NFL Draft Review/Grade: NFC West

Wrapping up our draft reviews, it’s time to look at the division that dictated the entire first round: the NFC West. With the Cardinals holding the first pick and the 49ers holding the second pick, those two teams held all the cards with this draft. However, the Seahawks and Rams also made their presence felt, making a variety of trades moving up and down draft boards. With all this action occurring, who put themselves in the best position to succeed next season with their rookie classes? Let’s examine.

Arizona Cardinals

kyler cards
Photo Cred: Arizona Cardinals

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 1: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma (A-)

Round 2, Pick 33: CB Byron Murphy, Washington (A)

Round 2, Pick 62: WR Andy Isabella, Massachusetts (B+)

Round 3, Pick 65: DE Zach Allen, Boston College (A)

Round 4, Pick 103: WR Hakeem Butler, Iowa State (A-)

Round 5, Pick 115: S Deionte Thompson, Alabama (A)

Round 6, Pick 174: WR Keesean Johnson, Fresno State (B+)

Round 6, Pick 179: C Lamont Gaillard, Georgia (B+)

Round 7, Pick 248: OT Joshua Miles, Morgan State (B)

Round 7, Pick 249: DE Michael Dogbe, Temple (B+)

Round 7, Pick 254: TE Caleb Wilson, UCLA (A)

Grade: A-

Obviously, since they possessed #1 overall selection, the Cardinals were the most discussed team heading into the draft. In the end, rumors connecting them to Kyler Murray were true; they selected the Oklahoma signal caller and reigning Heisman Trophy winner with their top selection. Though the selection of Murray led the team to ship out former top ten pick Josh Rosen for just a second-round pick and cost them the chance to add an impact defensive prospect, the reward could be well worth it. Murray’s athleticism, his accuracy, and his overall arm talent are a rare combination. He’s a very similar prospect to Russell Wilson and is capable of carrying a lackluster supporting cast, which Rosen cannot do. He is also a perfect fit for head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, and if they were willing to take a risk on hiring an unorthodox head coach with an air-raid style offense, it makes sense to put the offense in the best position to succeed, and that starts with Murray as the franchise quarterback.

Somewhat making up for not selecting an impact defensive player with their top selection, Arizona jumped on the opportunity to add a first-round talent in cornerback Byron Murphy. Murphy is a tough cornerback capable of playing on the inside or outside, that possesses ideal ball skills and instincts to excel as a #2 cornerback, despite not having the ideal athleticism and frame. His addition is a tremendous boost to the secondary’s long-term outlook, especially with Patrick Peterson’s future with the team in question. With the pick they received for Rosen, the Cardinals added another weapon for Kingsbury’s offense: speedy receiver Andy Isabella. Isabella may only be 5’9”, but his athleticism and route running will give an elite ability to separate in the NFL, which is a critical tool in Kingsbury’s scheme. Then, three picks later, the team added defensive line help in the third round by selecting versatile Boston College defensive end Zach Allen. Allen has the ability to play on the interior or on the edge, but in Arizona’s scheme, he’ll fit in as a 3-4 defensive end, where he’s best suited. He won’t ever be a flashy player, but he should be a solid starter for years to come with the ability to be a plus pass rusher and run defender.

Continuing on with their terrific value selections, Arizona added another receiver in Iowa State product Hakeem Butler. Unlike Isabella, Butler (6’5”) gives Kingsbury the big body target that the team was lacking, while his speed fits in his scheme. There are legitimate concerns about the number of drops he had in college and his limited route tree, he’s still terrific in this offensive scheme and is worth the risk in the fourth round.  Subsequently, the team saw another top talent fall into their laps; they drafted Alabama safety Deionte Thompson. Thompson was seen as a first round talent at the beginning of the draft process, but durability concerns dropped him to the fifth round. However, it is more than likely that he’ll end up as a starting-caliber defensive back, and at the very least, he adds needed depth to the secondary, which is valuable at this point in the draft. In the sixth round, Arizona added more reinforcements to their offensive depth: wide receiver Keesean Johnson and interior offensive lineman Lamont Gaillard. The former is a versatile weapon for this offense, while the latter provides insurance at guard and center. This tremendous draft class expanded onto the seventh round, where tackle Joshua Miles is a project that has upside, Michael Dogbe could develop into a solid rotational defensive lineman, and Caleb Wilson has all the makings of a starting tight end despite being this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant”.

From the first overall selection to the last overall selection, the Cardinals nailed this draft. They found their franchise quarterback, brought in weapons to support him, and massively upgrade the defense with one rookie class. There wasn’t one pick where they did not receive proper value, and although adding a starting-caliber offensive lineman would have nice, there’s not much to criticize with their performance in this draft.

Los Angeles Rams

NFL Combine - Day 5
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Round 2, Pick 61: S Taylor Rapp, Washington (B+)

Round 3, Pick 70: RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis (B+)

Round 3, Pick 79: CB David Long, Michigan (A-)

Round 3, Pick 97: OT Bobby Evans, Oklahoma (A-)

Round 4, Pick 134: DT Greg Gaines, Washington (A-)

Round 5, Pick 169: OT David Edwards, Wisconsin (A)

Round 7, Pick 243: S Nick Scott, Penn State (B)

Round 7, Pick 251: LB Dakota Allen, Texas Tech (B)

Grade: A-

After falling just short of a Super Bowl title, the Rams already had a sound roster heading into the draft. That gave them the flexibility to trade down from their top selection twice; they did not make their first pick until with the 61st selection, which they used to select Washington safety Taylor Rapp. Rapp was very productive in college, and will eventually take over as a starting safety, since the two-year deal the team gave Eric Weddle is not much of a commitment. He may never be a star, but he should be a solid starter, which is good value, especially after trading down two times into the back end of the second round.

Following their multiple trade downs, the Rams then became aggressive in trading up. They moved up with the Bucs to pick #70 to land Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, who provides much-needed help in the backfield if Todd Gurley’s knee injury persists into this season, but could also be a terrific change of pace back; he’s a nice addition to this team. So is cornerback David Long (pick #79); he provides much-needed depth at a position in which Aqib Talib is aging and Marcus Peters’ contract is running out, and his instincts and coverage ability give him starter potential. To wrap up day two, the team made another trade to move up and select Oklahoma tackle Bobby Evans, who could fill in at guard or tackle, which are both long-term needs; this is a very sneaky selection at the end of the third round/

One major need that the Rams had heading into the draft was a run-stuffing nose tackle alongside Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald; they let Ndamukong Suh walk in free agency. Washington tackle Greg Gaines should fill that role, and securing that position is definitely worth a day three selection. Sticking with the trenches, Los Angeles added more offensive line depth in Wisconsin tackle David Edwards in the fifth round. Edwards was seen as an early round prospect before this collegiate season, and the upside is still there for him to become a starter for this team in the future. Even if he doesn’t put it together, he’ll at least add a needed body in the offensive trenches, which is important at this point of the draft. Meanwhile, safety Nick Scott and linebacker Dakota Allen may not even make the roster, but each could be depth pieces at relatively thin positions.

With this draft, the Rams were able to address serious needs, while also securing future draft capital. They are a much deeper team as a result of this draft and looked poised to make another Super Bowl push next season.

San Francisco 49ers

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Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 2: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State (A+)

Round 2, Pick 36: WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina (A-)

Round 3, Pick 67: WR Jalen Hurd, Baylor (C+)

Round 4, Pick 110: P Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah (C-)

Round 5, Pick 148: LB Dee Greenlaw, Arkansas (B)

Round 6, Pick 176: TE Kaden Smith, Stanford (A)

Round 6, Pick 183: OT Justin Skule, Vanderbilt (B)

Round 6, Pick 198: CB Tim Harris, Virginia (B)

Grade: B

Though quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s torn ACL destroyed the 49ers’ playoff chances last season, it did practically gift them into landing a franchise defensive player with the second overall pick in the draft: Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa. There is no weakness to Bosa’s game; he can beat you in a variety of ways, has the coveted athleticism and length, and is extremely polished. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he compiles 10-12+ sacks right away, which would be huge for a defense that struggled to rush the passer last season. This was a no-brainer selection that complements the additions of edge rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander; San Francisco’s defense has been transformed significantly in a very positive way.

After adding a superstar defender, the 49ers turned their attention to head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense on day two. The selection of receiver Deebo Samuel at the beginning of the second round wasn’t a very popular decision when first made, but although DK Metcalf and AJ Brown were bigger names, Samuel might be a better fit in this offense, where his elite separation ability should allow him to thrive in this offensive scheme. If Samuel develops into an impact starter, which he should, he’ll help Garoppolo significantly, especially as he eases back into action. The team drafting receiver Jaylon Hurd was a little more confusing; Hurd is a converted running back that is still adjusting to his new position. However, even then, his 6’5” frame and his ability to make an impact as a runner or a receiver could make him a versatile asset in this offense, which definitely helps justify this selection. Still, it would have been nice to see San Francisco draft a player more ready to contribute with this selection.

Speaking of luxury picks that the team shouldn’t have made, selecting a punter in the fourth round was certainly strange. Mitch Wisnowsky should become a well above average punter, but with pressing needs in the secondary, offensive line, and the linebacking corps, they were not in a position to trade up to select a special teams player this early in the draft. At least the linebacker position was added with the selection of Dee Greenlaw in the fifth round, though it’s unclear how much he’ll contribute in the NFL. Kaden Smith, on the other hand, looks ready to contribute as a #2 tight end behind George Kittle; he is a solid pass catcher and a very capable blocker, and definitely could have drafted much earlier in this draft. Meanwhile, offensive lineman Justin Skule and defensive back Tim Harris add depth to thin position groups.

The 49ers were in a tremendous position to succeed; Bosa was the easy selection with the 2nd overall pick. However, it’s the selections of  Samuel and Smith that should pay dividends, while it wouldn’t surprise me if Hurd also became a key part of this team. If you add it up, that’s one instant Pro Bowler, one long-term starter, and two depth pieces. That’s a nice haul in this draft, even if San Francisco neglected some areas of need by making a couple of questionable selections.

Seattle Seahawks

Photo Cred: Field Gulls

Round 1, Pick 29: DE LJ Collier, TCU (B-)

Round 2, Pick 47: S Marquise Blair, Utah (C+)

Round 2, Pick 64: WR DK Metcalf, Ole Miss (B+)

Round 3, Pick 88: LB Cody Barton, Utah (C)

Round 4, Pick 120: WR Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia (A-)

Round 4, Pick 124: OL Phil Haynes, Wake Forest (B)

Round 4, Pick 132: S Ugochukwu Amadi, Oregon (B+)

Round 5, Pick 142: LB Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington (B)

Round 6, Pick 204: RB Travis Homer, Miami (B)

Round 6, Pick 209: DT Demarcus Christmas, Florida State (B+)

Round 7, Pick 236: WR John Ursua, Hawaii (B+)

Grade: B

The Seahawks came into this draft with just four picks, but as per usual they made a serious of trade downs to secure eleven selections in this draft. Though they traded out of the 21st overall selection, they did keep the pick they received from the Frank Clark trade to replace him with defensive end LJ Collier. Collier was not projected to be a first-round pick, but he definitely fits their defensive scheme and should be able to help make up for Clark’s lost presence. Plus, Seattle has had so much success drafting defensive talent, so they definitely should deserve the benefit of the doubt with this selection.

Seattle continued to take defensive prospects down most experts’ board; they selected Utah safety Marquise Blair in the middle of the second round. Blair does have some desirable traits athletically and is very aggressive. That aggression works both ways, but he should develop into a role player that can flex between being a box safety and deep safety. Is that worth a second-round pick with better defensive prospects on the board? No, but at least Blair fits Seattle’s plan defensively, and once again, general manager John Schneider is free from heavy criticism based on his reputation selecting defensive gems. The team did make one big name addition with this draft: Ole Miss receiver DK Metcalf with the 64th selection. Given Doug Baldwin’s health questions at the time (he ultimately retired), Seattle was in desperate need for a receiver. Metcalf has injury concerns and a limited route tree, which make him more of a day two pick than a day one pick, but he definitely could excel in this offense as a vertical threat for Russell Wilson. He wasn’t an ideal fit for many teams, but for the Seahawks, he makes perfect sense. I will critique the selection of linebacker Cody Barton in the third round, however, because the team was already deep at linebacker, and Barton was taken much earlier than expected; this selection did not make much sense.

Seattle’s main work came on day three. Gary Jennings Jr. helps fill the void left by Baldwin’s retirement, and he, like Metcalf, should develop into a vertical threat despite his limited route tree. Oregon safety Ugo Amandi may not be a flashy player, but he’s a jack-of-all-trades master that is incredibly versatile, and he might be an even better player than Blair; he was great value in the fourth round. Finally, the team addressed its offensive line as well, and Phil Haynes adds insurance to the guard positions in case DJ Fluker or Mike Iupati falter in their starting spots. Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven in the fifth round is a nice addition, and this is the spot of the draft where linebacker should have been addressed. Don’t be surprised if he earns a more prominent role than Barton; he seems to be the superior player. Running back Travis Homer could be a versatile player out of the backfield for this offense, though he’ll be being Chris Carson and Reshaad Penny, and was a fine pickup in the sixth round. Florida State defensive linemen Demarcus Christmas adds a nice interior presence to this defensive line, which was definitely needed; this was another selection in round six. To finish off this deep draft, seventh-round selection John Ursua could earn a prominent role as a slot receiver, and could actually be the player who replaces Baldwin.

The Seahawks definitely didn’t have a flashy draft, and definitely drafted players higher than they were expected to go. However, this was a very deep draft, and going from four to eleven picks was definitely a clever move. There’s nothing to heavily analyze from this draft; it wasn’t a great draft, but it did make Seattle a better team heading into next season.

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