Mailbag: Bradford, Mallett, RB options

Seth from Newport News, Va., wonders whether the St. Louis Rams will have interest in running back Ronnie Brown once free agency begins. He also says there's no reason to worry about Sam Bradford learning a new system because coordinator Josh McDaniels brings a quarterback-friendly offense to St. Louis. Besides, the offense fared just fine in Mike Martz's first season as coordinator back in 1999.

Mike Sando: The Rams would ideally seek a running back with the ability to provide an occasional change of pace while adding another dimension on third down. Brown catches the ball well, but he is also a 29-year-old back weighing 230 pounds and carrying an extensive injury history. He started 16 games last season for the first time, but he averaged only 3.7 yards per attempt. In retrospect, Brian Westbrook would have been perfect for the Rams last season.

On Bradford, we agree. Learning a new offense year after year would be problematic. Bradford's ability to process the information and play at a high level physically will enable him to overcome the challenges associated with a transition. The scheme change in conjunction with an extended lockout and a changing cast of receivers could prove problematic in the short term.

Good point on Martz, by the way. Those Rams were coming off a dismal season and learning a new offense when they suddenly had to change quarterbacks right before the season. They fared OK.

Mark from Quincy, Mass., thinks Arkansas' Ryan Mallett should rank higher among quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL draft. He thinks Mallett's size is an asset and wonders whether the San Francisco 49ers would consider drafting him, then letting him sit for a year while getting acclimated to the NFL.

Mike Sando: Mallett, at 6-foot-7, is taller than teams would prefer. Teams want their quarterbacks tall enough to see the field well, but not tall enough to compromise their ability to move and improvise. Mallett lacks speed and overall athleticism by NFL standards. Jim Harbaugh has emphasized the importance of athleticism for quarterbacks. Those factors make me think the 49ers would be less likely to target Mallett in the draft.

Andrew from Stockton, Calif., wonders whether the 49ers will be looking for a younger, more versatile alternative to Moran Norris as they install an offense built around strong play from tight ends and fullbacks.

Mike Sando: Yes, that is a reasonable expectation. I'm not sure whether they'll find a fullback with exceptional receiving skills. The position itself is endangered at the college level. The 49ers would presumably have interest in Owen Marecic, the fullback Harbaugh coached at Stanford. He's a bruiser with experience in the offense San Francisco is implementing and someone the 49ers could probably snag in the middle to later rounds.

Georgia's Shaun Chapas is another fullback to consider for the 49ers in the late rounds. He's had some injury issues and probably wouldn't offer much as a runner -- most fullbacks do not, anyway -- but the scouting report I've got from Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki says Chapas has soft hands, good intelligence and the ability to start in a West Coast system.

Pitt's Henry Hynoski projects as more of a bruiser, which could appeal to the 49ers.

Any fullback the 49ers target will have to be proficient as a blocker first. Running and receiving ability will come as a bonus. The 49ers will feature others in the passing game. I envision Vernon Davis staying on the field across all situations, as he has in the past, and that means we should not expect the 49ers' next fullback to play on passing downs, no matter how versatile.

Jason from Rochester, N.Y., thinks the Seahawks, perhaps unsure about any of the quarterbacks in this draft, will consider trading out of the 25th overall choice with a team seeking one in that spot. Seattle, without its third-round choice, would then be in better position to fill multiple holes on its roster.

Mike Sando: The question is really at what point a team's need for a quarterback becomes unbearable. Should the Seahawks select one with the 25th spot just because they need one? Not without feeling very good about the quarterback in question. But if they do not take one at No. 25, they might not have a shot at one of the next group of passers when they select with the 57th choice. Re-signing Matt Hasselbeck could have more appeal.

The teams picking directly ahead of Seattle in the first round already have long-term starting quarterbacks. Those teams -- let's consider New Orleans (24), Philadelphia (23), Indianapolis (22), Kansas City (21), Tampa Bay (20), the New York Giants (19), San Diego (18) and New England (17) -- could also trade out of their spots with teams looking for quarterbacks. That could affect Seattle's ability to trade out of its spot.

Brandon from San Diego thinks Boise State receiver Austin Pettis would be a good value for Seattle in the fourth round as a red zone threat to pair with Mike Williams.

Mike Sando: I'd be more inclined to seek a speed threat opposite Williams while looking for ways to incorporate the tight end in red zone situations. Seattle figured out a way to use John Carlson in the red zone during that playoff game against New Orleans. Overall, I think the Seahawks need more speed on offense.

As for Pettis, he's known for combining good size with outstanding hands. That makes him appealing, but I think the Seahawks have other priorities in this draft -- particularly after using a second-rounder last year for receiver Golden Tate, who hasn't done much yet.

Alexander from Flagstaff, Ariz., sees why drafting pass-rusher Von Miller would make sense for the Cardinals, but he thinks drafting receiver A.J. Green and acquiring a quarterback such as Kevin Kolb would invigorate fans while giving the franchise a needed spark. He thinks the defense will improve with Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson getting healthy. However, with Larry Fitzgerald headed toward free agency, receiver might be the way to go.

Mike Sando: I see both sides on this one and wouldn't criticize the team for selecting Miller or Green. Both are very highly rated. Both are seen as impact players. Neither would be considered a reach based on the scouting reports widely available. And I do think there's a decent chance Fitzgerald will leave after the 2011 season.

The bigger question with Arizona, in my view, is whether the team should select a quarterback if one of the top two passers remains available at No. 5. Both could be gone, but if the Cardinals were to pass on Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, that decision would invite scrutiny for years to come.