The NFC West is one of the more promising divisions in football right now. There are currently three teams with a winning record in the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and LA Rams. And one in the Arizona Cardinals who show potential under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.
With all four teams with their quarterbacks in place, the NFC West is set up to be a competitive division for some time. Will any of their gifts this Christmas help to create separation between the teams?
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray looks like a stud already at quarterback for the Cardinals. After they selected a second first-round QB in two years, they have found a guy in Murray who they can roll with. The Cardinals need to add pieces on offense to surround Murray with as much talent as possible and help him flourish. Most of all, they need to protect their star asset and add a franchise tackle.
Luckily for the Cardinals, they’re currently slated to have the 6th pick in the draft. This puts them in position to draft one of three top-tier tackle prospects available in this draft. Whether it be Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs or Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, it’s really a matter of pick-your-favorite-flavor with these guys. Wirfs and Wills have played predominantly as right tackles for their teams, but Thomas has anchored the left side of the line for Georgia.
At the top of the Cardinals’ Christmas list is which ever of these prospects is available when they make their pick.
NFC West: Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have traded their first-round pick this year for superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey. This has become a trend for the Rams, who have become accustomed to life without a first-round pick in recent years. Instead, the focus seems to have shifted to adding high-level veteran talent to the roster.
This is an interesting roster building philosophy. The talent on the roster is undeniable, but we’re at a point now where their stars are aging and they’re on the hook for many highly paid contracts. The clear weakness on a talented roster this year has been the offensive line. Due to salary cap restrictions, the Rams will be limited with regards to what they can add in Free Agency. However, without that first-round pick, they’ll be looking towards a developmental player to solve their O-Line issues.
In the second-round, they could turn their attention to a local Southern California prospect in USC left tackle Austin Jackson. Jackson has superb athletic traits for the left tackle position. He’s a quick-footed, springy mover, but has some way to go in terms of technical development. Can the Rams squeeze one more year out of veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth and let Jackson sit? That would be an ideal situation for the Rams.
NFC West: San Francisco 49ers
Are the wheels coming off of the 49ers season at the crucial point? The 49ers were 8-0 to start the season, but since a loss to division rival Seattle, they’ve gone 3-3. Jimmy Garoppolo has performed well in his first full-season as starter and rookie wideout Deebo Samuel has been a revelation. They’ve added a quality veteran presence in Emmanuel Sanders. The running back room has depth in Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman.
Their defensive line is probably the most talented in the league. DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead dominate the interior and Defensive-Rookie-of-the-Year Nick Bosa and Dee Ford come off the EDGE. The secondary has been a pleasant surprise this season. However, they’ve suffered with injuries along the O-Line and the lack of depth has shown up at times.
Likely to be picking towards the back end of the first-round, they probably won’t be in position to take an elite talent. San Francisco has just six picks in the draft, including just one in the first four rounds. The 49ers are in prime position for a trade-back. The ideal Christmas gift for the 49ers would be one of the quarterbacks dropping in the draft and a quarterback-hungry team trading a nice little haul to them.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have arguably the best quarterback in the league in Russell Wilson. With a player like Wilson, they’re always going to be in games and have a shot to win. Now it’s all about surrounding him with as much talent as possible.
They made their move to add an elite talent to the defense this offseason when they traded for Jadeveon Clowney from the Houston Texans. Clowney is an elite run-stopper and disruptive force on the defensive line. However, he was franchise-tagged by the Houston Texans before he was traded to the Seahawks this off-season, meaning he’s a free agent at the end of the season.
The Seahawks should do everything possible to ensure that Clowney remains in Seattle next season. Top of their Christmas list is a smooth negotiation with Clowney this off-season that sees him remain in Seattle on a relatively team-friendly deal for the Super Bowl contender.