The NFC West is the division that could have both the best and worst defenses in 2023. It is also a division with a lot of new faces. There will be three new defensive coordinators and one new head coach.
As far as your fantasy fortunes go, there will be defenses you want to target in fantasy football and offenses that will play well against some of these defenses. There are also plenty of IDP players to target out of this division. And if you are one of those who only play the offensive side of fantasy…well, there will be defenses that will help you there too.
Arizona Cardinals Defense and Nick Rallis, Defensive Coordinator
You will hear this a lot; Rallis is 29 years old. He is the youngest coordinator in the NFL. Rallis comes to the Cardinals by way of Philadelphia, where he was the linebackers coach for two seasons.
The Cardinals will enter the season with a new head coach, Jonathan Gannon. Last season Gannon was the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. Gannon has stated that Rallis will be calling the defensive plays.
The Eagles’ linebackers contributed to the Eagles finishing the season first against the pass (allowing only 171.6 passing yards), eighth in points allowed (19.8), and third in turnover differential with 27 takeaways. Rallis will now be in charge of an Arizona defense that was 24th in passing yards allowed (230.0). 31st in points allowed (26.4) and 21st in team takeaways per game (1.2).
The defense will also be without JJ Watt, Byron Murphy, and Zach Allen. The Cardinals did replenish and add depth on the defensive side of the ball. Except for linebacker Kyzir White (who signed a two-year deal), all the signings were for one year. They signed:
- Defensive tackle, Jonathan Ledbetter
- Defensive tackle, LJ Collier
- Defensive tackle, Carlos Watkins
- Linebacker, Josh Woods
- Cornerback, Kris Boyd
- Cornerback, Rashad Fenton
- Cornerback, Antonio Hamilton
In the 2023 NFL Draft, the Cardinals had nine picks. Four of the nine picks were spent on the defensive side of the ball. Those picks were:
- Round 2, Pick 41: Edge, BJ Ojulari
- Round 3, Pick 72: Cornerback, Garrett Williams
- Round 5, Pick 168: Linebacker, Owen Pappoe
- Round 6, Pick 180: Cornerback, Kei’Trel Clark
Giving it Away
Fantasy stats per footballdatabase.com
The Cardinals gave up 29 passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns to the quarterback position last season. They allowed the sixth most fantasy points per game to the position (20.2).
- The third most points to the running back position, 20.6
- The fifth-fewest points to the wide receiver position, 16.5
- The second-most points to the tight end position, 10.1
The Arizona defense averaged 6.1 fantasy points per game. They were the 26th defense.
The secondary had the highest remaining IDP players. Budda Baker was DB14, and Jalen Thompson was DB16. Departing Watt finished out his season as DL12.
Los Angeles Rams Defense and Raheem Morris Defensive Coordinator
Morris is the most tenured defensive coordinator in the NFC West. He will also have one of the more formidable jobs in 2023. The Rams mortgaged their future for the SBLVI win. For 2023 that equaled no money to spend in free agency and no first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Last season the Rams’ defense was 20th in points allowed (22.6) and 18th in yards allowed (341.1). The defense went from 50 sacks in 2021 to 38 in 2022 after losing Von Miller to Buffalo, and now the losses mount.
Losses and Acquisitions
Entering 2023 with $1,756,181 in cap space, the Rams were non-existent in free agency acquisitions. Gone in the secondary are Jalen Ramsey, David Long, Taylor Rapp, and Nick Scott. On the defensive line, the losses include Bobby Wagner and Leonard Floyd.
The Rams did not have a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They did, however, gather 14 picks, seven of which went to the defensive side.
- Round 3, Pick 77: Edge, Byron Young
- Round 3, Pick 89: Defensive End, Kobie Turner
- Round 5, Pick 161: Edge, Nick Hampton
- Round 6, Pick 182: Cornerback, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson
- Round 6, Pick 189: Edge, Ochaun Mathis
- Round 7, Pick 234: Safety, Jason Taylor II
- Round 7, Pick 259: Defensive End, Desjuan Johnson
Fantasy stats from profootballreference.com
Giving it Away
- The Rams gave up the 10th fewest fantasy points to the quarterback position, 14.2. They allowed 22 passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown to the quarterback position.
- The defense gave up the 11th most fantasy points to the running back position in 2022, 18.2.
- They were mid against wide receivers allowing an average of 21.0 fantasy points per game.
- And they were mid against the tight end position allowing an average of 7.3 fantasy points per game.
San Francisco 49ers Defense and Steve Wilks, Defensive Coordinator
If the Cardinals are destined to be one of the worst defenses, then the 49ers will be one of the best in the NFL. SportsNaut.com has them as the second-best defense coming into the 2023 season. BleacherReport.com has the 49ers as the best defense coming into the 2023 season.
The 49ers will once again be with a new defensive coordinator. DeMeco Ryans is now the head coach of the Houston Texans. The new defensive coordinator was the Carolina Panthers’ interim head coach of last year, Steve Wilks. Wilks, a defensive-minded coach, is known for his secondaries.
Wilks will take over a defense that was the best run defense in 2022. The 49ers’ defense allowed only 77.7 rushing yards per game. A defense that allowed the third-fewest points per game in the fourth quarter (4.0) and gave up the fewest red zone scoring attempts per game (2.5).
In 2022 the 49ers’ defense also ranked:
- Fifth in pass-rush win rate at 46%.
- Sixth in run-stop win rate at 32%.
- Second in takeaways with 30 and
- First in turnover differential (plus-13)
Wilks has said in his opening press conference that the 49ers had the personnel to be “more aggressive.” Last season the 49ers ranked 20th in blitz rate. They blitzed at a rate of 21.6%. Look for Wilks to have the 49ers blitz more this season.
Losses and Acquisitions
The 49ers major losses included edge Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and safety Jimmie Ward. They also had key additions, including edge Clelin Ferrell, defensive tackle Javon Hargrove, and cornerback Isaiah Oliver. These acquisitions and losses were during the free agency period.
The 49ers 2023 NFL Draft started in the third round.
Round 3, Pick 87: Safety, Ji’Ayir Brown
Round 3, Pick 99: Kicker, Jake Moody
Round 3, Pick 101: Tight End, Cameron Latu
Round 5, Pick 155: Cornerback, Darrell Luter
Round 5, Pick 173: Edge, Robert Beal
Round 6, Pick 216: Linebacker, Dee Winters
Round 7, Pick 247: Tight End, Brayden Willis
Round 7, Pick 253: Wide Receiver, Ronnie Bell
Round 7, Pick 255: Linebacker, Jalen Graham
The 49ers’ defense ranked third in fantasy points last season. They averaged 9.6 fantasy points per game. They completed the season with 44 sacks, 20 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries, 13 forced fumbles, and three defensive touchdowns.
For the IDP crowd:
Nick Bosa was DL2. He averaged 12.5 fantasy points per game. Ending the season with 41 tackles, 10 assisted tackles, and 18.5 sacks.
Hargrave finished as DL16. He averaged 9.2 fantasy points per game. He ended the season with 37 tackles, 23 assisted tackles, and 11 sacks.
In the secondary, Talanoa Hufanga finished as DB6. Hufanga averaged 11.1 fantasy points per game. Finishing the season with 65 tackles, 30 assisted tackles, two sacks, nine passes defended, four-interception, two forced fumbles, and one touchdown.
Giving It Away
The 49ers’ defense gave up the fifth-fewest points to the quarterback position (13.6) but the sixth-most to the wide receiver position (23.5). They were also the best defense against the running backs. They allowed an average of 11.2 fantasy points to the running backs allowing only seven rushing touchdowns and zero receiving touchdowns to the position. Tight ends only averaged 5.5 fantasy points per game against the 49ers. That was the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position.
Seattle Seahawks Defense and Clint Hurtt Defensive Coordinator
Sean Desai left the Seahawks to be the defensive coordinator in Philadelphia. Hurtt is the new defensive coordinator. Hurtt was the defensive line coach for the last five seasons.
For many, the Seahawks were a surprise addition to postseason play. The way they arrived at the postseason should have been an indication. In the Wild Card game, they played and lost to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Seahawks season was divided into before their bye week (11) and after their bye week. Before the bye week, the Seahawks were 6-4 and outscored their opponents 257-241. After the bye week, the team went 3-5. They were outscored by their opponents 160-150.
The defense was ranked 26th last season. Per statmuse.com, they were third in missed tackles (794) and third in rushing yards allowed (2554). The Seahawks allowed an average of 151.9 rushing yards per game, the third most in the league. Their opponents scored a rushing touchdown on 44% of their plays (fifth most), averaging 1.2 rushing touchdowns per game.
Losses and Acquisitions
The Seahawks suffered a few losses in free agency, but their additions outshined the losses. The losses included defensive tackles Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods—Linebacker Cody Barton, and Ryan Neal and Johnathan Abram in the secondary.
In the 2023 NFL Draft, the Seahawks acquired the following players:
- Round 1, Pick 5: Cornerback, Devon Witherspoon
- Round 1, Pick 20: Wide Receiver, Jaxon Smith-Njigba
- Round 2, Pick 37: Edge, Derick Hall
- Round 2, Pick 52: Running Back, Zach Charbonnet
- Round 4, Pick 108: Offensive Line, Anthony Bradford
- Round 4, Pick 123: Defensive Line, Cameron Young
- Round 5, Pick 151: Edge, Mike Morris
- Round 5, Pick 154: Center, Olusegun Oluwatimi
- Round 6, Pick 198: Safety, Jerrick Reed
- Round 7, Pick 237: Running Back, Kenny McIntosh
The Seahawks’ defense finished as DST11 in fantasy last season. They averaged 6.9 fantasy points per game and were buoyed by two weeks, where they scored 17 fantasy points.
Wagner finished as LB8. He averaged 13.7 fantasy points per game. Jordyn Brooks finished as LB11 averaging 14.1 fantasy points per game. In the secondary, Julian Love finished as DB8. Love averaged 11.4 fantasy points per game.
Giving It Away
The defense was mid-range in allowing fantasy points to the quarterback position. They gave the position an average of 15.3 fantasy points per game. They gave up 22 passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown to the position.
They allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to the wide receiver position. Wide receivers averaged 16.7 fantasy points per game against them. For the season, wide receivers only had 11 total touchdowns against them.
Tight ends scored the most fantasy points per game against the Seahawks’ defense. The tight end position averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game. Running backs averaged 22.1 fantasy points per game. That was the fourth most in 2022.