When I look around the NFC West, I'm seeing a dream realized. You should take pride in your division, because they're the ones that you connect with even if its born in hatred. I feel something for San Francisco, I feel nothing for the Ravens. Even if you just want the rest of your division to be really bad, you want something out of them. If that's not family, I don't know what is.
Right, Dad? Dad? I don't know where my dad is.
Now I see a division full of something new, something good, something entirely unexpected. The Cardinals, Seahawks, and Rams are three teams with historically bad franchises, and the 49ers were quite the opposite though they hadn't been that way since the Rembrandt's were topping the charts with "I'll be there for you." It's not like that anymore.
The Cardinals have a terrible offense, but what if they had an average offense? Their recent draft picks have been not-terrible, a new trend for them.
The Rams were the worst team in the NFL for five years, worse than the Raiders, but Jeff Fisher seems to have changed the culture immediately and has a few extra draft picks at his disposal to turn around the on-field product.
The 49ers are coming off of a Super Bowl loss with a balanced mix of offense and defense that could turn into a team that rivals any they've ever put on the field.
The Seahawks are the best team anyone has ever seen in any sport, led by a quarterback that has been called "A mix of Joe Montana, Tiger Woods, John McClane, Eddie Murphy in the 80s, Ghandi, and Einsten." -bloody-disgusting.com and "A triumph!" - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.
I sat down with my brothers of bloggers around the NFC West (and by sat down, I mean emailed them which is the 2013 version of sitting down) and asked them some questions as we head into the draft next Thursday. The Seahawks have no pick in the first round, instead requesting a Percy Harvin, while the other teams each have two picks in the top 38. I asked them some questions about their thoughts headed into the draft. I'll give you my answers and then I'll do a little friendly "trash talking" because you got to have playful fun with your buds! Sorry if it goes "over the line."
Here is what they had to say.
Blog -Revenge of the Birds
Interviewee - Jess Root, managing editor
Head Coach - Bruce Arians. Experience (interim head coach, Colts, 2012)
General Manager - Steve Keim. Experience - 0 as GM, 14 years in Arizona front office
Picks: 7, one in each round. 7th overall.
I have been adamant that the Cardinals are not going to be pushovers in 2013. I mean, the biggest point I want to make is that even if they do turn out to be a 4-12 team, I don't see the writing on the wall that suggests they will be a 4-12 or 6-10 team. I see the potential to really be all over the board for Arizona with a lot of unknowns and potential going into next season. Really the biggest problem that Arizona has right now is that they are in a division with the two best teams in the NFC and a third team that could be really good.
But are they going to be bad? Maybe, but I don't just see it.
What is the Cards biggest need?
The Cardinals' greatest need is actually two needs. They need offensive line upgrades and they need help in the pass rushing department from the outside. I am most interested in Eric Fisher, although he is more recently projected to be gone by number seven. After Fisher, I am equally intrigued by the pass rushing trio of Dion Jordan, Ezekiel Ansah and Barkevious Mingo. After that is Lane Johnson because of his athleticism. People are completely going ga-ga over Chance Warmack, but like some, I don't get too excited about a guard in the top 10. If the pieces fall that way, then fine, but you can get guard talent elsewhere.
More like the Cardinals need to get a life? Am I right, fellas! But seriously, this team with a good offensive line would be a really difficult team to beat. However, it now seems possible the Arizona could draft one of the premier pass-rushers first and get adequate offensive line help in the second round. Someone like Terrance Armstead? I'm just spitballin' here. What is the state of the Cards offensive line?
Regarding the tackle position, the team is stable for now. Nate Potter fared decently when forced to start. Levi Brown returns, and Bruce Arians is thrilled. He calls him "elite" at the position. Fans don't, but that makes two coaching staffs that have gushed about him. Bobby Massie did very well in the second half of the season.
I was also spitballin' when I asked if the Cards needed to draft a quarterback but that seems unlikely.
Drafting a QB? It might not happen this year. Acquiring Carson Palmer calmed that storm, and his contract is set up to be a two year commitment, although the second year there is little actual monetary commitment, just some dead money if cut. Arians said that they would draft a QB, but only if that guy "pops out" at them. This is notable because Arians also believes in playing your young QB early, especially if drafted early. Having Palmer seems to go against that. I do not expect a QB drafted, except maybe late for a project, although they still have one of those guys on the roster.
Jess also noted that Ryan Lindley is "probably gone" after putting together one of the worst seasons in recent memory. The second part are my words but Jess agrees.
Arizona has made some mistakes in past drafts but they're obviously hoping that changes at the top will result in changes on the field. Just like the Seahawks, the Cards have never had the number one overall pick (edit for clarification: The Arizona Cardinals haven't picked first, but of course the franchise dates back to the 1920 Chicago Cardinals so they could very well have some first overall picks.) Their highest pick was Leonard Davis (2nd overall) in 2001. Their others are a mixed bag of Larry Fitzgerald, Simeon Rice (who was most successful with the Buccaneers), Andre Wadsworth, and Levi Brown. Arizona is picking seventh this year (previous time at that position they selected Thomas Jones), so what's the biggest mistake that the Cardinals could make?
The biggest mistake the Cardinals could make with the seventh pick is to trade up. Yes, I love Eric Fisher, but with potentially elite talent at OLB and on the offensive line (Johnson is a little riskier, but Chance Warmack has people going nuts). The Cards needs all their picks, especially since the rest of the division has 20,000 picks in this draft.
So there you have it. Arizona needs offensive line help but not in the worst way. They need pass-rushing help and there's plenty of it. Trading up could be a big mistake, so would the Cards trade down and target someone like Warmack, Jonathan Cooper, or Lane Johnson while snagging additional picks? Can the Cards find the right player to take their team to a higher level next season and compete for the playoffs.
Pardon my French but... As if!
Blog - Turf Show Times
Interviewee - Ryan Van Bibber, managing editor
Head Coach - Jeff Fisher. Experience: 142-120 in 17 seasons with the Oilers/Titans. 7-8-1 with the Rams.
General Manager - Les Snead. Experience: Rams GM since 2012. With Falcons from 1997-2011 as scout and then Director of player personnel.
Picks: 8. 16th and 22nd in the first, one pick in each subsequent round.
The Rams pick twice in the first round thanks to their trade with the Redskins last season that will also net them an extra first round pick in 2014. They'll hope to improve though on some recent picks in that are of the draft that did not work out, such as: Damione Lewis, Adam Archuleta, Jimmy Kennedy, Alex Barron, Tye Hill, and Adam Carriker. Not counting tackle Jason Smith of course, as that was a bust of bigger proportions. However, over the last two seasons they snagged Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers with the 14th overall picks and both could become very successful defensive lineman.
So what does Ryan want to see the Rams do with two first round picks?
I'd really like to see them get Tavon Austin, but I'm not sure that's possible. My hope is that they can find a way to improve the defense in the first round with a safety like Vaccaro or a stud OLB prospect like Ogletree, and also net someone that improves the offense, whether that's a playmaker like Austin or a blue chip lineman. I like Cyprien quite a bit too. I'll be interested to see if any of the guards fall, like Warmack and Cooper.
That Van Bibber is a really good guy. Sorry, I meant to say he's a real wise guy! Austin could become the playmaker, touchdown-shaker that St. Louis really needs. The Rams current group of receivers is Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis, Raymond Radway (sounds like a character from Gleaming the Cube), and Nick Johnson. They also added tight end Jared Cook. Givens is their leading returning receiver after losing Danny Amendola (though did they ever really have Danny Amendola? Does anyone really ever have Danny Amendola?) but it was actually Quick that they had pinned their most hopes on after drafting him with the first pick in the second round. Same story for Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson at running back.
What should we expect from the 2012 class?
The biggest question mark is Brian Quick, a second-rounder last year. He was almost more of a liability last season because NFL-level coverage and routes were such a mystery to him. Chris Givens could be due for a big year after a 600-yard rookie season. Throw Isaiah Pead into the mix too. The Rams have struggled on offense, and they only way they can get better is getting more production from those players.
It seems as though the Rams still have "an offense waiting to happen" full of potential, but with very little that has been proven. They did add Jake Long to play left tackle, and much like Palmer in Arizona, it's not so much if they can be what they once were, they just have to be better than the last guy and that shouldn't be hard to do. So could the offense consistently score 25 points?
That's the biggest question because the defense surrendered more than 20 points only once over their final six games. Adding a safety like Kenny Vaccaro or an outside linebacker with 2013 impact could take this defense to the next level. Some of Fisher's defenses with the Titans were supremely underrated.
What kind of an impact do you expect from the 2013 class?
The Rams really need to find some players who can contribute right away. The most obvious area for me would be along the offensive line, particularly on the inside at guard. Some of those players transition a little smoother, and they desperately need some real power in the middle of that line, especially without Steven Jackson.
So are the Rams going to step up to the next level and post their first winning season since 2003? Let me respond to that question with a little coarse language:
Yeah right, dummies!
Blog - Niners Nation
Interviewee - David Fucillo, managing editor
Head Coach - Jim Harbaugh. Experience: 3rd year as head coach of San Fran, many years of being a jerk!
General Manager - Trent Baalke. Experience: 3rd year as GM
Picks - 13. 31st overall. Two in the 2nd, two in the 3rd, two in the 4th, one in the 5th, two in the 6th, three in the 7th.
The 49ers have already begun using their ungodly amount of picks by acquiring Anquan Boldin and Colt McCoy. Still, they are left with way more picks than they can seemingly add to the roster, including five picks in the first three rounds. As much as we hate to say it, San Francisco could skip the draft and still be one of the Super Bowl favorites next year. Their needs are slim, but there are certainly areas where you should expect rookies to contribute unlike last season. Even if they are, and excuse me for saying this guys, big meanies.
San Francisco picks 31st and 34th thanks to a trade with the Chiefs. What would you like the 49ers to address with their first two picks?
The 49ers have a couple specific needs, but the depth of the draft at certain positions provides them with some flexibility. The 49ers biggest needs are safety, defensive line and tight end. If the 49ers were to keep their first two picks, they would be in good shape addressing safety and defensive line. There is considerable depth at the safety position, so waiting until their later second round pick would not be the worst thing in the world. However, there is likely to be some solid talent to be had at No. 31 and No. 34.
The same holds true on the defensive line. The 49ers need a nose tackle to compete with Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey, but in reality they need someone with versatility to play two or three positions on their defensive line. I would love to see them find someone there. That being said, ideally I would not mind seeing the 49ers deal pick No. 34 at the top of the second round for a first round pick in the 2014 draft. If they can find the right team, they could build up their assets in 2014.
Those snobs! They think they can just volley into next season? Bollocks!
What players would Fucillo be most interested in seeing available when the Niners pick?
Mock drafts are always hard to figure out, but there are an assortment of players showing up late in the first that are interesting. Jesse Williams, Johnathan Hankins and Jonathan Jenkins are all intriguing as defensive linemen. Williams seems to have the most versatility, but you'll find strong arguments for all three.
At the safety position, Jonathan Cyprien, Matt Elam, Eric Reid and D.J. Swearinger all provide interesting talent. The 49ers need a free safety to replace Dashon Goldson, but they also may consider a safety as a long-term replacement for 2014 free agent Donte Whitner.
Would the 49ers be wise to move up or down from where they stand at the end of the first, top of the second?
Given the 49ers needs and positioning, I would prefer to move down and build up picks for 2014. The 49ers hold 13 picks, giving them room to do a lot in this year's draft and beyond. That being said, if they could move up for a guy like Kenny Vaccaro in the middle of the first, I would be all for that. I am a bit hesitant to move too far up, but the 49ers have the assets to move up a decent amount without hurting their long-term prospects.
Another team interested in Vaccaro I see. Hmmm, I wonder what it's like to have a young secondary that is the best in the NFL... (You see, Seattle has the best young secondary in the NFL, with talks of an extension for Kam Chancellor and little concern over the future of the position. Therefore I brought that up as sort of a sarcastic stab at Fucillo and the 49ers or Van Bibber and the Rams, because we love our safeties. This will hurt their feelings and make them jealous.)
The 49ers rookie class had almost zero impact last season. Will they make any in 2013 and will this current rookie class take the same path of sitting a year out?
LaMichael James is in position to be the biggest contributor in Year 2, in large part because he saw the most extensive action of anybody in the 2012 class. First round pick A.J. Jenkins was very quiet in year one, but that was somewhat expected. Fans would love to see him make a big impact in year two, but it's honestly hard to know what to expect from him considering how little he played in 2012.
Beyond those two, Joe Looney will get a chance to make an impact as a utility guard. He will likely replace Leonard Davis as the second guard off the bench, behind Daniel Kilgore. He also could get some work at center during training camp. Darius Fleming, Trenton Robinson and Cam Johnson all will get a chance to compete for reserve time, although Robinson has the biggest opening with the lack of depth at safety.
The 2013 class could see more action early on, for at least a couple of the picks. The 49ers could very well end up with their starting free safety in this class. Additionally, they could add the number two tight end, which is a big deal in the 49ers extensive heavy formation-usage.
Well there you have it. If I'm reading between the lines, Fucillo is saying that the Seahawks are tops in the NFC West.
Thanks to the bloggers from around the division. I welcome discussion from the communities as well with only a week and change left to go until the big day. What do you think?