Can San Francisco repeat, or are the Cardinals primed for a run?
The 2011 NFL season ended with the San Francisco 49ers squarely on top of the division. The 2012 NFL draft gave the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams the opportunity to make up a little ground.
The 49ers didn't do a lot to help themselves in the draft, but still improved their team.
The Rams had a golden opportunity to add several quality players to their roster this season after acquiring the Washington Redskins' first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. They were in a position to make a few more smart trades and add a few more picks in the middle and end of the draft.
Instead, they made an ill-advised move and settled for quantity instead.
The draft is over, but the draft season isn't. There are a lot of quality players that were not drafted and will be available as free agents.
For now, here are the grades for the structured portion of the entering rookies. We welcome your comments and grades below.
This was too rare a sight in 2011, causing the 49ers to look at beefing up their receiving options.
It seems odd, but the front office might have helped the team out more with the late-round picks.
San Francisco had very distinct needs in this draft. Wide receiver was certainly at the top of the list, followed by help on the offensive line and depth on both lines. It also needed depth and future starters at running back and in the secondary.
The Niners responded to some of these concerns, but seemed to miss on others.
I would have liked to see them take a chance on a cornerback in Round 3 instead of trading away the pick. They missed out on several good options with their trade, including DT Brandon Thompson.
For a complete summary of their picks and trades, please visit the team-specific article, San Francisco 49ers 2012 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis.
Round 1: 49ers select A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
Round 2: 49ers select LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
Round 4: 49ers select Joe Looney, G, Wake Forest
Round 5: 49ers select Darius Fleming, OLB, Notre Dame
Round 6: 49ers select Trenton Robinson, S, Michigan State
Round 6: 49ers select Jason Slowey, C, Western Oregon
Round 7: 49ers select Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia
Overall Grade: B
While Fitzgerald proved he can still take over a game in Week 17, he needed another quality receiver.
The Cardinals needed to grab a high-profile player or get good value for a trade in the first round. The team could have benefited from a trade and replacing their traded second-round pick, but they made the right call with grabbing Michael Floyd.
Later rounds looked at filling holes with players of value, and the team certainly managed to do so. They needed help at offensive tackle, guard, wide receiver and linebacker. They also needed to look for depth on the offensive line and quarterback.
The Cardinals obviously have other plans at linebacker, as they didn't draft anyone for this group. But the value they found with several quality offensive linemen in later rounds could really define this draft class. If those blockers catch on and produce, this will have been a stellar draft.
For a complete summary of their picks and trades, please visit the team-specific article, Arizona Cardinals 2012 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis.
Round 1: Cardinals Select Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Round 2: Cardinals trade pick for Kevin Kolb
Grade: B+ (Kolb may not produce, but the trade led to the Larry Fitzgerald's extension.)
Round 3: Cardinals select Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
Grade: B+ (This could move to an A or a D depending on his legal issues.)
Round 4: Cardinals select Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi
Round 5: Cardinals select Senio Kelemete, G, Washington
Round 6: Cardinals select Justin Bethel, CB, Presbyterian
Round 6: Cardinals select Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State
Round 7: Cardinals select Nate Potter, OT, Boise State
Overall Draft Grade: B+
Many analysts were completely surprised by the first pick. After getting over my initial shock that they took my favorite pass-rusher that early and after additional reports came out regarding other teams that were targeting Bruce Irvin in Round 1, this pick made more sense.
What did surprise me were the late-round picks. But this is the issue with grading a draft when it is conducted—the GMs and coaches know how they want to use players and have more exposure to what the strengths of each player is.
If more than one of the final four players selected make the active roster, the grade will need adjusting. Also, if Irvin comes out and registers double-digit sacks, the grade instantly becomes an A.
Seattle obviously chose to focus on defense. It went from one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2009 to a top-10 unit last season. Pete Carroll has his sights on making it elite.
For a complete summary of their picks and trades, please visit the team-specific article, Seattle Seahawks 2012 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis.
Round 1: Trade with Eagles
Round 1: Seahawks select Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia
Grade: B, upgraded from a D. (This was adjusted based on credible information that several other teams would have drafted Irvin in Round 1.)
Round 2: Trade with the New York Jets
Round 2: Seahawks select Bobby Wagner, OLB, Utah State
Round 3: Seahawks select Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
Round 4: Seahawks select Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State
Round 4: Seahawks select Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
Round 5: Pick traded to Bills for Marshawn Lynch
Round 5: Seahawks select Korey Toomer, ILB, Idaho
Round 6: Seahawks select Jeremy Lane, CB, Northwestern State
Round 6: Seahawks select Winston Guy, S, Kentucky
Round 7: Seahawks select J.R. Sweezy, DE/OG, N.C. State
Round 7: Seahawks select Greg Scruggs, DE, Louisville
Overall Grade: B
Is Michael Brockers really the guy to change the team's fortunes?
I've been somewhat hard on the Rams' draft, even though I was hoping they would have a great weekend.
An improved Rams squad is a good thing for the NFC West.
My negative reviews are predicated on the belief that Morris Claiborne will be an elite defender and Michael Brockers won't. Should either of those turn out differently, I'll owe the Rams and their fans an apology.
Regardless, the trade with the Dallas Cowboys hurt their momentum. The Rams need some quantity, but they won't get back to being a winner by not grabbing quality players. They could have a limited window at the top of the draft with easy access to elite prospects and they gave this chance away for very little compensation.
My list of pre-draft needs for the Rams started with acquiring more picks. From there, they needed help at wide receiver, defensive tackle, cornerback, free safety and offensive line. They also needed depth at running back and in the secondary, along with adding a punter.
They hit most every area, but did come up short on the offensive line and possibly free safety. I also am not convinced with taking a kicker.
For a complete summary of their picks and trades, please visit the team-specific article, St. Louis Rams 2012 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis.
Round 1: Rams trade with Washington
Grade: A (only because there is no higher grade)
Round 1: Rams trade with Dallas
Grade: D, and a big dent in the positive momentum
Round 1: Rams draft Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Round 2: Rams draft Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State
Round 2: Rams draft Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Grade: A (so long as he can stay out of trouble.)
Round 2: Rams trade with Bears
Round 2: Rams select Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati
Round 3: Rams select Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
Round 4: Rams select Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest
Round 5: Rams traded pick for Brandon Lloyd
Round 5: Rams select Rokevious Watkins, OL, South Carolina
Round 6: Rams select Greg Zuerlein, K, Missouri Western
Round 7: Rams select Aaron Brown, LB, Hawaii
Round 7: Rams select Daryl Richardson, RB, Abilene Christian
Overall Draft Grade: B-
The overall grade is a bit rough, as they appeared to do very little in Rounds 5-7 even though the 49ers and Cardinals added great players at similar positions in these rounds. If the Rams can make the most of their two first-round picks in 2013 and 2014, it will turn the tide of this draft.