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Draft Analysis – NFC West

NFL West

By Dwayne Wilton

Now that the draft process is complete, we will do a series of articles discussing the draft picks of each team by division. Since these players have yet to set foot on an NFL field, we don’t do draft grades. We don’t believe a draft should be graded for at least two years, which gives players some time to develop.

Today we conclude the series by looking at the NFC West.


Arizona Cardinals:

Round 1              Johnathan Cooper          Guard                    North Carolina

Round 2             Kevin Minter                    Linebacker           LSU

Round 3             Tyrann Mathieu               Corner                  LSU

Round 4             Alex Okafor                       Linebacker          Texas

Round 4             Earl Watford                     Guard                   James Madison

Round 5             Stepfan Taylor                  Running Back     Stanford

Round 6             Ryan Swope                      Receiver               Texas A&M

Round 6             Andre Ellington               Running Back     Clemson

Round 7             D.C. Jefferson                   Tight End            Rutgers


The Cardinals needed help in a couple of areas. The first area is at quarterback, after using 4 quarterbacks last year. They believe they have addressed that issue by trading for Carson Palmer. Palmer doesn’t have the arm he had when he was younger, but the Cardinals hope he has enough to attack defensives vertically which is what coach Bruce Arians likes to do. The second area of need is the offensive line. The Cardinals gave up 58 sacks which led the league. Tackle Levi Brown missed the entire season with a triceps injury. He will be back to start at left tackle. Last year’s rookie Bobby Massie will start at right tackle. The team drafted Johnathan Cooper to play one of the guard positions. Cooper’s best attribute is his ability to move, pull and trap. He should help them as they try to develop a running game that has been missing and take some pressure off of Palmer. Kevin Minter is a tackling machine with a high football IQ. He always seems to be around the football. Starter Daryl Washington will be suspended for at least the first four games, possibly longer. This should open the door for Minter to step in as a starter. For me, the drafting of Tyrann Mathieu was a big risk. He is talented, but I’m not sure he’s a guy I would want in my locker room. He has people in the Cardinals organization that can help him turn it around, but I still have my doubts. I do like the fact that the Cardinals are working him at free safety. Mathieu was far from a shutdown corner and is better when he can freelance and roam a bit which is more conducive to the safety position. If he is going to be successful, he is going to need to listen to those around him and make some positive changes in his life. Alex Okafor is another in a long line of pass rushers from Texas. Although he played with his hand in the dirt, he also played at times standing up. The Cardinals will ask him to convert to outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. Okafor should have the speed and athleticism to be successful as a linebacker. He even filled in at defensive tackle when the Longhorns were short in that area, but I wouldn’t put him there full-time. Okafor has a good bull rush and excels at pressuring the quarterback. He will start out backing up Lorenzo Alexander and former Longhorn teammate Sam Acho, but I can see him getting some reps in nickel and dime packages. Earl Watford is another guard with good movement skills. The question is how quickly he can adjust to the competition in the NFL after playing at James Madison. He will compete with Daryn Colledge and fellow draftee Johnathan Cooper for a starting job. Stepfan Taylor is a versatile running back that can do anything you need him to do and he excels in pass protection. He doesn’t have great speed, but he has good vision and cutback ability. The Cardinals have a lot of running backs, so the competition at this position should be interesting. Ryan Swope is a slot receiver that caught a ton of balls for the Aggies. He has very good speed and great feet. Swope always seems to be open. The reason he lasted until the 6th round is because of a history of concussions. I can see him making an immediate impact as the 3rd or 4th receiver and possibly returning kicks. Andre Ellington is an explosive running back. He has quick feet and has great burst through the hole. Ellington also has good hands and can help out in the passing game. As much as I like Stepfan Taylor as a player, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ellington moved ahead of Taylor on the depth chart because of his speed and quickness. D.C. Jefferson is a former quarterback that never had great production at Rutgers. He is a better blocker than receiver and needs a lot of work honing his receiving skills.


San Francisco 49ers:

Round 1              Eric Reid                           Safety                                 LSU

Round 2             Tank Carradine                Defensive End                  Florida State

Round 2             Vance McDonald             Tight End                           Rice

Round 3             Corey Lemonier               Linebacker                         Auburn

Round 4             Quinton Patton                Receiver                              Louisiana Tech

Round 4             Marcus Lattimore           Running Back                    South Carolina

Round 5             Quinton Dial                    Defensive End                    Alabama

Round 6             Nick Moody                     Linebacker                           Florida State

Round 7             B.J. Daniels                      Quarterback                        South Florida

Round 7             Carter Bykowski              Tackle                                   Iowa State

Round 7             Marcus Cooper                Corner                                  Rutgers


The rich keep getting richer. The 49ers went into the draft with 14 draft picks and ended up drafting 11 players. San Francisco lost Dashon Goldson in free agency, so safety was a priority for them. They traded up to the 18th overall pick to select Eric Reid. Reid is an active, instinctive player that always seems to be around the ball. He breaks well on the ball when it’s in the air. Reid is an aggressive player that is adept at stripping the ball, but sometimes he gets overly aggressive and gets burned. Donte Whitner will be the starting strong safety and Reid will be given a chance to earn the starting spot at free safety. Tank Carradine is a high effort guy that chases the ball all over the field. Many teams looked at him as a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker, but the 49ers are looking at him as a 5 technique. He will start off backing up Justin Smith and could eventually end up as the heir apparent at the position. Rice University could be called Tight End U after having so many tight ends drafted into the NFL. Vance McDonald is the latest to be drafted from Rice. He is a good athlete with good speed. The Owls actually used him as a slot receiver and ran him on fly sweeps. Since the 49ers already have Vernon Davis, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them using two tight end formations and moving McDonald all over the field. Corey Lemonier was a defensive end at Auburn, but will be asked to play linebacker in the 49ers 3-4. He is a good speed rusher with an explosive first step. Lemonier will back up Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks at outside linebacker. Quinton Patton was a steal in the 4th round. He has the speed to stretch the field and has good athleticism. Patton is a very smooth route runner and will compete for the ball in the air. He is able to take over a ballgame, just ask Texas A&M after he had 21 catches against them. With Michael Crabtree expected to miss significant time with a torn Achilles tendon, I would think Patton should be able to get some snaps in multiple receiver sets. Marcus Lattimore could also end up being a huge pickup if he recovers from his knee injury. Lattimore was a freshman sensation and was regarded as the best running back in the country until he suffered knee injuries in 2011 and 2012. Reports are that he is recovering well, but it normally takes until the second season to fully recover and regain form. It’s entirely possible that the 49ers could essentially “red shirt” Lattimore, giving him a full season to recover and then begin playing in 2014. Quinton Dial is a versatile player that has played all over the line for Alabama. Dial should be able to play defensive end or nose tackle for the 49ers.  He is better against the run than against the pass. Nick Moody is a former safety that was moved to linebacker. He has good speed and sheds blockers well. He will compete for a backup position at outside linebacker. B.J. Daniels is an extremely athletic quarterback that had an up and down career at South Florida. He has a strong arm and can move the ball with his feet, but he will need to work on his accuracy to become successful at the next level. Carter Bykowski is a former tight end that has good size as a tackle. He will have a tough time making the 53 man roster but could be a candidate for the practice squad. Marcus Cooper has a good combination of size and speed. He is a physical player that is good in press coverage. Cooper may have a hard time making the team simply because of the numbers involved.


Seattle Seahawks:

Round2               Christine Michael            Running Back                  Texas A&M

Round 3              Jordan Hill                        Defensive Tackle             Penn State

Round 4              Chris Harper                     Receiver                            Kansas State

Round 5              Jesse Williams                  Defensive Tackle             Alabama

Round 5              Tharold Simon                  Corner                               LSU

Round 5              Luke Willson                     Tight End                          Rice

Round 6              Spencer Ware                   Running Back                   LSU

Round 7              Ryan Seymour                  Guard                                 Vandy

Round 7              Ty Powell                           Linebacker                        Harding

Round 7              Jared Smith                      Defensive Tackle              New Hampshire

Round 7              Michael Bowie                  Tackle                                NE Oklahoma State


Since Pete Carroll took over as coach of the Seahawks, it’s been impossible to predict what they would do in the draft. On paper their drafts are not impressive, however, the team has become one of the best teams in the NFC and a sexy pick to go deep in the playoffs and possibly to the Super Bowl. Christine Michael is a big back with speed, but he had some injury issues in 2010 and 2011 then got in the coach’s doghouse in 2012 and was benched. Michael is a good blend of power and speed and has more wiggle than most runners his size. It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks running back position plays out. The starter is Marshawn Lynch and last year was backed up by Robert Turbin who I really like. The question will be whether or not Michael can move in front of Turbin to backup Lynch. Jordan Hill is a strong, quick defensive tackle. He lacks the size that you normally want from a starting defensive tackle, but he has a good motor and has the burst to be disruptive. Chris Harper is a former quarterback with good size. He has good ability to beat press coverage and runs good routes. Harper uses his size and strong hands to his advantage. Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin are the starters so Harper will compete with Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate for playing time as the 3rd or 4th receiver. Jesse Williams was an absolute steal in the 5th round. I really like this guy. He demonstrated his versatility at Alabama by playing nose tackle, 3-4 defensive end and was even the short yardage fullback. Williams moves very well for a guy his size and should immediately be part of a rotation at defensive tackle. Tharold Simon is a 6’ 2” corner that fits right in with what Pete Carroll has built in Seattle. Simon was forced to become “the guy” at corner for LSU after the suspension of Tyrann Mathieu and he responded well. He is better at off coverage but if the Seattle coaches can clean up his technique he could excel at press coverage. Simon does a good job of tracking the ball in the air and makes plays on the ball. Corner is a position of strength with the Seahawks already having Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Antoine Winfield, but you can never have enough talented corners in this league. If he can’t make the 53 man roster, Simon should have no problem making the practice squad. Luke Willson is another talented tight end produced by Tight End U. Willson did not quite have the publicity of his teammate Vance McDonald, but he had a very productive career at Rice. He has good size (6’5” and 250 lbs.) and speed (4.51 40). Willson has very good athleticism and can stretch the defense vertically. He should back up Zach Miller and get some reps in two tight end packages. Spencer Ware is a big, physical running back that likes to pound at the defense. The Tigers used him some in wildcat packages. Since he weighs in at 245 lbs., he may be a candidate to move to fullback.  Ryan Seymour is a versatile lineman that has played center, guard and left tackle. He is likely a better fit as a guard, but it’s always nice to have a lineman that can play multiple positions. Ty Powell  is a former high school quarterback that has played the last two years at defensive end. He showed good explosion at the NFL Combine with a 37” vertical jump and 10’ 2” broad jump. The Seahawks are looking at moving him to middle linebacker where he could back up Bobby Wagner. Jared Smith was a defensive tackle at New Hampshire, but the Seahawks are looking at moving him to offensive guard. Michael Bowie is a developmental player. He has good size and long arms. Bowie has looked good so far in OTA’s and is currently the second string right tackle.

St. Louis Rams:

Round 1              Tavon Austin                   Receiver                            West Virginia

Round 1              Alec Ogletree                   Linebacker                       Georgia

Round 3             T.J. McDonald                 Safety                                USC

Round 3             Stedman Bailey                Receiver                           West Virginia

Round 4             Barrett Jones                    Center/Guard                 Alabama

Round 5             Brandon McGee               Corner                              Miami

Round 5             Zac Stacy                            Running Back                Vandy


It was no secret the Rams needed at least one wide receiver in the draft. Tavon Awesome was the hot commodity going into the draft. A case could have been made for almost every NFL team to draft this guy. He was by far the most explosive player in this year’s draft. With the Rams having two first round picks, they had the luxury to trade up and snag Austin. The Rams not only got a player that can improve the receiver position, but they also got someone who can help in the return game. This kid is special when he’s in space and he should be the starter from day one. The only concern for him is that he is 5’ 8” and only 174 lbs., but DeSean Jackson isn’t a big player either and he has made his impact on the league. Alec Ogletree is a former safety that moved to inside linebacker at Georgia. He has very good speed and runs sideline to sideline. The Rams are looking at him as a weak side linebacker which may be a better fit at this level. At Georgia he didn’t take on blockers many times and with him on the weak side, he should be freed up to just run and make plays. Ogletree is currently running 1st team and could be a day one starter. T.J. McDonald is the third rookie from this draft class with a chance to start immediately. He is running first team at free safety, but I like him better as a strong safety. I believe he plays better in the box. McDonald will flat out knock you out, but he is a bit stiff when he has to play center field. The Rams must have really liked the West Virginia passing game. They drafted their second West Virginia receiver with Stedman Bailey in round 3. Bailey doesn’t have great size, but he runs very good routes and gets great separation. He is great in the red zone, having caught 37 touchdown passes in the last two seasons. Barrett Jones is a very versatile lineman that has played center, guard and left tackle. Jones was the leader of the Crimson Tide offensive line. He is currently backing up center Scott Wells, but he should also be able to back up both guard positions. I thought he would be drafted higher, so getting Jones in the 4th round was a steal. Brandon McGee is a fast, quick corner. He has good speed and gets in and out of his backpedal well. He has a chance to either be the nickel or dime corner right away. Zac Stacy is a tough, workhorse that has a nose for the end zone. He has a stout build and low center of gravity. He doesn’t blow you away with measureables but he runs with good determination. Since the Rams lost Stephen Jackson, she should have a chance to get on the field right away.


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