During the next two weeks, I will publish a series of articles in which I rank the 49ers position-by-position against the other three teams in the NFC West. Which team has the best running backs? Which team has the best offensive line? And so on.
Just a few years ago, all the best offensive players in the NFC West were running backs. I'm talking Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Steven Jackson. The division was tough and old-school. The only elite wide receiver in it for years was Larry Fitzgerald.
Now, the NFC West's best running back is Raheem Mostert, an underpaid, former undrafted free agent. All the highest-paid offensive skill position players are wide receivers. Shows how much the league has evolved.
And the NFC West has loads of excellent receivers. Meaning the team with the worst wide receivers doesn't necessarily have bad ones.
Let's rank the NFC West teams based on their offensive lines, from the worst to the best.
4. The 49ers
If they still had Emmanuel Sanders, they'd be much higher on this list. But Sanders is on the Saints now, and his replacement, rookie Brandon Aiyuk won't have the benefit of OTAs and minicamp to learn the 49ers' dense offense. Plus, he's coming from the Pac 12, which is like AA baseball compared to the NFL. He could struggle early next season.
Deebo Samuel is a fantastic young wide receiver who could blossom into a Pro Bowler in 2020. But he is the only "established" wide out the 49ers have, and he had 802 receiving yards and nine drops last season. The second-most established receiver on the roster is Kendrick Bourne, who had 358 receiving yards last season.
By the end of the season, if Bourne or Aiyuk or Jalen Hurd or Trent Taylor steps up, the 49ers could have an excellent wide-receiver group. For now, it's green.
3. The Rams
The Rams used to have an elite trio of wide receivers -- Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins. Then they let Watkins sign with the Chiefs, and replaced him with Brandin Cooks, who played well in 2018, but did not play well in 2019. So they traded him to the Texans and did not replace him.
Now the Rams have just Woods and Kupp. And they're still good. But Kupp tore his ACL during 2018, and isn't as good as he was before the injury. This duo's stock is beginning to fall.
2. The Seahawks
Like Samuel, D.K. Metcalf had a terrific rookie season. Metcalf finished with 900 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He's a promising No. 2 receiver.
The biggest difference between the 49ers and the Seahawks receivers is Tyler Lockett. Lockett is a legitimate No. 1 option, similar to Sanders. Lockett produces big plays and moves the chains. He's well-rounded.
If the 49ers still had Sanders, I'd rank their wide receivers ahead of the Seahawks. But the 49ers don't currently have anyone as dependable as Sanders or Lockett.
1. The Cardinals
Last season, the Cardinals' top-two wide receivers were Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. A decent duo, but not a great one.
This offseason, the Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins, one of the three best wide receivers in the NFL. Now, Fitzgerald and Kirk are the Cardinals' No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, respectively. And Arizona has the best receiver trio in the NFL.
Hopkins has had five 1,000-yard seasons in his career, and he's only 27. He's similar to a young Fitzgerald.
The original Fitzgerald will be 37 next season. Meaning this trio might not last long. Next year, the 49ers might have the best trio in the NFC West. For now, the Cardinals' have the gold standard.