The toughest division in the NFL didn't really improve, but they deepened their rosters for the most part... Outside of the St. Louis Rams - who went on a much needed offensive line binge - the rest of the division didn't really hit on many Day 1 starters...
The San Francisco 49ers took Arik Armstead with the #17 pick, after a trade down from #15 with San Diego. He'll be a rotational defensive tackle to start the season, though he could be forced into a bigger role if Justin Smith decides to retire. The ding on Armstead is his raw skill set, and the 49ers will have to find a way to get him to play less "upright" in the NFL. The 2nd round selection of strong safety Jaquiski Tartt was pricey depth at a position that looks solid already? In the 3rd round, Virginia outside linebacker Eli Harold looks like an all or nothing swing at the fence. Harold has mixed reviews among scouts, with many questioning his toughness at the next level. There's a high "boom or bust" factor here, but I think Harold will surprise everyone and find his niche.
The 4th round choice of Oklahoma tight end Blake Bell was solid. The former quarterback is raw at the position, but I like his physical potential. Still, he has to be considered a developmental player at this stage. San Francisco also added a running back in the 4th, with South Carolina's Mike Davis. They took a punter - Bradley Pinion, Clemson - in the 5th round, and he may actually be the only guy for the 49ers who could wind up being a 2015 Day 1 starter out of this draft.
Round 5 thru 7 were filled with offensive line prospects, and another tight end. On the whole, this draft for the 49ers' Trent Baalke was bereft of much that's going to inspire the team's fans. The gaping holes at inside linebacker weren't addressed, and I think they'll regret it this season... Grade: C-
Seattle didn't have a first round pick, but you have to consider tight end Jimmy Graham here as their choice. If so, they are the only team in the NFC West who hit on a solid, sure-fire, starter Day 1.
The selection of defensive end Frank Clark in the second round carries risk or reward in equal measure. Domestic violence red flagged, the Michigan star's draft stock plummeted. Many will think he was a reach at Seattle's #63 overall pick, but I think they're wrong. Clark - if he can get his personal life on track - will be in the defensive rotation as a rookie, and a starter by year 2. At #63, the Seahawks moved up to take Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett. He'll fill a solid role as a kick and punt returner out the gate. As a receiver, he may have trouble. A good route runner to be sure, his T-Rex length arms will make him more of a possession/slot receiver in the NFL. Seattle went guard crazy in the 4th round, taking Terry Poole (San Diego Sate) and Mark Glowinski (West Virginia). Grade: C-
The St. Louis Rams were all about the offense in the 2015 NFL Draft. Long held as a red-headed stepchild while Jeff Fisher built up his formidable defense, new quarterback Nick Foles may have something former Rams QB Sam Bradford never had: A line that can possible keep him alive! They shocked everyone when they selected running back Todd Gurley at #10 overall. ACL recovery is the key here. If Gurley comes out of the injury tunnel flying, this will wind up being a great choice.
But the story of this draft is the Rams offensive line. Four draft picks were used to fill voids across their offensive front. While many fans are breathing a sigh of relief, the idea of throwing at least two of these rookies into Day 1 starting positions isn't the best of circumstances. Many hold Wisconsin's Rob Havenstein higher than I do as a Day 1 capable player. When I watch his tape, "Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum!" come to mind? "Lumbering" is an easily applied term here... The lineman who I think is a solid win for the Rams was selected in the 4th round. Andrew Donnel, Iowa, is going to be the guy who'll slide easily into a right tackle slot for the Rams. Lousville's Jamon Brown looks a solid guard option, if he can transition and raise his pass blocking skills.
I like the Sean Mannion 3rd round pick for a project quarterback, but I believe he would've been around in rounds 4 or 5. Baylor's Bryce Hager will be a solid special teams player, but I don't think he'll be more than that down the road. Jeff Fisher still needs to find some depth behind middle linebacker James Laurinaitis...
Honestly - outside of Gurley - I don't see anything truly remarkable about the Rams' draft class for 2015... Grade: C
The Arizona Cardinals' best kept secret is their GM and his scouting staff. Steve Keim is doing a stellar job in the desert Southwest. Taking DJ Humphries at #24 overall was a solid win, but they may very well have scored big with their next four picks too. Markus Golden (DT/DE, Missouri), David Johnson ( RB, N. Iowa), Rdney Gunter ( DT, Delaware State), and Shaquille Riddick (DE, West Virginia) are all going to make an impact on the Cardinals' 2015 season. If they get linebacker Daryl Washington back from suspension, the desert birds are in for a great season. Grade: A