Published On: Sat, Apr 21st, 2018

Identifying the biggest need for every NFC West team

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theScore goes division by division to identify the biggest positional needs for all 32 NFL teams entering the 2018 draft, which will be held from April 26-28.


Arizona Cardinals

Biggest need: QB
Secondary needs: OT, CB, WR

The Cardinals lost one of the more underrated passers of his generation in Carson Palmer, along with head coach and QB whisperer Bruce Arians, to retirement this offseason, meaning Arizona will be ushering in a new era under center.

Sam Bradford will be the 2018 starter, but his injury history should force the Cardinals to draft a passer early with the intention of having them enter the lineup in a year’s time.

Bradford and his eventual replacement will also need some weapons and protection. Larry Fitzgerald can only drink from the fountain of youth for so long, while offensive tackles D.J. Humphries and Andre Smith need to be pushed by younger talent.

Finally, cornerback Patrick Peterson wants a running mate and the Cardinals should prioritize making one of their few defensive stars happy.

Potential draft targets: Sitting at No. 15 overall, the Cardinals can count themselves out of the running for the likes of quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. A trade up is possible, but the Cardinals need their draft assets to help retool a thin roster. While Arians thinks his former team should take Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph is more likely to be available at Arizona’s spot and has a skill set that resembles Palmer’s.

The offensive tackle class isn’t among the strongest positions, so the pro-ready Mike McGlinchey could be the early pick if no quarterbacks are available. In terms of Day 2 receivers, Dante Pettis could be Fitzgerald’s heir apparent while D.J. Chark could provide the Cardinals with a much-needed size-strength-speed threat on the outside.

Los Angeles Rams

Biggest need: OLB
Secondary needs: OL, ILB, RB

The Rams have been arguably the most aggressive team so far this offseason, trading for Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters while signing Ndamukong Suh to reshape their defense.

As a result, Los Angeles doesn’t have too many glaring holes to fill, and will likely use the draft to supplement its talented roster. However, the pass rush could use an infusion of youth following the trade of Robert Quinn. Defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Suh should combine for 15-plus sacks in 2018, but they’ll still need support in getting to the quarterback.

Elsewhere, the trade of inside linebacker Alec Ogletree opened up a need in the middle of the Rams’ defense, the offensive line could use some depth options to push the starting interior linemen, and Todd Gurley could benefit from a backup who can ease his workload somewhat.

Potential draft targets: The Rams don’t own a selection in the first two rounds and will be picking for the first time at 87th overall, so their options are somewhat limited. If the crazy-athletic Josh Sweat falls into the third round, L.A. should run up to the podium to make the pick. Fellow edge players Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Da’Shawn Hand are probably more realistic options at 87, however.

Alternatively, while Malik Jefferson might not yet possess the instincts to match his strong physical talents, he could be the kind of high-ceiling inside linebacker the Rams feel comfortable taking a shot on with their first selection. And the speedy, versatile Nyheim Hines would be the perfect mid-round scat back to play behind Gurley.

San Francisco 49ers

Biggest need: LB
Secondary needs: DE, WR, TE

Reuben Foster should be done as a member of the 49ers after being charged with felony domestic violence, leaving the team with even more of a need in the center of its defense. While the return of Malcolm Smith should stabilize the unit somewhat, the 28-year-old may need time to adjust after missing the entire 2017 season with a pectoral injury.

After linebacker, the 49ers’ most pressing need is to improve a pass rush that finished 26th in sacks last season. Sure, 2017 first-rounder Solomon Thomas could take a big leap in his development, but you can never have enough edge players in the modern NFL.

On the offensive side, the 49ers should focus on surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo with as many weapons as possible after making him the second-highest-paid player in the NFL. Adding a wide receiver should be the priority, but the 49ers could target a tight end if they provide better value.

Potential draft targets: Tremaine Edmunds and Roquan Smith are the consensus top linebackers in this class, and both could be available with the No. 9 overall selection. The 6-foot-5 Edmunds, though, is just 19 years old and has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. If the 49ers believe they are still a year or two away from competing for a title, they should take Edmunds and gradually mold him into the leader of their defense.

San Francisco has another three selections in the top 75, so pass-rusher Sam Hubbard, tight end Mike Gesicki, and receivers D.J. Moore and Christian Kirk should all be on its radar.

Seattle Seahawks

Biggest need: OL
Secondary needs: TE, CB, DE

Russell Wilson has been running for his life over the past few seasons due to some of the worst pass protection in the league. The Seahawks have invested heavily in the unit – using draft picks and trading for Duane Brown – but they need to keep throwing resources at the problem for Wilson to survive 2018.

Wilson will also need a new safety blanket at tight end after Seattle allowed Jimmy Graham to walk in free agency. The veteran had become more of a limited player during his time with the Seahawks, and the team should look for a pass-catcher who can help protect Wilson and be a significant factor in the short passing game.

Replacements for Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett will also need to be found. Dion Jordan and Frank Clark can act as the starting edge rushers this year, but having a player who’s ready to step into the lineup in 2019 is a must. Cornerback is probably the more pressing need of the two, so finding a partner for Shaquill Griffin early in the draft will be a priority.

Potential draft targets: Marcus Davenport is the pass-rusher most likely to still be on the board when the Seahawks get on the clock at No. 18 overall. Davenport is far from being a three-down player, but he’s still developing athletically and could be an ideal fit for the retooling Seattle defense in a few years.

If the Seahawks want a do-it-all tight end, they should look no further than Hayden Hurst. He’s a downfield threat who also possesses the frame to be a consistently good blocker at the pro level, but the Seahawks would likely need to trade up by packaging some of their mid-rounders.

Seattle isn’t afraid of character concerns, so the team could look to steal cornerback Holton Hill early on Day 3. Hill has the strength and size that Seattle wants in its outside corners, and if there’s any coach in the league who can help his motivational issues, it’s Pete Carroll.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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