Who is the best newcomer to the NFC West?
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals reporter: San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garcon is the pick here, although he might fly under the radar because of his team’s lack of stability at quarterback. He instantly becomes one of the top wide receivers in the West, coming off a 1,000-yard season in Washington last season. Garcon, who turns 31 in August, has proved he still has what it takes to perform as a No. 1 receiver, which is what the Niners need. He had 1,041 yards in 2016, which would’ve been second in the NFC West, behind Seattle’s Doug Baldwin and ahead of Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald. Garcon belongs in the top three, and, with a good enough season, maybe the top two behind Fitzgerald. He brings not just a star quality to San Francisco, but he can also change a game by himself, which is exactly what the floundering Niners need.
Alden Gonzalez, Los Angeles Rams reporter: Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is the most accomplished newcomer and also the most badly needed. He replaces Greg Robinson, the failed No. 2 overall pick whom the Rams recently sent to the Lions for a sixth-round selection in 2018. And he will protect the blind side of Rams franchise quarterback Jared Goff, who absorbed 25 sacks over his final six games last season. Whitworth is 35, but he’s a three-time Pro Bowler who's considered among the game’s best pass-blockers. In 2015, Whitworth was a first-team All-Pro. In 2016, Pro Football Focus had him allowing only 15 total pressures and graded him second among NFL tackles.
The Rams signed Whitworth away from the Bengals with a three-year contract that guaranteed him $15 million. They hope he can be a mentor for what is still a young group of offensive linemen. And they believe he is key to helping get the most out of both Goff and running back Todd Gurley, the former Offensive Rookie of the Year who’s coming off a disappointing season.
Nick Wagoner, San Francisco 49ers reporter: San Francisco linebacker Reuben Foster is my pick. The free-agent and trade additions around the division were mostly solid if unspectacular, but there were quite a few big-time pickups in the draft, particularly in San Francisco and Arizona. Foster wasn't the earliest pick of that group, but he probably brings the most ability to provide instant impact. With the usual caveat that this is dependent on Foster's shoulder being healthy and holding up for the course of the season, he has all the tools to be a three-down linebacker who makes plenty of splash plays next to NaVorro Bowman in San Francisco's defense. Arizona's Haason Reddick profiles in a similar way and should also be near the top of this conversation.
Sheil Kapadia, Seattle Seahawks reporter: Rookie defensive end Solomon Thomas was the third overall pick in the draft. The 49ers are in the middle of a massive rebuild, but they are talented up front. Thomas gives San Francisco a skilled pass-rusher who can make plays in the backfield on a consistent basis. He had eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season at Stanford. Considering the favorites in the division -- the Seahawks and Cardinals -- have question marks on their offensive lines, Thomas should have an immediate impact on the division as a rookie.