The Arizona Cardinals and the rest of the NFL have now completed the 2011 NFL Draft and now have their newest players under control for the season that will hopefully be played. Draft grades have begun to be doled out, although grading a draft class before they play is almost an absurdity. Probably the only way to look at their drafts is to look in terms of projected talent, value and addressing needs.
To start, Mel Kiper graded the Cardinals' division opponents like this:
San Francisco 49ers: Needs -- B, Value -- C, Overall -- C+
You'll hear Smith called the first big reach of Round 1, but he wouldn't have lasted long at all past the No. 7 slot where the Niners nabbed him. And beyond the obvious question at quarterback, an outside linebacker who can rush the quarterback was the biggest position of need for this team, and if Smith continues on his developmental path, he could be a star. Jim Harbaugh found a quarterback he can develop with Kaepernick in Round 2, but even with the run on quarterbacks, I saw that as a reach. There's a lot of development needed. San Fran did hit on other top needs at cornerback and wide receiver, and got decent value in Hunter for depth at running back. Kilgore also offers a little more depth at guard. It's all about what happens at quarterback in terms of how we judge the success of the 2011 49ers, but I judge this weekend as a relative success. It's just a small worry when your first two picks both have development requirements.
Seattle Seahawks: Needs -- C, Value -- D, Overall -- D+
By passing on Andy Dalton, the clear impression is that Seattle has other plans (or hopes to) at quarterback. Could it be Carson Palmer or Kevin Kolb? I hope the Seahawks have better plans for quarterback than they appeared to in terms of adding value here. Carpenter fits a need, but was a reach with better tackle available. Moffitt can help this offensive line, but I didn't see guard as a top need. Wright was a reach on my board, as was Durham, a wideout out of Georgia who may have been around much, much later. The Seahawks then made some sensible picks in the secondary, but at what impact that late? They did nothing really to help the defensive line and their sense of value was questionable. The positive might be that this is a very young team, and you suspect Pete Carroll expects improvement. I just don't know if he added much this weekend.
St. Louis Rams: Needs -- A-, Value -- B-, Overall -- B
St. Louis got a lot done, and now unquestionably looks like a franchise ready to take that next step. Nobody got better immediate dividends from the draft than the Rams in 2010 with fantastic rookie seasons from Sam Bradford and Rodger Saffold, and they could have the early-impact player in this draft with the addition of Quinn. Had he played at all in 2010, this is a player who could have been in the mix as a No. 1 overall pick. To get him at No. 14 is a steal in terms of talent. Then St. Louis immediately started targeting solutions in the passing game. Kendricks, Pettis and Salas could all help Bradford, who did a lot with a pretty weak cast of wideouts last year. The Rams didn't get any help at guard or defensive tackle, but given their needs, they didn't have enough picks to cover them all.
What do I think of the NFC West teams' drafts?
Seahawks: I didn't like the James Carpenter pick in the first round, even though it supposedly fills a need. Reaching for players tends to end badly. They did not address the quarterback situation, but they already have a bit of an investment in Charlie Whitehurst. They will also likely see themselves as a player in the offseason sweepstakes. There was not a single pick they made that stuck out positively to me. I'd give them a C-.
Rams: I thought the Rams had a good draft. Robert Quinn, Lance Kendricks and Austin Pettis look like they will be good fits for their team. Neither look like a reach, either. Considering Sam Bradford now has a year under his belt and potentially some solid weapons, this young team could be in good shape. Grade: A-.
49ers: The Aldon Smith pick in the first round was a solid player, but a bit of a reach, so they lose value points. Colin Kaepernick is potentially a very good pick in the second round, but let us remember the success of second round quarterbacks. Drew Brees is the only franchise guy since 1995. They had a lot of picks, no one that you look at as a steal. Their first two picks require some development. Grade: C.