Monday, April 16, 2012

2012 Draft Preview: NFC West

With Free Agency pretty much wrapped up, the NFL Draft is quickly approaching once again. As we have done in the past, we're going to take a quick look at the other teams in the league and preview their team needs and how they will likely approach the Draft. Today we take a look at the NFC West.

For reference, we compiled the draft picks each team currently has. Compensatory picks are listed in parentheses.

2011 Record:13-3
NFC West Champion, Lost to Giants in NFC Championship

Draft Picks: 30, 61, 92, 125, 165, 199, 237

The 49ers are coming off one of the biggest turnarounds in the league. They posted a 7-game improvement over 2010. They return most of the starters on their defense after locking up CB Carlos Rogers in free agency. Their biggest need, wide receiver, they went after aggressively in free agency as well, landing former Giant Mario Manningham and signing the ever-troubling Randy Moss. They also added Brandon Jacobs to the fold to help take some of the pressure off Frank Gore in the backfield. The 49ers were one of many teams that pursued Peyton Manning, but ultimately fell short. Alex Smith will return to his starting role again this year with last year's second round pick Colin Kaepernick as the back-up. 

While the 49ers added some depth at WR, they still lack a true #1 and could look to target someone in the first round who fits the mold. They addressed a lot of their needs in free agency and could be candidates to move up in the first round if a WR or CB falls down the board. The 49ers have invested heavily in their offensive line through the draft, so it wouldn't be surprising to see them target another lineman this year. 

2011 Record: 8-8

Draft Picks: 13, 80, 112, 151, 177, 185, 221

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Raising Zona

The Kevin Kolb experiment enters its second year with mixed results. At times, Kolb looked solid last year, but injuries and inconsistent play opened the door for John Skelton, who made the most of his opportunities, going 5-2 as a starter. Pittsburgh West continued their reputation, adding CB William Gay in free agency. Gay will likely be an immediate starter opposite last year's first round pick Patrick Peterson. Even after the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals have never got their running game off the ground and still rank in the bottom third in rush offense. Drafting offensive linemen would help that tremendously. With only 1 pick in the top 80 (they traded away their 2nd rounder as part of the Kevin Kolb deal), look for the Cardinals to be a candidate to trade down to add more picks.

2011 Record: 7-9

Draft Picks: 12, 43, 75, 106, 181, 225

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The Seahawks did what they needed to do in Free Agency, namely resigning DT Red Bryant and signing a counterpart in DT Jason Jones from Tennessee. They also made a splash by landing QB Matt Flynn with a very team-friendly 3-year deal. With the D-line and QB situation taken care of, they will likely look at the next two levels of their defense - specifically Linebackers and Cornerbacks in the draft. Seattle could use some help up front as well, and they could be a prime candidate to draft Stanford Guard David DeCastro. Under Pete Carroll, the Hawks have been movers and shakers on draft day, so don't be surprised if they trade down out of the #12 spot.

2011 Record: 2-14

Draft Picks: 6, 33, 39, 65, 96, 171, 209, (252)

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The Rams were a team decimated by injuries last season as they went from competing for the NFC West crown to picking near the top of the draft. They made a splash in free agency bringing in CB Courtland Finnegan from Tennessee and C Scott Wells from Green Bay. They added some other pieces, but the biggest move was the hiring of Jeff Fisher as their head coach and Gregg Williams as their defensive coordinator. Obviously, given the indefinite suspension handed down by the league to Williams, the Rams will be looking for another DC, but Fisher is the kind of coach that can really turn things around in the heartland. 

The Rams have already made one move in the draft, trading the #2 overall pick away to Washington for 3 first rounders and a handful of other picks so the Redskins can take RGIII. The Rams now hold the #6 pick and have a number of options, depending on how the Top 5 shakes out. The Rams have 3 picks in the Top 40 this year and have the opportunity to land some players that can start right away - and they need it. The Rams have needs all across the field, including a #1 WR for Sam Bradford, some offensive linemen to keep Bradford upright, an entirely new secondary, and a pass rusher to complement Chris Long.

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