2011 Draft: NFC West
2011 Draft: NFC West
Each team had more draft picks than they were originally slated for. The Rams, Cardinals, Seahawks and 49ers totaled 35 picks total. In a division that didn’t field one team better than .500 it clearly needed all the help it could get. Top needs seemed to be filled early and all four drafts went mostly according to plan, but there did end up being a couple first day draft surprises.
Did your teams draft go the way you wanted it to or did were they totally off base? Why don’t we go ahead and take a look?
St. Louis Rams
Round 1: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
The Rams defensive line was one of the major bright spots last year. They finished the season with 33 sacks and 136 quarterback pressures. Quinn’s natural position in college was DRE, which is currently manned by James Hall. With Hall being 34, look for Quinn to rotate snaps and garner playing time immediately. Coach Spags loves creating havoc with a deep defensive line rotation, so expect him to find a way to field his best pass rushers.
Round 2: Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin
Some could argue TE was not their biggest need in the second round, but this pick has Josh McDaniels written all over it. Supposedly, the new offensive playbook is littered with two tight end sets, so it makes sense to go out and draft one of the most athletic players in the draft. Michael Hoomanawanui was the only tight end on the roster to finish the season with a positive PFF rating. The Rams seems poised to go young at the position, which places Daniel Fells and Billy Bajema as the odd men out.
Round 3: Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State
Many were hoping Julio Jones would fall to 14 and the controversy of the Rams finally getting a number one receiver would end. Others said, don’t draft a wide receiver at all. The position is already crowded enough with Clayton and Avery returning. Well, things just got a little more crowded. A sure handed, big bodied, red zone threat is everything the Rams wide receivers missed last year. Insert Austin Pettis and his 6’3 inch frame.
Round 4: Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii
With one wide out not being enough, St. Louis chose to add one more. Salas was one of the most productive wide receivers in the nation last year. He finished the season with 1,889 receiving yards on 119 receptions. It’s obvious the Rams are looking to give Sam Bradford as many weapons as possible, but one question remains. Who then becomes the odd man out?
Round 5: Jermale Hines, S, Ohio State
Going into the draft it was no secret that safety was a position of need, especially with O.J. Atogwe leaving town. Jermale Hines possesses all of the traits required to play safety in a Spagnuolo designed defense. Aside from safety, he also played OLB and nickel back at Ohio State; his versatility will allow him to contribute immediately on special teams with the hopes of playing in nickel and dime packages as well.
Round 7: Mikail Baker, CB, Baylor
Mikail Baker probably would have went undrafted if it wasn’t for fellow teammate Danny Watkins. Baylor’s pro day was a packed house with 23 different NFL teams being represented. After missing all of the 2010 season with a torn ACL, Baker’s status was a bit of an unknown. But much doubt about his knee was put to rest when he ran the 40 in the mid 4.3 range. He will be worth a look at kick returner where he finished sixth all time at Baylor with 1,079 yards.
Round 7: Jabara Williams, OLB, Stephen F. Austin
The last linebacker from Stephen F. Austin Spagnuolo coached was Jeremiah Trotter. Trotter went onto enjoy a nice long productive NFL career. Williams will be a little bit of a project, but his 4.57 speed and athleticism really stands out. With no real entrenched starter at WLB there’s a possibility he could see some playing time if he makes the roster.
Round 7: Jonathan Nelson, S, Oklahoma
This was a luxury pick they acquired from the Falcons when they moved down in the fifth round. Nelson is a free ranging safety that plays well in space. He reminds me a lot of O.J. Atogwe when he came out of Stanford based on his size and skill set.
Round 1: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Arguably, the top player in this year’s draft. Peterson will immediately upgrade a secondary that had a tough go around last year. Not one starter in the Cardinals secondary finished the season with a positive grade. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie fell off a cliff last year in pass coverage; it wouldn’t surprise me to see Peterson get a shot at being the starting LCB. Long term, he projects out to be more of a safety because of his size. He played last year at 219 pounds, which is awfully heavy for a 6’0 foot tall cornerback.
Round 2: Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
It only makes sense that the worst rushing team in the NFL would try and upgrade this area through the draft, but I thought it would have been more along the lines of offensive line. The Cardinals could be seeing it two ways though. Beanie Wells hasn’t been able to shake the injury bug since entering the league in 2009 and Tim Hightower is scheduled for free agency. It’s hard to blame them for protecting themselves from both scenarios. Expect Ryan Williams to immediately push for a starting job because of his speed and home run hitting ability.
Round 3: Robert Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic
Robert Housler gives the Cardinals something they have never had under Ken Whisenhunt, a pass catching, athletic tight end. At Florida Atlantic he was apart of a pro-style offense that allowed him to maximize his skills in the vertical passing game a dimension missing from Arizona’s passing game. With the chance of Stephen Spach and Ben Patrick leaving for free agency, Housler’s impact could be felt sooner rather than later.
Round 4: Sam Acho, OLB, Texas
One of the oldest linebacker units in the NFL just got a little bit younger. This group needed some new life after a horrendous 2010 season. Joey Porter was a coveted acquisition last off-season because of his reputation as a pass rusher. Porter and the rest of the Cardinals defense never lived up to the hype finishing 29th in overall defense, nine spots lower than the year before. Sam Acho is stout at the point of attack and could either take the job of Joey Porter or Clark Haggan based on that fact alone.
Round 5: Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut
This pick proves the commitment to running the football by adding another piece to the run game. Sherman is one of the only true fullbacks left in college football and will be used exactly the same way in Arizona. Along with being a hard-nosed lead blocker; he should play on all three special teams units as well.
Round 6: Quan Sturdivant, OLB, North Carolina
Paris Lenon did an admirable job at ILB last year. He didn’t really hurt the team in anyway nor did he help them either. He is due back next season, but whether he starts or not remains to be seen. Quan Sturdivant will be pushing for the other starting ILB job next to Daryl Washington. Sturdivant could be the steal of the draft.
Round 6: David Carter, DT, UCLA
Carter will provide depth to a defensive line that was one of the lone bright spots defensively. Dan Williams, Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett are the starters in their three-man front. It’s hard to tell where exactly he will fit in along the defensive line. He will have to gain a little bit of weight wherever he plans on playing; 261 pounds is light for any lineman in a 3-4 front.
Round 7: Demarco Sampson, WR, San Diego State
The Cardinals have been one of the few teams that have had good luck drafting wide receivers that become effective early in their careers. Five time Pro-Bowl selection Larry Fitzgerald is the mainstay on a team that had quarterback troubles before and now after Kurt Warner. A rookie wide receiver couldn’t learn from a better guy. To gain playing time early he will have to stay healthy and contribute on special teams.
Round 1: James Carpenter, OL, Alabama
Stressing offensive line last week in our team needs pieces, Seattle must of heard me pounding the table. James Carpenter can step in and start from day one at right tackle or slide in and play guard. Both positions were weak areas going into the draft. The Seahawks line was one of the worst in terms of run blocking last season; Carpenter was a mauler at Alabama blocking for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Without a doubt James will be given every opportunity to open 2011 as a starter.
Round 3: John Moffitt, OL, Wisconsin
Another round, another offensive lineman off the board. This pick makes it more evident that Pete Carroll wants employ a punishing ground attack. The Seahawks finished the season ranked 31st overall in total rushing yards at 3.7 yards per carry. They have backs capable of running the football, but lacked the physical presence to do so. Wisconsin averaged 247.3 rushing yards per game last season; Moffitt will compete for playing time at either one of the guard spots.
Round 4: K.J. Wright, LB, Mississippi State
One starting linebacker for the Seahawks finished 2010 with a positive PFF rating. Lofa Tatupu had an up and down season that ended with four straight positive games to close out the season. Aaron Curry has had a hard time living up to his highly touted draft status and undrafted free agent David Hawthorne has never finished a season with a negative rating in his three-year career. K.J. could easily get a look as a rotational linebacker because of his speed and Will Herring’s underwhelming play.
Round 4: Kris Durham, WR, Georgia
Playing alongside A.J. Green will practically make you go unnoticed. When not in Green’s shadow, Durham has shown off his good size and underrated ability. Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu both took nice steps forward in the passing game with Deon Butler taking a step back posting negative outings in half of his games. If Brandon Stokley leaves in free agency Kris can compete for the third wide receiver job.
Round 5: Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford
If Sherman wants to play right away he has to make an impression and step up his level of play. A former receiver-turned-cornerback is still learning the intricacies of the cornerback position. Nickel and dime packages seem to be set with Kelly Jennings, Marcus Trufant, Jordan Babineaux and Walter Thurmond; Sherman could ultimately turn into a quality backup given time as he continues to mature.
Round 5: Mark Legree, S, Appalachian State
It’s no secret Peter Carroll loves safety’s who have great ball skills. Earl Thomas put that on display by finishing his rookie season with a team high, five interceptions. Many feel Lawyer Milloy has played his last game of his NFL career. The Seahawks have not shown interest in brining him back, so there is playing time to be had. Contributions will most likely come as a sub-package defender/special teamer.
Round 6: Byron Maxwell, CB, Clemson
With an already crowded secondary Maxwell might become a practice squad candidate or at best a special teams only player. He doesn’t really offer anything different than what their current set of cornerbacks offer.
Round 7: Lazarius Levingston, DL, LSU
Levingston will have to show leaps and bounds in terms of improvement or hope for an injury. Seattle already has two solid starting DT’s with plenty of depth behind them. It always ends up being a numbers game, so Levingston will have to really impress to make the final 53.
Round 7: Malcolm Smith, OLB, USC
What’s a Pete Carroll draft without taking at least one USC player. It will be an uphill battle if Smith wants to make the roster with their being plenty of talent in front of him.
San Francisco 49ers
Round 1: Aldon Smith, DE, Missiouri
If you were a linebacker on the San Francisco 49ers you would have finished the season with a positive PFF rating. The average rating for a linebacker who played at least one snap was +9.4 – That number can only expect to increase with the addition of Aldon Smith. Seen as one of the most explosive pass rushers in the draft, Smith will be moved to OLB in the 49ers 3-4 system. This is a group that just keeps getting better with the contingency of only improving as younger players progress.
Round 2: Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
In a division that is starved for a quality starting quarterback outside of Sam Bradford, only the 49ers addressed the position through the draft. David Carr is the only player under contract at the position; the team has reportedly offered Alex Smith a one-year deal giving him one last shot to prove they didn’t make a mistake in drafting him number one overall. Regardless, Kaepernick has all the athletic ability, but will need time to transition as the quarterback of the future.
Round 3: Chris Culliver, CB, South Carolina
Cornerback is a position I felt needed to be addressed much earlier in the draft because of the sub-par defensive back play last year. Culliver is a good value pick in round three and should easily push for the starting nickel corner spot. The Niners used a myriad of different players at the SCB position last year. Clements and Shawantae Spencer will continue to start on the outside.
Round 4: Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
Frank Gore has had problems staying healthy the past couple of years and Brian Westbrook is no spring chicken, so finding a talented backup was a must. Hunter is a physical running back similar to Gore, but has proved to be more durable over the course of his college career. Even with injury concerns, Gore will remain the starter; Hunter is there in hopes of the offense not missing a beat when he enters the game.
Round 5: Daniel Kilgore, OL, Appalachian State
The 49ers offensive line is young and loaded with talent. Anthony Davis and Mike Lupati both experienced some rookie headaches last season, but they both look to make strides in their second season. Kilgore joins the talented unit as backup who can play both tackle and guard if needed. Playing time should only come if the injury bug rears its nasty head.
Round 6: Ronald Johnson, WR, USC
Michael Crabtree was brought in two years ago to solve all their problems at wide receiver. He has been the go to guy they were looking for, but only by default. Flashes of a great player appear and then quickly disappear, leaving the position with plenty of erratic play. Outside of Crabtree no one has stepped up to claim the number two wide receiver job. Tedd Ginn was brought in with the hopes of changing that, but his play only got worse as the year went on. Even though Ronald Johnson’s draft stock slipped because of his size, the 49ers are hoping to have found a gem and utilize his big play ability.
Round 6: Colin Jones, DB, TCU
Drafting Chris Culliver earlier proved San Francisco was looking to upgrade their secondary. But with a plethora of defensive backs already on the roster Jones could have a hard time finding a roster spot. His best chance of making the team would be on special teams.
Round 7: Bruce Miller, DL, Central Florida
Defensive line seemed to be a position that would have been addressed a lot earlier then the seventh round because of Aubrayo Franklins potential departure. Miller could end up being a real nice find this late in the draft. If he keeps at it and works hard in training camp Bruce could easily become a quality defensive backup.
Round 7: Michael Person, OL, Montana State
With the starting five set on the offensive line, depth becomes an issue. Fellow draftee Daniel Kilgore is basically a shoe in to make the final roster and Michael Person has a real shot to crack the roster because of the lack of bodies.
Round 7: Curtis Holcomb, DB, Florida A&M
The only thing Curtis really has going for him is that he can play a multitude of spots in the secondary. Unfortunately, he faces the same problem as Colin Jones, lack of room on the depth chart. Because of his versatility Holcomb could end up as a practice squad player.