Around the NFC West: 2011 draft's impact

Around the NFC West: Dec. 12, 2012

The 2011 NFL draft class proved pivotal to NFC West outcomes in Week 14.

Let us count the ways.

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, the fifth overall pick, suffered two turnovers on punt returns at Seattle. Those plays helped the Seahawks jump to an early lead on their way to a 58-0 victory.

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, a fifth-round choice, returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, giving the Seahawks a 24-0 lead. Sherman caught more passes from Cardinals quarterbacks than Larry Fitzgerald caught.

San Francisco's top three picks in 2011 showed up big during a 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Aldon Smith, the seventh overall choice, moved past Fred Dean for the single-season franchise sack record. Second-rounder Colin Kaepernick put away the game with a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter. Third-rounder Chris Culliver played air-tight coverage at cornerback.

For the St. Louis Rams, second-round choice Lance Kendricks made several important contributions during a 15-12 victory at Buffalo. He made an impressive catch away from his body for a 22-yard gain during the game-winning 84-yard touchdown drive. Kendricks also made key blocks, including when he lined up at fullback in the I-formation during that pivotal drive. Receiver Austin Pettis, the Rams' third-round pick in 2011, made the catch of the game, I thought, when he hauled in a pass that was behind him to convert fourth-and-1 in the late going.

There were also some relatively prominent NFC West picks from 2011 missing their teams' games with injuries. James Carpenter (Seattle), Kendall Hunter (San Francisco) and Ryan Williams (Arizona) are on injured reserve.

Overall, 2011 is looking like a fantastic draft for San Francisco in particular. Seventh-round choice Bruce Miller has improved as a frequent contributor at fullback.