One theme that ran consistently throughout the Cardinals’ draft class was leadership. All six of their draft picks — Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons, Houston OT Josh Jones, Utah DT Leki Fotu, LSU DT Rashard Lawrence, Cal LB Evan Weaver and Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin — were team captains in college. Some, like Simmons and Lawrence, were captains for loaded programs with a boatload of players who were drafted, which bodes well for their ability to carry those qualities into an NFL locker room.
“In the time I’ve been doing this, I really do feel like this board has fell to us this year as good as it’s ever fallen,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic. “In terms of guys that we really, really liked and valued for what we do and for our organizational needs, I really feel that all these guys – all of them are captains – bring leadership, they bring toughness, they’re productive and again, they’re guys we really felt fit the Cardinal way.”
A key inflection point for the 49ers this offseason came with their first, first-round pick at No. 13 overall. San Francisco acquired the pick by trading DL DeForest Buckner to the Colts and had earmarked DT Javon Kinlaw as strong candidate who would be available to replace him. But with the impending retirement of LT Joe Staley, the 49ers were also looking at offensive tackles. They were exploring a deal with the Redskins for LT Trent Williams when Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs, who they had high on their board, surprisingly fell to the 13th pick. Despite not being assured of landing Williams, 49ers GM John Lynch traded the 13th pick and effectively the right to draft Wirfs to drop down a pick and take Kinlaw.
“By that point, what I’d tell you is, I wouldn’t say it was a great deal of confidence, but we knew we were in the Trent Williams thing,” Lynch said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “We knew that we’d have a shot. And you start looking, ‘What are some of the reasons we were in the Super Bowl last year?’ Well, I think when we were right, when we were healthy, we overwhelmed people with our defensive front. And you don’t want to lose that, and we lost a key piece of it.”
Regarding the 49ers’ decision to draft Kinlaw specifically, Lynch said the team wanted to “get a little bit bigger” on their defensive line.
“I think even with DeForest, one of the things we had as a stated goal this offseason was to get a little bit bigger,” Lynch said. “DeForest is a big, tall man, but he was 285, 290 pounds. And we felt at times, you know, playing Seattle with those huge guards, guys get worn down. And we needed a little more beef.”
Lynch believes Kinlaw is a perfect fit for the 49ers’ defensive scheme and DL coach Kris Kocurek.
“The one thing you get with Javon is he’s 325 pounds, and a lean 325 pounds, if you can believe it. He’s got this giant wingspan. I think he’s a perfect fit for what we do with (defensive line coach) Kris Kocurek. We like teeing off and just exploding off the line of scrimmage and wrecking things, and Kinlaw was just a perfect match for that.”
New Seahawks TE Greg Olsen said he could have joined the media broadcasting business three years ago but wanted to continue his NFL career.
“I said if I wanted to go to TV, if I wanted to move on from football I could have done it three years ago,” Olsen said, via Curtis Crabtree of 950KJR.
Olsen reiterated that he is confident he can still play at a high level and wanted to join an organization where he could continue winning games.
“I know I can play. I know what I’ve been able to achieve, but there are still some things that I haven’t been able to achieve. That was my main message to the teams that reached out. I told them I’m not just doing this to collect a paycheck and extend my career. I’ve done all that. I’m looking to go somewhere and win and perform at a high level and contribute. I’m not looking to ruin my career’s work by just being a shell of myself in Year 14. If I thought that was the case, I would have retired.”
Olsen mentioned that he still feels healthy and hasn’t taken any steps back over the last few years.
“I know what I can still do. I know how my body feels and there’s nothing that I can’t do now that I haven’t been able to do years back. I’m excited to join this group and this organization. I’ve been used to training on my own and understanding what it takes to get myself ready for a season for a long time,” Olsen said.
Although Olsen said he’ll be an “open book” to the other Seahawks’ tight ends, he is intent on playing a premier role in their offense.
“While I’m going to be an open book and share where I can share and help where I can help you know I told the team you know don’t bring me in if you just want me to be like a brother in the locker room, like, I’m here to play first and foremost. I’m here to play. I’m here to perform at a high level and contribute. Because I’m a big believer that your voice doesn’t really matter if you can’t play.”
“I’m not gonna just take a backseat to a young guy and roll over and just say ‘hey man, this is your the future and I’m just going to help you out.’ It’s just not my style. I’m here to play. And I’m going to play every snap until they take me out right and like that’s just always how I’ve approached it. And that’s not going to change now.”