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2013 NFL DRAFT TOP NEEDS: NFC WEST

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-4-1)

2013 Draft Picks: 31 (1st), 34 (2nd), 61 (2nd), 74 (3rd), 93 (3rd), 128 (4th), 131 (4th), 157 (5th), 175 (6th), 180 (6th), 227 (7th), 246 (7th), 252 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: WR A.J. Jenkins, ILL (30, 1st), RB LaMichael James, OREG (61, 2nd)

Decision Makers: GM Trent Baalke, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

The 49ers have been a completely changed franchise since bringing in Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and have very quickly become one of the NFL’s true current powerhouses. They got to the Super Bowl last year, but fell just short to the Baltimore Ravens making this season about only one thing and that is winning the Lombardi trophy. They haven’t lost much from their NFC Championship roster and then brought in solid veterans like Anquan Boldin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Phil Dawson and Craig Dahl, while they also hold an incredible thirteen draft picks, including five among the top 100 selections. They could be one of the big movers at the 2013 NFL Draft.

1.   Free Safety – Starting free safety Dashon Goldson was the team’s lone major loss in the off-season as he landed a big deal from the Bucs. They brought in free agent Craig Dahl to replace him, but he was a guy the Rams were looking to upgrade and replace themselves in this draft. SS Donte Whitner could stand to be upgraded as well as he was continually picked on in and exposed in pass coverage. At least one safety should be drafted and maybe two.

2.   Defensive Line – The 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league and a lot of that has to do with their fantastic defensive line, although it does appear to be vulnerable at the moment. Age could become a problem as Justin Smith turns 34 at the beginning of the season, while Ray McDonald will be 29. Backup Ricky Jean-Francois also left for the Colts in free agency. Meanwhile, starting nose tackle Issac Sopoaga headed to Philadelphia as a free agent and backup Ian Williams has played in just four games in two years. A new starting nose tackle is needed for sure, while depth and youth at all three positions needs to be added. Former Kansas City draft bust Glenn Dorsey was picked up in free agency as depth, but what he can provide remains to be seen.

3.   Tight End – Vernon Davis remains one of the top tight ends in football, but the 49ers saw reliable, multi-purpose veteran Delanie Walker head to Tennessee as a free agent leaving a void at their no.2 tight end spot that has yet to be filled. Harbaugh is a big fan of using multiple tight end sets and used to use up to three on the field at the same time when he was at Stanford. Finding a prospect at the position that can catch and block should be one of their goals in this draft.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5)

2013 Draft Picks: 56 (2nd), 87 (3rd), 123 (4th), 138 (5th), 194 (6th), 214 (7th), 220 (7th), 231 (7th), 241 (7th), 242 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: OLB/DE Bruce Irvin, WVU (15, 1st), MLB Bobby Wagner, UTST (47, 2nd), QB Russell Wilson, WISC (75, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM John Schneider, Head Coach Pete Carroll

Under the guidance of John Schneider and Pete Carroll the Seahawks have become one of the best teams in the NFL in a very short amount of time. One of the main reasons has been their ability to draft the right talent. They have continually drafted the guy they wanted regardless of what all the experts and draft outlets have rated a certain prospect and it has seemed to work out for them. It hasn’t just been about landing the right guys in the first round or two as they’ve found some of the best talent on their team in the mid-rounds like Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor and Robert Turbin leaving very few holes on their roster. They’ve already spent their 2013 first round pick by acquiring wide receiver Percy Harvin from Minnesota in a great move. They have become one of the most interesting teams to watch at the draft every year.

1.   Defensive Tackle – Of all the areas on this team, this was the one unit Pete Carroll appears to be unhappy with as they struggled to hold up against teams with a physical run game. Alan Branch signed with Buffalo as a free agent, while fellow starter Brandon Mebane is just okay. They signed former Dolphin Tony McDaniel as a free agent to help. They need to find one potential starter, preferably a huge body that can take on multiple blocks freeing up all of their dangerous pass-rushers. John Jenkins or Jonathan Hankins could be there for them in the second round. Doubling up on the position in the draft is not a bad idea.

2.   Weakside Linebacker – Veteran Leroy Hill was resigned to a one-year deal late in the off-season last year after Seattle couldn’t find anyone better. He is currently in the same spot this year as he awaits word from the Seahawks as to whether they will bring him back again or not They’ve had great luck finding linebackers in the draft that can start right away as they’ve done it in back to back years landing middle linebacker Bobby Wagner last season and strongside linebacker K.J. Wright in 2011. I expect them to do that again this year.

3.   Best Player Available – There are very few holes or needs that have to be filled on this roster allowing the Seahawks to target any prospect or position they want with the majority of their draft picks.

ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-8-1)

2013 Draft Picks: 16 (1st), 22 (1st), 46 (2nd), 78 (3rd), 113 (4th), 149 (5th), 184 (6th), 222 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: DT Michael Brockers, LSU (14, 1st), WR Brian Quick, APST (33, 2nd), CB Janoris Jenkins, NALA (39, 2nd), RB Isaiah Pead, CIN (50, 2nd), DB Trumaine Johnson, MONT (65, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Les Snead, Head Coach Jeff Fisher

The Rams have made some nice strides as a franchise since Jeff Fisher took over as Head Coach, but they now find themselves having to battle it out in the toughest division in football with San Francisco and Seattle looking like two of the top Super Bowl favorites this season. This is a very competitive roster that doesn’t have too many holes that need to be filled. If they can find some elite young talent to add in the draft, while filling their few need areas, the Rams could give their NFC West rivals a good run for the division crown.

1.   Safety – The Rams will likely have two new starting safeties in 2013. Free safety Craig Dahl was allowed to leave in free agency, while strong safety Quintin Mikell was released, although there has been some talk about bringing him back at a cheaper rate. Even if he is brought back he won’t be the long term solution at 33 years old in September. They have yet to bring in another safety leaving backup holdovers Darian Stewart and Rodney McLeod as their potential starters for 2013.

2.   Wide Receiver – The wide receiver corps has been a problem area for the Rams the last few years. Slot receiver Danny Amendola was their best pass-catcher, but was constantly battling injuries and ended up leaving for New England as a free agent, while the reliable Brandon Gibson headed to the Dolphins. The franchise has spent five draft picks over the last three years to help upgrade this unit, but with not much luck. Rookie Chris Givens is the only one to show some good promise as he appears to be potential legit deep threat. Brian Quick could barely get on the field as a rookie, while Austin Pettis looks like a career backup. Greg Salas and Mardy Gilyard aren’t even on the roster anymore. The need for a true no.1 wide out is still their biggest hole, while they have yet to find a replacement for Amendola in the slot.

3.   Strongside Linebacker – Both of the Rams’ strongside linebackers are free agents at the moment in Rocky McIntosh and Mario Haggan and neither are expected to be brought back. It’s not a big deal as both of them are in their thirties and needed to be upgraded anyways. Adding a linebacker that can hold down the spot next to James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar and provide some added pass-rush has to be brought in.

ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-11)

2013 Draft Picks: 7 (1st), 38 (2nd), 69 (3rd), 103 (4th), 140 (5th), 174 (6th), 219 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: WR Michael Floyd, ND (13, 1st), DB Jamell Fleming, OKLA (80, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Steven Keim, Head Coach Bruce Arians

The wheels fell completely off in 2012 after the team somehow started 4-0, but finished with eleven losses in their final twelve games leading to a new regime being put in place with new General Manager Steve Keim and Head Coach Bruce Arians taking over. They’ve added some solid veteran talent in free agency, but their first big move since taking over was trading for Carson Palmer to be their new starting quarterback. They still have some work to do namely on the offensive line especially now that they are suddenly in the strongest division in football.

1.   Offensive Tackle – This offensive line needs a lot of work and probably a complete makeover. They allowed 58 sacks last year, the most in the NFL and also finished last in rushing offense with just 75.3 yards/game.  They’ll need to make major improvements especially with the immobile Carson Palmer now under center. Bobby Massie and Nate Potter are a pair of good, developmental prospects that got some decent starting experience last year. Massie projects out the better of the two and could be the long term starter at right tackle, while Potter could become a solid backup. Meanwhile starting left tackle Levi Brown will return from a torn triceps that ended his season, but has seen his play steadily decline the last few years and should be upgraded.  If they can land one of the top three left tackle prospects in the draft then they should run up to the podium.

2.   Offensive Guard/Center – The interior of the offensive line is bad too. Adam Snyder struggled in 2012 after coming over as a free agent, while fellow starting guard Darren Colledge is just okay and late round rookie Senio Kelemete barely played. There’s not any depth behind them either, while there’s basically nothing at the center position right now.

3.   Outside Linebacker – Starters Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield are decent young players, but neither guy has developed into the type of game-breaking talent that scares opposing teams and both produced just four sacks a piece last year. Solid veteran Quentin Groves departed in free agency. A potential elite pass-rusher should be available with no.7 pick and is a good backup plan if they can’t land one of the top offensive tackles at the spot.

Written By: Mark Scott

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