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NFC West draft analysis: Rounds 1-2
By Nic St. Marie
Special to gzl-football.com

This is the first article highlighting the draft(s) of the NFC West teams. To start off, we're looking at rounds one and two. When you look at this article the biggest issue is immediately apparent. Of these four teams, only three picks were made in the first two rounds. In a draft like this, that can set a division back for years. With a lot of the draft-day trades already hidden from view I can't tell you why the Cardinals sent the Jets a 1st for a 4th, but it was not out of the goodness of their heart. Seattle sent out several 1sts during the past year, culminating in HB Blount and WR Thomas, among others. But they also sent away seconds, including two of them to the 49ers for Taylor Mays The 49ers recently sent out 5 2nd round picks in the weeks leading up to the draft.

Ultimately, if I can track down all of the transactions I will mention if I think they were effective in improving these teams. But just look at the Packers, Bears, and Buccaneers to see some of the players the west missed out on in the first two rounds.

1.2 -
CB Jamar Taylor 5'11" 192 lbs, 95 SPD, 67 STR, 72 AWR, 93 AGI, 95 ACC, 62 CTH, 87 JMP, 74 TAK, 86 INJ

Taylor was a more than a little shock as the second overall. Picks so close to the #1 overall are normally reserved for monsters that break the mold physically, and usually come with freakish size. Travis Murphy was talked up as the possible #1 pick, as the next tall speedster to run this league.

But as you might not expect, I'm actually going to praise this pick. When you dig into Taylor, he's a uniquely gifted corner that's going to be a pain in the ass in this division. I'm suddenly more glad I traded the weaker Chaz Schilens and brought the beatly Demaryius Thomas.

I plugged in Taylor's attributes, with my normal -2 (or more) on every number to check and see what players he might be like. I got nothing. After scratching my head, I lowered speed, acceleration, and agility to 90 and found the two names I put in the comparison below. They both are at about 90 for SPD/AGI/ACC, but have had elite or close careers. More to the point, Finnigan just had his first regression. He was a 5'10", 93/65/93/94 guy and has been one of the best corners in the league on the league's best defense against the pass.

Taylor is better than Finnigan was when he started in this league in every way but awareness. And 72 AWR is a damn good starting point. Murphy brings the concern of him being in position to make a play but being bullied by a stronger guy, and more concern for injury. The 49ers made a great pick. It's possible they could have traded back a couple picks and made this pick, but that was a risk. The 49ers may not have picked the best non-QB in the draft, but when you include positional value it's better they went with Taylor than a premium MLB or OT.

Grade: A(+ for the perceptive, slightly unconventional scouting)
Best comparison(s):
Leon Hall, Courtland 'Innigan

1.12 -
DT Sheldon Richardson 6'3" 294 lbs, 70 SPD, 90 STR, 71 AWR, 70 AGI, 78 ACC, 74 JMP, 80 TAK, 84 INJ

Sheldon Richardson, not drafted by Tyler Richardson. It felt like his type of pick, a front 7 guy that should provide pass rush, not that they need it. But it felt like it was just a bit early in this amazing draft. Not that there's anything wrong with Richardson. I like his athleticism, and I think he might be best as a 3-4 DE. But as a DT he has great awareness and tackling to go with the wheels.

There's another reason not to like this pick too much, Michael Neal. Neal is almost a carbon copy of Richardson, and they had McCullers, last year's 2nd round pick to play the brute to Neal's finesse game. But if you don't believe in McCullers, Richardson can team with Neal to provide a lot of motion on the inside of this crazy good front 7, and with the awareness he can catch up to their progression quickly.

Grade: B+
Best comparison(s):
Fletcher Cox, Nick Fairley

2.30 -
DT Akeem Spence 6'1" 307 lbs, 64 SPD, 95 STR, 54 AWR, 61 AGI, 71 ACC, 73 TAK, 75 INJ

Akeem Spence only has strength on Richardson. Otherwise he is not nearly the pass rusher. Seattle can hope he makes that much of a difference in the run defense, while still getting into the backfield but Spence also has considerably less awareness. Of course, Spence still approaches late 1st to early 2nd round value so Seattle did well at perhaps replacing Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant as the other starting DT.

Spence gives up some acceleration to the better 3-techs, but he also brings more speed and agility to the guys with his strength. His closest physical match is JaQuinton Long, the Cowboys 6'8" monster in the middle, and he's a better athlete than him by a little bit. But no clear projection shows that he'll succeed or fail, because he has the speed and strength of a star DT, but not the agility and acceleration of one.

Grade: B+
Best comparison(s):
JaQuinton Long
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