The San Francisco 49ers did pretty well for themselves in the 2011 NFL Draft. They ended up making ten of their initial twelve picks, the difference going elsewhere in one of three trades the team made over three days of the draft. In 2010, the NFC West was up for grabs up until Week 17, and the 49ers themselves were in it until just shortly before then. After the Super Bowl, odds opened up that the 49ers and St. Louis Rams would be jockeying for the division title in 2011, but will those odds change after the draft?
It's certainly possible; much like 2010, all four teams had a strong draft this go-round, with only a few questionable picks here and there. The 49ers are not exempt from that statement, in that there was certainly a head-scratcher or two for San Francisco, but for now, let's focus on the rest of the NFC West and how they fared over seven rounds.
Round 1: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU (5th overall)
Round 2: Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech (38th overall)
Round 3: Robert Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic (69th overall)
Round 4: Sam Acho, OLB, Texas (103rd overall)
Round 5: Anthony Sherman, RB, Connecticut (136th overall)
Round 6: Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina (171st overall)
Round 6: David Carter, DT, UCLA (184th overall)
Round 7: Demarco Sampson, WR, San Diego St. (249th overall)
Analysis: You can't go wrong with the fifth overall pick in the draft ... or at least, it's hard to appear that you've made the wrong pick until said player sees the field and right now, Patrick Peterson looks like a home run. Aside from the fact that Peterson was allegedly the fifth-rated player on Arizona's board, he is the consensus best corner in the draft and will now join Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to create a truly dominant duo. In round two, Williams is a questionable pick with the way the Cardinals are presently looking as far as running backs are concerned, but it's hard to go wrong with the talent of Williams. I suppose the Cardinals not drafting a quarterback is telling, they want to run the ball next season and Williams can become a feature back in a short amount of time if that's how the Cardinals see him.
The even bigger question mark is Sherman going in the fifth round, as some folks think he can actually be a halfback. It does seem, however, that the Cardinals will count on him as their lead blocker and thus the pick is not a bad one. The best parts of the Cardinals' draft are Sam Acho and Quan Sturdivant in rounds four and six respectfully. Acho is a great pass rusher who can make an impact in his rookie year and Sturdivant has great value at that pick. Housler in the third certainly gives the Cardinals another receiving target, something that they haven't considered a required trait in their tight ends for some time now, but there were better picks at the time and he seems like a reach at this point.
Value: A-, Need: C, Overall: B+
Round 1: James Carpenter, OL, Alabama (25th overall)
Round 3: John Moffitt, G, Wisconsin (76th overall)
Round 4: K.J. Wright, LB, Mississippi St. (99th overall)
Round 4: Kris Durham, WR, Georgia (107th overall)
Round 5: Richard Sherman, DB, Stanford (154th overall)
Round 5: Mark Legree, FS, Appalachian St. (156th overall)
Round 6: Byron Maxwell, DB, Clemson (173rd overall)
Round 7: Lazarius Levingston, DL, LSU (205th overall)
Round 7: Malcolm Smith, OLB, USC (242nd overall)
Analysis: Seattle's first round was kicked off with a slight reach when they took Carpenter, but he does feel a need and might not have lasted many picks beyond where they took him at twenty-five. After having a surprisingly strong rushing attack in 2010, they're clearly looking forward to building on that next season, and the selection of the big, powerful Moffitt illustrates and accentuates that point. Moffitt will likely start immediately at one of the team's guard spots and he'll make an immediate impact in the running game.
Outside of those first three rounds though, the rest of Seattle's draft is a little bit underwhelming. K.J. Wright could pan out to be a very solid, athletic starter, but he could also come in and contribute nowhere but special teams ... which is not necessarily a bad thing, if not for the fact that he was taken in the fourth round. Sherman in the fifth round is definitely a solid pick, he could compete for time at the nickel early on, and his high ceiling could earn him a starting job, if the coaching is there.
Value: C, Need: B+, Overall: B-
St. Louis Rams
Round 1: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina (14th overall)
Round 2: Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin (47th overall)
Round 3: Austin Pettis, WR, Boise St. (78th overall)
Round 4: Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii (112th overall)
Round 5: Jermale Hines, DB, Ohio St. (158th overall)
Round 7: Mikail Baker, DB, Baylor (216th overall)
Round 7: Jabara Williams, OLB, Stephen F. Austin (228th overall)
Round 7: Jonathan Nelson, DB, Oklahoma (229th overall)
Analysis: Despite the fact that the 49ers drafted the player the Rams likely wanted to nap at fourteen in Aldon Smith, they came out very well in this draft. Robert Quinn fell due to a couple different concerns, and the Rams were more than happy to add him to their line. He'll start opposite Chris Long and will be an immediate contributor. It's now Quinn's job to hound Seattle's two newest offensive line picks, and he'll do it with gusto. Kendricks is also a solid pick for a team with no tight ends to speak of, but falling in love with athleticism alone can be a scary thing, and Kendricks has a lot of "boom or bust" about him.
The Rams played this draft very smart, sticking to their guns and not allowing needs to get in the way of getting really good players, and it paid off in rounds three and four when they drafted Pettis and Salas, both receivers who will fight to the very last for a chance to contribute this season. Both of those picks illustrate the essence of what makes a successful draft, and Sam Bradford gets two weapons. Pettis will contribute from day one and adds a lot of reliability to a group of receivers that are extremely lacking in that regard. Salas will fight for playing time, and he'll pay off if he gets it. The seventh rounders seem like players the Rams would have liked to target as undrafted free agents, but with the uncertain landscape of such things, decided to let them go.
Value: A-, Need: B+, Overall: A-