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