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Mike Sando's NFC West Draft Analysis

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  • Mike Sando's NFC West Draft Analysis

    NFC West draft analysis
    April, 24, 2010

    By Mike Sando
    The 2010 NFL draft should stand as a watershed event for the NFC West.

    The division entered the draft with a league-high six first-round choices, and NFC West teams used those picks to fill obvious needs with highly rated players.

    That's what stood out about this draft for the division. Teams filled obvious needs with almost every pick. There was less talk about drafting the best player available regardless of position. There were exceptions, like when the Rams valued tackle Rodger Saffold enough to take him 33rd overall even though they could have justified going in another direction from a need standpoint.

    In most cases, however, perceived value aligned with need -- exactly what teams want from a draft. Some of those perceptions will prove incorrect, of course, but there's very little to complain about based on what we think we know.

    The Rams found their franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford. The Seahawks found their replacement for all-world tackle Walter Jones, the sixth player chosen in 1997, when they drafted Russell Okung with the sixth pick this year. The ***** finally addressed a lingering issue at tackle when they drafted Anthony Davis at No. 11. The Cardinals filled their primary need when nose tackle Dan Williams fell to them somewhat unexpectedly at No. 26.

    Every NFC West team emerged from this draft legitimately able to claim things went their way. Three of the four second-round choices -- Saffold (Rams), safety Taylor Mays (*****) and receiver Golden Tate (Seahawks) -- were widely considered likely first-round choices by general managers I spoke with in recent weeks.

    "I thought, overall, the NFC West killed it," Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. said.

    Best move

    The Cardinals' ability to land Williams at No. 26 without maneuvering stood out.

    Arizona was picking later in the first round than any team in the division, but the Cardinals' need at nose tackle was significant. Most mock drafts suggested Williams could go 12th to the Dolphins. The Cardinals said they had Williams rated 11th overall.

    Those factors, coupled with the growing list of other teams running 3-4 defenses, put pressure on Arizona to consider moving up for Williams as its pick approached. The team held an extra third-round choice, so the Cardinals had options. But instead of panicking, they let the draft come to them.

    Arizona has emerged from its plast three drafts with Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2008), ascending running back Beanie Wells (2009) and now Williams despite picking in the last half of the first round each time. Those are building-block players.

    Coach Ken Whisenhunt has pushed the Cardinals toward a purer version of the 3-4 predicated on strong play from the nose tackle position. Arizona already has a Pro Bowl left end in Darnell Dockett and a strong starter at right end in Calais Campbell. Adding Williams to the mix could help the Cardinals become more consistent defensively.

    "He has the potential to be their franchise nose tackle with the potential to develop into a Vince Wilfork, Jamal Williams-type player," Muench said. "We were really high on Maurkice Pouncey, the center/guard from Florida. These guys really got after each other in the Florida-Tennessee game. You get a sense when he makes the jump in the NFL, he is definitely is going to be able to hang."

    Riskiest move

    Drafting a quarterback first overall carries great risk when that quarterback has had trouble staying healthy.

    Bradford was the smart choice for the Rams at No. 1 based on their obvious need at the position. But so many factors go into determining whether a quarterback succeeds ultimately.

    Steve Young has stressed the importance of having a strong organization with the right mix of top-notch offensive coaches. Are the Rams a strong organization right now? Do they have the right mix of top-notch offensive coaches? It's tough to answer those questions definitively in the affirmative at this point.

    Throw in the question marks surrounding Bradford -- his health, how he'll adjust to an NFL offense -- and it's clear the first overall choice was also the riskiest one.

    "There are concerns about Bradford and I get it," Muench said. "Anytime you are in an offense where you turn to the sideline to get the play, there are questions. I think he is so smart, he can make the transition to a pro-style offense and two, he can beat pressure because he's smart. He'll learn where pressure is going to come from."

    Most surprising move

    The ***** sacrificed a fourth-round pick in moving up two spots to No. 11 before selecting Davis out of Rutgers. San Francisco then took Idaho guard Mike Iupati with the 17th overall choice.

    I figured the ***** were excited about upgrading their offensive line. I figured coach Mike Singletary would have more input following Scot McCloughan's departure as general manager five weeks before the draft. I still didn't expect the ***** to be so aggressive and emphatic in their effort to beef up their offensive front.

    The ***** punctuated their first round with exclamation points.

    The picks they made might be wise ones. I was just surprised they would double up on the offensive line early while trading up to get it done.

    File it away

    The Seahawks and Cardinals invested fourth-round choices in talented defensive players coming off serious knee injuries.

    Look for cornerback Walter Thurmond (Seattle) and pass-rusher O'Brien Schofield (Arizona) to emerge as more significant contributors in 2011. Both would have been drafted much earlier if healthy.

  • #2
    Re: Mike Sando's NFC West Draft Analysis

    Our rivals blew us away in this draft.


    • #3
      Re: Mike Sando's NFC West Draft Analysis

      Originally posted by Springfield Rams View Post
      Our rivals blew us away in this draft.
      Agreed completely. Even though I think we had a decent draft. We didn't even compare to any of our division rivals. I give:

      Seattle an - A+
      Cardinals - B+
      Whiners - B (only because they did not address the one spot they desperately need - QB)
      Rams - B-

      Rams did very well in addressing the areas we needed to fill. The downfall came in not trading back when they suggested they would and instead potentially reaching for a couple of players. Saffold being the biggest surprise and the TE's were a shocker. In the end I think we took a lot of high risk reward guys. Lets hope for Reward!


      • #4
        Re: Mike Sando's NFC West Draft Analysis

        Who did the Rams reach for? Saffold was coming off the board two picks after 33 from what i hear and was a late first round projection to the Colts.

        The TE picks were the most questionable picks. Onubo is the type of guy you stay awake at night game planning for if he pans out. 6th round flyer by any definition, I like that risk. The other guy I think will be a solid every down guy who is a crushing blocker.


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          No team dominated the NFC West in 2010, but the St. Louis Rams are best positioned to control the division down the road.

          They've got the franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford, and that separates them from the other teams in the division, at least for now. The San Francisco ***** might have the answer in rookie second-round choice Colin Kaepernick, but it's too early to say. The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks can improve their chances by addressing the position during free agency this offseason or in the 2012 draft.

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          St. Louis already has the most consistent defense in the division. Defensive end Chris Long and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis give coach Steve Spagnuolo young building blocks. Defensive end Robert Quinn, drafted 14th overall this year, should become one as well.

          The Rams have more building to do, of course. They'll need to improve at receiver and find Steven Jackson's successor at running back. They must continue replenishing their defensive line while getting help for Laurinaitis at linebacker.

          As much or more than other teams in the division, though, the Rams have shown an ability get things right in the draft. Long, Bradford, Laurinaitis and left tackle Rodger Saffold give St. Louis a strong core to build around. Right tackle Jason Smith hasn't been a big hit after being the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, but he's not a bust, either. Smith and Saffold should give the Rams bookend tackles for years to come.

          Thanks to Bradford and billionaire owner Stan Kroenke, the Rams have the strongest foundation in the NFC West. That doesn't guarantee divisional dominance for the time period in question, but it certainly gives the Rams a head start.
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