Know Thy Enemy
With the 2012 NFL Draft now in the rear view mirror, it is time to take a look at next season.
Take my word that the NFC West will be a competitive division next year, shedding itself of the reputation as the weakest group of teams in the NFL.
Like the title suggests, you must know your division rivals for the upcoming season. They are the only teams that are faced more than once in the season.
Here is each team and a quick word on their draft, ending with a review that is relevant to all you Seattle Seahawks fans out there.
San Francisco 49ers
- 30 A.J. Jenkins (WR) – Illinois
- 61 LaMichael James (RB) – Oregon
- 117 Joe Looney (C/G) – Wake Forest
- 165 Darius Fleming (OLB) – Notre Dame
- 180 Trent Robinson (SS) – Michigan State
- 199 Jason Slowey (T) – Western Oregon
- 237 Cam Johnson (DE) – Virginia
San Francisco spent almost an equal amount of picks on both offense and defense. Almost the whole defensive squad is returning for last year, so the later picks provide depth at key defensive positions. Trent Robinson showed a lot of growth his last year at Michigan State, and Cam Johnson can get to the quarterback more often than not.
Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins will be a downfield threat that will take pressure off of Vernon Davis. Expect him to breakout by his second season. If the inconsistent Michael Crabtree stays inconsistent, then Jenkins could become the true No.1 receiver. Don’t forget that San Francisco also welcomed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to the team this offseason.
LaMichael James will be a great asset for Jim Harbaugh. Current running back Frank Gore is going to be 29, and newly acquired Brandon Jacobs will be a good third-down player. James will gain yards right of the bat with his speed and size, taking the workload off of Gore’s shoulders.
Review: The 49ers will remain a strong defensive unit in 2012, with acquisitions through the draft adding depth for the years to come. The Seahawks run defense will possibly have to deal with three different running backs wearing red and gold in 2012. Alex Smith now has no more excuses for mediocrity with A.J. Jenkins joining Vernon Davis and Mario Manningham. The defense will keep games close and the offense might just be good enough to keep up with the Seahawks.
- 13 Michael Floyd (WR) – Notre Dame
- 80 Jamell Fleming (CB) – Oklahoma
- 112 Bobby Massie (T) – Mississippi
- 151 Senio Kelemente (G/T) – Washington
- 177 Justin Bethel (CB) – Presbyterian
- 185 Ryan Lindley (QB) – San Diego State
- 221 Nate Potter (T) – Boise St.
Arizona also spent the first-round pick on a wide receiver, and he’s a talented one. Questions at quarterback might not bring out the best of Michael Floyd, but then again Larry Fitzgerald made it to the Pro Bowl last season.
The Cardinals had a desperate need for an offensive tackle heading into the draft, and they waited until the third round to do anything about it. At least they have three new players that will compete for the spot. Bobbie Massie is a potential bust player, along with Senio Kelemente.
Quarterback Ryan Lindley ended up in a perfect position. More promising prospects like Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles were placed behind starters for the years to come. Well, that’s assuming Mr. Vick stays healthy for once. Lindley has an opportunity to beat out Kevin Kolb and John Skelton for the starting role in the next few seasons as he is a player to watch out for.
Arizona finished last year with momentum on the defensive side of the ball. They made plays when they were needed and excelled in keeping teams out of the end zone during the last stretch of the season. Adding cornerback Jamell Flemming has filled a need for the team and he will be able to start right away. Expect the defense to stay dominant in 2012.
Review: Michael Floyd and Ryan Lindley will be names to watch for in the division throughout the next few seasons. The Seahawks have proved that they can stop the pass, but Larry Fitzgerald ran all over the field last year in both games. Putting pressure on Kevin Kolb will make him force throws into the strong Seattle secondary. Scoring against Arizona won’t be easy.
St. Louis Rams
- 14 Michael Brockers (DT) – LSU
- 33 Brian Quick (WR) – Appalachian State
- 39 Janoris Jenkins (CB) – North Alabama
- 50 Isaiah Pead (RB) – Cincinnati
- 65 Trumaine Johnson (CB) – Montana
- 96 Chris Givens(WR) – Wake Forest
- 150 Rokevious Watkins (G) – South Carolina
- 171 Greg Zuerlein (K) – Missouri Western
- 209 Aaron Brown (OLB) – Hawaii
- 252 Daryl Richardson (RB) – Abilene Christian
The Rams had a successful draft that started all the way back when they let the Redskins leap frog over other teams to grab Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick. They had a league high five picks in the first 65, including three in the second round. You should know that they also have four first-round picks in the next two years!
Finishing the season with needs at just about every position, they picked up promising defensive tackle Michael Brockers in the first round. The defense finished 31st last season in rushing yards given up per game, and Brockers will at least make some sort of difference there.
The secondary was upgraded with acquisitions of Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. Considered the most important need for this team, they got lucky that both players fell into their lap in round two and three. If Jenkins can stay out of trouble, the Rams have two cornerbacks that were serious playmakers in their last years of college.
St. Louis also added two running backs, as Steven Jackson is reaching his later years. Isaiah Pead will be a great third down back that can also catch balls out of the backfield. At the least, he will be a promising backup or situational running back. Expect Daryl Richardson to compete from day one.
Despite much controversy, Brian Quick was selected as the first pick in the second round. The speedy wide receiver from Appalachian State will provide quarterback Sam Bradford with exactly what he needs – a player that can get open anywhere on the field. Chris Givens from Wake Forest will also get some playing time, although injuries have been a concern during his college years.
Review: The Rams were a disaster last season. Injuries plagued the team throughout the year and players couldn’t step up when it was needed the most.
Many holes were filled throughout the draft with the enormous amount of picks the Rams had, but the inexperience might keep them from competing with other teams in the division.
If the Seahawks can keep their offense in check and pound the ball against a poor run defense, they keep a multiple touchdown lead throughout the game.