With the NFL draft in the rear view, now is a time for reflection on each team’s individual class. While it may be too early to give a full-on grade and assessment, we can see how each team did in terms of filling needs while also finding value with each pick.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at the NFC West to see how all four teams came out of the weekend.
The Cardinals only had two picks through the first two days of the draft, but certainly made them count. In the first round, Arizona managed to land Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons with the eighth overall selection. Simmons is the most unique defender in the class, with his athleticism and ability to play multiple positions on the field. He will give his new team many different ways to use him however they so choose.
Arizona didn’t own their second round selection this year, a product of acquiring DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans last month. But early in round three, they still managed to find help along the offensive line in Houston OT Josh Jones. As someone who was almost a consensus pick to be a late-first round pick, Jones fell to pick No. 72, but will be an instant improvement at right tackle for the Cards.
On day three, the Cardinals went with bolstering their defensive line, adding Utah DT Leki Fotu and LSU Rashard Lawrence. Each of them will provide depth and give Arizona one of the bigger d-lines in football. They finished off their NFL draft with Cal LB Evan Weaver, who will play a special teams role early on, and then went local with Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin, who gives them more depth at the position.
There may have been no team in football that got better value on their first two picks than the Cardinals. With Simmons a projected top-four pick and Jones taken over 40 spots after he was projected, Arizona net value with need and came out with two day one starters. In addition, they continued to build depth at other important positions, giving a Cardinals a very good draft.
Los Angeles Rams
Once again, the Rams spent day one of the draft watching everyone else make selections. L.A. did not have a first round selection for the fourth straight season, this year’s pick given to Jacksonville in exchange for Jalen Ramsey last fall.
Day two, however, was a busy one for the Rams, who had two selections each in rounds two and three. In the second round, they targeted skill position players from the “Sunshine State”, drafting Florida State RB Cam Akers and Florida WR Van Jefferson. Akers is in the mix for touches in a backfield that is now without Todd Gurley, while Jefferson will be a solid outside option for them. The next round, Los Angeles found strong value with both of their selections. First, they used pick No. 84 on Alabama EDGE Terrell Lewis, who was expected to be a second rounder, and 20 picks later found a solid nickel option in Utah S Terrell Burgess.
On the final day, the Rams continued to find value with a fourth round pickup of Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins, who projects as their tight end of the future. Ohio State S Jordan Fuller was grabbed in the sixth round and will add more depth at safety. With the draft winding down, L.A. used their three seventh round picks on Baylor ILB Clay Johnston, Miami (OH) K Sam Sloman, and Clemson OG Tremayne Anchrum.
Given that the Rams once again didn’t have a first round pick, they did a good job making the most out of what they had. Their first four picks, especially Akers and Jefferson, should contribute in some capacity this season. Overall, GM Les Snead put together another solid draft class.
San Francisco 49ers
The defending NFC champions came into the draft with two first round selections, the higher of which (No. 13) was acquired from the Colts in the DeForest Buckner deal. San Francisco made the draft’s first trade, moving down one spot and taking South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw, who aims to be Buckner’s immediate replacement. Then with their next pick at No. 31, GM John Lynch swung another trade, this one a move up to No. 25, and selected Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk. After passing on both Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb in favor of Kinlaw, the Niners are hoping Aiyuk will be the speedy downfield threat that they need at wide receiver.
With the move up for Aiyuk and previous trades for WR Emmanuel Sanders and EDGE Dee Ford, San Francisco did not own any second or third round picks. They also didn’t own any fourth round picks, but their day three was eventful as all can be.
The biggest trade of the trade came early Saturday, when the 49ers acquired Redskins All-Pro tackle Trent Williams in exchange for a fifth round pick and next year’s third round pick. The disgruntled Williams will become the team’s new left tackle, replacing the retired Joe Staley and making a good offensive line even better. During the day, they made two more trades in an effort to acquire draft capital, sending RB Matt Brenda to the Dolphins in exchange for a fifth round pick, and shipping WR Marquise Goodwin to the Eagles for a sixth.
With the pick they acquired from Miami, the Niners drafted West Virginia OT Colton McKivitz, who projects as a solid starting guard in the NFL. Georgia TE Charlie Woerner was their next selection and gives them much-needed depth behind George Kittle. Finally, the Goodwin trade helped the, draft Tennessee WR Jauan Jennings, a big receiver to give them more depth.
Overall, even with all the trades, San Francisco still managed to land two starters in Kinlaw and Aiyuk. Their additional picks provide depth, and the trade for Williams gives them a new franchise tackle. It was a very good draft for the Niners.
Normally, we see the Seahawks move out of the first round to acquire more picks. However, picking 27th overall, they opted to hold onto their first round selection and drafted Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks. Brooks is one of the better athletes in the draft and will likely start at one of the outside linebacker positions for Seattle, although some experts believe he was more of a day two player.
The next day, Seattle addressed both of their lines. With pick No. 48, they selected Tennessee DE Darrell Taylor, who will be a quick edge rusher in their rotation. Their next pick was for the offensive line, drafting big LSU OG Damien Lewis to help give them additional depth in the interior of the line.
With strength the emphasis in the first three rounds, Seattle spent much of the day Saturday targeting skill players. They started off with Stanford TE Colby Parkinson in the fourth round, who will compete with several tight ends currently on the roster. 11 picks later, they went with Miami RB DeeJay Dallas. After taking their one defensive player of the day in Syracuse DE Alton Robinson, the Seahawks capped off their draft class with Florida WR Freddie Swain, who can work in the slot for them, and LSU WR Stephen Sullivan, whom they gave up next year’s sixth round pick for in order to acquire this year.
Seattle did a good job filling certain needs, as Brooks certainly will play an integral part on their defense this season. Their biggest knock was on value, where a few players were taken ahead of their projections. But with the perennial success of this franchise, it’s fair to give them the benefit of the doubt.
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