The NFC West will be one of the best divisions in the NFL once again in 2021. The San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals combined for 36 wins last season, one less than the AFC North teams. It’s also interesting to note that the NFC West and AFC North were the only divisions in the league that didn’t have any coaching changes this offseason.
The Niners finished in the basement of the division due to an injury-plagued 2020 season. San Francisco had the most draft capital coming into the weekend and used the third overall pick on North Dakota State QB Trey Lance.
In the second round, the 49ers went with Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks. In the third round, general manager John Lynch got involved in the trade market. The 49ers sent two fourth-round picks to L.A. in exchange for the No. selection, where they took Ohio State running back Trey Sermon.
With their third-round compensatory pick (No. 102), San Francisco addressed its need in the secondary by taking Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas.
Arizona is the only other NFC West team to make a first-round pick this year. Seattle and Los Angeles traded away their top selections in previous trades that landed Jamal Adams (SEA) and Jalen Ramsey (LAR).
Here is what the Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams have done through the first two days of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Arizona: Round 1, pick 16: Tulsa LB Zaven Collins
ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss had this to say about the selection:
Why they picked him: Collins is a safe pick and drafting him gives Arizona serious depth at outside linebacker. He gives the Cardinals their outside linebacker of the future, and he can learn from Chandler Jones and Isaiah Simmons. Collins is versatile and a hard hitter, which will give defensive coordinator Vance Joseph plenty of options to use him in packages.
Biggest question: Why did they pick Collins when there were other pressing needs, and when will he get on the field? There’s now a logjam at outside linebacker with Jones, Simmons and Markus Golden, but Simmons can even play off the edge. This was a pick for the future, but Arizona needs to win now. — Josh Weinfuss
Round 2, pick 49: Purdue WR Rondale Moore
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus broke down Moore’s game.
Rondale Moore is one of the most exciting and fun playmakers available in this draft. His freshman tape looks a lot like that of Jaylen Waddle, except Purdue didn’t have the luxury of three other first-round wide receivers to maintain a balance on offense, so they just loaded him up with screens and endless gimmick plays to get the ball into his hands.
Because of that, he never actually ran that many “real” pass patterns in college, which is always a reason for pause for NFL teams. Players who have come out of college systems that didn’t ask them to run a complete route tree are inherently more risky than those who haven’t, and the recent failures of players like Corey Coleman will at least cause a greater discussion on Moore than will exist for other players in this draft ...
The biggest issue facing Moore will be questions about durability. At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, those questions are just waiting to be asked, and a season-ending knee injury in 2019 will only encourage teams to focus on that.
Cardinals’ remaining picks for Day 3:
Round 5, pick 160
Round 6, pick 223 (from Vikings; compensatory selection)
Round 7, pick 243
Round 7, pick 247
Seattle had no first-round selection and had to wait until the bottom-third of the second round. They didn’t address quarterback Russell Wilson’s concerns with the offensive line but instead went with a skill-position player.
Round 2, pick 56: Western Michigan WR D’Wayne Eskridge
ESPN’s Brady Henderson gave his analysis of how Eskridge will fit the Seahawks’ offense.
For all the surprises the Seahawks tend to pull off early in the draft, Eskridge wasn’t one. A third receiver is a need and Eskridge carries obvious appeal with his speed and big-play ability. He’s small (5-foot-9, 190 pounds) but ran a 4.39 40 and averaged around 19 yards per catch over five college seasons. His return ability might have added value in the Seahawks’ eyes as they’ve tried to take some of those duties off Tyler Lockett’s plate.
Seahawks’ remaining picks going into Day 3:
Round 4, pick 129
Round 7, pick 250
L.A. made one pick over the first two days of the NFL Draft, but general manager Les Snead added some more draft capital in the trade with San Francisco. The deal with the Niners enabled the Rams to trade back up into the end of the third round.
Round 2, pick 57: Louisville WR Tutu Atwell
Here is Pro Football Focus’ scouting report on Atwell:
Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in Florida at Miami Northwestern High School — the same high school that produced Teddy Bridgewater several years earlier. Atwell threw for 4,000 yards and ran for over 1,500 yards in his high school career. He ended up at Louisville, like Bridgewater, after originally committing to FIU and receiving 13 offers in total. His father, also going by Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell, played wide receiver at Minnesota.
Atwell is going to get the gadget label, and it’s well earned considering his role in the Louisville offense. Listed at only 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, 40 of Atwell’s 140 career catches have come on screens. Atwell’s usage was often either behind the line of scrimmage or deep down the field. If you’re drafting Atwell, it’s for one reason: speed. He has a lot it. Atwell isn’t much of a nuanced route-runner, but one doesn’t have to be to have success on overs and crossers when you run a 4.3. It’s difficult to see him developing into much more than that, though.
Round 3, pick 103: South Carolina LB Earnest Jones
Here is The Draft Network’s scouting report on Jones:
South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones declared for the 2021 NFL Draft after two seasons as a starter for the Gamecocks’ defense and leading the team in tackles in both 2019 and 2020. He was a team captain and regarded as the vocal leader of the defense. At the next level, Jones projects best as a pursuit-style WILL linebacker in a 4-3 defense where he can take advantage of his ability to take good angles to the football and finish. With that said, he doesn’t have the processing skills or functional strength to be an ideal fit as a MIKE or SAM linebacker. For a defender that is best as a weak-side linebacker, ideally there would be more of an explosive athletic profile and comfort in coverage. Jones has plenty of room to develop and will need to before he can claim a role at the next level. Proving himself on special teams will be critical to buy him time to get stronger and develop as a linebacker.
Ideal Role: Reserve WILL linebacker, special teams.
Rams’ remaining Day 3 picks:
Round 4, pick 141
Round 6, pick 209
Round 7, pick 252
How do you feel the 49ers stack up compared to their NFC West rivals after the first two days of the NFL Draft?