In just over 51 days, the Arizona Cardinals travel to Detroit for a 10:00 AM kickoff against the Lions. They will be the first NFC West team to take the field in the 2017 NFL season. The Rams welcome the Colts to LA three hours later, then the 49ers face the Panthers and Seahawks kick off in Green Bay twenty minutes after that.
It's practically here.
Before we get into the 2017 NFL season though, we have some previewing to do. On Tuesday I broke down the top five running backs in the NFC West and you'll see a couple of them on today's list: the offensive draft.
There are a few ways to do a list like this, but my favorite is a re-draft style. All four franchises put their players into a draft pool and then we get to pick the best players to restart their franchises with. This takes many factors into account, including positional importance, talent, and age.
Agree with the picks? Disagree? Wanna talk about your feelins? Hit me up on Twitter @HEROSportsColt.
Also be sure to back regularly for more NFC West and NFL content as the season approaches and beyond.[divider]
5. Justin Britt, C — Seattle Seahawks
A Seahawks offensive lineman?? In the TOP FIVE? I know, I know, I know. Just hear me out.
We are looking to start a franchise from a draft pool limited to offensive players from the NFC West. This isn't a WIN NOW thing. Older players aren't as valuable in this scenario, so Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Staley, and Andrew Whitworth wouldn't go top five. Even still… a SEAHAWKS OFFENSIVE LINEMAN? They were the worst unit in the league last year!
Britt was the artisan focaccia bread in the crap sandwich that was the Seahawks offensive line: really good, but hard to pay attention to because the rest of it was actual crap. In fact, Pro Football Focus graded Britt as the second best offensive lineman in the division last year. Only Joe Staley of the San Francisco 49ers ranked ahead. But Staley turns 33 before the season starts, while Britt is just 26 years old.
There were a few other options at No. 5 (Tyler Lockett — young and explosive, Jimmy Graham — a little older but very unique, or Carlos Hyde — talented but not the most valuable position), but ultimately I had to go with the solid young center. [divider]
4. Todd Gurley, RB — LA Rams
I don't like picking running backs this high. Not in the real NFL draft, not in my imaginary NFC West offense draft, not anywhere. But seriously, who else would you take? The only offensive lineman the average NFL fan could name in the NFC West is Joe Staley, and he's 33 years old.
Gurley is young (22 years old), talented (already made a Pro Bowl), and has already shown he's capable of so much more than he showed last season. Turf Show Times did a great piece about his bounce-back potential this year and it seems very likely Gurley will at least regress to the mean. He's got all the physical tools to be a very, very good back in this league for a long time. It's unfortunate that no NFC West team has a few good offensive linemen to put in front of him.
In all seriousness though, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth was an under-the-radar coup for the Rams. He was outstanding for the Bengals last season and should help Gurley's bounce-back campaign immensely.[divider]
3. Doug Baldwin, WR — Seattle Seahawks
You've heard it all about Doug Baldwin. Undrafted. Stanford-educated.
Angry Passionate. Pedestrian Champion.
One thing you don't hear about enough though? The fact that he is still getting better. He has improved his game in one way or another every single season since he signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Take a look:
Since he signed with Seattle in 2011, his catch percentage of 69.04 is the seventh highest in the league (among wide receivers with at least 150 targets). No player with more yards or more catches has a better catch percentage.
Since Baldwin came into the league in 2011, seven wide receivers have been targeted over 100 times in a season and caught at least 75% of those passes. Baldwin has done it twice. He's the only player in the league who can say that. [divider]
2. David Johnson, RB — Arizona Cardinals
Here is the complete list of players with at least 1,200 rushing yards and 800 receiving yards in a single season (since the merger):