NFC West draft grades: Cardinals get sexy, Seahawks get a steal

Print

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 Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2019 NFL Draft. Below is Gennaro's review of the NFC West.

NOTABLE SELECTIONS

BEST PICK: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi
Seattle Seahawks, Round 2, No. 64 overall

Metcalf blew up the NFL Scouting Combine when he blazed a 4.33 40-yard dash at 228 pounds. Having already gone viral a few weeks prior, thanks to the shirtless workout picture seen 'round the online world, Metcalf's electric 40 sent him into a whole other stratosphere of freak folklore. Like Paul Bunyan ... with a jetpack! But maybe we should've paid closer attention to a couple other combine times: 7.38 and 4.5. Those were Metcalf's results in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, both of which were infamously -- say it with me now! -- Slower. Than. Tom. Brady. Those drills, which aren't the sexy ones shown live on NFL Network, measure a prospect's short-area quickness and change-of-direction skills. Apparently, NFL teams took notice. With this perceived stiffness -- as well as a college career that was more defined by injuries and a limited route tree than raw production -- a player who spent months as a mock draft darling stunningly tumbled all the way to the last pick of the second round. But here's the good part for the ninth receiver off the board: He couldn't have landed in a better situation. The Seahawks look to do two things offensively: pound the rock and take deep shots, with the threat of the latter opening up the former, and vice versa. Metcalf's straight-line speed give him an instant role in Brian Schottenheimer's attack: take the top off the defense and, when the situation presents itself, go get Russell Wilson's majestic downfield heaves.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
Arizona Cardinals, Round 4, No. 103 overall

Standing 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds, with a 4.48 40 to his name and a contested-catch brilliance in his game, Butler was pretty widely projected as a second-round pick who could even sneak into Round 1. So, yeah, it was quite surprising when Friday night's festivities came to a close with the last pick of the third round and Butler remained professionally homeless. That changed immediately on Saturday, as the Cardinals pounced on the Iowa State product with the first pick of the fourth round. Butler was spectacularly productive last season in Ames, setting school records for receiving yards (1,318) and yards per catch (22.0) while putting together a highlight reel that rivals any other in this draft class. He can work outside or inside, doing much of his best work as a big slot. So, what's the rub? Drops, and plenty of them. Pro Football Focus had him dropping 15.5 percent of catchable passes last season, which is ghastly. But given Butler's massive hands and collection of mind-blowing grabs, this very well could be a fixable problem. Show him the way, Larry Fitz.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
Los Angeles Rams, Round 3, No. 70 overall

How worried are the Rams about Todd Gurley's balky left knee? Sean McVay, Les Snead and Co. haven't publicly stated anything alarming about the highest-paid running back in football, but actions speak louder than words. And while L.A.'s decision to match Detroit's offer sheet for restricted free agent Malcolm Brown back in March was slightly notable, the Rams' aggressive trade up for Henderson last Friday created a legit stir. Insurance policy or not, Henderson does project as a perfect fit in McVay's outside-zone running game. This one-cut back is an absolute home run hitter. In 2018, he averaged a whopping 8.9 yards per carry -- for the second consecutive season, by the way -- while piling up 1,909 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, Henderson averaged 6.2 yards per carry after contact(!!), nearly a yard more than any other player in college football averaged last season. Henderson's film is fun to watch, and McVay will have fun deploying him as a change-of-pace terror (or more?).

TEAM GRADES

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

RANK

1

CARDINALS: A

» Round 1: (No. 1 overall) Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma.
» Round 2: (No. 33) Byron Murphy, CB, Washington; (No. 62) Andy Isabella, WR, Massachusetts.
» Round 3: (No. 65) Zach Allen, DE, Boston College.
» Round 4: (No. 103) Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State.
» Round 5: (No. 139) Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama.
» Round 6: (No. 174) Keesean Johnson, WR, Fresno State; (No. 179) Lamont Gaillard, C, Georgia.
» Round 7: (No. 248) Joshua Miles, OT, Morgan State; (No. 249) Michael Dogbe, DT, Temple; (No. 254) Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA.

There's a time and place to discuss Arizona's handling of Josh Rosen, but this ain't it. Could GM Steve Keim have done a better job shopping around last year's No. 10 overall pick, thus allowing him to receive a better return on his (brief) investment? Quite possibly. But the moment the Cardinals made the hyper-bold hire of Kliff Kingsbury, they owed it to the coach (and themselves) to go all in on the Air Raid. And despite what Kingsbury initially tried to convince us, Rosen is not the ideal triggerman for this attack. But Murray sure could be. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner might be the most electric running quarterback we've seen enter the NFL since Michael Vick. More importantly, he's a high-level passer who excels inside the pocket and outside of structure. In addition to the absurd traditional passing numbers in his lone season as OU's starter (69 percent completion rate, 42:7 TD-to-INT ratio, 11.6 yards per attempt), Murray posted the exact same Pro Football Focus grade as his predecessor in Norman, Baker Mayfield. That guy's game plays pretty well on Sundays, no? Keim also nabbed a cadre of new toys for Murray to play with: a speed merchant (Isabella), a towering playmaker (Butler) and a smooth route runner with great hands (Johnson). Add that trio to Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk (Murray's former teammate at Texas A&M), and Arizona's poised to make a massive leap up the charts from last season's 32nd-ranked passing attack. Defensively, the Cards nabbed a highly talented corner to stick opposite Patrick Peterson (Murphy), a versatile D-lineman whose motor is always running hot (Allen) and a potential fifth-round steal at safety (Thompson).

RANK

2

RAMS: A-

» Round 2: (No. 61 overall) Taylor Rapp, S, Washington.
» Round 3: (No. 70) Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis; (No. 79) David Long, CB, Michigan; (No. 97) Bobby Evans, OL, Oklahoma.
» Round 4: (No. 134) Greg Gaines, DT, Washington.
» Round 5: (No. 169) David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin.
» Round 7: (No. 243) Nick Scott, S, Penn State; (No. 251) Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech.

For the third straight draft, the Rams didn't make a first-round selection. L.A. actually came into Thursday night with the penultimate pick of the first round, but the Rams traded out, kicking off a dizzying game of musical draft slots in which the organization didn't make a single pick in one of its original spots until late in the fifth round. But it's hard to argue with the draft class produced by Les Snead's pick-swapping extravaganza. NFL scouts-turned-NFL.com draftniks Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks waxed poetic about Rapp throughout the entire pre-draft process, 40 time be damned! Jeremiah had Rapp as his No. 39 overall player, while Brooks ranked the Washington product as the second-best safety in the class. Snead got him near the end of Round 2. That's a bona fide value pick for the secondary, and it wasn't the only one! Long produced some eye-popping numbers, both as a player at Michigan and as a physical specimen at the combine. According to Pro Football Focus, the corner logged 595 coverage snaps during his three-year college career, giving up a grand total of 18 catches (on 60 targets) for 130 yards. Then in Indy, Long recorded the top marks in the three-cone drill (6.45) and the 20-yard shuttle (3.97), displaying the kind of next-level agility that comes in quite handy at the cornerback position. Snead got him midway through the third round, after eight other corners had already been picked. In Round 4, the Rams hopped on Gaines, a 312-pound, high-motor plugger who enthusiastically takes on blocks and blows up running lanes. Sounds like a fine running mate for Aaron Donald. On offense, Snead added quality depth in the backfield (Henderson's the most explosive running back in this entire class) and the offensive line (Evans and Edwards were both three-year starters on stellar college O-lines). Prudent planning, considering Todd Gurley's health and the offensive line's offseason attrition (as well as Andrew Whitworth's age). A center might've been nice, though.

RANK

3

SEAHAWKS: B+

» Round 1: (No. 29 overall) L.J. Collier, DE, TCU.
» Round 2: (No. 47) Marquise Blair, S Utah; (No. 64) D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi.
» Round 3: (No. 88) Cody Barton, LB, Utah.
» Round 4: (No. 120) Gary Jennings, WR, West Virginia; (No. 124) Phil Haynes, OG, Wake Forest; (No. 132) Ugo Amadi, CB, Oregon.
» Round 5: (No. 142) Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington.
» Round 6: (No. 204) Travis Homer, RB, Miami; (No. 209) Demarcus Christmas, DT, Florida State.
» Round 7: (No. 236) John Ursua, WR, Hawaii.

The Seahawks entered draft week with a league-low four picks. They left Nashville with an 11-man draft class. That's the kind of magic trick that demands a network television debunking. Or I can just quickly explain it here. (Sorry, John Schneider -- your secrets aren't safe with me.) Seattle picked up valuable draft currency by trading Frank Clark two days before the draft kicked off, and then the 'Hawks executed seven of the NFL-record 40 draft-day trades. What kind of talent did Schneider and Co. net from working the draft to its limits? The first-round selection of Collier addressed a massive need area, D-line. While he doesn't possess any extraordinary athletic traits, the TCU product appears to be a high-floor base end who'll immediately step into the starting lineup. And the 12s are undoubtedly embracing all those Michael Bennett being tossed around. (We'll see.) Wide receiver was another position that needed attention -- especially with the news that Doug Baldwin could be hanging it up -- and the Seahawks snagged a pair of big-bodied burners in Metcalf and Jennings. Neither is stylistically similar to Baldwin, who will leave massive shoes to fill if he does indeed retire, but it's obviously wise to infuse the WR corps with some fresh talent. And with Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the field at the same time, Seattle will vertically stretch defenses into a different area code. Lastly, the 'Hawks filled another hole at the safety position with Blair. OK, that's not fair: Blair isn't Earl Thomas. Nobody is. But Seattle threw some valuable draft capital at the void created by Thomas' free agency departure. Advertised as a nasty hitter with range, Blair projects as the kind of versatile safety Pete Carroll lives for.

RANK

4

49ERS: C+

» Round 1: (No. 2 overall) Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State.
» Round 2: (No. 36) Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina.
» Round 3: (No. 67) Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor.
» Round 4: (No. 110) Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah.
» Round 5: (No. 148) Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas.
» Round 6: (No. 176) Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford; (No. 183) Justin Skule, OT, Vanderbilt; (No. 198) Tim Harris, CB, Virginia.

San Francisco fans who spent the back half of last season rooting for losses -- do we still call them Niner Faithful? -- were NOT pleased when Nick Mullens quarterbacked the team to back-to-back December wins, dropping the 49ers out of the No. 1 overall pick. Fortunately, San Francisco still ended up with the No. 2 pick -- and seeing how Arizona ended up taking a quarterback (a position the Jimmy Garoppolo-led Niners had no interest in), John Lynch was ultimately able to select the top player on his board. Hard to argue with the Bosa pick. San Francisco had already used three straight first-round picks on interior D-lineman from 2015-17, which sapped the allure of Quinnen Williams. And thinking about the 49ers' defensive front -- with Bosa rushing off one edge, Dee Ford off the other and DeForest Buckner coming up the gut -- it's safe to assume San Francisco won't rank 22nd in sacks again. So, yeah, kind of a no-brainer at No. 2 overall. The 49ers' second-round pick of Deebo Samuel made a ton of sense, as well. San Francisco lacked this kind of catch-and-run weapon. Deebo and Kyle Shanahan will make sweet music together. But after the first two picks, the 49ers' draft went in ways that I don't entirely understand. Hurd, who initially starred at running back for Tennessee before transferring to Baylor and transitioning to wide receiver, feels like the kind of gimmick player who's a lot better in concept than reality. Then San Francisco spent an early fourth-rounder on a punter. With apologies to Rich Eisen, this does not seem like the best usage of draft capital. Think you let your jealousy of Seattle's leg cannon (Michael Dickson) get the best of you, Mr. Lynch. The Niners came into this draft with a crying need for secondary help, yet they didn't draft a DB until their final pick. There was plenty of CB/S talent available when Lynch got cute in Rounds 3 and 4.

Follow Gennaro Filice on Twitter @GennaroFilice.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop