NFC West Draft Preview

by David Syvertsen

NFC WEST – How They Finished:

1 – San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
2 – Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
3 – St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)
4 – Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

ARIZONA CARDINALS

#7 (1st)
#38 (2nd)
#69 (3rd)
#103 (4th)
#140 (5th)
#174 (6th)
#219 (7th) f/OAK

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

The Cardinals overachieved their way to a 4-0 record to start off the 2012 season.  They eventually made their way back down to the bottom of the NFC West, finishing 1-11 in their final 12 games.  They were the worst offensive team in football, scoring just 18 offensive touchdowns all year.  The most important part of the offseason has been the change in leadership with a new General Manager and Head Coach.  Bruce Arians and his aggressive downfield passing attack are now calling the shots.  After allowing 58 sacks in 2012, the Cardinals have surprisingly not yet addressed the offensive line.  They did however trade for veteran quarterback Carson Palmer to pair with Drew Stanton as the team’s new duo of signal callers.  Defensively, they’ve added a lot of veteran role players to supplement an already strong unit.  2013 will be an uphill battle but they should be able to keep games close.  Their deciding factor will revolve around what else they can do to upgrade that offense from here on out.

1 – Pass Blockers

The entire offensive line could be upgraded, although they are not an incapable group as it stands right now.  More competition and depth need to be brought in though to help support Arians’ downfield passing attack and Palmer’s lack of mobility.

2 – Quarterback

Whether or not Palmer has another short run of success left in the tank, the Cardinals don’t have any long term stability at quarterback.  Arians has had a lot of success with first rounders at the position.  If they can find the right value early on, go get it.

3 – Run Defending Safety

Adrian Wilson was replaced by Yeremiah Bell for 2013.  Not a bad move, as the two are pretty close in value but the long term outlook at the position is bleak.  This is an important role within that defense and they need to be better prepared for injuries and/or the future.

The Plan:

The Cardinals may be in position to grab their top graded quarterback at number seven overall.  While that offensive line could certainly use a boost inside and out, the opportunity to bring in whichever signal caller they want will be very tempting considering what is on the current roster.  Bruce Arians had tremendous success with Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck in their respective rookie seasons.  He knows how to disguise an inexperienced offensive leader.  If he finds the value in any early round, he should take it and run.

Defensively, the Cardinals are more than good enough to compete week in, week out.  They are strong and deep on all three levels of the defense.  The weakness I see there is a lack of quality youth, however.  They are a veteran group.  They should look to add some quality depth that can take a couple years to get ready for bigger roles.

3 Round Mock:

#7 – Chance Warmack – G – Alabama
#38 – Mike Glennon – QB – NC State
#69 – Jonathan Cyprien – S – Florida International  

ST. LOUIS RAMS

#16 (1st)
#22 (1st) f/WAS
#46 (2nd)
#78 (3rd)
#113 (4th)
#149 (5th)
#184 (6th)
#222 (7th)

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand
The Rams were one of the busiest teams during the 2012 season when it came to acquisitions via street free agency and waivers.  In turn, this current offseason has been full of goodbyes to some of their more productive and established players.  There is a sense of leadership coming down the chain from the combination of Head Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead.  They have a plan to build this roster up the right way.  Their offensive line woes over the past few years have prevented them from really knowing what they have in Bradford.  But as the season progressed, they really improved as a unit and on top of that, they signed the top left tackle in the market, Jake Long.  They still lack a top tier wide receiver but there is a young, versatile group of pass catchers with a lot of upside here.  2012 7th round pick Daryl Richardson had a surprisingly strong rookie season, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry.  It was a good enough performance to allow the team to open the door for Steve Jackson, as he signed with Atlanta.  Defensively, the Rams have a solid young nucleus to build around but they’ve lost a lot of quality role players via free agency.

1 – Wide Receiver

While they have a nice trio if young receivers with upside, they lack a true number one threat to pair with Bradford.  Jared Cook will help, but they’ve lost their two top pass catchers from 2012.

2 – Linebacker

They have a nice group of defensive linemen that can play the run and rush the passer.  Behind them, however, is a thin group of linebackers that are in desperate need of speed and talent.  In a division being run by two young athletic quarterbacks, this needs to be addressed.

3 – Defensive Back

The Rams are very thin at cornerback behind their solid starting duo and they’ve lost both of their starters at safety via free agency.

The Plan:

The 2012 draft-day trade with the Redskins will continue to pay off for the Rams this year.  With two first round picks, the decision makers have something that most teams salivate for.  This is a talented roster, but it is also a thin roster.  They need to address their defensive depth chart early and often.  There is a need for linebackers and safeties more than anything right now, but they must avoid reaching for players at specific positions with those first round picks.  They are not done rebuilding and this is a part of the process that can be challenging to stick to the plan of bringing in top players, regardless of position.

When it comes to trading up in the draft, teams with multiple first rounders are always a prime candidate.  While it may be tempting to try and move up in to the top 10, I would stay put and allow the value to fall.  Again, the opportunity to take two players in the first 22 overall selections needs to be approached carefully.  This could be a huge part of the Rams success over the next few seasons.

3 Round Mock:

#16 – Sheldon Richardson – DT – Missouri
#22 (f/WAS) – Jarvis Jones – OLB – Georgia
#46 – Markus Wheaton – WR – Oregon State
#78 – Phillip Thomas – S – Fresno State

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

#56 (2nd)
#87 (3rd)
#123 (4th)
#138 (5th) f/OAK
#194 (6th)
#220 (7th) f/NO
#231 (7th)
#241 (7th) Comp
#242 (7th) Comp

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

Pete Carroll’s unproven squad broke out in 2012, playing some of the best football in all the NFL down the stretch.  They are one of youngest teams in the league that are in a position to sustain success for the next few years as long as Russell Wilson continues to progress.  They pulled of the biggest trade of the offseason to this point.  Acquiring Wide Receiver Percy Harvin for their 1st round pick was a good move at the right time.  He fits in well with their system and there are many that may not realize yet just how good Harvin can be.  Defensively, their line lost a couple, gained a couple, and pretty much remained flat to what they were last year.  This entire side of the ball is a huge, physical group that beats people up and forces turnovers.  This is a team that was built the right way over the past two years.  They spend well, draft even better.  Even though they don’t pick until #56 overall, Seattle still has 9 selections over the course of the weekend.

1 – Right Tackle

The need is not immediate, but Seattle should be prepared for a vacant hole at RT next year.  This could potentially be a high powered passing game for the next few years.  That can only happen with a strong and deep unit up front.

2 – Weakside Linebacker

This is an impressive front seven unit.  The defensive line and linebackers complement each other perfectly.  They need a weakside linebacker that can defend the run between the tackles but play with enough range outside as well.

3 – Defensive Back

They have a lot of cheap, big time talent in their defensive backfield already but the unit is not that deep.  They can use a pick or two to add some quality depth and long term security.

The Plan:

Seattle has a great looking depth chart at the moment.  They are deep on both sides of the ball, loaded with talent that fits in to their unique schemes.  There is plenty of youth as well.  They are in the middle of a window where their personnel is strong and effective as well as financially efficient.  They need to start planning for the future.  Eventually they will lose some of their young talent to free agency, and this is the opportunity to make sure any departures do not hurt them too bad.

The defense is a strong, big, intimidating group.  There is a need to build up more quality young depth in the back seven.  They can look for scheme-specific players that can help maintain a high level of performance as the years go on.  Offensively, they are set at the skill positions but if the right value presents itself, they are in a position to take it and run.

3 Round Mock:

#56 – John Jenkins – DT – Georgia
#87 – Kiko Alonso – LB – Oregon

San Francisco 49ers

#31 (1st)
#34 (2nd) f/KC
#61 (2nd)
#74 (3rd) f/CAR
#93 (3rd)
#128 (4th)
#131 (4th) Comp
#157 (5th) f/IND
#164 (5th)
#180 (6th) f/MIA
#227 (7th) f/CIN
#237 (7th)
#246 (7th) Comp
#252 (7th) Comp

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

There has been a decent amount of turnover in San Francisco this offseason.  While the nucleus of their NFC Championship team remains intact, the front office has quite the challenge on their hand while their window is still open.  Some of their best role players on defense left via free agency, and the players that have been signed to replace them are not upgrades.  They have had a deep squad for a couple years now though, so they have enough firepower to remain in contention for the top spot in the NFC West.  The Niners traded Alex Smith, giving Colin Kaepernick his first full season as a starter.  Their offense looked unstoppable at times in 2012 and the addition of Anquan Boldin only makes an already deep wide receiver group appear to more dangerous.  They still have one of the top offensive lines in the league as well, a unit that can dominate the point of attack and open holes as well as protect the quarterback.

1 – Free Safety

Dashon Goldson signed an overpriced free agent contract with Tampa Bay.  It was the right move to let him walk when considering the economics, but the talent level that is responsible for taking over his spot is limited at best.

2 – Outside Linebacker

Aldon Smith broke out in 2012, he is a legit star in the making.  Ahmad Brooks is a nice complement as well, but there is nothing behind them.  An elite team needs multiple pass rush options.

3 – Nose Tackle

The Niners have done nice job of controlling the point of attack on both sides of the ball.  They’ve lost a couple of their key pieces there that keep Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman clean and have yet to find replacements.

The Plan:

With a whopping 14 selections over the course of the weekend, the Niners have an enormous amount of flexibility to maneuver up and down.  They should be aggressive with their approach, even if it means they come out with 5-6 less actual draft picks when all is said and done.  The defense took a pretty big hit this offseason, one that I think many are overlooking.  The loss of Sopoaga and Jean-Francois along with the aging of Smith could absolutely ruin that defense.  Their focus needs to revolve around selections of strong-presence defenders.

Offensively they will still be a dangerous unit as long as Kaepernick maintains his high level of performance.  They have the deepest group of pass catchers in football and a dominant offensive line.  They could look to add another running back at some point, with Gore nearing a dangerous age for the position.

3 Round Mock:

#31 – Johnathan Hankins – DT – Ohio State
#34 (f/KC) – Jesse Williams – DT – Alabama
#61 – Vance McDonald – TE – Rice
#74 (f/CAR) – Travis Frederick – C – Wisconsin
#93 – Bacarri Rambo – S – Georgia

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