2012 NFL Draft: One Major Flaw Each NFC West Team Must Address
The NFC West may have been the most improved division in the NFL during the 2011 season, especially in the latter half of the year. With three of four teams in playoff contention through Week 15, the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers all surprised and threatened the rest of the league while the St. Louis Rams continued to disappoint. On the verge of dominance, each team in the division—even the Rams—has a shot at the postseason next year.
With a gaping hole in each team's aspirations, here's what can be done for each NFC West competitor in the 2012 NFL draft.
St. Louis Rams: Offensive Consistency
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Despite the seemingly unanimous projection of Justin Blackmon going to the Rams, wide receivers are still overvalued in today's game. As Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have proven year after year, there is talent at the receiver position all around; it merely has to be cultivated.
The Rams offense sputtered throughout the year as a rare feast contrasted the frequent famine endured by Sam Bradford and the rest of St. Louis. The Rams need consistency...and only a sturdy offensive line can begin to provide that.
A superior offensive line is second to none, improving every element of the offense with its stability. After Matt Kalil's impressive combine, the highly touted offensive tackle out of USC is certainly looking like a potential anchor for the next 15 years up front, which cannot be overstated.
Solution: Improve offensive line, draft Matt Kalil
Seattle Seahawks: Defensive Discipline
The Seattle Seahawks have explosion and excitement; what they lack is the forethought to not go for the interception at the expense of a touchdown, try for the big hit and get burned, and get fooled by audibles. The Seahawks need a leader on defense, and a strong middle linebacker of the future is the answer.
Luke Kuechly out of Boston College is regarded as one of the safest first-round draft picks by Rob Rang and would anchor and direct the 'Hawks' defense on and off the field. Seattle needs a little less gambling, and a little bit more safety; Kuechly gives them just that.
Solution: Draft middle linebacker Luke Kuechly
Arizona Cardinals: Offensive Leadership
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John Skelton and Kevin Kolb are not starting quarterbacks in the NFL...at least, they should not be. With the Cardinals coaching staff admitting disappointment in their quarterbacks' performance throughout 2011, Arizona finds itself in the familiar territory.
Ryan Tannehill is the odd one out of the Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III quarterback frenzy, but he should not be brushed aside. Finally providing Larry Fitzgerald with an accurate quarterback is priceless. Unless the Cards pull a wild draft-day trade, Tannehill will be the best signal-caller available at 13th in the first round, and if Arizona fails in free agency once more, Tannehill should get the nod.
Solution: Draft a decent, accurate quarterback in Ryan Tannehill
San Francisco 49ers: Offensive Weapons
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In spite of the heroic offensive performances of Vernon Davis and Alex Smith in the 2011 playoffs, the 49ers simply could not move the ball against the New York Giants when it mattered most. Even with Alex Smith's improvements, the passing attack of the 49ers is limited even at full health.
Enter Stephen Hill. Not heavily scouted until recently, the 6'4'' receiver out of Georgia Tech is steadily ascending the draft boards and despite his size, posted a 4.33-second 40-yard dash time at the combine. From the very same alma mater as Calvin Johnson, Hill is starting to look like the next "Megatron" and if the 49ers have the chance to draft him, they would be foolish not to.
Solution: Draft dominant, potential No. 1 receiver in Stephen Hill