Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Re-ranking West's WR corps after injuries
By Mike Sando
Our pre-draft and post-draft NFC West positional rankings with scout Matt Williamson generated healthy debate.
It's time to revisit his positional rankings for wide receivers now that Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin will miss all or much of the 2013 regular season.
The Arizona Cardinals tightened their grip on the top spot now that it's clearer to close observers that Michael Floyd is well-positioned to continue the climb he began late last season. Matt moved the St. Louis Rams up two spots to No. 2. He dropped Seattle one spot to third and San Francisco one spot to fourth. We pick up the conversation there while noting that the rankings the chart are from shortly after the draft, except for the adjustments made at receiver.
Sando: When we talked about the three best receivers in the division, you had Larry Fitzgerald at the top, Harvin second and Crabtree a distant third. Now, two of those three guys are out.
Williamson: The Harvin injury is huge. He cost you a first-round pick, you had all these intentions. But they can play the same way they played last year when they scored a ton of points late in the season. The Crabtree injury is actually bigger because I know Seattle's offense can be really good with last year's personnel.
Sando: The 49ers did pick up Anquan Boldin, at least. Does Boldin become the second-best receiver in the West?
Williamson: People think Boldin is better than he is because they remember the playoffs. He is slow. He is always covered and great at making contested catches, but he is always covered. I might rather have Chris Givens from the Rams. And a healthy Sidney Rice would definitely be my No. 2 without Harvin or Crabtree available.
Sando: Pete Carroll says Rice won't miss even a practice, so perhaps there's not much to worry about there.
Williamson: I'd take Rice over Boldin and Golden Tate over any other Niner. I like Tate. He is a good football player. To be honest, though, it wouldn't shock me if we had this conversation in Week 17 and I said Arizona had the two best receivers in the division. Michael Floyd is going to break out.
Sando: Carson Palmer was very specific in his praise for Floyd when I was down there at Cardinals camp this week. He talked about Floyd's smarts, marveled at Floyd's ability to catch jump balls in coverage and even talked about Floyd's intuitive feel for finding holes in zone coverage.
Williamson: I think Andre Roberts is an underrated player, too.
Sando: You've got the Rams second even though almost none of them have caught significant passes in the NFL.
Williamson: I don't feel confident about it because there are giant unknowns. Brian Quick is one of them. They are so young. You hear all these great things about Austin Pettis, but he hasn't played much. Tavon Austin is an unknown. Stedman Bailey is an unknown. I like what's there. I don't think any of them are going to have Larry-like numbers. It'll be week to week. But if I had to take all the Rams' wideouts or all the Seahawks' wideouts without Harvin, I would take the Rams. There is a lot of talent there.
Sando: Seattle acquired Harvin in part because the Seahawks knew they wouldn't be drafting early enough to get Tavon Austin, if you'll recall.
Williamson: What is cool about the Rams is their receiving weapons, it is really noticeable how you can go down the size ladder from Jared Cook to Quick to Givens to Austin. None of those guys is the same. You play a different opponent each week and it might be a different receiver being featured depending on what cover guys you have.
Sando: Sounds like a fantasy football nightmare. I know you mentioned Cook and some will point out he's a tight end. For the record, we didn't factor him into the wideout rankings. He is primarily a receiver, however, and a slot receiver at that. In any event, let's hope the next time we revisit these rankings, it's to consider where teams stand after adding healthy players, not subtracting injured ones.