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 reporter: There’s a lot of young talent in the NFC West, but none is as good as Todd Gurley. The Los Angeles Rams running back returned from an ACL injury suffered during his final season at the University of Georgia and dominated defenses last season, finishing third in the league in rushing -- two places behind the running back he’s most often compared to: Adrian Peterson. Gurley was named the offensive rookie of the year, went to the Pro Bowl and was second-team All-Pro last year. By all accounts, that’s a pretty good rookie season. By most measures, he’s a star but he’s still young so “rising star” is fitting here. He has stiff competition within the division. Arizona’s David Johnson burst onto the running back scene in the final five games last season, rushing for the third-most yards during that span. And Seattle’s Tyler Lockett, the speedy receiver and returner, has wreaked havoc on defenses.

Nick Wagoner, Los Angeles Rams reporter: I’m going to operate under the assumption that Gurley is already considered a star after winning offensive rookie of the year and finishing third in the NFL in rushing last season. So the choice here is Arizona receiver John Brown. He probably hasn’t quite reached star status yet, but after two productive seasons in which he has averaged nearly 850 receiving yards and six touchdowns per year, he’s on his way. Brown has the speed to be one of the most dangerous deep-ball threats in the league, but some believe he’s developed enough as a route runner to become more than just a home run hitter. With Larry Fitzgerald still productive but getting older and Michael Floyd on the final year of his rookie contract, Brown looks poised for bigger things.

Michael Wagaman, San Francisco 49ers reporter: Gurley is without question on the fast track to super-stardom. What this kid did as a rookie in just 13 games (1,106 yards, 10 touchdowns) is nothing to sniff at and is only the tip of the iceberg. Having Jared Goff in the backfield will improve the passing game, which in turn will open things up even more for the running game. With the Rams poised to make a big jump up in the standings, Gurley will find himself in the spotlight more and more. There might not be any other younger player in the division more ready for it, either.

Sheil Kapadia, Seattle Seahawks reporter: You can really make the case for any of the three second-year running backs: Thomas Rawls, Gurley and Johnson. All three guys were impressive as rookies and figure to have major roles in 2016. I’ll go with Johnson because of the different ways he can do damage. In his first season, Johnson totaled 1,038 yards from scrimmage. He averaged 4.65 yards per carry, and Johnson’s 2.22 average yards after contact ranked fifth among all running backs. But he’s most dangerous as a pass-catcher. No running back (minimum 30 catches) in the past 10 years has posted a better yards-per-reception average than Johnson (12.69) produced in 2015. That’s a testament to his natural talent and Bruce Arians’ creativity in finding ways to get Johnson the football. He should see an even bigger role next season and will be a player whom defenses have to account for on a weekly basis.