Team-by-team draft needs: NFC West

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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Pat Kirwan breaks down each team's positional needs, listed in order of importance, entering the draft.

More team draft needs:
AFC: East | North | South | West
NFC: East | North | South | West

Arizona Cardinals' last five top picks
Year
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
16
D. Rodgers-Cromartie CB Tenn. State
1
5
Levi Brown OT Penn State
1
10
Matt Leinart QB USC
1
8
Antrel Rolle DB Miami (Fla.)
1
3
Larry Fitzgerald WR Pittsburgh
» Arizona Cardinals' draft history

Arizona Cardinals

Defensive end: Calais Campbell is a rising player who can be an end in 4-3 or 3-4 defensive alignments, but Bertrand Berry and Travis LaBoy have missed extensive time because of injury in recent seasons. The Cardinals need another young player who can be a two-way end but has a knack for rushing the passer.

Running back: Edgerrin James is expected to be released, and J.J. Arrington signed a free-agent deal with the Denver Broncos, leaving Tim Hightower as the only starting-caliber running back on the Cardinals' roster. The team signed Jason Wright to provide depth and special-teams play, but it needs an inside-outside runner who also can serve as a receiver out of the backfield.

Outside linebacker: Strong-side linebackers Chike Okeafor (33) and Clark Haggans (32) are aging veterans who don't provide the consistent pass-rush pressure the Cardinals need from their hybrid scheme. Expect the team to find a young, aggressive pass rusher to fill another need.

Center/guard: The Cardinals would like to upgrade at center, despite the improvements shown by Lyle Sendlein over the course of last season. But at the very least, they could look for an inside swingman who's able to fill in at center or guard in a pinch.

Left tackle: Mike Gandy played way above his head in 2008, and that's a tribute to Russ Grimm and the Cardinals' coaching staff. But given Gandy's history, the team can't expect that level of play to continue and should look for a new starter.

Punter: Ben Graham was just OK filling in at the end of last season. Field position is a key battle in every game, but coach Ken Whisenhunt places such a premium on special-teams play that it's hard to imagine the Cardinals not picking up someone with a big leg to take over for Graham.

Draft choices: Nos. 31, 63, 95, 131, 167, 204, 240, 254

San Francisco 49ers' last five top picks
Year
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
29
Kentwan Balmer DE North Carolina
1
11
Patrick Willis LB Mississippi
1
6
Vernon Davis TE Maryland
1
1
Alex Smith QB Utah
1
31
Rashaun Woods WR Oklahoma State
» San Francisco 49ers' draft history

San Francisco 49ers

Quarterback: Shaun Hill and Alex Smith can battle all they want in training camp. Neither of them should be the starter for this team. Though the 49ers haven't shown any public interest in Denver Broncos QB Jay Cutler, they did host then-free agent Kurt Warner, which tells us that they are looking for an upgrade. Could USC's Mark Sanchez or Kansas State's Josh Freeman be in the 49ers' future?

Right tackle: The release of Jonas Jennings left a big hole on the right side of the offensive line, which the 49ers filled by signing former Pittsburgh Steelers starter Marvel Smith to a two-year deal. Smith is 30 and coming off recovery from a back injury, so the 49ers should be in the market for an elite tackle prospect early in the draft.

Safety: Free safety Mark Roman has been told he is no longer in the team's plans, and Michael Lewis is only an adequate starter at strong safety. Though there aren't a lot of top flight safeties in this draft, the 49ers still will look to upgrade.

Outside linebacker: The 49ers haven't had a double-digit sack guy in years, and last season's team leader, Parys Haralson, had just eight. If the 49ers are to be successful in the 3-4, they need to generate more of a pass rush off the edge with their outside linebackers.

Running back: Word out of San Francisco is that the team is looking to move more toward a two-back system. Frank Gore is tough inside the tackles, but his speed in the open field as a runner and a receiver is his greatest strength. The 49ers would like to limit the beating Gore takes week in and week out, so look for the team to draft a bigger back who can handle some of the heavy lifting.

Guard: The 49ers are thin on the inside of the offensive line. They would like to find an interior swingman who can play the right and left sides.

Draft choices: Nos. 10, 43, 74, 111, 146, 171, 184, 219, 244

Seattle Seahawks' last five top picks
Year
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
28
Lawrence Jackson DE USC
2
55
Josh Wilson CB Maryland
1
31
Kelly Jennings CB Miami (Fla.)
1
26
Chris Spencer C Mississippi
1
23
Marcus Tubbs DT Texas
» Seattle Seahawks' draft history

Seattle Seahawks

Cornerback: Marcus Trufant had a down year in '08, and while former high draft picks Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings have promise, neither has stood out. The Seahawks will look for someone who can compete for the starting job opposite Trufant in the near future.

Left tackle: Walter Jones is 35 years old and coming off microfracture surgery. He's still one of the best in the game, but he's beginning to show some signs of decline, and the Seahawks' next cornerstone tackle isn't currently on their roster.

Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck is 10 years into his career and has taken a beating in recent seasons. Seneca Wallace is athletic but has shown a limited ability to carry the team when asked to step into a starting role. If the Lions don't take Matthew Stafford, the Seahawks would be hard-pressed to pass on him at No. 4.

Free safety: Free safety Brian Russell is 31, and strong safety Deon Grant is 30, so the Seahawks need to get younger at those two spots. They also need players who will be more of a physical presence across the middle.

Guard: Mike Wahle and Rob Sims are adequate starters who could be upgraded, and there is very little depth behind them.

Running back: Julius Jones is expected to carry the load, with T.J. Duckett handling the short-yardage and goal-line situations. However, Jones has yet to prove that he's an every-down back. If the Seahawks are going to focus on the run more under new coach Jim Mora, they need a back who has the speed to gain the edge and can line up as a receiver.

Outside linebacker: The loss of Julian Peterson -- even at his age -- hurts the defense. The Seahawks re-signed D.D. Lewis, who was the starter before Peterson arrived from the San Francisco 49ers. However, Lewis is best suited to a backup role at this point in his career.

Draft choices: Nos. 4, 37, 68, 105, 178, 213, 245, 247, 248

St. Louis Rams' last five top picks
Year
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
2
Chris Long DE Virginia
1
13
Adam Carriker NT Nebraska
1
15
Tye Hill CB Clemson
1
19
Alex Barron OT Florida State
1
24
Steven Jackson RB Oregon State
» St. Louis Rams' draft history

St. Louis Rams

Left tackle: Alex Barron has been moved to the left side while the Rams figure out how to replace seven-time Pro Bowl selection Orlando Pace, whom they released to save salary-cap space. Barron is more ideally suited to play the right side, where he can focus more on his strengths as a run blocker. With two of the first 35 picks, St. Louis should take a shot at one of the talented left tackles in this draft.

Middle linebacker: Will Witherspoon and Chris Draft are both better suited to play outside in new coach Steve Spagnuolo's defense, which means the Rams need a man in the middle to anchor the unit and defend the run. A player such as Pittsburgh's Scott McKillop might be ideal in the middle rounds.

Quarterback: Marc Bulger has taken a beating in recent years, and entering the season with Brock Berlin as the backup would seem irresponsible of the Rams. Certainly, they could look for their next franchise signal-caller in the draft, but they also might need to add a veteran in free agency.

Tight end: Spagnuolo and new general manager Billy Devaney already have said they will ride Steven Jackson this season. If that's the case, they need a blocking tight end who can help the Rams set the edge on the outside run. Randy McMichael and Joe Klopfenstein are better receivers than blockers.

Defensive tackle: Spagnuolo has said his team needs to get bigger up front, particularly on the interior, where Adam Carriker is listed at 308 pounds. Look for a run stuffer who can protect the linebackers in the middle and let them run to the ball.

Wide receiver: Torry Holt and Drew Bennett have been cut. Last year's draft picks, Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton, have promise, but another playmaker and some added depth are on the Rams' to-do list.

Running back: Jackson has been dinged up in recent seasons, and for the run game to be the backbone of the Rams' new offense, they need to make sure a solid No. 2 running back is in place.

Cornerback: Former first-round draft pick Tye Hill is an adequate starter, and the Rams think highly enough of Ron Bartell to have re-signed him to a four-year, $28 million contract this offseason. But in a division that features the Arizona Cardinals' spread offense, teams better have a strong nickel package. The Rams don't.

Draft choices: Nos. 2, 35, 66, 103, 138, 176, 211

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