The NFC West has gone from league doormat to the best division in football over the last three seasons. A large part of their success has been due to the fact that the teams have drafted well. Here is a look at the draft needs of the franchises and predictions for what they do in the first round.
Arizona may look to get a pass catching tight end to pair with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in an effort to benefit Carson Palmer. The Cardinals should also be thinking about grooming a replacement for Palmer, but with the team ready to win now, they may want to take a developmental quarterback in the later rounds.
The defense has been one of the more underrated groups in the league recently, but with Tyrann Mathieu recovering from an ACL tear and Yeremiah Bell unsigned, the Cardinals could go into 2014 without both of their starting safeties from the previous year. The team could also use another outside linebacker to help the aging John Abraham rush the passer.
First Round Prediction: (20th overall) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
St. Louis Rams
Jake Long is recovering from a knee injury and Rodger Saffold will be moved to guard, which leaves a void at the tackle position. The Rams could address their need as early as the second pick of the draft, but have other issues as well. The offense also needs playmakers on the outside to give Sam Bradford additional weapons to attack the stout defenses in the NFC West. It will also be a make-or-break year for Bradford himself, so it’s not out of the question that the Rams could take a quarterback early on.
The Rams defense is a rising until led by pass rushers Chris Long and Robert Quinn. While the front seven has the makings to be dominant, they need help on the back end as safeties Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald struggled in coverage. St. Louis will will be looking for an upgrade at safety at some point, possibly as early as the first round.
First Round Predictions: (2nd overall) Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson, (13th overall) Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame
San Francisco 49ers
There has been a lot of buzz about the 49ers looking to trade up in the first round, and odds are they have a wide receiver in mind. It’s imperative that the team add speed at the position, as well as get a wideout (or two) who can compete for starting roles as early as 2015 with the futures of Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin in doubt.
Tramaine Brock is the only current 49ers cornerback who is a definite to be in the starting lineup when the season begins, as Chris Culliver missed 2013 with a knee injury and has had legal issues. San Francisco will look to address the secondary early on and could take as many as two corners in the first three rounds. Outside linebacker will also be a position to watch as the future of Aldon Smith is in doubt due to pending legal matters.
First Round Prediction: (49ers trade the 30th overall and 94th overall selections to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 15th overall): Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
The Super Bowl Champions only have six total picks to work with this year, and may look to upgrade both their offensive line and receiving corps. They will look to replace the departed Breno Giacomini and Golden Tate on offense, as well as protect against losing the oft-injured Percy Harvin for any extended period of time.
One of the most dominant defenses in recent memory took a hit with the departures of Chris Clemons, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner and Red Bryant, so it might make sense to add more firepower to the unit that carried the team to a championship.
Firs round prediction: (32nd overall) Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Photo: Getty Images
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