Instant Impact Veteran: Eddie Lacy — Seahawks
Lacy looks to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2016. It’s not too often that you see a player leave Green Bay during the prime of his career, but Lacy watched from the sideline as converted receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery usurped his starting role. Seattle faced their own injury issues in 2016 — having had 18 different players take a carry throughout the year. Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise will be waiting in the wings, but Lacy is likely to be given the first crack at the starting role. With Russell Wilson anchoring the offense, Lacy could find himself in plenty of scoring opportunities. He’s the best red-zone option the Seahawks have had since Marshawn Lynch’s departure.
Under-The-Radar Acquistion: Andrew Whitworth — Rams
The Rams were flat-out awful on offense last year. Some of that can be put on the shoulders of Jared Goff, but ultimately the Rams’ porous offensive line did the rookie quarterback no favors. Whitworth is 35 years old, but he was still rated as a top-5 tackle in 2015. LA’s offensive line finished 28th overall according to Pro Football Focus’ annual rankings.
Todd Gurley took a massive step back in 2016 after a promising year, regularly having to make defenders miss in the backfield before he even made it back to the line of scrimmage. The veteran Whitworth will help Goff get comfortable in the pocket, as well as help create lanes for the dynamic Gurley.
First Rounder: Haason Reddick — Cardinals
Reddick flew up boards leading up to the draft for his magnificent combine performance. The athletic linebacker is a freakish pass rusher. Reddick possesses the explosive first-step coaches look for out of their edge rushers. The Cards were 2016’s ultimate disappointment. With elite players on both sides of the ball, many had set lofty expectations for a team that had reached the NFC Championship game in the previous year. Arizona lost key contributors in Tony Jefferson and Kevin Minter in the offseason. They hope Reddick can ease the pain of those losses.
Late Rounder: Joe Williams (4th Round) — 49ers
Although Carlos Hyde seems to be the clear-cut Week 1 starter, Utah’s Williams will get his chance to prove himself throughout the year. Hyde has been plagued by injuries throughout his short career, having missed 14 games in the last three seasons. Even if Hyde stays off the injury report, Williams is a different kind of runner with the ability to be used in unique packages. Kyle Shanahan loved utilizing both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman throughout his time in Atlanta, so look for Williams to find his way on the field sooner rather than later.
Non-Player: Head Coach Sean McVay — Rams
The NFC West has the most intriguing group of non-player newcomers when you consider San Francisco’s Head Coach/General Manager pair of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. Both of those guys will do great for the 49ers faithful, but we’re going to give the slight edge to a guy that has a bit more immediate pressure in McVay. The Rams are a talented team that vastly underachieved in 2016. At just 31 years old, McVay is actually younger than the Rams’ starting left tackle. The promising new coach will be tasked with developing Goff into the player the Rams thought they were getting with the No. 1 Overall pick in last year’s draft.
Sources: Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports, Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports, Jayne Kamin/USA TODAY Sports