Apr 19, 2012
The 2012 NFL Draft is a week away, and this edition is much clearer than last year, at least in terms of team needs, because free agency has already taken place. Here on the staff blog, I’m breaking down each team’s top needs and fantasy outlook for the draft, going division by division. In the final post, we head to the NFC West, and, if you missed them, check out the AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East, NFC North, and NFC South. Got a player you want your team to target? Let me know in the comments.
Also, be sure to take a look at our massive 2012 Pre-Draft Rookie Report, which takes an in-depth look at all the top fantasy prospects. And, as an early reminder, Joe Dolan and I will be conducting a live chat for commentary/questions during the 1st round of the draft next Thursday.
Picks: 13, 80, 112, 151, 177, 185, 221
1. Offensive Tackle – The Cardinal offensive line has been lousy in pass protection, and that’s a big problem with Kevin Kolb at QB, because he really struggles dealing with pressure. Levi Brown has struggled, but the team re-signed him, so he’ll continue starting. However, the Cardinals have not brought back Brandon Keith, so their top priority is probably addressing OT with the 13th overall pick, unless they plan to use Adam Snyder there. If he’s on the board, Iowa’s Riley Reiff could be the pick. They could also trade down and try to grab someone like Georgia’s Cordy Glenn or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin.
2. Wide Receiver – The Cardinals are set with one of the best WRs in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, but they could use someone new to compete for the #2 job with Early Doucet best in the slot and Andre Roberts best as a role player for depth. If the Cardinals don’t take an OT in the 1st round, they could go for Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd or Baylor speedster Kendall Wright. They don’t have a 2nd round pick, but in the 3rd round they could target Wake Forest’s Chris Givens, among others.
3. Outside Linebacker – The Cardinal defense made huge strides under DC Ray Horton as the season progressed last year, and they ranked in the top 10 in the league in sacks. Still, they’ve had some turnover with Joey Porter and Clark Haggans gone, and while O’Brien Schofield and Sam Acho are two young players who could step up, it couldn’t hurt to add some more young competition in the team’s 3-4 scheme. If he slips, Alabama’s Melvin Ingram is a possibility.
Fantasy Outlook: The Cardinals will probably continue to go with the QB duo of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. They could draft a QB late, but they’re not going to address the position early. They’re set at RB with Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, and LaRod Stephens-Howling, and they also added an athletic young TE in Rob Housler last year, so, aside from targeting a #2 WR, there probably won’t be a lot of action for fantasy.
St. Louis Rams
Picks: 6, 33, 39, 65, 96, 171, 209
1. Wide Receiver – The Ram offense was a total mess last year, and while the offensive line deserves plenty of blame, it didn’t help that nobody stepped up in the receiving corps, aside from Brandon Lloyd, who is gone after only 11 games in St. Louis. The Rams will get slot man Danny Amendola back, but other than that there is no one to count on. Brandon Gibson shouldn’t be starting, Danario Alexander has durability issues, and free agent signing Steven Smith remains a big question mark. The Rams fortunately have three of the draft’s first 39 picks, so they could either take Justin Blackmon in the 1st round or wait and take someone like Rueben Randle early in the 2nd round.
2. Offensive Tackle – QB Sam Bradford had a rough sophomore season, and he received little help from his offensive line, which came nowhere close to living up to expectations. The Rams gave up a league-worst 55 sacks in 2011, and while OTs Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith are both young, they both got hurt and struggled last year. It’s highly unlikely that the draft’s top tackle, Matt Kalil, will fall to #6 overall, but the Rams could target someone with one of their two picks early in the 2nd round. Or, they could trade down a few spots from #6 and try to get Iowa’s Riley Reiff.
3. Cornerback/Defensive Tackle – Take your pick. The Rams have needs everywhere, so we’ll call #3 a tie. The Ram pass defense actually held up fairly well last year despite an absurd number of injuries, although it may have done okay partly because teams ran the ball all over the front seven. They made a big signing in CB Cortland Finnegan, and they also added DTs Kendall Langford and Trevor Laws. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t add more help. LSU CB Morris Claiborne and Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox are both possibilities with the 6th overall pick.
Fantasy Outlook: WR is the most glaring need because the Rams don’t have a quality starter on the outside right now. However, RB could also be a big need pretty soon. Steven Jackson is still very effective, but he’ll be 29 years old this season and has taken a beating as a featured runner with a tough running style. If Alabama’s Trent Richardson somehow falls to #6, the Rams could take him and try to move on from Jackson. Otherwise, they at least need to add a backup to Jackson, and it’s possible a change-of-pace back like LaMichael James or Isaiah Pead could be targeted on Day Two.
San Francisco 49ers
Picks: 30, 61, 92, 125, 165, 199, 237
1. Guard – The 49er roster is fairly loaded, so they don’t really have many major needs. However, starting RG Adam Snyder signed with the Cardinals, leaving a hole to fill. As of now, Daniel Kilgore would be the starter. Picking at the end of the 1st round, the 49ers could be in position to take Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler.
2. Wide Receiver – The 49ers addressed a gaping hole at WR by signing Mario Manningham, who will move into the starting lineup with Michael Crabtree, and they also took a chance on Randy Moss providing some value as a deep threat. Given that they don’t have many needs, they could still spend an early pick on a big-play receiver to develop. In the 1st round, that may be the very raw Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, or they could get really lucky if Baylor’s Kendall Wright somehow falls to #30. If they wait, they could target someone like Wake Forest’s Chris Givens.
3. Defensive Line – The 49ers had the best defense in the NFL and were fantastic against the run, so this really isn’t a huge need. Instead, they have the luxury of adding a few young players here and there for depth. Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga are in their 30s now, so depth never hurts.
Fantasy Outlook: It’s hard to predict what the 49ers will do, but, in addition to a WR, they could possibly add a TE. Obviously, they have a stud in Vernon Davis, but, as the Patriots have shown, a lot of damage can be done with multiple weapons at TE. So, don’t rule out Stanford’s Coby Fleener, who played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, in the 1st round.
Picks: 12, 43, 75, 106, 181, 225
1. Defensive End – The Seahawks have a very good DT rotation; however, they still need another pass rusher off the edge. Chris Clemons has been very good the last two years, but they need an athletic player in the mix with the versatile Red Bryant and Jason Jones. With the 12th overall pick, the Seahawks could land North Carolina’s Quinton Coples or hope that Alabama’s Melvin Ingram falls.
2. Linebacker – Starting MLB David Hawthorne signed with the Saints, and while the Seahawks added Barrett Ruud, he struggled in Tennessee last year. If Boston College LB Luke Kuechly is still on the board when the Seahawks pick at 12, he’s probably the most likely pick.
3. Guard – The Seahawks have added a lot of young players to the O-line in the last few years, including spending a 1st-round pick on James Carpenter last year, and they also signed free agent G Deuce Lutui this off-season with Robert Gallery gone. There could be re-shuffling on the line if they don’t address the position early in the draft, but it’s also possible they’ll take Stanford’s David DeCastro in the 1st round. DeCastro is clearly the draft’s best guard and is capable of starting right away.
Fantasy Outlook: The Seahawks addressed perhaps their biggest need by signing Matt Flynn, and while there are still some who think they’ll target Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, don’t count on that. Elsewhere, the Seahawks could add depth at both WR and RB. They’re solid at both positions, but a bigger back to take some pressure off Marshawn Lynch wouldn’t be a bad idea. At WR, they’re in decent shape but have dealt with injuries, so they could take one at some point.