West WR ranks: Fitzgerald, Harvin lead way

Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin are new to the NFC West this offseason. Larry Fitzgerald remains the standard for wide receivers in the division, however, and his Arizona Cardinals own the NFC West's top wideouts overall.

That is the way Matt Williamson sees things, anyway. Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, was eager to discuss this position after his rankings generated debate when published Monday night. The chart at right reproduces those rankings for reference.

Matt Williamson Ranks West by Position

So, after discussing rankings for quarterbacks and running backs earlier Tuesday, we push forward with receivers.

Williamson: I don't know how you would argue against Arizona as No. 1. Larry is the best guy in the division. I like Michael Floyd, I like Andre Roberts. That is a pretty good threesome. Fitz makes them No. 1, and right off the top, St Louis has to be four. The Rams don't compete with the other three teams in this one.

Sando: No arguments here. The Rams do have potential at the position with Chris Givens and Brian Quick, but there's not as much to go on. The Arizona guys will benefit a great deal from Carson Palmer's arrival as quarterback. Last year was really the first time the quarterback play was so bad in Arizona that Fitzgerald couldn't get his numbers. Palmer isn't Kurt Warner, but he's a lot closer to Warner than what the Cardinals played with at quarterback most of last season.

Williamson: Everyone talks about Palmer getting crushed behind that offensive line, but Bruce Arians can scheme that up. Ben Roethlisberger took hits in Pittsburgh when Arians was there, but they still had a great offense throwing deep with a bad offensive line. That was even more true with Arians in Indy last year.

Sando: Palmer gets the ball out, too. Let's jump forward to the Seahawks and 49ers. Ranking Seattle's wide receivers over their San Francisco counterparts sparked a ton of debate. That's just the nature of the division right now. You can't say one thing nice about the Seahawks without 49ers fans taking offense, and vice versa. It's a lot of fun. For this discussion here, we're basically talking about Harvin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate against Michael Crabtree and Boldin.

Williamson: I'll take Harvin every day over Crabtree and that is not a knock on Crabtree. Harvin is more dynamic, more versatile. He frightens defenses way more. You can do so much more with him. He has big-play ability and is just a better football player. When I rank the wide receivers in this division, it goes Larry, Harvin and Crabtree, but Harvin is closer to Fitz than Crabtree is to Harvin.

Sando: Are you projecting bigger things for Harvin now that he has a better quarterback?

Williamson: Harvin was unbelievable last year with the Vikings and no one was paying attention. He was one of the five best players in the league last year, until he got hurt. He doesn't have to be the typical 1,000-yard receiver to be effective. He factors as a returner, a decoy and getting the ball to him however you can, including as a runner. Defensive coordinators will lose sleep all week preparing for him.

Sando: The 49ers were also in on the Harvin trade talks, but they weren't willing to give up what the Seahawks gave up. They did get Boldin. Do you like the move?

Williamson: I like Boldin. I like the fit, too. I love Boldlin as a run blocker. They have all those diverse schemes in the run game. They will use Boldin like the Steelers used Hines Ward, but times 10. He will spring a lot of runs. He is almost a tight end, a 4.7-flat guy. He doesn't get open. He beats people for the ball.

Sando: A.J. Jenkins is a key variable with this receiving group in San Francisco. The 49ers got nothing from him as a rookie last season. Jenkins hardly played. But as a first-round pick, 30th overall, he should begin to factor this season.

Williamson: I think he is a diamond in the rough still. They loved him 365 days ago. He is more of a Colin Kaepernick guy than an Alex smith player. I'm not ready to brush dirt on him. It would be nice if the 49ers had a true deep threat. They don't have their burner any more. I'm not sure Mario Manningham even counts. Jenkins could be that guy.