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Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Which late-round picks could show early

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Omar from Baltimore wants to know which late-round NFC West draft picks will likely have the greatest positive impact in the division.

Mike Sando: I'll focus on the final three rounds for our purposes. These are rough projections based largely on what teams said about players, and opportunities players might have given what we know about team rosters. Much can change once draft picks get onto the field and teams have a chance to target needs in free agency.

For now, it appears the Arizona Cardinals should get quick contributions from fullback Anthony Sherman, a fifth-round choice. I've also heard good things about Quan Sturdivant, the inside linebacker Arizona selected in the sixth round. The Cardinals have a need at inside linebacker, so perhaps Sturdivant gets a chance sooner rather than later.

Bruce Miller might be the only San Francisco 49ers late-round pick with a realistic shot at contributing quickly. He's converting from linebacker to fullback and should factor on special teams, with a shot at getting reps at fullback depending on how quickly he develops, what the team does with Moran Norris and whether the 49ers target the position in free agency. The team's other late-round picks featured a receiver, two defensive backs and a guard.

The Seattle Seahawks expect to find narrowly defined roles for later-round picks. None projects as a likely immediate starter. I could see free safety Mark LeGree working his way into a young safety rotation featuring Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Coach Pete Carroll said he thought seventh-round choice Malcolm Smith, a linebacker, could help the team right away on third down. How quickly Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell contribute at corner could hinge on whether the team makes a clean break from its veterans.

The St. Louis Rams had one fifth-round choice, no sixth-rounders and three seventh-rounders. Versatile safety Jermale Hines, the fifth-rounder, could factor quickly given the state of the position on the Rams' roster. The team took two safeties and an oustide linebacker among its final four choices. Those are need areas. The Rams will presumably seek veteran help as well.