The Cardinals have spent considerable assets to surround Kyler Murray with talent for this upcoming season, trading for DeAndre Hopkins and re-signing Kenyan Drake. They will need to replace Larry Fitzgerald eventually, and Christian Kirk hasn’t been quite what they were hoping for, but it’s possible the likes of Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson are projected as replacements for them. Maxx Williams is a great blocker at tight end, but just an adequate receiver. The main priority is going to be improving their offensive line. Because they can’t prioritize everything, they’re probably most likely to be confident in the ability of D.J. Humphries and Justin Pugh to rebound on the left side, and spent a 2018 third-rounder on Mason Cole to play center. The other positions look really weak, with J.R. Sweezy and Justin Murray penciled in as starters on the right side.
Arizona decided to sign Jordan Phillips to play the nose, so although he’s coming off a poor season he should be considered the starter there. Corey Peters is a rotational run-stuffer next to him, and they don’t have much else on the line. They used a third-round pick last year on Zach Allen but he struggled. Chandler Jones is one of the best edge rushers in the league, but they don’t have much else at linebacker; they signed De’Vondre Campbell to start on the inside, and their other two starters may be Devon Kennard outside and Jordan Hicks inside. Both of those guys are closer to journeymen tan cornerstones. To make matters more concerning, Patrick Peterson had a surprisingly poor season, and rookie second-round pick Byron Murphy was regularly torched. In the backfield, Budda Baker is a good run defender and Jalen Thompson is a pretty good coverage safety, but neither is particularly well-rounded.
Top Needs: OL, DL, OLB, ILB, CB, DB
Expiring Contracts: OG J.R. Sweezy, DL Corey Peters, CB Patrick Peterson, DB Budda Baker
LOS ANGELES RAMS:
After losing Todd Gurley, the Rams lack talent at running back, but they have some other pieces for Jared Goff. That would change a little bit if the team was able to unload Brandin Cooks’ contract after a down 2019 season, but that looks unlikely, so Cooks will probably be back with the Rams next year. Things look shaky on the offensive line. The ageless Andrew Whitworth continues to play well at left tackle but is entering uncharted territory age-wise, while Rob Havenstein and rookie third-rounder Bobby Evans struggled at right tackle opposite him. Four guards played over 350 snaps last year, none of them good, and Brian Allen really struggled at center too.
The interior of the defensive line got a big boost when Michael Brockers’ deal with Baltimore fell through and he returned to Los Angeles to join Aaron Donald, and although A’Shawn Robinson played poorly in 2019, the fact that they just signed him in free agency suggests he’s going to be their starting nose tackle next year. Only one of the four linebacker spots is settled – Leonard Floyd will be one of the team’s starters, either inside or off the edge. However, some of their off-ball candidates defended the run well over limited snaps and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Samson Ebukam are serviceable on the other side, so they could opt to hope some of those players continue developing. The Rams were able to find some hidden gems at cornerback opposite Jalen Ramsey, and after drafting Taylor Rapp in the second round last year to play strong safety, they should be okay there too. However, the free safety position is still wide open after losing Eric Weddle to retirement.
Top Needs: RB, OL, LB, FS
Expiring Contracts: RB Malcolm Brown, WR Cooper Kupp, LB Samson Ebukam, CB Jalen Ramsey, CB Troy Hill
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers:
With the 49ers committing to Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s hard to imagine them making many changes at the skill positions on offense. If anything, they may want to look into a wide receiver to complement Deebo Samuel, as the likes of Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis seem more like third or fourth receivers. They shouldn’t need to make too many changes to the offensive line, either. They have at least three pieces in tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey and left guard Laken Tomlinson, although center Weston Richburg got hurt last year and the other starting role will go to either Ben Garland or Tom Compton, neither of whom is an ideal starter.
Solomon Thomas hasn’t developed into the type of player the 49ers were hoping for, but they have three very good starters on the line in Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford; what they’re missing is a replacement for DeForest Buckner on the inside. Their three starting linebackers – Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Kwon Alexander – are all good in coverage, but struggled against the run. Richard Sherman has reestablished himself as one of the league’s top cornerbacks, and they have a slot solution in K’Waun Williams, but neither Emmanuel Moseley or Akhello Witherspoon is an ideal starter on the other side. Jimmy Ward is a solid starter at free safety, but Jaquiski Tartt is a fringe starter at strong safety.
Top Needs: WR, RG, NT, LB, CB, SS
Expiring Contracts: TE George Kittle, DL Solomon Thomas, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, CB K’Waun Williams, CB Richard Sherman, DB Jaquiski Tartt
Seattle heads into the draft with the same type of situation they’ve had for what seems like forever: a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson, solid weapons around him, and a flimsy offensive line. It’s doubtful they’d use a high pick on a running back or wide receiver, and they have some depth at tight end behind Greg Olsen. Only left tackle Duane Brown is a solid starter on the line; no one else is serviceable, the projected starters from left guard to right tackle being Ethan Pocic, B.J. Finney, D.J. Fluker, and Cedric Ogbuehi. Typically the Seahawks don’t invest first-rounders in linemen but they should really consider directing a substantial portion of their draft capital at protecting Russell Wilson.
Poona Ford and Jarran Reed weren’t great last year, but are pretty solid run defenders. The Seahawks invested heavily at defensive end but didn’t get what they were hoping for from 2019 first-rounder L.J. Collier and 2018 third-rounder Rasheem Green. If Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t re-sign with Seattle, they’ll need to start one of those guys opposite “Leo” Bruce Irvin. Bobby Wagner is a reliable middle linebacker, but K.J. Wright dropped off next to him last year, and Shaquem Griffin was just adequate as the Sam, while 2019 third-rounder Cody Barton didn’t show enough to inspire confidence in his ability to assume a starting role. A third corner is a major need, but with Shaquill Griffin and the recently-acquired Quinton Dunbar, their top two looks set. Quandre Diggs may be able to take over for Tedric Thompson at free safety, but they still need to complement him with someone else, perhaps 2019 second-rounder Marquise Blair, who looked good in limited snaps.
Top Needs: OL, DL, LB, CB
Expiring Contracts: RB Chris Carson, OG D.J. Fluker, OG Ethan Pocic, DT Poona Ford, LB K.J. Wright, CB Shaquill Griffin, DB Bradley McDougald, DB Tedric Thompson