The NFC West boasts four teams that should all be highly competitive in terms of “real football” success. From a fantasy perspective, there seems to be a lot of value to be had in this division as well. We have a team that projects to be one of the fastest-paced in the league, two teams that will take run-heavy approaches, and a team that no one seems to know what to do with. Let’s dive in to see what we can find.
Must Draft: The Cardinals are going to run upwards of 65+ plays per game. That gives us about 5 more plays per game on average than a typical NFL team. Because of this, Kyler Murray projects to have a monster year with all his fancy new toys in Rondale Moore and AJ Green (“new” is a relative term in Green’s case). In fact, I have him as the QB5 in my QB rankings. He’s a solid value in drafts, but he isn’t my must draft on this team.
Instead, that goes to Chase Edmonds. ADP has him leading the charge in what should be an efficient rushing attack that has a lot of opportunities available after Kenyan Drake signed with the Raiders. He leaves behind 236(!) carries. Yes, James Conner signed with the team, but for a very modest contract of 1.1 million. He will soak up some of that work between the 20s and potentially some goal-line work as well. Edmonds will get the valuable pass-down work and plenty of carries to go along with it. At his seventh-round price tag, I like the upside on Edmonds as a confident RB2. If James Conner were to go down, it’s off to the races for Edmonds.
Value: Getting the Cardinals WR2 correct in terms of target market share will be really profitable in fantasy this year. I am going to go with A.J. Green as the early No. 2 in targets early, with Rondale Moore gaining ground and overtaking him as his role expands throughout the season. That said, feel confident in taking a shot on the veteran Green early and perhaps keep an eye on the waiver wire for Moore if an impatient manager drops him mid-season.
Sleeper: If you miss out on Chase Edmonds in the 7th, you can get James Conner in the 10th. I like the odds of Edmonds being the guy that helps people win leagues, but there is an upside case for Conner who has better real-life draft capital and has been a fantasy stud in the past. If he can get the hot hand and stay healthy his price tag will pay off handsomely. Overall, I want to be invested in this backfield at cost and you should too. Again, Drake’s 236 carries need to go somewhere and Conner isn’t a bad bet to get a lot of that work, especially at the goal line.
Bust: As it stands, I have Christian Kirk projected for a pretty solid role. However, he has a ton of competition for the slot role in Rondale Moore. Beat writers out of Arizona have been gushing over Moore and even had some love for 33-year-old AJ Green. Not a peep about Kirk yet which has helped keep his ADP low. I am going to side with ADP here and Kirk is a pretty solid avoid for me. Arizona was aggressive in the WR market this year, which says everything you need to know about how they feel about Kirk. You can do better with your late-round darts.
Must Draft: This one is simple. I have Russell Wilson in the top tier of Fantasy QB’s and if I am taking a QB earlier in drafts, Wilson is my guy. You can get him at a discount to other top-tier QBs such as Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, and he offers a similar floor-ceiling combination. He has plenty of rushing upside (32 yards per game last year) and touchdown efficiency (6.2% career, league average is 4.2%). The market has seriously over-corrected after Russ faded during the back half of last year and Pete Carroll publicly stated he wants to get back to running the ball, but in perhaps the league’s most competitive division, they will have to air it out to keep up with other high-powered offenses in the NFC West.
Value: Tyler Lockett will be a value again. Unlike the Cardinals, who project to spread the ball around a lot, the Seahawks have a lower-volume, more tightly concentrated offense. The haters and losers will point to Tyler Lockett disappointing down the stretch last year but will ignore the fact that he was WR11 on the year. We should be targeting guys that can singlehandedly win us weeks, and Lockett has that upside. Oh, he also finished ahead of Metcalf last year in PPR scoring. People forget that.
Sleeper: It’s interesting to me that outside of Russ, the market has the rest of the team priced appropriately. I am not seeing a lot of value out there, but you may want to give Rashaad Penny a chance. He seems to have fully recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him for the 2020 season. Remember, Penny was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2018. If anything were to happen to Chris Carson, the Seahawks will have no problem leaning on Penny as a workhorse. Even with Carson healthy, I can see Pete Carroll establishing a one-two punch with Carson and Penny. Penny is simply going far too late in fantasy drafts.
Bust: Gerald Everett flashed with the Rams, but the Seahawks still have Will Dissly and a 6-foot-7 Colby Parkinson who is sure to be used near the endzone. I did not think I would be name-dropping Colby Parkinson in this article, but here we are. Everett is being drafted as if he’s the only tight end on the team commanding targets. He isn’t.
Los Angeles Rams
Must-Draft: Darrell Henderson has been thrust into the role we thought Cam Akers was going to have. As such, we still haven’t quite seen the ADP spike we expected. The market seems hesitant on him despite Mcvay hinting at him having a big role. He has also stated he wants to keep him “fresh and healthy”. That said, the following tweet leads me to believe they are gearing up for him to take on a massive role:
If his price stays in the 5th/6th round, you are going to want Darrell Henderson on your team.
Value: Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods continue to go later in drafts than they should be considering the upgrade to Matthew Stafford at QB. Kupp projects similarly to Woods but goes a round later so he is certainly a target at his price. He should settle into the security blanket role that Stafford had in Golden Tate during his earlier years with the Lions. I think the passing volume of this team is going to increase as well with the Akers Injury, so there should be plenty of targets to go around that will funnel to Woods and Kupp. Kupp also has a nose for the end zone and should score more after disappointing in the category last year having only three touchdowns.
Sleeper: Tyler Higbee has the pass-catching tight end role all to himself, is athletic, and had a string of games two years ago that we have never seen out of a tight end when Everett was injured. In four straight games, Higbee recorded seven catches and over 100 yards. He can produce in this league and Everett is in Seattle. People were excited about Higbee last year, and he let everyone down. This year is a good opportunity to cash in on a post-hype sleeper. I think Higbee should go closer to Noah Fant than he is currently.
Bust: Desean Jackson could pop for a big game, but he has not proven an ability to stay healthy. You can do better than him with your late-round darts.
San Francisco 49ers
Must Draft: George Kittle is part of the “big three” tight ends, but has lost his spot as the consensus No. two to Darren Waller. George Kittle could be the TE1 If he stays healthy this year. He is going as the No. 1 pass catcher according to ADP on the 49ers high-powered offense. I look for him to finally score the touchdowns he should for as many yards as he compiles. Having Kittle on your team as the last of the elite tight end tier is a fantasy football cheat code. Don’t overthink it.
Value: Raheem Mostert has had a tough time staying healthy and has not had your typical journey in the NFL, but he is potentially the fastest on-field running back in the league (he recorded an off-field speed of 23.09 mph last year, the best in the league of any position). Put some respect on this man’s name, please.
Talk out of camp is that Mostert will cede early-down work to Trey Sermon, but will likely be in the game for 3rd downs and late-game closeouts. This is a valuable role that we should be comfortable having on our team.
Sleeper: It’s tough to call him a sleeper as he is on everyone’s radar despite minimal college experience, but a really fun way to draft teams this year is taking Trey Lance and pairing him with a boring, but productive QB like Baker Mayfield. I think we may see Lance sooner rather than later, which would change his projection and make him a way better pick than he is now. I think we may get clarity on the situation right before drafts and I’m not sure ADP will have enough time to catch up to it. He offers the rushing upside in an efficient offense that should score a lot of points.
Bust: Unfortunately, I do not see how Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel both pay off their price tags. Deebo goes later, but he has had a tough time staying healthy and Aiyuk might be flat out better. I’m fading Deebo in a crowded WR room on a team that leans run-heavy.
That does it for the NFC West. I am a little contrarian when it comes to player takes so I am sure you will all have something to say about this writeup. If you do, hit me up on twitter @run_the_sims.