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NFC West draft needs: San Francisco 49ers could use Matt Elam

As we close in on the 2013 NFL Draft (April 25-27 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City), our analysts examine each team's biggest needs. Chris Wesseling previews the NFC West below, but click here for other divisions.

Arizona Cardinals

2013 draft picks: 7 (1st round), 38 (2nd), 69 (3rd), 103 (4th), 140 (5th), 174 (6th), 219 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Offensive tackle.
Other spots to address: Offensive guard, safety, outside linebacker, running back.
Prospects who fit: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma; Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan; Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina; Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama.

The Cardinals found their quarterback in Carson Palmer; now they have to keep him upright after playing a pair of swinging gates at offensive tackle last season. If Central Michigan's Eric Fisher is gone, Arizona should pull the trigger on athletic Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson with the seventh overall pick. General manager Steve Keim could then go back to the offensive line in the second round, adding a guard like Kentucky's Larry Warford or Oregon's Kyle Long to play opposite Daryn Colledge.

Arizona's defense carried the team last season, but the Cards lost Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes and Greg Toler this offseason, so they could use help in the secondary. Look for the Cardinals to add a safety and an outside linebacker in the middle rounds of the draft. Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas and Illinois' Michael Buchanan are possibilities on the draft's second or third day.

San Francisco 49ers

2013 draft picks: 31 (1st round), 34 (2nd), 61 (2nd), 74 (3rd), 93 (3rd), 128 (4th), 131 (4th), 157 (5th), 175 (6th), 180 (6th), 227 (7th), 246 (7th), 252 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Safety.
Other spots to address: Defensive end, wide receiver, running back, cornerback, tight end.
Prospects who fit: Matt Elam, S, Florida; John Cyprien, S, Florida International; Margus Hunt, DE, SMU; Jesse Williams, DL, Alabama; Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford.

Dashon Goldson's defection to Tampa Bay leaves safety as the team's biggest need, but the 49ers could also use young talent at several other positions. Fortunately, they have 13 draft picks, thanks to trades and compensatory selections.

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The 49ers had issues rushing the passer after Justin Smith partially tore his triceps in Week 15 last season. If general manager Trent Baalke lands a safety like Florida's Matt Elam, Florida International's John Cyprien or LSU's Eric Reid with the 31st pick, he can add D-line depth three picks later. An alternative would be to reunite head coach Jim Harbaugh with catch-first tight end Zach Ertz of Stanford.

The 49ers have enough picks that they can bundle a few of them to trade up, if there is a difference maker available. They also have the opportunity to take a flier on a player with injury concerns, such as South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.

Seattle Seahawks

2013 draft picks: 56 (2nd round), 87 (3rd), 123 (4th), 138 (5th), 158 (5th), 194 (6th), 214 (7th), 220 (7th), 231 (7th), 241 (7th), 242 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Offensive tackle.
Other spots to address: Cornerback, quarterback, defensive line, linebacker.
Prospects who fit: Justin Pugh, OL, Syracuse; Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State; Kawann Short, DT, Purdue; Sio Moore, OLB, Connecticut.

After trading for Percy Harvin and signing a pair of pass rushers (Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett), the Seahawks appear to be a team without any major needs as they enter the draft. Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider boast what is arguably the strongest top-to-bottom roster in the NFL.

Otherwise adequate right tackle Breno Giacomini was abused by St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long in two meetings last season, and the Seahawks should target his eventual replacement in the second round. Syracuse's Justin Pugh or Florida State's Menelik Watson could be on the board when Seattle first picks at No. 56 overall.

Keep an eye on a pair of UConn linebackers in the third round: speedy pass rusher Trevardo Williams, who is the Huskies' all-time sack leader, and teammate Sio Moore, who was called the best value in the draft by NFL Network's Mike Mayock. While the Seahawks have the best starting secondary in the league, they could use depth at both cornerback and safety in the later rounds.

St. Louis Rams

2013 draft picks: 16 (1st round), 22 (1st), 46 (2nd), 78 (3rd), 113 (4th), 149 (5th), 184 (6th), 222 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Wide receiver.
Other spots to address: Safety, running back, linebacker, offensive guard.
Prospects who fit: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia; Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; John Cyprien, S, Florida International; Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama.

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Many mock drafts have St. Louis opting for Alabama's tackle-breaking bruiser Eddie Lacy in the first round, but the coaching staff is high on young tailbacks Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson. Wide receiver, meanwhile, was a need even before the Rams lost Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson in free agency. Brian Quick and Chris Givens -- last year's second- and fourth-round picks -- might have plenty of promise, but this offense desperately needs a playmaker of the caliber of West Virginia's Tavon Austin or Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson.

Head coach Jeff Fisher recently expressed interest in re-signing veteran safety Quintin Mikell. At this point, though, it's a position that should be addressed with one of the Rams' two first-round picks. Texas' Kenny Vaccaro is generally viewed as the best safety in the draft, but the Rams might have to settle for John Cyprien or Matt Elam if they wait until pick No. 22.

Even after the signing of left tackle Jake Long, the Rams still have an O-line need -- at guard. It will be interesting to see if they consider Oregon's Kyle Long -- Chris' brother and Howie's son -- in the second or third round.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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