The next division that we want to tackle in our offseason quarterback rankings is the NFC West.
This division features three teams who know who their starting quarterback is going to be heading into 2017 (barring injury) and one team in San Francisco with a lot of question marks. For the sake of this article, we are going to analyze the current starter on the roster under contract, which we assume is Colin Kaepernick.
The NFC West is one of the weaker quarterback divisions with the obvious number one talent residing in the Pacific Northwest.
1. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks (5-11, 203 pounds, 28 years old)
Heading into the 2012 season it looked as though the Seattle Seahawks had found a potential franchise quarterback. Matt Flynn had just come off of a career game in week 17 of the 2011 season with the Green Bay Packers. Seattle jumped on the minimal success and signed him to a three-year deal.
He was brought in to compete with 2011 starter Tavaris Jackson but was seen as the clear favorite under center.
The draft came in April and the Hawks took Russell Wilson in the third round as a talented athlete with high upside to be a competitive backup. Nobody told Wilson about that plan as he wowed coaches, won the starting job outright as a rookie and was selected to the Pro Bowl in his first season.
Five seasons later, three Pro Bowl selections, two Super Bowl appearances, and one Super Bowl victory, and Russell Wilson has cemented himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the entire NFL.
2016 was up and down for Wilson as I don’t think he was ever 100% healthy throughout the season. He threw for the most yards in his career (4,219 yards) but threw for his second least amount of touchdowns (21) and his most interceptions (11).
Despite a somewhat inconsistent 2016, Wilson is still leaps and bounds above the other three QBs in the NFC West. Perhaps his most impressive statistic in his career is that he has yet to miss a single game in his five seasons in the NFL.
Durability is so important for the most important player on the field. As long as Wilson is under center, the Seahawks are a playoff threat every year.
2. Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals (6-5, 230 pounds, 37 years old)
Palmer has been somewhat of a peculiar QB throughout his whole career. After winning the Heisman Trophy at USC he was the number one touted quarterback to enter the draft. He was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals and his career started off with relative success.
In his second and third seasons, he was selected to the Pro Bowl and helped to turn the Bengals into a competitive franchise again.
Then the roller coaster began as he was plagued with injuries year after year. After a short stint with the Raiders, he found a home in Arizona. With the coming of Bruce Arians as the new head coach, Palmer had a revival season in 2015. Posting a 13-3 record, throwing for the most yards in his career (4,671 yards) and the most touchdowns in his career (35) and he was selected to his first Pro Bowl in eight seasons.
Then, in 2016, Palmer relapsed. With relatively the exact same offense as 2015, the Cardinals went 6-8-1, Palmer gave away 14 interceptions, and he just didn’t look like the same quarterback on Sundays.
Some questioned if the desire was still there to play, he is 37 years old after all. After taking some time off, he announced that he would be returning for a 14th season.
If he can mitigate some of the careless throws, and put his faith in guys like Larry Fitzgerald (also returning for another season) and David Johnson, there is no reason why Palmer cannot have another Pro Bowl caliber year.
It is time, however, for Arizona to begin thinking about the future at QB and I strongly expect them to take a quarterback in the 2017 draft to sit under Palmer for at least one season.
3. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco (6-4, 225 pounds, 29)
Who knows is Kap will be the starter or even on the roster come September, but at this point in time, he is the best option the Niners have under contract.
In my opinion, Kaepernick was one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the league, even during the 49ers good years under Harbaugh.
He has never been selected to a Pro Bowl. He has never thrown more than 3,400 yards (3,369 in 2014). He has never thrown more than 21 touchdowns in a season (21 in 2013). As a starter, he has never had a completion percentage above 60.5. He went 12-4 in 2013 and has zero winning seasons other than that.
And yet, for some reason, the 49ers gave Kaepernick a very lucrative contract extension, though it is very team friendly.
In 2016, Kaepernick started 11 games where he led his team to a 1-10 record. He finished with 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.
If he remains a Niner, maybe new head coach Kyle Shanahan can bring him to new heights, after all, he has been known to get the best out of his quarterbacks. His elusiveness and dual-threat ability make his ceiling much higher than Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder.
Whether John Lynch and Shanahan address the quarterback position in the draft or in free agency, Kaepernick may be their best current option, as sad as that is. I, however, do not see him as the starter in San Francisco when they kick off week 1.
4. Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams (6-4, 210 pounds, 22 years old)
The Rams gave up a ton to get Jared Goff with the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. After the seven games Goff started last season, that move appears to be a possible mistake. After watching Hard Knocks, that move began to look like a mistake.
He went 0-7 and was barely competitive in those seven games. He finished with 1,089 yards, good enough for a game average of 136.1 yards per game. A 54.6 completion percentage with five touchdowns and seven interceptions rounded out his incredulous stat line.
Now not all of this can fall solely on Goff. Todd Gurley looked like the corpse of the standout rookie from the year before. The offensive line was abysmal. His receiving corps was probably worse than what Deshaun Watson had at Clemson last season, and his coaching staff was the laughing stock of the NFL.
Sean McVay comes in as a first-time head coach, but someone who had great success with Kirk Cousins in Washington. Matt LaFleur was upgraded from Atlanta QB coach to offensive coordinator. In 2016, he led Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan to his first NFL MVP. So to say that Goff will be in better hands now is speaking lightly.
If the Rams address the o-line and get an actual competent number one receiver, they may actually see Goff progress and hopefully blossom into the quarterback that they drafted with the number one pick.
Not a lot of positives from the 2016 season, but the talent is there, the ceiling is high, and the staff around him should do a much better job in preparing him, oh, and he’s only 22 years old.