As you might have guessed the Arizona Cardinals weren't the only team in the NFL that took part in a draft this past weekend. The rest of the NFC not only took part but honestly held more prominent roles considering that each of the three teams held picks within the top ten overall selections. Since the Cardinals should always be mindful of what their division mates are doing, we'd be remiss if we didn't peak in on the Niners, Seahawks and Rams from time to time as well. With that in mind we wanted to give you some kind of look into each team's draft so naturally that led us to get an inside opinion from each team's head blogger. To fiair to all we'll present them in order of division finish, after your very own Cardinals of course (although we'll post what we had to say at the end of this article).
San Francisco 49ers
Selections: WR Michael Crabtree (1st), RB Glen Coffee(3rd), ILB Scott McKillop (5th), QB Nate Davis (5th), TE Bear Pascoe (6th), S Curtis Taylor (7th), Ricky Jean-Francois (7th)
Analysis: The 49ers came out of this draft without really addressing many of their needs, and yet many fans (although certainly not all) consider this draft a solid one for one reason: Michael Crabtree. Most everybody was pretty shocked when he fell to the 49ers at 10. While the 49ers certainly had bigger needs than WR, and could've filled one with Michael Oher or Brian Orakpo, there was no way they could pass on Michael Crabtree. Crabtree is officially the most talented WR on the roster and is probably the best WR draft choice since Terrell Owens.
After that first pick, the 49ers drafted in a rather odd fashion. They dealt away their second and fourth round picks for a 2010 first rounder, which led to some strong criticism by a few folks. Personally I like getting the first rounder and if you're not happy with what you see in a high round, why waste money on someone you're not sold on? After that, the team filled depth needs, but didn't grab any sure-fire starters. They grabbed Coffee, an Alabama running back that they hope will be the bulldozer to ease the load on Frank Gore. They grabbed McKillop, a linebacker who they hope can eventually take over Takeo Spikes role, but for now will be primarily a special teamer. They got a 5th round QB in Davis who has no pressure on him, but has the talent to possibly be a long term answer. Finally, their seventh round picks were upside guys in a pair of LSU defensive players. Both came to LSU with great fanfare but for one reason or another never reached their potential.
The 49ers have found some potential diamonds in the rough in undrafted free agents and overall, I am more positive about this draft than many of the so-called pundits. The 49ers got a potential game-breaking receiver and some depth guys. I gave the team a B for the draft. Combined with their moves in free agency I'm feeling fairly good about things.
Selections: LB Aaron Curry (1st), OL Max Unger (2nd), WR Deon Butler (3rd), QB Mike Teel (6th), S Courtney Greene (7th), DE Nick Reed (7th), TE Cameron Morrah (7th)
Analysis: It was the pick that Seattle didn't make that defined their draft. The Seahawks traded the 37th overall pick in what was widely considered a weak draft class to Denver for the Bronco's 2010 first round pick. It's hard for a 4-12 team to defer to the future. There's pressure to pick players that can contribute right away and thus help the team regain respectability. But it was the right decision. Denver is expected to decline in 2009. Two of their division rivals were unlucky. It's not a stretch to say Seattle could have traded an early second round pick for an early first round pick. Seattle will need that pick if it wishes to replace Matt Hasselbeck. That day is looming.
Drafting Aaron Curry is also a nod to the future. Seattle traded similarly-skilled linebacker Julian Peterson to Detroit to free cap space and get younger. After drafting Curry, Seattle pulled the franchise tag from Leroy Hill. That means it swapped one and maybe two upper echelon outside linebackers for one with upper echelon talent. In the short term, it's a lateral move. In the long term, Curry has almost unlimited potential. Scouts excel at scouting linebackers, and rarely is a linebacker considered the best player in his class, much less by a near-consensus of scouts and analysts.
Max Unger is a center but could play guard. As a guard he could contribute this year, but it's just as likely he was drafted to replace center Chris Spencer. Seattle is instituting a zone-blocking scheme and needs a heady center to make pre-snap reads. Few think that's Spencer. In the short term, replacing the emerging Spencer with a rookie, albeit a polished and starting-capable rookie, is either a lateral step or a downgrade. Seattle hopes Unger will eventually grow into his potential and become the line's centerpiece.
Every draft is about the future, but Seattle took that principle and threw it into overdrive. Second day picks Deon Butler and Mike Teel start their careers as depth, and of Seattle's supplemental seventh round picks, only situational pass rusher Nick Reed has a good shot of contributing in 2009. Seattle should be better in 2009 simply because of better health and better breaks, but not because its draft class. That class is about building a better, younger team for 2010 and beyond.
St. Louis Rams
Selection: OT Jason Smith (1st), MLB James Laurinaitis (2nd), CB Bradley Fletcher (3rd), DT Darell Scott (4th), WR Brooks Foster (5th), QB Keith Null (6th), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (7th)
Analysis: For a team with so many needs, a single draft can't be viewed as any kind of panacea for the franchise, rather just one important step in a long process. Nevertheless, the Rams did take major strides toward rebuilding beleaguered units up front on both sides of the ball.
Despite flirtatious rumors of a potential trades out of the number two spot and GM Billy Devaney's best efforts to drum up interest, the Rams went with Baylor OT Jason Smith in a move that surprised nobody. Smith wasn't the sexy pick, but he's exactly what the offense needed after allowing a porous offensive line to turn a Pro Bowl QB into a shell of his former self. They could have gone with Sanchez and tried to get an OT later in the draft, but such a move would have most likely just ruined another QB and forced a tackle not ready for prime time into a starting role. Smith was the smart pick and joins free agent acquisition C Jason Brown as the young heart of the Rams new offensive line.
The Rams also made two smart picks in MLB James Laurinaitis and DT Darell Scott, picks that should instantly improve a historically bad front seven. The Rams opted for the more cerebral Laurinaitis over USC's Rey Maualuga in the second round, and in doing so got a guy who looks like great player and should be, along with DE Chris Long, the face and cornerstone of this defense for years to come. Scott gives them a run-stopping, big body NT, who should fit in immediately as part of the rotation up front. Besides making the front seven a more complete unit, these two draft picks nicely complement the addition of free agent SS James Butler to give the Rams a much better defensive middle. A third defensive player taken in the draft, Iowa CB Bradley Fletcher, raised some eyebrows as a relatively unknown prospect, but he's the kind of physical corner Spagnuolo likes to use in his defenses.
They raised some eyebrows with the Keith Null pick, a player they might have picked up via free agency on Monday, but hopefully he can turn into a decent backup QB. I like their final pick of Texas RB Chris Ogbonnaya, who could be a nice candidate for a third down back or maybe even a backup.
With so many needs and only so many picks, this draft was bound to disappoint some. Fans that were hoping for a WR definitely don't like this draft. Overall, I'd give it a solid B, reserving the right to upgrade that if the defensive line plays well over the next couple seasons.
Selections: RB Chris "Beanie" Wells (1st), OLB Cody Brown (2nd), FS Rashad Johnson (3rd), CB Greg Toler (4th), OG Herman Johnson (5th), OLB Will Davis (6th), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (7th), OG Trevor Canfield (7th)
Analysis: The Cardinals draft, outside of Beanie Wells, was pretty uneventful and thus hasn't really set the fandom on fire, but that doesn't mean that they didn't pick up some quality pieces. After getting a solid week of Anquan Boldin hoopla, the Cardinals decided they'd rather sit back and have an uneventful seven rounds. They were one of the only teams in the league to fail to participate in some kind of trade yet they still managed to fill most, if not all, of their needs.
First and foremost Beanie Wells is an instant upgrade at running back and regardless of what the Mel Kipers and Todd McShay's of the world will tell you, he's exactly the kind of back that Ken Whisenhunt covets. He may not be the best fit for a Kurt Warner led offense but the old Grey Beard won't be around forever and a Matt Leinart-led offense will need an effective running game to operate efficiently. Let Beanie get his feet wet for a year or two and we'll see where he is one Matty takes over the reigns. In the second round, Cody Brown is your typical college defensive end being converted to linebacker. He's a decent athlete and stout against the run but we expect very little from him in 2009. Making the move from DE to OLB is a difficult transition and it normally takes a full year. At best he's a situational pass rusher and special teams terror this season and hopefully he's ready to start in 2010.
Moving onto the second day, the coaching staff obviously watched last year's tapes again and saw way to many pass happy QB's having a field day against them. Enter Rashad Johnson at free safety and Greg Toler at cornerback. Johnson figures to be the third safety who plays in nickel and dime situations allowing Adrian Wilson to create havoc around the line of scrimmage. Toler's a physically gifted yet very raw talent who's luckily buried on the depth chart and will likely need a season or two in order to adjust the NFL game. Big Herman Johnson slipped in the draft because he looked like a house and moved like on in the post season workouts. If he can keep his weight down he's a future starter and exactly what Russ Grimm looks for in an offensive guard, but if he keeps tipping the scale at over 350 or 360 he'll just be the heaviest guy in the unemployment line. Will Davis is a pure passer but also a pure project who will probably be best served with a year on the practice squad as he learns how to play OLB. LaRod Stephens-Howling was LeSean McCoy's backup at Pitt but he also doubled as their kick returner. At best he's a Darren Sproles type of back and at worst he's JJ Arrington a couple of years ago, but either way in the seventh round it was worth that risk. Canfield is a guard who can also play center but will probably spend at least one year on the practice squad.
Overall the Cardinals filled their two biggest needs one the first day and sat back and took whoever they thought was the best player on the board to fit their particular needs. Wells, Brown and Herman Johnson could all be starters in a years time while Rashad Johnson, Toler and Davis could be productive guys on the depth chart. Ultimately this draft will be graded on how well Beanie Wells performs but overall I'd give the Cardinals a B+ right now.
Overall it was an interesting draft for the NFC West with two teams trading picks this year for first round picks next year. In a year that was considered a somewhat weak class that might be a smart move, even for teams that could use some immediate help. It may take three or four years to for us to know which team helped themselves the most with this draft but for now at least guys like Michael Crabtree, Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis, Aaron Curry and our very own Beanie Wells should make the NFC West even more fun to watch. Which team should get the most immediate help from this draft and which draft class will be the most successful in five years?