Mailbag: Moment of truth on QB class

Mark from Sacramento wonders why Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy isn't rated higher among quarterback prospects based on his college career.

Mike Sando: Analysts don't see the raw physical talent. That is the main reason. But analysts are wrong sometimes, as are the teams.

How the NFC West proceeds in this draft will tell us plenty about how the league views quarterbacks in the draft overall. Every team in the division but St. Louis needs a quarterback to build around. Yet, every time I talk about these teams, I find myself explaining why each could steer away from the position.

The book on McElroy says he's smart and will work hard to get the most from his abilities. What are those abilities? Our Scouts Inc. report breaks it down in detail, but the marks are "below average" under the "release/arm strength" heading, which reads:

"Has a very quick, compact release. However, he shows below average arm strength. Can get adequate zip on intermediate throws. Deep out route velocity is only adequate. Deep ball tends to sail. Does not shows the arm strength to drive the ball vertically in the NFL, especially in windy conditions."

Schmidt from Everett, Wash., didn't like seeing Mark Ingram headed to Seattle in the recent bloggers' mock draft. He wondered how running back could be considered a value selection for Seattle given the team's needs on both lines.

Mike Sando: Ingram was my choice based only on which 24 players were chosen previously. It wasn't a suggestion or even a projection. The way our mock went, Ingram appealed because 11 defensive linemen were off the board. I could have gone with an offensive lineman instead, but several of those were gone, too.

Mason from San Diego thinks the 49ers should consider trading up three spots with Cincinnati to ensure a shot at LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, figuring the team wouldn't value Robert Quinn, Da'Quan Bowers or Blaine Gabbert as much. He thinks the 49ers would lose Peterson to Arizona at No. 5 otherwise. In this deal, the 49ers would send the seventh and 76th choices to the Bengals for the fourth and 101st selections.

Mike Sando: The old draft-value chart would disapprove. That chart would assign 1,800 points to the fourth choice and 96 points to the 101st choice. The Bengals would be giving up nearly 1,900 points in exchange for picks worth 1,500 (seventh) and 210 (76th) points. The seventh and 76th picks would not even equal the fourth.

In 2003, the New York Jets sent the 13th, 22nd and 116th picks to the Chicago Bears for the fourth overall pick. That was the year the Jets got Dewayne Robertson.

If I were the 49ers, I'd rather stay at No. 7 and take the best available player. The 49ers could wind up getting Peterson anyway. They could get an arguably comparable cornerback in Prince Amukamara. They could still wind up with a pass-rusher or even a shot at a quarterback. Those aren't bad options. And they would still pick 76th.

Randy from Peoria, Ariz., thinks the Cardinals should avoid drafting a quarterback in the first round, instead opting for a veteran later. He thinks Colin Kaepernick, then Andy Dalton and finally Ryan Mallett would make sense for Arizona if the team did decide to draft quarterback this year.

Mike Sando: People I speak with around the league think the Cardinals' obvious need for a quarterback would force them to take Blaine Gabbert at No. 5, if available. Those of us who follow the team regularly think Arizona is more likely to go another direction -- not only amid question marks about Gabbert, but because there's a chance Gabbert will not be available at that point, anyway.

If the Cardinals take Gabbert, they do so knowing the risks and in response to the obvious need. No one would be shocked, but some of us would be surprised.

Paul from Manalapan, N.J., lays out a logical case for why Eli Manning should have ranked higher than, say, Josh Freeman on the ballot I submitted for our quarterback power rankings. He points to Manning's status as Super Bowl MVP, near-perennial playoff performer and apparently bright future at age 30.

Mike Sando: Those are good points. I've never considered Manning to be a particularly consistent passer. People used to point to Kurt Warner's time with the Giants as a career low point, and in some ways it was, but Warner's rating that year (86.5) was higher than any single-season rating for Manning outside 2009.

I've also arguably overvalued Freeman's potential. He did have 25 touchdowns with six interceptions for a 10-6 team last season, however. Manning had 25 interceptions. I'd put Manning on the cusp of that Top 10 list and wouldn't laugh at anyone who put him in the Top 10, that's for sure.

Arlan from San Francisco wonders why concerns over a brain tumor and one-year suspension haven't removed Robert Quinn from consideration as a potential pick for the 49ers at No. 7.

Mike Sando: The NCAA banned Quinn for his involvement with an agent. That is not good, but also not a deal breaker. The benign brain tumor doctors discovered in 2007 could be more problematic to the teams holding high choices. At that level, teams are looking for reasons to exclude prospects, and that could factor.

The 49ers could be looking for a safer prospect to start the Jim Harbaugh era. That is plausible. But Quinn's pure pass-rushing potential puts him on the radar.

Alex from Davis, Calif., asks why Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have discussed a possible trade between the Cardinals and Texans in the first round.

Mike Sando: This one has been discussed informally for a while. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle raised the idea during a chat back in February when he wrote, "It would take a first-round pick next year and more to go high enough to get CB Patrick Peterson, I believe. I think trading up with Arizona to get OLB Von Miller would be realistic -- if the Cardinals want to trade down."

More recently, Don Banks of SI.com indicated in his mock draft that he thought the Texans would try to move up for Peterson or Miller. It's pretty well known the Texans have interest in adding players for their new 3-4 defense. It takes two teams to work out a deal, though, and Arizona needs players, too.

Kevin from Sylmar, Calif., saw the blogger mock draft and wondered two things. First, might the 49ers trade back from No. 7 with a team seeking receiver Julio Jones, allowing San Francisco to take Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt later in the round. Second, he wonders whether Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey a strong consideration for the Rams with the 14th selection?

Mike Sando: Moving back for those purposes does have some appeal from a 49ers perspective, but only if the No. 1 prospects at cornerback and outside linebacker were not available in that spot, and if they weren't interested in a quarterback that early. We could not trade selections for the purposes of this mock, however.

I did consider Pouncey for the Rams but ultimately thought they could use more help along the defensive front. Even then, I did not feel great about my selection in terms of fit and arguably should have leaned toward Corey Liuget. The Rams have put so much into their offensive line already -- two highly drafted tackles and millions of free-agent dollars for guard Jacob Bell and center Jason Brown.

Adding a guard somewhere in the draft would make sense. Adding one in free agency would help as long as the player represented an upgrade over Adam Goldberg, a valuable player but somewhat miscast as a starter.

Shane from Los Angeles thinks the absence of free agency helps the Cardinals by preventing them from trading choices to Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb. He'd rather see the team draft Von Miller or Patrick Peterson, then offer a 2012 first-round pick with a conditional 2012 third-rounder for Kolb once free agency opens.

Mike Sando: That's not a bad way to look at things. I'm not sold enough on Kolb to mortgage the future for him, anyway, and I wouldn't want to give up multiple high picks next year without feeling better about his prospects.

Rich from San Francisco thinks the 49ers' new chief strategic officer, Gideon Yu, could emerge as a sports-related owner/investor after helping the team through its ongoing stadium efforts. He also notes that Yu earned his MBA from Harvard after graduating from Stanford.

Mike Sando: Thanks for the correction on Yu's educational background. I had it the other way around and have updated the item.

This hiring fascinates me. The 49ers haven't promoted it much because the draft is approaching and this was not a football-related move -- news came out through the tech world -- but adding someone with Yu's background seems like a strong and unusual "get" for an NFL team. I'd pass along more on his hiring in the future.

Jeff from Whitby, Ontario thinks the Seahawks should focus much more on cornerback and along both lines than on drafting a quarterback early. He wonders whether Vince Young could be an intriguing option later, and if it did not work out, the team could go after a quarterback in the draft next year.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks appear to agree. We'll see if they're bluffing, but right now the feeling is that they aren't bent on any one of these quarterbacks early, and that the needs along the lines are great enough to command their attention.

I'd be reluctant to bring in Young to a locker room without a shrinking cast established leaders. Seattle is remaking the roster. Young would bring along baggage. His approach to the game has come into question. Now, if there wasn't much commitment required, what would Seattle have to lose? The team should have the inside scoop on Young from the Titans' perspective given all the former Seattle staffers working in Tennessee.