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NFC West Draft roundup: 49ers get their QB, Cardinals and Rams both take second-round WRs

NCAA Football: FCS Championship Game-North Dakota State vs James Madison
The 49ers traded up to select QB Trey Lance with the third overall pick.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Just like the Seattle Seahawks, who only made one selection in the first two days of the draft, the NFC West had limited draft capital coming into this weekend. The division’s teams only made eight picks combined in the first three rounds, and just two in the first round. Yet, despite this limited capital, the teams managed to make some high-profile moves. San Francisco traded up to the third overall pick to select who they hope can become a franchise quarterback, and three of the four teams in the division selected big-play, speedy receivers (with the Seahawks taking Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge). Since some of these players may torment the Seahawks for years to come, let’s take a look at what the Seahawks’ rivals have done so far.

San Francisco 49ers selections:

The 49ers have focused their draft so far on offense, looking to stabilize and improve their most inconsistent unit. The team used their first three Day 1/Day 2 picks on offensive players.

Round 1, Pick 3 Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.:

The 49ers made waves when they traded with the Dolphins for the third overall pick, sending the message to the rest of the division and the conference that they would be moving on from Jimmy Garropolo at some point in the near future. Recently, reports surfaced that the 49ers were uncertain who they would select, and Seahawks fans cheered the short-lived assumption that San Francisco would select Alabama QB Mac Jones.

However, the Niners eventually changed course and took North Dakota St. star Trey Lance to run their offense. Lance only played one game in 2020, due to NDSU delaying its season, but his freshman season in 2019 was impressive, earning him the Jerry Rice Award as the best freshman in the FCS. Lance, who is 6’4,” is a dual threat quarterback who is an intelligent passer and dynamic runner. In his one game in 2020, Lance rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Although he will likely need some time to fully develop as a passer (some scouts question his arm strength), Lance has the tools and drive necessary to become a star in the NFL. It’s unclear whether or not Lance will start for the Niners in 2021, but once he does take the field, expect him to be a handful for Seattle defenders.

Round 2, Pick 48: Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame:

Aaron Banks is a lineman who will be a perfect fit for the 49ers’ run-heavy offense. He is fairly large, at 6’5,” 325 pounds, and has the ability to overpower defenders as a run-blocker. Filling in for now-Colts star Quinton Nelson for the Fighting Irish was no easy task, but Banks impressed scouts in his two-and-a-half as a starter, even though his technique is somewhat unpolished. He will join an already-intimidating offensive line which features the likes of Trent Williams and Alex Mack.

Round 3, Pick 88: Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State:

Seahawks fans may know Trey Sermon from his dominant performances on national television this past season; against Northwestern in the Big 10 Championship, Sermon rushed for 331 yards and two touchdowns, and against Clemson, he rushed for 193 more yards and another touchdown. Numbers like this are enough by themselves to keep opposing defenses up at night, but being inserted into Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and being put behind a strong offensive line makes him an even scarier back. At 6’0,” 215, he has the size to run over defenders, yet also possesses surprising speed in the open field. Sermon possesses no extraordinary traits as a back, but his all-around skill could make him a difficult matchup for the ‘Hawks for years to come.

Round 3, Pick 102: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan

After losing Akhello Witherspoon this offseason, and with an aging Richard Sherman being a free agent, this pick fills a clear need for San Francisco. Thomas is a playmaking corner who had three interceptions in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season. He is not remarkable physically, being just 6’0,” 191 pounds, but he has the physicality which the 49ers typically look for in defensive backs. Thomas is also a solid tackler, and scouts say he will fit best as a nickel corner in the NFL.

Los Angeles Rams selections:

The Rams traded the 88th pick to San Francisco for two fourth-rounders, leaving them with just two picks on Day 2 after making no selections in the first round. In fact, the Rams were so quiet during the first two days that perhaps their bizarre “draft house” was their biggest headline from the weekend so far.

Round 2, Pick 57: Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville:

Tutu Atwell is the type of diminutive receiver Sean McVay likes to keep on the roster to occasionally torment defensive and special teams coordinators (see Pharaoh Cooper and JoJo Natson). In fact, Atwell is the lightest receiver drafted since 199, at a miniscule 149 pounds. One has to wonder exactly what plans McVay has for Atwell, given his size, but knowing McVay, Atwell will probably turn into some sort of end around maven who gashes the Seahawks for a 30-yarder every time the two teams meet. With 4.32 speed, Atwell could also become a downfield threat, but this is certainly a risky selection for the Rams. It’s unclear how well he will pan out, but he’s in the right place to develop.

Round 3, Pick 103: Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina:

Ernest Jones is a selection aimed at addressing a position which has long been the weakest part of the Rams defense. Rams fans may be hoping that the team addressed this need in an earlier round, but Jones is a capable backer nonetheless. He doesn’t possess any standout athletic abilities, and isn’t great in coverage, but he is a good tackler, making 199 stops in his three years in college. Given the team’s lack of depth at the position, Jones could play a key role on the Super Bowl-hopefuls’ defense sooner than expected.

Arizona Cardinals selections:

Before the Rams made headlines for their draft house, Kliff Kingsbury went viral for his modern desert pad in 2020. This draft, the Cardinals turned heads around the league with their selections instead. Both picks could be serious headaches for the Seahawks in the near future.

Round 1, Pick 16: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa:

Zaven Collins may be the scariest player selected by any NFC West team this year. Collins is a spectacular all-around athlete, having played quarterback in high school, and the 6’5,” 259-pound former Golden Hurricane has unbelievable speed and athleticism for his size. He is very strong in coverage and has an incredible ability to make tackles in the open field. Collins could very well provide the spike the Cardinals defense has been lacking in recent years. There’s also this intimidating quote from when he spoke to Arizona GM Steve Keim after being drafted:

“Steve, we’re gonna f—king kill everyone.”

Hopefully Seahawks players aren’t on Collins’ kill list, because aside from D.K. Metcalf and the offensive line, the Seahawks offense could be under serious threat if met with his intimidating frame.

Round 2, Pick 49: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue:

Rondale Moore is a speedy receiver (4.29 40-yard dash) who many Seahawks fans were praying would drop to John Schneider at pick #56. Alas, Moore was on Arizona’s radar, too, and the Cardinals nabbed him just seven picks before Seattle took their own speedster. After leading the FBS in receptions in 2018 with 115, Moore’s career was derailed by injuries and opt-outs, and had fallen out of favor with some teams in recent months and years. Yet, the Cardinals still decided to take a chance on Moore, and he has tremendous upside (literally— his vertical jump is 42.5 inches). He is another scary Cardinals selection who could prove unstoppable alongside DeAndre Hopkins. NFC West secondaries, beware!