Ranking NFC West's top offensive players

May, 31, 2011
5/31/11
1:41
PM ET
ESPN.com's offseason NFL Power Rankings continue later Tuesday with a look at the 10 best offensive players among non-quarterbacks heading into the 2011 season.

Paul Kuharsky will have the story on his AFC South blog.

[+] EnlargeSteven Jackson
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireRams running back Steven Jackson rushed for 1,241 yards last season.
My ballot will take into account the way I ranked running backs, tight ends and wide receivers earlier in the series (see chart). A few NFC West thoughts after revisiting past rankings:

  • The St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson ranked fourth on my ballot for running backs even though some say he's lost a step. I appreciate the passion and toughness Jackson shows in playing through injuries and amid unfavorable circumstances. Those qualities might have led me to rank Jackson higher than his 2011 production would merit.
  • The San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore must bounce back from a hip injury to maintain such high standing. Clearance from agent Drew Rosenhaus is consistent with expectations the 49ers set previously.
  • Beanie Wells didn't come close to cracking the list of running backs, a disappointment after the Arizona Cardinals made Wells the 31st player chosen in the 2009 draft. This looks like a make-or-break season for Wells in Arizona.
  • Another NFC West disappointment: Seattle's John Carlson got no votes in balloting for tight ends. Carlson's production as a receiver has diminished every season, following an overall offensive nosedive. He was a player former coach Mike Holmgren coveted. Might the Seahawks' return to more of a Holmgren-style passing game benefit Carlson?
  • The NFC West should have more than one tight end cracking the top 10 in the next few seasons. The division has stocked up on the position. Vernon Davis, Carlson, Lance Kendricks and Rob Housler were all drafted in the first three rounds.
  • The Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald has been, at times, the best wide receiver in the NFL. The two receivers I ranked ahead of him -- Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson -- combine Fitzgerald's size with superior speed. Fitzgerald's playoff production following the 2009 season set him apart for a while.
  • The 49ers' Michael Crabtree has the talent to challenge for a spot among the top receivers. He needs quarterback help and greater consistency. Davis' role in the offense could make it tougher for Crabtree to amass raw numbers in terms of receptions.

What about offensive linemen? They'll be part of the overall top 10 as well. We're ranking left tackles next week.


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