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How do the 49ers stack up in the division? Ranking each position in the NFC West by team

Las Vegas Raiders v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

As we approach Week 1, I thought it would be fun to preview the NFC West by ranking the best team at each position, getting a better glimpse at the strengths and weaknesses of each team to gain a better understanding of what the path to a potential divisional title might look like.

Depth will play a key role in my rankings, but positional value and circumstance will also weigh heavily on how much top-end talent will factor in as well.

Quarterback

  1. Seattle Seahawks
    The division is absolutely loaded at the quarterback position, but Russell Wilson has ascended to a level that has been unmatched in recent memory by any other player in the discussion. Wilson’s ability to consistently raise the floor of an otherwise unimpressive roster cannot be understated, as he looks to take an even bigger leap this year under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.

2. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams made a bold move to acquire Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions to upgrade from former #1 overall pick Jared Goff, who was starting in the Super Bowl for Los Angeles not even three years ago. While Goff was mostly competent, Stafford has the arm talent to take this offense into the Stratosphere. Stafford has always had the ability to create big plays, but now he gets a chance to operate in an extremely quarterback-friendly scheme which will likely boost his overall efficiency.

3. Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury head into year three in the desert together, with the latter likely on the hot seat, should the former not take a leap forward in 2021. Although Murray has an excellent arm and the ability to attack defenses with his legs, the biggest question is will Kingsbury make the necessary scheme adjustments to get the best out of the dual-threat quarterback?

4. San Francisco 49ers

While the 49ers may have the best 1-2 punch at the position, they’re also the only team in the division which has had to spend this much time worrying about whoever is playing behind the starter. Jimmy Garoppolo appears slated to be the starter to kick off the season. While Garoppolo is a more than capable NFL quarterback, he also is not in the same league as the other three when it comes to a talent standpoint.

Running Backs

1. San Fransisco 49ers

Depth comes into play a bit more here, and the 49ers have no shortage of that in their running back room. The backfield looks to be headlined by the tandem of Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon, an electric duo whose skillsets play well off one another with the home run speed of Mostert and the ability to run through contact Sermon possesses. In addition, rookie Elijah Mitchell provides a decent insurance policy in the event Mostert misses any time.

2. Seattle Seahawks

Chris Carson is arguably one of the most underrated players in the league, a powerful runner with sneaky good speed. The depth behind Carson is solid too, second-year player Deejay Dallas had a phenomenal preseason and looks to be a regular contributor to the offense. Alex Collins and former first-round pick Rashaad Penny round out the rest of the backfield.

3. Los Angeles Rams

Before the Cam Akers injury, I probably would have had the Rams in second with a chance to push for the top spot, but even in his absence, this is a more than formidable group, led by Darrell Henderson Jr. and the newly acquired Sony Michel. Sean McVay is going to get the best out of whoever is contributing to this run game regardless, but he has a sneaky good 1-2 punch in his backfield for 2021/

4. Arizona Cardinals

Chase Edmonds is a solid player but the size concerns coupled with his limited workload on the ground (only two games last year with more than 10 carries) likely limit his ceiling. James Conner is a proven veteran, but one who comes with durability concerns. The Cardinals can likely find some serviceable rushing attack between the two, but Murray remains the greatest weapon on the team in the ground game.

Wide Receiver

1. Seattle Seahawks

The top-end talent of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett weighs heavily on this ranking. However, the talent and production cannot be ignored as both finished 2020 with over 1000 receiving yards. Also in the fold now is rookie Dwayne Eskridge, who provides an elite speed threat to stretch the field, which should help open up the field a bit for the aforementioned Metcalf and Lockett.

2. Los Angeles Rams

For years Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have been overlooked for some time, and yet year after year, the duo produces with the best of them. Beyond those two, the Rams boast some fantastic depth, as second-year player Van Jefferson looks to take that next step, and veteran DeSean Jackson adds another playmaker to an already loaded group.

3. Arizona Cardinals

Deandre Hopkins is the most talented wide receiver in the division, but the question marks beyond him drop the Cardinals to the third spot. Former All-Pro AJ Green is in the mix now, but at this point, it’s unrealistic to expect Green to perform at the level he did prior to a string of lower-body injuries that have plagued the once superstar wide receiver for years. LOVE Rondale Moor. If Kingsbury finds creative ways to get the ball in his hands; the offense will take a big step forward as a result

4. San Fransisco 49ers

The Tandem of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk is certainly nothing to scoff at, but the depth beyond those two is ultimately what puts the 49ers at the 4th spot. If Trent Sherfield plays the way he did during the preseason, and veteran Mohamed Sanu can string together a decent season, then this group likely moves above Arizona. However, I have a hard time placing this group above any of the other three teams.

Tight End

  1. San Francisco 49ers

This one is a no-brainer, in my opinion. George Kittle is a superstar. Ross Dwelley might have the best hands on the team, and Charlie Woerner looks poised to leap forward in year two. This group, by far, is the most talented, and both Kittle and Dwelley have proven track records as viable receiving options at the NFL level. Not much to discuss here.

2. Los Angeles Rams

This one was tough, as I went back and forth with the Rams and Seahawks for this spot before ultimately deciding on Los Angeles. The room is largely unproven beyond Tyler Higbee, but his talent, coupled with the fact the Rams don’t often run two tight end sets, made me ultimately side with them over Seattle for the second spot.

3. Seattle Seahawks

This group led by Gerald Everett and Will Dissly narrowly missed out on the second spot, with both tight ends being at least proven as capable pass catchers at the NFL level. Everett can be a favorite of quarterback Russell Wilson, who tends to push the ball up the seam. Dissly looks to rebound from a disappointing 2020 and gets back to the level of play he was at before suffering a season-ending injury midway through the season in 2019.

4. Arizona Cardinals

Not much to add here. The position group as a whole is largely underwhelming, led by Maxx Williams. Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t really prioritized targeting the position, as Williams has logged less than 20 targets in each of the two seasons Kingsbury has been the coach. Darell Daniels and Demetrius Harris fill out the room, combining for 91 catches in 147 career games between the two.

Offensive Line

1. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers boast the best individual talent (Trent Williams) and the strongest starting five in the division. While there is uncertainty around Daniel Brunskill and the starting right guard spot, the rest of the line is more than adequate. Mike McGlinchey remains one of the best run-blocking linemen in football, and veteran Alex Mack has appeared to stabilize the interior.

2. Los Angeles Rams

Andrew Whitworth is still a stud at left tackle, even at the age of 40. Rob Havenstein quietly had a solid 2020 campaign, and Austin Corbett is an above-average run blocker who is more than capable in pass protection. Beyond Whitworth, there isn’t an objective star here, but the group as a whole is certainly solid, in my opinion.

3. Seattle Seahawks

Led by left tackle Duane Brown who is now entering his 15th season, the often ridiculed Seattle offensive line is better than it gets credit for. The addition of Gabe Jackson and the development of Damien Lewis should certainly help fortify the line, and Brandon Shell was an under-the-radar addition last season that objectively was an upgrade over the player he was replacing (Germain Ifedi).

4. Arizona Cardinals

I don’t understand how the Cardinals have continued to avoid improving at either tackle spot year after year. The addition of former all-pro center Rodney Hudson was a step in the right direction, but his presence alone will not make up for the lack of talent everywhere else on this line. I feel like this group is far and away from the worst in the division.

Final Notes on the 49ers

I have the 49ers at the top spot for three of the five-position groups while also having them last for the other two. The important thing to note is even though I ranked them last in the division. I don’t think the 49ers' wide receivers or quarterbacks are a glaring hole on this roster the same way Arizona’s offensive line is. They happen to be not as good as the other teams in the division who boast tremendous talent at both those spots.

The talent present on the offensive line and at running back should bode well for a team looking to run the ball as often as San Francisco does. In addition, if they get even average QB play, it will boost the value of the wide receivers and likely put the team on a trajectory for serious contention when you consider how strong the rest of the roster is top to bottom.