Ever since Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan to chase Ohio State in the Big Ten, the NFC West has been a tale of two teams. The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have traded blows over the past few seasons to represent the West with a home playoff game. This season is business as usual for the Seahawks. Seattle continues to reload while getting healthy where they were shorthanded the prior season. The Cardinals are becoming more of a question mark as Father Time creeps in on offensive weapons that Bruce Arians depends on.
The once left for dead San Francisco 49ers are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel by bringing in John Lynch to be the GM. Many questioned this tactic until we all witnessed him fleece the Chicago Bears on live television in the most one-sided trade that I can remember. While we as fantasy team owners know to turn our noses this season, there are a few pieces in place to keep an eye on for the future. Who knows, maybe there in a 2017 break out star on the 49ers. We witnessed the magic that Kyle Shanahan can brew up last season with the Falcons. The Rams changed head coaches but did little else to garner any attention after a disaster-ridden offensive season in 2016.
Russell Wilson hobbled through the season on a bad ankle in 2016, but still managed to record the most passing yards that he has in his career. What else can you do when you can’t effectively run the ball? Entering his age 29 season, Russell should be healthy for a season with the 9th easiest quarterback schedule according to FantasyPros. At pick 55, Russell is the 6th quarterback off of the board on average. The 4th-6th round is an area where a lot of analysts that I know, and myself included, never take a quarterback. If I’m in a league where I get a wild hair up my ass and want to have strong quarterback play, I’m looking to pull the trigger in the third round on either Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees. If you are someone who is eyeing Russell Wilson, I say go for it. The threat of him being an effective running quarterback is back in play this season and he throws a better than average ball.
The running game in Seattle is messy and I am avoiding it altogether, at least until there is a clear starter coming out of camp. The term, “running back by committee” makes me grind my teeth at night. Eddie Lacy seems to be the slim favorite to win the bulk of the carries, but what does that even mean when there’s three backs fighting to see the field? There is hope for Eddie. It was a small sample size last season, but he did average 5.1 yards per carry before going down with a season ending injury around week 6. But, Eddie Lacy has only rushed for more than 80 yards in a game on 14 or less carries twice in his career.
I use yards per carry as a point of reference a lot but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Thomas Rawls is a great example of the inconsistencies that can come with it. Rawls had all of the buzz going into the 2016 season coming off of a rookie year that saw him average 5.6 yards per carry. In last year’s injury riddled season, Rawls disappointed by averaging 3.2 yards per carry on 109 rushes. C.J. Prosise is a favorite of my podcast co-host, Zach, and for good reason. In his brief stay as a fixture in Seattle’s offense, Prosise had 2 games where he had 80 yards receiving. I like him a lot in the later rounds of PPR drafts.
Doug Baldwin broke out in the middle of the 2015 season and became the waiver wire scoop of the year in a lot of leagues. Baldwin proved in 2016 that it wasn’t a fluke and he is here to stay. Although he had his touchdowns cut in half, Doug had 16 more catches almost 60 more yards on the season than he did the year prior. Tyler Lockett was a sleeper darling last year that didn’t pan out for usage reasons. He had a couple of big games last season, but everything in between was not at all useful for fantasy football owners. Year three is big for a lot of receivers, but I’m going to pass until I see a breakout year. Jimmy Graham, on the other hand, I’m going to scoop up everywhere that the price is right. Graham had a promising bounce back year as he got familiar with Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense, more so than in 2015. Graham had three 100 yard receiving games last season with three touchdowns in that span. You have to be happy anytime your tight end gives multiple break out games that you should only expect from your receivers.
Carson Palmer is all of 37 years old but his numbers are still useful for fantasy. The issue with Palmer has always been interceptions and injuries. In 2015, Palmer was able to throw for 35 touchdowns, but fell off of the wagon a bit in 2016 by throwing more interceptions and 11 less touchdowns with the same weapons as the previous season. Last year, statistically, was one of Palmer’s better seasons but the high expectations brought upon by 2015 sort of washed any accomplishment away. Lower expectations and an end-of-draft ADP should make him a value pick if he’s able to statistically split the difference between 2015 and 2016.
David Johnson is going to be the first or second player taken overall and for good reason. David Johnson smashed his already high expectations last season by gaining over 2,000 all-purpose yards scoring 20 touchdowns, and adding 80 receptions for PPR players. Aside from the always possible running back injury, much of the same can be expected going into 2017. Johnson is the center of the Cardinals offense.
Larry Fitzgerald is a value pick once again this season because of his age. Coming off of his 2nd consecutive 100 catch and 1,000 yard season, his ADP currently sits at 70 overall. Larry Fitzgerald isn’t a sexy pick or a sexy name for writers to praise, but he is a safe pick for a WR2-3 who will get you the solid weekly numbers that you desire out of that slot.
John Brown had a miserable injury ridden season in his follow up to his break out in 2015. A lot of analysts love him to have a bounce back year but now he is having problems with his quad. This is the last thing you want to hear about a guy in training camp who should be chasing another 1,000 yard season and alleviating the concerns of a future Larry Fitzgerald-less void. J.J. Nelson might be the guy who breaks out this year is John Brown continues to have issues. He had 568 yards last year and 6 touchdowns. Although last season wasn’t a volume heavy year for Nelson, he scored touchdowns in 5 out of the last 6 games and is expected to start opposite of Fitzgerald.
San Francisco 49ers
Brian Hoyer is out in California cashing starting quarterback checks yet again this season and I couldn’t be happier. In 5 starts with the Bears last season, Hoyer managed four 300 yard games to go along with 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Overall, I think the 49ers are going to be a pleasant surprise when it comes to being competitive and I think Hoyer’s performance will be the center of that. Hoyer should be a nice streaming option in soft matchups.
Until I hear otherwise straight from the horse’s mouth, I’m going to assume Carlos Hyde will be toting the rock the majority of downs for 49ers. Recent reports point towards Kyle Shanahan warming up to Hyde. Hyde fell one decent game short of a 1,000 yard season in 2016. Hyde’s ADP of 40 is decent for a starting running back with the potential to rip off games like the 193 yard game that he did against the Jets last year.
Pierre Garcon should be in line for a second consecutive 1,000 yard season. Garcon will be the clear cut number one in San Francisco. I don’t see Jeremy Kerley as an effective as an option in fantasy. His 10.4 yards per catch wasn’t very appetizing, but I do like the prospects of George Kittle. In OTAs he was getting first team reps. Keep an eye of what he is doing this year while strolling the waiver wire, especially if you decide to draft a tight end late.
Los Angeles Rams
Before I am not completely out on Jared Goff’s career, I am going to see if he makes any progress as a starter under a new coaching regime. He is obviously untouchable this year in basically any format and I’m just sort of scrolling past all of the “he’s turning a corner” articles and positivity because there really aren’t any weapons around him.
I’m going to take a pass on Todd Gurley this season as well. The running game has to be supplemented by an effective passing game otherwise defenses will stack eight in the box against Todd without much of a second thought. It’s hard to imagine an improvement in 2016’s 3.2 yards per carry having to line up twice per year against Seattle and Arizona, too.
There’s nothing much to talk about when it comes to L.A.’s receivers. Tavon Austin is a dynamic playmaker but he’s most likely never going to be a useful fantasy option. Robert Woods had a few good games in Buffalo last season but I’m not going to draft him. His consensus ADP is 233rd off of the board, so he’ll go undrafted in most 10-12 team leagues depending how deep the benches are. I have no problem pulling the trigger on the waiver wire if he makes some noise in the first couple of games. Rookie Gerald Everett at tight end is a name to watch out for. There are some analysts predicting that he leads the team in receptions as soon as this year.