It’s a busy week in the NFL. The NFL Combine, which takes place in Indianapolis every year, begins on February 23rd. The combine is a very important day for players taken in the 3rd-7th rounds since it’s their one chance to be compared against their peers. It is also one of the most important venues for judging talent as most contending teams rely on their draft picks from the later rounds to fill in their team around the stars. Lucky for Cardinals fans, Coach Whisenhunt and Rod Graves (at least recently) have shown themselves to be great judges of talent. The week leading up to the combine is rife with rumors and dealings and this is definitely true of the NFC West teams. Check out an interesting Rams rumor after the jump which includes giving up the number one pick.
St. Louis Rams: Since most of the news generated around the Rams recently has been about the sale of the team to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan, it’s easy to forget that they have the number one pick. Every team in the last ten years with the number one pick was said to be exploring options to trade out of that pick. This year that rumor involves the Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have the number 3 pick in the draft, so a trade up for them would not require much additional value. Their motivation for the trade is defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, whom they believe will be their new Warren Sapp. The two reported deals involve the Bucs first round pick packaged with one of their two second round picks or with their third rounder. Where it becomes interesting centers around Bucs QB Josh Johnson. The Rams would require him in the trade involving the 1st and 3rd rounders. The team has been coveting Michael Vick, who the Eagles will probably not trade until right before the draft to get maximum value. However, Johnson is almost as athletic as Vick, younger, and has better upside. The thinking is that a running QB would generate excitement for this football team that has had very little since Kurt Warner left. The Bucs would be willing to give up Johnson as they just spent a first round pick last year on Josh Freeman and would not have to give up a second rounder while still picking Suh. No matter what happens, look for this trade discussion to pop up before the draft.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have three very obvious offensive needs: tackle, quarterback, and running back. Of the three, it seems RB is the one they value the least. Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates and offensive line coach Alex Gibbs helped architect the Denver Broncos running game for years. Their zone blocking scheme and ability to turn no name running backs like Quentin Griffith and Olandis Gary into 1000 yard rushers leads many analysts to believe they will not use one of their first three picks on a running back. Current starter Justin Forsett filled in very well last year and many in Seahawks nation are clamoring for him to keep the job. However, Forsett cannot provide the running down the middle ground game which coach Pete Carroll was famous for at USC. Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock draft has the Hawks taking Sam Bradford at pick number 6 and DE Everson Griffin at pick 14. The Seahawks do need a new quarterback and Bradford is Kiper’s top rated QB. However, other reports indicate Carroll is enamored with former Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen, whom he unsuccessfully tried to recruit to USC.
Speaking of USC, Coach Caroll was present at the NCAA hearings about the USC athletics violations centering around current NFL RB Reggie Bush. Many believed the potential disciplinary sanctions would cripple USC’s playoff opportunities and caused Carroll to leave for Seattle. In all likelihood it is not a distraction as Carroll is no longer under any type of NCAA jurisdiction. However, it is something to keep your eye on.
San Francisco 49ers: The Niners have been very quiet since the Superbowl, although there are many rumors circulating about Donovan Mcnabb potentially going to the team. While this is not a great long term quarterback solution for the Niners, it is a huge upgrade over current starter Alex Smith. Mcnabb knows how to lead his team to the playoffs (although I’m not sure he knows what to do when he gets there) and with the offensive weapons the Niners have, he could be leading a very prolific attack. Fortunately this is all just rumor at the moment. Coach Mike Holmgren Andy Reid has stated that Mcnabb is his QB next year, but you can never really trust what a football coach says. With Kevin Kolb playing well in relief this past year, many Eagles fans are hoping for a Mcnabb trade. Regardless of whether they try and trade or not, it is unlikely the Niners would want to give up too much in any deal. It is much more likely that a Favre less Vikings or another team who is one QB away from contention will offer much more than the Niners would be willing to give up.
In draft news, Kiper’s mock draft had the Niners selecting running back CJ Spiller and offensive tackle Trent Williams. I don’t understand the Niners perceived need at running back. They used a second round pick on Glen Coffee last year, who did not look great at the beginning of the season, but picked it up as the year went along. While Spiller is great value here, I do not see the need. All Pro running back Frank Gore is still productive and the Niners have so many needs, using one of their first rounders on a back seems foolish. This is a team which is very close to the playoffs and has many holes to be filled.