I made no secret of my certainty regarding one fact: LB Aaron Curry was the best player in this draft. The fact that he dropped to the fourth pick overall makes him a steal for the Seahawks. Furthermore, he joins a LB corps rich in both youth and talent in Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. Considering how porous Seattle’s defense proved to be last year (30th overall, worst against the pass, 18th against the run), a freak like Curry who proved he could parlay his physicality into performance every week is exactly what Seattle needed. Don’t buy the hype; Curry didn’t factor as strongly into Wake Forest’s pass rush as he could have because the coach used him primarily in run support and in coverage, and in the pros he’ll give offensive coordinators headaches. Turning a promising corps into a great corps is never a bad thing, and Curry does just that. Equally good is the addition of OC Max Unger, a versatile interior offensive lineman who should do wonders for a run game that couldn’t find holes in the middle to save its life.
I really like this draft for the Seahawks, and have made my faith in QB Seneca Wallace known, so if this seems halfhearted it kind of is, but how do you not draft a QB after last year? Wallace performed well down the stretch, and certainly should still be the man for the job if and when Hasselbeck finally breaks down for good, but the fact is that Hassy has shown signs of wear and tear for two straight seasons. Considering how much the team has invested in its WR corps (Deion Branch and Housh did not come cheap, and Carlson is shaping up to be an elite TE), having some sort of a backup plan for 2-3 years down the road just in case Wallace flames out couldn’t hurt. What’s that you say? They have Charlie Frye on the roster? Oh, better make that two quarterbacks needed then, because we want as big a buffer between Frye and actual football as possible.
St. Louis Rams:
If Marc Bulger is ever going to prove that he deserved that massive contract he got after one amazing year, it’s going to take time for his accuracy to matter and a running game that actually keeps defenders honest. OT Jason Smith goes a long way toward solving both of those problems. Already knowledgeable regarding a pass blocking scheme, all that remains is for Smith’s physicality to be converted into successful run blocking. Considering the track record of rookie star offensive tackles over the last couple of years (Joe Thomas and Jake Long changed their teams completely), the Rams have to be excited at the prospect of a similar turnaround. Equally exciting should be CB Bradley Fletcher, who has the size to at least be considered a threat to divisional rivals Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
There were an awful lot of holes to fill on this team, particularly on the offensive line and at WR. So the fact that the Rams used a second round pick on LB James Laurinaitis. While he may have the pedigree to finally bring the Intercontinental Title to the Rams (get it?), Laurinaitis’s knack for vanishing from the Buckeyes playing field should remind people of a less athletically gifted Vernon Gholston, and he’s only hanging around in the league thanks to physical talent that Laurinaitis just doesn’t have. As they watch Rey Maualuga dart from sideline to sideline, you have to thing that the Rams will wonder if they’ve once again fallen victim to the “character” bug.
Considering how inconsistent their defensive play was last year, the NFC champs needed to get better at disrupting offensive backfields. DE Cody Brown, who had a very good career at UConn, should bring even more physical prowess to a defense that got a major upgrade with Calias Campbell and Rodgers-Cromartie last year. S Rashad Johnson also fills in for Hood quite nicely in terms of ability. Throw in speedy, if undersized RB Larod Stephens-Howling as a replacement for J.J. Arrington, and this team could see some defensive maturity combine with youthful talent to actually improve next season, making last year’s dream come true into something more sustainable, particularly in this division.
The only thing that could possibly be worse than taking RB Tim Hightower in the fifth round is drafting a Tim Hightower clone in the first round. Enter RB Beanie Wells, who is coming off of a foot injury and proved ineffective against top tier competition. For a team that had one glaring offensive need, specifically a consistent running back, you have to wonder how they managed to miss so badly with this pick.
San Francisco 49ers:
The Niners needed a dose of new blood at WR, and either Michael Crabtree of Jeremy Maclin would have gotten the job done. In Crabtree, they get a ceiling of TJ Houshmandzadeh, which isn’t bad for a WR corps that relied on a whole lot of hopes and dreams last year. RB Glen Coffee provides the team with a good spell back for Frank Gore in a league that is growing more and more accustomed to platoons in the backfield. But perhaps the most interesting pick is QB Nate Davis. Considering the team’s struggles under center, Davis, who had an excellent career at Ball State and has one of the better arms in the draft, could be a legitimate competitor for the starter’s gig sooner rather than later. All in all, a lot of young blood will arrive on an offense that could use some new faces.
Is nobody else suspicious of a WR who got a reputation for being a diva and refused to run for scouts either at the combine or his pro day, all the while claiming he was faster than everyone who DID run? Not for nothing, but in response to all of those critics who say that the Raiders took a stupid risk with DHB, I would argue that the Niners took an even dumber risk with Crabtree over a proven, speedy Maclin. Furthermore, in a draft rich with potential platoon backs, using a third rounder on Glen Coffee seems like a bit of a reach. Drafting a TE is yet another way to kill the confidence of your most talented offensive player, Vernon Davis (who looked like he might be turning a corner late last year), and as badly as this team needed help at QB, it needed help fast, and Nate Davis’s dyslexia raises questions about his ability to quickly absorb the complexities of an NFL offense (I am getting SO many karma points for not making at least three jokes that were in the first draft…). Long story short: The team certainly picked up needed offensive weaponry, but they may have left a lot on the table, and taken dumb risks in a draft that gave them the liberty to avoid doing so.