With the 2015 NFL Draft fast approaching, Bucky Brooks is breaking down the biggest areas of need for every team in the NFL, division by division. Below is his look at the NFC West. (NOTE: Click on tabs to see other divisions; click on team names to see a full list of draft picks.)
Biggest needs: Outside linebacker, running back, cornerback.
The Cardinals slugged their way to the postseason in 2014 despite dealing with a host of injuries on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the loss of Andre Ellington to the injured reserve list exposed the team's lack of depth at running back. Arizona could elect to upgrade the position with a young, dynamic runner with "three-down" capabilities, like Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon on Day 1; the Cards could also look to add an underrated runner like Minnesota's David Cobb or South Carolina's Mike Davis in the middle rounds. On defense, the Cardinals could target a pass rusher like Kentucky's Bud Dupree and Virginia's Eli Harold to create havoc off the edges. After losing Antonio Cromartie as a free agent, the Cardinals might target a long, rangy corner like LSU's Jalen Collins or Washington's Marcus Peters to solidify the spot opposite Patrick Peterson.
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, receiver, offensive guard.
The Rams are on the verge of being a postseason-caliber team, but they need a few pieces to get over the top. Coach Jeff Fisher must tweak the offensive line to fill voids at guard and tackle; thus, St. Louis could take a long, hard look at LSU's La'el Collins and Iowa's Brandon Scherff as possible inside-outside starters. Both players would upgrade the Rams at the point of attack and allow Fisher to implement the rugged running game needed to win the NFC West. Though they've spent a ton of top picks on wide receivers over the years, the Rams still need to find a WR1 who will enable them to function at a high level. Alabama's Amari Cooper, West Virginia's Kevin White and Louisville's DeVante Parker could be legitimate options as potential primary pass catchers on Day 1.
Biggest needs: Defensive end, inside linebacker, cornerback.
The pressure is squarely on general manager Trent Baalke to retool the 49ers' roster, which has been ravaged by a number of departures and retirements. The 49ers need to find replacements for Patrick Willis and Chris Borland at ILB, likely leading the team to take extended looks at Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney, UCLA's Eric Kendricks and Miami's Denzel Perryman. With Pro Bowl DE Justin Smith also considering retirement, San Francisco could take a flier on Oregon's Arik Armstead to occupy the five-technique spot. The losses of Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox makes it imperative for the team to land a quality cornerback in the draft. Michigan State's Trae Waynes, LSU's Jalen Collins, Washington's Marcus Peters and Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson are viable options on Day 1; the Niners could also look at Utah's Eric Rowe and Florida State's P.J. Williams on Day 2.
Biggest needs: Center, offensive tackle, cornerback.
Coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider have assembled arguably the best roster in the NFL by effectively identifying and developing players at every stage of the draft. The trade for tight end Jimmy Graham filled a huge void in the passing game, but it also left the Seahawks without a pivot, given that Max Unger headed to New Orleans as part of the swap. Oregon's Hroniss Grasu could be a target on Day 2; otherwise, Seattle could look at a down-the-line prospect like Boston College's Andy Gallik. The Seahawks could also target a developmental offensive tackle prospect like Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi or Colorado State's Ty Sambrailo to groom for a prominent role, in the event that Pro Bowler Russell Okung departs at the end of his contract next offseason. The team's success developing young cornerbacks could prompt it to take a chance on Auburn QB/CB Nick Marshall at the end of Day 3.