NFL Draft Grades: NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

Best pick: RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State (4th round, 18th pick)

A very good all-around back who just happens to be a bit on the small side.  No, Hunter will probably never be a 20 carry per game back, but neither is Jamaal Charles and he’s done okay with the Chiefs.  He’s got a good squat build and has balance, speed and patience.  He’s also a solid receiver and a great leader.  His only real drawbacks are his durability and blocking.  One of the best backs in the draft.

Questionable move: DE/OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri (1st round, 7th pick)

Unless Jim Harbaugh is planning on tanking this season to get Andrew Luck next year, I don’t understand this pick.  Alex Smith is not the answer at quarterback, that is clear.  So why did they not take Blaine Gabbert?  The answer?  I don’t know.

What they get in Aldon Smith is a great athlete who is inexperienced, extremely raw and has some injury concerns.  He reminds me a lot of Manny Lawson who they took in the first round a few years back, and that’s not a good thing.  A very curious decision.

Third-day gem: WR Ronald Johnson, USC (6th round, 17th pick)

Not a gamebreaker, but has good speed and plays faster than he times.  He’s not the biggest guy at 5’11”, 200 lbs, but he’s certainly not small.  He’s tough, physical and has soft hands.  He probably dropped because he doesn’t really stand out in any one area, but he reminds me a lot of former Trojan and current Giant WR Steve Smith.  Could be a steal.

Overall: I really did not like this draft.  The Aldon Smith pick was a curious one and I don’t like QB Colin Kaepernick, who they chose in the 2nd, nearly as much as most others.  He’s a big project and has a lot of work to do to be an NFL level quarterback.  Other than the Hunter and Johnson picks, the remainder of the draft was covered with reaches and curious picks.

Grade: D

Seattle Seahawks

Best pick: G John Moffitt, Wisconsin (3rd round, 11th pick)

A big, tough, physical player.  Most people undervalue interior linemen, but that’s a mistake.  This guy can play either guard position or center and really brings a lot to the table.  He’s a little old (25) and his arms aren’t overly long, but this guy can flat-out block.  He’ll be a starter very early on.

Questionable move: OL James Carpenter, Alabama (1st round, 25th pick)

A major reach.  There was some very good talent still left on the board, including two tackles who were way ahead of Carpenter in everyone’s rankings (Derek Sherrod, Gabe Carimi).  It’s not that the guy isn’t a good player, he was just a major reach at this spot.  He’s also a bit of a tweener and might not be a tackle in the NFL.  Probably the most surprising in terms of who got selected on the first day.

Third-day gem: LB K.J. Wright, Mississippi State (4th round, 2nd pick)

He’s not the greatest cover guy, but he can hold his own.  Other than that, he does almost everything well.  He’s fast, physical and a good tackler.  He’s also a fantastic leader and is a perfect fit for their defense.  I really like this pick.

Overall: I liked the Wright and Moffitt picks, but Carpenter was a major reach.  I liked WR Kris Durham, but I thought the 4th round was a little high for him.  The rest of the second day picks didn’t really do much to wow me.  Pete Carroll has not yet proven to me that he can make the transition back to the pros from college.

Grade: C-

Arizona Cardinals

Best pick: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU (1st round, 5th pick)

I’m not as crazy about him as most of the experts (I think he’s going to have to move to safety eventually), but he was the top player on a lot of people’s boards and they got him at #5.  If they didn’t want a rookie quarterback, this was their best option.  The defense was in need of talent and he can certainly bring that.  Peterson is big (6′, 220 lbs), fast (4.3 forty) and is an excellent return man.  He needs to refine his technique a little, but he’s got all of the tools you look for in a shutdown corner.

Questionable move: RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech (2nd round, 6th pick)

Yes, Beanie Wells has been hurt.  No, Tim Hightower probably isn’t a starting running back.  But that’s not reason for a team with so many holes to waste a 2nd round pick on a running back.  If this was Mark Ingram, I might understand, but Williams comes with questions.  He’s got fumbling problems, lacks top-end speed and has some pretty serious injury concerns.  Not a smart pick when there was so much other talent still on the board.

Third-day gem: DE/OLB Sam Acho, Texas (4th round, 6th pick)

Teams were scared away by his apparent lack of speed and athleticism.  He’s not a particularly natural looking pass rusher, but he gets the job done and has top-notch intangibles.  He’s also good against the run, has a non-stop motor and is a fantastic leader.  He reminds me a lot of Tamba Hali and could surprise some people.  He was a big hit in interviews and, at the very least, will be an excellent backup at the next level.

Overall: Peterson, Acho and TE Rob Housler (3rd round) were solid picks.  I also liked North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant in the 6th round.  He could be a starter in the not to distant future.  I wasn’t crazy about Williams in the second and I thought they reached a bit for FB Anthony Sherman in the 5th, but overall a solid haul of talent.

Grade: B-

St. Louis Rams

Best pick: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina (1st round, 14th pick)

Quarterbacks are going to have nightmares about him and Chris Long for a long time.  Quinn was an excellent selection and, along with Long, will form a great end tandem for coach Steve Spagnuolo.  He’s a terror off the edge and just looks like your prototypical speed rushing end with long arms and a cut physique.  There are concerns about his play against the run, but I think those have been overblown.  Ditto to his supposed health concerns (benign brain tumor).  His lack of experience is really the only thing that makes me pause.

Questionable move: WR Austin Pettis, Boise State (3rd round, 14th pick)

Yes, Sam Bradford needed more weapons.  But when a cowboy needs a pistol, what good does it do to hand him a cap gun?  That’s no knock on Pettis who is a good receiver with great size and good hands.  He should be an asset in jump ball situations.  He was a major reach at this point however, as most believe he is not a starting receiver at the next level.  And if they thought he was, why would they waste a pick on…

Third-day gem: WR Greg Salas, Hawaii (4th round, 15th pick)

I actually like him better than Pettis.  Yes, his numbers are completely inflated by that Hawaii offense, but he’s got great hands, good size and looks like a precise route runner.  He reminds me a lot of former Hawaii receiver and current Dolphin Davone Bess who has been quite productive in his short NFL career.  He’s not a burner, but he seems to do everything else well.

Overall: The Pettis pick was a head scratcher, but I loved Quinn in the 1st.  TE Lance Kendricks in the 2nd was a great pick as well.  He’s a great receiver and I think he’s being sold short as a blocker.  A tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend.  Salas was a solid pick and they picked up some decent depth in the later rounds.  A nice draft, this team is looking up.

Grade: B

Next up: AFC West

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