By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. And again, and again. The NFC West is the toughest division in football. This isn’t to disparage other divisions, as there are many fantastic divisions. However, over the last 7-10 years when you look at the records, how many times the winner of the NFC West has changed, how many times the division has represented the NFC in the Super Bowl… it’s hard to argue against my point.
In my article yesterday, I mentioned how the “rich got richer” when talking about the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFC West. For the NFC West, the entire division got even more competitive… which is saying a lot. Let’s take a look at how each team drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams had nine picks in this year’s draft, however, once again, they did not have a first-round pick. It has been SEVEN years since the Rams have picked in the first round, and yet, they seem to be doing just fine.
Los Angeles knew it needed a couple more weapons for their new quarterback, Matthew Stafford. They added two wide receivers and a tight end just for that purpose. While Tutu Atwell is a speedster (although the fact he is just 155 lbs gave much concern) that should play right away, former WR, now TE Jacob Harris is more of a project. But at 6’5″ 211 lbs, he could be quite the surprise for the offense.
While many experts weren’t super high on the Rams draft, I disagree to a certain extent. While they seemed to reach on a few players, and miss a few areas of need like the offensive line, I feel like they added good depth.
Rd 2 – Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville
Rd 3 – Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina
Rd 4 – Bobby Brown III, DT, Texas A&M
Rd 4 – Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas
Rd 4 – Jacob Harris, TE, UCF
Rd 5 – Earnest Brown IV, DE, Northwestern
Rd 7 – Jake Funk, RB, Maryland
Rd 7 – Ben Skowronek, WR, Notre Dame
Rd 7 – Chris Garrett, OLB, Concordia-St Paul
LA Rams pick Louisville’s Tutu Atwell
The lightest WR drafted since 1999 at 149 lbs pic.twitter.com/g0Dyp16xpj
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
The Cardinals improved in 2020 on previous seasons, yet still only managed to win 8 games. They were very active in free agency, signing multiple heavy hitters, there was still more to be done. While the rebuild is still in full force, the team needed to hit in this year’s draft.
Arizona spent five of their 7 picks on defense. This was after adding J.J. Watt in free agency. To me, that shows they trust QB Kyler Murray and the weapons they already had on offense. However, with three of the picks being in the secondary, they very much understand the division they play in.
Their first-round pick garnered the most praise from the experts. Zaven Collins is considered a great talent who should make an impact almost immediately. While they didn’t truly need another linebacker after just drafting Isaiah Simmons last year, Collins is versatile enough to find his place among the starters.
Rd 1 – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Rd 2 – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Rd 4 – Marco Wilson, CB, Florida
Rd 6 – Victor Dimukeje, DE, Duke
Rd 6 – Tay Gowan, CB, UCF
Rd 7 – James Wiggins, S Cincinnati
Rd 7 – Michal Menet, C Penn State
Three picks. That’s it. Seattle has the fewest picks of any team in this draft, and the fewest picks in team history, which made many assume they would trade back to pick up more. And that they did, but then traded those extra picks to move back up. So… three it was.
Like the Rams, Seattle didn’t have a first-round pick. They gave that away to the New York Jets for Jamal Adams. Their focus had to be sharp on who exactly they wanted. The Seahawks aren’t known for superior drafting, and many experts weren’t convinced about their picks again this year. Many said Eskridge is too much like WR Tyler Lockett, and Brown is a bit undersized. However, the last pick received a lot of praise.
Stone Forsythe is being named one of the “steals” of the draft since it was expected he would go earlier than he did. Possible heir apparent to Duane Brown, who will be 36 this season, Forsythe is the exact size and fit (6’8″, 307 lbs) Seattle was looking for. He could end up being quite the feather in the Seahawks draft cap.
Rd 2 – D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
Rd 4 – Tre Brown, CB, Oklahoma
Rd 6 – Stone Forsythe, OT, Florida
How the hell did Stone Forsythe slide to the 6th round? Great pick by the #Seahawks.
Let him compete for the RT spot with Brandon Shell and potentially be the long-term replacement at LT for Duane Brown whenever he decides to hang up the cleats (hopefully never).
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) May 1, 2021
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco caused quite a bit of drama during the last few weeks before the draft. Moving up to the 3rd spot had everyone assuming they would take a QB to replace current QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The question was… which quarterback?
Apparently, they kept everyone, including their staff, in the dark about which of the top QBs they would take. Trey Lance out of North Dakota State ended up being the one, surprising a few experts. Most think he will need a year or so to truly get up to NFL speed, which means they put Garoppolo in the same spot Aaron Rodgers now sits at in Green Bay. And we all know how well that’s going. However, the brass in San Francisco doesn’t seem to see it the same way. And while they say Jimmy G is their starter, we will see how long that lasts.
The rest of the 49ers’ draft seems to focus on depth for the team, mostly in the running back position and in the secondary. While they got a couple of great athletes, they will have to compete at a high level to upset one of the starters already there. But with San Francisco’s injury history, depth is always a very good thing.
Rd 1 – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Rd 2 – Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame
Rd 3 – Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
Rd 3 – Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
Rd 5 – Jaylon Moore, OT, Western Michigan
Rd 5 – Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
Rd 5 – Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
Rd 6 – Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana
The rich get richer, and the tough got tougher. It will be interesting to see how all four teams use the new speed they got in the draft, and how their defenses can stop it. The NFC West, as always, will be a lot of fun to watch this season.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG