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Friday, April 27, 2012
Around the NFC West: 49ers beat Rams?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The St. Louis Rams enter the second round of the 2012 NFL draft with the 33rd, 39th and 45th overall choices.

They're in prime position to help themselves at wide receiver, in other words.

But they won't be upgrading with a certain receiver from the University of Illinois. That is because the San Francisco 49ers snapped up A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall choice.

A.J. who? Well, turns out personnel people around the league, and specifically in St. Louis, knew plenty about Jenkins.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams had Jenkins ranked nearly as high as Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, who went to Jacksonville with the fifth overall choice. He says the Rams "almost certainly" have to take a receiver with the first pick of the second round. Thomas: "League sources told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday afternoon that the Rams liked Jenkins so much that his grade wasn't much different than the one given Blackmon by the team's personnel department." Noted: That Thomas' sources passed along that information in the afternoon is noteworthy. At that point, the Rams presumably would have wanted to explain why they felt OK failing to land Blackmon. They would not have known Jenkins would land in San Francisco. This lends credence to the idea St. Louis liked Jenkins quite a bit. The Rams hold the first pick of the second round, so they'll have first crack at the next receiver, should they choose to target that position.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains the thinking of Rams general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher. Burwell: "I know it isn't that exciting. I know it's actually deflating to the casual fan who can only go on highlight films and drool over offensive weapons with which they are familiar such as Blackmon. But Snead and Fisher are convinced that they will use the four picks they have among the first 45 selections, as well as the early third-round pick, to come out of the draft having plugged quite a few holes."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch generally approves of the Rams' approach Thursday. Miklasz: "If the Rams don't take a WR early in the second round, then I'll co-sign on your dissent. But at the end of the first day, as I write this late Thursday night/early Friday morning, I certainly won't rip Snead and Fisher team for drafting a promising run-stopping defensive tackle who kicked arse in the toughest college football conference in the nation. That would be the SEC. No, I'm not going to have a coronary episode over this pick after I've spent the last six years of Sundays watching this Rams defense getting prison-yard stomped by bullying offensive lines that rammed the football at will against soft or invisible DTs."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News has this to say on Jenkins: "There's no assurance that Jenkins will be as good a receiver as Aldon Smith is as a pass rusher, but we know the 49ers have a similar feel for this. Can he give the 49ers a long-range deep threat? Who knows? It's a mystery. At this point, Baalke and Harbaugh are the ones who know best, and they love surprises. It's apparently how they do some of their best work." Noted: I'd resist any parallels to Smith. Jenkins was drafted much later, and at a position where it's tougher to make an immediate impact.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' selection of receiver Michael Floyd puts pressure on quarterback Kevin Kolb to get more from the offense. Somers: "If Floyd is the player the Cardinals think he is, this offense has threats. Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams (if healthy) and some tight ends who can catch the ball. Yes, the offensive line, (guard or tackle) still needs [to be] addressed. I look for that to happen Friday in the third round. But in Fitzgerald and Floyd, Kolb has two big receivers who have the size and skills to beat press coverage and make catches when tightly covered. That's essential in today's game." Noted: Failing to upgrade at offensive tackle could also put more pressure on Kolb, in the form of a pass rush.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune sees a pattern to the Seahawks' last couple first-round picks. Boling: "They love players who have unique physical gifts and fit special niches in their schemes. And you can see the positive effects of the approach in their first two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. But you start getting the sense they also take some extra joy in doing the unconventional, the unexpected, the risky. Going against the grain."

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks took an unconventional route by drafting Irvin. Kelley: "They had their pick of pass-rushers, and they chose the most obscure and the most controversial. Bruce Irvin better be good. And, both Carroll and general manager John Schneider practically promised he would be."