49ers

Where 49ers' 2021 draft class ranks among NFC West rivals

49ers

The NFC West is going to be absolute madness this season, and I cannot wait to watch it all play out. 

All four of the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals are playoff-caliber teams who have Super Bowl aspirations. 

The NFL draft just finished, and all four NFC West teams got even better as they prepare for another season-long battle. So where does the 49ers' draft class rank among their division rivals? 

It's no secret that the 49ers were in the spotlight more than any of their division foes with their coveted No. 3 pick in the first round. Selecting Trey Lance with the third pick, the 49ers have found their QB of the future.

Factoring in the magnitude of the selection, and the fact that their NFC West rivals will be tasked with containing Lance for years to come will give the 49ers the edge in these rankings.

Here's how the four draft classes rank:

1 -- San Francisco 49ers

If the 49ers had just the No. 3 pick in the draft and no other picks, they would still finish first in these rankings. This is a quarterback league, and the 49ers drafted a dynamic, dual-threat QB who will rival opposing quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray within the division. 

Lance has a very high ceiling, and if the pick pans out then the 49ers will be contenders for a long time.

 

In addition to Lance, the 49ers beefed up their offensive line by selecting Notre Dame's Aaron Banks, who should slide into a starting position at guard early in the season. This was a good pick, although it's a little surprising they went offensive line in the second round.

Running backs Trey Sermon (Round 3) and Elijah Mitchell (Round 6), plus guard Jaylon Moore (Round 5) were the 49ers' other offensive selections after the second round. 

On defense, the 49ers selected corners Ambry Thomas (Round 3) and Deommodore Lenoir (Round 5) to go along with safety Talanoa Hufanga (Round 5).

Coming into the draft, the 49ers' biggest areas of need were QB, IOL, CB, and WR. They addressed three of those positions but didn't select a WR which was surprising. The interior of the offensive line and corner are two position groups that the 49ers needed to address early -- and they did -- but they should have flip-flopped offensive line in the second round with corner in the third round. Corner is a big area of need, and it would have been nice to see the 49ers target either Asante Samuel Jr. or Kelvin Joseph instead of an offensive lineman that early.

Kyle Shanahan has proven time and time again that he can have success with just about any speedy running back he finds, a lot of whom are oftentimes undrafted. Why did he feel the need to draft one with a third-round pick? Some argue that Sermon could play a big role in the 49ers' offense, and as that eventually might be true, it's hard to pencil him in higher than third on the depth chart. With a running back group that already consisted of Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Wayne Gallman, and Jamycal Hasty, the need to spend that high of a pick on a position that is already rock solid is puzzling. 

2 -- Arizona Cardinals 

The Cardinals had a sneaky good draft. For the second straight year, they drafted a stud linebacker. Zaven Collins is great in coverage and should slot in nicely next to last year's first-round pick Isaiah Simmons. It seems that the Cardinals are working hard to secure the middle of the field in preparation for two games against George Kittle every season.

WR Rondale Moore in the second round was a player that could have been a good fit on the 49ers if they decided not to go with corner or offensive line in the second round. Moore is great with the ball in his hands and offers the Cardinals another weapon to go alongside WRs DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, and Christian Kirk. 

The Cardinals drafted two corners in Marco Wilson and Tay Gowan who should add much needed depth to a lackluster Cardinals secondary. 

3 -- Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks only drafted three players this year, as they spent a lot of their draft capital trading for players currently on their roster. With the three picks they made, they used them wisely. 

 

It's not a flashy draft class by any means, but it adds depth to key position groups. Their first pick came on Day 2 when they chose WR D'Wayne Eskridge in the second round. Some believe that Eskridge is a little bit of a reach at where they chose him, but the speedster could play a role alongside WRs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. 

CB Tre Brown in the fourth round is a fine pick because the Seahawks have a bit of a question mark at the position behind Tre Flowers. Brown could compete with former 49er Ahkello Witherspoon at the position. 

The pick that gave the Seahawks the edge over the Rams, is OT Stone Forsythe in round six. Offensive line has been an issue for the Seahawks for years, and Forsythe (6-foot-8, 307 pounds) is a massive human being who adds much needed depth behind LT Duane Brown. 

4 -- Los Angeles Rams

The Rams had nine picks but their draft haul wasn't very exciting, and they didn't prioritize their biggest needs, especially in the second round where they took undersized WR Tutu Atwell who weighed in at 149 pounds at the medical combine. They would have been better off drafting someone bigger who could complement their smaller pass-catchers in Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, and even Robert Woods to an extent. 

RELATED: 2021 NFL power rankings: Post-draft standings for every team

LB Earnest Jones in the third round is a decent pick because he's good against the run, but might struggle in coverage. He's kind of a project pick alongside fourth-round corner Robert Rochell, who has all the physical traits you want in a corner but lacks the technique. 

There wasn't anything special about the Rams' picks this weekend. Some of them have some nice upside, but for now, they're labeled TBD. 

In terms of immediate value, the Cardinals put together a good draft class. Having said that, the 49ers had the best overall draft class for two reasons. The first being that they addressed almost every area of need, although a little bit out of order. The second being the magnitude of their No. 3 pick and the fact that Lance could potentially wreak havoc on the rest of the division for a long long time. 

Unfortunately for the 49ers, divisions aren't won the week after the draft. In what should be an all-out battle to the top of the best division in football, these four teams are prepared for one entertaining 2021 season. 

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