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Thursday, May 6, 2010
How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Steven Jackson, Rams RB: The player the Rams need most -- their only draft choice of the 2000s to earn a Pro Bowl berth -- should be ready for training camp. That's good for Jackson and good for the Rams. But the news that Jackson underwent back surgery in April meant Jackson's symptoms did not improve enough on their own. Minimally invasive procedures allow doctors to address a herniated disk without traumatizing surrounding areas. There's a good chance Jackson will move past this injury and continue to produce at a high level. Surgery still stands down the list of preferred options. Jackson turns 27 this summer and injuries have slowed him each of the past three seasons. His back surgery serves as a reminder that Jackson's hard-charging style comes with a price.

Rising

Patrick Willis, 49ers LB: Getting Willis re-signed through the 2016 season stands as a victory for the 49ers and certainly for Willis, who enters his fourth NFL season knowing he fits prominently into the team's long-term plans. There should have been little doubt. The 49ers were never going to let Willis get away. Money talks, however, and this deal shouts Willis' status as the best young inside linebacker in the game. The timing for an extension didn't seem right. The NFL labor situation made it harder for teams to structure extensions in ways that worked for both parties. Willis was also coming off knee surgery that, while minor, had sidelined him this offseason. Willis becomes one of the few high-profile players to transcend the current labor uncertainty.