Up next: offensive lines.
NFC West teams drafted seven players at the position: guards Jonathan Cooper (seventh overall pick) and Earl Watford (116th) to the Arizona Cardinals; interior lineman Barrett Jones (113th) to the St. Louis Rams; guard Ryan Seymour (220th), defensive tackle-turned-guard Jared Smith (241st) and tackle Michael Bowie (242nd) to the Seattle Seahawks; and tackle Carter Bykowski (246th) to the San Francisco 49ers.
We pick up the conversation there.
Sando: The 49ers were a clear No. 1 in your rankings before the draft.
Williamson: They still are, and I'm not going to change the order from before the draft, but there is a lot to discuss at the position.
Sando: I promise we'll change the order for one of these post-draft rankings pieces.
Williamson: I think Arizona's offensive line is much improved from a year ago, much improved from before the draft, but I still have to keep them at No. 4. I think the Rams have improved too.
Sando: A day or so before the draft, Cooper suddenly became a popular projection to Arizona with the seventh pick, ahead of the other top guard, Chance Warmack. Either way, the Cardinals had their choice of guards in the draft.
Williamson: I love the Cooper pick. Guard was a bigger need than tackle. I thought they would go with Warmack because Bruce Arians has a history with huge and powerful linemen, downhill guys. It shows us how the league is going that so many of these linemen that got picked so high are good athletes. The days of the fat-guy linemen, the slow-footed maulers, are going by the wayside.
Sando: Cooper was seen as the more mobile of the guards relative to Warmack. He makes the Cardinals more athletic up front. Better yet, his selection prevents us from saying any longer that the Cardinals did not select an offensive lineman in the first three rounds since the 2007 draft. Finally, we can put to bed that reminder and focus on things such as ... just how athletic Cooper appears to be.
Williamson: All these teams are implementing up-tempo offenses. You can't have the offensive linemen huffing and puffing as the fattest guys out on the field. Cooper is the better pick over Warmack. They are equal prospects, but very different. Carson Palmer isn't getting out of the way of any interior rush. Cooper should be better in protection. Cardinals fans might not want to hear it, but Cooper might have been the best pick in the whole draft for their team. He does more for them than Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher.
Sando: We saw the Cardinals and Rams take offensive linemen in the fourth rounds. Of the two, the Rams' pick, Jones, would appear to have the clearest path to a starting job. He could factor at left guard. He could also project as a future center. At the very least, Jones should back up multiple spots.
Williamson: If you are an offensive lineman and you are tough and smart and that is all you can be, you'll probably play 10 years in the league. That is Jones. He's a typical Alabama guy who has gotten the crap beaten out of him for four years, but he is smart as hell, he will play three positions and maybe even get you through a game at left tackle.
Williamson: They've got some nasty guys. Dahl is nasty, Jones is nasty, Wells has some of that, Long has some of that. Jeff Fisher is looking for a big, physical, nasty group that will take a shot or two after the whistle. They have gone finesse elsewhere on their roster, but not on the offensive line. Most teams are looking for speed and athletes on the line, but the Rams are going for nasty.
Sando: Seattle wants to play that way as well. The Seahawks drafted more offensive linemen than any team in the division, but each was a seventh-round selection. Bowie could be an interesting tackle prospect. Russell Okung helped recruit him to Oklahoma State, but Bowie violated team rules, left the program and wound up at Northeastern (Okla.) State. Smith projects as another J.R. Sweezy-type conversion project for Seattle line coach Tom Cable. The 49ers could use a swing tackle and took a candidate in the seventh round. But the Cardinals were the only NFC West team to address the line in a serious way.