Matt Williamson's projected top three needs for each NFL team provides a good starting point as we prepare for the anticipated start of free agency following the lockout.
I've gone through his chart and culled information with an eye toward the NFC West.
The first chart below reproduces Williamson's projected needs for the division. My thoughts on his thoughts, by team:
Arizona Cardinals: His projected needs and the ordering of those needs line up with my thinking. The needs on the offensive line could be more pressing if Lyle Sendlein and Deuce Lutui hit the market.
San Francisco 49ers: Aubrayo Franklin's impending free agency explains why nose tackle comes first on the 49ers' need list. Listing receiver as the No. 2 need comes as a mild surprise. Michael Crabtree was the 10th overall choice in 2010. Josh Morgan has been solid and has the blocking ability to fit with the new coaching staff. It's tough to count on Ted Ginn Jr., though, and top-to-bottom quality could use improvement.
St. Louis Rams: Williamson lists running back higher than I would have listed it, but he thinks Steven Jackson is slipping quite a bit. Jackson should be strong enough to carry the load for another season, in my view. The team does need a backup at the position, but starters are needed at defensive tackle and outside linebacker.
Now, on to that chart.
Matt Williamson's NFC West Needs
The second chart combines specific positions into broader positions and then shows how many teams have primary needs at those spots. Nose tackles, defensive ends and defensive tackles become defensive linemen, cornerbacks and safeties become defensive backs, etc.
Williamson lists five teams with primary needs at quarterback: Arizona, Cincinnati, Miami, Seattle and Washington. Tennessee and a couple others could be in the market for a veteran as well, although Williamson sees more glaring needs elsewhere.
This chart shows which positions could be in greatest demand, according to Williamson.