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2020 NFL Draft Review - NFC West


We roll on with a division-by-division rundown of the 2020 NFL Draft with arguably the best division in football, the NFC West. Catch up on the other installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series with the AFC SouthNFC SouthAFC EastNFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.

Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

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Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the next installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

Next up, the NFC West.

 

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals dealt their second-round pick for one of the best receivers in football in DeAndre Hopkins.  When you add that acquisition into their draft haul, it’s one of the most impressive in the entire NFL.

At No. 8, the Cardinals went best player available with Isaiah Simmons (4) from Clemson.  There were some rumors that Simmons would fall a bit on draft day due to teams not knowing what to do with him.  Simmons is a quality football player, but not knowing what position room to put him in is somewhat of an issue.  He’s not big enough to bang in the box every down and he’s not as fluid in coverage as the best free safeties.  He made a lot of plays blitzing from depth and taking advantage of his absurd size-athleticism mix at the college level.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is an extraordinary defensive mind and played him all over the field at every position except defensive tackle.  In Arizona I expect Simmons to line up mostly at the second level, doing most of his damage in coverage against tight ends and blitzing.  Fitting him in might not be so easy after adding De'Vondre Campbell and Jordan Hicks as off-ball linebackers.  I’ll let Vance Joseph figure it out.  Simmons can fly and make plays so it will be hard to screw it up.

With a need at tackle, the Cardinals chose to take advantage of the depth at the position and wait until the third round to grab Josh Jones of Houston.  Jones was the 19th overall player on my board, so I obviously view this pick as a massive steal.  Jones didn’t square off against many marquee pass-rushers, so his film was hard to evaluate in terms of translating to the next level.  He won the vast majority of his matchups, showing sound technique, but few crazy displays of domination.  He surely graded out well and moves well enough for me to endorse him as a quality starting left tackle in Arizona.  People make a big deal about quarterbacks and wide receivers transitioning from spread offenses, but it’s also a whole new game for offensive linemen.  With Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme taking a lot from the college game, Jones will be coached similar techniques to what he was taught at Houston.  Great pick.

A year after making the wise decision to jettison Josh Rosen and draft Kyler Murray, the Cardinals put together a solid draft.  They are talented enough to compete with the heavyweights in the NFC West, but maybe a year away from a playoff appearance.

 

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams essentially used their first-round pick on Jalen Ramsey, who probably would have gone 3rd overall in this draft class.  Dealing a first for a veteran with a huge contract is always risky, especially with a highly (and possibly over) paid quarterback.  They came into the draft needing help on defense.  I don’t think they got much.

When I originally sat down and watched Cam Akers, I became disgusted with the Florida State offense.  To say it was a mess is an understatement.  Akers made mistakes as well, which made me sour on him quite a bit.  I originally ranked Akers 9th in my running back rankings and was met with a fury.  I had to go back and watch.  You were all right.  I had fallen in the same trap I warn draftniks about all the time - valuing college performance too much, and traits too little.

If Cam Akers (4) has any work ethic at all, he’s going to have Pro Bowl seasons with Sean McVay.  His traits are actually good enough that he can be an All-Pro if things break right.  Akers’ fundamentals and technique were subpar at Florida State.  My coaching side also didn’t like his lack of ball security.  However, it’s difficult to blame him with how poorly coached everyone else looked.

Athletic and fast with decent hands, Akers has acceleration and creativity traits that translate to the NFL.  He can break tackles and hit home runs.  He’ll overtake Darrell Henderson right away as the Rams’ 1A back.  I am glad I went for a second look.  He is going to be a fantasy stud in the Rams zone running scheme.

Van Jefferson (2) has the pedigree and route-running skills to be a quality NFL receiver.  When asked to run routes with real breakpoints, he showed the body control and agility that can work in the NFL.  However, the constant issue in his film  is the lack of separation down the field.  When schemed into shallow crosses and screens, Jefferson was productive, showing good hands.  The top-end speed wasn’t there, and he doesn’t project as much of a run-after-catch threat.  There is little evidence on film that he can get off press, but he has the demeanor that could work.  I expect him to become a just-a-guy possession receiver.

Terrell Lewis (2) has traits that play in the league, but he is going to need time to develop.  The scariest thing about Lewis is his injury history.  On the field, he shows dynamic athleticism and ideal twitch.  However, he doesn't execute his gap assignments particularly well and will struggle to defend the run in the NFL.  As a rotational edge rusher, it could work, but a lot of his sacks came on inside stunts.  Lewis is a developmental project who needs to stay healthy and get stronger to make any positive impact.

Straight from my Terrell Burgess (3) notes: “quick and good.”  Burgess projects as a slot corner or sub-package safety.  He has hip fluidity, good feet, and covered tight ends well at Utah.  I don’t expect him to be a plus in run defense.  That Utah secondary was crazy.

The Rams paid Jared Goff and now have to live with the consequences.  The 49ers have the most talent, Russell Wilson isn’t going anywhere, and the Cardinals are young with a franchise quarterback.  The NFC West is probably the best division in football, and if Jared Goff doesn’t play better, the former hottest coach in the NFL will be looking at back-to-back seasons with no playoffs.

 

San Francisco 49ers

The defending NFC Champions traded away DeForest Buckner for the 13th-overall pick, giving them two first-rounders.  They ended up trading down just one spot to No. 14 and actually using their original first to move up to No. 25.  Overall they made just five picks, but with John Lynch’s body of work, fans have reason to be excited.

Out goes Buckner, and in comes his replacement in Javon Kinlaw (4).  Kinlaw was my No. 1 interior defensive lineman and 17th-ranked player on my board.  He’s big and athletic with an inconsistent get-off.  When he times up and correctly leverages his explosion off the ball, he’s very good.  He can penetrate gaps, fight versus doubles, and bench press blockers off him.  He showed a powerful bull rush against the Alabama right guard.  The most underrated aspect of Kinlaw’s game is his ability to get his paws on passes.  He can also block field goals.  The 49ers' defensive line will continue to be a force.

Trading up for Brandon Aiyuk (3) was extremely interesting considering the depth of this wide receiver class.  John Lynch admitted they considered CeeDee Lamb at No. 13, but also would have been fine taking Aiyuk there.  Get your guy, I guess.  I do like Aiyuk, so I won’t bash the move at all.  Aiyuk reminds me of Dez Bryant.  He’s a competitive player with strong hands and good footwork in terms of breakpoints.

My final note: he’s a stud, just needs to clean up some technique.  Unfortunately, I do not believe he will unlock his full potential as the third receiving option in a run-heavy attack.  He takes a while to get going, is a little clumsy, and showed some very sloppy release work at the line.  A related observation: the special teams coordinator at Arizona State was excellent.

The 49ers had a ten-point lead in the second half of the Super Bowl and return most of their starters.  Yes, they lost Joe Staley, but they gained Trent Williams.  Yes, they lost DeForest Buckner, but they gained Javon Kinlaw.  John Lynch is doing a fantastic job.

 

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks general manager John Schneider had an all-time great draft class in 2012 but hasn’t hit on a single first-round pick since.  He has been below-average at drafting during that time, as Seahawks fans have seen a once-loaded roster deteriorate into essentially a one-man team.  Just as bad, Pete Carroll continues to ignore math and put too much emphasis on running the football (ironic).  Defensively, his tendency to play three linebackers on the field together too much has also hurt them.  So of course with their first-round pick, they took an off-ball linebacker.

I wrote this article about “my guys” before the draft.  Jordyn Brooks (4) was the first guy I featured.  I believe he can be an impact pro, and he actually reminds me of Bobby Wagner a bit.  However, it is tough to defend a Super Bowl contender taking an off-ball linebacker, likely pointing to keeping three linebackers on the field for too many snaps yet again.  I do believe in the player though.

Brooks plays fast, can key and diagnose, and has tremendous power on contact.  When he meets a back in the hole, he drives him back.  They liked to blitz him at Texas Tech, taking advantage of uncommon movement skills and acceleration.  Against Oklahoma, he struggled a bit, primarily used to spy Jalen Hurts.  However, the fact his coaching staff gave him that assignment is telling.  I predict he’ll be an excellent pro.  If they’re going to play three linebackers, at least one of them will be fast enough to keep up with Kyler Murray.

In the second round, the Seahawks traded up for Darrell Taylor (2) of Tennessee.  When I began writing the “my guys” article, Taylor was supposed to be the second player I featured.  I watched his film again simply looking for a highlight to make a gif of and became so unimpressed with Taylor that I decided to write about someone else.  It was mainly Taylor’s film against Alabama that turned me off.  The flip-flopping puts me in a ridiculous spot.  I went back a third time and kind of liked him more again.

Taylor can bend and his profile fits the Seahawks LEO position perfectly.  He showed inconsistent handwork but generally was powerful on the edge with enough speed to keep tackles honest.  He showed an ability to finish plays and force turnovers, something a lot of edge prospects struggle to do.  There was an odd delay getting off the ball on almost every snap against BYU, but he showed a quick get-off in other games.  Only one thing is for sure - he’s better than L.J. Collier.

In the third, the Seahawks took my 92nd-ranked player in LSU guard Damien Lewis (2).  Lewis will likely fit right in with Seattle’s underachieving offensive line.  He’s good on double teams and has good enough feet to mirror but that’s about it.  His functional strength and anchor is below average, getting knocked down by a blitzer and walked back by just one of Derrick Brown’s arms.  Anything powerful gets him off-balance.  There were better players on the board.

The Seahawks pride themselves in trading down and making picks against the consensus.  It has not worked out at all in recent years.  It would be a shame if their mishandling of drafts continues throughout Russell Wilson’s career.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the final division, the AFC West, in the coming days.

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Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Jonathan Taylor? Coming into the season this was the biggest question for fantasy GMs, both dynasty managers who were thinking long-term and redraft managers who wanted to know who would be better for this season. There were many different theories and believe me when I say, both sides thought they were 100%... Read More


NextGen Stats - Quarterback Breakdowns and Takeaways

It's been a month since the last time we took a look at our beloved quarterbacks. Numbers are numbers, and numbers don't lie. You can twist them, but looking at them objectively, numbers say that no matter what, rushing the ball is almost always a worse option than passing it in today's game. That's why... Read More


Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 7

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement.... Read More


Coaching Matters: Offenses That Will Improve From Week 6

This series continues into its sixth week of where I dive into offensive areas that will improve or decline based on coaching in order to glean insight as to fantasy football value. In Week 6, we saw performances such as Ryan Tannehill throwing for 364 passing yards, the Houston Texans running backs combining for 66 rushing yards, and the New... Read More


Tape Tells All: D'Andre Swift's Week 6 Performance

Welcome to another edition of Tape Tells All. I've been thinking of rebranding as just TAPE. All-Caps like that. Probably wouldn't be a good idea for SEO purposes, right? Anyways, this week we'll be discussing Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift. Swift set a lot of career highs this week, with bests in carries... Read More


Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

Week 6 was like the 2020 of fantasy football weeks. All those great matchups meant nothing, those studs let you down, and your bench likely went crazy. The good news is that we didn't have any season-ending injuries to running backs or games canceled due to COVID, so in retrospect maybe we shouldn't complain. The... Read More


FAB Bidding - Week 7 Waiver Wire Targets

Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More