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NFL Draft Preview: NFC West

Gabe Salgado

In our eighth and final part of this 2015 NFL Draft preview, we finish things by going through the NFC West. This division experienced a slight change in 2014. The Seahawks finished on top again and fell one play short of winning back-to-back Super Bowls. The Cardinals were the surprise of the league by finishing second, the off-field distractions were too much for the 49ers who finished third, and the last place Rams are still a work in progress.

After what transpired during the offseason, this division is about to change significantly. How these teams draft will play a major part in those changes.

 

Seattle Seahawks: Own picks 63, 95, 112, 130, 134, 167, 170, 181, 209, 214 and 248 overall.

Eleven picks is quite a bit for a team that doesn’t need much especially after the moves they’ve made in the offseason. But either way, they need another receiver to compliment Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. They need a couple extra bodies on the offensive line, and some younger guys on the defensive line. Here are some players that could be part of “The 12th Man” this coming season.,,

Wide Receiver:

The Seahawks need a possession receiver to compliment the speed and explosiveness of Baldwin and Kearse. They can get those players by drafting William & Mary’s Tre McBride (6’0”, 210), Central Michigan’s Titus Davis (6’1”, 196), or Utah’s Dres Anderson (6’1”, 187).

Offensive Line:

Perhaps adding some in-state players –Washington center Micah Hatchie (6’5”, 311), Eastern Washington tackle Jake Rodgers (6’6”, 320)- could make for some interesting competition.

Defensive Line:

Defensive minded head coach Pete Carrol can take just about any player and make them productive. And since the Seahawks have tons of low draft picks this year, they’ll have to reach into the bottom of the draft pool for talent at this position.

He may be able to find some diamonds in the rough with Troy end Billy Dobbs (6’4”, 270), Nevada end Brock Hekking (6’4”, 255), Montana tackle Tonga Takai (6’2”, 305), and Buffalo tackle Kristjan Sokoli (6’5”, 300).

 

Arizona Cardinals: Own picks 24, 55, 86, 123, 159, 198, 241 and 256 overall.

Despite their success last season, the Cardinals did make some changes in the offseason. They need a running back that can fully take the reigns of the offense. They’re running back-by-committee approach over the last few seasons is getting stale.

They also need some new blood on defense as they’ve lost some defensive lineman and linebackers in free agency. Plus their undecided on free agent linebackers John Abraham (health concerns) and Marcus Benard (cost). At the end of the day, Bruce Arians could be picking these guys……

Running Back:

South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner (5’11”, 223) is worth a look. He rushed for 4,000 yards in his final two years in school (the first FCS player to do so), doesn’t have much of an injury history, he’s a hard runner with solid speed, and he’s very difficult to tackle.

Defensive Line:

Clemson end Corey Crawford (6’5”, 283), and Miami-Florida tackle Olsen Pierre (6’5”, 300) have the body types to play in Arizona’s hybrid 3-4 defense.

Linebacker:

Based on where the Cardinals are selecting, they’ll have to draft players that they can coach up and plug into their defense. They can get those players at this position in the forms of Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney (6’4”, 246), Texas Christian’s Paul Dawson (6’0”, 235), and Louisville’s Lorenzo Mauldin (6’4”, 259).

 

San Francisco 49ers: Own picks 15, 46, 79, 126, 132, 151, 190, 246 and 254 overall.

The 49ers took huge losses –aside from Jim Harbaugh- during the offseason. The heart and soul of their defense, inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Boreland, shockingly announced their retirements in March. They’re starting to get older on the defensive line, and they need an extra body and both cornerback and safety.

This will be a trying year for the Niners, and here are some players who could be experiencing these trying times….

The good thing is San Fran won’t have to look too far to fill these positions. Many of these players are right in the Bay Area.

Defensive Line:

Courtesy of Stanford we have end Henry Anderson (6’6”, 294) and nose tackle David Parry (6’1”, 308).

Linebacker:

Also representing the Cardinal are A.J. Tarpley (6’2”, 241) and James Vaughters (6’2”, 258).

Safety:

Then finally we have Jordan Richards (5’11”, 211).

All of these players already know how to play in a 3-4 set as Stanford runs the same scheme.

Cornerback:

No one from Stanford here, but UCLA’s Anthony Jefferson (6’1”, 198) should fit in nicely.

 

St. Louis Rams: Own picks 10, 41, 72, 119, 215 and 227 overall.

The Rams have steadily improved over the last two seasons but they are still a handful of players away from contending. They need another wide receiver as Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin are consistent performers, but don’t have the big play ability that the Rams need.

They also need a few offensive lineman, and some secondary help. This year could finally be the year that St. Louis returns to the postseason.

Wide Receiver:

At number 10, the Rams have an outside chance of landing one of the top wide receivers in this year’s draft. If not, they can land some decent consolation prizes in Nebraska’s Kenny Bell (6’1”, 197), Duke’s Jamison Crowder (5’8”, 185), and BYU’s Jordan Leslie (6’3”, 215).

Offensive Line:

Alabama tackle Austin Shepard (6’4”, 315), his college teammate in guard Arie Kouandijo (6’5”, 310), and Louisville center Jake Smith (6’4”, 304) can be some nice building blocks.

Cornerback:

Connecticut’s Byron Jones (6’1”, 199), Kansas’ JaCorey Shepherd (5’11”, 199), and Tulane’s Lorenzo Doss (5’10”, 182) may surprise some people.

Safety:

It’s been noted in just about every part of this draft preview that safety isn’t the pot of gold that it was last year. But, Nebraska’s Corey Cooper (6’1”, 215), and Utah’s Brian Blechen (6’2”, 210) could suit the Rams well.

 

If there is one NFL division that will change in 2015, it will be this one.

 

 



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