This is far too early in the year for predictions on how players will do. Training camps just started, and rosters aren’t finalized yet, but writing has no offseason so here I am speculating on who will perform the best this year in the NFC West.
Jared Goff: 33 touchdowns, last year 28 touchdowns.
The 2018 version of Jared Goff is going to be strikingly similar to the 2017 version. He is going to be efficient and make a lot of plays. I think other teams are going to realize that the Rams’ success came from Todd Gurley as the workhorse. They lost four out of the six games they played where he had less than 17 touches. So, I believe teams will work to stop Gurley more and it will open the door for more passing touchdowns for Goff.
Jimmy Garoppolo: 3,900 yards, last year 1,560 yards.
Jimmy Garoppolo has momentum coming into this year after ending 2017 on a high note with the 49ers. He was very effective as their starting quarterback and I think he will continue to play well in 2018. His running game is not as good as Seattle’s or Los Angeles’ so that is why I think he will have the most passing yards in the division. He has some good targets that he can spread the ball around to but no number one receiver that a defense must gameplan for.
David Johnson: 17 touchdowns, last year 0 touchdowns.
David Johnson lost last year to injury very early on and the Arizona Cardinals could not handle it. He was pretty much their entire offense two seasons ago and I thought he could get 1,000 yards receiving and rushing. He is one of the most talented and versatile backs the league has seen since Ladainian Tomlinson. He will be asked to carry most of the load for a rebuilding Cardinals team that will probably be starting a rookie quarterback at some point this season. Look for Arizona to win as many games as Johnson can win for them.
David Johnson: 1,600, last year 21 yards.
This pick like the last one is based on his talent level and the assumption he will be back this year at full strength. The only two things that could stop him from hitting at least 1,500 yards rushing this year are injury or he gets a ton of receiving yards and takes away from his rushing total.
Doug Baldwin: 12 touchdowns, last year 8 touchdowns.
Doug Baldwin has great hands, quick feet, amazing route running ability and the will to compete for any ball that comes his way. He is also the only proven option for the Seahawks in the passing game. Look for Baldwin to command most of the targets from Russell Wilson as well as the attention of other teams. They will know he is getting the ball, but he will get enough good opportunities to make a big impact this year by reaching the end zone a bunch.
Brandin Cooks: 1,400 yards, last year 1,082 yards.
I know what you are saying, how does Cooks get the most yards when I think Garoppolo will throw for more yards, and how is Baldwin supposed to get more touchdowns than Cooks if I think Goff will throw more touchdowns this year? Well I think it comes down to the percentage of plays run for a single person. I think Cooks will be a huge threat from 20 to 20 but he won’t get as many looks in the red zone as Baldwin. So, Cooks ends up with more yards and less touchdowns.
Bobby Wagner: 150 tackles, last year 133 tackles.
This is one of the easiest decisions to make, Bobby Wagner does not miss tackles. He missed three games all last year and they all came after he injured his hamstring during the season and played hurt for a few games. His lowest tackle total of his career came in 2014, he had 104 tackles, but he only played in 11 games. Wagner averages almost nine tackles a game for his career. His athleticism and football IQ are equally matched and are superior to just about every other inside linebacker in the NFL.
Tackles for Loss
Aaron Donald: 18 tackles for loss, last year 16 tackles for loss.
Bobby Wagner might be the best defender in the division, but it is not by much. Aaron Donald is the most destructive defender in the NFL and people cannot stop him at all. He was the Defensive Player of the Year last year and with Ndamukong Suh now playing beside him, I don’t see how teams can double team Donald anymore. And he will be eating up those one on one blocks. Look for him to have another terrific year.
Aaron Donald: 13 sacks, last year 11 sacks.
Is it any surprise I put Donald here too? He is the best defensive lineman in the NFL and with the prospect of facing less double teams because of Suh and new corners covering receivers longer he has less blockers and more time to get to the quarterback than he has had in previous years. I also have no doubt he will have at least 3 sacks against the Seahawks, because he wrecks Seattle yearly.
Marcus Peters: 6 interceptions, last year 5 interceptions.
Marcus Peters already has 19 interceptions in his short career. He is averaging more than six picks a year and I do not see that number going down this year. He is a ball hawk who will make plays on the ball almost to a fault. He can be burned on some double moves and if you play on his aggressiveness, but he should never change how he plays. Maybe he needs to control his emotions better, so he won’t pick up dumb penalties or get kicked off the team, like in college. Regardless, he makes plays at such a high rate that he is a good addition to almost any defensive backfield.
Tyler Lockett: 3 return touchdowns, last year 1 touchdown.
This category was harder than you would think. Because some teams use different returners through the year and it is hard to predict who will be returning kicks. The new kickoff rules also make it hard to assess if it will be easier or harder to score on kick returns. I have heard that some teams will go with three returners and that will mean more spread-out stats. So, I went with the only veteran kick returner that has made an impact throughout his career. Lockett has blazing speed and good vision with the ball in his hands, and this year he is fully back from the gruesome injury he suffered two years ago. He was not 100% last year and it showed up most in his deep speed. I think even with Rashaad Penny there and possibly taking kicks back too Lockett will still be the most productive.