Talk about the Wild West, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how the NFC West shaped up in 2016. Preseason division favorites the Arizona Cardinals collapsed despite running back David Johnson breaking out into a star. Head coach Bruce Arians was in and out of the hospital during the year and after the year they faced a retirement scare with Carson Palmer, who ultimately, decided to give it one more shot in 2017.
Not surprisingly the Seahawks won the division in the end, going 10-5-1, despite Russell Wilson battling injuries all season and the Niners pulled up the rear which saw coach Chip Kelly fired, as well as GM Trent Baalke. The intriguing part postseason was the hiring Kyle Shanahan as head coach and former-All Pro safety John Lynch as GM despite having no front office experience
The Rams were a sad story in their first year back in Los Angeles after a 20 year hiatus in St. Louis. Head coach John Fisher got caught up in an ugly fight in the media with LA Ram legend and NFL Hall-of-Famer Eric Dickerson, the team floundered in every way, and Fisher was eventually fired. Taking over is the spry 30-year old Sean McVay.
So how does this new look division shape up following the draft? Here’s a look…
Arizona Cardinals: B
1.) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
2.) Budda Baker, S, Washington
3.) Chad Williams, WR, Grambling St.
4.) Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh
5.) Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt
5b.) T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina
6.) Rudy Ford, S, Auburn
This is a draft class that will certainly help Arizona down the stretch, most notably with the selection of Johnson and Holden. The offensive line has been underwhelming despite recent first-round investments. Johnson could become a starter as a rookie. Holden is a more developmental prospect with high upside. Reddick, is a tremendous story, walk-on turned Top 15 selection. He is the perfect defender in Bruce Arians’ defense. He can be deployed all over the field and wreak havoc. Williams and Logan, provide developmental prospects at skill positions.
Best pick: Budda Baker
Like Reddick, Baker can be lined up all over the field. He can play safety, nickle, even as a linebacker. Baker, gets dinged, because he is not the biggest prospect, but Baker is a baller with great ball skills.
LA Rams: B
2.) Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
3.) Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
3b.) John Johnson, S, Boston College
4.) Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
4b.) Samson Ebukam, LB, Eastern Washington
6.) Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
6b.) Sam Rogers, FB, Virginia Tech
7.) Ejuan Price, OLB, Pittsburgh
This is a proven and steady draft class brought in by the new regime in LA. First time head coach Sean McVay comes to town after running the Redskins offense the past three seasons and with a roster absent of playmakers, McVay went right out and picked some up. Everett, is a natural pass catcher who can make plays, but needs to get bigger to help as a blocker. Kupp, is not a burner, but he will run the best routes and always make the catch. Reynolds, has a great size-speed combo that will allow him to make the big play. Ebukam and Smart provide depth.
Best pick: John Johnson
Johnson, is an underrated prospect, but don’t be surprised if he winds up starting sooner than later. He is versatile prospect having played both corner and safety with proven ball skills (18 PBUs, six INTs in two years) and range to make the play.
San Francisco 49ers: B+
1.) Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
1b.) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
3.) Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
3b.) C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa
4.) Joe Williams, RB, Utah
5.) George Kittle, TE, Iowa
5b.) Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech
6.) D.J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss
6b.) Pita Taumoepenu, LB, Utah
7.) Adrian Colbert, S, Miami
How about GM John Lynch, huh? The former-Pro Bowler went straight from TV commentator to front office executive seamlessly. Not only did he fleece the Bears, but he was able to move up and down the board effectively, picking up a second- and third-round pick for next year’s draft. Kicking things off with the trade and still getting their guys Thomas and Foster was tremendous. Round 3 was more intriguing. Witherspoon, has tremendous size and potential, but is raw having only played the game for five years or so. Beathard, has the intangibles you look for in a quarterback, but is still developing. Williams, Kittle, and Taylor provide needed depth at the skill positions. Taylor, is lightning fast capable of breaking out a big play whenever he has the football in his hands.
Best pick: Reuben Foster
The Niners were big, big fans of Foster and as his slide continued. The Niners waited till the end of Round 1, gave up very little and jumped up to stop the fall. Foster is a Top 5 talent, who sets the tone on defense. He’ll make his impact felt much sooner than later in the Bay Area.
Seattle Seahawks: C
2.) Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan St.
2b.) Ethan Pocic, C, LSU
3.) Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida
3b.) Delano Hill, S, Michigan
3c.) Nazair Jones, DT, North Carolina
3d.) Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan
4.) Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
6.) Michael Tyson, S, Cincinnati
6b.) Justin Senior, OT, Mississippi St.
7.) David Moore, WR, East Central
7b.) Christopher Carson, RB, Oklahoma St.
The Seahawks always have very unique drafts. Their never afraid to trade out of Round 1 and are never afraid to take a player who may be seen as a reach. McDowell, is another piece of the rotation in Seattle. He has the natural ability to be special, but takes too many plays off. Pete Carroll, always gets the most of his guys. Jones, in Round 3, gives them another versatile prospect who can play inside and out. Age and contracts are starting to hit the Legion of Boom, highlighted by Seattle taking four defensive backs. All this comes, of course, comes with virtually no addressing of the offensive line which was a sieve last year, allowing Russell Wilson to get smacked around for a whopping 41 sacks.
Best pick: Ethan Pocic
A versatile lineman, always a bonus in a Tom Cable coached unit, Pocic could be the pivot they desperately have needed since trading away Max Unger. Pocic, has the ability to pull and get to the second level and the football IQ to make an impact.