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NFL Draft: Team Needs - NFC West
John Tuvey
April 3, 2008
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Arizona Cardinals

Primary Needs
The Cards’ biggest need, apparently, is a babysitter for Matt Leinart. But Supernanny will probably be available with No. 225 in the seventh round, so Arizona can focus on other needs first. Much of the Cardinals’ draft talk centers around a complement/replacement for Edgerrin James, and with Bryant Johnson gone they may seek depth at receiver as well. Defensively Arizona may want more pass-rushing help than free agent signee Travis LaBoy brings by himself. And with Antrel Rolle moving to safety Arizona could also stand to add a cornerback or two.

Fantasy Impact
James has been a mere shell of his former self since leaving Indy for the desert, so a first- or second-round running back could very easily work his way into the mix. Any receiver the Cardinals draft would be blocked by Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, leaving little more than fantasy table scraps.

Potential Targets
Jonathan Stewart seems a logical selection at No. 16, even when you factor in his offseason toe surgery. If the Cards pursue defensive help in round one—maybe one of the pass-rushing ends like Quentin Groves or Phillip Merling or a corner such as Aqib Talib or Brandon Flowers—then the second-round target might become Rutgers’ Ray Rice or Tulane’s Matt Forte. Arizona has its full complement of picks, so a mid-round wide receiver such as Cal’s Lavelle Hawkins or Appalachian State’s Dexter Jackson might fit the bill as a third receiver with kick return ability.

Saint Louis Rams

Primary Needs
Before they make the second overall selection the Rams need to decide if they’re trying to replace Orlando Pace or complement him. Either way, Pace’s last two seasons and the Rams’ rash of injuries along the offensive line should have the club plucking at least a couple big fellas as insurance. Isaac Bruce is gone, pushing Drew Bennett into the starting lineup and creating a need for depth at wide receiver as well. A pass rusher seems to be on every team’s shopping list this season, and the Rams are certainly no exception.

Fantasy Impact
There doesn’t seem to be a spot in the Rams lineup for an offensive rookie—at a “skill” position, at least—to make much of a fantasy splash, but any upgrades along the line would go a long way towards improving the fortunes of Steven Jackson, Marc Bulger, and Torry Holt. IDP leaguers would love the fantasy potential of a defensive end lining up opposite Leonard Little.

Potential Targets
Exactly one player will be off the board when the Rams make their first selection, so they’ll have options; Chris Long, Jake Long, and Glenn Dorsey seem to be the early favorites. And that first pick will dictate whether St. Louis needs to pursue next-tier defensive ends like USC’s Lawrence Jackson and Georgia Tech’s Darrell Robertson or o-line help such as Virginia Tech’s Duane Brown or Notre Dame’s John Sullivan with their later selections.

San Francisco 49ers

Primary Needs
The Niners threw money at their biggest offseason needs, landing defensive end Justin Smith and wideouts Bryant Johnson and Isaac Bruce via free agency. But there is still plenty of work to be done; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a position on the San Francisco roster at which a first-round pick couldn’t walk in and immediately compete for a job. The offensive line needs attention, but aside from that the 49ers can go with the proverbial “best player available” and upgrade their team regardless of what position they address.

Fantasy Impact
Though they aren’t exactly laden with talent San Francisco is relatively set at the “skill” positions, with the notable exception of the quarterback position. It’s unlikely the 49ers use early picks to bring in competition for Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, or their new wide receiver tandem; thus, any fantasy impact the rookie class brings to San Fran will come in the subtle upgrade of their offensive line or on the side of the ball only an IDP-leaguer would appreciate.

Potential Targets
Mike Martz may have a clause in his contract that requires the Niners to use an early pick on a speedy wideout such as LSU’s Early Doucet or Eddie Royal of Virginia Tech. Martz offenses tend to give up plenty of sacks, but that shouldn’t prevent San Francisco from using early- and/or mid-round picks on offensive linemen such as Toledo’s John Greco or Mike McGlynn of Pittsburgh.

Seattle Seahawks

Primary Needs
Prior to free agency it seemed the Seahawks’ biggest need was an heir to the quickly-fading Shaun Alexander. However, after signing T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones via free agency, that may no longer be their top priority. Seattle’s line still hasn’t recovered from the loss of Steve Hutchinson, and All-World tackle Walter Jones can’t play forever. You have to believe Mike Holmgren doesn’t intend to enter the season with Will Heller and Jeb Putzier as his only options at tight end.

Fantasy Impact
In March we were salivating over the prospect of Jonathan Stewart sticking in the Pacific Northwest and replacing Alexander; now we’re hoping the ‘Hawks use an early pick on one of the Class of 2008’s athletic pass-catching tight ends. An upgrade to the offensive line would help Matt Hasselbeck stay upright and Julius Jones find daylight, but aside from a tight end there isn’t room in the Seattle lineup for an offensive difference-maker.

Potential Targets
USC offensive tackle Sam Baker has seen his stock fall over the past year, but he may be the perfect heir to Jones in the Seahawks’ offensive front line; he may also wind up playing guard next to Big Walter until Jones retires. Purdue’s Dustin Keller and Notre Dame’s John Carlson would fit extremely well into the tight end-friendly West Coast offense.


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