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NFC West draft grades: Cardinals ace test with one inspired act

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Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook attempt a way-too-early division-by-division assessment of the 2018 NFL Draft. Below is Gennaro's review of the NFC West.

NOTABLE SELECTIONS

BEST PICK: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Arizona Cardinals, Round 1, No. 10 overall

Widely viewed as the most NFL-ready quarterback in this class, Rosen was picked apart throughout the pre-draft process for daring to commit brain cells to non-football activities. (OK, there were legitimate concerns about his durability and escapability, but the protracted psychological dissection seemed a bit much, no?) After the first three QBs came off the board within the first seven picks, Rosen once again found himself in the harsh spotlight, this time as green-room guinea pig. But his slide came to a relatively quick end, as the Cards jumped up five spots to snatch him up. A ticket out of QB purgatory for the price of an extra third- and fifth-rounder? Sign me up!

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
Seattle Seahawks, Round 1, No. 27 overall

Here's the part where I annoyingly explain to you why I like the player ... but question the pick. Penny's a three-down back with solid size (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) and plus speed (4.46-second 40-yard dash). This is good. But a typical running back's NFL shelf life is limited -- especially one who runs hard and runs high. Thus, this usage of a first-round pick feels like a win-now move. Do the Seahawks, as presently constituted, strike you as a win-now team? The offensive line remains discomforting. (Not ideal for a rookie running back.) Meanwhile, the once-elite defense is in the midst of an overhaul, up front and in the secondary. A first-round pick is a statement of intent, a signal as to where a franchise believes it stands. Not sure I'm buying what John Schneider's selling here.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Fred Warner, LB, BYU
San Francisco 49ers, Round 3, No. 70 overall

Given Reuben Foster's legal troubles and uncertain status with the franchise, San Francisco understandably felt the need to add another option at inside linebacker. Early in the third round, the Niners hopped on an intriguing -- and highly productive -- new-age hybrid. The BYU team captain lined up all over the field in Provo, piling up tackles and sacks and picks and pass breakups and fumbles and ... what other stats are there? At 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds, Warner put on quite a display at the NFL Scouting Combine: 4.64 40-yard dash, 38.5-inch vertical, 6.90 three-cone drill (generally speaking, breaking the seven-second mark's impressive). But this is no mere workout warrior -- Warner gets the most out of his athleticism with instinctive, disruptive three-down play. His agility and coverage skills are where the linebacker position is going.

TEAM GRADES

NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

RANK

1

CARDINALS: A

» Round 1: (No. 10 overall) Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA.
» Round 2: (No. 47) Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M.
» Round 3: (No. 97) Mason Cole, C, Michigan.
» Round 4: (No. 134) Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham.
» Round 6: (No. 182) Chris Campbell, CB, Penn State.
» Round 7: (No. 254) Korey Cunningham, OT, Cincinnati.

Honest admission: Steve Keim locked up an "A" on this assignment the moment he called in Arizona's first pick. Sitting at No. 15 to open the night, the Cardinals appeared to be out of range in the Big Four Quarterback Hunt. But when Rosen made it through the genuinely QB-starved organizations and remained available with Oakland on the clock at No. 10, Keim pounced. After paying a modest price to move up five slots, this transitioning franchise suddenly had a strapping young quarterback to build around. Truthfully, Arizona's draft could've gone off the rails from there, and it still would've been a highly successful weekend. But no, Keim and Co. kept on fortifying the roster under first-year head coach Steve Wilks. With the next two picks, the Cards spoiled their new signal-caller with an explosive slot target (Kirk) and a smart, versatile protector (Cole). Rosen must've gone from "pissed off" to pleased quite swiftly. Now he just has to clear his good name in airport gossip circles.

RANK

2

49ERS: B+

» Round 1: (No. 9 overall) Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame.
» Round 2: (No. 44) Dante Pettis, WR, Washington.
» Round 3: (No. 70) Fred Warner, LB, BYU; (No. 95) Tarvarius Moore, S, Southern Miss.
» Round 4: (No. 128) Kentavius Street, DE, N.C. State.
» Round 5: (No. 142) D.J. Reed, CB, Kansas State.
» Round 6: (No. 184) Marcell Harris, S, Florida.
» Round 7: (No. 223) Jullian Taylor, DT, Temple; (No. 240) Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee State.

Thanks to Jimmy G's dandy December, the 49ers have spent this offseason as the most buzzed-about 6-10 team in recent memory. But when a quarterback's nickname gets a messianic makeover -- Jimmy Geesus -- well, you gotta make sure that guy's well-protected for the foreseeable future. At this time last week, the 49ers appeared to be pretty well-equipped on the bookends -- at least at first blush -- with Joe Staley on the left side and Trent Brown on the right. But with Staley closing in on his 34th birthday and Brown's free agency on the horizon next offseason (not to mention, Brown's current health status), John Lynch saw the writing on the wall -- it said, "Go get a young tackle. Like, NOW!" Only problem: paper-thin tackle draft class. So, did the Niners overdraft McGlinchey? Maybe a little bit. But the move allowed them to flip Brown to New England for a third-rounder (which ended up netting a long, lightning-fast safety in Moore), so that's value added. Now the 6-8 Notre Dame product will start at right tackle while apprenticing under Staley to eventually take over the blind side. Like this kind of forward-thinking roster management. Also like both of San Francisco's Day 2 picks: Pettis and Warner, a playmaker for each side of the ball. And Street seems like a worthwhile gamble late in the fourth round, though I won't blame the 49er Faithful if they're sick of rookie redshirts after the Baalke era.

RANK

3

RAMS: B

» Round 3: (No. 89 overall) Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU.
» Round 4: (No. 111) Brian Allen, C, Michigan State; (No. 135) John Franklin-Myers, DE, Stephen F. Austin.
» Round 5: (No. 147) Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia; (No. 160) Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Edge, Oklahoma.
» Round 6: (No. 176) John Kelly, RB, Tennessee; (No. 192) Jamil Demby, OG, Maine; (No. 195) Sebastian Joseph, DT, Rutgers; (No. 205) Trevon Young, Edge, Louisville.
» Round 7: (No. 231) Travin Howard, LB, TCU; (No. 244) Justin Lawler, DE, SMU.

Yes, the Rams entered last weekend without many premium picks, having spent draft currency to acquire Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib earlier this offseason. Seems like good business to me, knowing that the Rams are undoubtedly entering the 2018 campaign with understandable win-now intentions. So, how did Les Snead handle the remaining draft resources in last week's three-day affair? That's what I felt this grade should reflect. My judgment: Not too shabby. With their only pick in the first two days of the draft, the Rams selected a developmental tackle with promising tools and athleticism (Noteboom) -- wise move, given that Andrew Whitworth's not getting any younger. Another idea I liked: Racking up a bunch of Day 3 lottery tickets and playing the numbers game. Snead peppered need areas (linebacker, O-line/D-line depth) with a bunch of prospects. Not hard to imagine a few sticking. Three stood out to me: Allen (a smart, nasty center), Okoronkwo (a high-motor edge whose production far outshines his underwhelming traits) and Kelly (a hard-charging, versatile back who can spell Todd Gurley).

RANK

4

SEAHAWKS: C-

» Round 1: (No. 27 overall) Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State.
» Round 3: (No. 79) Rasheem Green, DE, USC.
» Round 4: (No. 120) Will Dissly, TE, Washington.
» Round 5: (No. 141) Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF; (No. 146) Tre Flowers, S, Oklahoma State; (No. 149) Michael Dickson, P, Texas; (No. 168) Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State.
» Round 6: (No. 186) Jake Martin, Edge, Temple.
» Round 7: (No. 220) Alex McGough, QB, Florida International.

A good ground game would indeed help Russell Wilson. And regardless of where he ranked on your pre-draft big board, Penny is the kind of well-rounded, stout back who can make an immediate impact in the NFL. But a good ground game also requires a decent offensive line. And that's something Seattle has lacked for years. Prior to the draft, Matt Harmon astutely explained why "run blocking" is the Seahawks' fatal flaw. What did they do to calm Harmon's nerves? Wait until late in the fifth round to select an offensive tackle who bombed the combine, spawning questions about his athleticism and work ethic. On the defensive side of the ball -- you know, the side that's seen a massive talent drain this offseason -- Seattle spent a third-round pick on Green, whose inside-outside skill set pegs him as a potential Michael Bennett replacement. But dude's raw. Here's what an AFC regional scout told Lance Zierlein: "I wanted him to go back to school because he probably would have been a top-10 pick next year. He's not strong enough to handle NFL guys yet so this year may be a redshirt year for him." So let's stick a pin in those Bennett comps for now. Griffin's an inspiring story who tore up college football as a heat-seeking missile off the edge. It will be very interesting to see how Seattle deploys the 227-pounder at this level.

Follow Gennaro Filice on Twitter @GennaroFilice.

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