Below are some whispers we're heard recently from around the NFC West:
• While Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt recently made a point of saying that he's still much more concerned about winning games the remainder of the season than what his team's position in the draft order is going to end up being, our sources in the desert tell us that draft speculation on the likes of QBs Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett as first-round possibilities for the Cardinals couldn't be hotter at present. "The fans turned most of their attention to the draft weeks ago," said one team insider.
• While our Niners sources seriously doubt that QB Alex Smith will return after this season, they can see Troy Smith sticking around — but in a backup role. "Right now a new starting QB — whether they draft one or bring a vet in — has to be the top priority," said one team insider.
• The Rams would really love to get rookie TE Michael Hoomanawanui back into the mix soon, but daily team observers tell us the rookie tight end, who established such a quick chemistry with fellow rookie Sam Bradford, is not recovering nearly as quickly from the high ankle sprain he suffered against Denver in Week 12 as he did from the high ankle sprain suffered in Week One. We hear he is a long shot to make it back before the end of the regular season.
• The consensus in Seattle is that second-round WR Golden Tate has been a disappointment. "Yeah, especially where they took him," said one team insider. "He has unbelievable athletic ability, but he's just not really NFL-ready."