ESPN Mel Kiper: NFC West Grades are in. Where do 49ers stack up?

ESPN Mel Kiper grades are below for all four NFC West teams. How do the 49ers stack up? Learn the full details below…


Grade: C+

Top needs: Offensive tackle, cornerback, defensive tackle

Life comes at you fast. A year ago at this time, the Seahawks had a secondary to envy and a great D-line, with arguably the best safety (Earl Thomas) and cornerback (Richard Sherman) in the league and name defenders up front. Those secondary players guys are still great, but Thomas is coming off a serious injury, and Sherman trade talk has dominated the spring. Up front, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril? They’re both 31. So the defensive backfield was clearly a priority, as the Seahawks nabbed a trio of safeties (Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, Mike Tyson), as well as a cornerback (Shaquill Griffin). It’s insurance everywhere for Thomas, Sherman and Kam Chancellor.

And up front, the Seahawks got a great value in Malik McDowell at 35 even after trading back a couple of times, as well as Nazir Jones, an interesting D-line prospect with a great story. I can quibble with value at a couple of spots here, but if they get the best of McDowell, that’s a potentially massive steal.

Elsewhere, they hit a need for another wide receiver with Amara Darboh, and he was a good value — they got the No. 90 player on my board at No. 106. And then there’s that pesky O-line. It’s been a mess, and Seattle added help with Ethan Pocic, who could play either center or guard.

Overall, Seattle did pretty well. Value was up and down, but they hit needs and are trying to stay ahead of attrition on defense.

Arizona Cardinals

Grade: B

Top needs: Quarterback, inside linebacker, cornerback

With the top three QBs off the board at No. 13, Arizona stuck with a position of need and got versatile linebacker Haason Reddick, a former walk-on and superb athlete who absolutely nailed the pre-draft process. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl, and was one of the MVPs of the combine, running a 4.52 40 with a 36½-inch vertical and 11-foot-1 broad jump. He’s probably an inside player in the Cardinals’ 3-4, but he can get after quarterbacks from outside linebacker, too.

Arizona gave up three picks to trade up for Budda Baker, but I love the player. He might have been a top-15 pick if he had been bigger — he’s only 5-10, 195. The comparison I made before the draft? Tyrann Mathieu. Now Arizona has both of them, and after losing Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger, a plug-and-play safety was needed. Baker has cornerback-type cover skills, and he’s not afraid to tackle. He could be Arizona’s slot corner. I’m going to make an early prediction and say he ends up on my Rookie Big Board next season.

Trading up for Chad Williams was a reach — I pegged him as a late-Day 3 guy. Amara Darboh and Mack Hollins were among the wideouts higher on my board, and there are some off-field concerns, as Williams was arrested last May for possession of marijuana and possession of a firearm with drugs. Dorian Johnson was my No. 5 guard and a three-year starter on the right side. T.J. Logan was my top-ranked kick returner.

The lingering question over this class is the Cardinals’ not getting a quarterback and having no potential long-term starter who could replace 37-year-old Carson Palmer, but other teams traded up in front of Arizona, so I can’t fault them for holding steady. I would’ve liked a potential replacement for Calais Campbell, as well.

LA Rams

Grade: C-

Top needs: Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive back

It would be a lot easier to stamp this draft grade “INCOMPLETE” and move on, because so much of it is wrapped up in Jared Goff. He is the reason they didn’t have a first-round pick in 2017, and I certainly don’t think it’s fair to close the book on him. He had no chance last year with a lack of blocking (run or pass) and stone-handed pass-catching. If Sean McVay can unlock Goff’s talent, then last year’s grade and this year’s grade look a lot better. In the meantime …

Aside from the Goff issue, I just consistently saw the Rams’ selections as a little bit rich. I like the plan — go get pass-catchers for Goff — but the value just suffered a little. I had Everett at No. 111 on my board, and he went at 44. I really like Cooper Kupp but would have gone with Chris Godwin or Josh Malone before him. Josh Reynolds can make great plays on the ball even while covered, but it was another case in which the Rams had him a bit higher than I did. John Johnson has some solid tape, but he didn’t test well, and size is a question mark. I had him down as a likelier Day 3 pick.

Overall, I think the Rams were smart to go after weapons for Goff (and McVay), I just questioned value in spots. Ironically, the most important aspect to both this draft and last year’s won’t be Goff or these wide receivers, it’ll be if the Rams can block well enough to unleash any of them.

San Francisco 49ers

Grade: A- 

Top needs: Quarterback, offensive line, defensive back

John Lynch went straight from the booth to a general manager role but didn’t look like a rookie GM in his first draft. On the first night, he made two smart trades and added two prospects (Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster) I ranked in my top eight overall. To move down one spot from No. 2 to No. 3 with the Bears, the Niners got pick Nos. 67 and 111 this year and a third-round pick in 2018. That’s a heist. The added draft value allowed them easy passage to slide up for Foster. Even if you didn’t love these players, you’d have to say bravo to the maneuvering.

Elsewhere, the 49ers were able to target clear needs at cornerback with Ahkello Witherspoon in Round 3, and at running back with Joe Williams in Round 4. George Kittle is the best fullback/tight end hybrid in the draft. D.J. Jones and Pita Taumoepenu are useful D-line depth pieces and Trent Taylor could help at receiver.

If there’s a puzzler here, it’s the use of a third-rounder on C.J. Beathard, a guy I had rated well behind a few other QBs available at the time. The divide on Beathard is whether you see physical tools that translate to a potential starter. I’m not quite in that camp.

Overall, the 49ers did well to not just settle for picking good players and make a play for adding a second elite player. Reuben Foster carries some risk, but at No. 31? Bring it on. This is a good start to the Lynch era.



Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.