The NFC West has taken a considerable step back as a division as a whole. It was not that long ago that the San Francisco, Seattle, and Arizona were three of the most talented teams in the league from top to bottom. Suddenly, the 49ers are ushering in a new era with first time head coach Kyle Shanahan, the Cardinals are fresh off an odd 2016 season with a 7-8-1 record, the Rams are still sinking in quicksand, while the Seahawks remain on the top perch of the division. So let’s dive into the team needs for the NFC West.
San Francisco 49ers
Biggest addition: WR Pierre Garcon
Biggest loss: QB Colin Kaepernick
- Reeling in Garcon was the result of having Shanahan as head coach with the two having history under the Washington Redskins a few seasons back. Adding speed to the offense with Marquise Goodwin at the position will help stretch the field as well. However, the team’s biggest need lies directly at the game’s most important position, quarterback. At the time, the team has only Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley at quarterback. Letting Kaepernick depart was words written on the wall during the season. The likelihood of the team taking the field in week one with Hoyer and Barkley is low and sitting at 2nd overall, the Niners are in a prime position to walk away with their new face at quarterback.
- The second biggest need for San Francisco is at pass rusher. The defense only registered 31 sacks last season with lineman DeForest Buckner leading the team with six. Starting outside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Ayron Lynch combined for 7.5 sacks last season and the team did not add to the position via free agency. The depth at the position is fine and the team is relying on Lynch to take an important step in his progression. However, the team will likely grab a pass rusher early in the draft to add to a rotation in need of a boost.
- Thanks to a recent arrest and team release, the cornerback spot is in great need of quality at the position. Cornerback Tremaine Brock was the top corner on the roster for the team but his run-in with the law opened a big void. Outside of corners Jimmie Ward and Rashard Robinson, the drop off in talent is noticeable. Ward may be better off as the team’s staring slot corner. Luckily for the 49ers, the draft is a reliable hub for quality cornerbacks.
Biggest addition: OT Luke Joeckel
Biggest loss: None
- Turn on a Seahawks game and you’ll see quarterback Russell Wilson constantly harassed and often pressured. The Seattle offensive line ranked 27th in the NFL in sacks allowed (42) and 29th in QB hits (111). The team added veteran tackle Luke Joeckel in free agency but even the former second overall pick is considered a part of the solution. Kicking Germain Ifedi out to right tackle seems to be another assignment the team will execute this offseason. The team can use an upgrade at guard and right tackle as well as improve overall depth.
- Everyone is aware of the ‘Legion of Boom’ secondary in Seattle. Notable faces included corner Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. The past few seasons, the team has tried to bolster the corner position opposite Sherman to complete the secondary. Corners Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Snead are serviceable at best but do not be surprised if the team grabs a big body corner in the first two rounds. Especially with rumors of the team looking to trade Sherman in the near future.
- Unless the team slides defensive lineman Michael Bennett inside on passing downs, the team does not have any pass rushing interior lineman to create pressure. The Seattle Seahawks defense is at it’s most dangerous state when it is able to constantly cave in the pocket thanks to an athletic pass rusher in the middle. The likes of Jarran Reed and Ahtyba Rubin shore up the run defense element and behind them, the depth needs to improve as well.
Los Angeles Rams
Biggest addition: LT Andrew Whitworth
Biggest loss: S T.J. McDonald
- The team sought out to add skill to an offense that was dead last in scoring and total offense in 2016. Signing receiver Robert Woods in free agency was a decent signing although his price tag raises expectations for the former USC Trojan. Even with Woods and Tavon Austin in the fold, a #1 receiver is important this offseason. One that will force opposing defenses to not crowd the box and focus heavily on shutting down running back Todd Gurley. Besides, having a franchise quarterback in Jared Goff means upgrading the skill set around him or else his progression as a QB will stall and possible fizzle out.
- Another position that the Rams need to upgrade is at strong safety. Where one of the losses the Rams endured this offseason was seeing former starter T.J. McDonald depart to the Dolphins in free agency. Not only did his departure impact the team’s plans but the depth behind McDonald did not evoke much hope. Isaiah Johnson is penciled in as the starter presently and undersized LaMarcus Joyner is his backup. The Rams do not own a first round pick in this upcoming draft so if the team wants to take a strong safety early, they’ll have to wait until the 37th overall selection in the second round to do so.
- The team did make one of the better signings in free agency by having the veteran Whitworth as their new starting left tackle. A nice building block for a young QB and an offense that needs to get Gurley going. Bringing in Whitworth slides former 2nd overall pick Greg Robinson to left guard. Hopefully his favorable size will come in handy next to Whitworth. The offensive line is still in need of help. Depth is about as bleak as any other team in the league and the chances of Goff holding up behind a makeshift offensive line are not in the corner of the Rams.
Biggest addition: OLB/DE Chandler Jones (re-signed)
Biggest loss: DL Calais Campbell
- A rare occurrence developed with the team getting rid of wide receiver Michael Floyd after 13 games due to poor production and an off-the-field issue involving a DUI arrest. Luckily, the team received Larry Fitzgerald for one more season at least after deciding not to retire. Although Fitzgerald is still a great receiver in his own right, it’s obvious that the team needs a legit go-to guy that will carry the mantle from Fitzgerald when the future Hall-of-Famer decides to hang it up. Sitting at 13th overall in the draft, the team will have an opportune shot at Clemson’s Mike Williams or Western Michigan’s Corey Davis. The top two receivers in the entire draft class.
- Believe it or not, the Cardinals will probably walk away with a future starting quarterback in this draft as well. It may also be as early as their first round pick, if the team decides against taking a receiver there. Carson Palmer mans the position as the starter at the moment but he also flirted with retirement after the season. Behind Palmer is Drew Stanton, who is a journeyman backup at best. With a head coach such as Bruce Arians, it should not surprise one individual if the offensive minded head coach snatches a quarterback early to groom to possibly take over in 2018.
- On one side is one of the best cornerbacks in the game today in Patrick Peterson. He is entering his seventh season as being arguably the team’s best defensive player. On the other side, the team has tried for a little while to bolster the spot since the the days of Peterson and Antonio Cromartie roaming around as the cornerback tandem. Granted, the team’s defense is good enough to take an adequate talent and stick on that side. However, what can make a good defense even better is to significantly improve at corner opposite Peterson. 2016 third-round pick Brandon Williams will get a long look in training camp but it’s inevitable that the Cardinals will spend another high draft pick on the position as well.