Senior NFL Columnist

NFC West

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When the all-division quarterback is coming off a bad season limited by injuries, you know the division lacks big-time passers.

That's the NFC West.

In picking the All-NFC West team, the quarterback choice was a tough one. Do I go with San Francisco's Alex Smith, who is coming off his best season, but really needs to show more? Or do I go with Sam Bradford of the Rams, a prototypical passer who had a sophomore slump last season?

I went with Bradford because I think he's ready to have a bounce-back season and he has the ability to be a 4,500-yard passer. Smith is a game manager. Bradford, who has taken a lot of heat this offseason, can be a lot more.

The front look for the defense was easy in this division. Three of the four teams use a 3-4 front and the three that do -- 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals -- all have good units.

That made the picking up front a lot easier to do in the NFC West. Judging by the quarterbacks in this division, those defenses should carry those teams again in 2012.

Offense

TE LT LG C RG RT
V. Davis R. Okung M. Iupati S. Wells H. Dahl A. Davis
WR QB WR
L. Fitzgerald S. Bradford M. Crabtree
RB FB
F. Gore B. Miller

QB -- Sam Bradford, Rams: He was plagued by injuries and not having any help last year. But I think he bounces back.
RB -- Frank Gore, 49ers: I give him a slight edge over Steven Jackson for this spot. But he is on the down slope of his career.
FB -- Bruce Miller, 49ers: He is a bruising lead blocker for a team that loves to run the football.
WR -- Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Imagine if he had a real quarterback? He would be even better.
WR -- Michael Crabtree, 49ers: He gets the second nod in a weak spot in the division. He needs to do more to validate it.
TE -- Vernon Davis, 49ers: It's scary to think how good he can be if the 49ers throw the ball more. He can be special.
LT -- Russell Okung, Seahawks: If he can stay healthy, he could get Pro Bowl consideration.
LG -- Mike Iupati, 49ers: He is a great run blocker who has to improve in pass protection. Watch him pull.
C -- Scott Wells, Rams: The Rams signed this smart, heady center and he will help solidify a line that had big problems last season.
RG -- Harvey Dahl, Rams: He is a nasty run blocker who played some tackle last season. He moves back to guard, his more natural spot.
RT -- Anthony Davis, 49ers: He made big improvements last season and should be able to do even more this season.

Defense

LE NT/DT RE
C. Campbell I. Sopoaga J. Smith
OLB ILB/MLB ILB/MLB OLB
S. Acho J. Laurinaitis P. Willis A. Smith
CB FS SS CB
P. Peterson E. Thomas A. Wilson R. Sherman

LE -- Calais Campbell, Cardinals: He had his best season in 2011, becoming a force on the Cardinals defense.
DT/NT -- Isaac Sopoaga, 49ers: He is a major run stuffer in the middle of that 49ers defense.
RE -- Justin Smith, 49ers: He might have been one of the two or three best defensive linemen in the league.
OLB -- Sam Acho, Cardinals: He impressed as a rookie and should be ready for bigger things as an edge rusher.
ILB -- James Laurinaitis, Rams: I give him the nod over NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers, although slightly.
MLB/ILB -- Patrick Willis, 49ers: He's the best inside linebacker in the NFL. A tackling machine.
OLB -- Aldon Smith, 49ers: He is coming off an impressive rookie season as a situational player. But we do have to see it again.
CB -- Patrick Peterson, Cardinals: He was better known as a return man early last season, but his cornerback play improved in the second half.
CB -- Richard Sherman, Seahawks: He was a pleasant surprise for Seattle playing great man coverage.
Nickel -- Chris Culliver or Perrish Cox, 49ers: Whoever wins this job for the 49ers will be the best in the division.
SS -- Adrian Wilson, Cardinals: He played with a bad arm all season and still was a force. He had a nice bounce-back season from 2010.
FS -- Earl Thomas, Seahawks: This rangy safety is a ball hawk on the back end. He is prototypical for this era.

Special Teams

KR K P
T. Ginn D. Akers A. Lee

K -- David Akers, 49ers: He set a record for field goals and was automatic for a team that needed them.
P -- Andy Lee, 49ers: Boom. There goes another Lee punt. He is special.
KR -- Ted Ginn, 49ers: His return play was a big part of the 49ers' success last year.

Honorable mention: T Joe Staley, 49ers; ILB Daryl Washington, Cardinals; S Kam Chancellor, Seahawks; DE Darnell Dockett, Cardinals; QB Alex Smith, 49ers; DE Ray McDonald, 49ers.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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