Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Eric Edholm executes a division-by-division assessment of the 2023 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone -- picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is the NFC West report card.
- New Mexico S Jerrick Reed II (No. 198)
- Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh (No. 237)
The Russell Wilson trade continues to pay dividends, as the Seahawks came into the draft loaded with picks, and they appeared to use them quite well. There are always interesting debates involving Seattle's draft approach, and this year was no different. But the roster appears to be even better on paper now than it was last season, when the team was a surprise playoff entrant. Devon Witherspoon gives the Seahawks the potential for a new version of the Legion of Boom, bolstering the fine secondary picks made last season. The Illinois product's aggressive, assertive style is a great fit, even if matching elite WR speed and strength will be a test for him early. Jaxon Smith-Njigba figures to be a big upgrade over last year's WR3, Marquise Goodwin, and looks like a perfect fit inside, lining up between DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. JSN was my WR1 in this class, and here he provides Geno Smith the middle-field target he lacked last season. Derick Hall is another Seattle-style pass rusher to add to the till, along with fifth-rounder Mike Morris. I think Hall could eventually start opposite Uchenna Nwosu, perhaps even immediately. On the surface, the Zach Charbonnet pick feels like the latest chapter in Seattle's annual RB overkill. But dig deeper, and you'll realize that beyond Kenneth Walker III and DeeJay Dallas, the cupboard is pretty bare. Arguably the third-best back in the class, Charbonnet has a great chance to earn the third-down role and spell Walker when needed, although seventh-rounder Kenny McIntosh is a better player than athletic tester and catches the ball well, too. The one frustrating element of this group is that Seattle couldn't address the interior D-line depth earlier, but Cameron Young is a decent run-stopper who can help that need. Anthony Bradford and Olu Oluwatimi were smart Day 3 additions who can provide interior depth on the offensive front. Outside of a few minor quibbles, the Seahawks appear to have significantly upgraded the talent level for a second draft in a row.
- Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. (No. 6 overall)
- LSU edge BJ Ojulari (No. 41)
- UCLA OG Jon Gaines II (No. 122)
The prevailing theme of the Cardinals' 2023 draft was accumulating assets for the future, both in terms of picks this year and a slew of trades that netted them some exciting 2024 ammunition. They now boast excess draft currency at various stages of next year's draft, with two first-rounders (including Houston's pick), three third-rounders and two fifths. Not moving DeAndre Hopkins was a mild surprise, but that could always change. Paris Johnson Jr. was drafted by the same franchise as his father, and he figures to start Day 1 -- but likely not at left tackle, where D.J. Humphries is under contract for three more years. BJ Ojulari was a good value early in Round 2 and will play a lot early for a team that lacks pass-rush juice. His edge-bending ability ranked at or near the top of this year's entire draft class. Garrett Williams, however, is still rehabbing a torn ACL, but there's optimism he could be back by training camp. When healthy, he's a confident man corner who lacks size but has excellent feel for the position. Michael Wilson stood out at the Reese's Senior Bowl, but can he stay healthy? Injuries ravaged his final three college seasons, so there's risk, yet Wilson could help replace Hopkins one day with his smart approach and sneaky quickness for a thick build. The highly intelligent Jon Gaines II grew on scouts over time, offering three-position versatility at guard and center. Under center, Arizona now has five QBs on the roster, making Clayton Tune's chances of earning a spot on the final 53 tougher, but he has solid feel for the pass game and is a decent athlete with a thickly built frame. Lastly, the Cards' three defensive picks to round out the draft were also good values, all offering plus athleticism for their respective positions. Owen Pappoe and Dante Stills, in particular, graded out as worthy picks that late. The Cardinals haven't had much to cheer about lately, but if GM Monti Ossenfort's navigation of his maiden draft is any indication, the franchise is in good hands.
- TCU OG Steve Avila (No. 36 overall)
- Georgia QB Stetson Bennett (No. 128)
- Appalachian State edge Nick Hampton (No. 161)
- Georgia OL Warren McClendon Jr. (No. 174)
- Clemson TE Davis Allen (No. 175)
- BYU WR Puka Nacua (No. 177)
- TCU CB Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (No. 182)
- Nebraska edge Ochaun Mathis (No. 189)
- Mississippi RB Zach Evans (No. 215)
- Wingate P Ethan Evans (No. 223)
- Oklahoma State S Jason Taylor II (No. 234)
- Toledo DT Desjuan Johnson (No. 259)
Lacking a first-round pick for the seventh straight year, the Rams were in a familiar position and took their typical approach of throwing a bunch of darts in later rounds and seeing who will stick. Steve Avila can help protect the Rams' offensive line from getting destroyed by injuries again, as he's able to back up or start at any of the three interior positions. A thickly built prospect who moves well enough, Avila can be an absolute mauler in the run game. The Rams later doubled up on the O-line, adding Warren McClendon Jr., who could help at tackle or guard. Another problem area last year was the pass rush outside of Aaron Donald. To address that, Los Angeles drafted Byron Young, Nick Hampton and Ochaun Mathis. Young is 25 years old and has overcome a lot of adversity to get to this point, but don't overlook Mathis, a long-limbed athletic wonder who was better at TCU than Nebraska and could be a value pick. Stetson Bennett was a surprise selection in Round 4, but the two-time national championship quarterback has the confidence, athletic ability and arm talent to dent the depth chart. Whether he can ever replace Matthew Stafford is anyone's guess, but right now, Bennett is QB2. Kobie Turner and Desjuan Johnson, Mr. Irrelevant, bolster the DT depth. D-II punter Ethan Evans can absolutely blast the ball but could learn better directional skill. The rest of the Day 3 haul included an injury-prone but talented runner in Zach Evans, a solid two-way tight end in Davis Allen, an intriguing but semi-fragile deep threat in Puka Nacua and help for the secondary with Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Jason Taylor II. The Rams know they won't hit on all these picks, but love to carpet bomb Day 3 -- and have hit on several of those picks over the years, including Samson Ebukam, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Tyler Higbee and David Edwards.
- Penn State S Ji'Ayir Brown (No. 87 overall)
- Michigan K Jake Moody (No. 99)
- Alabama TE Cameron Latu (No. 101)
- TCU LB Dee Winters (No. 216)
- Oklahoma TE Brayden Willis (No. 247)
- Michigan WR Ronnie Bell (No. 253)
- Purdue LB Jalen Graham (No. 255)
The Trey Lance and Christian McCaffrey trades sunk the 49ers' teeth into the potential of this draft class. They made a smart opening choice in Ji'Ayir Brown, who didn't test well but has top-notch football instincts and a nose for the ball; they felt Talanoa Hufanga shared those traits two years ago, and the former fifth-round pick has become a star for San Francisco. Jake Moody might have been the best kicker in this class, but will he prove worthy of a top-100 selection? A couple picks later, the Niners got help at tight end in Cameron Latu and later added Brayden Willis. It's possible only one of them sticks, but San Francisco does like versatility at that spot and could have plans for each, especially with Pro Bowler George Kittle dealing with injuries in his career. I thought the 49ers might address the defensive line and wide receiver a bit earlier, but they did land a couple of interesting players at those spots. Robert Beal Jr. could be a better pro than college player with his electric burst off the edge, and Ronnie Bell was far better than a seventh-rounder in my eyes. Darrell Luter Jr. fits the mold of the mid-round CB prospect the Niners seemingly take a crack at annually, and their two Day 3 LB selections made sense -- particularly Dee Winters, who looks like the type of playmaking "Will" linebacker that fits San Francisco's scheme to a T.