Doug Farrar

The draft in review: The NFC West

Doug Farrar
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cards couldn't stop the bleeding with so many skill players leaving town in one way or another, but they did solve one problem that bedeviled them all last year - the need for a reliable nose tackle opposite Darnell Dockett(notes). They got a real bargain when Tennessee's Dan Williams(notes) fell to them at 26 after Miami and Denver traded out of their high-teens situations. Williams will be a star in those hybrid fronts; he has equal abilities to stop the run and penetrate against the pass. TCU linebacker Darryl Williams is a small but very athletic player who the Cards will bulk up and put in Karlos Dansby's(notes) place. Wisconsin OLB O'Brien Schofield(notes) is a good pass-rush fit if he overcomes the torn ACL he suffered in the Senior Bowl, and fifth-round quarterback John Skelton(notes) from Fordham is a clone of current backup Derek Anderson(notes) - a big, in-the-pocket guy with accuracy issues.

St. Louis Rams: Taking Sam Bradford(notes) was the no-brainer with the first overall pick; Bradford has the kind of deep accuracy most quarterbacks can only wish for. He'll have to adjust to a pro-style offense, but he's got all the tools. One thing Bradford does have is a better offensive line than you'd expect, and the Rams reinforced that line with Indiana's Rodger Saffold(notes) in the second round. Saffold gives Jason Smith(notes) the opportunity to move to left tackle where he belongs. In the third round, South Florida cornerback Jerome Murphy(notes) brings talent to a unit in desperate need, and the Rams got two weapons for their new franchise quarterback in the later rounds - Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard(notes) in the fourth, and Houston tight end Fendi Onobun(notes) in the sixth. Both players have the athleticism the Rams have been missing from their "playmakers" over the last few years. After three very rough years, the Rams are moving in the right direction.

San Francisco 49ers: Last year, the Niners went with more shotgun sets and less smashmouth football than Mike Singletary would have liked. With this draft, San Francisco went to set things right. Trading up to get Rutgers OT Anthony Davis was a risky move, given Davis' history of work ethic issues, but he's a tremendous athlete with elite potential. Perhaps the best pick of their draft came with the 17th overall selection in the person of Idaho guard Mike Iupati(notes). This is a mauler in the Steve Hutchinson(notes) mold who will immediately give that line a physical presence. San Francisco also got USC safety Taylor Mays(notes) in the second round - Mays dropped out of his first-round projections because his football production hasn't matched his athletic ability. He's a developmental player with nearly infinite upside. And Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon(notes) will be a solid backup who can spell Frank Gore(notes) whenever Gore tired of bashing between the tackles. Few teams better positioned their drafts to regain a preferred franchise identity.

Seattle Seahawks: And perhaps no team had a better 2010 draft than the Seahawks. Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung(notes) fell to them at the sixth overall slot, which is great news for a team in desperate need of O-line help - he's the most polished offensive linemen in this class. However, Okung wasn't the best value pick - that would have to go to Texas safety Earl Thomas(notes), a top-10 player who somehow dropped to Seattle at 14. An elite range safety with cornerback cover skills, Thomas immediately shores up the weaknesses in Seattle's pass defense. Then, getting Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate(notes) with the 60th overall pick meant that the Seahawks didn't really pay the price for that Charlie Whitehurst(notes) trade -Tate was seen by many as a fringe first-rounder. Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond(notes) was taken in the fourth round, but was getting first-and second-round grades before a knee injury. And instead of reaching for his old SC player Taylor Mays early on, as many assumed he would, Pete Carroll instead got a Mays-like player in Virginia Tech's Kam Chancellor(notes) with a fifth-round pick. Add in the late-round trades for LenDale White(notes) and Leon Washington(notes), and this was an epic win from top to bottom.

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