Best of the NFC West: Quarterbacks

For the next few weeks, 12th Man Rising will be teaming up with Raising Zona (Arizona Cardinals), Ramblin’ Fan (St. Louis Rams), and Niner Noise (San Francisco 49ers) to create an All-NFC West squad.

The team will feature the best players from around the NFC West, and will ultimately square up against other divisions around the National Football League.

Instead of privately selecting the roster, however, we would like to get you involved in the process. On the surface, it would seem that the talent in the NFC West isn’t up to par with the rest of the league; I think you’ll be surprised at some of the talented individuals representing the division.

We’ll go one position at a time to make the process more simple. Feel free to voice your opinions about each position, but don’t forget to vote for the best player.

Quarterbacks

Arizona Cardinals: Matt Leinart

Leinart was once considered a top quarterback prospect in 2006 when the Cardinals selected him tenth overall in the NFL Draft. In Arizona, however, he has largely been buried by the shadow of Kurt Warner – until now. Following the retirement of Warner, Leinart is the favorite to start for the Cardinals this season. He has a lifetime quarterback rating of 70.8 and has thrown more interceptions (20) than touchdowns (14) during his four-year career.

San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith

Like Leinart, Alex Smith was once a can’t-miss prospect at the quarterback position. Smith was the first overall selection of the 2005 NFL Draft, but has barely lived up to the hype. Although he reclaimed the starting job in San Francisco and looked good as of late, his career quarterback rating is a pedestrian 69.2. During his five-year career in the NFL, Smith has thrown for 7,029 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 43 interceptions.

Seattle Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck

Matt Hasselbeck is the most experienced quarterback in the NFC West, but he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl appearance since 2007 and turns 35 later this year. Despite his age, however, Hasselbeck has had more success than any of the other quarterbacks in his division and could still be capable of producing if he has offensive weapons around him. Hasselbeck has a career quarterback rating of 83.8, although he only has a rating of 69.9 after his Pro Bowl season in 2007.

St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford

Unproven yet promising, Sam Bradford enters the National Football League as the first overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. Bradford built a very impressive resume while playing for the University of Oklahoma, including Sporting News Freshman of the Year (2007), Heisman Trophy winner (2008), AP Player of the Year (2008), and several other awards. It may take a few years for him to develop, but the sky is the limit for Bradford in the NFL.

Shaun Dolence’s take:

I could be biased here, but I have to believe the best option is Matt Hasselbeck. Though he is approaching the end of his career, Hasselbeck is easily the best quarterback in the NFC West right now. Matt Leinart is unproven and may not be the answer to replace Kurt Warner in Arizona, Alex Smith has never lived up to the hype following his selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, and Sam Bradford is a rookie signal caller. Hasselbeck may have looked pedestrian at certain times last season, but he can still play quarterback in the National Football League. Especially if you surround him with some of the offensive weapons found within the division – Hasselbeck to Fitzgerald, anyone?

Andrew Auger’s take:

Even though Hasselbeck is past his prime his No. 1 ranking is a no brainer. The veteran has more success, experience, and savvy than any other starting quarterback in the division. Armed with an 83.3 career QBR, three pro bowls, and a trip to the big game, Hasselbeck is a clear cut above the rest of the largely untested crop of NFC West quarterbacks.

Alex Smith is a disappointment considering he was the No. 1 overall pick, but he has done something Leinart hasn’t; proven he can bounce back.

After starting out his career with a rather dismal 19:33 TD/INT ratio, he lit on fire with 2,350 yards, 18 TD’s and 12 INT’s over 11 games of the 2009 season. Throw in an eight percent increase in his career completion average (60.5), and an 81.5 QBR, and you have a resurgent quarterback on your hands.

Armed with an elite tight end, a sound offensive line, a top running back, and Michael Crabtree, we will know for sure if Alex Smith can cement himself as a capable starting quarterback in the NFL this coming season.

Matt Leinart is faced with the impossible task of filling Kurt Warners shoes after he led the Cardinals to their most successful stint in franchise history.

Nonetheless, a pass happy Cardinals offense with arguably the games best receiver in Fitzy will help mask some of Leinarts mediocrity.

Much like Smith, it’s now Leinarts turn to prove he can bounce back after not living up to his draft status at No. 10 overall.

Because Bradford is a rookie and he’s on the worst team in the division, he kind of gets put here by default.

We don’t know what he’s going to do, and after seeing the success of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco and the struggles of Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez recently, it could go any direction.

Steven Jackson is still this offense, and considering Bradford’s best weapons are Donnie Avery and a couple rooks, we shouldn’t expect too much.


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Tags: Alex Smith Arizona Cardinals Matt Hasselbeck Matt Leinart NFC West Quarterback Sam Bradford San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams

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