It wasn’t going to be easy for the Seahawks. The NFC West was already considered the toughest in the NFL in terms of balance and strength. And Thursday’s NFL first round made winning a division title just a little more difficult for Seattle. The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals both had solid showings in the first round of the draft.
The Cardinals have become the chic pick to be a team on the rise this coming season. Following the solid rookie season of Kyler Murray, the return of future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the emergence of running back Kenyan Drake and the acquisition/theft of All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a larcenous trade with the Houston Texans, the Cardinals were considered to have a dynamic play-making nucleus.
With the No. 8 pick of the NFL draft, they secured perhaps the most dynamic playmaker and best defensive player available in the entire draft — Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons.
With the other teams having serious needs at other positions, Simmons fell to the Cardinals. It was a no-brainer pick for general manager Steve Keim.
Listed as a linebacker, Simmons eschews positional labels and calls himself a football player or a defensive player.
Because when you are as fast and athletic as he is, you don’t have a set position.
The Tigers used the ultra-versatile Simmons in a variety of ways this season, putting him at linebacker, in the secondary and having him rush the passer. During his final two seasons at Clemson (2018-19), Simmons tallied 191 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and four interceptions.
The word “freak” is often used to describe his talent and potential. At 6-3 5/8 inches and 238 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. That was the ninth-fastest time at the 2020 NFL combine and ahead of running back Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin.
With the Cardinals having a secondary featuring Budda Baker and Patrick Peterson and stud defensive end Chandler Jones on the defensive line, Simmons gives Arizona a playmaker at linebacker. He can rush the passer from his spot and with his speed, run down quarterbacks like Russell Wilson as a spy, while easily covering tight ends, running backs in space and even bigger slot receivers.
The San Francisco 49ers had one of the best defensive lines in football last season. And when they traded Pro Bowl tackle DeForest Buckner to the Colts for the No. 13 pick in this year’s draft, it seemed like that unit’s production might take a hit.
But they addressed Buckner’s absence with that acquired first-round pick, albeit one pick later than expected.
Taking a page out of the Seahawks’ philosophy, Niners GM John Lynch traded down one spot, swapping first-round picks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were at No. 14. The trade also featured a swap of later round picks with the Niners getting the 117th overall pick and the Bucs taking the 245th pick.
Tampa took offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa while the Niners jumped at the opportunity to take defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw out of South Carolina, who was considered a top 10 talent.
Kinlaw, a first-team AP All-American, had six sacks and six tackles for loss.
At 6-6, 310 pounds, he’s a massive interior presence, joining fellow defensive tackle Kentavius Street, massive defensive end Arik Armstead and pass-rushing menace Nick Bosa.
But the 49ers weren’t done in the first round. They used their second first-round pick (No. 31) along with the 117th and 176th pick to trade up and get the Vikings’ 25th pick to take Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Aiyuk, one of the top receivers in the Pac-12, has a freakish 81-inch wingspan on his 5-11 5/8, 205-pound frame. He caught 65 passes for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 18.3 yards per catch.
With Emmanuel Sanders gone to free agency, the Niners needed some depth at wide receiver to go with Deebo Samuel, who had a brilliant rookie season and the enigmatic Kendrick Bourne, who makes the impossible catches and seemingly drops the easy ones. Possession receiver Trent Taylor, Marquise Goodwin and former UW standout Dante Pettis, who has been a huge disappointment, also have tenuous spots on the roster.
The 49ers have just three remaining picks — one each in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams didn’t have a first round pick thanks to what now appears to be a regrettable trade for safety Jalen Ramsey. They won’t pick until the 20th pick of the second round (No. 52).
- Round 3: Pick 8 (72 overall)
- Round 4: Pick 8 (114th overall)
- Round 4: Pick 25 (131st overall ) from Houston
- Round 6: Pick 23 (202nd overall) from New England
- Round 7: Pick 8 (222nd overall)
Los Angeles Rams
- Round 2: Pick 20 (52nd overall)
- Round 2: Pick 25 (57th overall) from Houston
- Round 3: Pick 20 (84th overall)
- Round 3: Pick 40 (104th overall ) compensatory pick
- Round 4: Pick 20 (126th overall)
- Round 6: Pick 20 (199th overall)
- Round 7: Pick 20 (234th overall)
San Francisco 49ers
- Round 5: Pick 11 (156th overall ) from Denver
- Round 6: Pick 31 (210th overall)
- Round 7: Pick 3 (217th overall) from Detroit