We are three posts into our rankings of the NFC West by position, and thus far its been a clean sweep by the Seattle Seahawks. Jimmy Graham, Marshawn Lynch and Earl Thomas are simply some of the best at what they do at their positions, and though I actually like the San Francisco 49ers at all three of those positions, the 49ers couldn't compete.
I feel like it was the closest at safety, given Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid, but I still couldn't justify putting the Seahawks below. But if it's a fight for the top spot, today's rankings aren't a fight with the Seahawks. In fact, they're not in the picture at all. It's a fight with the Arizona Cardinals, and its over the wide receiver position.
That's right, arguably one of the biggest concerns of this team over the past several years, the 49ers might just lead the way at wide receiver when it comes to the NFC West. These players are taken from official rosters.
San Francisco 49ers with Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, Jerome Simpson, DeAndre Smelter, Chuck Jacobs
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers to ever play the game and I don't think anybody has had hands like his since Jerry Rice. That's as high a compliment you'll ever receive from a 49ers fan, but at this stage in his career, I think Anquan Boldin is the better receiver. Boldin was more productive last season, with 83 receptions for 1,062 yards and five touchdowns on a passing offense that simply wasn't good.
After Boldin, things get interesting. Torrey Smith could be just what the 49ers offense needs. Smith is a deep threat, but he's also capable at actually fighting with defenders, and could be the first guy to properly keep up with Colin Kaepernick's deep ball and could be the 49ers' leading receiver next season.
After Boldin and Smith, there's a lot of guys with a lot of potential, but none of them have shown much to this point. Jerome Simpson has the potential to be very good out of the slot, but he's an awful lot of time removed from being a productive wide receiver. Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington will be battling for playing time and if it becomes tough to choose between them, hopefully it's because they're both good, not that they're both struggling.
Arizona Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, JJ Nelson, Jaron Brown, Ryan Spadola, Brittan Golden, Trevor Harman
You really can't give Fitzgerald more praise than I did above. At this stage, he's probably the No. 2 receiver on the Cardinals behind Michael Floyd. Fitzgerald still has enough left in the tank to be a dangerous weapon for Carson Palmer, an extremely underrated quarterback at this stage of his career.
Floyd led the Cardinals with 47 receptions for 841 yards and six touchdowns last season. He's a solid receiver, but ultimately I think at this stage, Boldin and Smith are both better than Fitzgerald and Floyd. Behind those guys, you have John Brown, who admittedly has shown more than Ellington or Patton at this stage. He caught 48 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns last season, so that's where the Cardinals have an edge.
Seattle Seahawks with Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette, Chris Matthews, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Kevin Smith, Tyler Lockette
The Seahawks have had middling production from their wide receivers for years, and this year's unit is uninspiring as well. Recognizing this, the Seahawks went out and traded for tight end Jimmy Graham, who will certainly be Russell Wilson's favorite target next season.
But actually at the receiver position, Doug Baldwin is the top guy and he's proven to be a fairly decent receiver, though he fits better as a No. 2 guy. Jermaine Kearse is a middling receiver behind him, with guys like Paul Richardson and Ricardo Lockette having more potential than they do value at this stage in their careers. Chris Matthews is the guy who made headlines for his play in the Super Bowl, but as to whether or not he can actually find his way onto the field this season, I have no idea.
Whatever the case, Baldwin is better than anybody on the Rams.
St. Louis Rams with Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Damian Williams, Tyler Slavin
The St. Louis Rams have continually disappointed at the wide receiver position over the years. I don't think Tavon Austin is worth anywhere close to what the team spent on him, guys like Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey and Chris Givens don't inspire a whole lot of confidence and the Rams have shifted their focus to the running game.
Kenny Britt is the x-factor for the Rams. I had no idea what to expect out of him when the Rams brought him in this past season, and I doubt the Rams had a serious idea either. But Britt was actually quite solid last season, catching 48 of the 84 passes thrown his way for 748 yards and three touchdowns. I don't know what kind of ceiling Britt has at this stage of his career, but if he put up 1,000-plus yards next season it wouldn't be the most shocking thing to ever happen.