A look at the NFC West's best and worst from the past five NFL drafts, one team at a time.
Best choice: James Laurinaitis, LB, 2009 second round. Chris Long provided the only serious competition for Laurinaitis, although that could change if 2012 fourth-rounder Chris Givens picks up where he left off following an impressive rookie season. A certain quarterback drafted first overall in 2010 might also factor into this discussion down the road. I went with Laurinaitis over Long because he was drafted 35th overall in his class, 33 spots later than where the Rams found Long one year prior. Laurinaitis has never missed a game in four seasons. He has seven interceptions. Conventional wisdom questioned the Rams' decision to draft Laurinaitis over USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. Laurinaitis has been the better player.
Worst choice: Jason Smith, OL, 2009 first round. Smith, chosen second overall in his draft class, started 26 games over three seasons with the Rams before the team traded him to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter. Smith, who made zero starts for the Jets last season, was released this week. Draft analysts saw Smith as tough, talented, ascending and possessing great potential not only as a player, but also as a leader. They saw similar traits in Aaron Curry, the linebacker Seattle selected fourth overall the same year. Both players mysteriously failed to deliver and I'm not sure how so many people could be so wrong.
Verdict pending: Sam Bradford, QB, 2010 first round. Bradford showed improvement last season, posting career highs for NFL passer rating (82.6) and Total QBR (51.6). Both figures were below league averages, however. So, while Bradford is ascending, he is still barely average. Most of the other quarterbacks drafted first overall played at a higher level. However, among those 10 QBs taken first overall, only Peyton Manning (82.9) and Cam Newton (64.9) had higher Total QBR scores than Bradford (56.1) over their teams' final eight games of the season. Is Bradford about to take a big step forward?
Related: 2011 draft rewind.