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NFC West projected starters for 2024 NFL season: 49ers, Rams, Cards will score; system fits in Seattle?

With the 2024 NFL Draft and most of free agency in the rearview, Gregg Rosenthal will project starting lineups for all 32 teams because that's his idea of fun. Check out the NFC West breakdowns below.

Table inside Article
QB Kyler Murray Edge BJ Ojulari
RB James Conner DE Darius Robinson
WR Marvin Harrison Jr. DT Bilal Nichols
WR Michael Wilson DT Justin Jones
WR Greg Dortch Edge Zaven Collins
TE Trey McBride LB Kyzir White
LT Paris Johnson Jr. CB Max Melton
LG Elijah Wilkinson CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
C Hjalte Froholdt CB Garrett Williams
RG Will Hernandez S Budda Baker
RT Jonah Williams S Jalen Thompson
  • The Cardinals' commitment to Kyler Murray has been smartly steadfast since Jonathan Gannon's arrival. It's not just the contract implications keeping Murray locked in; he looked comfortable in offensive coordinator Drew Petzing's system last year.
  • Trey Benson was possibly the best big-play running back in the 2024 NFL Draft. The third-round pick will comprise a great tandem with James Conner and can provide insurance if the veteran's roller-coaster career hits a dip.
  • The receiver group looks so much better with Marvin Harrison Jr. at the top. Michael Wilson is a breakout candidate after a sneaky-good rookie year. Greg Dortch outplayed Rondale Moore and works as a do-everything slot.
  • Trey McBride should ultimately be the team's second-leading receiver. Around The NFL's offseason TE rankings had him in the top five in the league already!
  • Offensive tackle is a position of strength. It's interesting the team is moving Paris Johnson Jr. to left tackle after he manned the right side as a rookie. Jonah Williams was moved to the right in Cincinnati and will stay there. Kelvin Beachum is now a very experienced swing tackle.
  • The interior O-line could have competition. That group was better at run blocking than pass protecting last year.
  • It was hard to pick a defensive line alignment because Gannon gets so multiple with his formations. First-round pick Darius Robinson was drafted to move around, depending on the down.
  • It's a big contract year for Zaven Collins, who is settling in as an edge rusher after starting his career at inside linebacker. 2023 second-round pick BJ Ojulari is a candidate to improve.
  • The Eagles really missed Kyzir White last season, as the linebacker enjoyed a fine debut campaign in the desert. The spot next to White is up for grabs.
  • Coverage on the perimeter could still be an issue for Arizona. The Cardinals hope second-rounder Max Melton can man one CB spot on the outside, with free-agent addition Sean Murphy-Bunting apparently in line to start opposite the rookie.
  • The slot corner and safety spots are in better shape. Nickelback Garrett Williams flashed as a rookie, and this safety tandem plays at a high level.
  • The Cardinals' coaching staff was creative last season without great talent. The defense still looks a year away, but the offense is ready to surprise starting now.
Table inside Article
QB Matthew Stafford Edge Byron Young
RB Kyren Williams DE Braden Fiske
WR Puka Nacua DT Kobie Turner
WR Cooper Kupp DT Bobby Brown III
WR Demarcus Robinson Edge Jared Verse
TE Tyler Higbee LB Ernest Jones IV
LT Alaric Jackson CB Darious Williams
LG Jonah Jackson CB Tre'Davious White
C Steve Avila CB Cobie Durant
RG Kevin Dotson S Kamren Curl
RT Rob Havenstein S Quentin Lake
  • Matthew Stafford's contract situation is worth monitoring. I'd also keep an eye on second-year pro Stetson Bennett, who could be the backup quarterback early in the season while Jimmy Garoppolo is serving a two-game suspension. Bennett was not with the team most of last year, with Rams GM Les Snead recently explaining in an exclusive interview with an Alabama news station that the 2023 fourth-round pick was "an exhausted human being" who needed time away from the game.
  • Kyren Williams' lingering foot injury helps to inform the drafting of Michigan star Blake Corum in the third round. They will probably share the workload evenly regardless.
  • It's bizarre to list a fifth-round pick from last year ahead of Cooper Kupp, but Puka Nacua showed he's the top option until proven otherwise. When Kupp was on the field last year, he was not the same player we'd grown accustomed to.
  • Demarcus Robinson and Tutu Atwell will share the third receiver role, but Robinson was the guy getting the big snaps and targets late last season.
  • The Rams spent big money to fortify their interior O-line by signing Jonah Jackson and retaining Kevin Dotson, who was a smart trade pickup last August. Steve Avila was awesome at guard as a rookie and now will switch to center. Joe Noteboom is still around as the most expensive swing tackle in football. This offensive line is built to mash.
  • Second-year pro Byron Young and first-round rookie Jared Verse complement each other well. Young is all speed around the edge, while Verse should be a great run stopper from Day 1.
  • The defensive line will rotate plenty, but Kobie Turner is tough to take off the field. He was a revelation as a rookie -- and is now the Rams' best hope to mitigate the enormous loss of Aaron Donald.
  • Christian Rozeboom is likely to be the second linebacker. Ernest Jones IV has settled in as a core piece for this defense, which is now under new coordinator Chris Shula.
  • The Rams have a lot of flexibility in the secondary. Tre'Davious White could play the nickel "star" position if the team moves Cobie Durant to the starting lineup. Russ Yeast is another nickel option. Third-round pick Kamren Kinchens is a candidate to play deep safety. White was a boom-or-bust signing, but there are other options if he can't stay healthy.
  • The Rams have every reason to believe they will have a top-flight offense. The defense is more talented overall, but it also lost Donald and coordinator Raheem Morris. Add it all up, and this team can compete to win playoff games again.
Table inside Article
QB Brock Purdy Edge Nick Bosa
RB Christian McCaffrey DT Javon Hargrave
WR Brandon Aiyuk DT Maliek Collins
WR Deebo Samuel Sr. Edge Leonard Floyd
WR Jauan Jennings LB Fred Warner
TE George Kittle LB Dre Greenlaw
LT Trent Williams CB Charvarius Ward
LG Aaron Banks CB Deommodore Lenoir
C Jake Brendel CB Isaac Yiadom
RG Jon Feliciano S Talanoa Hufanga
RT Colton McKivitz S Ji'Ayir Brown
  • The 49ers are returning the same starting offensive personnel that led the league in every efficiency metric by a wide margin. That's rare, and it's not like this team is old.
  • In performing this exercise, the instinct is to immediately insert first-round picks like Ricky Pearsall into the starting lineup. The 49ers drafted him high for a reason, but Jauan Jennings is too good in his role to summarily displace. Pearsall feels more like a potential injury replacement who will have a bigger impact in 2025.
  • I forgot Josh Dobbs is on this team. He'll be fun to watch in this offense if he's ever needed.
  • Outside of all-world LT Trent Williams, the offensive line never impresses with overall talent. The unit short-circuited in big moments during the Super Bowl. Yet this group almost always plays better than the sum of its parts, especially in the run game.
  • Brandon Aiyuk could get a big contract extension this offseason. If the 49ers break up their receiver duo after this year, Deebo Samuel Sr. feels more likely to get dealt.
  • Fourth-round combine hero Isaac Guerendo will be a fun player to watch in the preseason to see if he can win the backup job at running back.
  • The defensive line has a different vibe. The 49ers went hard on solid mid-level veterans who can soak up snaps, signing Leonard Floyd, Maliek Collins, Jordan Elliott and Yetur Gross-Matos. Beyond Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave, the group is not as flashy as it once was.
  • Linebacker Dre Greenlaw will probably miss the start of the season after tearing his Achilles in the Super Bowl. In the meantime, former Packer De'Vondre Campbell is the favorite to take his place.
  • The cornerback group, like the offensive line, appears to have holes every year. And then it works out just fine. The group has a number of players who can play inside or out, including second-rounder Renardo Green.
  • The 49ers missed Talanoa Hufanga's playmaking down the stretch last season. The safety, who tore his ACL last November, should be ready for Week 1.
  • The biggest questions here are intangible. After getting so close year after year, can the 49ers rev up the engine again? They have the offense to dominate.
Table inside Article
QB Geno Smith Edge Uchenna Nwosu
RB Kenneth Walker III DE Leonard Williams
WR DK Metcalf DT Byron Murphy II
WR Tyler Lockett DE Dre'Mont Jones
WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba Edge Boye Mafe
TE Noah Fant LB Tyrel Dodson
LT Charles Cross CB Devon Witherspoon
LG Laken Tomlinson CB Riq Woolen
C Olu Oluwatimi CB Tre Brown
RG Anthony Bradford S Julian Love
RT Abraham Lucas S Rayshawn Jenkins
  • It was a good offseason for Geno Smith. Trade pickup Sam Howell isn't a threat to Smith's starting job and only figures to get a spin if things go way south in 2024.
  • The skill-position talent around Geno remains virtually identical, which is a good thing. The offensive line has huge interior questions, which is a reminder of what sunk the Seahawks' 2023 season.
  • If Abraham Lucas isn't ready for Week 1 following knee surgery, then George Fant should get the call at right tackle.
  • This could be the last year of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett playing together. Jaxon Smith-Njigba should be ready for a bigger role after improving throughout his rookie year.
  • Both Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet can excel on passing downs. Walker is more explosive, but this can be a top-shelf tandem.
  • The defensive line is so deep that I listed an extra starter and took a linebacker out of the lineup. Dre'Mont Jones needs to play better to earn his roster spot for 2025. Capable veterans Jarran Reed and Johnathan Hankins should also provide beef for new coach Mike Macdonald's defense.
  • Jerome Baker will play next to Tyrel Dodson at linebacker. Counting on two free agents at the same position is always risky, but it is a new system.
  • This is a fun cornerback room. Devon Witherspoon was at his best in the slot, where he can make plays near the line of scrimmage. Coby Bryant was moved to safety to be a backup.
  • This depth chart didn't have dramatic changes, which is unusual for a team with a first-year head coach. It's almost like a coaching-talent faceoff. Can inventive former Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and Macdonald The Shanahan Stopper take Pete Carroll's players and do better than nine wins?

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