West OL ranks: 49ers first, but who's No. 2?

April, 17, 2013
4/17/13
12:45
PM ET
Three of four starting NFC West left tackles have been named to start a Pro Bowl over the past few seasons.

The fourth, Levi Brown, was drafted fifth overall in 2007.

From 2009 through 2011, NFC West teams used five first-round selections for offensive linemen, more than any other division.

Results have been mixed. Overall, however, the lines in this division should be on the rise. There is still quite a bit of variance top to bottom.

Matt Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, picks up the conversation from there as part of our ongoing series ranking NFC West position groups.

Williamson: San Francisco has the best offensive line in the league. The 49ers bring back all five starters. They are loaded. Arizona has one of the worst lines in the league, although I think it will be better. Brown is back from injury. Bobby Massie and Nate Potter will be better in their second seasons. All the draft analysts seem to think the Cardinals need a tackle. They really need a guard. That is the weakest spot on the line, right guard.

Sando: I was pretty surprised when the Cardinals gave decent starting money to Adam Snyder in free agency last offseason. He's most valuable for his versatility and would be ideally suited as the sixth man for any line.

Williamson: Snyder is terrible. I don't think they'll draft Chance Warmack seventh overall. They need an outside pass-rusher. Still, they should strongly consider Warmack. He would help their line more than anybody.

[+] EnlargeChance Warmack
AP Photo/Dave MartinESPN's Matt Williamson says Alabama guard Chance Warmack would fill a glaring need for Arizona.
Sando: Arians and general manager Steve Keim think the line will be vastly improved this season for some of the reasons you outlined. I tend to agree. The line already improved once D'Anthony Batiste left the lineup. Beyond Arizona, you've got Seattle with the second-best line in the division. Was that a tough call for the second spot?

Williamson: I think you could make an argument between the Seahawks and the Rams O-lines. The Rams' line has been so bad for so long that it's easy to say they stink. But look at them player by player. They have four quality starters now that Jake Long is the left tackle. Age and/or injury is a big issue for three of the four. I think they should draft Warmack on Jonathan Cooper over a wideout. Add one of those guards to the line and you'd have five solid starters. Not many teams can say they have that.

Sando: There is definitely a tendency for people to pencil in a wide receiver for the Rams in the first round. If there is a truly elite WR prospect available, I'd have no problem with that. But there's absolutely no need to force a wideout in the first round. The Rams already have developmental prospects at the position. Using a first-round pick for another Brian Quick really wouldn't make sense if an immediate starter were available for the line.

Williamson: Guard is a bigger need than wideout, with safety being the biggest need. Rams fans will go crazy if they end up with Cooper and Kenny Vaccaro, but to me that would be a home run. Jared Cook is a wideout. Quick will be a good player. Givens already is good. He emerged. And if you can protect, Givens will be that much better.

Sando: Let's get back to the debate between Seattle and St. Louis for the No. 2 line in the division. The Seahawks have two Pro Bowlers on their line in center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung. They're not all that great elsewhere on the line.

Williamson: Seattle has the two best guys from either team's line. If you asked 100 people to rank these guys, 98 would put Seattle over St. Louis, but it's much closer than people think. That right side of the offensive line in Seattle scares me. Before the Percy Harvin trade, I would have said D.J. Fluker was who I would add to Seattle -- the biggest, nastiest pure right tackle and guard to compete with the physicality of the Niners.


Sando: The Seahawks don't have a first-round pick now, and I'm not sure they see the line as a primary need. For reference, NFC West teams have drafted 10 offensive linemen in the first three rounds over the past five drafts. Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, Okung, Unger and Rodger Saffold became starters. Chilo Rachal, James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Jason Smith and John Greco haven't produced and have moved on in some cases.

Williamson: No picks for Arizona in there.

Sando: Right. That will presumably change this year. To your point about the right side of Seattle's line scaring you, we should note that right tackle Breno Giacomini gives the Seahawks a physical, nasty presence. He has played to negative reviews, but I think Seattle likes him.

Williamson: Breno has been serviceable. Marshawn Lynch has room to run. I think they have two good players and then a bunch of guys. I do think the whole is greater than sum of the parts. There is some truth to that in Seattle, which goes to coaching.

Sando: That really was true for the Rams last season as well. Adding Long lets them move Saffold to right tackle, an upgrade from Barry Richardson last season. Scott Wells' return to the lineup for the final seven games last season went under the radar a little bit. His presence for a full season could help Sam Bradford. But there are injury concerns across the board for the Rams on their line. Adding a starting guard through the draft would certainly improve the outlook.

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