The NFC West may be the strongest division in the NFL. There are many outstanding players in this talent-rich and highly competitive division. Who are the best of the best in the NFC West?
20 Best In The NFC West
The accompanying chart presents the 20 best players in the NFC West (plus 5 honorable mentions):
|2||DE||St. Louis||Robert Quinn||2||1||PB|
|5||LT||San Francisco||Joe Staley||4||0||PB|
|9||DT||St. Louis||Aaron Donald||1||0||PB|
|11||LB||San Francisco||NaVorro Bowman||2||3||Inj. Res.|
|14||SS||San Francisco||Antoine Bethea||3||0||PB|
|16||LB||San Francisco||Aldon Smith||1||1|
|18||LB||St. Louis||Alec Ogletree||0||0|
|20||SS||St. Louis||T.J. McDonald||0||0|
|HM||WR||San Francisco||Anquan Boldin||3||0|
|HM||P||St. Louis||John Hekker||1||1|
|HM||DE||St. Louis||Chris Long||0||0|
Thomas - Best FS in the NFL. Top-5 among all defenders in the league.
Quinn - Best DE in the division. Arguably the best 4-3 DE in the league.
Sherman - Top CB in the NFC West. 2nd to Darrelle Revis among all NFL CB's.
Lynch - Best RB in the division, and in the top three league-wide. Worth 3 wins a year all by himself.
Staley - Top LT in the NFC West. Consistently among the best in the NFL.
Peterson - Multi-dimensional player. 2nd to Sherman in the division, at a premium position (CB).
Graham - May be the top receiving target in the division. 2nd-best TE in the league (behind Rob Gronkowski).
Wilson - Along with Andrew Luck, the two best young QB's in the game. 10th-best passer rating in the league in 2014 (95.0). 3475 passing yards and 849 rushing yards in 2014.
Donald - Would be higher on the list if he had more than one season in the league. Has the potential to become the best 3-tech in NFL history.
Wagner - Finally received well-deserved postseason honors. The best LB in the NFC West, and one of the best in the NFL.
Bowman - Missed the entire 2014 season due to a gruesome injury. Would likely be in the top five on this list if not for the injury.
Chancellor - An integral member of the "Legion of Boom". In the discussion for the best SS in the NFL.
Campbell - Behind only Robert Quinn in NFC West DE rankings. Well-deserved first time Pro Bowl invite in 2014, along with a 2nd team All-Pro nod.
Bethea - An underrated player who's been a solid contributor for many seasons. Bethea shined in his first season in the NFC West.
Iupati - A true road grader and the best interior lineman in the division. If he could just clear up some of his pass-pro issues...
Smith - If he can get on (and stay on) the field, Smith would easily make the top ten on this list. He's that talented.
Bennett - A key contributor on the Seahawks' defensive line, Bennett is incredibly versatile, lining up all over the line. An underrated player.
Ogletree - The Rams' leading tackler the past two seasons, Ogletree is only beginning to tap into his enormous potential.
Wright - In 2014, Wright quietly led the Seahawks' No. 1 ranked defense in tackles (89). Enough said.
McDonald - A player on the rise. No one played the safety position better than T.J. did in the second half of the 2014 season.
Boldin - 2014 was another quality season for the ageing veteran. The fact he's the best WR in the NFC West speaks volumes about the lack of star power among WR's in the division.
Fitzgerald - An accomplished veteran who had a down season (for him) in 2014. Having a healthy Carson Palmer under center for an entire season will likely boost his numbers.
Hekker - The best punter in the NFL, and a 2nd team All-Pro selection in 2014.
Long - A key, steady contributor for the Rams. His absence for 10 games (due to injury) in 2014 showed how important he is to the success of the Rams' vaunted defensive line.
Veldheer - 2nd best LT in the division last season (his first with Arizona, after 4 seasons with Oakland).
Rationale And Observations
Defense reigns supreme in the NFC West. Of the 20 players selected as the best in the division, 15 of them are on the defensive side of the football.
The Seattle Seahawks lead the way with 9 selections (6 on defense), which comes as no surprise. Those nine players are the reason the Seahawks have been to the last two Super Bowls, and why they field the #1 defense in the NFL.
The Rams' defense is catching up to Seattle's defense, in terms of quality. 5 defenders in the top 25. In addition to those five players, Janoris Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, Michael Brockers and E.J. Gaines are all strong contenders for top-25 consideration.
It's a passing league, but not so in the NFC West. The divisions' passing attacks are below average overall, with Arizona earning the highest NFL ranking among the four teams (14th).
Players that were difficult to leave off the rankings: QB Colin Kaepernick, QB Carson Palmer, QB Nick Foles, DT Michael Brockers, CB E.J. Gaines, WR Michael Floyd, S Eric Reid and TE Vernon Davis.
Criteria used for determining player rankings:
- Postseason honors earned, especially those received after the 2014 season (Pro Bowl invitations and 1st team All-Pro selections).
- Ranking among peers, at their respective positions, on a league-wide basis.
- Impact on overall team performance.
- Positional value.
- Production, particularly in the past two seasons.
- Consistency of performance levels from year-to-year.