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An early look around the NFC West as OTAs get underway

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft are in the rear view mirror, and with OTAs kicking off for most teams around the league, the summer doldrums are right around the corner. The Seattle Seahawks started OTAs on Monday, with the team releasing a short highlight video which is likely to do little more than stoke fans hopes for 2019.

It, of course, includes shots of the highest paid player in the NFL, Russell Wilson, and second round draft pick DK Metcalf catching passes. However, OTAs are non-contact practices, so it’s not difficult for players to look great doing what they’re doing.

That said, how many of the Seahawks best players from 2018 will be back on the field in 2019? ProFootballFocus has authored a series of tweets over the past week looking at the projected starting lineup for every team in the NFL and highlighting the positions where the projected starter graded out at 80 or higher last season. For the Hawks, this is just over a quarter of their starters, with Bobby Wagner and Poona Ford meeting this criteria on defense while Duane Brown, Russell Wilson, Chris Carson and Tyler Lockett meeting the threshold on offense.

That might seem like quite a departure from seasons past when fans are likely to believe that the majority of the members of the defense deserved grades above 80. However, 2013 is the only season in which the Hawks defense had more than two players earn grades in the 80s and 90s, when the team had four such players (Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Brandon Mebane and Byron Maxwell).

That said, let’s take a quick look around at the competition in the NFC West and see how many top level starters the competition is slated to return. To no one’s surprise, the Los Angeles Rams lead the NFC West with eight such projected starters, including all world defensive lineman Aaron Donald and both outside receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods.

Staying within California, the San Francisco 49ers have four players who earned a grade of 80 or higher last season, including young tight end George Kittle. Kittle could terrorize the Hawks for years to come, but at least the Niners are still searching for a franchise quarterback.

Lastly we arrive at the Arizona Cardinals, and it doesn’t take long to realize why the Cards had the first pick in the draft. Add in that one of these two players, Patrick Peterson, is suspended for the first six games of the 2019 season, and it’s not hard to imagine Arizona potentially holding the first pick in the 2020 draft. In any case, it will certainly be interesting to see what Kliff Kingsbury is able to do with his Air Raid offense, and whether that helps the team’s fortunes or not.

Based on nothing more than this, it certainly appears that the order for the NFC West is not likely to change in 2019 from how 2018 ended. It appears as though the division is once again likely to come down to which team is able to emerge victorious from the showdowns between the Seahawks and Rams.