Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Ranking the four NFC West teams before the 2021 season

May 27, 2021 at 1:00 PM0

The beginning of the NFL organized team activities (OTAs) has finally come, which means it's time to rank the four NFC West teams in terms of talent.

Before I start, this list is based strictly on 2021, rather than involving the potential of young players into my decision.

Without further ado, let's get started.

4. Arizona Cardinals

In this stacked division, the Arizona Cardinals unfortunately come in last in regard to talent.

This Cardinals team could definitely be the near the second-best team in divisions like the NFC North and AFC East, but it is currently the worst team in the NFC West.

Still, with that designation, the Cardinals have a realistic chance to make the playoffs, especially since the NFL branched out to three wild card teams per conference.

The Cardinals have a young star in quarterback Kyler Murray, who is known for his dual threat ability, throwing for 3,971 yards and rushing for 819 last season.

On the offensive side, he is complemented by DeAndre Hopkins, who is in contention as the best wideout in the NFL.

On the defensive side, star pass rusher Chandler Jones leads the charge, with safety Budda Baker, and edge rusher J.J. Watt as the main complementary pieces.

However, despite some top-end talent, the Cardinals don't have enough on the defensive side of the ball, in the running game, or the offensive line to overtake the rest of the teams in the division.

While offensive tackle D.J. Humphries played very well last year and the team traded for three time Pro-Bowl center Rodney Hudson, the remaining cast on the offensive line remains average at best.

Defensively, the Cardinals remain depleted in the secondary, and chose not to address the position in the draft. While they could sign a player in free agency after June 1st, the position remains a weaker spot on their roster at this moment.

3. Seattle Seahawks

This offseason, Russell Wilson was frustrated with the Seahawks organization over its failure to protect him as its quarterback. In his nine-year career, Wilson has been sacked a whopping 394 times, amounting to 43.8 sacks per year, the most of any quarterback over that span.

While Wilson can be faulted for some of those sacks, with his desire to extend plays, and while the offensive line played solidly in 2020, the Seahawks set to fulfill his request and traded a fifth-round pick for offensive guard Gabe Jackson.

After the trade, the Seahawks signed Jackson to a three-year, $22.575 million deal.

The Seahawks obviously have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Wilson, but have failed to advance past the divisional round in the playoffs since their Super Bowl runs in 2013 and 2014.

Along with Wilson, the Seahawks have a budding star in wide receiver DK Metcalf along with consistent receiving option Tyler Lockett and running back Chris Carson.

Their issues also lie on the defensive side of the ball as they ranked 22nd in the NFL in yards allowed, giving up 380.6 yards per game, which was improved by their stout second half of the season.

The team traded two first-round picks for safety Jamal Adams, and while he has been productive, the value seems to be too much for a player not at a prime position.

After losing their top corner Shaquill Griffin to free agency, the Seahawks also have a poor secondary, keeping them at number three in my NFC West rankings.

2. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers were one of the most injured teams last year, as key players like Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, Richard Sherman, Raheem Mostert, and even George Kittle all spent time on injured reserve last year.

While there are those who harp on Garoppolo, last year showed how essential he was in managing the game for Kyle Shanahan's offense. When injured, the 49ers struggled to stay afloat, but when healthy, Garoppolo has compiled an impressive 24–9 record.

This year, heading into OTAs, the team is almost fully recovered, as only Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are still rehabbing from their 2020 injuries.

However, the team faced some unfortunate news this past week when running back Jeff Wilson Jr. tore his meniscus and will be out for four to six months.

Still, the team remains very talented, especially if it can remain healthy this season.

The 49ers retained significant talent this offseason, as they re-signed offensive tackle Trent Williams, running back Jeff Wilson Jr., fullback Kyle Juszczyk, defensive backs Emmanuel Moseley, K'Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, and Jason Verrett, and defensive tackle D.J. Jones.

In addition, the team signed defensive linemen Samson Ebukam, Maurice Hurst, and Arden Key, and running back Wayne Gallman.

At this moment, the 49ers don't have a significant hole in their roster apart from slot receiver, as their running game still remains strong, their defense is still intact, and their quarterback is healthy once again.

There are still many receiver options in free agency like Kenny Stills, Golden Tate, Danny Amendola, Alshon Jeffery, and even Dede Westbrook.

With all the talent they currently have, why are the 49ers not at #1? Well, they have only an average starting quarterback with an unproven rookie behind him, and injuries could remain a factor.

Still, this is an impressive team in an impressive division.

1. Los Angeles Rams

After trading for talented quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Los Angeles Rams edge out the 49ers in my early NFC West rankings.

The Rams were one of the most talented teams in football last year and that was with an average quarterback at the helm in Jared Goff.

Now, with a top ten quarterback in Matthew Stafford, the Rams are Super Bowl contenders and the top team in the NFC West.

Along with Stafford, the Rams boast wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, young running back Cam Akers, and a solid offensive line headlined by offensive tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein on the offensive side of the ball.

Despite that amount of talent, the Rams excel mainly on the defensive side of the ball, with Aaron Donald, potentially the best player in football, leading the charge.

Along with Donald, the Rams have defensive end Leonard Floyd and cornerback Jalen Ramsey as their key pieces. Nevertheless, the Rams did get worse on the defensive side of the ball as they lost defensive backs John Johnson III and Troy Hill to free agency.

However, the amount of top-end talent on both offensive and defensive places them as the best NFC West team in my rankings.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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