With the final installment of our “better late than never” draft grade series, we take a look at the NFC West.
Arizona Cardinals: A-
Arizona is a team that could quickly see the number in their win column diminish this year after the retirement of Kurt Warner and trading away Anquan Boldin. Their success will ultimately hinge on the quarterback position, whether it’s Matt Leinart or Derek Anderson. That being said, the Cards have a strong wide receiver corps and a decent rushing attack, but had plenty of needs on the defensive side of the ball.
Arizona actually had one of the better drafts this season, even though they aren’t getting a lot of attention for it. By taking Dan Williams in the first round, their defensive line immediately becomes stronger than before. Williams has some versatility and can move along the defensive line, making him an even better selection. The Cards followed up the Williams pick by moving up to grab Daryl Washington, an underrated linebacker out of TCU. Washington fits in well inside for the Cards 3-4 defense and should be an instant replacement for Karlos Dansby.
Even though the Cards wide receiver corps might be one of the best in the league, Arizona used the pick they received from the Ravens for Anquan Boldin to take Andre Roberts, the receiver from the Citadel. Roberts really made a name for himself in the Senior Bowl this season and could be the next stand-out wide receiver to seemingly come from nowhere for the Cardinals.
My absolute favorite pick for the Cardinals came in the 4th round when they selected O’Brien Schofield, who was one of my favorite players in the draft. Schofield made a name for himself as a pass rusher at Wisconsin but successfully played outside linebacker during the East-West Shrine Game. Schofield accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl the following week and tore his ACL during practice, drastically reducing his draft value. However, when Schofield gets healthy, he could be THE steal of the draft. Versatile, athletic, tenacious and a class act personality, Schofield has supreme value in the 4th round.
Round 1 (pick 26) Dan Williams — DT — Tennessee
Round 2 (pick 47) Daryl Washington — LB — TCU
Round 3 (pick 88) Andre Roberts — WR — The Citadel
Round 4 (pick 130) O’Brien Schofield — DE/OLB — Wisconsin
Round 5 (pick 155) John Skelton — QB — Fordham
Round 6 (pick 201) Jorrick Calvin — DB — Troy
Round 7 (pick 233) Jim Dray — TE — Stanford
San Francisco 49ers: A
If there was a theme for the 49ers draft this year it was “physicality.” Singletary and company addressed some major needs on both sides of the ball and grabbed players that seem to relish physical contact. In the first round, the Niners took two offensive linemen in Anthony Davis from Rutgers and Mike Iupati from Idaho. While Davis is more of a finesse offensive tackle, Iupati brings the mean streak to the middle.
Following up those picks were the selections of USC safety Taylor Mays and Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman. Both Mays and Bowman have their own issues but Singletary could be the coach they need to fully succeed. Singletary helped turn around the career of another physical specimen that had yet to reach his potential in Vernon Davis, and Taylor Mays certainly fits that bill. Bowman had some off-field issues but a true mentor like Singletary could keep him on the straight and narrow. Bowman will have to play inside for the Niners 3-4 defense, but nothing could help him more than playing next to Pat Willis.
Keeping with the physical nature of their draft, the 49ers selected Anthony Dixon, the bruising running back out of Mississippi State. Dixon is a true in-between the tackles runner that does a nice job falling forward after contact. He’s also had his share of off-field troubles but he’ll be a nice addition to a backfield that includes Frank Gore and Glen Coffee.
If the 49ers picks progress to their potential, they could easily set themselves up to be a force in the NFC for years to come and at the very least, they should have the NFC West locked down for a few years.
Round 1 (pick 11) Anthony Davis — OT — Rutgers
Round 1 (pick 17) Mike Iupati — OG — Idaho
Round 2 (pick 49) Taylor Mays — S — USC
Round 3 (pick 91) Navorro Bowman — OLB — Penn State
Round 6 (pick 173) Anthony Dixon — RB — Mississippi State
Round 6 (pick 182) Nate Byham — TE — Pittsburgh
Round 6 (pick 206) Kyle Williams — WR — Arizona State
Round 7 (pick 2224) Phillip Adams — DB — South Carolina State
Seattle Seahawks: A-
Seattle is another team that certainly has a way to go before they’re as competitive as they once were, but for new head coach Pete Carroll, he couldn’t have asked for a better draft. To top everything off, they made a nice trade with the Jets to get a versatile running back in Leon Washington, which will go a long way to help the offense. Seattle also traded for LenDale White, but he’s no longer with the team.
The Seahawks couldn’t have asked for a better first round, grabbing our #1 rated offensive tackle in Russell Okung and the super-versatile Earl Thomas to sure up their secondary. Thomas has the ability to play corner, but he’ll be at his best when he’s allowed to play center field and make plays on the ball. Seattle followed up a strong first round by taking Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate in the second round. Tate will more than likely be a slot receiver that will focus on short passing game, but with concerns at the offensive line and running back positions, the short passing game will be a point of focus for the Seahawks offense.
A late round pick for the Seahawks that I absolutely love is Kam Chancellor, the safety from Virginia Tech, in the 5th round. Many believed that Chancellor doesn’t have the range to effectively play safety in the NFL, but pared up with a roaming center-fielder like Earl Thomas at the free safety spot, Chancellor is a perfect fit as an in-the-box, strong safety. Known for his hard hitting, Chancellor will be key in run support and is at his best when he plays closer to the line.
Seattle has had it’s share of issues with their pass rush and they really could have used a prove pass rusher in the draft. This is where I think the selection of Golden Tate in round 2 might have been better off being a pass rusher. Seattle picked up a few developmental pass rushers but that doesn’t fix the situation immediately. The Seahawks did a good bit of moving around on draft day and that worked to their favor in most instances. At times, it felt like Carroll was trying to be a bit too cute by moving around but he seemed to be targeting a handful of players and he did what he had to to get them.
Round 1 (pick 6) Russell Okung — OT — Oklahoma State
Round 1 (pick 14) Earl Thomas — S — Texas
Round 2 (pick 60) Golden Tate — WR — Notre Dame
Round 4 (pick 111) Walter Thurmond — CB — Oregon
Round 4 (pick 127) EJ Wilson — DE — North Carolina
Round 5 (pick 133) Kam Chancellor — S — Virginia Tech
Round 6 (pick 185) Anthony McCoy — TE — USC
Round 7 (pick 236) Dexter Davis — DE — Arizona State
Round 7 (pick 245) Jameson Konz — WR — Kent State
St. Louis Rams: B
It’s never easy to be the first pick in the draft and this year, the Rams had to suffer through this curse. The team had a huge decision to make with the first overall pick and decided to go with Sam Bradford, the quarterback from Oklahoma. While he was the top rated QB on practically everyone’s board, the guy was still coming off some serious injuries and hadn’t played in several months. But, when you’re rebuilding a franchise from scratch, it’s usually a good idea to start with your field general.
At least the Rams had the smarts to grab a strong offensive tackle to protect their major investment in round 2. Rodger Saffold, the tackle out of Indiana, was a bit overshadowed by the big name tackles like Okung, Williams and Davis, but he’s still a solid player. Saffold is the perfect player to anchor the right side of the offensive line after the Rams selected Jason Smith to play left tackle in the first round of the 2009 draft.
St. Louis was fairly consistent throughout the draft, not reaching for players and getting solid value at just about every pick. Jerome Murphy in the third round is a nice addition to the Rams secondary as he has a chance to crack the starting lineup relatively soon. Mardy Gilyard, the shifty wide receiver from Cincinnati will certainly get his share of touches this season on bubble screens and quick slants as their young quarterback develops. Mike Hoomanawanui, the tight end from Illinois, is a great addition as a blocking tight end in the 5th round.
What could end up being a nice sleeper pick for the Rams is George Selvie, the defensive end from South Florida. Selvie was very highly touted at the start of the 2009 season, but was greatly overshadowed by JUCO transfer and first round draft pick, Jason Pierre-Paul. Selvie has the physical tools to succeed, but he just hasn’t put it together yet.
The Rams draft wasn’t flashy by any means, but it was pretty solid from top to bottom. While they’re a long way from being a competitive team in the NFC, they’re certainly building the foundation of the team in the right way.
Round 1 (pick 1) Sam Bradford — QB — Oklahoma
Round 2 (pick 33) Rodger Saffold — OT — Indiana
Round 3 (pick 65) Jerome Murphy — CB — South Florida
Round 4 (pick 99) Mardy Gilyard — WR — Cincinnati
Round 5 (pick 132) Mike Hoomanawanui — TE — Illinois
Round 5 (pick 149) Hall Davis — DE — Louisiana-Lafayette
Round 6 (pick 170) Fendi Onobun — TE — Arizona
Round 6 (pick 189) Eugene Sims — DE — West Texas A&M
Round 7 (pick 211) Marquis Johnson — DB — Alabama
Round 7 (pick 226) George Selvie — DE — South Florida
Round 7 (pick 254) Josh Hull — LB — Penn State
This concludes our draft grade series…..only a few months late.