Question: Alright Matt, nice work on the draft but how about really testing your Niner skills? Give us a depth chart, tell us who's starting where. Pinpoint heated competition for starting jobs, who you think will win, final roster etc., Also how about an overall prediction? 10-6 division champ, second round playoff exit etc. For that matter I wouldn't mind seeing the whole NFC prediction/breakdown. Thanks, Matt.
A: Gee, why don't you have me recite all the U.S. Presidents and state capitals while you're at it? How 'bout if I tell you who the starters were on the opening day of minicamp instead?
LT Patrick Estes (Jonas Jennings recovering from injury)
LG Adam Snyder (Larry Allen excused from practice)
C Tony Wragge (Heitmann recovering from broken leg)
RG David Baas (Smiley recovering from surgery)
RT Kwame Harris
RB Frank Gore
FB Moran Norris
TE Vernon Davis
WR Arnaz Battle
WR Bryan Gilmore (both Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie injured)
QB Alex Smith
LDE Ronald Fields (BY excused)
NT Aubrayo Franklin
RDE Marques Douglas
OLB Manny Lawson
OLB Tully Banta-Cain
ILB Derek Smith
ILB Brandon Moore
SS Michael Lewis
FS Mark Roman
RCB Walt Harris
LCB Nate Clements
-- Matt Barrows
Question: Before the draft I emailed you and predicted that Patrick Willis would be the 49ers #1 pick. I also predicted that Patrick would be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Now that Patrick is a 49er, how long do you think it will take him to become a starter? Matt, thanks for the great job you did in covering the NFL Draft for all the Faithful!
Dennis, Elk Grove
Answer: What do you want - a gold star? Kidding. Good job with the pick, although I recall someone as far back as November alerting me to Patrick Willis. When I find the correct "Q" I'll give him or her the glory he or she deserves. I have no idea how long it will take him to become the starter. Derek Smith is a savvy veteran and a coaches' favorite. He won't step aside without a fight.
-- Matt Barrows
Question: With the loss of Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator and the gain of Ashley Lelie and Draft of Jason Hill can we expect the offensive to have great improvements. Also with Alex Smith having a couple years behind him and a solid running back do you expect the offense to be more aggressive or stick to being conservative.
Answer: Don't forget, this is a running team at heart. If Mike Nolan could get away with a 40-to-1 run-to-pass ratio, he would. That being said, Alex Smith ought to be more competent and capable in Year 3, which should lead to more aggressive choices in the passing game. But overall, don't expect much flash this season.
Question: This may sound harsh: Alex Smith has the supporting cast that he lacked the past couple of seasons. Do you think this is a make or break season for Smith? Or will the departure of Norv Turner buy him more time to improve?
Scott, Elk Grove
A: No, it's not a make-or-break season for Smith. And there probably won't be such as season as long as Mike Nolan is the coach. He has the full confidence of the coaching staff.
Question: I was telling a few friends I thought Smiley was going to get traded draft day, and then he didn't. I thought he was worth a 2nd pick, but that would need to drop to a 3rd since he is a free agent after the upcoming year. I assumed there was interest and the 49ers asked too much. Your blog confirmed what I was thinking. My question is, what is your sense of if a trade might happen before summer camp for somebody's pick in next years draft? After all, Wragge and Baas can play that position fairly well.
A: Slim to none if the 49ers insist on a second rounder. I don't think a team would be willing to give up that pick and then run the risk of losing Smiley seven months later in free agency. They might as well wait the seven months and keep the pick.
-- Matt Barrows