2021 NFL Draft Preview: NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

By Aaron Silverstein

Since San Francisco’s Super Bowl appearance two seasons ago, there have been a lot of questions surrounding the team, especially at the quarterback position. It wasn’t too long ago when Jimmy Garoppolo held a firm grip on the reigns of Kyle Shannahan’s balanced and lethal offense, and who knows what would’ve been the aftermath had the Niners held on to their ten-point fourth quarter lead against the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, Jimmy G looks to be the odd man out in San Francisco moving forward. Last year, Garoppolo and many of his talented teammates missed a ton of time due to injury, and the Niners stumbled to a record of 6-10. Many have questioned Garoppolo’s durability and low-ceiling as a quarterback talent, and it is all but confirmed that the third overall pick San Fran holds will be spent on a gunslinger for the future.

So who will that quarterback be? This important question for the Niners has turned a lot of heads around the league-leading up to the draft. While many people in the media are urging the Niners to take dual threat Justin Fields out of Ohio State, or Trey Lance, the North Dakota State product with a ton of athletic upside, all rumors out of San Francisco have surprisingly pointed toward Alabama’s Mac Jones. Some have claimed that the Niners are bluffing on taking Jones, who despite being surgical under center for the Crimson Tide in helping them win the National Championship has received some criticism for lacking mobility and arm talent like Garoppolo. Despite this, there’s really no reason for the Niners to be bluffing their pick, and it looks like Jones will be the QB of the future in the Bay Area.

Los Angeles Rams

By Aaron Silverstein

The Rams have been a competitive team every year thus far under Head Coach Sean McVay. However, they also happen to find themselves in an NFC West division that is absolutely stacked at the quarterback position, with Russel Wilson still dominating under center in Seattle, Kyler Murray building toward a bright future in Arizona and a combination of most likely Jimmy Garoppolo and Mac Jones looking to solidify Kyle Shannahan’s 49er offense in the coming years. That is why the blockbuster trade Los Angeles pulled off with the Detroit Lions for veteran Matthew Stafford was so huge — now, the Rams have an upgraded quarterback position to go along with their stout defense. The downside? Draft capital. This year’s first rounder for the Rams was included in the Jalen Ramsey trade with Jacksonville a couple years ago, and stunningly the team is set to go seven straight years without a first round pick until 2024. Their first round picks for 2022 and 2023 were included in the Stafford trade, and this year the team will make its first selection at number 57 overall in the second round. On top of this, the Rams have a couple picks in this year’s third round, and will really need to hit on all their picks in order to make up for the selections they dealt elsewhere. With their second rounder, look for the Rams to key in on a wideout to ease Stafford into his first season in a new city. Amon-Ra St. Brown out of USC is a skilled route-runner who could fit in nicely behind Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. 

Arizona Cardinals

By Aaron Notis

The Arizona Cardinals started last season with high hopes. Running back Kenyan Drake was primed to have the best season of his career, the team acquired a top-tier wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins and Kyler Murray was looking to build off of his stellar rookie season. The team ended the season 8-8 after an end-of-season collapse led them to miss the playoffs. Now, Arizona is looking to build off of their early-season success and become a contender in the NFC West. 

The Cardinals lost some players in free agency. They lost Drake but replaced him by signing running back James Conner to a short-term deal. Their toughest loss was Patrick Peterson, who ended his tenure in Arizona by signing a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Free agency didn’t give them an opportunity to fill the gap Peterson left. However, by drafting UCF’s Aaron Robinson or Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr., the Cardinals can add speed and youth to improve their secondary.

Arizona also needs to work on protecting Kyler Murray. Without third or fourth round picks, the Cardinals’ front office must ensure that they pick up a lineman in the first two rounds. Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw and USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker have a good chance of slipping to Arizona in the first round, while Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis and Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield could be contenders in the second round. 

Seattle Seahawks

By Cam Cobey

The Seattle Seahawks only have three picks in the 2021 draft, which if they don’t make any trades to acquire more picks will be their lowest number of selections in a draft in franchise history. It’s been an interesting offseason for Seattle with the Russell Wilson trade rumors and his displeasure with the organization. So, the Seahawks and Pete Carroll will look to make Wilson happy with some of their draft selections. One way to make Russell happy is by bolstering his offensive line. The Seahawks need to bulk up this line to protect Wilson, who has consistently been sacked and pressured at a high rate throughout his career. The Seahawks also had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL last year, which they will certainly need to improve. They need help all over that defense, but specifically on the defensive line and in the secondary. Jamal Adams can’t do it all, and he needs some help pressuring the quarterback and playing cover defense. There’s a lot of pressure on the Seahawks this year, and their limited draft capital will make this year’s draft even more pressurized.