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Ted Sundquist's NFC West Draft Needs

[Editor's note:  Former Broncos G.M. Ted Sundquist will be looking at the primary needs of each NFL team, separated by division.  Next up, the NFC West.] 
The NFC West comes rolling into the 2009 draft not much stronger than the AFC West.  St. Louis and Seattle own two of the top four picks and San Francisco sits at No. 10.  If not for the historic run of the Arizona Cardinals to within one play of a Super Bowl Championship, the NFC and not the AFC’s “left coast” might hold Pro Football’s ignominy of all four teams picking the combined highest.
Similar to Kansas City and Denver, Seattle and St. Louis are starting over.  The other Bay Area team (San Fran) rolls in their own interim to full-time Head Coach and the Cardinals are left standing (much like San Diego) at the top of the heap. 
Certainly opportunity abounds to get better, but in what direction?
Arizona Cardinals
Primary Need:  Running Back
When describing the Cardinals’ offense, one dimensional might be an understatement.  The Cards rode the back of QB Kurt Warner and WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin through their amazing run.
If you study the true meaning of rushing statistics (and I do through Football Outsiders’ analysis) you’ll see that Arizona was at the bottom of the League both as a team and at the individual position.  The Cards managed a top-ten offense while carrying a 28th-ranked rushing game. The O-Line was 30th overall, with the run game rated 32nd on second down and 31st on third and fourth downs.
Certainly, Arizona needs a dynamic addition at the running back position. With Boldin still not happy with his situation and Warner not getting any younger (but a maybe a bit wealthier) the Cards need to protect their explosive passing attack with some balance on the ground.
Of the top three tailbacks, Brown is clean and might still be there at No. 31.
Potential targets:  RB Knowshon Moreno (Georgia), RB Beanie Wells (Ohio State), RB Donald Brown (Connecticut).
St. Louis Rams
Primary Needs:  Offensive Tackle or Wide Receiver
The fact that I’ve listed two should tell you a little something about the state of the Rams offense.
Sitting at No. 2, Billy Devaney has earned the right to shore up those holes. Gone are long-time standouts Orlando Pace and Torry Holt, and Devaney is faced with the question of where to spend the Rams money wisely.
This draft seems to contain three or four franchise-caliber tacklrd, and receiver might be even deeper in the top 60 picks.  Holt was ranked 67th among WR’s in Football Outsiders’ statistical breakdowns and Donnie Avery’s production wasn’t any better coming in at 75th.  But QB Marc Bulger won’t improve on his own 38th ranking without someone looking out for his backside.
Tackles are much more financially sound and a statistically safer choice than WR’s in the top 10 picks.  Should Detroit take a QB, the Rams will have their pick of the class.  Though I have concerns about lower body explosiveness, Jason Smith has the most athletic upside of the group.
Potential targets:  OT Jason Smith (Baylor), OT Eugene Monroe (Virginia), OT Andre Smith (Alabama), WR Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech).
San Francisco 49ers
Primary Need:  Quarterback
A team that drafted a QB with the first overall pick just four years ago should not be looking for help at the position.  But here the 49ers sit with QB being their top priority.
Alex Smith, for whatever the reasons, never developed into the player San Fran had hoped, but Shaun Hill doesn’t appear to be the answer at the position either.  G.M. Scot McCloughan finds himself in a bit of a quandary with two solid prospects coming out in this draft.
Detroit could very well answer the problem and take Georgia’s Matt Stafford with the first pick leaving USC’s Mark Sanchez as the next best option.  But few have Sanchez rated the 10th best player in the draft and McCloughan could gamble and trade down in hopes of landing Sanchez later.
If Stafford is passed he might take a Brady Quinn-like fall down to the 49ers at #10.  There’s some risk involved in this one for sure.  The 49ers need an identity and some talent to lift up a bottom of the League offense (29th passing and 28th overall).  I agree with Football Outsiders and the 60% career completion “red flag”.  BEWARE!
Possible targets:  QB Matt Stafford (Georgia), QB Mark Sanchez (USC), QB Josh Freeman (Kansas State).
Seattle Seahawks
Primary Need:  Defensive End
Of the four teams in the division, perhaps Seattle presents the biggest enigma. The acquisition of WR T.J. Houshmandzadah appears to have (for the time being) quieted the need for a playmaking wideout.
Questions abound surrounding other positions as well.  Who will eventually replace Walter Jones at tackle?  What about an heir to Matt Hasselbeck?  How will they replace the running backs lost via free agency?
It’s amazing how the influence of a new head coach (and the side of the ball on which he has expertise) can shift your draft strategy.  The Seahawks sat just under the midway mark in pass rush and run defense, but overall defense dropped to 26th and the pass defense fell to 29th.
Help on the edge is sorely needed, especially with the trade of LB Julian Peterson.  With the fourth pick Seattle’s fortunes may rest with the direction Kansas City takes at No. 3.  Orakpo has the “look” of J.P.
Possible targets:  DE Everette Brown (Florida State), DE Brian Orakpo (Texas), DE Larry English (Northern Illinois), OLB Aaron Curry (Wake Forest).

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14 Responses to “Ted Sundquist's NFC West Draft Needs”
  1. theeraser21 says: Apr 9, 2009 4:09 PM

    The Seahawks primary need is OLB. Jackson and Tapp make a duo that will work out. With the loss of Peterson, the Seahawks need a playmaker outside.

  2. HowardStern says: Apr 9, 2009 4:14 PM

    The 49ers are 7-3 with Shaun Hill & in Alex Smith’s only healthy season he went 7-9 with an average/poor team. QB isn’t their top priority at all.
    They’re on the verge of having a great defense + they have a defensive coach. They’ll grab a pass rusher unless Crabtree falls. Then they’d be fools to pass up that kind of offensive help.

  3. lajimmy says: Apr 9, 2009 4:14 PM

    It never ceases to amaze me when I read the ignorance of these so called experts.
    With all due respect Ted, you don’t know what you are talking about, at least in the case of the 49ers.
    Take this comment:
    Alex Smith, for whatever the reasons, never developed into the player San Fran had hoped, but Shaun Hill doesn’t appear to be the answer at the position either.
    Hmm let’s see could it be because Smith has been injured for the past two seasons? I’m not saying the guy is a pro bowler waiting to happen, but it’s silly to make a comment like Ted did above. Hill doesn’t appear to be the answer, yet won 5 out of 8 starts and posted an impressive QB rating while doing it.
    This team needs a passrusher and a long term answer at RT a lot more than it needs another top ten draft pick at QB. Sanchez has started 16 games in College, and somehow he’s a better option than Smith or Hill?
    Instead of just following the regular tired uninformed tactic of just deciding a team needs x and y, try doing a little research Ted.

  4. Unsterblich856 says: Apr 9, 2009 4:15 PM

    An explosive run game would help the Cardinals a lot, but I think the bigger need is OLB. The top two Sams are in their 30s and well past their prime and neither of the top two Wills got more than 5 sacks on the season. The pass rush is going to have to step up if all three teams focus on boosting the passing attack, and it seems like they will at this point.

  5. Iamhawk50 says: Apr 9, 2009 4:20 PM

    I think the Seahawks primary need and major need is TACKLE!

  6. Smush Rodrigez says: Apr 9, 2009 5:09 PM

    lajimmy:
    Wow, we should line your resume up to Ted’s, lajimmy.

  7. JFF says: Apr 9, 2009 5:15 PM

    “The fact that I’ve listed two should tell you a little something about the state of the Rams offense.”
    Hmmmm, with all due respect Mr Sundquist, have you looked at the state of the Rams’ defense ??!!??
    The fact that Aaron Curry isn’t listed as a potential target at #2 completely baffles me ! (not to mention, the Rams also need help at DT)

  8. MaineMan says: Apr 9, 2009 6:26 PM

    If the Rams can’t trade out of the #2, I think they have to take a tackle. If they CAN trade down in round one and pick up maybe another second-rounder in the process, THEN I think they go D-line(1), O-line(2a), LB(2b).
    A number of things factor into whether or not SEA goes for a QB at #4:
    Do they want to/think they can be competitive now? Or do they build toward a competitive, post-Hasselbeck future? If they opt for more immediate competitiveness, I don’t see how they could skip taking an OT. But maybe it depends on what QBs are available at #4. If they really like they guy(s) available (IOW, think he’s far better than Jeff Rowe will ever be) . . . . OTOH, maybe Spagnuolo wants to build a team for the future from the lines out.
    Before the Marvel Smith acquisition, I would’ve had SF going for an O-line guy at #10 as well (assuming a worthy guy is available without being a severe reach). Now, I think it has to be defense, likely an OLB. I don’t think Singletary is a guy who’s prone to bedazzlement by any QB prospect and likely figures that Hill or Smith will do for now.
    ‘Zona could go RB at #31 if there’s a guy they’re absolutely sold on. If not, they might be better off going DE or ILB and take their chances with snagging a decent RB in the 2nd (though there’s still a couple of decent FA veterans clanking around for a RBBWCC* setup).
    *Running Back By WheelChair Committee

  9. RI Batman says: Apr 9, 2009 8:08 PM

    I guess it doesn’t take too much to be a GM of an NFL team. That recap was worse than most of the mock draft stuff I find on half assed sites all over the internet. Not listing a defensive position for the Rams after they gave up the most points in the league last year is ridiculous. And overall, the choices were all things I’ve read ten times in the last month everywhere else. Hopefully these Sundquist summaries start to get a little more meat on the bones as we go here.
    Grade: D-

  10. vdfortd says: Apr 9, 2009 10:27 PM

    The 49ers’ passing offense was ranked 13th in the league last year, geniuses. Let’s try and not pull numbers out of our asses please.

  11. flik44 says: Apr 10, 2009 12:33 AM

    HowardStern = spot on… only thing I’d add is if an elite OL falls, we could shore up the trenches and finally be set there after years of bullfighters up front….

  12. Mr Shush says: Apr 10, 2009 7:14 AM

    vdfortd – Sundquist’s talking about Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, not the official NFL ones based on total yardage. There’s a good reason for this. Ranking’s by total yardage are nearly meaningless as an indicator of team or unit quality. DVOA is badly flawed as a metric for individual players, but for teams or units it’s very, very good.

  13. empty13 says: Apr 12, 2009 7:19 PM

    the lions gave up 52 more points than the rams did.
    the lions schedule was about 7 wins tougher than the rams schedule, factoring out each teams’ losses…
    still, i would probly be more inclined to pick offense if i was the rams. they have experienced talent already, if they can keep them healthy.
    the lions were 3 TDs behind frequently early last year. the “career day” lions defense does need more help from the offense, but they wont get it with pullpecker so they better be able to stop someone themselves. especially on the ground.

  14. JJ432 says: Apr 17, 2009 8:07 PM

    wow this guy is an idiot…

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