In this week’s NFL Draft Notebook, we continue our divisional previews. This time by zeroing in on the competitive NFC West. This division will again be led by the San Francisco 49ers, who should be one of the top three teams in the NFC. We also have a couple of teams in this division that have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
NFL Draft Notebook: Previewing NFC West, Naming Biggest Draft Busts From 2020
In addition to previewing the NFC West, this week’s article also looks at the biggest busts from the 2020 NFL Draft, highlights the top fullbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft, and much more.
NFC West Preview
San Fransico 49ers
Last season, the San Francisco 49ers made it all the way to the NFC Championship game with a third-string rookie quarterback. That quarterback, Brock Purdy, should be the starter next year if he can come back healthy. The main reason for the 49ers’ dominant season was their outstanding defense, which led the NFL in points per game. This unit again should be one of the best and combined with a more experienced quarterback, and improved special teams, should be enough for the 49ers to be one of the top teams in the league yet again. Watch out, NFC West!
One of the biggest pleasant surprises in the NFL last season was the Seattle Seahawks. Going into the season, NFL Draft Notebook and many others picked them to finish dead last in the NFC West. Instead, the Seahawks made the playoffs behind quarterback Geno Smith, who had by far the best season of his career. Seattle also picked up several players that should make an impact next season starting with first-round picks Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. It would not be a surprise if the Seahawks challenged the 49ers for the top spot in the NFC West, especially if they have improved play from their defense.
Los Angeles Rams
While the Seahawks were a pleasant surprise last year, the Los Angeles Rams were one of the biggest disappointments. The Rams finished 5-12 due to a combination of key injuries, a defense that finished in the bottom half of the league, and an offense that scored just 18 points a game in 2022. The team also lost several important players this offseason, and didn’t make any key additions, so look for them to miss the playoffs yet again.
ESPN recently came out with its projected 2024 NFL Draft order, and the team with the top pick is the Arizona Cardinals. While having the top pick next year should help the franchise rebuild, look for this year to be a long season. The one bright side for the Cardinals in 2023 could be their offense led by Kyler Murray, but losing DeAndre Hopkins will lessen the firepower this unit has. Arizona also had one of the worst defenses in the NFL, finishing dead last in sacks, and giving up 26 points per game last year.
2020 NFL Draft: Top-Five Draft Busts
1. Henry Ruggs, WR, Oakland Raiders
Unfortunately, one player who will never get a chance to live up to his predraft expectations is Henry Ruggs. The reason for this is due to the car crash he was involved in on Nov. 2, 2021. In this accident, Ruggs was driving while drunk and ended up killing Tina Tintor. After this incident, he was released by the Raiders and will spend between three and ten years in prison.
2. Damon Arnette, CB, Oakland Raiders
One thing is certain about the 2020 NFL Draft, and that is the Oakland Raiders did not have a good draft. The team’s top pick, Henry Ruggs, was the biggest bust of the draft, and their second first-round pick, Damon Arnette, is the second biggest bust. Like Ruggs, Arnette is also out of the NFL after facing legal trouble.
3. Isaiah Wilson, OT, Tennessee Titans
Yet another first-round pick who is no longer in the NFL is offensive tackle, Isaiah Wilson. Wilson played in just one game with the Titans before being traded to the Miami Dolphins, who ended up releasing him.
4. Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
It didn’t take long for the Philadelphia Eagles to give up on their first-round pick Jalen Reagor. The team traded Reagor to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2022 offseason for a seventh-round pick, after he had trouble consistently catching the ball and muffling punts. In his first season with the Vikings, he only caught eight passes and there is no guarantee he will make the roster in 2023.
5. C.J. Henderson, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Another bust in the 2020 NFL Draft is C.J. Henderson, who was drafted with the ninth overall pick. Henderson started his career off with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he only lasted a little over a year with them before being traded to the Carolina Panthers. In his time with the Panthers, he has only started 15 of 27 games and goes into the 2023 season as a backup.
Top Fullbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft
Jackson Acker, Wisconsin
This year will be an interesting season for Wisconsin’s Jackson Acker. Despite being one of the better fullbacks in the Big Ten last year, Acker will be asked to move to running back in new offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s system. While this will likely limit the playing time Acker gets, as he will be the number three running back, it should show NFL teams he has good versatility. After not carrying the ball once, and only catching five passes last season, look for those numbers to increase significantly. NFL teams will also be able to go back to his 2022 film to show he is a physical player who excels as a lead blocker.
Johnny Langan, Rutgers
Johnny Langan of Rutgers is one of the more versatile fullbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft. Langan started his career as a quarterback after being rated the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in New Jersey by ESPN coming out of high school. He moved to tight end in 2021 and has since seen time at tight end, fullback, and quarterback following the switch. As a prospect, he is a physical runner who shows the consistent hands to be used in the passing game.
— A player who will likely benefit greatly by transferring this offseason is former Michigan State wide receiver, Keon Coleman. Last week, Coleman decided to go to Florida State where he will play with a much better supporting cast. The squad is led by quarterback, Jordan Travis, who is currently my fifth-rated signal-caller in the 2024 NFL Draft. The skillset Coleman brings to Florida State is impressive size, coming in at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. He is also a stellar athlete for someone his size and even spent time on the Michigan State basketball team in 2021.
— Speaking of highly thought of wide receivers who recently transferred, another one who fits this bill is Zakhari Franklin. Franklin decided to move to Ole Miss for the 2023 season after spending the first couple of seasons at UTSA. Last year, Franklin caught 93 passes for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns and was named first-team All-Conference USA for the second time. In our initial draft rankings, we had a third-round grade on him, and with a big year in the SEC, he could easily move up to a second-round draft grade.
— It comes as no surprise that Chicago Bears rookie cornerback Terell Smith is looking impressive so far this offseason. According to cornerbacks coach and passing game coordinator Jon Hoke, Smith is picking up the defense well and has impressed the team with his speed and strength. These are two of the reasons why I gave the eventual fifth-round pick a third-round grade going into the 2023 NFL Draft.
— Last week it was announced the East-West Shrine Bowl would be moving from Las Vegas to Frisco, Texas. This is a big move as it will allow NFL Draft Notebook to cover the game in-depth next year since we are located in Magnolia, Texas. This game features some of the top prospects in the NFL Draft, and last year, 45 players were drafted from this game.
Prediction of the Week
Florida State will win the ACC next season and make the College Football Playoffs.