NFL Draft Preview: NFC West
The NFC West features two of the NFL's top teams with strong future. Seattle and San Francisco have all the pieces to be great franchises for a long time. The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals are trying to catch up, but will need stellar drafts to even come close.
Arizona Cardinals (5-11 in 2012)
Picks: #7 (1), #38 (2), #69 (3), #103 (4), #140 (5), #174 (6), #219 (7)
Needs: RB, TE, OT, OG, DT, DE, CB
Outlook: The Cardinals were simply not a good football team last year, and they still have a lot of holes. They have, however, solidified their quarterback position with Carson Palmer and most thing the team will look to bolster his protection in Round 1. They would love for Lane Johnson to fall to them at #7, however, they could look to Alabama’s Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper of UNC to at least strengthen the interior of their line. In Round 2, the Cardinals could give Palmer a much needed weapon by looking at Stanford tight end Zach Ertz if he is still on the board. Cornerbacks like Blidi Wreh-Wilson of UCONN could be a significant get for the Cardinals in Round 3 or 4 or a running back could get a look as well.
St. Louis Rams (7-8-1 in 2012)
Picks: #16 (1), #22 (1), #46 (2), #78 (3), #113 (4), #149 (5), #184 (6), #222 (7)
Needs: RB, WR, OG, LB, S
Outlook: After losing some of Sam Bradford’s top weapons this offseason, the Rams will be looking to add a receiver for the young quarterback. In the effort to bring in playmakers, the team could look to Tavon Austin of West Virginia. However, if they have their sights set on the Mountaineer, St. Louis will have to decide whether they want to cross their fingers and hope he is there at #16 or if they want to trade up to grab him. With their two picks in the first round, the Rams are in a prime position to add running back Eddie Lacy of Alabama, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, linebacker Alec Ogletree, or safety Kenny Vaccaro. Determining how to allocate those selections could define the bottom half of the first round. It will also determine how they approach Rounds 2 and 3. This is a team with some glaring holes, particularly with a void left by Steven Jackson. If the Rams do not take a running back in the first round, Jonathan Franklin of UCLA, Montee Ball of Wisconsin, or Giovani Bernard of North Carolina would be options in Round 2. Another possibility for the franchise would be to take Marcus Lattimore, a player whose abilities are more in line with Steven Jackson, in Round 3 or 4 and allow him to recover from his injury.
San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1 in 2012)
Picks: #31 (1), #34 (2), #61 (2), #74 (3), #93 (3), #128 (4), #131 (4), #157 (5), #173 (6), #180 (6), #237 (7), #246 (7), #252 (7)
Needs: TE, DT, CB, S
Outlook: The 49ers are the best team in football and were close to a championship last season. With such a strong club, the team holds all the cards with 13 picks in the NFL Draft. With those picks, the team will look to move up, acquire future picks, and add key pieces. First and foremost, the 49ers will look to add secondary help. Safeties like Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International, Matt Elam of Florida, or Eric Reid of LSU could be appealing options at #31 as could corner Desmond Trufant of Washington. The team could also be eager to add defensive linemen and Jesse Williams of Alabama or Johnathan Jenkins of Georgia could be a superior plug in the middle. Tight end Zach Ertz of Stanford could intrigue the team, but they will have to decide whether it is worth investing such a high pick when they still have Vernon Davis. With so many picks, look for the team to take some risks including Tyrann Mathieu of LSU or Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina.
Seattle Seahawks (11-5 in 2012)
Picks: #56 (2), #87 (3), #123 (4), #138 (5), #158 (5), #194 (6), #220 (7), #231 (7), #241 (7), #242 (7)
Needs: OT, OG, DT, LB
Outlook: Seattle does not have a first round selection and will not pick until #56. At that point, the Seahawks could take an offensive or defensive tackle in Round 2 with offensive tackles Menelik Watson of Florida State and Kyle Long of Oregon likely being the best value if they are still available. Linebackers could be valuable in Round 3 with Jonathan Bostic of Florida possibly available. With the ongoing battle between the Seahawks and 49ers, Seattle will need to make every pick count in order to compete with San Francisco moving forward.