By Scott Engel

The opening of NFL free agency is quickly approaching, and when much of the major signings are done, NFL teams will have an even clearer picture of how to approach the NFL draft. We take an advanced look at how teams in the NFC West may be evaluating their needs and how rookies can help them once late April arrives. 

NFC West 2022 NFL Draft Outlooks

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals pick 23rd in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and will have significant needs on both sides of the ball. We will have to see what happens in free agency, but there may be spots to fill at wide receiver and tight end. Cornerback and the pass rush should also be areas of high prominence that will be affected by which veterans leave and stay. 

A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, and Zach Ertz are free agents, as are running backs James Connor and Chase Edmonds. As we saw at the NFL Scouting Combine, wide receiver is deep this season. The tight end class has some promising prospects at the top of the field, but none that the Cardinals might consider with their first pick. 

Running backs are devalued more in the NFL Draft now, and if Arizona has to replace anyone there, that is highly unlikely to happen in the first round, either. What should be noted is that Arizona does not have a fourth or fifth-rounder.

It appears more likely that the Cardinals will one of their early selections on defense, especially with Chandler Jones possibly headed elsewhere as a free agent. The Cardinals may be looking to boost the pass rush, while also addressing the secondary, where Robert Alford is another free agent. 

The Cardinals could elect to target another starting-level cornerback in free agency if and when they clear more cap space. If they lose Jones, the bigger need for a pass rusher could decide where the Cardinals go with their first pick. But some NFL mock drafts also have Arizona taking the top wide receiver available with the first selection. 

We could indeed see the Cardinals use one of their top two picks on offense and another on defense. I would be looking for them to pick up a top pass-catcher and edge rusher. Then with the third pick, they could either take a tight end, running back, or further address cornerback depth.

Sports Illustrated projected the Cardinals to take Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson with their first-round pick in a recent mock draft. 

Los Angeles Rams

As we all know, the Rams went “all in” to try and win the Super Bowl, and that has cost them in terms of draft capital. 

Los Angeles will make its first selection at pick 104 overall in the third round. The Rams may have to make the offensive line a priority at that slot. Brian Allen, Austin Corbett, and Joseph Noteboom are free agents, and Andrew Whitworth may be done. 

Of course, free agency will tell us more on who will be most needed to be replaced, but it’s highly likely that Los Angeles will take an interior lineman or a tackle. Pro Football Network projected the Rams to take Southern Utah OT Braxton Jones in a recent mock exercise on the team. 

San Francisco 49ers

After trading up to get Trey Lance last year, the 49ers do not have a first-rounder in 2022 and will make their first selection at 61st overall in the second round as of now. But a Jimmy Garoppolo trade can potentially bring back more early-round draft capital. 

The secondary remains a glaring area of need for San Francisco. The 49ers have four cornerbacks that will hit free agency, including Josh Norman, Jason Verrett, and K’Waun Williams. Free safety Jaquiski Tartt is also a free agent. 

Niners Wire projected San Francisco to take Baylor safety Jalen Pitre in the second round in a pre-Garoppolo trade scenario. The Niners’ draft outlook will be further shaped by what happens with a QB deal and if they elect to go after a starting CB in free agency. 

Losing Tartt could make safety the prime route to go with an early selection, while also considering interior line prospects thereafter. There has also been some buzz about possibly taking a running back, but that would appear to be less likely in the earliest rounds. Elijah Mitchell was very impressive as a rookie and Trey Sermon still has time to get on track, so that may not be a significant area of focus in the draft.

Seattle Seahawks

After the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks now have the No. 9 overall pick, and selections 40 and 41 in the second round. Seattle is still undergoing a significant overhaul after making some significant coaching changes and trading away the face of the franchise. 

Before the trade, the pass rush and offensive line were the likely two biggest areas of focus, and now quarterback is another obvious area of major need, as the Seahawks can’t like their chances to return to the playoffs with Drew Lock at quarterback. Cornerback is not as much of a need as some analysts may state, as the team should be solid enough if D.J. Reed returns along with promising second-year man Tre Brown, who looked good when healthy as a rookie. Sidney Jones also performed respectably last season and may be back. 

There have been published reports that the Seahawks could target Liberty QB Malik Willis with their newly-acquired first rounder. Selecting Willis could solve the temporary issue that Seattle has created at QB and Lock could be further insurance if Willis needs some time to develop as a starter. The Seahawks now have enough draft capital to conceivably trade up for Willis if needed or could take the best QB available at No. 9 if Willis is picked earlier.

This is not a highly impressive QB class, though, so Seattle could pass on the position in the first round, trade down, as has long been a custom of theirs, or take one of the top edge rushers or offensive linemen available. Seeing Pete Carroll opt for an edge guy with his first pick would be no surprise. 

The Seattle approach is not an easy one to project right now, but you should see them take an offensive lineman and edge rusher in two of their first three picks.’s latest mock draft has the Seahawks taking Willis at No. 9.

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