Pick #24, DJ Humphries, OT
Pick #58, Markus Golden, DE
Pick #86, David Johnson, RB
Pick #116, Rodney Gunter, DT
Pick #158, Shaquille Riddick, DE
Pick #159, JJ Nelson, WR
Pick #256, Gerald Christian, TE
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Bruce Arians and company used their first round selection on a solid anchor for the offensive line in tackle D.J. Humphries, who could start at right tackle in 2015. With the free-agent signing of Mike Iupati and flexibilty to move Bobby Massie around, the offensive line took a big step forward this offseason. On day two of the draft, Arizona opted for defensive end Markus Golden a high-motor pass rusher out of Missouri and running back David Johnson, a big change-of-pace running back with a 4.59 40-yard dash time. The Cardinals continued to bolster the defensive line with their next two picks, trading up to select tackle Rodney Gunter and opting for speed rusher Shaquille Riddick in the fifth. They also owned the very next pick, which they used on the fastest player at the combine (4.28 40-yard dash) in wide receiver/return specialist J.J. Nelson. Athletic H-back Gerald Christian was selected with their final pick.
Carson Palmer is the big winner here with the early-round additions of an offensive tackle (Humphries) and an intriguing running back prospect (Johnson). Though very productive when on the field, Palmer played in only six games in 2014. Improvements to the offensive line should have been the Cardinals’ top priority in the off-season, and it is exactly the area they focused on most. Humphries and Iupati will also be beneficial to Johnson and incumbent Andre Ellington out of the backfield.
It is difficult to say whether the Johnson selection benefits or hurts Ellington. On one hand Ellington won’t be asked to carry the load, so theoretically he should be able to stay fresh and take advantage of the snaps he does get. On the other hand it is rare that taking away opportunities increases a player’s productivity, especially when it does not necessarily correlate to a reduced risk of injury. The net result for Ellington is likely a loss in value, though a strong argument could be made for either side. J.J. Nelson projected to be more of a return specialist than an offensive threat given his size and lack of strength, so Arizona’s wide receivers can rest easier without a true rookie competitor.
San Francisco 49ers
Pick #17, Arik Armstead, DT
Pick #46, Jaquiski Tartt, SS
Pick #79, Eli Harold, OLB
Pick #117, Blake Bell, TE
Pick #126, Mike Davis, RB
Pick #132, DeAndre Smelter, WR
Pick #165, Bradley Pinion, P
Pick #190, Ian Silberman, OG
Pick #244, Trenton Brown, OG
Pick #254, Rory “Busta” Anderson, TE
After it felt like the majority of their roster retired, the 49ers were able to restock with a total of ten draft picks. Their first three picks were all used to select players on the defensive side of the ball, including defensive tackle Arik Armstead, strong safety Jaquiski Tartt and outside linebacker Eli Harold. All these picks were considered to be good fits for the scheme, though Armstead and Tartt may have been reaches at their spots. All three of their fourth round picks were spent on the offensive side of the ball with gifted but raw tight end Blake Bell, power running back Mike Davis and a good-sized wide receiver coming off an ACL tear in DeAndre Smelter. Without commenting on the fifth-round selection of punter Bradley Pinion, the 49ers rounded out their draft with two offensive linemen and a tight end with some explosive upside if he can prove injury problems are behind him.
Though he has been slowed by the recovery phase of his ACL tear, Smelter joins a roster without much depth at wide receiver. Torrey Smith was signed in the off-season to join the ageless Anquan Boldin atop the depth chart, but there isn’t much else. Smelter will battle veterans Quinton Patton, Jerome Simpson and Bruce Ellington as well as fellow rookies Dres Anderson and DeAndrew White for the next spot in the pecking order, but could challenge for a starting job next year.
With the additions of Bell and Rory Anderson, it is clear Vance McDonald isn’t going to happen. The “Belldozer” shouldn’t take long to secure the backup job to Vernon Davis. Carlos Hyde has been polarizing this offseason, with many jumping on the bandwagon after Frank Gore was released. A few have jumped off with the addition of Davis and Reggie Bush, but it’s Hyde’s show for 2015.
Pick #63, Frank Clark, DE
Pick #69, Tyler Lockett, WR
Pick #130, Terry Poole, OG
Pick #134, Mark Glowinski, OG
Pick #170, Tye Smith, CB
Pick #209, Obum Gwacham, DE
Pick #214, Kristian Sokoli, DT
Pick #248, Ryan Murphy, DB
Without a first-round pick after trading it to New Orleans in the Jimmy Graham deal, Seattle used its first pick on troubled defensive end Frank Clark. While he is a good fit for their system, character issues are a major concern. Tyler Lockett, a playmaker at wide receiver and in the return game, was then selected as Seattle’s only offensive skill position player taken in the draft. Offensive line was one of the Seahawks’ biggest needs, and they addressed it with two developmental guards in the fourth round. Two defensive linemen and two defensive backs on day three rounded out Seattle’s draft.
With Lockett being the only player drafted for Russell Wilson to either hand off or pass to, the long list of veteran receivers can focus on battling each other for a spot. Given the lack of star power behind Graham and Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks have no shortage of underwhelming candidates for targets; wide receivers Chris Matthews, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood and Super Bowl scapegoat Ricardo Lockette will vie for roster spots. Additionally the Christine Michael hype train has slowed dramatically, but only undrafted rookies Thomas Rawls and Rod Smith were added to the backfield this offseason.
Looking solely at the draft, Russell Wilson did not receive much help. However, by re-signing Lynch and adding Graham the Seahawks ensured Wilson would have two of the league’s premier offensive players at his disposal. Graham’s presence bursts the bubble for Luke Willson fans who had him stashed at the end of their rosters.
St. Louis Rams
Pick #10, Todd Gurley, RB
Pick #57, Rob Havenstein, OT
Pick #72, Jamon Brown, OT
Pick #89, Sean Mannion, QB
Pick #119, Andrew Donnal, OT
Pick #201, Bud Sasser, WR
Pick #215, Cody Wichmann, OG
Pick #224, Bryce Hager, ILB
Pick #227, Martin Ifedi, DE
By and large, the 2015 draft lacked the excitement of big trades and surprise draft picks. The Rams did their part, however, by selecting Todd Gurley tenth overall when they had far more pressing needs than running back. The Rams proceeded to address their biggest area of need (offensive line) with tackles in three of their next four picks, as well as a guard in the sixth round. They also added a developmental quarterback in Sean Mannion, since-released wide receiver Bud Sasser (due to a heart condition), and two seventh-round players on defense
Despite the selection of Mannion in the third round, Nick Foles emerged from the draft with three new offensive linemen and a blue chip running back. His contract expires at the end of this year, so he will need to prove he is worthy of a new contract. Adding Gurley and bulking up the offensive line, in addition to the anticipated return of Brian Quick following shoulder surgery, will only help him in that effort.
The list is short and (bitter)sweet: Tre Mason. After rushing for 765 yards in only twelve games as a rookie, the addition of (arguably) the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson puts a roadblock in Mason’s career as a Ram, and he’s not even 22 years old yet. Gurley’s health may allow Mason to show what he can do early in 2015, but his upside is capped for the foreseeable future.
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