2011 NFL Draft: NFC West First Round Wrap Up
Past the first five picks, there were some interesting decisions in this year’s draft. While there was more movement in the first round than I expected—with the NFL barring trading players for picks until the second round—the NFC West teams were content with their positions in the draft.
In doing so, many of the teams were left with picking up the best player available rather than need. Arizona wasn’t a big surprise, but I was left scratching my head a bit with the other three teams.
Arizona Cardinals – CB Patrick Peterson, LSU (A)
The consensus best athlete in the draft and considered by many as the safest pick, Patrick Peterson is expected to be the first perennial all-pro of the 2011 draft class.
The Jim Thorpe Award winner established himself as the best cover corner in college football and stayed impressive during offseason workouts. He has amazing speed for his size and can easily transition to safety if needed; Peterson drew many comparisons to Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott and Deion Sanders.
While Peterson isn’t an immediate need for the Cardinals, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie coming off a mediocre year, and his added value in the return game, coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t going to leave the best player available on the board.
Also, if Peterson can improve the secondary, the front seven can open up its blitz package to make up for not having a premier pass rusher.
San Francisco 49ers – DE Aldon Smith, Missouri (C+)
After redshirting his first year, Aldon Smith was a freshman phenom out of the Big 12.
Racking up 11.5 sacks in his first year as a starter, his production dropped this past season due to a broken fibula. After a quick recovery and a decent season, Smith surprised many by declaring early for the draft. Coach Jim Harbaugh must have seen something he liked, and Robert Quinn may have raised too many red flags (read below). But with the seventh overall pick, this wasn't the place to pick up a project player.
I’ll give credit to Harbaugh for drafting a definite need, but Smith may have a long way to go before the Niners start seeing production from him.
Strength was a concern scouts listed during the combine and Smith also lined up as a defensive tackle for pass rush situations in college. Smith needs some tweaking if the team wants him to be an every down player as a 3-4 linebacker. The bright side is if Smith can fill the role as a pass rush specialist this year, he still has time to develop into something more later in his career.
I guess the theme of this year’s draft is picking up players on value.
If this weren’t a lockout year I have a feeling the Rams would’ve traded up for a shot at Julio Jones. But without generating interest from other teams wanting to trade down, the Rams were left with picking up one of the better pass rushers in this year’s draft class—oh darn.
After an impressive sophomore year at UNC, totaling 11 sacks, Quinn was suspended for the 2010 season by the NCAA for accepting jewelry and travel accommodations from an agent.
While there are concerns about a benign brain tumor, Quinn was still impressive at the combine and his pro day at UNC, and was viewed as the best pass rusher in this year’s draft after Von Miller.
This pick may also mean the end for 34-year-old defensive end James Hall. While Hall led the Rams last season with 10.5 sacks, it doesn’t look like the team is going to part ways with Chris Long any time soon. Quinn can also contribute immediately, as he can play his natural position in the Ram’s 4-3 scheme.
Seattle Seahawks – OT/G James Carpenter, Alabama (B-)
An early injury to Russel Okung and poor play from the rest of the Seahawks' offensive line held back the team last season from a more respectable record.
While picking up a right tackle wasn’t much of a stretch for the Seahawks, picking James Carpenter ahead of Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod left Mel Kiper’s hair in a bit of a tiff. Despite the mild disapproval, Carpenter was recognized for becoming an immediate starter at Alabama after transferring from Coffeyville Community College.
Anchoring the left side, he was viewed as a right tackle prospect in the NFL and a value pick in the second round.
After Pete Carroll gutted his roster last season and still managed to win the division, it’s pretty clear he will put together the team he wants—critics be damned. Carpenter can also give the push needed in the running game to relieve a struggling, yet promising Marshawn Lynch.
Other First Round Notes:
Nickname suggestions for Lions’ defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley: The Dam-tastic Duo, The Lion Kings Mu-and-Fasa and A Boy Named Suh and My Fair-ley.
Which was more impressive: Jake Locker’s/ Christian Ponder’s jump or Ryan Mallet’s fall?
Does anyone else wish the Raiders had a first round pick this year they could waste?