So here's a position that's a bit of an oddity. When I started taking a look at each position in the NFC West, I thought the wide receiver position was going to be the most difficult. Now that Michael Crabtree has torn his Achilles tendon, I think things are a little clearer.
The San Francisco 49ers started to look pretty good at receiver before Crabtree's injury. They might have been at the top of these rankings, just based on here-and-now production, but after the injuries, I can't place them there. So then I look to both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, and I .... don't know which way to go.
Arizona's receivers struggled last season, but they haven't had a real quarterback since Kurt Warner retired with his walker. Seattle's receivers are looking good right now, but none of them have ever lived up to their expectations throughout their careers. It's all a little confusing for me. I think these rankings are mostly interchangeable, but here it goes.
1. Arizona Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Ryan Swope, LaRon Byrd
Larry Fitzgerald is the best wide receiver in the division, and it's not even close. Anybody who disagrees with this is fooling themselves. True, Fitzgerald had a poor season last year, with under 800 yards and a general lack of domination in the realm of highlight reels, but let me list off some names for you:
Those are all quarterbacks who threw the football last season. Fitzgerald will rebound. Behind him, Michael Floyd seems to be on the up-and-up. He hasn't quite reached his potential just yet but if Carson Palmer can manage to stay off his back, Floyd could have a breakout year. Andre Roberts is solid and Ryan Swope has a ton of potential.
2. Seattle Seahawks with Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Chris Harper
Sidney Rice will probably have more yards than Percy Harvin next year. That's just my opinion, as I think the Harvin trade wasn't a good deal at all. Rice is a pretty good receiver who will probably sit around the 800-yard mark for the next few years.
Harvin does have the potential to do big things, even if my personal expectation is that he won't. He's as quick and agile as they come, and he's a competent route runner, even though he's not often asked to do much in that vein. Will he turn out to be worth that first-round pick? I doubt it, but he's more proven than many of the receivers in the division.
Golden Tate is a pretty good, if unremarkable receiver. Same goes for Doug Baldwin.
3. San Francisco 49ers with Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton, Ricardo Lockette
If we were to include tight ends in the equation, the 49ers would definitely be above the Seahawks and possibly up on top, but that's not the case. Crabtree would also sway things in their favor, but for now, we have to keep him out of the equation. Anquan Boldin, going by the stats, is the second-best receiver in the division, though he's slowing down and may not have more than one good season left in him.
On top of that, it will be interesting to see how he fares with the coverage that will be on him that wasn't there in Baltimore. Mario Manningham inspires confidence for sure, but he's recovering from an injury, along with Kyle Williams.
There are three young receivers with all the potential in the world, but only two proven guys. Fortunately, those proven guys have been pretty effective in the past, and that's what puts the 49ers above the St. Louis Rams at this point.
4. St. Louis Rams with Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis
Here's another position that our Rams blog, Turf Show Times, had themselves on top. They put the Rams receivers on top because Sam Bradford will be "slinging" it everywhere this season. You know, despite their top receiver being a rookie.
Tavon Austin will probably be pretty good in the NFL, though I see him as being a better returner than a wide receiver. He'll come in and make some flashy plays but I don't think he was worth what the Rams gave up. Austin Pettis, Brian Quick and Chris Givens are all just OK, though Quick does have some solid potential.
Stedman Bailey is where the Rams get interesting. He was better than Austin in college and I think he'll be a much more consistent and polished receiver at the next level. Bailey could take this unit much higher than they are now, though he could just as easily flame out.