It's my belief that the 49ers had themselves a very strong draft when it all came down to it, drafting at all of the need positions and getting value here and there. Now, we'll take a look at the rest of the NFC West to see how the teams around them grew. In 2010, it was a very close (and kind of pathetic) race to see who would grab the NFC West crown, with all teams being mostly around the same level of talent and mostly irrelevant in the scope of things. Now that you're good and depressed, let's take a look at the Arizona Cardinals.
Also known as "those douchebags who drafted Patrick Peterson," to a good number of folks here at Niners Nation. I recall, after the pick was made, there were a ton of people upset, and that was followed closely by a bunch of people claiming that he would be a bust and there was a lot to dislike about his game. Well, for one, there is a lot to dislike about his game, but folks saying that he'll be a bust are doing nothing more than to talking themselves down from the edge. I don't want to be the guy who talks you right back onto it, so I won't get into specifics, but Peterson should be really good really fast, and that's as far as I'll go regarding that. Then again, Aaron Curry was supposed to be the safest and best player in his draft class, and ... well ... you know how that goes.
So their first round pick is essentially the best player in the draft (and in a cruel twist of fate, he was the fifth player they wanted), but how did they do after him? Make the jump, and we'll talk about each pick in detail.
Round 1 (5th overall): Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Surprise! I lied to you, we're going to talk about Peterson anyway. He doesn't fill an immediate need for the Cardinals, so that takes away a little bit, but lucky for them (because I obviously matter in the grand scheme of things), I'm not a strong proponent of drafting for need in the first round anyway. Peterson graced the top of my personal cornerback rankings, and the rankings of just about every internet source out there. Possessing top tier man-to-man coverage skills and a physical style of play that will not only eliminate a receiver for the majority of the game, but will get in said player's head as well, Peterson is probably the safest pick in the draft. He'll start opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to create a truly dominant duo.
Round 2 (38th overall): Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
Well, the best thing I can say about this pick is the fact that Williams is a playmaker, and he'll play early and often in Arizona's rotation. The final word in the previous sentence is key though: rotation - the Cardinals already have a couple of running backs who are probably serviceable and it's far too early to give up on them. Beanie Wells was a high pick, and they're outright admitting that he's not enough. Right here is where the Cardinals really should have grabbed a pass-rusher who projects to be truly dominant.
Round 3 (69th overall): Robert Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic
This is another player who will contribute, probably not early, but once he gets going, he'll do well. He's a stark contrast to the perception of Arizona's normal tight end in recent years, that perception being a smaller offensive linemen who can occasionally catch a pass. Housler is athletic and a reliable target for whatever quarterback is starting for the Cardinals, and he's being drafted to eventually be a starter. The problems with this pick are pretty obvious ... the Cardinals aren't short of receiving targets, and the third round is too early to address the position, not to mention Housler was probably going to be around in the fourth.
Round 4 (103rd overall): Sam Acho, OLB, Texas
I suppose you could say that drafting for need paid off for Arizona, in that Acho is a legitimate talent with a lot of upside and possesses great value in the fourth round. That doesn't change the fact that there were unquestionably better pass-rushers in rounds two and three, nor does it change the fact that the Cardinals do not have a pass rusher worthy of being a full-time starter. Acho is exactly the type of player you want to get out of the fourth round though: he's skilled, he's got upside, and he wants to get better. The skills he already possesses will help him early on, but he's a way from being a starter, and that will hurt the Cardinals a lot.
The Rest of the Way
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)
Sherman was picked far too early, but he is a bruiser who can lead block for the backfield that Arizona envisions in the future (unless they see him as an actual runner, which will not bode well for them) so he's not a terrible pick. Sturdivant is very, very good value in the sixth round, but again, he's far from being ready and does not fill the immediate outside linebacker need for the Cardinals. It's smart to double up on the positions with guys who have great value though, so they get a lot of points for that. Carter has a lot of developmental potential.
All-in-all, this was a solid draft from the Cardinals, but that is graded on what is almost a curve because of Peterson being taken in the first round. The best picks beyond him are unquestionably Acho and Sturdivant, each going a round or two later than they probably should have, and each with the ability to he a starter with a little bit of time, and the former having pro-bowl potential with the right coaching. They're getting better, but probably not as fast as they'd like to. The lack of drafting a quarterback can be seen many ways, but I personally think it wasn't smart. It's very clear they're going for a veteran, but the one place this draft excels in is developmental potential, and taking a flyer in the later rounds probably should have been on the agenda.
Value: A-, Need: C, Overall: B