The NFC West was one of the most competitive divisions in the league last season, and that's only become more true after both Seattle and San Francisco put together stellar off seasons prior to the draft. In the mean time, St. Louis is still a team on the rise and Arizona is looking to undergo a culture change in 2014.
Having a solid draft will be crucial for each of these teams as they look to win a NFC West title. Which team did the best?
1.7 Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
2.13 Kevin Minter, LB, Louisiana State
3.7 Tyrann Mathieu, CB, Louisiana State
4.6 Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
4.19 Earl Watford, OG, James Madison
5.7 Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
6.6 Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
6.19 Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
7.13 D.C. Jefferson, TE, Rutgers
Analysis: Arizona's selection's weren't particularly flashy (sans one third round selection), but quietly Arizona put together one of the strongest draft classes not only in their division, but in the league. Selecting an offensive guard at number seven doesn't represent great value in a typical draft, but when one factors in the overall talent at the top of the draft, as well as huge needs Arizona had on the offensive line, picking Jonathan Cooper makes a ton of sense. Snagging guard Earl Watford in the fourth will also help improve what was a terrible offensive line.
The Cardinals also took steps to bolster a defense that has flown under the radar but now actually has the potential to be quite good going forward. Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor were solid values in the second and fourth rounds, and both players should be consistent contributors immediately. Tyrann Mathieu is obviously a risky selection, and there were more talented defensive backs still available when he was picked. However, if any franchise was going to feel comfortable with Mathieu it was going to be Arizona.
Arizona's late round selections could actually have a notable impact on their offense in 2013 as well. Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington could pair for a strong 1-2 punch at running back, and Ryan Swope is someone who could concievably see significant playing time early in his career.
Overall this draft was filled with great value and was a big step in the right direction for Arizona. For that, they get an A-.
San Francisco 49ers
1.18 Eric Reid, S, Louisiana State
2.8 Cornellius Carradine, DE/LB, Florida State
2.23 Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
3.26 Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
4.31 Quinton Patton, WR, Lousiana Tech
4.34 Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
5.24 Quinton Dial, DE, Alabama
6.12 Nick Moody, OLB, Florida State
7.31 B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida
7.40 Carter Bykowski, OT, Iowa State
7.46 Marcus Cooper, CB, Rutgers
Analysis: San Francisco entered the weekend with a ton of draft picks and riding the momentum of a strong off season to this point. They also needed to have a solid draft to help counter the even better offseason that division rival Seattle had. For the most part, that mission was accomplished.
The 49ers traded up to secure Eric Reid, who should immediately fill the void created by Dashon Goldson's departure. An argument could be made that Jonathan Cyprien should have been the pick, but clearly San Francisco got the player they wanted. They then traded down in the second and still got a potentially great player in Tank Carradine, provided he bounces back from his ACL injury.
The selection of Vance McDonald in the second round was a bit of a surprising and felt forced due to the earlier than expected selection of Gavin Escobar. It could be described as a “reach” but McDonald is a player who should replace and perhaps even expand on the production lost from Delanie Walker.
San Francisco made some great selections in the third and fourth rounds. Corey Lemonier and Quinton Patton were both arguably first round talents, and Patton is very likely to contribute more as a fourth round rookie than did AJ Jenkins did as a first round pick last year. Marcus Lattimore could prove to be the steal of this draft, and he's landed with a franchise that knows how to bring running backs back from injury. He likely won't see action until 2014, but this was still a great selection.
This isn't a draft that was perfect – the sections of McDonald and B.J. Daniels, who likely would have gone undrafted – come to mind. In spite of that this was a draft that filled needs and clearly improved an already great roster. B+
2.30 Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
3.25 Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
4.26 Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
5.4 Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
5.5 Tharold Simon, CB, Lousiana State
5.25 Luke Wilson, TE, Rice
6.26 Spencer Ware, RB, Lousiana State
7.14 Ryan Seymour, OG, Vanderbilt
7.25 Ty Powell, DE/LB, Harding
7.35 Jared Smith, DT, New Hampshire
7.36 Michael Bowie, OT, NE Oklahoma State
Analysis: When last year's draft ended, analysts across the country immediately pegged Seattle's class as one of the worst drafts in recent years. While Seattle fans probably aren't panicking over this draft, it's another class that doesn't quite look too exciting on paper. After last year, it's tough to question the decision making too much. However, compared to the rest of the teams in the NFC West it doesn't feel like Seattle got much better during the draft.
Christine Michael is certainly a talented running back, but he's also got some serious character related red flags. In addition, running back was not a big need in Seattle, so this pick does raise some eye brows. Both Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams were good values and were probably the best selections of the Seahawks' weekend. Chris Harper was a good addition as well, although he may need time before he becomes someone who sees much time consistently.
Seattle didn't enter the draft with many needs, and while they left the draft with many new additions, it doesn't appear as though they added much more than depth for the time being. This could ending up being another draft where Seattle proves me wrong, but right now I just dont see it: C.
St. Louis Rams
1.8 Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
1.30 Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
3.9 T.J. McDonald, S, Southern Cal
3.30 Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
4.16 Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
5.16 Brandon McGee, CB, Miami
5.27 Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt
Analysis: Jeff Fisher and the Rams have proven before that they're not scared to take risks during the draft, and that was on display again in New York this time around. When many teams were trying to trade out of the top ten, St. Louis instead traded up and selected the electric Tavon Austin with the eighth pick. Although he's undersized, Austin is a big play waiting to happen and brings a dynamic element to the Rams' offense that has been lacking for some time.
The first round risks weren't over with the selection of Austin. The Rams then went with Alec Ogletree at the end of the first, giving them an extremely talented linebacker that's had more than his fair share of off the field incidents.
St. Louis got another solid receiver in Stedman Bailey in the 3rd round, then bolstered their offense again with Barrett Jones in the fourth and saw a great value fall into their lap in the fifth round with Zac Stacy. Both are players with the potential to start, giving the Rams some great bang for their late round bucks.
For the second year in a row it looks like the Rams have put together another solid draft. This one certainly has some risk associated with it, but it still earns a B+.