The 2013 NFL Draft is over, and there were definitely some great players that got welcomed to the NFL the past few days. Of course, while some teams did well to either meet their needs or pick up an impact player or two that may help set the tone for the direction of their franchise, other teams didn’t have quite so much success.
The NFC West features four teams that are looking to make some noise and prove that this is the best division in football. This division has more parity to it than most might think, with last year’s last place Arizona Cardinals actually starting out 4-0 before dropping 11 of their last 12 games. The Seattle Seahawks showed that they are a legitimate threat to the division winning San Francisco 49ers last season, as they took one of the wild card spots, led by rookie Russel Wilson on offense and their domiant defense. The St. Louis Rams showed slow and steady improvement last year, proving to be the only team in the division that could solve the 49ers last year, going 1-0-1 head-to-head. Of course the division is home to the Super Bowl runner-ups, the San Francisco 49ers, so the other teams in the division are pushing not only to become the best in the division, but the best in the conference. Here is a look at who won and lost among NFC West teams in the NFL Draft.
WINNER: St. Louis Rams
The Rams made it clear that quarterback Sam Bradford will finally get a chance to lead a pass-happy offense. Wide receiver, Tavon Austin out of West Virginia, was drafted 8th overall and was generally considered the top offensive skill position player in the draft. The Rams did not stop there, as they also drafted Austin’s West Virginia teammate, Stedman Bailey. Austin may be the more dynamic receiver, but it was Bailey who caught 25 TD passes last year. The two have obviously developed chemistry during their college careers, and the Rams are hoping that they’ll be able to continue to work well together and help this offense score points, which has often been difficult. The Rams also picked up Alec Ogletree, an inside linebacker out of Georgia, who has solid speed and was arguably the most talented 4-3 linebacker in the draft. Safety, T.J. McDonald has an NFL pedigree and may be able to step in and help the Rams right away, as safety was argaubly their largest need entering the draft. Running back, Zac Stacy can give opposing defenses fits as a 5’8” situational runner and receiver out of the backfield. Their draft picks reminded many of the Warner-Faulk-Bruce-Holt Rams of old and they easily improved their offense and defense.
WINNER: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers made an early impact in the draft when they traded up to number 18, to pick LSU safety, Eric Reid. Reid is a proven leader on the field as well as someone who can come in and immediately start in place of the departed Dashon Goldson. The Niners also picked up defensive ends Corey Lemonier and Quinton Dial to add depth to their front seven and drafted tight end Vance McDonald, to replace Delanie Walker, and took a gamble on running back Marcus Lattimore in the 4th round, who would have been a 1st rounder, if not for a severe knee injury suffered last season.The 49ers drafted well and added depth throughout the roster and a much needed instant starter for their secondary.
The Cardinals draft was not as strong as the 49ers or the Rams, but they did well to fill some needs. Drafting guard, Jonathan Cooper #7 overall shows that the Cardinals knew they had to find some way to fix their offensive line and they added an instant starter and potential star. Inside linebacker, Kevin Minter out of LSU is a bit undersized, but given that Arizona will start this season with Darryl Washington serving a 4 game suspension, he has a chance to make an immediate impact at the pro level. Cornerback, Tyrann Mathieu is a bit of a risk both on the field (he hasn’t played in a while) and off the field (problems with substance abuse and the law), but if he plays to the potential that he showed at LSU, he could wind up being the steal of the draft and put Arizona in the “winner” column. Of course, The Honey Badger could turn out to be a problem child who justifies the thoughts held by many analysts that he was only worth taking a risk on in the later rounds. Alex Okafor out of Texas, is a strong pick who could position himself as an outside linebacker or a defensive end, and Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington could bring some immediate help to the Cardinals backfield. The Cardinals had an intriuging draft and if Mathieu stays out of trouble, they will have numerous instant impact players.
The Seahawks did not have a first round pick, but their draft was solid and they got some good value with the players they drafted. Texas A&M’s Christine Michael adds depth at running back and provides an insurance policy in case Marshawn Lynch gets hurt. Jordan Hill adds some depth to the defensive line, and Chris Harper could be a perfect compliment to Percy Harvin at the wide receiver position, giving Russell Wilson a big bodied receiver he can go to in third down situations. The selection of Jesse Williams out of Alabama in the 5th round shouldn’t be overlooked, either, as he was highly productive and has starter talent. It's cannot yet be knowm for sure just how successful these draft picks will be until they get some game action, but for now they will all be backups.
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