold, and here they are.
With Ike Taylor available when free agency starts, does Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie become more expendable in a possible Philly trade for Kevin Kolb? We all know DRC shies away from contact, and I can't see Ray Horton letting that fly.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Patrick Peterson's selection does give the Cardinals flexibility in their secondary. Ike Taylor could become an option, and he has a history with Ray Horton. I don't know how excited the Cardinals are about Kolb. That is a key part of the equation.
Claude Balls (San Francisco)
Isn't it a little unfair to say that Aldon Smith was chosen solely on potential? He racked up 11.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman, and had 5.5 last year, playing several games on a broken leg. Doesn't his production in college compare favorably to Quinn's?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
It is inaccurate to say Aldon Smith was taken only on potential. He was indeed a productive college player and would have been drafted early on the merits. Potential comes into play when projecting him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sando, you can't read a draft analysis on the Cards without them mentioning the QB. I realize that that Arizona needs a QB (truth be told, I dont think there is a more talented team in the league without a QB than Arizona), but Arizona may have correctly not drafted a QB in a draft where all the QBs were probably rated higher than they should have been had the QB position not be such a dire need for over 1/3rd of the league. Id like to see an "Offseason Moves" grade that includes FA
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Addressing the QB situation will make or break the offseason grade for Arizona. We also need to see how the team addresses its offensive line. Three starters could become free agents. A fourth is returning from a season-ending injury. The backups are veterans and the team hasn't invested much draft capital in the position.
How about this for a scenario? The Seahawks let Whitehurst take the reins for this season. If he does well, great. If not, that would probably put them in a position to at least trade up for Andrew Luck.
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Let's assume Andrew Luck projects as the No. 1 overall selection. Let's assume the team holding the No. 1 overall choice does not have a great QB situation. Reasonable assumptions, right? Why would the team drafting No. 1 trade the pick?
Look at the QB prospect for 2012 Seahawk fans! We could get a franchise QB next year and let Whitehurst do his best. We will finally have a running game now too. No point in putting Dalton behind a broken OL and a bad defense. Agree?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
There are no guarantees the team will get a franchise QB next year. However, I think the Seahawks will be active in the QB market once the trading period opens. Also agree there was no sense in taking Dalton in the first round if the team questioned whether it could win a championship with him.
Mike, thanks for the response on the DRC-to-Philly possibility. Do you feel Horton is going to have a hard time dealing with DRC's apprehension toward contact?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Catchy name you've got there. It's a wakeup-call year for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Horton's presence at defensive coordinator changes the dynamic. Peterson's presence at cornerback changes the dynamic. Time to step up.
Now that the Rams have added some more weapons for Sam Bradford, what do you expect from the Rams next season?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
The first non-losing season since 2006.
Dennis (San Jose)
Do you think the Rams should have outbid the Falcons for Julio Jones? They had draft position on Atlanta.
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Not at all. The risk was too great.
Jason (Santa Cruz, CA)
What do you make of the 49ers drafting RB Hunter? Less time for Dixon?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Fourth-round pick Kendall Hunter definitely changes things for Anthony Dixon. Less playing time, yes.
Mike, Rams still are in need of a number two RB, do you think the Rams can get by on what they got and still win the division, or do you believe they need that complimentary back to put them on top?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
The division does not hinge on whether the Rams get another running back. The guy they've got right now is very good. Their quarterback has talent. It's a need, but it's not everything.
All this talk about DRC shying away from contact makes me want to ask what you think about DRC putting on at least 8 pounds (of muscle) in the off-season so far? Think he's changing his mentality towards contact?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
He needs to get stronger and more solid. I'm sure he's gotten the message from Ray Horton. Tackling is not optional.
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Mike, Realistically, how soon can we except the Niners' picks to contribute. They needed help on defense and got it with a cornerback/outside linebacker, but how long until they make an impact?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
It'll likely be gradual for Aldon Smith and delayed for Colin Kaepernick. They drafted like a team whose coach has a five-year deal. That is not bad, but take a look at how some of these other teams proceeded. Minnesota took Christian Ponder with the 12th pick. Different outlook.
Bart Kelly (Serbia)
Is Trufant on his last legs out there in Seattle? How does the secondary look to you for Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
The secondary is in transition. Marcus Trufant's age (30) and high salary make him a candidate for trade, I think. There is no trading allowed right now, and Trufant could still return (and start). But I would not be shocked, at all, if the team accelerate its transition in the secondary.