My series previewing the top 2020-21 college football prospects concludes today with a look at the most paramount position in world sports: quarterback.
The NFC West may be the most wide-open division in all of the NFL this season.
In his first year as a head coach, Sean McVay took this team from the worst offence in the NFL to the best. With some incredible offseason signings, it will be Super Bowl or bust for the Rams this time around.
The only real change to the offence is wide receiver Brandin Cooks who came across from the New England Patriots to replace Sammy Watkins who now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cooks is one of only three receivers in NFL history to have three seasons with 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns before the age of 25. He is in great company as the other two are Odell Beckham Jr. and Randy Moss.
Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods will also play as wide receivers, allowing them to draw defenders and spread the field wider.
Running back Todd Gurley is coming into a contract year and will be looking to improve on his incredible performance last year, where he had 2,043 total yards and 19 touchdowns.
The defence was solid last season, finishing in the top half of most league stats.
Building off an incredible year, the Rams added three All-Pro players in cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and nose tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Aaron Donald remains at defensive tackle and is arguably one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
Los Angeles are a little soft around the edges of the defence. They have chosen not to spend money on these positions and instead will work with the youngsters they have in Samson Ebukam, Cory Littleton and Matt Longacre who won’t take long to rise to the challenge.
Quarterback – Jared Goff.
The 2016 first overall pick has been a beaming light since McVay took over and will look to continue this form in 2018. These guys are close to a Super Bowl.
Keep an eye on
Left tackle – Andrew Whitworth.
At 36 years old, he is no longer in the prime of his career. Can he continue to be an explosive force or will rookie Joseph Noteboom get a run?
Quarterback coach – Shane Waldon
New offensive coach – Aaron Kromer
14-2. Division champions.
This team has the manpower to go all the way in 2018. If they get out of the NFC West in first, the rest will follow.
Big things are coming in LA.
When Jimmy Garoppolo signed with the 49ers last season, no one thought he would go 5-0 as a starter to end the season.
This year, with a full offseason under his belt, these guys could push for a playoff berth.
After spending years behind Tom Brady, its no wonder Jimmy G has a knack from reading defences on the run, has a quick release and is an incredibly accurate passer.
Nearly every player has thrived offensively when he started at the end of last season.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are also entering their second season in the Golden State and will look to cement their names into 49ers history with a return to the playoffs.
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin will retain his spot on the right edge, while Pierre Garcon is back from neck surgery and will hold the left side.
Running back Carlos Hyde is gone in which former Minnesota Viking Jerick McKinnon was going to replace him. Unfortunately, McKinnon tore his ACL in the preseason so now Matt Bredia and Alfred Morris will pick up the ground slack.
The offensive line remains unsettled and may have a few problems this season.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has his defence heading in the right direction. They should be a force in the coming years.
They have added cornerback Richard Sherman from Seattle to the line and will benefit from his experience.
Jimmy Garoppolo – The franchise needs this guy to be what he was at the end of last season. The 49ers need a saviour. Is he the man?
Keep an eye on
Solomon Thomas – Entering his second season, Thomas will want to build on a below-par first season. 41 tackles and three sacks are not enough for a third overall draft pick in 2017.
8-8. No playoffs in 2018 for San Francisco, but they are building towards it nicely.
The ‘Legion of Boom’ is dead.
After missing the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in six seasons, the Seahawks have cleaned house and will look to start over this season.
Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham, Cam Chancellor and Cliff Avril are out while Earl Thomas is on the trading block.
As for the coaching staff, head coach Pete Carroll stays on but everyone under him is gone.
The offensive line has struggled in recent years trying to protect their most valuable asset, quarterback Russell Wilson.
D.J. Fluker comes across from the Giants at right tackle to help with protection. Duane Brown, Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi will line up alongside him. This may still not be enough. Only time will tell.
Doug Baldwin will continue as the right wide receiver with Jaron Brown lining up away from him along with veteran Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett knocking on the door.
Chris Carson looks to have the running back spot sewn up with Rashaad Penny as his backup. Ed Dickson will play tight end.
None of these players screams talent, so what can the new coaching setup offer these players?
On defence, only Earl Thomas remains from the infamous ‘Legion of Boom’. However, he may not be there much longer. This team allowed 332 points in 2017, the most in seven previous seasons.
Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, now with his third team in three seasons, will look to help this defence through the rebuilding stage.
Cornerback Shaquill Griffin will be the top cover guy after a solid rookie season.
Young Aussie Michael Dickson has taken the NFL by storm and will get the starting punter role this season.
The offensive line – If they cannot protect Wilson, the season won’t go well.
Keep an eye on
Shaquem Griffin – The one-handed running back out of Central Florida. The Seahawks have him listed on the defence but let’s wait and see where he will play in 2018.
Offensive coordinator – Brian Schottenheimer
Defensive coordinator – Ken Norton Jr.
Special teams coordinator – Brian Schneider
7-9. This is a rebuilding year for the Seahawks.
Don’t expect miracles.
New head coach Steve Wilks has a tough job ahead of him to turn the fortunes of the Cardinals. He starts his new tenure after parting ways with 18 players, something that is going to make your job harder.
There is uncertainty in nearly every position on the park for a team looking to push for a playoff berth for only the sixth time in 30 years.
It looks as though former Minnesota Viking Sam Bradford will get the starting quarterback role while rookie Josh Rosen waits in the wings.
Running back sensation David Johnson returns for the first time since a week one injury in 2017.
He is one of only a handful of players to do so. They have lost three running backs, three pass catches and three linesmen in the offseason.
The offensive line looks different, Cole Mason lines up at centre, Mike Iupati at left guard, Justin Pugh at right guard, D.J. Humphries at left tackle and Andre Smith at right tackle. Will they be able to protect their quarterback?
The Cardinals used their fifth and sixth draft picks on offensive players to help rebuild this team.
Larry Fitzgerald is back for his 15th season and will be looking to build on an incredible career at the age of 35, while Chad Williams will slot in as wide receiver on the right edge.
The defence is also undergoing a makeover, converting from a 3-4 system to a 4-3. Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch, Karlos Dansby and Tramon Williams are all gone.
Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones have stayed and will be the experience heads going into 2018.
David Johnson – A good running back takes pressure off the quarterbacks. With a lot of uncertainty going on in Arizona, its time for DJ to step up and be counted.
Keep an eye on
The Bradford v Rosen battle – it won’t be long before Rosen gets his chance with the ball. How long can Bradford keep the number one spot?
Head coach – Steve Wilks
Offensive coordinator – Mike McCoy
6-10. It’s going to be a long year for Arizona.