The 49ers made a splash last season, landing QB Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade from the Patriots. In a division with young talent, is his star destined to be the brightest? Our NFC West reporters break it down.
Brady Henderson, Seattle Seahawks reporter: Garoppolo. The fact that the 49ers extended Garoppolo with a deal that briefly made him the NFL’s highest-paid player despite only seven career starts tells you everything you need to know here. As detailed by ESPN’s Nick Wagoner, the 49ers improved considerably in Garoppolo’s five starts last season, most importantly in the win column, where they went 5-0 after a 1-10 start.
Lindsey Thiry, Los Angeles Rams reporter: Garoppolo. Without any doubt. Garoppolo took over a 1-10 team last season and delivered five victories in five starts. The Niners then signed him to a five-year deal worth up to $137.5 million and added pieces to bolster the offense around him. Garoppolo had limited time to learn coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense when he was acquired from the New England Patriots last October, but still delivered a record-setting performance — passing for 1,542 yards in five games. After going through an offseason program and training camp with Shanahan, and building chemistry with his receivers, Garoppolo has the opportunity to lead the Niners to a breakout season.
Nick Wagoner, San Francisco 49ers reporter: Garoppolo. His star is already pretty high in the sky but since that was based on just five starts at the end of last season, he still qualifies for this category. Garoppolo’s impact on the Niners went beyond just the offense, as the team’s defense also improved after his arrival (it was on the field much less because the offense was getting first downs consistently). While Garoppolo still has some proving to do, there are also reasons to believe he’s going to be better in 2018. The Niners invested heavily in getting him a new starting center (Weston Richburg), guard (Jonathan Cooper) and right tackle (Mike McGlinchey), spent big money on running back Jerick McKinnon and used a second-round pick on versatile wideout Dante Pettis. Garoppolo will also benefit from the return of veteran receiver Pierre Garcon from injury.
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals reporter: Cardinals QB Josh Rosen. The NFC West hasn’t had this type of star power at quarterback in some time, but the starting quarterbacks for all four teams — Sam Bradford, Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo and Russell Wilson — are established stars by this point. However, another quarterback in the division — one who might not even play this season — is the rising star of the NFC West. And that’s Rosen, the Cardinals’ first-round pick. He was drafted to be the franchise’s future at quarterback and with as much attention as he’s been getting during his first offseason practices, he’s already entering the star stratosphere. If he can match the hype with performance, Rosen could be the biggest star in the division in no time at all.