Commentary

Kiper's summer audits: NFC West

Mel breaks down the offseasons and needs of each NFC West team

Originally Published: July 6, 2011
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Smith/KaepernickUS PresswireDid San Francisco do enough to address the Niners' need at QB?

Let's pretend for a moment that the NFL hasn't ground to a halt like a train rusted to the tracks. Let's pretend as well that the season will start on time, that free agency will at some point get under way and that all these roster voids can be addressed at some point. Got it? Well, with those rose-colored glasses on, let's audit all the divisions in the NFL. Like last year, I'll hit on three things:

Help added: What has the team done so far this offseason to improve its prospects? (Obviously, without free agency, this is mainly limited to the draft.)
Questions that remain: Consider it a guide to free agency (when it happens). What must still be addressed?
Next year's help now: With an eye toward next year's draft class, which player from 2012 seemingly could help the team in 2011? This is meant to be extremely hypothetical.

Here is the version for the NFC West:


NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Help added: Arizona didn't see enough in Blaine Gabbert to draft him at No. 5, and may prefer to deal for a starting quarterback. Instead they took Patrick Peterson, who gives them a top-flight cover corner opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a dynamic weapon in the return game. In the second round, they threw me for a loop. When in top form (which he wasn't for most of last season), Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams displays all the attributes necessary to be a good feature back in the NFL, but it was a luxury pick for a team with many more pressing needs.

Needing help at tight end, Florida Atlantic's Rob Housler could end up giving the Cardinals a similar dimension to what New England gets with Aaron Hernandez. In the fourth round, they selected Texas' Sam Acho, who should switch to 3-4 OLB. He can develop. I rated Connecticut's Anthony Sherman the top fullback in the draft. He was a nice addition in the fifth round. During his college career, North Carolina's Quan Sturdivant saw action outside and at middle linebacker. In Arizona's scheme, he figures into the equation on the inside. Set in terms of the starters at defensive end with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, the Cardinals entered the draft with some uncertainty depth-wise. They used their other sixth-round pick on UCLA's David Carter; he has a chance to stick.

Peterson's arrival gives the Cardinals one of the more talented secondaries in the NFL, but the Williams pick made you wonder if they'll feature the wishbone without a more competent quarterback.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst