NFL DRAFT REVIEW: NFC WEST
By Simon Carroll
The NFL Draft is in the books. And whilst it is far too early to assign grades to these draft classes we can analyse how they have affected team’s rosters and the divisional outlook ahead of the upcoming season.
We conclude this series with a look at the NFC West:
|7||222||Eno Benjamin||RB||Arizona State|
What an offseason for Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury. After swinging a ridiculously good trade for DeAndre Hopkins The Cardinals were left without a second round pick, but still managed to get at least five probable contributors with their selections. Seeing Isaiah Simmons fall to them at eight was a dream come true for Arizona – he’ll revel in the versatile role once afforded to Tyrann Mathieu and be a mismatch for this defense. Alongside Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and Budda Baker, this unit is now teeming with playmakers.
Nobody expected Josh Jones to be available in the third round – his somewhat unorthodox style of pass protection must have scared teams off. But he gets the job done, and with DJ Humphries cemented on the left side expect Jones to eventually replace Marcus Gilbert at right tackle. Kingsbury’s vision for this offense is almost complete, particularly when they added home-state kid Eno Benjamin to the backfield in the final round. Again, stupid value for a three-down running back who will complement Kenyan Drake nicely.
Two interesting pieces were added to the core of the defense on day three in Leki Fotu and Evan Weaver. Fotu is a behemoth tackle with interior pass rushing ability, and Weaver might look like a twelve year old but packs a nasty hit at linebacker. This rookie haul was one of my favourite from the whole NFL Draft – you can expect The Cardinals to make serious strides in 2020.
Los Angeles Rams
|2||52||Cam Akers||RB||Florida State|
|6||199||Jordan Fuller||S||Ohio State|
|7||248||Sam Sloman||K||Miami (Ohio)|
Just one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, it seems the lustre has faded a little on the Rams in the last year. Aggressive free agency acquisitions and talent departing have set the roster back somewhat, and it was imperative this draft hit on multiple spots. Adding Cam Akers makes sense considering Todd Gurley was cut – a poor bit of cap management from Les Snead that ultimately forced them to use their first pick on a running back when they had other needs to consider.
Akers should help galvanise this offense, as should Van Jefferson, who when healthy will be an ideal replacement for the traded Brandin Cooks. Taking a punt on Brycen Hopkins in the fourth round was also a reasonable move – Hopkins was a game changer at Purdue, and we have seen the usage of tight ends in Sean McVay’s offense increase the last twelve months. The Rams’ came into this draft with a clear focus to re-tool the weapons for quarterback Jared Goff.
Some smart moves on defense too from Snead, with the value selections of Terrell Lewis and Terrell Burgess late on day two. Lewis needs to stay healthy if he is to replace Fowler as the lead pass-rusher, whilst Burgess is a sleeper for me that has the upside to develop into the long-term successor to the retired Eric Weddle.
San Francisco 49ers
|1||14||Javon Kinlaw||IDL||South Carolina|
|1||25||Brandon Aiyuk||WR||Arizona State|
|5||153||Colton McKivitz||IOL||West Virginia|
A small body of work for the 49ers, who had a top-heavy draft after trading DeForest Buckner to The Colts earlier this offseason. Kinlaw comes in as the direct replacement with a very similar skillset to Buckner – his quick burst and incessant tenacity should mitigate any drop-off on the defensive line. This unit stays elite.
The pick of Brandon Aiyuk at the bottom of the first surprised me a little. I love Aiyuk and we know Shanahan adores versatile weapons who can line up anywhere and you can give manufactured touches to. But is Aiyuk too similar to Deebo Samuel, and would they have been better served giving Jimmy G a big bodied, possession receiver like Tee Higgins who can bail his quarterback out of trouble? It will be interesting to see both Aiyuk & Samuel on the field at the same time…
Day three saw a bit of draft movement from John Lynch as the 49ers executed a couple of trades. Sending a 4th round pick to Washington for Trent Williams was a very nice bit of business, particularly in light of the retirement of Joe Staley. Williams is no spring chicken but he brings instant pro-bowl level of production to the offensive line, that also benefited from the selection of the versatile Colton McKivitz with a 5th round pick garnered from Philly for the trade of the expendable Marqise Goodwin. A little re-shuffling on both sides of the ball, but little in the way of a talent dropoff – the 49ers look set to challenge once again.
|1||27||Jordyn Brooks||LB||Texas Tech|
As has been the way with the Seahawks’ draft strategy for some time, I’m always left confused as to their thinking in the early rounds. Let me first say that I love Jordyn Brooks. He’s a tackling machine that, with time, could be a pro bowl linebacker in the league. But was he worth a first round pick for a team that has some very big holes in it’s roster – of which linebacker wasn’t one? They skipped some marquee names on both the offensive and defensive lines to take Brooks at 27, a prospect likely there with their second round selection. A big time reach for me.
A similar format followed on day two. Both Darrell Taylor and Damien Lewis filled needs, but both are projects and unlikely to offer much production immediately. For a team seemingly in the mix for the playoffs this doesn’t help them much in the short-term. And at those positions, they’re in need of instant help.
Day three made much more sense – THIS is where you look for developmental prospects. And in Colby Parkinson, Alton Robinson and Stephen Sullivan they got three talented but raw pieces. I also applaud the move for DeeJay Dallas after their 2019 season went down with the injury to Chris Carson. But overall, Seahawks fans are right to be a little aggrieved with draft weekend.
Feature Image Credit: @ClayTravis (Twitter.com)
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.