It's about time to turn in my first ESPN.com power rankings ballot of the 2011 season.
John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky, James Walker and I are back on the panel. We've added Ashley Fox this season. We'll be taking into account decisions made in the draft and free agency when determining which teams should rank where on this initial effort. The rankings appear on the site next week.
I'm interested in your thoughts, points, counterpoints, theories and asides on the NFC West race in particular. I'll get the conversation going by offering four statements, one per team, explaining why that team should receive your consideration. I've listed the statements by order of finish from the 2010 standings:
Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll won this division once already without seriously trying. Rebuilding was the priority in 2010. Those efforts continue this season with superior talent on the offensive line, a dynamic threat at receiver in Sidney Rice, a young Pro Bowl tight end in Zach Miller and arguably the best pure pass-rusher in the division (Chris Clemons).
St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford ran out of receivers last season or the Rams might have won the division in his rookie year. The team solidified its offensive line with Harvey Dahl, drafted a tight end early, loaded up on depth at receiver, patched holes on defense and added pass-rush help through the draft with Robert Quinn.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers needed improved coaching on offense, specifically at quarterback, and they moved aggressively in landing Jim Harbaugh. San Francisco has a young offensive line stocked with high draft choices. Frank Gore is healthy, Vernon Davis is the most dynamic big-play threat in the division and the defense ... well, what to make of it? Hey, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis are back. Those are two elite players to build around.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals needed new life at quarterback and got it with Kevin Kolb. Even average play from Kolb should make Arizona competitive within the division again. Getting Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson healthy will help on defense. Watch out for Patrick Peterson's impact at cornerback and in the return game. Oh, and don't forget about Larry Fitzgerald. Imagine what he'll do with decent quarterback play.
OK, fire away. I'll feature your most compelling comments in a future blog entry.