Let’s head West for the NFC Division with the CARDINALS, RAMS, 49’ERS, and SEA HAWKS. It was a strange 3 days for these teams in general. The 4 teams combined for only 27 Picks overall. The SEA HAWKS, thanks primarily to credit card trades to bolster their 2020 roster, were left with a measly 3 Picks, the fewest in the NFL this year. Then of course we have the RAMS, who I think have now traded their No. 1 Pick for the remainder of this decade. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. However, in total, they had the most in the division this year with 9 total Picks. Go figure.
CARDINALS Let us not forget that this team went out and made some serious Free Agent additions to the roster prior to the Draft. Guys like J.J. WATT, RODNEY HUDSON/OC (trade), MALCOM BUTLER/CB, MATT PRATER/K, BRIAN WINTERS/OG, JAMES CONNER/RB, and A.J. GREEN/WR to take the place of soon to be retired LARRY FITZGERALD. Some of those guys may be a bit past their prime, but they represent veteran experience and locker room presence. The team started their Draft work with the selection of explosive WR/RS RONDALE MOORE from Purdue. Expect the little (5’9) guy to show up in the slot with GREEN & HOPKINS on the flanks. Smart move to upgrade the receiver group for emerging star QB KYLER MURRAY. MOORE and 7th Rounder OC/MICHAL MENET were the only players selected for the Offense. The other 5 Picks were on Defense, spearheaded by First Rounder OB/ER ZAVEN COLLINS, who reminds me a lot of last year’s top Pick ISAIAH SIMMONS. They are both big play, versatile, athletic players. I luv the Pick in Round 6, #210, of VICTOR DIMUKEJE/Duke, who is another fine athlete. He’s 6’2/262 with long arms (33 1/8″) for his height. His Training Camp work will define where and how they use him, but I think they see him as a MARKUS GOLDEN in the making. In good part because CB/PATRICK PETERSON has moved on to the VIKINGS as a VFA, the team selected 3 DB’s with their remaining Picks. In Round 4, MARCO WILSON/CB/Florida was their top DB choice. He comes from a long line of DB’s from the Gators in the past 2 decades. In Round 6, the team selected CB/TAY GOWAN, who traveled around the collegiate ranks with Miami (O), Butler CC, and UCF, and then opted out of the 2020 season. However, he has nice size, decent athleticism and some natural ball skills. He may not see the field this coming season, but might develop into a useful player in a couple of years. At Pick 243 in Round 7, the team tabbed S/JAMES WIGGINS/Cincinnati. There is no questioning his athleticism and football instincts, but injuries are a concern. He missed the 2019 season with an ACL tear, but was back starting in 2020. However, even then I never saw him start and finish a game in the 3 times I watched the Bearcats trying to get a read on him. He may lack that NFL must ability; availability. He’s a steal, though, if he suddenly gets healthy and can play most weeks. Not a blockbuster group, but some talent at positions that were in need of a youthful talent infusion.
RAMS To some degree, it was roster purge time for the RAMS. It started with an early off-season trade in which McVAY divorced his previous QB and brought in MATTHEW STAFFORD from Detroit. STAFFORD has toiled in futility in Detroit for the first 10 years of his career. Now he moves to sunny L.A. with an offensive mastermind as his Head Coach and offensive mentor. We shall see how this plays out. If the OL, which they failed to address with any of their 9 Picks, can hold up, it is safe to say the receiving corps for the RAMS should delight STAFFORD, including 3 new Draftees. The big name, but in a tiny (5’9/165) package, is TUTU ATWELL/Louisville, their Round 2 selection. ATWELL would do well to pay attention to a possible mentor in NFL VFA DeSEAN JACKSON (5’10/175), who has carved out a 13 year career going deep in the NFL. In Round 4, they selected TE/WR JACOB HARRIS from UCF. In Round 7, it was BEN SKOWRONEK, the Notre Dame/Northwestern collegian, who should make a Special Teams star, while using his 6’3/211 frame as a Red Zone weapon from scrimmage. Beyond the receiver group, the Defense got the benefit of the most attention. ERNEST JONES/LB/South Carolina was their 3rd Round Pick. The Gamecocks tackling machine brings a diverse set of skills to the team. In fact, I would expect him to see the playing field early and often. With MICHAEL BROCKERS gone to the LIONS as part of the QB trade, the spot most often next to AARON DONALD is up for grabs. And their 4th Round selection of BOBBY BROWN/DT/TEXAS A&M was made with that in mind. He’s a stout, big guy, listed right now at 6’4/325. I expect him to grab a starting slot, but in reality may alternate with vet GREG GAINES. BROWN may have the most pressure to step up right away of any of the Draftees. Small school CB ROBERT ROCHELL/Central Arkansas, has big potential, but the team may ease him onto the field in sub-packages initially. He was highly touted coming into a Senior Bowl roster spot, and though burned at times, he settled in and showed his cover skills. Some have listed EARNEST BROWN/DE/Northwestern as an Edge Rusher, but I see him as more of an all around DE, with big upside that never got fully developed in college. He was a nice value in Round 5. Late in Round 7, CHRIS GARRETT, from small college Concordia-St. Paul, was selected. This is the guy that may develop into a pro Edge defender. He’s 6’3/243, and small college OT’s could not handle his quickness and motor. Since moving back to the West Coast, the RAMS have made a habit of trading away their Round 1 Picks for name players like CB/RAMSEY and QB/STAFFORD. By drafting astutely in the mid-to-late Rounds, they have added serviceable parts to their roster. Looks like another such effort here. As mentioned in passing earlier, the RAMS did NOT draft any help for their OL. However, their highest ranked URFA signing was ALARIC JACKSON/OT/Iowa. 3 seasons ago, before a knee injury, JACKSON was the LT for Iowa and more highly thought of than TRISTAN WIRFS/BUCS. He may have to move inside because of relatively short, 32 1/2″ arms, but if he’s now fully recovered from that knee injury, he might push for an OG roster slot.
49’ers The team’s management must have been smiling for weeks heading into the Draft. Tight lips and a few erroneous suggestions still had a lot of teams believing they had traded up to Pick 3 and were indeed picking steady, but not star quality, MAC JONES. In reality, as yours truly suspected, it was a ruse, that they did not specifically deny. Then KYLE SHANAHAN smirked a bit the weekend of the Draft after taking super-athlete, brief resume’ TREY LANCE. Now the only real question becomes whether they will really hold onto JIMMY G and groom LANCE slowly, or push him right into the starting job. If he’s progressing in Camp and a team makes a good offer for JIMMY G, look for them to pull the trade trigger. However, I think they will hold their cards tight with a vet backup, not named SUDFELD or ROSEN. Round 2 selection AARON BANKS/OG/Notre Dame should have a good chance to win a starting job. He’s big, strong, and reasonably athletic. The team has a solid stable of RB’s, but too many of them seem injury prone. So hard running TREY SERMON/Oklahoma/Ohio State seems solid in Round 3 to be part of a RB group that should include RAHEEM MOSTERT & JEFF WILSON. The team has been shuffling their secondary players again this offseason and drafted CB/AMBRY THOMAS, CB/DEOMMODORE LENOIR, and SS/TALANOA HUFANGA. 2 of the 3, at the least, should crack the 53-man roster. Their remaining two Picks intrigue me. JAYLON MOORE/W. Michigan played LT in college, but his height and arm length both make him more likely for an IOL job. He’s steady, experienced, and strong. Their 7th Round Pick of ELIJAH MITCHELL/RB/LA-Lafayette, was a surprise for a team with a crowded RB room, but he was just too good to pass up. He had a productive college career as both a runner and receiver. His sub-4.40/40 at his Pro Day caught about everyone by surprise. He didn’t seem to play that fast, but it was hard to ignore, and too good for the NINERS to pass up. A good, logical Draft effort, which could turn to gold if TREY LANCE develops into their Franchise QB, and a star in the League.
SEA HAWKS As the car commercial says; You can pay me now, or pay me later. Acquisitions last year to fill some roster voids were made by credit card. The bill turned into a harsh reality when the 2021 Draft rolled around and the SEA HAWKS had a league low 3 Picks. Yes, I said 3 Picks. It looks as though the team did well with those Picks at least. Round 2, their top Pick, netted them one of the fastest little weapons in college football in DWAYNE ESKRIDGE/W. Michigan, the blazing fast former part-time CB, who will now be a receiver and returner deluxe at the pro level. He should end up in the slot, and with mates like LOCKETT & METCALF lined up outside, he may run rampant in the middle of the field. He averaged 23.1 yds per reception last season in the MAC. He also shows quickness and elusiveness. Expect him to be an impact player that should see action soon and often. In Round 4, they selected TRE BROWN/Oklahoma/NCB, who ironically will likely make his living playing Corner in the slot. He’s a solid 5-10/188, and was not hesitant to help in run support for the Sooners. Last season, he had 6 PBU’s and 3 INT’s. He won’t replace SHAQUILL GRIFFIN, but he may win the starting job in the slot. And finally in Round 6, the team selected STONE FORSYTHE/Florida a big bodied, 6’7/330, LT for the Gators. I wrote in my scouting report in October that STONE had entered the Florida football program as a big project, and developed into a serviceable, contributing starter at LT. He may see limited action this season, but current LT DUANE BROWN may be finishing his NFL career at age 36 when the 2021 season starts. The team signed 15 URFA’s, the high in the League. Several of them I thought were easily draftable; WR/CADE JOHNSON, CB/BRYAN MILLS, WR/TAMORRION TERRY. Good work overall, considering how little ammunition they had to begin with.
As I said previously, this was a division with a hodgepodge of practitioners in it. The big watch will of course be the development of TREY LANCE in Frisco. And as usual, the RAMS are the team with the biggest need for quality and quantity from a Draft group with no first round power in it.