2015 Draft Needs: NFC West
The 2015 NFL draft is finally at hand and here at PFF we are more prepared for it than we’ve ever been. In tallying a full season of FBS data we’ve been able to present you with tons of info at our College Football Focus home page on the soon-to-be NFL rookies that will soon be appearing at training camps across the league.
Armed with this information we’re suggesting viable targets at key positions of need for all the teams, here for the NFC West:
St. Louis Rams
Early Round Target: Kevin White, West Virginia
St. Louis has multiple role receivers but lack a primary one. Even with the speedy Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the Rams only had four deep passing touchdowns all year. Kevin White, albeit in the college ranks, had seven. He also forced 23 missed tackles after the catch, second-most in the country.
Early Round Target: Jake Fisher, Oregon
The Rams have made many line changes throughout free agency, releasing the likes of Jake Long and Scott Wells. With Joe Barskdale still unsigned, the Rams might look to Fisher to play opposite Greg Robinson. Fisher is athletic as they come and gives the Rams flexibility to kick inside to guard. While he is still a work in progress, Fisher did not allow a pressure in six of his 13 games.
Early Round Target: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
Scott Wells is gone while Barrett Jones and Tim Barnes are unknowns. If neither Barrett Jones nor Tim Barnes could start over Scott Wells, our lowest graded center a year ago, that doesn’t speak well for their prospects in 2015. Grasu is as smooth as they come in space, but his pass protection concerns will drop him in the draft. Last year, Oregon ball-carriers averaged 5.7 YPC through the “A” gap compared to 4.8 through the other interior gaps.
San Francisco 49ers
Early Round Target: Marcus Peters, Washington
Free agency saw corners Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox leave town, cashing in on their positive grades last season. Shareece Wright moves up the coast from San Diego but he’s not the answer for the 49ers. Peters is known for his aggressiveness, although sometimes he has too much of it. Last year, he had a 3.3% Run Stop Percentage, sixth-best among corners.
Early Round Target: Cameron Erving, Florida State
The 49er offensive line was patchworked last season and with the depature of left guard Mike Iupati, production and depth are even more of an issue. Erving is both athletic and versatile, having played center and tackle last year for the Seminoles. After moving to center in Week 12, his run blocking grade on only 357 snaps was the best for all centers.
Early Round Target: Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville
The Niners certainly have some promising edge defenders like Aaron Lynch and Corey Lemonier. Both were used more as pass rushers, creating a perfect niche for Mauldin. Mauldin excelled against the run last year, posting a Run Stop Percentage of 9.2%, second-best for 3-4 OLBs.
Early Round Target: Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
The Cardinals were already thin at edge defenders and with Sam Acho leaving and a couple others not re-signed, this is a must-fill. Kikaha would be an ideal fit—instead of relying on speed he relies on technique. He’s not flashy, but he definitely has the production that Arizona needs. Kikaha’s 42 QB pressures last season were second-most for 3-4 outside linebackers.
Early Round Target: Jay Ajayi, Boise State
Arizona’s running back woes were well-known especially when Ellington hit a wall midway through the season. Ajayi could take up first/second down responsibilities, allowing Ellington to go back to a third-down/creative role. Ajayi runs with good vision and simplicity, cutting and getting upfield. Not only a threat running the ball, he also had a 1.55 YPRR, fifth-best for all FBS conferences.
Early Round Target: Bryce Petty, Baylor
Even though Palmer should be ready for the start of the season, he’ll turn 35 in December. The current backups have shown they are not starting quarterbacks, shaping up for the Cardinals to pick up a quarterback on Friday. Petty would be a great fit, especially with vertical pass game Arians employs. On deep passes last season at Baylor, he had top marks among all quarterbacks with 1,214 yards and 17 TDs.
Early Round Target: T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
GM John Schneider will surely look to draft young talent for his offensive line. Left tackle Russell Okung is in the last year of his deal and age is beginning to take its toll on his body. A great pick would be the powerful but yet also raw Clemmings. Ideally he would get one year to learn behind the veteran and the Seattle zone blocking system is perfectly suited for him. He could start out at guard and move to tackle as his skills becomes more refined.
Early Round Target: Tre McBride, William & Mary
Seattle’s receiving core is all about competition. Based solely on that, McBride is a nice fit here. A player from a small school trying to prove himself is exactly the type of thing Schneider and Carroll look for. In his only game against FBS competition (at Virginia Tech), he had 4.11 YPRR.