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Tuesday, April 16, 2013
West QB ranks: Debate from top to bottom

By Mike Sando

As promised, Matt Williamson is here to discuss the NFC West positional rankings posted Monday and republished in the chart at right. Matt has been a regular on the blog for some time as the NFL scout for ESPN.com. We spent about an hour on the phone Tuesday running through each position. We begin with quarterbacks.

Sando: Just to be clear, Matt, we're talking about ranking positions for the 2013 season. We're not projecting how positions could take shape in a year or two. I know you've been a huge Colin Kaepernick supporter going back to when the San Francisco 49ers drafted him. You still gave the Seattle Seahawks your No. 1 ranking at quarterback. Why?

Williamson: It wasn't an easy decision. I clearly think the race for one-two is between Kaepernick and Wilson. We could make an argument that Carson Palmer belongs above Sam Bradford, too. If I were starting a team from scratch and could pick one of these NFC West quarterbacks to build around, I'd take Kaepernick. I just think Wilson is further along. There is a greater chance Kaepernick falls back next year than Wilson falls back. Wilson has proved he can be a pocket passer. All the other things come after that. Wilson is the safer pick right now.

Sando: That sounds reasonable to me. Wilson started all 16 games, plus two playoff games. The body of work was bigger for him. However, Kaepernick had a year on the bench and a half-year on the sideline before taking over the 49ers' offense and playing a leading role in their run to the Super Bowl. There's a lot to like.

Williamson: If I were starting a team, Kaepernick and Wilson would rank among my top five picks. The upside for Kaepernick is so great. I don't expect him to take a step back. I just don't think he is as far along as Wilson in the fundamentals of quarterback play. Wilson coming into the league was ahead of Kaepernick in terms of being a pocket passer, reading defenses, not relying on his physical gifts so much and just in the mental side of things.

Sando: Both these quarterbacks were first-time NFL starters last season. Skeptics might naturally wonder if sophomore slumps await (even though Kaepernick will be in his third season overall). What do you expect?

Williamson: Every defensive coordinator on the Seahawks' schedule is spending time on Russell Wilson where they were not doing so last year at this time, but I don't think we're going to see a sophomore slump. Usually when I think of those, it's like the pitcher who lights up the majors and then everyone realizes he has no curveball. I don't see the hole in Wilson's game or Kaepernick's game.

Sando: Both the Seahawks and 49ers should be in better position to help their quarterbacks this season. Neither team will be adjusting to a new starter on the fly. Let's shift our focus to the other starting quarterbacks in the division. You ranked the Rams third and the Cardinals fourth, but it sounds like you could have gone either way.

Williamson: I didn't have a really difficult time taking Bradford over Palmer. I think he is the better player, but not by much. Palmer had awful circumstances last year and you could say he and Bradford had somewhat similar seasons. Now, it's not like Bradford had a great situation, either. Palmer makes more mistakes than Bradford makes, but he also makes more things happen. Who do I want on opening day? I'll take Bradford. He just hasn't done a whole lot to this point.

Sando: Thanks, Matt. We're one position down and have quite a few to go. We'll pick up the discussion with rankings for running backs a bit later.