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A thorough assessment of a team’s draft can’t truly be reached for another three years or so. That said, with tighter rosters and larger rookie contracts, a successful draft must yield at least some immediate help. With that in mind, here’s a look at how NFC West teams fared over the weekend—both from a big-picture NFL standpoint as well as a fantasy perspective—taking into account how key needs were (or weren’t) addressed and the impact potential of the players acquired.
The worst-kept secret in the draft was a pass-catching back going to the Cardinals, but apparently someone forgot to tell the Colts. So Arizona was left with Chris Wells—not exactly the fit most imagined for that offense, but hardly a consolation prize. In Round Two the Cards did get their UConn Brown, but it was DE/OLB Cody, not RB Donald. On Day Two Arizona added some depth to their secondary with S Rashad Johnson and CB Greg Toler and picked up a pair of oversized developmental offensive linemen in 6-7, 364-pound Herman Johnson and 6-5, 307-pound Trevor Canfield. Sixth-round DE Will Davis may wind up at OLB. Seventh-round RB LaRod Stephens is small (5-7, 180) but will return kicks and could eventually become the lightning to Wells’ thunder.
Fantasy nugget: Before hitting the panic button on Arizona not finding a back to fit their pass-happy style, let’s not forget that Ken Whisenhunt oversaw a Steelers offense that featured Jerome Bettis to the tune of 22 touchdowns over two seasons. Wells isn’t the same back as Bettis, but despite his inexperience in the passing game it’s tough to see him going unused in the Cardinals backfield.
Saint Louis Rams
The Rams had plenty of holes to fill, and they took some positive steps forward on draft day to do just that. Second overall selection Jason Smith is expected to anchor the offensive line for years to come; though he opened minicamp on the right side, don’t be surprised if he’s moved to the left sooner rather than later. James Laurinaitis fills the need for a linebacker and will start either in the middle or on the strong side, capping a productive first day of the draft. Day Two addressed further needs, capitalizing on talented players whose productivity never quite lived up to their measurables: athletic CB Bradley Fletcher, DT Dorell Scott, and WR Brooks Foster. D-II QB Keith Null is a developmental quarterback with good size and a strong arm, while RB Chris Ogbonnaya could wind up as Steven Jackson’s caddy as early as this season.
Fantasy nugget: Ogbonnaya will at minimum be in contention for the coveted S-Jax handcuff role, and the competition—Brian Leonard, Antonio Pittman, Kenneth Darby, Sam Gado—is anything but distinguished. Ogbonnaya isn’t particularly fast but has good size, can catch the ball, and knows how to turn up the field and go. Put it another way: by the time your fantasy drauction rolls around, it would behoove you to know that it’s pronounced “O-bon-EYE-ah”.
San Francisco 49ers
It will be easy for the Raiders to gauge the wisdom of their decision to bypass Michael Crabtree in favor of Darrius Heyward-Bey, because Crabtree will be toiling just across the Bay from Al Davis. The Niners had some other needs that could have been addressed—specifically, offensive line help—but when Crabtree fell to them at 10 they couldn’t say “no”. San Francisco also hit the mark in Round Three with RB Glen Coffee, who can spell Frank Gore without dramatically altering the makeup of the offense. And actually, the 49ers’ two other offensive picks make sense: QB Nate Davis in Round 5 is a project worth developing, and blocking tight end Bear Pascoe in Round 6 fits Mike Singletary’s new emphasis on running the ball. However, the Niners not only didn’t take a tackle in Round 1 they ignored the offensive line completely, at least until they signed three in undrafted free agency. And their defensive picks failed to address the need for an edge rusher; third-rounder Scott McKillop is an inside backer, FS Curtis Taylor brings depth to the secondary, and DT Ricky Jean-Francois has potential.
Fantasy nugget: How quickly can Crabtree make a splash? It certainly won’t hurt that Isaac Bruce will be available as a tutor. And between Bruce, Brandon Jones, Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle, and Jason Hill, it’s not like Crabtree will have to leap over a stable of future Hall-of-Famers. If Crabtree can get into camp on time and the Niners settle on a quarterback, he’ll have an open path to the head of the fantasy rookie class.
When the best player in the draft falls to you at No. 4, you make it work. And after the Seahawks drafted Aaron Curry, un-franchised Leroy Hill, then resigned Hill to form one of the most talented linebacking corps in football… well, you’d have to say it worked out about as well as hoped. Seattle opted for Curry over Eugene Monroe, a potential heir to LT Walter Jones, but versatile second-round selection Max Unger might be tabbed to fill that need. Third-round WR Deon Butler isn’t big, but T.J. Houshmandzadeh already fills that need in the Seattle offense; Butler’s speed offers another dimension. The rest of Seattle’s draft consists primarily of special teams contributors and developmental projects: QB Mike Teel has experience in a West Coast offense and should land a gig toting the clipboard; S Courtney Greene and DE Nick Reed add more depth to already-crowded positions; and TE Cameron Morrah offers a field-stretching element that Seattle’s other tight ends lack.
Fantasy nugget: Seattle did not add a running back until after the draft, bringing in speedy Devin Moore and 233-pound Tyler Roehl. Neither are expected to challenge the Julius Jones/T.J. Duckett committee, so if you weren’t thoroughly underwhelmed by that duo last year you’ll have another opportunity to chase them this fantasy season.