The 2021 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, scheduled to be held in Cleveland beginning on Thursday, April 29. Rookies can oftentimes be overhyped in the fantasy world but the right landing spot can go a long way towards a rookie approaching those lofty expectations. This series of articles will focus on the most enticing positions for rookie production at the offensive skill positions for each NFL team. This article is aimed at those teams residing in the NFC West.
Seattle Seahawks: WR
After winning the division for the first time since 2016, Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks failed miserably once again in the playoffs, going down to rivals the Los Angeles Rams in the expanded wild card round. It was the same old story for the perennially good but never great Seahawks, who cannot seem to take the next step despite the qualities of Russell Wilson.
The offseason started with the news that General Manager John Schneider signed a contract extension that will keep him in Seattle through the 2027 draft. We wouldn’t put it past Carroll to make it to that date too. Schneider made a big splash last year by acquiring Jamaal Adams in a trade with the New York Jets, a move that has left the cupboard bare in terms of picks, however. In fact, the Seahawks have only one pick in the first three rounds, pick 56 in the 2nd round.
The losses of Carlos Hyde, David Moore, Greg Olsen, and Jacob Hollister are nothing serious to worry about in terms of fantasy production. Chris Carson was re-signed to lead a crowded running back room, and the acquisition of Gerald Everett from the Rams is a significant upgrade at TE. They do need to add a different element to the wide receiver room, however. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are locked in to receive the lion’s share of the targets, but to truly take the next step, the Seahawks need another playmaker, either out of the slot or with the versatility to line up across the formations.
I fully expect the Seahawks to bolster their offensive line or secondary with their 2nd round pick but adding a slot receiver would be another priority for me. They could see some interesting players drop to them in a deep class.
Dream pick: Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State University
You can’t guard Tylan Wallace
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) November 28, 2020
Los Angeles Rams: TE
Trumping the Seahawks in the playoffs last year provided some short-lived excitement for Sean McVay and the Rams as they hoped to return to the Super Bowl. The 13-3 loss to the Patriots in 2018 highlighted the need for Jared Goff to take the next step at the position. He never managed to, however, as the loss to the Packers in the divisional round last year showed all too well. Goff was sent to the Lions in an off-season trade that brought Matthew Stafford to SoFi Stadium. McVay hopes Stafford has the skill and leadership to galvanize an impressive offensive roster that sees the return of last year’s 2nd round pick, running back Cam Akers, alongside star receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.
General Manager Les Snead has traded away every 1st round pick from 2017 to 2023 to bring in playmakers with big personalities, such as Jalen Ramsey. But the Rams have never been able to put it all together on the field despite McVay’s creative playbook. The Rams do have a 2nd round pick and two 3rd round picks, which they will likely use to reinforce the offensive line for Stafford or to replace standout safety John Johnson, who left to join the Browns in free agency.
Tyler Higbee has never shown the consistency to be a top-tier tight end, and McVay likes to have options at the position to effectively execute his playbook. I expect the Rams to reach for a playmaker at the position to ensure Stafford has all his tools to get the job done.
Dream pick: Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
Brevin Jordan is a matchup nightmare 😤#ItsAllAboutTheU | @CanesFootball @Brevinjordan pic.twitter.com/h2gokFohwu
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) July 27, 2020
Arizona Cardinals: WR
After a promising first half of the season, the Cardinals lost 5 of their last 7 games to play themselves out of a playoff berth. Some poor decisions at crucial times hurt them, as did the size of their quarterback. It was no surprise when teams started to jump at the line of scrimmage to disturb Kyler Murray‘s ability to see downfield. That is something Kliff Kingsbury needs to adapt for going into next season.
The feeling in Arizona is that they are one step away from contending, and the addition of a number of high-profile veterans in the off-season has only reinforced the message that it is a win now window for this team. A.J Green has signed from the Bengals, J.J. Watt from the Texans, and Malcolm Butler from the Titans. It has been an impressive roster turnaround by Kingsbury and General Manager Steve Keim in just two years. There are still plenty of upgrades needed across the defense and offensive line, which will likely be a priority on the first two days of the draft.
Originally, I was thinking that Kingsbury wouldn’t be able to resist a running back with their 2nd round pick at 49 if one of the big guns were still available. However, the recent signing of James Connor in free agency has removed the immediate need for a between-the-tackles runner like Travis Etienne or Javonte Williams. Still, don’t count it out.
Even with DeAndre Hopkins on the roster, the Cardinals still need another playmaker wide receiver, especially to replace Larry Fitzgerald in the slot. While Hopkins will certainly demand a high target share in 2021, there is room for a rookie receiver to make a mark in this passing game.
Dream pick: Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville
College football's best on offense
Best Slot Receiver: Tutu Atwell, Louisville 📈
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) December 16, 2019
San Francisco 49ers: QB
“And with the 3rd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select…” Well, this is not that article. It doesn’t really matter which quarterback the 49ers select after trading up from the 12th pick, they have made their decision to bring in a new signal-caller to move the franchise forward over the next 5 years. The failings of Jimmy Garoppolo aren’t entirely of his own making, as the 49ers have failed to bring in an outsider receiver who can move the sticks when the game is on the line. Schemes for the run game to generate yards after the catch can’t be the only game plan, and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan has failed to realize a complete, dynamic offense.
The Super Bowl season of 2019 looks to be a flash-in-the-pan of the Lynch, Shanahan era after the disappointment of 2020, where they went from heroes to zeros, finishing bottom of the NFC West and looking completely predictable in the ground game and ineffective in the passing game. The loss of Defensive Coordinator Robert Salah is another blow. Salah’s ability to motivate an average group to be a top 10 defense overshadowed the lack of investment in the secondary. It feels like there are too many holes to fill, and with an injury-plagued roster, it could be too much to ask for the 49ers to once again compete in the strong NFC West.
The decision at quarterback will determine the needs later in the draft, where the 49ers are thin with picks. They still have a 2nd and late 3rd round pick, where they will most likely take the best players available at cornerback. But, it will be an exciting wait to see which of the many mentioned quarterbacks the 49ers will call at #3 overall.
Dream pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
This was the longest throw of Justin Fields’ career🚀
61 yards vs Clemson in the Playoffs
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 12, 2021
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire