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2024 NFL season: One player to root for from each NFC team

With NFL training camps set to open next month, Tom Blair and Dan Parr provide a look at 32 players -- one from each team -- to root for in the upcoming season.

Dan provides his NFC selections below. Click here for Tom's AFC picks.

The NFL is more fun when No. 1 in Cardinal red is on the field making defenders鈥 heads spin -- for 20 seconds at a time -- as he bobs and weaves to the end zone. We haven鈥檛 seen a fully healthy season from Murray since 2020, when he earned the first of his two career Pro Bowl nods. I realize Arizona is still in a rebuilding phase, but with Murray healthy and ballyhooed receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. arriving this offseason, there鈥檚 new optimism that the offense will give fans something to cheer about. I want to live in a world where we see Kyler stay healthy and take his game to the next level.

What happened to the Jonathan Gannon was talking about drawing up for Moore before the start of last season? He had just seven catches of 10-plus air yards (only three of 20-plus) in 2023, and was promptly shipped to Atlanta for a backup quarterback this offseason. Hopefully the change of scenery does Moore a lot of good, because the 49th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft is running out of time to live up to his billing. Coming out of Purdue, the diminutive playmaker was touted as a freak athlete who would be a weapon out of the slot and as a punt returner, but the NFL fireworks have been few and far between. In a contract year, it feels like make-or-break time.

Young had about as rude an introduction to the NFL as one can experience. Among qualified quarterbacks, he had the lowest QB win percentage, completion percentage, pass yards per attempt and passer rating in the league last season, and saw his head coach get fired before December. He also watched C.J. Stroud, the signal-caller picked after him in 2023, lead his team to the playoffs and win Offensive Rookie of the Year, which sparked abundant second-guessing about Carolina鈥檚 decision to trade up and select Young first overall. With Dave Canales stepping in as QB whisperer after having success with Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield, here鈥檚 hoping Young is able to bounce back with a better supporting cast and begin living up to the promise he displayed during a decorated career at Alabama.  

Have a heart, put up and root for the new face of the franchise in Chicago. Bears quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era rank dead last in completion percentage, pass yards per attempt, passing yards per game and TD-to-INT ratio. If those numbers aren鈥檛 depressing enough for you, allow me to plunge you further into the depths of despair: The Bears are the only current NFL team to never have a QB throw for 4,000-plus yards or 30-plus pass TDs in a single season. This is a level of quarterbacking inferiority that knows no equal in the league. So, let鈥檚 root for the No. 1 overall pick to get off to a strong start and bring some relief to fans who have suffered enough.

It was not surprising to see the ultra-athletic Guyton selected with the 29th overall pick of this year鈥檚 draft. However, it was not considered a slam dunk that the Cowboys would make him their left tackle from Day 1. After all, he made just 14 starts at tackle during his college career and is thought by scouts to still be a bit raw (while dripping with potential). NFL.com draft guru Lance Zierlein had Guyton pegged for the Cowboys weeks before the draft, but he saw him as the team鈥檚 future right tackle. Dallas has decided he鈥檚 the squad鈥檚 current left tackle, charged with replacing future Hall of Famer Tyron Smith in protecting Dak Prescott鈥檚 blind side in a contract year for the QB. And now, all Cowboys fans can do is root for Guyton. It鈥檚 hard to imagine their larger hopes being realized without the rookie making a smooth transition.

All Ragnow does is buckle his chin strip and perform at an elite level year after year, often playing through injuries -- including a throat fracture a few seasons ago, which sounds scary and excruciating. Instead of bowing down to him all offseason, some folks had the nerve to speculate after the Lions鈥 NFC Championship Game collapse that he might be retiring, which did not sit well with Frank. "I was frustrated," he last month at an event for his Rags Remembered Foundation. "It was kind of annoying. All I said was I'm going to need some time to heal up the day after the game. That was my intention and then it took off, which was kind of annoying, but it is what it is." Despite being PFF鈥檚 highest or second-highest graded center in three of the past four seasons and a on top of that, Ragnow still doesn't get the widespread respect he deserves. I鈥檓 rooting for that to change, pronto.

Everyone loves a journeyman, right? McGough has traveled a long road to get here, and now he鈥檚 converting from quarterback to wide receiver in his quest to land a roster spot. He went from a seventh-round pick, No. 220 overall, of the Seahawks in 2018 -- fun fact: he鈥檚 the last QB drafted by Seattle -- to bouncing around practice squads, spending time with the Jaguars, Texans, Seahawks (again) but never playing a regular-season snap at quarterback. He finally landed in the USFL with the Birmingham Stallions, where he was the 2023 league MVP after leading the team to the championship. He spent last season on the Packers鈥 practice squad, and head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters last month that McGough is making the move to receiver. "He's a really athletic guy," LaFleur said. "One thing I know you didn't see last year is he spent a lot of time on the practice squad or on the scout team running receiver routes. And he did such a great job. We feel like he's just such a talented athlete, why not give him a chance there? He's a smart guy, works his tail off -- I think he can definitely contribute on [special teams], as well. So we felt like that might be his chance here." McGough appeared to have recovered by the end of minicamp after it cost him some time earlier this offseason. He鈥檚 a longshot to make the team -- Green Bay's receiver room is brimming with young talents in Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks and Bo Melton -- but what a story it will be if he does earn a spot on the 53.

The Rams aren鈥檛 expecting Fiske to replace Aaron Donald by himself. It will be a group effort to fill the void left by one of the greatest players in league history, but make no mistake, the team was willing to give up a 2025 second-round pick to trade up and draft Fiske 39th overall in April for a reason. Les Snead and Sean McVay clearly see him as a big piece of the puzzle. So, there might be a little more pressure on Fiske than your average second-round pick. He鈥檚 no stranger to rising to the occasion, though, going from a three-star recruit as an offensive lineman to a D-line standout at Western Michigan and then taking his game to a new level in his one season at Florida State. He crushed the pre-draft process, taking the Senior Bowl by storm and putting on one of the best NFL Scouting Combine performances by a defensive tackle in recent history, punctuating the showing with an epic coda to . If would be fun to see his meteoric rise continue as he reunites with FSU teammate and extremely powerful edge rusher Jared Verse in Los Angeles.

The Vikings have not had much success with their draft selections at cornerback in recent years, which is why Griffin, playing on his fourth different team since the start of the 2022 season, is shaping up to be such an important piece for them in 2024. Playing on a one-year, $4.5 million contract, Griffin is in line to start in Brian Flores鈥 defense. I realize we鈥檙e only talking about minicamps, but the results thus far are drawing , with Griffin providing the seasoned leadership Minnesota needs at the position. People forget, but he was a Pro Bowler in 2019. A creative defensive coordinator like Flores might be able to help Griffin have a bounce-back year of sorts and extend his career.

Let鈥檚 not sleep on the Badger鈥檚 abilities, OK? I know he鈥檚 heading into his age-32 season, but he remains one of the best players at his position and should be getting more recognition for it. Mathieu was left off the Pro Bowl roster last season, but he led all safeties with a targeted EPA of -37 (expected points added allowed when the player was targeted as the nearest defender), per Next Gen Stats. That metric is one way to look at how a player affects the offense鈥檚 scoring potential, and as you can see, Mathieu is very good at wiping out the hopes of the team lining up across from him. He鈥檚 also one of only two players who have recorded three or more interceptions in each season since 2017, alongside Justin Simmons. I鈥檓 rooting for Tyrann to get the flowers he deserves in 2024, and I appreciate that he doesn鈥檛 take his opportunities .  

Considering Jones is guaranteed to make $36 million this season, I realize the man doesn鈥檛 need my sympathy. I still have some for him, though. Fed-up Giants fans might not want to hear it, but Dimes doesn鈥檛 seem to catch many breaks on the field. The offensive lines protecting him (or not) were ranked 30th or lower by PFF in each of the last four years. So, yes, it鈥檚 not a surprise he鈥檚 had injury issues. Now he鈥檚 entering a season that could be his last with New York if he doesn鈥檛 play much better, following an offseason in which the Giants tried to . They did give Jones the most talented receiver he鈥檚 ever had on his team, picking Malik Nabers sixth overall. But will it be too little too late? Perhaps. It would be fun -- and unexpected -- to see Jones silence the critics. No one deserves to have a career defined by the one play where you run 80 yards and then fall over without being touched.

It鈥檚 rare for a defensive lineman to play 15 seasons, but to spend each one of those with the same team? Graham is basically a unicorn in today鈥檚 NFL. He鈥檚 not the guy anymore in Philadelphia -- despite logging 17 games in each of the past two seasons, he's only started one -- but he鈥檚 still an important contributor in the D-line rotation. The 36-year-old has always been willing to do the dirty work in the trenches. He has only one double-digit sack season in his career (11 in 2022), but he鈥檚 just 3.5 sacks away from passing Clyde Simmons to move into third place for most sacks by an Eagles player. After signing a one-year deal this offseason, Graham has said he intends for 2024 to be , and it would be cool to see the franchise record holder for regular-season games played -- not to mention one of the Eagles鈥 -- go out on a high note.

Any time a player suffers an injury, it鈥檚 an awful thing that I hate to see, but the Achilles tear sustained by Greenlaw during Super Bowl LVIII is in its own category of freakish misfortune. His season ended after taking 12 snaps in the title game, not during a violent collision that is a staple of Greenlaw鈥檚 game but in a non-contact situation when he attempted to run back onto the field with the rest of the San Francisco defense in the second quarter. Now he鈥檚 in the middle of a recovery that is expected to delay his start to the 2024 season, and he recently said he still sheds a couple tears when he thinks about the moment when the injury occurred. Greenlaw is no stranger to overcoming , so I know not to doubt his drive. Hopefully his health cooperates, and he can get back to playing alongside Fred Warner to form the league鈥檚 best linebacker duo as soon as possible.

Could Witherspoon go from a DROY candidate to a DPOY contender in Year 2? It鈥檚 a big jump to make, but I wouldn鈥檛 put it past him after his stellar debut for the 鈥楬awks. The fifth overall pick in the 2023 draft had the fourth-highest PFF grade among cornerbacks last season. He made plays all over the field, posting three sacks, four QB hits and eight tackles for loss (leading rookie DBs in each category). With defensive guru Mike Macdonald taking over as head coach in Seattle and already singing the young cover man鈥檚 praises -- while also getting a good feel for his versatility -- I鈥檓 excited to see if Witherspoon can take the next step in 2024.

Breakout candidate alert! The Buccaneers traded Carlton Davis to the Lions and didn鈥檛 make any big moves to replace him, which means someone needs to step up at cornerback for Tampa Bay. The opportunity McCollum has been waiting for is right in front of him. A fifth-round pick out of Sam Houston State in 2022, he actually played the most snaps of any Bucs CB last season, but this will be his first real chance to claim a full-time starting role from the jump. Known as a playmaker in college, with 13 interceptions during his Bearkats career, McCollum has yet to translate those skills to the big stage. The Bucs are clearly bullish about the 25-year-old, though. And with the size/speed combination, I鈥檓 intrigued.

McLaurin has long deserved better than the chaos that has often surrounded him in Washington, but it鈥檚 never stopped the former third-round pick from providing steady leadership and primo production. He accounts for 28.2 percent of the Commanders鈥 receiving yards since entering the league in 2019, which is the highest share of any team鈥檚 combined receiving yards during that span. And he鈥檚 done so with no consistency at quarterback. McLaurin can become the first player to post five straight seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards with each coming from a different primary starting QB. It seems likely he鈥檒l accomplish the feat in 2024 with throws coming from immensely talented second overall pick Jayden Daniels, who has a chance to provide the stability McLaurin has never experienced in the NFL.

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