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The mid and late rounds of the NFL draft are just as critical to a team’s success as the first and second rounds. Every year there are late round grabs that become starters, and even all-pros. Let’s take a look at some day two and three projections that will be perfect fits for the NFC West teams.
Offense: Shane Buechele – QB, SMU
The Cardinals have used recent drafts, free agencies and trades to load up on skill position players on offense. One Kyler Murray injury could put the whole operation out in the desert in jeopardy. Buechele threw for 11,660 yards, 87 TDs and attempted over 1,500 college passes in five seasons. He’s definitely capable of being the backup in Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid offense.
Defense: DeAngelo Malone – OLB, Western Kentucky
Malone has an absolute burst off the edge and even though he’s listed as an outside linebacker, he primarily played as a 4-3 defensive end in college. Allowing him to be on the field opposite of Chandler Jones and with J.J. Watt is scary in itself. Malone has enough speed to run past most blindside tackles in the league, and with Watt’s mentorship he could become elite. The only concern is teaching him how to be effective in coverage.
San Francisco 49ers
Offense: Trey Sermon – RB, Ohio State
Sermon’s short stint in Columbus didn’t end on the greatest note, going down on the first play of the National Championship. That takes nothing away though from how effective he really was his last few games. Sermon is a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s zone run scheme due to his patience and ability to make a cut and go. Regardless, if Buckeye teammate Justin Fields is the choice with the third pick, Sermon could become a household name if he becomes a Niner.
Defense: Joshuah Bledsoe – Safety, Missouri
The easiest way to help ease DeMeco Ryans into his new role as defensive coordinator is to get players that create turnovers. Bledsoe always seemed to have an eye for the ball, being able to strip it away or pounce on a fumble. He’s also improved his tackling and coverage abilities to become an eventual starter in the league.
Los Angeles Rams
Offense: Ben Cleveland – OG, Georgia
What better way to protect your prior Georgia Bulldog quarterback Matthew Stafford than with another Dawg? Cleveland is solid in run blocking and can keep hands out of throwing lanes with his sturdy pass blocking on the interior. The Rams don’t have headliner talent between their tackles and Cleveland could be a late day two or early day three pick to come in and compete for a starting role.
Defense: Paddy Fisher – LB, Northwestern
Even though his numbers weren’t eye popping at Northwestern’s pro day, Fisher’s tape is fantastic. There’s an instinctive player that trusts what he sees and meets the ball carriers with sure tackles. Sean McVay would surely take a low risk/high reward pick with their late day three choices, especially on a player that could become a captain on the defense.
Before getting into the picks, it needs to be addressed that the Seahawks only have three total picks (RD2-56, RD4-129, RD7-250). It’s pretty certain that they will make a trade or two with their round two pick and add some picks later on.
Offense: Adrian Ealy – OT, Oklahoma
It’s no secret that the Seahawks experienced issues with protecting Russell Wilson, allowing 48 sacks last year. That is alarming in itself due to Wilson’s escapability, which probably eliminated a ton of would be sacks. Ealy is a powerful edge protector who can be an eventual starting tackle to protect and eliminate some of these sacks, and provide a punch in the run game. Regardless of who starts for the Seahawks, facing the likes of J.J. Watt, Nick Bosa and Aaron Donald twice per year is a tall task.
Defense: Rodarius Williams – CB, Oklahoma State
Only five defensive backs have been drafted out of Stillwater since 2010, but the Seahawks have one of the successful ones in Tre Flowers as a starting corner. Williams has a high upside and is a competitor on the outside who can tackle well and make plays on the ball. Flowers can help Williams prefect his technique since he went through the same transition a few years prior, and crash through the ceiling that seems to limit him at times.