Predicting the 2010 NFC West All-Division Offense
Predicting the future.
Doing that in the sports world proves to be quite difficult, and at times, futile.
So I'm ready to receive all kinds of "What in the world were you thinking?" comments.
And I'm ready for this season to prove me wrong.
However, there is one thing that all of us (okay, most of us) have in common: we all like to read about future predictions.
Come on. Admit it.
The NFC West has about as much uncertainty as any other division in pro football, as you will see in these slides.
Still, it's fun to try to predict who the all-division offense will be, isn't it?
Quarterback: Alex Smith
I confess, this was definitely the hardest decision to make.
Step outside of your love for your respective team for a moment.
Now look at the entire NFL.
Is there a worse division for quarterbacks than the NFC West?
The only one that compares is maybe the AFC West, but at least they have a Pro Bowler (Phillip Rivers).
With the retirement of Kurt Warner, that makes it difficult to pick a really solid QB without many questions in this division.
I chose Alex Smith simply because he's the most proven of the four starting quarterbacks (based on last year, sorry Matt Hasselbeck fans), and he's the most likely to produce a good season.
You have to compare him, though, to Matt Leinart, Sam Bradford, and Matt Hasselbeck.
Honestly, any of them could be the best in the division.
But for right now, I'll go with Smith, who has three great weapons in the passing game in Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis.
My only concern with Smith is his past, in which he's been a very up and down quarterback for the team that drafted him.
But since it appears that the 49ers are the team to beat, I think that Smith will take the cake.
Quarterback Runner Up: Matt Leinart
The Cardinals have some great weapons on offense, and Coach Whisenhunt has thrown his weight behind Leinart, who is not nearly as bad as everyone says.
As well, it would be difficult to choose a quarterback from St. Louis or Seattle, given that there could be quarterback changes in both cities at some point in time in the season.
And Matt Leinart has the best receiver in the division in Larry Fitzgerald.
That wasn't enough to pick him over Smith, but enough to make him the "backup."
Running Back: Frank Gore
This pick, on the other hand, was an easy pick.
Gore has continued to prove for the past few years that he is the one of the better running backs in the NFL.
And honestly, it could be a big year for number 21 given the Niners upgrade at the offensive line position, as well as what seems to be a great backup in Anthony Dixon to take some pressure off of Gore.
Not only that, but with the 49ers easy schedule, they could find themselves ahead more often than not, so Gore could really rack up some yards later on in games.
Running Back: Steven Jackson
Though I, along with many others, are concerned about Jackson's recent injury problems, there is no denying his great talent.
And let's be frank here folks: things can only get better for the Rams.
Last season was a tough time for St. Louis, but that did not slow down Jackson, who had 1,416 yards on the ground.
Granted, he did only score four times, but the man was the offense for the Rams, who faced more than their share of eight-man fronts.
If Jackson can stay healthy for all or most of the year, I figure he beats out a couple of up and comers in the division for second in yards gained.
And maybe he even beats out Gore, just like last season.
Running Back Runners Up: Beanie Wells and Justin Forsett
If there is one thing the division isn't short on, it's talent at running back.
Take Wells, who is many experts choice for a breakout star in the making.
And given that Kurt Warner is no longer in the desert, and Matt Leinart is, Wells should receive extra touches this year.
Take Forsett, who in just a few games last season, made Seahawk fans groan even more so that they continue to place faith in Julius Jones (and apparently he's still the starter--this blows my mind...).
I think both get over 1,000 yards this year.
How's that for bold?
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald
Easiest pick of the bunch.
Even though I've come to think recently that Fitz will experience a slight dropoff, there's no denying his great talent.
He's proven that he catches passes and scores touchdowns regardless of the quarterback (remember Josh McCown?).
So I think he'll definitely lead the NFC West in many receiving categories again this season.
However, along with quarterbacks wide receiver is another position of weakness in the NFC West.
After Fitzgerald, the list is fairly thin, although there are some young diamonds in the rough.
Wide Receiver: Michael Crabtree
This was a toughie, I'll admit.
It really came down to T.J. Houshmanzadeh and Crabtree.
But given Crabtree's upside, and the fact that he won't have as much attention placed on him due to other weapons in the 49ers system, I went with him.
Crabtree showed that he could be a legitimate number one guy in this league when he came on for the last 11 games and caught 48 passes.
And that was without having a great grasp on the offense.
Now that he's had an entire offseason with the team, Crabtree should be even better.
Wide Receiver Runners Up: TJ Houshmanzadeh and Laurent Robinson
Many of you know TJ already.
And you know he'll catch a lot of passes, like last season, just not a whole lot of touchdowns.
But who in the heck is Robinson?
Well, rather than risk being chastised for being the Cardinals FC and picking Breaston or Doucet, I decided to go with the relatively unknown Robinson as my wild card.
The first couple of games last season, Robinson had 13 catches for 167 yards before getting injured.
If he can stay healthy this year, he could easily eclipse 70 catches and 1,000 yards based on those stats.
Remember the name, that's all I'm saying.
Tight End: Vernon Davis
If you had told me I'd be writing this two years ago, I'd have called you crazy.
But last season appears to have been Vernon Davis's outcoming party.
I imagine that his great play will continue this year as well, given his connection with Alex Smith last year.
I don't think he'll get 13 TDs again, but it's not like he has a lot of competition for this spot either.
Runner-Up: John Carlson
This was definitely the trickiest for me.
With an influx of veterans and young guns on the offensive lines in the division, it's tough predicting who exactly will do well this year.
So here's my best guess:
LT: Joe Staley, SF- In the only deep position in the division along the line (Russell Okung and Alan Faneca are also left tackles), Joe Staley remains the best for at least this year in my opinion.
LG: Mike Iupati, SF- I really liked him at Idaho. I think he'll do better than Davis for the Niners.
C: Lyle Sendlein, ARI- Totally underrated.
RG: Reggie Wells, ARI- There are some bad lines in this division, so I chose him by default really.
RT: Jason Smith, St.L- His time to shine. Or so I think.