The argument could be had that the NFC West is the best division in football and few would argue. Over the last five years the NFC West has delivered, at least, one team to the NFC Championship game and in three consecutive years had a team in the Super Bowl (San Francisco in 2012 and Seattle 2013-14).
Yeah, they’re that good. And with the Rams moving back to Los Angeles after a 20-year stint in St. Louis, it should only be more fun to watch. But some teams have fallen on tough times.
LA has floundered around mediocrity and this may be Jeff Fisher’s make it-or-break it year. Then there is San Francisco, who after a return to glory under head coach Jim Harbaugh, suffered an ugly divorce and then failed to sustain any success with his successor Jim Tomsula, who was fired after one year and replaced with Chip Kelly.
There is a lot to anxiousness in seeing what the NFC West will do next, whether it’s free agency or the draft. There is, now, an expectation that whoever comes in to one of these four teams will be another piece of a Super Bowl contender. So lets breakdown who was brought in over this year’s draft weekend…
Arizona Cardinals: B+
1.) Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
3.) Brandon Williams, CB, Texas A&M
4.) Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
5.) Marqui Christian, S, Midwestern St.
5.) Cole Toner, OT, Harvard
6.) Harlan Miller, CB, SE Louisiana
A big part of this grade comes from their second-round pick, which they traded (with first-round bust Jonathan Cooper) to New England for pass rusher Chandler Jones, their biggest need. Nkemdiche, was the perfect selection for the Cards. In a locker room with so much leadership and accountability, Bruce Arians will make his character red flags a thing of the past (see: Tyrann Mathieu). Cornerback was a major area of need and Williams seems to be part of the answer. An intriguing choice as he has only played one season at the position, having played running back until his senior season. Christian, is a classic small-school stud who should excel in the desert. Toner, has starter upside on the right side. Miller will fight for a spot, but was a three-year starter and has the upside to work with.
Sleeper: Evan Boehm
The Cardinals have struggled to find a permanent answer at center for years. Boehm, may be what they were looking for. He holds the record for career starts at Mizzou and relies on his wrestling background to effectively leverage and drive against opposing players. He should start Day One, but his progress over the season will be pivotal.
Los Angeles Rams: C+
1.) Jared Goff, QB, Cal
4.) Tyler Higbee, TE, Western Kentucky
4.) Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
6.) Temarrick Hemingway, TE, South Carolina St.
6.) Josh Forrest, ILB, Kentucky
6.) Mike Thomas, WR, Southern Miss
The Rams broke the bank to move up and select Goff. The California kid should feel right at home with the team back in LA, but he’ll still have to win a training camp battle against Case Keenum to start Week 1. That could be tough as Keenum has developed enough to be a game manager and has the command of the locker room. Higbee, was arrested 18 days before the draft for assault. The Rams must have vetted the incident enough to take a chance on him. He is a reliable option over the middle of the field. Hemingway, has developmental upside. Forrest, is another fast flowing linebacker who should fit in nicely as a depth piece.
Sleeper: Pharoh Cooper
Cooper isn’t the biggest target, but man, does he produce. He posted 135 receptions for 2,109 yards and 17 touchdowns in two years on subpar South Carolina teams. With a weak receiving corps in LA, don’t be surprised if Cooper starts taking over.
San Francisco 49ers: B-
1.) DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
1.) Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
3.) Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi St.
4.) Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU
5.) Ronald Blair, DE, Appalachian St.
5.) John Theus, OT, Georgia
5.) Fahn Cooper, OT, Ole Miss
6.) Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech
6.) Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
6.) Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan St.
7.) Prince Charles Iworah, CB, Western Kentucky
The Niners are rebuilding, but things could be exciting with Kelly prowling the sidelines. And luckily, he doesn’t control the roster (which did him in in Philly). And even then, Kelly still got an ex-Duck of his. Buckner, should start be mid-season. Garnett, was a surprise, but with the departure of Alex Boone and little depth behind him, you have to protect your quarterback. Redmond and Robinson, addressed their biggest need. Redmond, has ideal size and versatility to contribute early. Robinson, has major red flags after being suspended from LSU, but the raw talent is there. Theus and Cooper, add depth and starter upside. Cooper, could transition to guard. Burbridge, could surprise over time. A late bloomer, he turned into the go-to man in East Lansing in 2015.
Sleeper: Ronald Bleir
He has the size you look for in a five-technique and could develop into a quality rotation player. He had 32 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons. If he can handle the jump in competition, he could turn into something.
Seattle Seahawks: C+
1.) Germain Ifedi, OG, Texas A&M
2.) Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
3.) C.J. Proise, RB, Notre Dame
3.) Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio St.
3.) Rees Odhiambo, OG, Boise St.
5.) Quinton Jefferson, DT, Maryland
5.) Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
6.) Joey Hunt, C, TCU
7.) Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal
7.) Zac Brooks, RB, Clemson
The Seahawks are built to be perennial contenders for the Lombardi trophy, but the roster has been hemorrhaging talent lately and the cupboards are getting bare. Non more noticeably than along the offensive line. Ifedi, has all the talent in the world, but has sloppy technique. Line coach Tom Cable should get Ifedi ready to be a Day One starter. Not that they really have a choice. Same goes for Reed. The team was first against the rush, but then lost Brandon Mebane leaving not much behind him. Reed will start at some point as a rookie. The Seahawks run on running backs shows how important Marshawn Lynch was to the team. Proise, might be better in the long run, but for rookie impact you have to look at Alex Collins to be the complimentary back to Thomas Rawls. Vannett, seems to be a security blanket if Jimmy Graham isn’t 100% coming off his injury. Jefferon adds depth as well.
Sleeper: Rees Odhiambo
The Sehawks line is in shambles and, if things get worse, you could see Odhiambo make a rookie appearance. He is massive and has the versatility coaches love. However, he does have some injury concerns. But a great depth piece with starter upside for this prospect, who didn’t even play football until high school.