The best division in 2013 doesn’t look like it’s going get any worse. What 2014 NFL draft strategies have changed for the powerhouse NFC West?
St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix still tops
Spending big in free agency was never part of the plan for the St. Louis Rams. They didn’t have a lot of cap space to begin with and are mostly interested in keeping their current core intact as they prepare to use some high quality draft picks. That is why their top targets remain largely the same. Greg Robinson, the massive, athletic tackle from Auburn could fill a big void up from for them, either on the left or right side at #2. Meanwhile obtaining a center fielder at safety could really bring their developing defense together. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix out of Alabama would make the perfect fit at #13.
Arizona Cardinals – Dee Ford and Darqueze Dennard look awfully good
They had some cap space to work with but not a ton. It’s safe to say the Arizona Cardinals got the most out of their money. In the space of a week they added potential starters at left tackle (Jared Veldheer), running back (Jonathan Dwyer) and tight end (John Carlson). These purchases have all but erased the need for the team to target offense in the first round, allowing instead for a chance to add another dynamic playmaker to one of the best defenses in the league. Their top priority is an edge rusher to compliment their stout defensive line, and Dee Ford out of Auburn looks like an ideal fit. Or they could instead look to fortify their secondary by giving Patrick Peterson a wingman at cornerback. Darqueze Dennard looks like a possibility there.
San Francisco 49ers – Justin Gilbert and Mike Evans clear trade options
Retaining Anquan Boldin and signing Antoine Bethea were heady moves for the San Francisco 49ers but it didn’t entirely change their original situation in the 2014 NFL draft. They still need more playmaking ability at the wide receiver and cornerback positions. With five picks in the first three rounds including two second and two third rounders, they are in position to make an aggressive move up the board to solve one of those problems. On the cornerback side they would love to add Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State. His length, athleticism and instincts are suited so well for their defense. Then there is Mike Evans out of Texas A&M. The 6’5″ behemoth showed at the scouting combine he’s much faster and more athletic than people realized. Adding him could be the missing piece the 49ers need to challenge that Seattle defense.
Seattle Seahawks – Jordan Matthews and Morgan Moses offer help
At best the defending champion Seattle Seahawks have broke even in free agency. They lost a number of quality players including Golden Tate, Clinton McDonald, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond. At the same time they were able to retain Michael Bennett, Tony McDaniel and have a chance to lock up defensive tackle Henry Melton. However the issues on the offensive side of the ball are quite clear. Their offensive just lost its starting right tackle in Breno Giacomini and the exits of Tate and Sidney Rice leave holes to fill at wide receiver. Given how late they pick Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt would make an excellent addition at wide out. He’s not blazing fast but his size, route running savvy and great hands make him a dependable target. Then there is big Virginia tackle Morgan Moses who has the feet to pass protect and the size to open running lanes. Neither are bad options at the end of the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.