Are the Cardinals ready to take charge?
Can the Rams finally get their offense going?
Do the 49’ers have all the right tools to win it all?
Are the Seahawks a one year wonder?
Time to look at, what is without question, the strongest division in the NFL: the NFC West Division.
Free Agency: OT Jared Veldheer (Raiders) is the big prize as he should be a mainstay for years, and OG Ted Larsen (Buccaneers) adds quality depth. LB Ernie Sims (Cowboys) & CB Antonio Cromartie (Jets) are fine veteran additions to an already strong defense. RB Jonathan Dwyer (Steelers), TE John Carlson (Vikings) & WR Ted Ginn (Panthers) add quality depth for the offense.
Draft: Washington State SS Deone Bucannon was an overlooked Safety in the draft, and he should pay off handsomely. Notre Dame TE Troy Niklas has great versatility as well as great size. North Carolina DE Kareem Martin has tremendous upside & Alabama DE Ed Stinson is a fine late pick. Pittsburg State WR John Brown adds speed & Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas could be the future of the Cardinals.
Overview: Head Coach Bruce Arians quietly did a splendid job last year. The question now is, can he get the Cardinals back to the playoffs? Bolstering the O-Line is a big help for QB Carson Palmer. The defense took a big hit when LB Daryl Washington was suspended for the season, but the Cardinals are strong enough to overcome the loss. The offseason moves by the Cardinals have put them in a good position to reach the postseason. Now they must deliver.
Free Agency: QB Shaun Hill (Lions) gives the Rams a veteran to step in if needed. OG Davin Joseph (Buccaneers) also adds a veteran presence on the line. Unspectacular WR Kenny Britt (Titans) is looking for redemption. Re-signing OL Rodger Saffold was key.
Draft: Auburn OT Greg Robinson brings much excitement to the O-Line as he should anchor the line for years. Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald adds more ferocity to an already strong D-Line. Florida State DB LaMarcus Joyner lacks size but has great versatility. Auburn RB Tre Mason adds good depth for the running game, and DB’s Mo Alexander of Utah State & E.J. Gaines of Missouri are good late picks.
Overview: It’s now or never for QB Sam Bradford. He has a lot of youth playing with him and he has to show that he is the man. The defense is formidable, and if the offense can finally compliment that side, the Rams could become dangerous.
Free Agency: SS Antoine Bethea (Colts) & CB Chris Cook (Vikings) help offset the losses of other veteran players in the secondary. The re-signing of WR Anquan Boldin & DB Eric Wright were wise moves.
Draft: Northern Illinois SS Jimmie Ward is an odd pick as he could have been had later in the draft. Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde is being looked at as the future of the running game. USC C Marcus Martin is a future starter & Wisconsin LB Chris Borland is a tackling machine. South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington will add good depth.
Overview: The 49’ers were oh so close to returning to the Super Bowl last year, and have now retooled with hopes to getting back there. They’ve shown confidence in QB Colin Kaepernick by rewarding him with an enormous contract. RB Carlos Hyde will eventually take over for aging RB Frank Gore, and the acquisition of Bills WR Stevie Johnson, might just be the one move that puts the offense over the top.
Free Agency: DT Kevin Williams (Vikings) is the biggest name to join the team, as he tries to get to a Super Bowl. OG Stephen Schilling (Chargers) & CB Phillip Adams (Raiders) add depth. The re-signing of DE Michael Bennett & LB O’Brien Schofield was key.
Draft: Having to wait until the 2nd round to pick, the Seahawks landed Colorado WR Paul Richardson, who could be an immediate impact. Missouri OT Justin Britt is a tremendous reach, but UCLA DE Cassius Marsh could flourish in this defense. Alabama WR Kevin Norwood is a solid pick.
Overview: The Seahawks are feeling the aftereffects of winning a championship, as plenty of free agents bolted for greener pastures. Brandon Browner, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Kellen Davis, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, Chris Maragos, Paul McQuistan & Breno Giacomini are all gone. That’s a lot to overcome, especially with the added pressure of being the defending champions in the toughest division in the league. Nevertheless, the Seahawks are a very tough team and are looking to repeat, as a good portion of their offense remains intact, and that their secondary is tops in the league.