Grading the NFC West: Draft report cards

Rob Rang, senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, hands out grades to the four NFC West teams for their performance last week in the 2012 NFL draft, with only one team getting better than a passing grade.


Arizona Cardinals


The Cardinals finished the 2011 season winning seven of their final nine games. That momentum carried into the draft, where Arizona enjoyed the most impressive three days of any of the NFC West clubs. The Cardinals started things off with physical and talented wideout Michael Floyd, who will take pressure off of Larry Fitzgerald in the passing game as well as provide a downfield blocker for the Cardinals' power rushing attack. Adding battle-tested offensive linemen Bobby Massie (fourth round), Senio Kelemete (fifth) and Nate Potter (seventh) will improve this club up front, as will versatile cornerback Jamell Fleming, the club's third-round pick. Like John Skelton, who helped guide the Cardinals to their impressive late season surge, San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley has the big arm to warrant development in head coach Ken Whisenhunt's aggressive vertical attack. This draft won't get the buzz of some of the others, but I liked it.
Final grade: B-plus

St. Louis Rams


The Rams did what a team finishing last in the division four of the past five seasons is supposed to do – fill as many holes as possible in coach Jeff Fisher's first season. But in moving down repeatedly to add draft choices, the Rams gave up on opportunities to get blue-chip talent from their initial No. 2 overall pick (traded to Washington) and No. 6 overall pick (traded to Dallas) and instead gambled on the upside of LSU DT Michael Brockers at No. 14. The Rams filled holes at receiver (Brian Quick, Chris Givens) and cornerback (Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson), in theory. Quick, in particular, is also a developmental prospect and virtually all of St. Louis' choices have character red-flags. It's not unreasonable to argue that kicker Greg Zuerlein might be the team's most impactful rookie, and that's not necessarily a great endorsement. Fisher has made a career out of getting talented but troubled players to perform well and he'll have to do the same with this crew. Jenkins serves as a perfect microcosm of the entire St. Louis draft, a boom-or-bust player that is all risk until proven otherwise.
Final grade: C

San Francisco 49ers

Considering the immediate success the 49ers enjoyed under general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011, it is difficult to question their strategy in 2012. I'm going to do it anyway. Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins was the Big Ten's best receiver in 2011; given the club's investments in Michael Crabtree as well as free agents Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, it will be interesting to see how early Jenkins gets onto the field. The 49ers seemed to add talent to another relative strength in the second round with the speedy LaMichael James. Like Jenkins, there is no denying James' talent but considering the team added complementary back Kendall Hunter just a year ago to pair with the punishing Frank Gore, adding another third-down option may have been a luxury pick. In terms of players who might be able to contribute immediately, the 49ers might get their best value in fourth-rounder Joe Looney, a physical and reliable interior lineman who could help make up for the loss of Adam Snyder to free agency and sixth rounder Trenton Robinson, heady, athletic free safety.
Final grade: C

Seattle Seahawks


The Seahawks pulled one of the real shockers of the first round with the selection of passing rushing specialist Bruce Irvin at No. 12 overall. At 6-3, 242 pounds, Irvin is too small to be a traditional 4-3 defensive end but in head coach Pete Carroll's scheme, size isn't as important as speed for the right defensive end (or LEO) position and Irvin certainly has that. Drafting a specialist at No. 15 is a stretch but despite boasting a very good defense on first and second down a year ago, Seattle's lack of pass rush has killed them in recent years. Few will call Irvin's pick a reach a year from now if he ranks among the rookie leaders in sacks. Second round pick Bobby Wagner's versatility and reliable open-field tackling skills could earn him a spot in the starting lineup as a rookie. General manager John Schneider and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell loved Russell Wilson's instincts and ignored concerns about his height to make him another surprising Seahawks' pick in the third round. The more immediate impact will be made by Seattle's pair of fourth round picks -- running back Robert Turbin, whose power, surprising speed and reliable pass-blocking could make him a valuable backup to star Marshawn Lynch and potentially defensive tackle Jaye Howard, who was coached by former Seahawks' defensive line coach Dan Quinn at Florida. Fifth-round project Korey Toomer (Idaho) and former Kentucky standout Winston Guy are also intriguing third-day picks.
Final grade: C


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