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NFC West Draft Roundup, Part 2: Rivals load up on late-round depth, with a few hidden gems

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
The Rams selected Central Arkansas CB Robert Rochell with the 130th overall pick.
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

After a quiet first two days, the teams of the NFC West got more involved in the draft on Day 3. The division made nine picks as a whole over the course of the first three rounds, but combined for 18 picks on Saturday, with the Rams leading the way with seven selections to give them nine in total, the largest class in the division. Seattle had three players, the Niners eight, and the Cardinals seven. Each team’s Saturday picks are examined below.

San Francisco 49ers selections:

The 49ers focused heavily on the offense in the first two days, spending three of four picks on that side of the ball. The team targeted another running back on Day 3, as well as two more defensive backs.

Round 5, Pick 155: Jaylon Moore, T, Western Michigan

The 49ers became the second NFC West team to take a Western Michigan product in 2021 when they took Jaylon Moore with their first pick of Day 3. Moore is another pick who seems to be focused towards developing the team’s rushing attack; he is stronger when being able to use his athleticism to make plays in the run game rather than in pass coverage. Look for Moore to play at both tackle and guard in the NFL, should he make the roster.

Round 5, Pick 172: Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon

Lenoir is another pick aimed at addressing the 49ers’ holes in the secondary, and he could prove to be a capable nickel for San Francisco. He possesses the physicality and tackling ability which the Niners like in their defensive backs, but he does struggle to cover on the outside. Lenoir’s performance in 2020 was good enough to have him named to the Pac-12 all-conference defensive second team. Some scouts have compared him to Seattle’s Ugo Amadi, and like Amadi did for Seattle, Lenoir may move to safety for San Francisco.

Round 5, Pick 180: Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC

The 49ers’ third and final secondary selection of the draft was Talanoa Hufanga. Hufanga comes from an athletic family (his cousin Marlon Tuipulotu played with him at USC and was drafted by Philadelphia later on Saturday), and his gifts shone through in 2020 with the Trojans. The former Polynesian High School Player of the Year won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year trophy and was named to the All-America first team, coming away with four interceptions and two forced fumbles in six starts. Hufanga lacks the speed required to play a deep safety role, but he could play well in the box thanks to his strength.

Round 6, Pick 194: Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette

The 49ers used their final pick of the Draft on their second running back, this time taking Elijah Mitchell. Mitchell was first-team All-Sun Belt in 2020, leading his team with 878 rushing yards. He is a scheme fit for San Francisco, just like the 49ers’ third round selection, Trey Sermon, excelling in the outside zone. Mitchell will fight for a roster spot in a crowded running back room.

Los Angeles Rams Selections:

The Rams went heavy on Day 3 picks, trading back multiple times to turn six total picks in the Draft into nine. The Rams split picks between offense and defense, taking four defenders and three offensive players, including two more wide receivers.

Round 4, Pick 117: Bobby Brown III, DT, Texas A&M:

Brown is a selection which should scare Seahawks fans, who have been subjected to the dominance of a strong Rams defensive tackle by the name of Aaron Donald for many years. While Brown is not on the same god-like level as Donald, he does possess some similar traits, like his power and ability to shed blocks with relative ease. The 2020 All-SEC first-teamer does not have polished pro technique, especially as a pass-rusher, but should he be coached up, Brown could prevent a serious threat to the Seahawks down the line.

Round 4, Pick 130: Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas:

Robert Rochell is another excellent defensive pick by the Rams who could blossom into a very good cornerback in this league. He is an incredible athlete (4.39 40-yard, 43” vertical), and was a track star in high school. The main knocks on Rochell center around his technique, but he is fast enough and has good enough ball skills to produce once those things are polished off. Many analysts saw Rochell as a Day 2 pick, so getting him in the fourth round was definitely a steal. Look out for him to become a key member of the Rams defense for years to come.

Round 4, Pick 141: Jacob Harris, WR, Central Florida:

The Rams’ second WR selected in the 2021 draft, Harris has the size to play tight end in McVay’s 12-personnel offensive formation. At 6’5,” 219, Harris is an impressive athlete with great speed and long strides that give him an advantage against NFL DBs. He has the versatility to play all over the field, something we’ve seen from former Rams and current Seahawks TE Gerald Everett. Harris walked on at UCF, and didn’t get involved in the offense until his junior year, but he showcased his ability to be a solid pass-catcher in the NFL. He has a big-play ability which is rare for someone of his size.

Round 5, Pick 174: Earnest Brown IV, DE, Northwestern

Another player who came off of the board from a strong Northwestern defense, Brown has all of the physical gifts to succeed at the next level. The 6’4,” 270 pound lineman has 34 ½” arms, which should help him make first contact against offensive linemen at the next level. Brown just needs more development, especially in run-stopping and working on his arsenal of pass rush moves. Being a top-20 recruit out of high school was no mistake, though; Brown can be an effective player in this league should the Rams develop him properly. This pick is a bit curious, given that many Rams fans might have preferred to see their team take an offensive lineman by this point, but Brown does fill a need, as the Rams don’t have a clear starter at edge rusher besides Leonard Floyd.

Round 7, Pick 233: Jake Funk, RB, Maryland

Aside from his awesome name, Funk brings some excellent measurables to the table. He has speed, with a 4.4 40-yard dash, and also has a 38” vertical. The main questions about Funk surround his injury history. He had a hard time getting on the field at Maryland, and tore his ACL twice. Funk would likely be a special-teamer in the NFL given his unique physical abilities.

Round 7, Pick 249: Ben Skowronek, WR, Notre Dame

Skowronek is another receiver with size (6’3,” 220 pounds) who may be suited for a switch to tight end like Jacob Harris. The reason Skowronek came off of the board much later than Harris is his lack of speed. He does have good solid technique, helped by the fact that he played five years of college football, and could prove to be a solid backup for L.A.

Round 7, Pick 252: Chris Garrett, OLB, Concordia-St. Paul

You’ve probably never heard of Division II’s Concordia-St. Paul, but Chris Garrett was a star there. In his last season in college (2019, since the school did not play in 2020 due to COVID) Garrett was a finalist for the Cliff Harris award, which is given out to the best small-school defensive player. Garrett was a productive pass-rusher in college, but has a long way to go to become a serious threat in the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals selections:

The Cardinals waited a while between picking 49th overall and 136 overall, having sent away their third and fourth round picks for Rodney Hudson and DeAndre Hopkins, respectively. When they did make selections, they focused heavily on defense; four of their five remaining picks came on that side of the ball, including three defensive backs.

Round 5, Pick 136: Marco Wilson, CB, Florida

Wilson has good size for a corner, but has struggled at times in his college career. If the Cardinals can mold him properly, he has the right tools to be a decent outside corner or a nickel. He had 33 tackles and 4 pass breakups for the Gators in 2020, coming off of a torn ACL from the previous season. Wilson also tore his ACL in high school, making his knees a serious concern. Analysts find that Wilson has the ability to be a good cornerback, but for some reason, he was consistently exposed in college, especially in the run game. He will be a project for Arizona.

Round 6, Pick 210: Victor Dimukeje, EDGE, Duke:

At just 6’1,” Dimukeje doesn’t impose offensive linemen with his height, but has the ability to be a good pass-rusher in the NFL. In his last two seasons as a Blue Devil, he racked up a total of 16 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, often working his way into the opposing backfield with ease. He will need to work more on his moves in the NFL, but Dimukeje possesses the strength necessary to be on an NFL roster.

Round 6, Pick 223: Tay Gowan, CB, Central Florida:

Another Central Florida CB is entering the division as Shaquille Griffin leaves, but it’s unlikely that Gowan will be able to fill Griffin’s shoes. Gowan, who did not play in 2020, has a good nose for the ball, and solid size, but everything else about his game needs some work. Another Floridian project in the secondary for Arizona.

Round 7, Pick 243: James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati:

The Cardinals are pretty deep at safety, which makes this selection an interesting one. He could move to corner, especially given that his size is not ideal. Another player who had an ACL injury in the past, Wiggins struggled in 2020 despite having a great 2018 season before his injury. This is probably the most questionable selection made by an NFC West team in the draft, aside from the Rams’ selection of Tutu Atwell.

Round 7, Pick 247: Michal Menet, C, Penn State:

Menet made third-team All-Big 10 in 2020, and was projected by many analysts to go much higher in the draft. He is a solid all-around center who has no particular athletic ability, and he can sometimes struggle to move in space. He won’t have to start right away for Arizona, given their acquisition of Rodney Hudson, and will have the chance to develop under his tutelage. Menet may very well be one of the bigger steals of the seventh round.

Read about the Day 1 and 2 NFC West selections here.