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Breakout candidates: NFC West

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Let’s take a look around the division and pick four players who have the most breakout potential.

NFL: SEP 23 Chargers at Rams Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over at SB Nation, our Stephen White has been running through the entire league selecting his one “best breakout candidate” from every team. White’s choices in the NFC West consisted of these players, with defensive lineman Tanzel Smart being the selection for the Los Angeles Rams:

You can find the links to the articles here:

Arizona Cardinals WR Chad Williams
San Francisco 49ers DT D.J. Jones
Seattle Seahawks WR David Moore
Los Angeles Rams DT Tanzel Smart

With me not really agreeing with some of the choices White made, I created my own list. The only “rules” to my selections are going to be:

1) Obviously no star players
2) No rookies
3) Someone who I think can make a major jump from where they currently are, to where I expect them to be during/after the season

With that being said, here’s my selections:

Rams:

LG Joe Noteboom

Noteboom is now the starting left guard for the Rams due to the departure of veteran Rodger Saffold. Noteboom has yet to start an NFL game, though he did receive a tiny bit of playing time in 2018, looking very solid with his minimal opportunities. Heading into 2019, the Rams are going to rely heavily on Noteboom — and center Brian Allen — to hold up effectively and disallow any dropoff in play from the offensive line. Noteboom has some of the best coaching available in Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Aaron Kromer.

Cardinals:

WR Christian Kirk

Kirk was a 2017 second round draft pick from Texas A&M. Although he had a pretty good rookie season (43 receptions, 590 yards, three touchdowns), it’s fair to expect the next step in his development. The short-yet-electric receiver fits perfectly in Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s system, allowing Kirk to be used all over the field in creative ways and manipulating mismatches. Quarterback Kyler Murray will have a lot of fun slinging the rock to Kirk.

49ers:

WR Dante Pettis

Pettis — like Kirk — is ready to take the next step in his development as a #1 wide receiver. Pettis also had a solid rookie season registering 27 receptions for 467 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Pettis is a route-running extraordinaire who has a knack for creating separation. His work to release off the line of scrimmage and strong hands will only help him create. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan has been hard on Pettis throughout camp and the preseason, though it likely has more to do with the expectations for Pettis as opposed to anything else.

Seahawks:

DT Poona Ford

Ford is a second year undrafted free agent nose tackle for the division rival Seahawks. Ford was so lowkey (not sure how) he wasn’t even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Gaining steam throughout his rookie season, Ford actually contributed and made a big impact as a run-stuffing defensive tackle, registering 21 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, and two quarterback hits. Going into his second year in the NFL, Ford has the potential and playing time to take a major step forward as one of the best run stopping interior defensive lineman in the league.