- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The premise: NFC West general managers Billy Devaney (Rams), Tim Ruskell (Seahawks), Scot McCloughan (49ers) and Rod Graves (Cardinals) have been evaluating NFL talent in some capacity since at least 1994, except for a two-year period when Devaney worked for CBS. Studying their teams' draft selections over the last 15 years can provide perspective for the decisions they'll make in the 2009 draft.
With that in mind, we break down the first- and second-round track records.
The first round
Our initial first-round analysis showed McCloughan's teams favoring offensive linemen early. Devaney's teams exercised only six first-round choices during the period in question, 10 fewer than the average for the other GMs' teams.
49ers watch, Round 1: McCloughan's teams drafted offensive linemen in the first round five times from 1994 to 2001 and again whe
n the 49ers drafted Joe Staley in 2007. None of those selections was higher than 16th overall. San Francisco holds the 10th choice this year. McCloughan's teams have drafted for offense all three times when picking in the top 10, from Koren Robinson (ninth in 2001) to Alex Smith (first in 2005) to Vernon Davis (sixth in 2006). His teams have never picked between 12th and 15th, but they've done well twice at No. 11 (Marcus Trufant in 2003 and Patrick Willis in 2007).
Rams watch, Round 1: The Chargers repeatedly traded away first-round choices when Devaney was working under Bobby Beathard during the 1990s. As a result, Devaney's teams have exercised only six first-round choices since 1994. They used four of five first-round choices since 2001 on defensive players, including Chris Long to the Rams in 2008. The team needs offensive line help this year, but Devaney's teams have avoided the position early. Since 1990, when Devaney joined the Chargers, his teams have used one of 10 first-round choices on offensive linemen (Kwame Harris to the 49ers in 2003).
Seahawks watch, Round 1: Ruskell's teams have used five of 14 first-round choices since 1994 on defensive linemen. None of the other NFC West GMs' teams came close to that rate. The Seahawks are picking higher this year -- fourth overall -- than any of Ruskell's previous teams since 1994. His Bucs drafted Trent Dilfer sixth overall in 1994. His Falcons chose DeAngelo Hall eighth overall in 2004. Ruskell's last five first-round choices averaged 24th overall, providing few clues about how he might approach a top-five selection.
Cardinals watch, Round 1: Good luck finding an applicable pattern here. Graves' teams haven't selected lower than 18th in the first round since 1999, when the Cardinals used the eighth and 21st choices for receiver David Boston and tackle L.J. Shelton, respectively. Arizona holds the 31st overall choice this season after picking 10th overall on average since Graves arrived in 1997. Four of the team's last five first-round choices started in Super Bowl XLIII.
The second round
Following league-wide trends, the NFC West GMs' teams favored defensive backs in the second round while staying away from quarterbacks.
49ers watch, Round 2: McCloughan's teams used five of eight second-round picks on defensive backs from 1996 to 2004. The trend has not carried over to McCloughan's tenure with the 49ers, perhaps one reason the team needs help at free safety. San Francisco has exercised two second-round choices since McCloughan arrived in 2005, selecting offensive linemen Chilo Rachal and David Baas. McCloughan's teams have never selected a quarterback, tight end or linebacker in the second round since McCloughan broke into scouting with Green Bay in 1994.
Rams watch, Round 2: Devaney's teams acquired multiple second-round picks, using nearly a quarter of them for defensive backs, slightly ahead of the league average. While the Rams need to get bigger at defensive tackle, teams tend to stay away from defensive linemen in the round. Devaney's teams have used one of their 17 second-round choices for the position since 1994. Devaney, approaching his second draft with St. Louis, was with the 49ers in 2003 when San Francisco selected defensive tackle Anthony Adams in the second round. The Rams need offensive linemen, but Devaney's teams have drafted only one in the second round since 1994 (Justin Blalock to the Falcons in 2007).
Seahawks watch, Round 2: Ruskell's teams have used second-round choices for players from every offensive and defensive position group during the period in question. That wasn't true for any of the other NFC West GMs. Ruskell's teams selected only one linebacker in the round and Ruskell made the selection count, drafting Lofa Tatupu in 2005. Ruskell's teams have used two of their last five second-round choices for defensive ends (Darryl Tapp to Seattle in 2006 and Dewayne White to Tampa Bay in 2003).
Cardinals watch, Round 2: Graves' teams have used four second-round choices for defensive linemen and four more for linebackers since 1994. None of the other NFC West GMs' teams addressed the front seven in this round so frequently. The Cardinals selected defensive end Calais Campbell in 2008 and defensive tackle Alan Branch in 2007. Outside linebacker Karlos Dansby was the team's second-round choice in 2004, a year after Arizona found Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin in the round.