If you haven’t been paying attention over the last couple of days, we, at the FanSided Network, have banded together to ease some of the pain of the dreaded “dead period” in the NFL offseason by collectively composing a comprehensive list of 2014 All-Division rosters. After the votes were cast and some heated debate “broke the ties,” the editors for 12th Man Rising, Niner Noise, and Raising Zona were able to come to a majority agreement on our final list for the All-NFC West squad.
Yesterday, we announced the starting offensive backfield, comprised to two recently-crowned Super Bowl champions; Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, at quarterback and running back. This morning, we revealed the rest of the offensive skill players, including future Hall-of-Famer, Larry Fitzgerald, and a duo of supremely-talented (albeit oft-injured) receivers, Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin. We also announced our starting All-NFC West tight end selection, Vernon Davis, who makes a compelling case as the the best receiver/blocker hybrid tight end in the National Football League. Now, we take to the trenches, unveiled our starting offensive linemen…
Offensive Tackle: Joe Staley (San Francisco 49ers) and Russell Okung (Seattle Seahawks)
Joe Staley is not only the cream of the crop in the NFC West, but likely one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL. Since his “coming of age” in 2011, the 49ers’ blindside blocker has regularly graded out among the top offensive tackles in the league, including Top 5 appearances in both 2012 and 2013 (via Pro Football Focus). Not only has Staley been a road grader for Frank Gore out of the backfield, he has also done a tremendous job of keeping the oft-scramble happy Colin Kaepernick off the ground, recording the 2nd-highest pass blocking efficiency grade in the NFL last season.
Russell Okung, on the other hand, was a hard sell for the second offensive tackle, especially with Jake Long now eligible for consideration in the NFC West. Jake Long graded out No.7 overall among offensive tackles last season, including 2nd overall in run blocking. Okung ranked No.39 overall in the same grading system, after missing eight regular season games with a handful of lower body injuries. To be fair, Long has been regularly featured on the offseason “surgeries” list. However, he has time and time again shown a Superman-esque ability to recover from those injuries and return to Pro Bowl form. When healthy, Jake Long is as good as any offensive tackle in the league. Sadly, our vote at Ramblin’ Fan was overpowered by the rest of the NFC West voters. Sorry, Jake!
Guard: Mike Iupati (San Francisco 49ers) and Greg Robinson (St. Louis Rams)
Despite a bit of an off year in San Francisco last season, Mike Iupati remains the “toast of the division” on the interior of the offensive line. The combination of Iupati and Joe Staley on the left side of the San Francisco 49ers line has been one of the most potent in the league over the last three seasons, and should make Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, the All-NFC West backfield, very pleased…
However, the biggest surprise of the entire offensive roster might be the inclusion of Greg Robinson, the St. Louis Rams’ No.2 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. His presence on the list is largely due to two factors: 1) limitless potential and unmatched athleticism, and 2) lack of other viable choices in the NFC West.
While some might beat their chest for Alex Boone, the formerly undrafted free agent, rode the bench for the majority of his five seasons in the NFL, and graded out No.39 overall among guards last season. If anyone should feel snubbed from the list, it would be Rodger Saffold, who graded out among the Top 20 guards in 2013 in his six starts on the interior of the offensive line. In 350+ snaps, the former Rams offensive tackle allowed only seven total defensive pressures (zero sacks), all while finishing with positive marks versus the run in 67% of his games.
At the end of the day, if all eight “starting” guards in the NFC West were available to hand-pick your offensive line for the upcoming season, it would be hard to imagine that Greg Robinson would not be manning one of those two spots on the interior; especially if Paul Bordeaux were on the All-NFC West coaching staff.
Center: Max Unger (Seattle Seahawks)
Of all the spots on the All-NFC West offensive line, Max Unger might have been the easiest selection. Since taking over under-center in Seattle back in 2011, Unger has regularly ranked among the top centers in the NFL, including being voted as a member of the 2012 AP 1st-Team All-Pro roster. Injuries impeded Unger, and the rest of the Seahawks offensive line, for much of last season. However, like Jake Long, when healthy, the former Oregon stud has shown he can battle with the Alex Macks, Nick Mangolds, and John Sullivans of the world as one of the top centers in the league.
Next, we’ll shift to the opposing trenches of the All-NFC West roster, taking a look at the best defensive linemen within the division. Have any guesses to who might make the cut? Let us know in the comment section!
Tags: St. Louis Rams