The Football Educator’s guest blogger Tim Shields takes an in depth look at two of the front runners for the NFC West and how they fared in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The 2011 NFC West did not feature an elite offense like it has in years past. The draft provided the division with a shot of life on the offensive side of the ball as three receivers were added in the first 33 picks of the draft (Michael Floyd – ARI, A.J. Jenkins – SF, Brian Quick – STL). By the close of the second round there were two new running backs added to the division (Isaiah Pead – STL, LaMichael James – SF). The Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams have spent the offseason trying to close that gap on the 49ers, who seem to be the front runners to win the division for a second straight year. It should be noted this division has had three different winners in three years.
San Francisco 49ers
Even at 13-3, there is room for improvement for the San Francisco 49ers. In a passing league, the 49ers went against the grain last year winning by finding success running the ball and playing strong defense. The 49ers finished 29th in passing attempts and 31st in passing yards. Despite a success with this game plan, the 49ers spent the offseason overhauling their wide receiver core by signing free agents Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and spending a first round pick on A.J. Jenkins. Perhaps this will be the first year since 2003 (Terrell Owens) the 49ers have a 1000-yard receiver.
The Best Pick – LaMichael James. James will be a great addition to this offense. James needed to go to an offense where he was going to able to play in space. The 49ers offense will allow him to do that. James could play a similar role to that of Darren Sproles when he was behind Ladainian Tomlinson while together with the San Diego Chargers. Frank Gore will remain the team’s featured back, but James could be the x-factor that this team needs.
In 2010, a 7-9 record was good enough for the Seahawks to host a first round playoff game. In 2011, a 7-9 record was good enough for a third place finish in the NFC West. Pete Carroll’s team struggled at times scoring points. The Tarvaris Jackson Experiment could be considered a wash at this point since they’ve since added two quarterbacks to the roster. The Seahawks will need constant play out of the quarterback position and for their offensive line to stay healthy as they move forward.
The Best Pick - Bobby Wagner. This was the toughest choice of the 4 teams in the division. Their first round pick, defensive end Bruce Irvin, was a highly-debated pick. General manager John Schneider added good value throughout the draft with picks like Russell Wilson in round 3, Robert Turbin in round 4 and Winston Guy in round 6. However, Wagner has the ability to make the best impact early on. Wagner is dynamic, fast linebacker who makes plays and was a team captain at Utah State.
Next up – Arizona and St. Louis