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NFC West Roundup: Draft Plans, Rams free agents and running backs, and NFL kickoff returners.

Some more news on how our NFC West opponents may draft and how the proposed rule changes may affect rosters.

Expect The 49ers To Change Their Draft Strategy If There Is No CBA - Niners Nation

Like every other team in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers will need to change their draft plans in order to accommodate the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement. Over at Niners Nation, the writers have put together a list of needs by position, which not surprisingly looks a lot like the Arizona Cardinals needs. Besides the corner position, (although if Peterson is still there at number five, I wouldn’t be mad if the Cardinals picked him), the Cardinals will likely look to draft a young project quarterback, an outside linebacker, and maybe an offensive lineman such as a guard within the first few rounds. Some of these positions would normally be able to be filled through free agency, but as pointed out previously, that is impossible unless the NFL owners and the players "union" can get their acts together. If there is no new CBA by draft time, the Cardinals could keep aging players such as Joey Porter and Alan Faneca to be stop gaps at their respective positions.

More after the jump

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Where We're Immune To The NFL Lockout -
The latest NFL mock draft from SB Nation shows the Cardinals still picking Von Miller at five, Patrick Peterson dropping into the 49ers’ laps at seven, the Rams taking Julio Jones at fourteen, and Seattle aiding their secondary with Jimmy Smith at twenty-five. Obviously, all of these picks may change if players such as Newton or Gabbert do not get picked in those specific spots. If the mock draft stays true with the NFC West teams, my previous NFC West Roundup explains how the Rams and 49ers could become very dangerous teams. If the Seattle Seahawks can get a new DB in the first round, Qwest Field only becomes more difficult to throw in for the Cardinals.


A look at the Rams' options in a (probable) no-cap free agent market - Turf Show Times
This article posted over at the Rams’ website shows possible free agents the Rams may look to go after should a new CBA every be agreed upon. Most of the top wide receivers in the NFL have been tendered, such as Vincent Jackson and Sidney Rice, so the odds of the Rams landing a top name through free agency are slim. An interesting name I saw that the Rams may try to acquire is safety Quintin Mikell. After releasing safety OJ Atogwe, the Rams are looking for some more help in the secondary. Mikell is a very talented player and he could immediately bring a presence to that position. In terms of what this means for the Cardinals, we hopefully don’t have to worry about a veteran Pro Bowl receiver joining Sam Bradford and the Rams. Although if someone like Mikell is able to get a contract with St. Louis, the Cardinals will have an even more talented defensive Rams unit to deal with.


Rams hunt for a running back continues, prompting some "what ifs" - Turf Show Times
Another article from Turf Show Times discusses the possibility of bring in another running back to be placed in a super tandem with star RB Steven Jackson. In particular, Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure is the runner in question. If the Rams were to use a second round pick to acquire a talented player like Leshoure, it would mean they would have a duo that would undoubtedly wear down opposing defenses. Play action with Sam Bradford after all the ground and pound would be seemingly excellent. The Arizona Cardinals had a difficult time stopping Jackson alone last year, as he averaged 3.65 yards/carry and rushed for 183 yards in the two games. If another capable back is able to take some downs and give Jackson a breather, this could be bad news for the Cardinals if they don’t step up their run defense.


Would rules change hurt Leon Washington? - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Another good article by Mike Sando over at ESPN, this one discusses how Leon Washington (kick returner for the Seattle Seahawks) could be affected if the proposed kickoff rules were put into affect. As soon as I saw the title of this article, I immediately thought of our very own LaRod Stephens-Howling. A seventh round pick a couple of years ago, LaSH has made a living in special teams as a kickoff returner. What are the odds of him being able to secure a roster spot if the kickoff rules are changed? He is too small to be an every down back and he is only a decent 3rd down back in my eyes. Obviously these changes would take any excitement out of special teams, but it may also take jobs away from skilled special teams players like Leon Washington and LaRod Stephens-Howling.