Michael Amato is going to study team-by-team each squad's NEEDS over the next few weeks. Enjoy the ongoing series of articles as we explore the upcoming NFL draft.
The Cardinals have been one of the busiest teams in free agency, but after a 5-11 season there are still plenty of needs to be addressed. Running back is a position that they need to upgrade and although they brought in Rashard Mendenhall from Pittsburgh, that may not be enough. Arizona finished dead last in rushing in 2012 by averaging just 75 yards a game.
The Cardinals pick seventh overall, however, and that may be a little early to take a back in this draft. They might be better off going with someone like Montee Ball from Wisconsin in the second or third round. Ball was very consistent during his collegiate career and holds the NCAA record for the most career rushing touchdowns and most total touchdowns. If he is used correctly he should be a very reliable pro.
It would make a lot of sense for Arizona to look at an offensive lineman with that aforementioned first round pick, both to improve the running game and to help with pass protection. Kevin Kolb was sacked 27 times in just six games with the Cardinals last year and it’s no surprise he missed so many contests due to injuries. Carson Palmer has been brought in and despite being an experienced veteran; he isn’t exactly fleet of foot. If they want to keep him upright and healthy, taking a long look at guards Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina and Chance Warmack from Alabama would be wise. Tackle Lane Johnson from Oklahoma would also be a good fit at that point.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams have the benefit of owning two first round picks and it would be smart to use them to better their offense. I would have more confidence that head coach Jeff Fisher could improve the defensive side of the ball with his own system, but their offense lacks explosive players around Sam Bradford. St. Louis averaged just 18.7 points per game last season and if that doesn’t improve quickly they are going to have a tough time doing anything in a difficult NFC West.
Bringing in Jake Long and Jared Cook as free agents was a good start, but adding in the skilled positions will be just as important for the Rams. Targeting a receiver with their first pick at 16 is logical and they probably wouldn’t have a problem getting either Tavon Austin from West Viginia, Keenan Allen from California, or Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee at that spot. All are deep threats and would improve a depth chart that desperately needs it after losing Danny Amendola. In a division where the three other teams have a strong secondary and can really defend against the pass, you need as many weapons as you can get.
The Rams second first round pick falls at 22 and that would be a good time to replace Steven Jackson who left for the Falcons. Many scouts feel Eddie Lacy from Alabama is the top rated running back in the draft, but don’t have him going until late in the first or possibly even early in the second round. Even if it is a slight stretch to take him that high, Lacy is a power runner that plays similar to Jackson and he would be a nice fit in the Rams attack.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks they don’t have a first round pick, but they traded for Percy Harvin in the off-season to bolster an already potent line-up. What Seattle can do is add some depth in this draft as they pick five times in the seventh round alone.
One interesting spot they may look at is quarterback. Russell Wilson is a fine starter, but at the moment has no one backing him up after Matt Flynn was dealt recently. There are rumours that the Seahawks plan to sign Brady Quinn to the roster, however, that shouldn’t rule out the possibility of them drafting someone in the later rounds. Mike Glennon from North Carolina State might be a solid option as he stands 6-foot-7 and can make all the throws. They should be able to get their hands on him in the third round or maybe even beyond.
In addition to quarterback, you can never have too many defensive tackles at your disposal. Seattle did a nice job of adding ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency, but picking up a tackle or two that can slow down the run would be a big help. If they’re lucky Kawann Short from Purdue could be available to them in the second round and if so, that would be a steal. Short is a versatile lineman and has the ability to knock down passes at the line scrimmage similar to that of the Texans J.J. Watt. He can also play a role blocking kicks as he did so four times during his career at Purdue.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco came very close to a Super Bowl title in 2012 and with at least two picks in every round but the first and the fifth; they should be poised to make another run. Much like the Seahawks, the 49ers will be looking for depth and young players they can develop for the future in this draft.
With that being said, picking 31st could lead them to tight end Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame. Of course San Francisco does have Vernon Davis, but he failed to establish much chemistry with Colin Kaepernick last year and had his worst statistical season since 2008-09. Davis is also pushing 30 and with the departure of Delanie Walker, one injury and the 49ers could lose a big production area at tight end. Eifert is one of those hybrid players that are a match-up nightmare for defenses and worst case scenario they can groom him to take over down the line.
The 49ers also pick quickly again early in the second round at 34 and with Dashon Goldson gone, looking at a safety here could be key. Matt Elam from Florida would be an excellent option if Baltimore doesn’t grab him first. If Elam is already gone, they could go with a defensive lineman like Sylvester Williams of North Carolina or Jesse Williams from Alabama to stockpile some depth.
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