The NFC West has become the most dominant division in football. All four teams will enter the 2014 season with a legitimate shot at the playoffs. I will attempt to crack the code of lies that are streaming through the media and forecast each team’s approach to draft day.
DB, OLB, QB, DL, RB, OL
The Cardinals did a great job addressing key needs in free agency with the additions of LT Jared Veldheer and CB Antonio Cromartie. There is still a need for a starting caliber player on the back end of their defense. Cromartie is a short term fill-in at CB, so that could be a target position, even if the need is not as pressing as safety.
Arizona’s strength has long been the defensive front. Age along that D-line has to be a concern. They could add both a pass rushing edge player and a run stuffing interior guy.
A developmental QB for Head Coach Bruce Arians to mold could be a consideration at any point in the draft, including pick #20.
Safety is the most immediate need, so if you’re looking for a day one starter, it would be wise to go that route at #20. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will likely be gone. The Cards can’t be sure any of the next tier of Calvin Pryor, Deone Buchanon or Jimmie Ward will be available at #52.
BPA along the front seven and a developmental QB would be the next logical targets. There will be very good RB’s available into day three. Andre Williams, Storm Johnson and Charles Sims would be nice compliments to starter Andre Ellington.
Three Round Mock:
(20) S Calvin Pryor (52) OLB Jeremiah Attouchu (84) QB Logan Thomas
St. Louis Rams:
OT, S, CB, WR, QB
The Rams have set themselves up to be major players in the 2014 draft. STL has 12 picks overall, including #2 and #13 in round one. GM Les Snead has shown the willingness to move around on draft day and I could see them moving up or down in 2014.
Snead and Head Coach Jeff Fisher are still behind starting QB Sam Bradford for one more season, but they must have an eye on the future for that position. Keeping Bradford (or whoever the future QB becomes) clean should be priority number one. A franchise left tackle (who can play on the right side while learning from oft-injured LT Jake Long) will be in play early. There is OT talent at the top of the draft, so its a good match for #2 or #13.
Defensive back is an obvious need that should be addressed early and often. No DB’s are worthy of the 2nd pick in the draft, but the Rams are virtually guaranteed a top DB will be available at the 13th pick.
Everyone has WR as a top need for the Rams, but I don’t see it that way. The Rams have spent so many picks on the position in recent years and need to develop that talent. Still, with extra picks and a deep WR class, they could take a guy who slips on day two or three.
The perfect scenario would be to trade down a couple spots, still land LT Jake Matthews and gain picks for 2015. I would target future picks in trade due to a stronger QB class (Marriota, Winston, Hundley) if Bradford doesn’t step up. Unfortunately for STL, I don’t think there will be a big trade market for #2 if Clowney goes first and a lackluster QB crop.
Three Round Mock:
(2) OT Greg Robinson (13) FS Hasean Clinton-Dix (44) CB Lamarcus Joyner (75) WR Donte Moncrief
San Francisco 49ers:
CB, WR, OLB, C, DL, KR/PR
San Francisco is armed with 11 draft picks and have limited roster spots available. The only thing that would surprise me in the 2014 draft is if the 49ers and GM Trent Baalke don’t move around at all.
The 49ers gave us a glimpse into the kind of player they are targeting with the interest in Desean Jackson, Julian Edelman and Emanuel Sanders. Players that fit the speed WR/KR mold in the first round; Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham, Marquise Lee and Brandin Cooks. There’s a chance free agent Michael Crabtree walks after 2014. Anquan Boldin is only signed through 2015. So a big-bodied starting caliber outside receiver could be a target as well. SF would have to move up to snag either Watkins or Beckham.
CB is arguably a bigger need than WR. Carlos Rogers — who saw the most snaps from the slot in NFL — is gone to Oakland along with fellow starter Tarrell Brown. Chris Culliver is coming off an ACL injury, has some legal problems to sort out and didn’t play all that well the last time we saw him on the field in Super Bowl 47. With how often the 49ers’ nickel package is on the field, three corners should be considered starters. As it stands, Tremaine Brock is the only current player I’m comfortable calling a starting corner. There is a clear top tier of CB prospects in the 2014 class (Gilbert, Fuller, Dennard, Verrett and Roby). My money is on one of them wearing scarlet and gold next season, but all could be gone by #30. Kyle Fuller is the best fit for Baalke’s length and physicality template. Fuller can also thrive both outside and in the slot.
Aldon Smith’s future with the team is now in jeopardy. That takes a little of the trading power away from San Francisco. Last week I would have suggested they move up in the 1st for a CB, then again from #56 into the 30’s for a WR that falls. Now they may not have that luxury. Not only is Smith in limbo, but IMO Ahmad Brooks, who is one of the highest paid players on the team, was a candidate to get the Carlos Rogers treatment after the season and either be asked to take a pay cut or be traded/released. OLB has probably become the number three need with a bullet. Everything in San Francisco has been driven off their dominant front seven. They can’t afford to get weak up front.
Don’t be surprised if the 49ers grab a talented player who falls due to injury, like DE Dominique Easley, QB Aaron Murray or CB Aaron Colvin.
A backup developmental type QB will likely be added on day three.
There will definitely be one of those “I’ve never even heard of this guy” small school players among the three 7th round picks.
And did I mention trades?
Three Round Mock:
(30+94) CB Kyle Fuller (56) WR Jordan Matthews (61) OLB Marcus Smith (77) DE Dominique Easley (100) WR/RB/KR Dri Archer
WR, OL,TE, DL
The Super Bowl Champs have the best roster in the NFL.
Only two picks on the first three days of the draft.
Wide receiver is a clear number one need in Seattle. Their leading receiver in 2013, Golden Tate, is now a Detroit Lion. The Seahawks do get Percy Harvin for a full season (maybe), but the depth chart behind him is weak. Syndey Rice is back for another run, but who knows what he will produce. A bigger possession WR would couple well with Harvin’s skillset on the other side. A go-to threat at tight end would be a huge help to Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense. I expect them to address the offense early.
Seattle could target players on either line. An OG or OT could help maintain the power running game — where it all starts for the Seahawks — while also keeping the pocket clean for Wilson. Seattle’s defense, on the other hand, is predicated on stopping the run. DE Red Bryant has moved on and that is a lot of man to replace in their rotation. Depth is needed up front.
GM John Schneider and personnel man Scot McCloughan love big-bodied players. The Seahawks’ roster is full of large men at all positions. When projecting prospects to Seattle I look for guys who meet or exceed the physical prototype.
With a lack of picks to work with, I expect Seattle to stand pat or potentially move down if a team is looking to get ahead of a team like Houston to grab a QB at the end of round one.
Three Round Mock:
(32) WR Kelvin Benjamin (64) TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins