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NFC West rookie grades: Jared Goff needs help; 49ers rising

The 2016 NFL season just ended -- but the 2017 NFL season is coming. As the NFL Scouting Combine nears, looks forward by looking backward, grading the 2016 rookie class for each team and identifying what the front office should focus on this offseason. Click below to scroll through each divisional rundown.

Arizona Cardinals

» Round 1: (No. 29 overall) Robert Nkemdiche, DL, 5 games/0 starts.
» Round 3: (92) Brandon Williams, CB, 13 games/3 starts.
» Round 4: (128) Evan Boehm, C, 16 games/1 start.
» Round 5: (167) Marqui Christian, S, 0 games; (170) Cole Toner, OL, 2 games/0 starts.
» Round 6: (205) Harlan Miller, CB, 2 games/2 starts.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Hakeem Valles, TE, 11 games/1 start.

It's hard for any team to earn a passing grade when it fails to get a significant contribution from any member of its rookie class. Robert Nkemdiche essentially used the year as a redshirt season, barely getting on the field despite his first-round draft status. He was a huge disappointment for a team that desperately needed an interior defender to alleviate some of the pressure on Calais Campbell. Brandon Williams was thrust into action before he was ready and struggled mightily on the corner opposite Patrick Peterson. He made strides near the end of the season, so it is possible he could become a factor in the secondary in 2017. Evan Boehm has shown developmental potential in limited action. GRADE: D

Combine/free agency focus: The Cardinals need to find a QB1 and WR1 for the future this offseason. The quarterback dilemma could force the team to make a play for a veteran in free agency or make an early move on draft day. In the draft, the Cardinals could find Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer or Patrick Mahomes intriguing as an early pick. At wide receiver, Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross will command some attention as WR1 candidates for Bruce Arians' squad.

Los Angeles Rams

» Round 1: (No. 1 overall) Jared Goff, QB, 7 games/7 starts.
» Round 4: (110) Tyler Higbee, TE, 16 games/7 starts; (117) Pharoh Cooper, WR, 10 games/3 starts.
» Round 6:(177) Temarrick Hemingway, TE, 8 games/0 starts; (190) Josh Forrest, MLB, 10 games/4 starts; (206) Mike Thomas, WR, 15 games/0 starts.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Michael Jordan, CB, 5 games/2 starts; Cory Littleton, OLB, 16 games/1 start.

The Rams mortgaged the farm to nab their QB1 of the future. Although Jared Goff started the season on the bench, he eventually cracked the starting lineup and showed promise as a passer. Sure, he didn't light up the scoreboard, but his arm talent certainly pops off the screen when I watch the tape. He should be a solid player in a new scheme better suited to his talents. Pharoh Cooper and Tyler Higbee didn't play up to expectations as complementary pass catchers. Neither player provided the offense with much of an impact, despite the opportunity on a team lacking established weapons on the outside. GRADE: C-

Combine/free agency focus: The Rams must commit to securing a WR1 to help Goff find his groove as a franchise quarterback. Without a first-round pick in this year's draft, the Rams will need to dig deeper to uncover an underrated player with the potential to blossom into the lead role in the passing game. Malachi Dupre, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Isaiah Ford and Zay Jones could be options as Day 2 candidates.

San Francisco 49ers

» Round 1: (No. 7 overall) DeForest Buckner, DE, 15 games/15 starts; (28) Joshua Garnett, OG, 15 games/11 starts.
» Round 3: (68) Will Redmond, CB, 0 games.
» Round 4: (133) Rashard Robinson, CB, 14 games/6 starts.
» Round 5: (142) Ronald Blair, DE, 16 games/0 starts; (145) John Theus, OT, 4 games/1 start; (174) Fahn Cooper, OG, 0 games.
» Round 6: (207) Jeff Driskel, QB, 0 games; (211) Kelvin Taylor, RB, 0 games; (213) Aaron Burbridge, WR, 16 games/3 starts.
» Round 7: (249) Prince Charles Iworah, CB, 1 game/0 starts.

The 49ers' rookie class could become the foundation of the team's resurrection, with DeForest Buckner playing the role of headliner. The No. 7 overall pick showed flashes of promise as a destructive pass rusher on the front line. Joshua Garnett got off to a slow start, but he made solid contributions as a rugged blocker at the point of attack. Rashard Robinson came on late in the year as a contributor in the team's sub-packages. Overall, the 49ers discovered some core pieces for a team looking to return to prominence in the near future. GRADE: B

Combine/free agency focus: The 49ers need playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. From quarterback to pass catchers, the team needs to identify blue-chip players capable of delivering splash plays in key moments. With the No. 2 overall pick, the team could take a hard look at the quarterback position to see if it can find a long-term solution. Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer will get a long look. At some point, the team will investigate the receiver market to find a legitimate WR1 on the outside.

Seattle Seahawks

» Round 1: (No. 31 overall) Germain Ifedi, OG, 15 games/15 starts.
» Round 2: (49) Jarran Reed, DT, 17 games/8 starts.
» Round 3: (90) C.J. Prosise, RB, 6 games/2 starts; (94) Nick Vannett, TE, 9 games/2 starts; (97) Rees Odhiambo, OG, 9 games/0 starts.
» Round 5: (147) Quinton Jefferson, DE, 3 games/0 starts; (171) Alex Collins, RB, 13 games/0 starts.
» Round 6: (215) Joey Hunt, C, 11 games/1 start.
» Round 7: (243) Kenny Lawler, WR, 0 games; (247) Zac Brooks, RB, 0 games.
» Notable undrafted FAs:DeAndre Elliott, CB, 15 games/0 starts; George Fant, OT, 16 games/12 starts; Nolan Frese, LS, 16 games/0 starts; Tanner McEvoy, WR, 16 games/0 starts.

Seattle is one of the few teams in the NFL that counts on its undrafted free agents to make as many contributions as its top selections. To that point, the team found a left tackle in George Fant with long-term potential. Sure, he struggled on the island, but he definitely has the athleticism to play on Russell Wilson's blind side. The Seahawks' first-round pick, Germain Ifedi, cracked the starting lineup at right guard and held his own against tough competition. Nick Vannett, Alex Collins and C.J. Prosise made solid contributions in limited action. If they continue to progress over the offseason, they should be primed for bigger roles in 2017. GRADE: B

Combine/free agency focus: It's time for Seattle to re-invest in the cornerback position after watching the depth slowly deteriorate over the years. The team could use a couple of long, rangy defenders to groom behind Richard Sherman on the perimeter. Given their preference for "big" corners, the Seahawks could spend extra time checking out Teez Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Tre'Davious White at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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