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NFC West Q&A: Who is the rising star in this division?

Today's question: Who is the rising star in this division?

Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals: Tyrann Mathieu. There's no denying he has the talent and personality to be a star. It's just a matter of him staying healthy. It's safe to say Mathieu was an instant sensation during his rookie season -- in his first game he made an incredible strip of Jared Cook in St. Louis -- but an injury late in 2013 impacted all of his 2014 season for the Honey Badger. But now that he's back to his rookie-year healthy and form, he'll showcase that talent yet again, and there may not be a player in all of football with a better nose for the ball.

Nick Wagoner, St. Louis Rams: I'm going to play the hometown card here and go with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. One could argue in his first year in the league, Donald was one of the two or three best defensive tackles. He won the NFL's defensive rookie of the year award after his nine sacks led all rookies and represented the most by any first-year player in the past three years. That total was second most on the team behind defensive end Robert Quinn and eclipsed the eight from Detroit defensive end Ezekiel Ansah in 2013 and Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin in 2012. It's also the sixth most by a rookie defensive tackle since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. It's entirely possible Donald will be among the league's best defenders, regardless of position, sooner than later.

Paul Gutierrez, San Francisco 49ers: The NFC West has a decidedly vet feel to it, so let's think outside of the box (i.e., not an offensive player) and turn our attention to an interior defensive lineman who wreaked havoc on quarterbacks once he got his sea legs. St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald led all rookies with nine sacks, tied for second at his position throughout the NFL, and was rewarded by being named the NFL's defensive rookie of the year. This after being seen as a run-stuffer. With so much first-round talent surrounding him on the Rams' D-line, teams will not be able to simply double- and triple-team him, so the stats and sacks and, well, accolades should keep coming.

Terry Blount, Seattle Seahawks: For me, it's Arizona wide receiver John Brown. It's startling to think how good his rookie season could have been had quarterback Carson Palmer been on the field all season. Brown had three TDs receptions in the first six games when Palmer was playing. Brown had two TD catches in the final 10 games. Few people heard of Brown when he was Arizona's third-round pick out of Pittsburg State, but everyone knows him now. Brown is small at 5-10, but his speed (a legitimate 4.3) is breathtaking to watch and frightening for defenders. It's his instincts on route-running and his ability to adjust on the fly that makes him special. Larry Fitzgerald's time is coming to an end, but the Cardinals have another star to fill his shoes.