Monday, April 22, 2013
West pre-draft rankings: Closing thoughts
By Mike Sando
The NFL does not crown division champs in April. Matt Williamson and I kept that in mind when breaking down his pre-draft positional rankings for NFC West teams.
Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, wraps up the series with thoughts on where NFC West teams stand overall.
Williamson: I think Seattle is the best team in the league right now.
Sando: Spoiler alert.
Williamson: The 49ers are the second-best team. The Rams are maybe 12th or in that neighborhood and a very legitimate playoff contender, particularly if they were in another division. But it wouldn't shock me if three teams from this division made the postseason.
Sando: Arizona sends its regards.
Williamson: I think Arizona is underrated, definitely better than most people probably realize. Carson Palmer will help. Bruce Arians will help. Everyone talks about Palmer getting crushed behind that Arizona line, but Arians can scheme that up.
Sando: Andrew Luck was under duress or hit while throwing more than any quarterback in the NFL last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Arians was running that Colts offense. At the same time, Palmer has done a good job over his career getting rid of the football. He takes relatively few sacks.
Williamson: Ben Roethlisberger took hits when Arians was coordinating the Steelers' offense, but they still had a great offense throwing the deep ball with a bad offensive line. That was even more true with Indy. It's not like this coach [Arians] has never played with a bad offensive line.
Sando: Palmer will certainly benefit from playing with Larry Fitzgerald and a strong group of wide receivers.
Williamson: Last year, if you watched Raiders, Palmer had extreme knuckleheads playing receiver, running the wrong routes, dropping the ball. He’ll throw too many picks, but his circumstances will be better in Arizona.
Sando: It's only fitting we go on at some length about Arizona. We've spent quite a bit of time anointing Seattle and Arizona while pointing to what should be a bright future in St. Louis with all those draft choices.
Williamson: It just dawned on me that I ranked Seattle first or second on my list at every position but tight end. San Franciso actually has a couple fours. Some of these are pretty debatable, of course.
Sando: No question. The gap between first and fourth on the defensive line is miniscule. It's laughable in some ways to rank the 49ers fourth at more than one position on defense until you realize fourth in this division can still be really good. Back to the Cardinals, though. What do you think of their additions at running back?
Williamson: Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, one can be very legit. The offensive line has to be better. It wasn't as bad in the second half of last season. They got an awful player off the field when they moved on from D'Anthony Batiste. Now you throw in Levi Brown and you are, say, the 25th-best line.
Sando: Sounds like the Cardinals think they'll be better than that. They could address the position in the draft, too. They will.
Williamson: Levi Brown is much better than a guy off the street, which is what Batiste was. I feel bad for Ken Whisenhunt. He had no chance.
Sando: We're out of time. Thanks for doing this, Matt. We'll revisit the rankings down the line.