The 2012 NFL Draft seemingly flew by starting on Thursday and ending on Saturday. Now it is time to examine the loser and winner of the draft by a NFC West team. Making this determination was rather difficult as the NFC West teams had some great selections in the draft.
According to the grades given out by Sports Illustrated for the draft the San Francisco 49ers got the worst grade in the NFC West with a D and the St. Louis Rams received a B+ for their drafting effort, also the Seattle Seahawks received a C and the Arizona Cardinals received a B for their drafting.
Yet, cannot agree with the D grade for the 49ers nor the B+ grade for the Rams. The Cardinals are the losers in the 2012 NFL draft. While the selection of Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame in the first round was great and gives the Cardinals another weapon at wide receiver, the Cardinals had to wait until the third round before making another pick. This time it was Jamell Fleming which was a good move, yet following that pick the Cardinals did not draft a running back which is a necessity for the team as Beanie Wells has underwhelmed since being taken with the no.31 pick in 2009, Cardinals could have also used help at the tight end position and even though the defense improved mightily from the start of the season the Cardinals lack a pass rusher.
No running back, tight end or defensive end/outside linebackers were taken in the draft. Instead the Cardinals drafted three offensive linemen in Bobby Massie, Senio Kelemete and Nate Potter, drafted Justin Bethel a cornerback and Ryan Lindley a quarterback. There’s no questions the Cardinals needed to upgrade their offensive line as Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Richard Bartel were sacked a combined 54 times and even though Wells broke the 1,000 yard mark, he only averaged 4.3 yards per carry.
Three offensive linemen may have been a bit much since the Cardinals re-signed Levi Brown to a contract five-year extension and signed free agent guard Adam Snyder. Which, means that at least one or two of the later picks in the draft could have gone towards another need for the Cardinals.
For the NFC West the best draft was by the 49ers a team that made seemingly a surprising selection with the drafting of A.J. Jenkins as the 30th pick and then taking LaMichael James with the 61st pick in the draft. Jenkins will be used to stretch the field for the 49ers and is immediately in competition with Kyle Williams and Randy Moss who came out of retirement to join the 49ers and Jenkins also provides depth because he can be used as a return man.
James was one of the most exciting players in college football while at the University of Oregon and he is the change of pace back the 49ers have been looking for. There’s not a player on the current 49ers roster that can match the speed of James and now quarterback Alex Smith has a player he can just swing the ball at too and watch him take it in for a big gain on a screen play. Also, like Jenkins, James can be used on special teams as well.
Being shrewd the 49ers made a few trades and didn’t have another selection until the fourth round where Joe Looney was selected, the next pick for the 49ers was Darius Fleming, Trenton Robinson, Jason Slowey and Cam Johnson. Looney and Slowey are both offensive linemen, Fleming is an outside linebacker, Robinson is a free safety and Johnson is a defensive end and each of those selections filled a need for the 49ers.
With the 49ers basically drafting for the best player available and making smart trades, the 49ers are the winner from the NFC West, followed by the Seahawks and Rams.