Draft Needs: NFC West

Neil Hornsby offers a team-by-team display of positional draft needs for the NFC West.

| 3 years ago

Draft Needs: NFC West

2014-draft-needs-NFCWAt PFF we’re not big on telling you things we don’t know about first hand, so saying who a team should draft is not something you’ll see here. However, giving you our view on areas of need, is another matter. With free agency essentially in the books, we thought this might be a good opportunity to give you a pre-draft look at the areas they should look to address either via the draft or otherwise .

You know how much we like colour-coding everything and this set of articles (one for each division) is no exception. Before you dig in we’d highly recommend you check out the legend – these are not player grades as in our projected line-ups series, we are grading need. Obviously, to some degree, they are related but not always.  Let’s be clear, the fact that in the AFC East Review we have the Patriots QB situation as a slightly higher need than that of the Jets does not mean we are saying Geno Smith is a better QB than Tom Brady; just that Smith has shown enough to say he deserves a decent shot and with Michael Vick backing him up there is no immediate need to draft another QB while in New England it may be time for them to consider a successor to the great man particularly given Ryan Mallett is a free agent next year and shown very little in recent preseasons.

In some of the grades we are also considering the depth behind the player listed so, for example, with Buffalo’s slot corner position the fact they have Nickell Robey as well as Corey Graham ensures this is a straight dark green. However, where this is the case, I’ll mention it in the text below relating to each team.


(^click to enlarge)


How the Cardinals will perform this year is a lot trickier to predict than what they’ll do in the draft – and that’s not easy. To me, getting Jared Veldheer in free agency (particularly in preference to Brandon Albert) was the second-best move in free agency (I’m still partial to the Lions grabbing Golden Tate) and addressed the biggest area of need with a superior player. They still need help on the offensive line (particularly at right guard) but the need to get outside pass rush surely trumps that. Few teams were as effective on blitzes as the Cardinals but sometimes you just want to rush four and how much longer can John Abraham sustain his remarkable level of play?

St. Louis

Is this the year to call time on Sam Bradford? Probably, but many still think the lack of quality receiving options is holding him back. Color us not swayed. In the better receivers vs. new quarterback debate we’ll go QB because even when he’s healthy (less often than you’d want) he’s been a below average (and streaky) passer. That said, there are other needs which turn on Jake Long’s injury (he was good when not hurt) and their view on whether Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson’s obvious ability will metamorphose into regular production.

San Francisco

The 49ers still have a Top-5 roster but that position is looking a lot more tenuous after the 2013 season than before it. Some of that is quarterback driven with Colin Kaepernick not delivering on his first-year promise (in the starting job that is) but a few players also showed signs of age or decline. Nothing disastrous, you understand, but it does look like both the defensive ends and, more urgently, the cornerbacks need more support. Justin Smith, while still good, was not the force of nature he was in previous years and Ray McDonald started to decline as well. On the other hand, Anquan Boldin looks ageless but getting separation isn’t his strong suit and Kaepernick is a quarterback that appears to need it.


It’s only when you perform exercises like this that you realise the full extent of what the Seahawks have achieved. Outside the offensive line you are genuinely struggling to find weaknesses or areas where even the back-ups don’t look better than many teams’ starters. Sure their guards are poor and need to be addressed, but who’s to say they won’t do that in, say, the fifth round. If you are looking to pick holes I guess Cliff Avril only has one year left on his contract and Percy Harvin is an injury risk, but that’s pedantry. They can pretty much do what they want, but I for one would like to see just how good they could be with two good guards.


See the draft needs for the other divisions:
AFC East | NFC East
AFC North | NFC North
AFC South | NFC South
AFC West | NFC West


Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil

| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • [email protected]

    Wait, so bold means 30+? Marshawn Lynch is 27. He came out of school early it just seems like he’s been playing forever.

    • KittyTheBear

      He’s 28. Was about to say the same thing tho

    • Topher Doll

      These draft needs aren’t even based on their own grades, it’s mostly just what Neil thinks, which may explain the errors.

      • PFF_Neil

        They actually are based on our grades but only in part. A lot of other things came in as well which is why it wasn’t simply a re-working of the previous “depth charts” (which we will revisit before the season). Age, contract status and depth also factored heavily into the colour coding.
        Additionally everything had to go through the intense checking process called Khaled. 😉

        • Topher Doll

          Haha been a while since I heard a Khaled burn.

    • PFF_Neil

      Apologies, my mistake, It was just a formatting error in excel that didn’t get caught. I’ll get it changed.

  • Matthew McHoes

    small critique……
    Why is Bruce Miller light green? He is young and just signed a contract extension. He is one of if not the best young FB’s in the NFL.

    • Ben Peterson

      coming off the kind of injury that he is isn’t ideal.

      • PFF_Neil

        That was the thinking with the light green Ben (thank you). As you know we love Miller but it’s a difficult position at which to have much longevity.

  • MN

    was Housler traded and I didn’t get the memo? c’mon now.

    • PFF_Neil

      Housler is the furthest thing from an in-line TE. Therefore given the Y/H distinction we used it was a choice between him and Carlson at H. Much as I don’t think a lot of Carlson he probably still wins that battle.

  • Andrew Maples

    I think there is some consistency errors with some of your evaluations. Guys like Dockett and Abraham on AZ are guys who are still preforming very well regardless of Age or Contract status and yet you color them yellow, while at the same time guys with similar area’s of concern like Boldin is left in light green.

    I also think that there are young guys on these charts that you mark yellow when clearly “they are the said Required player to build into the role”. Massie is a young RT that has to familiarize himself with Arians playbook, while last year sitting behind a veteran who could teach him what the offense takes (Winston).

    Furthermore, you have AZ’s Fullback (I personally didn’t even know this guy was on the roster) shaded in orange like there is some sort of pressing need. Can I ask you how many snaps last year (with % of total snaps) AZ had an actual Fullback in the game. Not talking about TE’s who shift into the backfield, but actual Fullbacks.

    • Fitzii

      And our RG isn’t Fanaika but Earl Watford a sophomore…

      • Topher Doll

        There is a reason Neil is doing these, they don’t match the grades they themselves create and don’t match the rosters either. They are meant to draw views from non-paying persons, not to be accurate.

      • PFF_Neil

        No that’s not a fact. That’s what you are hoping for. There’ll be a camp battle between them both but given how awful Fanaika was last year and still Watford couldn’t get a snap (in fact he was only active for 3 games), suggests he didn’t get it at all. Whoever starts it could be a disaster again at the moment.

    • PFF_Neil

      Let’s take each of those points in turn:
      Dockett – he’s a much over-valued player. He plays on occasion but usually is a function of his own hype. Last year he’d have been orange.
      Abraham – Did well but wasn’t the player he was even a year ago and showed clear signs of decline. His grade dropped from +17.4 to +8.8 and that concerns me.
      Massie – The problem isn’t Massie, it’s what the Cardinals think of him. He did more than enough in the latter half of 2012 not to need baby-sitting by Winston (who was clearly gone). The yellow is more a reflection of that.
      Full-backs – I sort of agree with you as this position was by far the hardest to grade. As for most teams it ended up being orange if they decided they need one – which I doubt they do. In hindsight I should probably have left it blank.

  • Chris

    I’m still confused while the general vibe about Kaepernick is negative. I agree that he didn’t match the hype he had coming into the season but that seems like an odd place to start your analysis based on. The consensus seems to be that he had a disappointing season and I don’t understand why. I understand PFF’s grading is different but the results (QB metrics) pretty much all had him in the Top 10 last season. I’ve agreed with most of the criticisms he receives and agree that there are things he has to work on, but unlike many other QB’s, nobody seems to want to focus on the positive side and the already outstanding results.