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NFL draft grades, NFC West: Cardinals clean up, while Rams and Seahawks beef up in the trenches

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, Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2024 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 Gennaro's NFC West report card.

Arizona Cardinals
Draft picks: 12

Round 1: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State (No. 4 overall) | Darius Robinson, DL, Missouri (27)

Round 2: Max Melton, CB, Rutgers (43)

Round 3: Trey Benson, RB, Florida State (66) | Isaiah Adams, OL, Illinois (71) | Tip Reiman, TE, Illinois (82) | Elijah Jones, CB, Boston College (90)

Round 4: Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, S, Texas Tech (104)

Round 5: Xavier Thomas, OLB, Clemson (138) | Christian Jones, OT, Texas (162)

Round 6: Tejhaun Palmer, WR, UAB (191)

Round 7: Jaden Davis, CB, Miami (226)

Last year, in his first draft at the helm, Monti Ossenfort established a reputation for wheeling and dealing even before making his first pick. Arizona’s general manager traded down from No. 3 overall to No. 12 and then vaulted back up to No. 6, where he finally selected Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. In the lead-up to this year’s draft, Ossenfort publicly pronounced the Cardinals were open for business once again at No. 4. However, the GM ultimately stayed put and went right back to the football factory in Columbus, Ohio, enlisting the services of Buckeyes wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. You don’t always have to take the road less traveled, especially when a massive need is sitting right there, staring you in the face. Harrison’s name evoked a smorgasbord of glossy adjectives over the past year, from elite to transcendent to generational, which inherently attracted some skepticism during the exercise in overthinking that is the pre-draft process. Here’s what I see: a big-bodied true “X” receiver with All-Pro upside. That’s a rare commodity any team would want, especially one with a soon-to-be 27-year-old quarterback heading into a huge season as his cap hit triples. Home-run pick -- and I believe Ossenfort hit a bunch of singles and doubles in the remainder of the draft.

Making a whopping eight selections among the first 104 picks, Ossenfort was able to sprinkle the roster with instant-impact prospects. Scheme versatility is all the rage in modern defense, and over the three-day event in Detroit, Arizona snagged a trio of defenders offering that trait. First-round pick Darius Robinson is a “first off the bus” type as a physical specimen, and the 6-foot-5, 285-pounder’s ability to play all over the defensive line has earned him a best-case comp to Cam Jordan. Second-round corner Max Melton showcased inside/outside coverage ability as a four-year starter under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, then blew up the combine with an explosive workout. And Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, taken early in Round 4, has the range to play center field and the quick twitch to man the nickel. On the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinals added a home-run hitter to the backfield in Trey Benson, who’ll nicely complement veteran bruiser James Conner in the coming season.

Los Angeles Rams
Draft picks: 10

Round 1: Jared Verse, DE, Florida State (No. 19 overall)

Round 2: Braden Fiske, DT, Florida State (39)

Round 3: Blake Corum, RB, Michigan (83) | Kamren Kinchens, S, Miami (99)

Round 5: Brennan Jackson, DE, Washington State (154)

Round 6: Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson (196) | Joshua Karty, K, Stanford (209) | Jordan Whittington, WR, Texas (213) | Beaux Limmer, IOL, Arkansas (217)

Round 7: KT Leveston, OL, Kansas State (254)

Don’t let the luxurious Hermosa Beach draft house fool you: The Rams aren’t getting soft this offseason -- in fact, they’re loading up on maulers in the trenches. In free agency, Los Angeles reinforced the offensive line by shelling out nearly $100 million to sign left guard Jonah Jackson and re-sign right guard Kevin Dotson. Then, with the team’s first two selections of the draft -- including its first Round 1 pick since Barack Obama’s presidency -- L.A. snatched up a pair of rugged, high-motor defensive linemen from Florida State in DE Jared Verse and DT Braden Fiske. Think Les Snead enjoyed watching this past season’s Seminole defense? Moving up 13 slots for Fiske was costly (L.A. gave up a 2025 second-rounder in the swap with Carolina), but with defensive tackles flying off the board early on Day 2, Snead clearly felt the need to go get his guy. And hey, that bold maneuver gave us this incredible scene from the beach house, with Verse hopping on the Rams’ draft call to Fiske for an emotional moment with his old/new teammate. Real men cry! There’s no replacing Aaron Donald, to be sure, but with Verse and Fiske joining last year’s rookie duo of Kobie Turner and Byron Young, Los Angeles should field one of the most disruptive young fronts in football.

Beyond those two premium picks, the Rams filled additional depth needs with quality players, three of whom I’d like to spotlight. Despite leading the country with a whopping 27 rushing touchdowns during Michigan’s national championship run this past season, Blake Corum still didn’t look entirely back from the knee injury that prematurely ended his junior campaign. If he regains FULL JUICE to go along with his stellar vision and contact balance, Corum gives Los Angeles a fine backfield complement to last year’s breakout star, Kyren Williams. Safety Kamren Kitchens had a bunch of fans on Draft Twitter ... until the NFL Scouting Combine. The 4.65-second 40-yard dash and inexplosive jumps kind of derailed that bandwagon. But he's an instinctive ballhawk (SEE: 11 picks over the past two seasons) whose play speed comfortably exceeds his timed speed. Lastly, sixth-round pick Beaux Limmer just feels like one of those overlooked interior offensive linemen who significantly outperforms his draft slot. With 41 starts in the SEC, the man is battle-tested.

The biggest thing keeping L.A. out of the 'A' range? Cornerback felt like a position of need, but the Rams never pulled the trigger.

Seattle Seahawks
Draft picks: 8

Round 1: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas (No. 16 overall)

Round 3: Christian Haynes, OG, Connecticut (81)

Round 4: Tyrice Knight, LB, UTEP (118) | AJ Barner, TE, Michigan (121)

Round 5: Nehemiah Pritchett, CB, Auburn (136)

Round 6: Sataoa Laumea, OT, Utah (179) | DJ James, CB, Auburn (192) | Michael Jerrell, OT, Findlay (207)

Without Pete Carroll in the war room for the first time in almost 15 years, this was always going to be an interesting draft for the Seahawks. How would John Schneider, originally hired as general manager one week after Carroll arrived in Seattle back in 2010, work with new head coach Mike Macdonald? Well, if the first pick is any indication, swimmingly. Byron Murphy II is the perfect tone-setter for the inaugural draft of the Macdonald era, as a compact 3-tech disruptor who wins with quickness, strength and leverage. Macdonald just had one of those in Justin Madubuike, and he helped make the Baltimore defensive tackle a very rich man. Pre-draft buzz had Murphy potentially going in the top 10, so ‘Hawks brass had to be thrilled when an unprecedented run on offensive players pushed the top DT right into Seattle’s lap.

After that slam-dunk selection to fill a need in style on Thursday night, Seattle had to wait 65 picks before coming back on the clock late Friday evening. Yet, the Seahawks still were able to fill another need with offensive guard Christian Haynes. A model of dependability, Haynes has been in UConn’s starting lineup for the team’s past 49 games, earning third-team All-American honors in each of the last two seasons -- no small feat, considering the Huskies went just 9-16 in that span. UConn coach Jim Mora, who actually preceded Carroll as head coach of the Seahawks, gushes about his former team captain’s character.

On Saturday, Seattle continued to address soft spots on the roster, starting with the linebacker position, which lost both Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks in free agency. Now, the Seahawks took Tyrice Knight higher than many draftniks expected the ‘backer to go, but he just led the FBS with 84 solo tackles this past season. Not to mention, my esteemed colleague Charles Davis “pounded the table” for him. Meanwhile, after premium blocking TE Will Dissly signed with Jim Harbaugh’s Chargers in free agency, Seattle scooped up A.J. Barner, the tight end who was a mauling blocker for Harbaugh’s previous team in Ann Arbor. And lastly, I appreciate how Seattle cornered the market on Auburn cornerbacks, taking Nehemiah Pritchett and DJ James in back-to-back rounds. James, in particular, feels like a potential steal at No. 192.

San Francisco 49ers
Draft picks: 8

Round 1: Ricky Pearsall, WR, Florida (No. 31 overall)

Round 2: Renardo Green, CB, Florida State (64)

Round 3: Dominick Puni, OG, Kansas (86)

Round 4: Malik Mustapha, S, Wake Forest (124) | Isaac Guerendo, RB, Louisville (129) | Jacob Cowing, WR, Arizona (135)

Round 6: Jarrett Kingston, OT, USC (215)

Round 7: Tatum Bethune, LB, Florida State (251)

The first-round selection of Ricky Pearsall took many by surprise, but not this keyboard jockey! I had the Florida wideout coming off the board in Round 1 in my final mock. (Yes, that projection had him going to the Chiefs, not the 49ers, but don’t let such details get in the way of MY moment, dammit!) The sure-handed Pearsall made the catch of the year in college football and then crushed the pre-draft process with a route-running clinic at the Senior Bowl and explosive testing at the combine. Kyle Shanahan’s going to get a lot out of this smooth mover the kids call “Slick Rick.” But of course, his selection in Round 1 fed into rumors that Brandon Aiyuk and/or Deebo Samuel could be on the move. Aiyuk, for his part, immediately shared his approval of the selection with Shanahan and GM John Lynch, apparently texting the brain trust on Thursday night, “Fire pick. Can’t lie.” One night later, Lynch said the 49ers didn’t entertain any trades for Aiyuk or Samuel during Day 2 of the draft: "We're happy with our wide receiver group. Actually, more than happy. We're really thrilled with it." Pearsall can indeed co-exist with the two veteran stars in 2024, given his inside/outside ability and bountiful route tree. And in San Francisco’s overtime loss to Kansas City in the Super Bowl, the Niners sure looked like a team that could use another separator out wide.

San Francisco’s Day 2 activity earned mixed reactions. Renardo Green didn’t make NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah’s Top 150 Big Board, but the 49ers took him at No. 64 overall. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., the godfather of draft analysis, called it “the biggest reach of Round 2, by far.” Green’s fans, including my colleague Lance Zierlein, point to his boffo press-man effort against the electric Malik Nabers in Florida State’s season-opening blowout of LSU last September. In Round 3, the 49ers wisely tossed more resources at the offensive line. Taken at No. 86 overall, versatile blocker Dominick Puni was the No. 66 overall prospect on DJ’s Big Board. Value pick!

One selection that caught nobody by surprise: Lynch and Shanahan taking a mid-round running back. It’s become canon. Admittedly, Isaac Guerendo is intriguing, as he should have plenty of tread left on the tires (just 231 college carries) -- and those tires go FAST (4.33-second 40-yard dash at a robust 221 pounds).

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