With training camps still slightly out of reach, many fans who long for some connection to the NFL are desperately searching for something to quench their football thirst. The NFL editors within the FanSided Network heard those pleas, pressing all 32 teams to come together to create a comprehensive list off 2014 All-Division rosters. Obviously, the included an All-NFC West squad, and after the voted 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.
So far, we have announced the entire starting offensive roster, including our quarterback, running back, three receivers, tight end, and offensive line. In our backfield, the Seattle Seahawks took over, with both Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch being named to the roster. However, to round out the offensive skill positions, we had to expand to the rest of the NFC West, including future Hall-of-Fame wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, and arguably the top hybrid pass catching/blocking tight end in the NFL, Vernon Davis. Finally, on the offensive line, the first member of the St. Louis Rams broke onto the list. Surprisingly, that player was not Jake Long, but, rather, the No.2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Greg Robinson. Now, we switch over to the defensive side of the football, starting with the defensive line.
With the NFC West being split 50/50, in terms of defensive base schemes, the editors within the division opted for a 4-3 front. This was largely due to the overwhelming amount of talent on the defensive line, juxtaposed by only a handful of quality players in the linebacking corps. With that in mind, here is our All-NFC West front four…
Defensive End: Robert Quinn (St. Louis Rams) and Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks)
While the debate among editors in other divisions might be heated when it comes to selected their top edge pass rushers, that was certainly not the case in the NFC West. Robert Quinn was unquestionably the best pass rusher in the NFL last season, mounting a record number of quarterback disruptions (91) that earned him 1st-Team All-Pro honors, the Professional Football Writers of America’s Defensive Player of the Year award, and left him 0.5 sacks away from taking home the inaugural Deacon Jones Award. Michael Bennett was also impressive within the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive line rotation, ranking 3rd overall in pass rush productivity (behind only Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake), and grading out 5th overall among 4-3 defensive ends last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Chris Long likely deserved some consideration for this spot. However, when Long is your “first man off the bench” on your All-Division roster, you know you’re working with a lot of talent…
Defensive Tackles: Darnell Dockett (Arizona Cardinals) and Aaron Donald (St. Louis Rams)
With special consideration taken to include frontline players from 3-4 bases within the division, we allowed voters to select from 4-3 defensive tackles, 3-4 defensive tackles, and 3-4 defensive ends for these two spots on the roster. Naturally, that caused quite a bit of debate, with players like Calais Campbell, Justin Smith, Brandon Mebane, and Michael Brockers all lumped into one massive ballot. However, surprisingly, the only defensive tackle that received multiple “first defensive tackle” votes was another St. Louis Rams’ rookie, Aaron Donald (ironically, Ramblin’ Fan was not one of the sites that voted for the stud Pitt prospect). The second spot on the roster came down to a re-vote, where Darnell Dockett, made famous by his creepy comments towards the soon-to-be married Katherine Webb, took the majority and was named to the roster.
Despite any feelings of pride that another Rams’ rookie made the cut, it is hard to justify that selection over some of the more established interior linemen in the NFC West. More specifically, his teammate, Michael Brockers, who has been a dominating force since he stepped on the field at the one-quarter mark of the 2012 regular season. Although still considered a “raw talent,” the former Tiger is the only defensive tackle in the division to tally 5+ sacks and 20+ defensive stops in each of the last two seasons.
Even more egregious might be the exclusion of Calais Campbell, who has, arguably, been the 2nd-best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL over the last three season; behind only J.J. Watt, the Texans’ two-time 1st-Team All-Pro and 2012 AP Defensive Player of the Year. According to Pro Football Focus’ grading, Campbell has ranked No.3, No.3, and No.2 in the league since 2011, bolstered by monstrous figures as a pass rusher and versus the run. In fact, Campbell has ranked in the Top 5 in both quarterback disruptions and defensive stops in each of the last three season; the only 3-4 defensive end in the league to accomplish that feat.
In the end, the votes are the votes. Although, watching some college highlights of Aaron Donald could certainly make you understand why the editors showed so much faith in his abilities. The St. Louis Rams have had a solid track record when drafting defensive linemen between the No.10 and No.15 picks…
Next, we’ll shift to the second level of the All-NFC West defensive roster, taking a look at the top linebackers within the division. Have any guesses to who might make the cut? Let us know in the comment section!
Tags: St. Louis Rams