As Seahawks fans well know, the NFC West will continue to be a highly competitive division again in 2015. All three of Seattle's divisional rivals made significant moves in their quest to improve during the upcoming campaign and beyond on the first day of the NFL Draft. The Rams are on the verge of becoming a true contender, having featured a defense that allowed only 18 TD passes last year and the unit is looking very strong overall. The 49ers are looking to regain the form that made them a consistent threat to the Seahawks' NFC supremacy, and the Cardinals are coming off an 11-win campaign that stamped them as a new power in the division and conference.
Here's what Seattle's most familiar opponents came away with on Day One of the NFL Draft:
St. Louis Rams
RB Todd Gurley, RB, No. 10 Overall
Who He Is:A 6-1, 222 pounder from Georgia
What He's Done: Rushed for 100 yards 18 times in his three-year career as a Bulldog. Averaged 6.4 yards per carry, a Georgia record.
NFL.com Analysis:"Rare blend of speed and power. Immense power in legs and shows balance through contact. Shreds arm tackles and has speed to house it. Very hard to tackle on an angle. Professional, decisive runner. Presses line of scrimmage to set up his cut-back runs. Gets downhill with knee bend and forward lean, staying small through the hole. Uses quick, tight steps to second level. Will sink and explode into tackler or side-step and jet, causing hesitation in downhill safeties with their approach. Converts "speed to power" between tackles and around corner. Rarely looks to run out of bounds and finishes his runs. Able to factor out of the backfield with soft hands and ability to adjust to throws."
What it Means:The Rams get a new centerpiece for their offense. Gurley is a potential franchise player who has the ability to be a superstar. St. Louis has made a significant move towards become a strong contender not only in the NFC West, but in the conference. Much like the Seahawks, they appear to be building around a base of power running and formidable defense.
Gurley in the first round, as reported by Team Insider Myles Simmons.
Gurley is on the mend from a knee injury suffered last winter but all indications are that his recovery has gone well and he should be fully ready for his first season as professional. The Seahawks will actually be the first team to face Gurley in his NFL career, as they travel to St. Louis for the season opener on September 13.
More Analysis on the Gurley Pick: My in-depth breakdown on how the Rams moved closer to becoming a real NFC contender by drafting Gurley is available here.
What's Next:The Rams have the 41st overall selection, the ninth in the second round, and the 72nd overall pick, the eighth in the third round on the draft's second day. After going with a skill position player in the first round, look for them to possibly bolster the offensive line with one of those selections in interest of upgrading the blocking for Gurley and new QB Nick Foles.
San Francisco 49ers
Arik Armstead, DT, No. 17 overall (from Chargers)
Who He Is:A 6-7, 292-pounder from Oregon
What He's Done:Started all 13 games he played in last year, totaling 46 tackles. Had 16 quarterback pressures. Recorded 5.5 tackles for a loss.
NFL.com Analysis: "Improved by leaps and bounds from 2013 to 2014. Elite size with ability to add more bulk to his frame. Quick-twitch athlete. Explodes upfield into blockers with good pad level and hip snap, gaining instant leverage against the run and often jarring them into the backfield. Gets good arm extension to control offensive linemen and peppers them with powerful hands. Can unlock quickly from blocks. Has above-average tackle radius thanks to his length and quickness."
What it Means:The Niners traded back two selections in the first round, and still got their guy. Armstead was a popular pick for the 49ers in many mock drafts, and he figures to fit in as a defensive end in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme. He is regarded as a possible future star, and he already displays fine instincts against the run. His promise began to show much more once he fully committed to football in his final season at Oregon.
San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke noted that Armstead continued to progress late in his college career.
The 49ers may need Armstead to replace Justin Smith, and he looks to be a building block for San Francisco to regain defensive prominence. He conceivably can form a potent combination with Aldon Smith on the right side of the Niners defense. He certainly can help against the run in the shorter term view, which is very important in a division that features Marshawn Lynch, Andre Ellington, and now Todd Gurley.
What's Next: San Francisco has the 46th pick overall. 14th in the second round, and the 79th pick, 15th in the third round, on Day Two. Inside linebacker has become an apparent position of need that may be addressed and the 49ers may also look to add one of the better wide receivers available.
D.J. Humphries, Offensive Tackle, No. 24 Overall
Who He Is:A 6-5, 307 pounder from Florida
What He's Done: Started 19 games overall with the Gators in 29 career contests. Was the starter at left tackle at Florida in the past two seasons. Named All-Freshman SEC in 2012.
NFL.com Analysis:"Nasty play demeanor with legitimate toughness to his game. Plays through and past the whistle. Flexible hips and knees offer up leverage wins as run blocker. Gets down blocks secured and transitions quickly into second-level stalker with ability to mirror moving linebackers in space. As base-blocker, hustles feet into position and works to wall defender off. Has desired foot quickness combined with proper angles to be effective blocker on play side and back side on stretch plays. Gains good ground with kick slide and takes smart angles to cut off the edge. Rarely narrows base in run or pass game. Uses length to help cut off inside rush moves."
What it Means: Humphries is immediately expected to compete for the starting right tackle job as a rookie. Arizona has made significant strides to improve the offensive line, signing Mike Iupati (formerly of the 49ers) to play left guard during the offseason, and now have a newcomer who can upgrade the outlook on the right side, especially when he gains experience. Adequate protection will keep Carson Palmer upright, and he is a big key to their success. If Palmer stays healthy, the Cardinals can possibly be the biggest threat to the Seahawks' NFC West supremacy.
Cardinals GM Steve Keim sees Humphries as a big piece in upgrading what was once a greater area of need.
The Cardinals also had a very potent running game when Ellington was healthy and as Humphries evolves as a pro, he can only help in that regard as well. He will have to get up to speed quickly though, as the defensive fronts of divisional rivals, the Seahawks and Rams, will offer formidable challenges for any first-year player.
What's Next:The Cardinals have the 55th pick overall, 23rd in the second round, and the 86th overall, 22nd in the third round on the draft's second day. Arizona may look to fill in at inside linebacker, and could also consider a cornerback.
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