Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Sifting through Top 50 players in NFL
By Mike Sando
The NFC West placed four players on Matt Williamson's midseason top 50 list for the NFL.
That included two in the top 10.
Two additional NFC West players showed up on a list of 10 up-and-comers. Nine more appeared on an 18-man list underneath the up-and-comers ("others of note").
Insider subscribers can check out the full list, with explanations.
My thoughts on the NFC West representation:
San Francisco 49ers (six total)
Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers (ninth): Willis has demonstrated his dominance for years. His versatility has stood out this season, particularly when Willis matched up with Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew and limited him to 42 yards on eight receptions. Pettigrew scored a touchdown, but Willis defended that play very well, too.
Justin Smith, DE, 49ers (10th): Williamson's explanation for this choice is perfect. He asks any doubters to watch Smith play a full game. Any game. They're all outstanding.
NaVorro Bowman, LB, 49ers (up-and-comer): Bowman is making some of the pursuit plays that Willis made in past seasons. He's playing at a Pro Bowl level and appears worthy of top 50 consideration with additional playing time.
Mike Iupati, LG, 49ers (others of note): The 49ers' offensive line has shown improvement over the course of the season. Iupati is the best player on the line even though left tackle Joe Staley has more receptions.
Ray McDonald, DE, 49ers (others of note): The 49ers made a statement when they signed McDonald to a long-term deal and named him their starter. McDonald has met or exceeded expectations.
Aldon Smith, OLB, 49ers (others of note): Smith has 6.5 sacks playing primarily as a defensive end in the 49ers' sub packages.
Seattle Seahawks (four total)
Chris Clemons, DE, Seahawks (37th): Seeing Clemons listed before big names such as Jake Long and Ray Lewis shows Williamson watches the games. The Seahawks feel as though Clemons deserves strong Pro Bowl consideration. Clemons lacks name recognition, but he is on pace to become the first Seattle player since Michael Sinclair to record back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks. He's strong against the run, too.
Kam Chancellor, SS, Seahawks (others of note): Coach Pete Carroll covets players with what he considers "unique" characteristics. Very few strong safeties hit the way Chancellor hits.
Earl Thomas, FS, Seahawks (others of note): Thomas combines with Chancellor to give Seattle a highly promising pair of young safeties. Thomas has only one interception. I expected him to have more based on how he played through most of the season's first half.
Max Unger, C, Seahawks (others of note): Unger has shown great improvement in recent weeks. I was surprised to see his name on this list. Again, though, it shows Williamson is watching the games.
Arizona Cardinals (three total)
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals (12th): Fitzgerald is averaging 17.0 yards per reception, which would be a career high by more than two yards. His reception totals are lagging. I suspect that is partly because the team has new options at tight end for shorter receptions. Early Doucet has also become the top target on third down.
Calais Campbell, DE, Cardinals (others of note): Campbell can dominate like few other defensive linemen in the division. He's on pace for 10 sacks, outstanding production for a 3-4 defensive end. Campbell is also a threat to block field goals, as the Rams saw Sunday.
Daryl Washington, LB, Cardinals (others of note): Washington has two sacks, four passes defensed and an interception. He's quick and active.
St. Louis Rams (two total)
Chris Long, DE, Rams (up-and-comer): Williamson called Long easily the best player on the field when the Rams beat the New Orleans Saints. The Rams haven't been in favorable pass-rush situations often, but Long still appears likely to reach double-digit sacks for the first time.
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (others of note): Bradford is not the problem in St. Louis. He is no less promising. But the results have not been there.