Pro Bowl prospects in the NFC West

The San Francisco 49ers' Patrick Willis stands out as the only obvious choice for the Pro Bowl among NFC West players.

Willis has set a career high with 6.0 sacks this season. He has continued to excel and at times dominate against the run even after suffering a broken hand. I thought Willis was the best player on the field against St. Louis on Sunday.

Beyond Willis, however, it's tougher to make a case for NFC West players as the NFL prepares to reveal Pro Bowl rosters at 7 p.m. ET.

A quick look at each position in advance of the announcement (and let me know who should be on here):

Defensive line

The Rams' Chris Long and James Hall have consistently harassed opposing quarterbacks. They have combined for 18.5 sacks this season. Seattle's Chris Clemons has 10.5 sacks. Arizona's Darnell Dockett and San Francisco's Justin Smith earned Pro Bowl honors last season. Sacks tend to win out in this category and NFC West leaders rank down the list within the conference. Fred Robbins has played well for the Rams.


Willis is an obvious choice. The Rams' James Laurinaitis is having a good season, but he is not as dominant physically.

Defensive backs

The Cardinals' Adrian Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were Pro Bowl choices last season. Neither has played to expectations this season, but Wilson has a good chance. Cardinals free safety Kerry Rhodes has four interceptions and two fumble returns for touchdowns, but Arizona's defense has struggled.

Seahawks rookie Earl Thomas has five picks, but only one in his last nine games -- while playing for a struggling defense. The Rams' Oshiomogho Atogwe has two picks and three sacks.


Sam Bradford played well for a rookie, but he's not at a Pro Bowl level yet. Eleven quarterbacks in the NFC have higher ratings, including Alex Smith.

Running back

Frank Gore's injury removed him from consideration. The Rams' Steven Jackson ranks third among NFC players in rushing yards, but no other player among the top 12 rushers in the conference is averaging fewer than 4.1 yards per attempt. Jackson is averaging 3.7.

Offensive line

I can't think of an offensive lineman in the division playing at that level consistently.

Wide receiver

Larry Fitzgerald is the only potential candidate in the division, but he doesn't have the numbers or team production to qualify as an automatic selection. It's a tribute to the respect he enjoys around the league if he makes it, but Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson might have the edge.

Tight end

The 49ers' Vernon Davis made it last season. Five NFC tight ends have more receptions than Davis this season. Only the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten has more yards and touchdowns. Both made it last season.

Return specialist

Seattle's Leon Washington leads the NFC with three kickoff returns for touchdowns. He ranks fourth in yards per kickoff return. Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling has two kickoff returns for touchdowns while ranking third in yards per return. But with Chicago's Devin Hester leading the league in punt-return average and punt returns for touchdowns, he'll be the natural choice.


The Rams' Josh Brown leads the NFC in field goals with 31.

Arizona's Jay Feely made a strong case with a 25-point game against Denver.


The 49ers' Andy Lee made it last season. The Rams' Donnie Jones ranks second in the NFC in net average.