NFL free agency has largely come and gone, and the impact on the NFL is massive. Draft needs for every team have changed based on the moves made so far this offseason. Of course, There are still some big-name players out there, like Donovan Smith, Leonard Floyd and Frank Clark. Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson are still awaiting a trade as well. Those players will shift strategies again, but we will deal with the fallout when those moves are complete.
For the majority of teams though, their focus now firmly shifts to the NFL draft. There are still plenty of holes left to fill and some major shifts in draft strategy, especially when it comes to potential first-round targets. Here is a breakdown of the major moves made and the biggest draft needs for the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks following free agency.
Draft needs for the NFC West
Brought back: G Will Hernandez, RT Kelvin Beachum, K Matt Prater, C Hjalte Froholdt
Key Additions: LB Kyzir White, WR Zach Pascal
Notable Departures: DE Zach Allen, CB Byron Murphy
The Kliff Kingsbury experiment came to an end and Steve Keim got shown the door as well. It’s a new era in Arizona and the franchise is in desperate need of a rebuild. This Cardinals roster is desperately lacking talent and will be without their franchise quarterback at the beginning of the season as Kyler Murray continues to rehab his torn ACL and meniscus.
Losing Zach Allen and Byron Murphy in free agency following J.J. Watt’s retirement really leaves Arizona without much to build around on either side of that. Add in DeAndre Hopkins as the continued subject of trade rumors and it seems like the Cardinals are on the verge of tearing the whole team down and starting from scratch.
When it comes to draft needs, it is probably easier to identify positions the Cardinals don’t need at this point than ones they do. Assuming the new front office staff wants to keep Murray, whose mega contract extension does not even kick in until next year, quarterback is off the table. Otherwise, linebacker and safety feel like the only two positions where the Cardinals are truly set.
Adding Kyzir White alongside Zaven Collins gives them some solid off-ball backers and Arizona has a great safety tandem in Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson. Interior line also feels like a position the team will feel solid about for this season, so I don’t expect them to invest heavily there. Defensive line is going to be a big priority, along with corner and possibly receiver if Hopkins gets moved.
Potential first-round targets: There have been tons of rumbles about the Cardinals potentially moving down from the No. 3 spot. If Monti Ossenfort sticks at No. 3, Arizona will likely be picking between Will Anderson Jr. from Alabama and Jalen Carter from Georgia. A move down would complicate first-round targets, but assuming they stay in the top 15, the Cards could still land an impact defender. Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech), Nolan Smith (Georgia), Lukas Van Ness (Iowa) and Myles Murphy (Clemson) all would be in play at edge rusher. Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, Illinois’ Devon Weatherspoon and Penn State’ Joey Porter Jr. are the top options.
Los Angeles Rams
Brought back: N/A
Key Additions: N/A
Notable Departures: LB Bobby Wagner, CB Jalen Ramsey, S Taylor Rapp, EDGE Leonard Floyd*, DT A’Shawn Robinson*, CB Troy Hill*, G Oday Aboushi*, WR Odell Beckham Jr., K Matt Gay, S Nick Scott, QB Baker Mayfield
Don’t look now, but the Rams are in for a really rough few seasons. After pushing all of their chips in to acquire high-level veterans like Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford and Von Miller. Now, L.A. is going to pay the price. The Rams lost a ton of talent this offseason and brought in absolutely no one to help supplement those losses.
Despite all this talent leaving, the Rams still only have a projected $13.5 million in cap space. Many of their veteran players are still unsigned with Leonard Floyd, A’Shawn Robinson and Troy Hill still available. There is a chance they could bring one of them back on a more team-friendly deal, but the writing is on the wall for the Rams.
It is difficult to figure out how Los Angeles is going to approach the draft, because they have a ton of draft needs. They still don’t have a first-round this year due to the Stafford trade. However, the Rams have an early second-round pick and a pair of third-round selections.
It will be a chance to jump start a rebuild and there are plenty of positions of needs. Left guard, defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker, corner and safety are all positions of need for Los Angeles
Potential first-pick targets: I have to tweak this section a bit with the Rams not having a first-round selection, but they don’t pick far outside of the first round. Looking at edge rushers, Will McDonald IV (Iowa State), Felix Anudike-Uzomah (Kansas State), Keion White (Georgia Tech and B.J. Ojulari (LSU) could reasonably still be on the board. Michigan’s Mazi Smith, Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey and Clemson’s Bryan Bresee could fit well at defensive tackle if available.
This is also a deep cornerback class, so players like D.J. Turner (Michigan), Julius Brents (Kansas State), Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State) and Keelee Ringo (Georgia) are likely to be late-first-round or early-second-round selections.
San Francisco 49ers
Brought back: C Jake Brendel, TE Ross Dwelley
Key Additions: DT Javon Hargrave, CB Isaiah Oliver, QB Sam Darnold
Notable Departures: RT Mike McGlinchey, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, DE Samson Ebukam, DE Charles Omenihu, S Jimmie Ward, CB Emmanuel Moseley
San Francisco has one of the best rosters in the league, but this team suffered some notable departures this offseason. Mike McGlinchey creates a clear hole at right tackle. Samson and Ebukam and Charles Omenihu leaving greatly impacts pass-rushing rotation opposite Nick Bosa as well. While Jimmy Ward and Emmanuel Moseley were also solid contributors in the secondary, the 49ers were well-prepared for those exits. Deommodore Lenoir and Ambry Thomas will certainly be in bigger roles this season.
With all of that in mind, the 49ers will once again be shopping for mid-round diamonds in the rough. John Lynch and company has done a nice job in recent years of supplementing the roster on Day 2 and Day 3 of the draft. Brock Purdy, Deebo Samuel, Dre Greenlaw and Talanoa Hufunga all come to mind. He will have to work that magic again without a first-round pick stemming from the move up in 2020 to draft Trey Lance. Edge rusher, right tackle and nickel corner all stand out as positions of need for this 49ers squad heading into the draft.
Potential first-pick targets: The 49ers pick 99th, 101st and 102nd overall, all picks at the end of the third round. It is going to be difficult to land instant impact players, but it is far from impossible. At right tackle, Tyler Steen of Alabama, Blake Freeland from BYU and Wanya Morris out of Oklahoma could all be viable options when San Francisco is finally on the clock.
At edge rusher, Andre Carter II (Army), YaYa Diaby (Louisville) and K.J. Henry (Clemson) could all see snaps opposite Bosa this season in rotation with free-agent signing Clelin Ferrell. There are also a good number of nickel corners that could be available in this spot. Louisville’s Kei’Trel Clark and TCU’s Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson should be on the board in that range and could see the field very early in their careers.
Brought back: QB Drew Lock
Key Additions: LB Bobby Wagner, DE Dre’Mont Jones, DE Jarran Reed, DB Julian Love, LB Devin Bush, S Ryan Neal
Notable Departures: DT Quinton Jefferson, RB Rashaad Penny, LB Cody Barton, DT Shelby Harris*, DT Poona Ford*, G Gabe Jackson*
After a surprising run to the playoffs, the Seahawks are suddenly in a position to build one of the most talented rosters in the league almost by accident. Most people, myself included, wrongly assumed Seattle would take a big step back following the Russell Wilson trade.
Instead, Geno Smith came out of nowhere to have a Pro Bowl-caliber season following eight years of mediocrity as a backup. John Schneider seems to have hit a home run in the 2022 NFL draft, putting this team in a really good position to return to the postseason.
Seattle reloaded on defense with Bobby Wagner, Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed and Julian Love added, which greatly shifts their draft needs. They did lose Quentin Jefferson and could wind up losing Poona Ford and Shelby Harris, as both are currently unsigned. That means defensive tackle is a huge need heading into the draft. Corner and interior offensive line are both areas where the Seahawks could continue to add talent as well.
Potential first-round targets: Having a pair of first-round picks certainly makes Seattle one of the most interesting teams to watch. The Seahawks feel like a perfect landing spot for Jalen Carter. The Georgia defensive tackle would be a Day 1 starter and would get to work with a veteran head coach in Pete Carroll who can help minimize the off-the-field problems Carter has run into since winning his second national championship.
If Schneider is unsure about taking a risk on Carter, Illinois’ Devon Weatherspoon, Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez could all be long-term starters across from Tariq Woolen. Of course, we can’t dismiss the rumors of Seattle drafting a quarterback as well. If Anthony Richardson or Will Levis are on the board at No. 5, I’m sure they will be considered.
Hendon Hooker would also be tempting at No. 20. Other candidates for the 20th pick would be Maryland corner Deonte Banks and Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee. Seattle has a great opportunity to add two high-impact starters or set themselves up for the future at quarterback. They are a fascinating team to watch.