NFC West Projected starters: Big changes in Seattle


With the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, Around The NFL will project starting lineups with tasty position battle nuggets for all 32 teams. The NFC West is below.

Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals Projected Starters


QB: Carson Palmer

RB: David Johnson

WR1: Larry Fitzgerald

WR2: Michael Floyd

WR3: John Brown

TE: Jermaine Gresham

LT: Jared Veldheer

LG: Mike Iupati

C: Evan Boehm

RG: Evan Mathis

RT: D.J. Humphries


DE: Calais Campbell

DT: Rodney Gunter

DE: Frostee Rucker

OLB: Chandler Jones

ILB: Deone Bucannon

ILB: Kevin Minter

OLB: Markus Golden

CB1: Patrick Peterson

CB2: Justin Bethel

CB/S: Tyrann Mathieu

S: Tony Jefferson

» Of the seven offensive tackles on the current roster, only Jared Veldheer, has played in an NFL game. That's a huge concern for Bruce Arians. Last year's first-round pick, D.J. Humphries, is penciled in to start at right tackle, but the team could use more experienced options off the bench.

» The other trouble spot on this otherwise loaded roster is at cornerback. Justin Bethel will step up a few spots on the depth chart and looks like a starter. Barely anyone else on the roster has real NFL experience, and third-round pick Brandon Williams literally started playing the position one year ago. The team is almost certain to add some veterans.

» If Tyrann Mathieu isn't ready for Week 1, D.J. Swearinger and Tyvon Branch will have even bigger roles.

» For now, first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche seems likely to come off the bench to rush from the interior on passing downs.

Los Angeles Rams

Rams Projected Starters


QB: Jared Goff

RB: Todd Gurley

WR1: Tavon Austin

WR2: Kenny Britt

WR3: Brian Quick

TE: Lance Kendricks

LT: Greg Robinson

LG: Rodger Saffold

C: Tim Barnes

RG: Jamon Brown

RT: Rob Havenstein


DE: Robert Quinn

DT: Aaron Donald

DT: Michael Brockers

DE: William Hayes

LB: Akeem Ayers

MLB: Alec Ogletree

LB: Mark Barron

CB1: Trumaine Johnson

CB2: E.J. Gaines

CB3: LaMarcus Joyner

S: T.J. McDonald

» The Rams haven't had a receiver top 800 yards in eight seasons, a fact as mystifying and depressing as Pitbull's career. There's no particular reason to believe that will change this year because the Rams are mostly sending out the same wideouts and tight ends, minus Jared Cook. At least the team finally learned how to maximize Tavon Austin last year.

» The offensive line has room to improve, and it should with three starters 23 years or younger. They also have great young depth after selecting five linemen last season. If Greg Robinson doesn't play like a No. 2 overall pick this year, it's probably never going to happen.

» The St. Louis front seven remains the team's strength, led by the NFC's best defensive player in Aaron Donald. The return of Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron's second season at his new position will transform the linebacker group.

» I listed three cornerbacks and one safety because there is no telling who will start at free safety. Coty Davis and Maurice Alexander are the candidates, but the Rams might have to find a starter from another team when rosters are cut down.

San Francisco 49ers

Niners Projected Starters


QB: Blaine Gabbert

RB: Carlos Hyde

WR1: Torrey Smith

WR2: Quinton Patton

WR3: DeAndre Smelter

TE: Vance McDonald

LT: Joe Staley

LG: Josh Garnett

C: Daniel Kilgore

RG: Zane Beadles

RT: Trent Brown


DE: Arik Armstead

DT: Ian Williams

DT: DeForest Buckner

OLB: Ahmad Brooks

ILB: NaVorro Bowman

ILB: Michael Wilhoite

OLB: Aaron Lynch

CB1: Trumaine Brock

CB2: Dontae Johnson

CB/S: Jimmie Ward

S: Antoine Bethea

S: Eric Reid

» Gabbert has a head start in Chip Kelly's offense and doesn't have enemies in the front office like Colin Kaepernick. Logic dictates that Kaepernick's talent will win out over Gabbert eventually, but at this stage it appears the organization prefers Gabbert to win this job.

» Figuring out the 49ers' wideout depth chart after Torrey Smith is pure guesswork. Quinton Patton is the most productive option to start opposite Smith and he has 36 career catches in three seasons.

DeAndre Smelter is a fourth-round pick from 2015 that missed all of last season and he has the next best pedigree on the roster. Perhaps CFL escapee Eric Rogers will be a factor. Who knows? The passing game has less talent than any group in the NFC, and its not close.

» That's the bad news. The good news is that the defense has the talent to be very good right now. The front seven is dangerous after pairing college teammates Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. The defensive line is deep enough to put Glenn Dorsey and promising youngster Quinton Dial on the bench.

» Cornerback is the clear weak point of the defense. Safety has strength in numbers, though. The 49ers are moving former first-round pick Jimmie Ward to safety, where he will also play inside the numbers on passing downs. The larger question is whether former Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil has the chops to use all the talent.

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks Projected Starters
  Offense Defense
  QB: Russell Wilson DE: Michael Bennett
  RB: Thomas Rawls DT: Jarran Reed
  WR1: Doug Baldwin DE: Cliff Avril
WR2: Jermaine Kearse OLB: K.J. Wright
  WR3 Tyler Lockett ILB: Bobby Wagner
TE: Jimmy Graham ILB: Brandon Browner
LT: Garry Gilliam CB1: Richard Sherman
LG: Mark Glowinski CB2: Jeremy Lane
C: Justin Britt CB3: DeShawn Shead
RG: Germain Ifedi S: Earl Thomas
RT: J'Marcus Webb S: Kam Chancellor

» Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls are both written in pencil for Week 1 because they are coming off serious injuries. Rawls looks like the safer bet to be ready physically, although the Seahawks drafted two running backs (C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins) to make sure.

» The Seahawks can afford to be careful bringing Graham back into the mix off a torn patellar tendon. They have good depth with Luke Willson and third-round pick Nick Vannett.

Seahawks Projected Starters


QB: Russell Wilson

RB: Thomas Rawls

WR1: Doug Baldwin

WR2: Jermaine Kearse

WR3: Tyler Lockett

TE: Jimmy Graham

LT: Garry Gilliam

LG: Mark Glowinski

C: Justin Britt

RG: Germain Ifedi

RT: J'Marcus Webb


DE: Michael Bennett

DT: Jarran Reed

DE: Cliff Avril

LB: K.J. Wright

MLB: Bobby Wagner

LB/S: Brandon Browner

CB1: Richard Sherman

CB2: Jeremy Lane

CB3: DeShawn Shead

S: Earl Thomas

S: Kam Chancellor

» It's crazy how unsettled the Seahawks' line is. They will very likely start with five starters who are either new to the team or have changed positions. Gilliam was a shaky right tackle and is now moving to the left side. Britt is moving from guard to center. At least offensive line coach Tom Cable has lots of options to pick the best group. All five positions should have competition.

» The offensive line is a concern for Russell Wilson. The continuity at wide receiver is another story. Tyler Lockett could make the leap to star status this year, and the team gets Paul Richardson back from injury.

» Seahawks general manager John Schneider clearly wants second-round pick Jarran Reed to play early in his career. Ahtyba Rubin and Jordan Hill will also get snaps, but we listed Reed as the only defensive tackle starter because Seattle will be in nickel or dime defense most of the time.

» Coach Pete Carroll wants to use Brandon Browner as a safety/linebacker hybrid in the mold of Arizona's Deone Buchanon. Last season inspiring a yellow storm in New Orleans as a cornerback, this role should suit Browner's skill set better. The Seahawks coaches are great at maximizing strengths of their players and hiding weaknesses.