Resetting NFC West needs heading to draft

The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks get high marks from Gary Horton of Scouts Inc.Insider for their offseason moves and overall plan for the future.

Horton also ranks in order what he sees as the top six needs for each NFC West team heading toward the 2012 NFL draft.

Most of his needs line up with my perceptions, but one ranking jumped off the page: Horton ranks receiver as only the No. 6 need for the 49ers, behind guard, defensive line depth, cornerback depth, linebacker depth and tight end depth.

"While this position also looks deep, there are some question marks," Horton writes. "The 49ers have added Randy Moss (un-retired) and Mario Manningham (Giants) to the mix with Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. (re-signed), but how much does Moss have left? In a perfect world, Ginn would have a bigger role in the return game than at WR. This could be a luxury draft pick."

We might quibble with where receiver ranks among the 49ers' needs, but I would consider Horton's ranking yet another sign of the team's flexibility heading into the draft. Receiver is a need, but perhaps not a glaring one.

This is a nearly 2,000-word file from Horton covering lots of ground. I've singled out one note from each NFC West team for additional consideration. We've covered the 49ers at receiver. On to the other teams.

Arizona Cardinals

Horton on the receivers: "After Larry Fitzgerald, there isn't a lot to like about this position group for Arizona. The other potential starter is untested Andre Roberts, and Early Doucet fits best as a No. 3 WR. The Cardinals desperately need a true No. 2 to team with Fitzgerald because right now this is an easy pass offense to defend."

My take: I've offered a counterpoint, suggesting the Cardinals need better quarterback play to make fuller use of their offensive weapons. The points are not necessarily exclusive. Arizona definitely needs better quarterback play. We do not know whether Roberts can become a solid No. 2 receiver. Horton ranks offensive tackle as the bigger need for Arizona, and I would agree. It'll be tough to justify drafting a receiver 13th overall without having a second-round choice available to address the offensive line. That is a concern as long as the Cardinals are without a second-round choice.

Seattle Seahawks

Horton on the running backs: Re-signing Marshawn Lynch was a huge help for this run game, but the depth behind him needs to be upgraded. Veteran Leon Washington is the only legitimate backup and he is primarily a third-down back, although the Seahawks did re-sign the underrated Michael Robinson. Lynch is a violent runner, and that means he takes a lot of big hits, so a solid backup who could share some of his carries would help.

My take: This is a position to watch in the draft. Seattle did sign Kregg Lumpkin, a running back with good size, as a potential backup to Lynch. That signing doesn't necessarily settle the position, however. The Seahawks could not run their desired offense last season when Lynch wasn't available. That was because both backups, Washington and the unsigned Justin Forsett, fit the change-of-pace mold. Identifying a power runner for the No. 2 role would give the Seahawks needed insurance.

St. Louis Rams

Horton on the cornerbacks: The acquisition of UFA Cortland Finnegan from Tennessee was a huge move because this secondary was arguably the weakest unit in the NFL in 2011. Injuries devastated this group, and the unit they were forced to send out onto the field each week was embarrassing. Finnegan can match up against No. 1 WRs, but the Rams really need more quality CBs.

My take: Horton listed cornerback as only the Rams' fifth need. That was understandable because the Rams have so many needs throughout their roster. The team will have a dilemma if cornerback Morris Claiborne is the highest-rated player on their board when St. Louis is on the clock with the sixth overall choice. Adding Claiborne would dramatically upgrade the talent in the Rams' secondary, but it would not address the team's primary need for offensive weaponry. Coach Jeff Fisher's Tennessee Titans drafted a corner, Pacman Jones, with a sixth overall choice. General manager Les Snead was with Atlanta when the Falcons made cornerback DeAngelo Hall the eighth player chosen.