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Recent Selections: WR Michael Floyd, CB Patrick Peterson, LB Daryl Washington, RB Ryan Williams, & DT Dan Williams
Recap: Failing to replace quarterback Kurt Warner prevented Arizona from contending the last three years. Washington and Peterson are high-level talents, but I can’t emphasis enough the lack of a quarterback. They did trade for Kevin Kolb, but the highest drafted quarterback in the last three years was John Skelton in round five. That’s simply not acceptable.
Best Scenario: OT Lane Johnson & QB Matt Barkley
Draft Preview: Arizona has two primary draft goals. Find a quarterback and guarantee he stays protected. They won’t find a passer worth the No. 7 pick, which is why I assume they traded for Carson Palmer. However, they’ll be able to snatch Johnson in the top 10 and address quarterback later. Barkley didn’t meet expectations this season, but his 2011 campaign was outstanding. Several teams may look to move up into the 20s to secure his rights and the Cardinals should be among them. Packaging picks No. 38 and No. 69 would do the trick.
San Francisco 49ers
Recent Selections: LB NaVorro Bowman, OT Anthony Davis, OG Mike Iupati, WR A.J. Jenkins, QB Colin Kaepernick, & LB Aldon Smith
Recap: When San Francisco hired Jim Harbaugh as head coach, his top priority was finding a starting quarterback worthy of carrying the 49er mantle. The sample size is small, but Kaepernick’s future looks great, especially after this year's postseason run. Harbaugh deserves a ton of credit for drafting Kaepernick and Smith in 2011, but San Francisco’s foundation was strong before he arrived, in large part due to their 2010 draft. Davis and Iupati are Pro Bowl caliber players on one of the league’s most dominate offensive lines and Bowman’s an all-pro inside linebacker.
Best Scenario: S Kenny Vaccaro, DT Jesse Williams, & CB Johnthan Banks
Draft Preview: With five picks in the top 100, San Francisco has the ammunition to approach the draft aggressively. Their biggest need is safety, and while the position is deep, many believe Vaccaro will go in the top half of round one. He’s an NFL-ready prospect and packaging picks No. 31, No. 61, and No. 74 would get San Francisco into striking distance. One of the reasons you trade three picks is because of the value of an early second rounder. Sometimes needs don’t always match value, and first-round prospects slip into the early portion of round two. Williams could be this year’s example.
Recent Selections: S Kam Chancellor, DE Bruce Irvin, OT Russell Okung, CB Richard Sherman, S Earl Thomas, LB Bobby Wagner, & QB Russell Wilson
Recap: It’s not surprising to see Seattle as a trendy Super Bowl pick, even if the season remains five months away. Saying their last three draft classes have produced mere contributors is an understatement. Their last three draft classes have produced all-pro caliber players. Sherman is among the best corners in football, Thomas is a rising star at safety, and Wilson is their franchise quarterback. In addition, Wagner also merited rookie of the year consideration.
Best Scenario: LB Khaseem Greene & OT Chris Faulk
Draft Preview: By drafting well, Seattle was allowed the opportunity to take a chance on acquiring wide receiver Percy Harvin. They’ll use the rest of their draft to fill out their roster, but if history is any indication, then they can acquire high-level talent with their second and third-round picks. Greene was arguably college football’s most productive linebacker in 2011 and 2012. He’s a little undersized, but he displays good fundamentals and has the ability to cover. Seattle does have in-house options at right tackle, but general manager John Schneider never backs away from addressing his offensive line.
St. Louis Rams
Recent Selections: QB Sam Bradford, DT Michael Brockers, CB Janoris Jenkins, TE Lance Kendricks, WR Brian Quick & DE Robert Quinn
Recap: It’s hard to believe Bradford’s been around for just three seasons. Because the Rams haven’t surrounded him with impact players, the former No. 1 overall pick is still somewhat ambiguous. They tried with Kendricks and Quick. The latter could still succeed, but signing tight end Jared Cook is a statement about Kendricks. On a positive note, the Rams have hit on several defensive picks. Brockers, Jenkins, and Quinn have all flashed ability for head coach Jeff Fisher. They’re just three of many young, quality players on that side of the ball.
Best Scenario: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, S Matt Elam, RB Le’Veon Bell, & LB Sio Moore
Draft Preview: The Rams have stuck with Bradford and now is the time to get him some help. Patterson and Bell are excellent choices. Patterson's an outside threat capable of getting deep and Bell’s a punishing runner that could fill Steven Jackson‘s shoes. The NFC West is about defense now, and the Rams could solidify theirs with Elam. He’s capable of covering the slot, has outstanding range, and is a hard hitter. Adding a starting strong side linebacker is also on their to-do list. Overall, a draft class resembling the one above could pave the way for a playoff push from St. Louis.