When it comes to highlighting top NFL talent, league-wide evaluations are the norm -- meaning some of the better players in each division are often overlooked. With his divisional all-star series, Dave Dameshek will be taking a deeper dive into the NFL's elite, putting together the best squad possible from each division -- continuing with the All-NFC West Team below.
For additional analysis on this topic -- and a whole lot more -- listen to The Dave Dameshek Football Program.
That one infamous goal-line pass doesn't negate the fact he's been nails in big spots over his first three years in the league. And he's the NFL's best functional scrambler since Steve Young.
He might not rank among the game's best, but -- believe it or not -- he's the best at his position in this division.
How shallow is the WR depth in the NFC West? Shallow enough that we're including a guy I might be able to beat in a footrace. Fortunately for Boldin (and Colin Kaepernick), the West puts more of a premium on toughness than foot speed.
Miracle of miracles: The NFL's gold standard at left tackle hasn't retired this year. Assuming Staley maintains his active status, Carlos Hyde could be in store for a breakout season.
He was a key member of the league's best line during the too-brief glory years of Harbaugh's Niners. Now a Card, he could help further swing the pendulum south in the West (or at least help Arizona find a running game).
Assuming he's fully recovered from a broken leg, this brawny utility lineman goes under center for our team (... and can slide over to guard, if need be).
Boone came back from his preseason holdout to deliver another steady season in 2014. Amidst all of '15's departures, he's among the noteworthy holdovers who'll need to step up further if the Niners are to be relevant.
The statue-like Carson Palmer requires solid protection to thrive, so it's a good thing he's got Veldheer. Here's hoping Jared doesn't mind getting pushed over to the right side on our team to accommodate the more tenured Staley. (I'm sure he's just happy to be out of Oakland.)
Opposing offensive lines stand little chance against the stunning jump Bennett and lightning-fast teammate Cliff Avril get off every snap.
Donald's ascent to pro football hit full speed at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine -- and following his transcendent rookie season, you can expect him to stay among the stars for the next decade, at least.
In spite of injury, suspension and trade, the Cards' D was a force in 2014. Campbell was perhaps the key piece in making this so.
He didn't record his first 2014 sack 'til mid-October, but this top-tier pass rusher still reached double digits for the third straight year.
The Legion of Boom and mighty rotation up front notwithstanding, the Seahawks' defense didn't really start dominating last year 'til Wagner returned in late November after missing the middle third of the season. Now, I know Wagner plays on the inside in Seattle. Well, that spot is not open here. He's too good to leave on the bench, though, so we'll just have to hope he doesn't mind moving to the outside for this all-star team.
Depending on who you talked to two years ago, Bowman was the best inside 'backer on the Niners (and perhaps among all the NFL). With his (not-so-)old pal Patrick Willis now retired, he's the only answer.
Smith's self-assessment: "When I'm playing consistently and I'm on my game, I can't be stopped." I agree. My advice: Play consistently and be on your game, Aldon.
For all the time and effort his foes and analysts devote to trying to undermine his success -- He doesn't have to cover the other team's best receiver, he's a 'system guy', etc. -- Sherman just keeps on dominating. And talking. And dominating.
Bruce Arians is probably concerned about who'll be replacing the NFL's best No. 2 corner, Antonio Cromartie, but at least the Cards will still feature one of the top five CBs in the game.
It's not hyperbole to say he's a more diminutive Ronnie Lott. (And if it is, too bad ... 'cause I just typed it.)
At 6-foot-3, 232 pounds, he's the personification of the 21st-century NFL's ethos of bigger, faster, stronger. (By comparison, legendary Steelers LB Jack Lambert played at 6-4, 220.)
The undrafted free agent out of Clemson validated the Cards' choice to keep him over Jay Feely by tying a rookie record for consecutive makes to start a career (17).
His 42.3 net punting average was easily the best in the division.