2019 NFL Season Preview, NFC West Edition

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, Dylan White and I decided to dive deep into every team’s offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and record predictions. Here is my 2019 NFC West Season Preview. This wraps up the 2019 NFC Season Preview series. Be sure to check out the rest of our Season Previews below.

Arizona Cardinals

2019 Draft Grade – A+, In my opinion the Cardinals absolutely crushed this draft, landing numerous impact players. First overall pick Kyler Murray may not have been the best player of the class, but he filled a need in the most important position in football. After landing Murray, The Cardinals added 3 talented WRs in KeeSean Johnson (6th), Hakeem Butler (4th), and Andy Isabella (2nd). Giving Murray these weapons is a great sign of confidence in the young QB. One of my favorite players in the 2019 Draft, Byron Murphy, was a great get to start the 2nd round and he should be a quality starter for Arizona. Zach Allen and Deionte Thompson were two more value picks, and I won’t be surprised if they are considered two of the biggest draft steals come the end of the season.

Player to Watch – Kyler Murray, QB – The Cardinals were quite a good landing spot for Murray to prove himself year one. He’s got one of the better running backs in David Johnson, a future Hall-of-Fame wideout in Larry Fitzgerald, and he’s got other young WRs to develop chemists with (Isabella, Butler, Johnson and Christian Kirk). I’m personally not a huge fan of Murray but he’s being placed in a much better situation, with a lot more weapons, than other rookie QBs like Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Ryan Finley, so I’d expect a solid year from the #1 overall pick.

Positional Strengths – Edge Rusher, Wide Receiver Depth

Positional Weaknesses – Guard, Center

Projected Record – 5-11

San Francisco 49ers

2019 Draft Grade – B, Nick Bosa is a great addition to the 49ers already deep defensive line. Health has been an issue, but if healthy, Bosa should be the most productive player of the 2019 draft class. Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd give the 49ers some decent depth at WR, but neither stands out as anything more than a #3 WR. Although the 49ers may have gotten the best player in the Draft, they could have done better with their later picks.

Player to Watch – Tevin Coleman, RB – Having been in the shadow of Devonta Freeman for most of his time in Atlanta, Coleman should see a good amount of work with the 49ers. Jerrick McKinnon’s knee issues will keep him out a second consecutive season, so Matt Breida is the only real threat to dig into Coleman’s workload. With Jimmy Garoppolo healthy, the 49ers should have a more efficient offense, so Coleman could be a pleasant surprise in 2019.

Positional Strengths – Offensive Tackle, Tight End, Defensive End, Defensive Tackle

Positional Weaknesses – Wide Receiver, Safety

Projected Record – 6-10

Seattle Seahawks

2019 Draft Grade – B-, The 2019 Seahawks draft class is solid, yet I don’t see any one player becoming a star at their respective position. LJ Collier and Marquise Blaire are both “fine” picks, but neither is a game changer on defense. DK Metcalf and Gary Jennings Jr. are two solid wideouts, but in an offense like Seattle, I don’t see either thriving in a system like that. The Seahawks had a lot of picks, 11 in total, so it’s to early to say none of their later round picks will turn out well, but my early impression is that there isn’t really any other names worth mentioning.

Player to Watch – Chris Carson, RB – In an offense as run-heavy as Seattle, you’d think Carson would be putting up monster stats. Well that wasn’t the case in 2018, but that could be blamed on a weak O-line and limited opportunities as a pass-catcher. Though the offensive line didn’t get too much better, Carson is expected to get a lot more work as a receiver out of the backfield. This could be beneficial to the Seahawks as a whole, and this could also make Carson a valuable fantasy asset.

Positional Strengths – Quarterback, Middle Linebacker

Positional Weaknesses – Cornerback, Guard, Center

Projected Record – 9-7

Los Angeles Rams

2019 Draft Grade – B+, The first pick the Rams had was one of the last picks in the 2nd round, but they managed to get a very good safety in Taylor Rapp. 3rd rounder Darrell Henderson is a valuable backup to Todd Gurley II, and he may wind up seeing more work than originally expected. Landing David Long in the back-end of the 3rd round was a very good selection, as he offers a good amount of upside at CB. Bobby Evans (3rd) and David Edwards (5th ) give LA good depth on the O-line as well.

Player to Watch – Todd Gurley II – There’s no question that Todd Gurley is one of the most talented backs in the NFL, the issue is his health and potential work-load management. Trading up to draft Darrell Henderson in the 3rd round is a sign that Gurley’s reps will be reduced, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a valuable player. The Rams are expected to easily make the playoffs, so by week 10 or so, I could see LA severely limiting his touches.

Positional Strengths – Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Running Back, Safety, Cornerback, Defensive Tackle

Positional Weaknesses – Linebacker

Projected Record – 10-6

STORYLINES

Elite Pass-Rushers – The NFC West was notorious for having poor offensive lines and strong defensive fronts, a QB’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately for NFC West quarterbacks a bunch of big-name pass-rushers are joining the division. Nick Bosa, Jadeveon Clowney, Ezekiel Ansah, Terrell Suggs, and Clay Matthews are all moving to the NFC West. These stars are join a division already filled with talent up front including Aaron Donald, Deforest Buckner, Dee Ford, and Chandler Jones. Needless to say, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jared Goff can’t be thrilled to face these guys twice a year.

Rams, Best Offense and Defense?? – It is quite probable that the Los Angeles Rams have the best offense or defense for the 2019 NFL season. What is less talked about is that the Rams may indeed have the best offense AND the best defense in the NFL. Though the Rams lack a top 5 receiver, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods are all top 20 WRs, making for one of (if not the) best wide receiver cores. Todd Gurley is still undoubtedly one of the premier running backs, even though injuries are a concern. At QB, Jarred Goff just signed the largest contract ever and he continues to prove worthy of a #1 overall selection. On the defensive side, the Rams have one of the best players in Aaron Donald. Clay Matthews, Eric Weddle, and Aqib Talib are three veterans past their primes, but all three are still good football players, and make an impact on the field. Young safeties John Johnson III and Taylor Rapp offer exciting youth and energy to the squad. Marcus Peters, Michael Brockers, and Dante Fowler Jr. round out this star studded defense. The only potential weakness is at linebacker, but the Rams will definitely be in the conversation for best defense come the end of the 2019 season.

ALL DIVISION TEAM

QB: Russell Wilson, SEA RB: Todd Gurley II, LAR

WR: Brandin Cooks, LAR WR: Tyler Lockett, SEA

TE: George Kittle, SF  C: Weston Richburg, SF

OT: Joe Staley, SF OT:  Duane Brown, SEA

OG: Austin Blythe, LAR OG: Mike Person, SF

DE: Jadeveon Clowney, SEA  DE: Chandler Jones, ARI

DT: Aaron Donald, LAR MLB: Bobby Wagner, SEA

LB: Jordan Hicks, ARI  LB: Kwon Alexander, SF

CB: Patrick Peterson, ARI CB: Richard Sherman, SF

FS: Eric Weddle, LAR  SS: John Johnson III, LAR

Ranking MLB’s Best Minor League Farm Systems, Early-2019 (21-30)

These are my 2019 Early Season Rankings for MLB’s top farm systems. In this article, we will be looking at the systems ranked 21-30. Numbers 11-20 and 1-10 will be released later in May.

30.) St. Louis Cardinals

  1. Nolan Gorman, 3B (46)
  2. Andrew Knizner, C
  3. Malcom Nunez, 3B
  4. Jhon Torres, OF
  5. Dylan Carlson, OF
  6. Genesis Cabrera, SP
  7. Justin Williams, OF
  8. Johan Oviedo, SP
  9. Ryan Helsley, SP
  10. Luken Baker, 1B

STL Overview: After graduating players like Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes and Harrison Bader, and dealing other top prospects like Oscar Mercado and Carson Kelly, there is not much talent remaining in St. Louis’ farm system. Nolan Gorman is the exception, coming in at #46 on my 2019 Top 100 MLB Prospect Rankings 1.0 (Early Season). Gorman, along with catcher Andrew Knizner, are the only two Cardinals prospects who I see as reliable guys, who I would be confident in saying they will be successful major leaguers.

29.) Chicago Cubs

  1. Nico Hoerner, SS (79)
  2. Brailyn Marquez, SP
  3. Miguel Amaya, C
  4. Oscar De La Cruz, SP
  5. Adbert Azolay, SP
  6. Aramis Ademan, SS
  7. Corey Abbott, SP
  8. Zack Short, SS
  9. Tyson Miller, SP
  10. Nelson Velazquez, OF

CHI Overview: I was very close between St. Louis and Chicago for the last spot in my rankings, as I dislike both systems equally. After multiple terrible trades (Jose Quintana/Aroldis Chapman) the Cubs lost elite prospects Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez, and Dylan Cease. It is very hard for a system to recover after trades like these, especially if their major league club is not willing to part with any talented veterans. Nico Hoerner is their only top 100 prospect, and may be their only one for quite a while. Oscar de la Cruz was one of my favorite Cubs prospects a couple years ago, but injuries and a long suspension have dampened expectations. If he can turn things around, de la Cruz is probably the only possible candidate to make my Late-2019 top 100 list.

28.) Washington Nationals

  1. Carter Kieboom, SS (25)
  2. Luis V. Garcia, SS/2B/3B (72)
  3. Mason Denaburg, SP
  4. Tim Cate, SP
  5. Wil Crowe, SP
  6. Sterling Sharp, SP
  7. Yasel Antuna, SS/3B
  8. Jeremy De La Rosa, OF
  9. Seth Romero, SP
  10. Jose Sanchez, SS

WSH Overview: Out of all the MLB systems, I’d have to say the Nationals’ is the one lacking the most depth. Outside of the top two or three guys, I wouldn’t consider many of the rest to be quality prospects. Carter Kieboom just recently made his MLB debut, so when he ends up losing his prospect status, I would have the Nationals as the last ranked group. Luis V. Garcia is a decent prospect, but he has struggled mightily after his promotion to Double-A in 2019. To be fair he is only 18 years old (well under the average for Double-A), but I’m sure the Nationals expected a bit more. Mason Denaburg, the Nationals’ 2018 1st round pick, has yet to pitch in a professional game, but could wind up being their best pitching prospect. Yasel Antuna is an intriguing guy, but he is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.

27.) Cleveland Indians

  1. Triston McKenzie, SP (51)
  2. Nolan Jones, 3B (88)
  3. Ethan Hankins, SP
  4. Tyler Freeman, SS/2B
  5. Oscar Mercado, OF
  6. Lenny Torres Jr., SP
  7. Brayan Rocchio, SS
  8. Bo Naylor, C
  9. Luis Oviedo, SP
  10. Daniel Johnson, OF

CLE Overview: The Indians have one of the youngest farm systems out of any team. While this means their rank is quite low, most of their players have plenty of time to develop, and I could see Cleveland making a big jump in my Late-2019 rankings. 2018 draftees, Noah “Bo” Naylor and Ethan Hankins are both guys I could see being in my Late-2019 Top 100 Rankings. Both offer high ceilings and they will both be 19 for the majority of the 2019 season. Oscar Mercado is one of the more underrated prospects in my opinion. On the brink of reaching the MLB, Mercado is a speedy outfielder who could make a big impact on the major league roster. The Indians’ top two prospects, Triston McKenzie and Nolan Jones, are only 21 years old and also have plenty of time to increase their stock. The only issue with having such a young farm system is that Cleveland won’t be able to get much help within the next year or two, but youth is always a benefit when it comes to building superstars.

26.) San Francisco Giants

Heliot Ramos, OF (SF)
  1. Joey Bart, C (12)
  2. Heliot Ramos, OF (80)
  3. Marco Luciano, SS
  4. Jake Wong, SP
  5. Shaun Anderson, SP
  6. Sean Hjelle, SP
  7. Seth Corry, SP
  8. Jairo Pomares, OF
  9. Jalen Miller, 2B
  10. Luis Toribio, 3B

SF Overview: The Giants possess one of the rarest things among their prospects, an elite catcher. Joey Bart is not only the best catching prospect, but he is one of the very best prospects at any position. It is extremely rare to see a catcher rated so highly as both a defender and as a hitter. As of now Bart has a huge gap between him and the next best catching prospect, but that may change when Adley Rutschman (projected #1 overall pick in 2019) gets drafted. Aside from Bart, Heliot Ramos and Marco Luciano are the only other two guys who I’d consider to be “top prospects”. Ramos has shown a lot of power amidst his inconsistency, and Luciano would likely have ranked in my top 100, but he is yet to appear in a professional game. The rest of the system has some talent, but I don’t see anyone currently in San Francisco’s system else ever reaching my top 100 list. Seth Corry is a name to watch as a guy who has been flying under the radar. Corry has dominated in Class-A, and I’d expect a promotion within weeks assuming he keeps it up.

25.) Philadelphia Phillies

  1. Adonis Medina, SP (58)
  2. Alec Bohm, 3B (70)
  3. Luis Garcia, SS (95)
  4. Adam Haseley, OF
  5. Spencer Howard, SP
  6. Mickey Moniak, OF
  7. Enyel De Los Santos, SP
  8. Jhailyn Ortiz, OF
  9. Cole Irvin, SP
  10. Kevin Gowdy, SP

PHI Overview: Even after losing their best prospect, Sixto Sanchez, in the trade for J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia still had three prospects in my top 100 rankings. Both Alec Bohm and Luis Garcia started the 2019 season in Class-A, but Bohm already received a well deserved promotion to A-Advanced. One of the biggest names in the Phillies system Mickey Moniak, was the #1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Yet to break out as a professional, Moniak is still only 20 years old and there is still a chance he turns out to be the star that the Phillies expected when taking him first overall. Outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz offers exciting raw power and Adam Haseley, another outfielder, has a very well rounded skill set that should keep him moving up the system. Medina, Howard, and De Los Santos offer relatively high floors as starters, and should all be contributing within a year.

24.) New York Yankees

  1. Estevan Florial, OF (69)
  2. Albert Abreu, SP
  3. Jonathan Loaisiga, SP
  4. Clarke Schmidt, SP
  5. Anthony Seigler, C
  6. Deivi Garcia, SP
  7. Domingo Acevedo, RP/SP
  8. Thairo Estrada, UTIL
  9. Luis Gil, SP
  10. Josh Stowers, OF

NYY Overview: For one of the best MLB rosters, the Yankees farm system is understandably depleted. Recent graduates include stars like Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier and Domingo German. Their only top 100 prospect in my rankings, Estevan Florial, is yet to play in 2019 due to a broken wrist. Recent 1st round picks, Clarke Schmidt and Anthony Seigler, seem to be worthy of those high selections, but are very far from contributing to the Yankees. 2017 2nd round pick, Matt Sauer, would have ranked in the Yankees’ top 10 list, but will miss all of 2019 and a large part of the 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery. With Estrada and Loaisiga already called up to the MLB, Domingo Acevedo or Albert Abreu could be next. Both at Double-A, with the amount of injuries to the Yankees’ MLB team, Acevedo or Abreu could be up before expected.

23.) Boston Red Sox

  1. Michael Chavis, 3B/2B (56)
  2. Darwinzon Hernandez, SP (86)
  3. Bobby Dalbec, 3B
  4. Tristan Casas, 1B
  5. Antoni Flores, SS
  6. Jarren Duran, OF
  7. C.J. Chatham, SS
  8. Bryan Mata, SP
  9. Jay Groome, SP
  10. Tanner Houck, SP

BOS Overview: Ever since losing Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and Luis Alexander Basabe in the Chris Sale trade, Boston has not had the same top tier talent. Chavis, my number 56 overall prospect, may be the exception. After being called up to Boston early in the 2019 season, Chavis has gotten off to an extremely hot start. Darwinzon Hernandez also got a taste of the majors, pitching well in one relief appearance before being optioned back to Double-A. #9 prospect, Jay Groome, has been derailed by injuries, but may be Boston’s best pitching prospect when healthy. Antoni Flores is a guy who I could see doing very well, but he has not had enough at-bats to constitute a top-100 ranking.

22.) New York Mets

Ronny Mauricio, SS (NYM)
  1. Peter Alonso, 1B (14)
  2. Andres Gimenez, SS (53)
  3. Ronny Mauricio, SS (75)
  4. Anthony Kay, SP
  5. Adrian Hernandez, OF
  6. Simeon Woods-Richardson, SP
  7. Mark Vientos, 3B
  8. Junior Santos, SP
  9. David Peterson, SP
  10. Shervyen Newton, SS

NYM Overview: One of the best rookie performances so far in 2019 has been Pete Alonso’s amazing stretch with the Mets. Taking opponents by storm, Alonso already has 10 HRs in just over 100 at bats. Alonso will soon no longer be “prospect eligible”, which will most likely make the Mets system drop in the rankings. Shortstops Andres Gimenez and Ronny Mauricio are two former international signees who will likely be the Mets’ future SS/2B combo if all goes well. The Mets pitching lacks a “front of the rotation” guy after the trade of Justin Dunn, but they still have quality depth with David Peterson, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods-Richardson all projected to be mid-to-back end rotation guys.

21.) Milwaukee Brewers

  1. Keston Hiura, 2B (22)
  2. Corey Ray, OF (81)
  3. Mauricio Dubon, SS/2B
  4. Brice Turang, SS
  5. Joe Gray Jr., OF
  6. Lucas Erceg, 3B
  7. Larry Ernesto, OF
  8. Troy Stokes Jr., OF
  9. Tristan Lutz, OF
  10. Marco Feliciano, C

MIL Overview: Keston Hiura is the gem of the Brewers’ system. The former #9 overall pick has been excellent at the plate, and is looking like he will make a huge impact sometime in 2019. The Brewers’ second top 100 prospect is Corey Ray. The #5 overall pick in 2016, Ray had struggled in 2016 and 2017, not living up to the expectations of a top five pick. 2018 was a breakout year for Ray as he showed his exciting 5-tool abilities. Both Ray and Hiura started their 2019 seasons in Triple-A, so both may be up in Milwaukee as early as June/July. Their top three prospects (and five out of the top ten), are in Triple-A, so the Brewers should have some available talent during the 2019 season. Although all ten of the Brewers top prospects ore position players, they do have some quality pitching prospects as well. Starters Zack Brown and Trey Supak narrowly missed my MIL top 10, and both are having great starts to 2019.