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2015 NFL Draft Grades: NFC West

May 3, 2015

Arizona Cardinals

Pre-draft analysis: The Cardinals have made a name for themselves lately as one of the better drafting teams in recent years. It’s no surprise then that they have one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL. Looking at their depth chart I only see RB, TE and RT as need areas yet they have serviceable players at each spot so there isn’t an urgent need on offense. On defense I see CB and 3-4 OLB as need areas but know that the Cardinals don’t value pass rushers like I do and are probably content with Alex Okafor, Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Woodley at the spot.

Best Impact Pick: DJ Humphries-He seemed to be a reach to me as a 1st rounder but is almost surely going to beat out Bobby Massie at RT. RT was probably their biggest need on their entire team so this was probably a reach for need.

Best Value Pick: David Johnson-I had a 5th round grade on Johnson and they took him in the 3rd but he was a unique prospect that I fully admit to possibly being wrong on. His Senior Bowl intrigued me as he has elite pass catching skills for a running back of his height and weight. It would not surprise me at all if he was their lead back down the stretch in 2015.

Worst Value Pick: There are a lot of picks to choose from as their 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th picks were all reaches and their 4th and 7th picks were guys I’d never heard of. In the end I guess I’d choose Markus Golden in the 2nd round (56th Overall) as he had an atrocious Combine and looked like a guy that would drop to the 4th-6th round area. To take him in the late 2nd was a shock.

Overall: I’ve been raving about the Cardinals the past 3-4 years as a sneaky good drafting team. I might need to shut my mouth as this was a terrible draft from top to bottom. I can make a case that every single pick was a reach AND there was no obvious plan in place. I get that they needed a RT badly but why not trade back and get some additional picks before taking a DJ Humphries type. Also I had Donovan Smith much higher rated and he went 16 picks later, giving further evidence that a trade back made sense. With their first 3 picks they addressed 3 of the 5 biggest need areas on the team at RT, 3-4 OLB and RB yet I’m not a fan of any of the guys they chose with the picks and think this will be a draft to look back on as an example of what can happen when you reach for need. D+

San Francisco 49ers

Pre-draft analysis: A team that just a year ago appeared to have the deepest roster in the league suddenly has a lot of holes due to losses via free agency and retirement. On offense they lost All-Pro Mike Iupati so could use an OG. That is about it in terms of needs but the offense continues to underperform and could use an additional playmaker at any spot. On defense they lost two inside linebackers to retirement in Patrick Willis and Chris Borland and possibly are losing 3-4 DE and team leader Justin Smith as well. That is three of their 6 best starters last year and will be tough to replace. Also they consistently have one of the weakest cornerback groups in all of football but is possibly explained by their emphasis on the front seven. Still though Tramaine Brock and Shareece Wright is piss poor so a pick early at that position makes sense.

Best Impact Pick: Arik Armstead-If Justin Smith retires they have a suitable replacement for him with Armstead. He was considered by most a mid 1st so getting him at #17 makes sense for most but I saw Armstead as overrated. He does fit perfectly as a 3-4 DE though and has a lot of upside so I suspect the 49ers took him as he could start if need be but could also learn valuable information from Smith if he stays on for one more year.

Best Value Pick: Eli Harold-I saw Harold as a poor man’s version of Vic Beasley and to get him in the 3rd round is a steal. I’m a huge Aaron Lynch fan but think Harold will battle him for the 3-4 OLB starting job.

Worst Value Pick: Jaquiski Tartt-I didn’t grade Tartt but never read anyone that saw him as a 2nd rounder. Also I saw CB not S as their biggest need on defense so it’s surprising they went in this direction at all.

Overall: I think their 1st round pick made sense and their 3rd round pick (Eli Harold) and 4th round pick (Mike Davis) were classic mid round steals by the 49ers but overall I wasn’t impressed. Their 6th-10th picks were either guys I knew and wasn’t a fan of or guys I’d never heard of and they had a surprising infatuation with this TE class which I considered the worst I’d ever graded. They took Blake Bell in the 4th round and Rory Anderson in the 7th round despite already having Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald and Derek Carrier. I loved McDonald 2 years ago yet he’s been beat out by Carrier so unless they are looking to have 5 tight ends next year one of these guys will have to beat out McDonald to even make the roster. I don’t see it happening and think it was a waste of a pick. Finally I think they had a few chances to steal some real talent but passed when Bryce Petty, TJ Clemmings and La’el Collins all fell. Usually the 49ers get those type of 1st round types that mysteriously fell on draft day due to injury (Marcus Lattimore, Tank Carradine) or off the field issues (Aaron Lynch). I’m especially surprised about Petty as they need to get some competition in against Kaepernick that is higher quality than Blaine Gabbert. C

Seattle Seahawks

Pre-draft analysis: The Seahawks were a better decision on a short yardage situation away from becoming a dynasty. That doesn’t mean they don’t have holes on their roster but they are far better off than most teams. On offense I still see the same thing now that I’ve seen the previous 3 years going into the draft, they have a mediocre offensive line (Russell Okung is the only above average starter) and no true #1 WR. On defense they could use a little help at DT and need to upgrade their #2 CB spot.

Best Impact Pick: Tyler Lockett-This is the first time so far that I haven’t pointed to a team’s 1st pick as the impact pick. That possibly is due to the fact that the Seahawks didn’t have a 1st rounder (Jimmy Graham trade) but also related to the fact that their 1st pick (Frank Clark) I wasn’t a fan of. Lockett was one of the most underrated players in this draft as he was an early 2nd rounder on my board and I think he will quickly become their #1 WR. He’s the rare combination of quick and fast with the Antonio Brown comparison not being too high of praise for him. I love this pick.

Best Value Pick: Tyler Lockett-I just compared him to Antonio Brown who led the NFL in receptions last year. Lockett by the way was a 3rd round pick so yeah it was great value.

Worst Value Pick: Pick any pick other than Lockett or Tye Smith as I didn’t like their draft at all and feel that they reached a lot.

Overall: The Seahawks have had one of the worst drafts each of the past 3 years. What I laugh about is the fact that the media says, “well they probably know something we don’t know.” The Seahawks have the best core in the NFL with Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Okung, Jimmy Graham, Richard Sherman, Early Thomas, Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner. That is 8 players, 2 of which came in trades, 1 of which came in free agency, 2 of which came in the 2012 Draft when I panned their 1st round pick (Bruce Irvin) but praised their 2nd and 3rd round picks (Wagner, Wilson), 2 of which came in the 2010 Draft when I praised their two 1st round picks (Okung, Thomas) and 1 of which came in the 2011 Draft when I said their 5th round pick (Sherman) was a steal. So this idea that we all are always wrong on the Seahawks and should just trust them is bullshit. Look at their 2013 and 2014 drafts and tell me they were good. Paul Richardson, Christine Michael and Justin Britt as 2nd rounders? Britt has been an average starter at RT while the other two can’t get on the field. Jordan Hill as their sole 3rd rounder? Hill is a backup DT. Cassius Marsh, Kevin Norwood, Kevin Pierre-Louis, and Chris Harper as 4th rounders? Marsh had 5 tackles last year, Norwood had 9 catches last year, Pierre-Louis (the sole person on their draft last year that I actually liked) had 13 tackles last year and Harper was cut by them as a rookie and is out of the NFL. These are all busts folks. Why can’t I criticize them for it? I think some people are stupid enough to think that NFL teams that win can’t be criticized for anything they do but I disagree. The Seahawks win consistently due to an elite core group of players and just added to it with the Jimmy Graham trade, which I praised by the way. Nonetheless I think that the Seahawks have missed a golden opportunity the past 3 drafts to add significant talent on the cheap OR to package a lot of picks and move up for one key contributor each draft. For instance in this draft they took Lockett who I love but remove him from the equation and I’d make the argument that maybe the best strategy for them would have been to trade their entire draft to move up and get CB Marcus Peters. They have good depth on their roster already and have one glaring need area on defense, the #2 CB spot. Add to it the fact that Peters dropped due to character concerns but has been mentored by none other than Marshawn Lynch and it appears that you have the perfect infrastructure in place for him to succeed. Also he’s the classic big corner with ball skills which Seahawks love. I’m just saying that the Seahawks were playing with house money the past 3 drafts and largely blew it. It won’t change the fact that they have a great team but they had a chance to improve on that team and failed. Maybe they should have been more aggressive and moved up for that one player each year who could start on Day 1 for them and improve their already great core. D+

St. Louis Rams

Pre-draft analysis: Due to the RGIII trade the Rams have one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL. Unfortunately they have a few question marks at key spots, namely QB, LT and RT. Shoring up these spots as well as adding a cornerback or safety would be beneficial.

Best Impact Pick: Todd Gurley-He’s one of 5 guys on my list as serious Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates. Gurley was a healthy and productive 2014 season away from being a Top 10 pick as he has all the talent in the world. The Rams are the rare team that doesn’t have a lot of holes on its roster so they thought they could gamble on Gurley at #10. I do not disagree with their logic as hitting on Gurley would make whomever is their starting QB in 2015-2018 much more likely to succeed.

Best Value Pick: Todd Gurley-At #10 he isn’t even great value but isn’t a reach either and every other pick in their draft was either a reach or a guy I hadn’t heard of.

Worst Value Pick: Jamon Brown-It was either Brown in the 3rd round or Rob Havenstein in the 2nd round as neither appear to be good value to me. They need OL help so using a 2nd and 3rd rounder on it makes perfect sense but to semi-quote Star Wars, “these aren’t the offensive linemen you are looking for.”

Overall: To me this draft can be easily summed up as Todd Gurley, two guys to block for him and then a bunch of no names that likely won’t make their roster. I like Bud Sasser in the 6th round a bit but doubt he beats out their top 5 guys in Brian Quick, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin so I wonder if he’d make their roster even if he performs well at camp. Teams like the Rams that have obvious needs in their starting lineup while having elite depth due to their excessive number of picks the past 3 drafts should always trade up. Gurley made sense at #10 but then they stayed pat the rest of the way instead of moving up for guys like Donovan Smith in the 2nd round for RT or AJ Cann in the 3rd for OG who would have been much better values than Havenstein and Brown. I really dislike this draft. D

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