Draft capsules for NFC West teams:
1. LOS ANGELES RAMS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: Rams wrapped up 21-year tenure in St. Louis with 12th straight non-winning season and 11th straight non-playoff season. A 4-3 start went sour with five consecutive losses, and December surge came too late. Despite mostly stellar defense and star rookie running back Todd Gurley, Rams struggled because offense finished last in NFL with 4,761 total yards and no strong leader.
THEY NEED: QB, WR, DB, OLB.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, DL, K.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: California QB Jared Goff; North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz.
OUTLOOK: Rams traded six picks to make dramatic move to top of draft, and it’s tough to argue with their logic. After four straight years hovering right below .500 despite one of NFL’s better defenses, GM Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher are going all-in on Goff or Wentz as Los Angeles’ franchise quarterback. Choice will be an immediate star in Hollywood, and Rams are really hoping he’s a savior.
7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-11)
LAST SEASON: 49ers moved forward without retired stars Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Chris Borland and finished 5-11 to miss playoffs for second straight year. First-year coach Jim Tomsula was fired and replaced by former Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, subject of trade speculation for months, was benched in November in favor of Jaguars 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert, who insists he will be starter in 2016. Kaepernick’s $11.9 million contract for 2016 became guaranteed April 1, and he is recovering from surgeries to his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee.
THEY NEED: QB, OL, LB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: S, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: QB Jared Goff, California; QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State; LB Myles Jack, UCLA.
OUTLOOK: San Francisco’s players expect to play fast and furious under Kelly’s preferred style. So 49ers plan to use their NFL-high 12 draft picks to acquire players who fit that mold. They have significant needs in all phases, having lost key veterans over past two seasons and perhaps soon, wideout Anquan Boldin. Left guard Alex Boone signed in March with Minnesota.
26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-7)
LAST SEASON: Seahawks limped through first-half of season before finding themselves on another late-season roll and back in playoffs. Then came dismal first half in NFC divisional playoff game at Carolina that led to end of run as two-time NFC champs. QB Russell Wilson and offense took another step in its evolution in latter half of schedule and defense remained elite unit.
THEY NEED: interior DL, OL, CB, outside LB, backup RB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, TE, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: G Cody Whitehair, Kansas State; OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State.
OUTLOOK: Line of scrimmage has to be addressed. They need depth on both lines after departures of G J.R. Sweezy, T Russell Okung and DT Brandon Mebane. Finding an immediate starter at any of those positions would be great, but depth for future is more critical. Also watch what Seattle does at outside linebacker and cornerback. Seahawks have presumptive starters at both positions, but depth is always priority for GM John Schneider.
29. ARIZONA CARDINALS (14-4)
LAST SEASON: Had their best finest season since going 11-1 in 1948, won NFC West but were routed by Carolina in NFC championship game. Coach Bruce Arians’ aggressive, big-play offense worked: Cardinals led NFL in offense (408.3 yards per game) and were second to Carolina in scoring (30.6 points per game). Carson Palmer set Cardinals records for passing yards, touchdown passes and passer rating. Rookie David Johnson emerged in final weeks as standout running back, replacing injured Chris Johnson, who was having big comeback season before knee injury ended it prematurely. WR Larry Fitzgerald had renaissance season. Defense was solid but faded a bit after losing safety Tyrann Mathieu to knee injury. Cardinals earned first-round bye and barely beat Green Bay in OT in conference semifinals. Palmer got his first playoff victory but had awful game against Carolina, as did most of other top Arizona players.
THEY NEED: C, CB, DL, OLB, QB, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, ILB, OG, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: C Ryan Kelly, Alabama; QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis; CB William Jackson III, Houston; S Keanu Neal, Florida.
OUTLOOK: Cardinals believe they are primed for big run at Super Bowl after filling biggest needs by trading for OLB Chandler Jones from New England and signing G Evan Mathis. They don’t have any glaring needs and are in position to follow “best player available” mantra. They do need center with Lyle Sendlein not returning, and someday will have to find successor to groom for 36-year-old Carson Palmer. But Kelly and Lynch could well be gone when Arizona makes its pick. Cardinals could also use help in secondary, either at CB or S, and could add depth on DL or at OLB.
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