Fantasy

Fantasy Spotlight: NFC West Breakdown

ARIArizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are exciting. Carson Palmer is actually good! The receiving corps with Palmer calling the shots is explosive and really undervalued right now. There are three receivers that need to be rostered as long as Carson Palmer is healthy (Please stay healthy.). We know they have talent on their defense and that combination should lead them to the postseason once again this year with a fighting chance to make a run.

Bustworthy Beauty: Andre Ellington, RB
H/T: www.rantsports.com

H/T: www.rantsports.com

It breaks my heart to be so excited about a player just to end up disliking him the next season. I was so high on Ellington last year and… I was wrong. It’s not that I dislike his talent, he’s explosive and exciting, can catch the football, and works well in space. But he’s 5’9″ and just now finally put on some weight. I don’t think he can make it through the season healthy if he’s given three down work. David Johnson was a nice pick up for the Cards as a bigger pass-catching back to relieve pressure from Ellington. I just worry “relieving pressure” means “relieving Andre of his job”.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Carson Palmer, QB
H/T: nbcsports1060.com

H/T: nbcsports1060.com

Carson Palmer is my boyfriend. He averaged 18.8 points per game in his five full games last season. He struggled with the shoulder injury early in the season and then tore his ACL in Week 11, basically ending the Cardinals shot to contend in the playoffs. Now, assuming health, he has three unique receiving options and an explosive tailback. He’s being drafted as a mid-level QB2 but I predict he’ll end up as a top ten quarterback. Team Carson <3.

PPR Princess: Larry Fitzgerald, WR
H/T: www.footballnation.com

H/T: www.footballnation.com

I miss when Fitz used to be a god. He’s still one of the most talented receivers in the game. The problem is, everyone knows that. Now at his age, he can’t do all the things he used to be able to, so blanket coverage on him which used to be just a hurdle now actually does stop him. He isn’t the threat deep downfield anymore, but he’s a bona fide possession receiver now with an unbelievable track record. The three Cardinals receivers are being drafted in a similar range (Floyd, then Fitz, then John Brown) but I’d definitely be investing in Fitzgerald first. I trust the history and he’s still the most talented player on the team.

Dynasty Darling: John Brown, WR
H/T: www.washingtonpost.com

H/T: www.washingtonpost.com

I don’t think Michael Floyd has much of a future in the NFL. He’s been “primed to break out” for a couple seasons now and it just isn’t coming. He will never be a volume guy and that kind of streakiness is what drives fantasy owners up the wall. I don’t think John Brown is worth too much either, but the Cardinals have “win now” players in Palmer and Fitzgerald and I’m not sold on rookie running back David Johnson yet. Brown could turn into a reliable slot receiver for Palmer. He and Fitzgerald tied for the team lead in targets and I expect something similar this year as well. For 2015, give me Fitz, then Brown, and just keep Michael Floyd for yourself. I don’t want him.

 

SFSan Francisco 49ers

The Niners are over. Sorry, but it’s a fact. Everyone and their mother is retiring, the front office hated the best thing about them (Jim Harbaugh), and Frank Gore was the most stable part of their offense. Now that he’s in Indianapolis, Anquan Boldin and the corpse of Vernon Davis are supposed to bring stability to the offense. Vernon Davis hasn’t been good in quite some time, and it’s difficult to expect great things from this team. I don’t expect them to be bad, because their defense is still captained by NaVorro Bowman (please be healthy), and Kaepernick isn’t a dumpster fire yet, so 8-8 would be a successful season I would say.

Bustworthy Beauty: Torrey Smith, WR
H/T: www.rantsports.com

H/T: www.rantsports.com

This might work out once every three weeks. And that’s why we don’t like Torrey Smith. He’s a slightly poor man’s DeSean Jackson, and that doesn’t excite me. Yes, he’s a great deep threat, but Colin Kaepernick is not known for being able to consistently make deep throws. On top of that, you can’t be your team’s number one receiver and NOT catch the football in a game. That’s just not acceptable. I had more confidence in Flacco getting him the ball, but I have minimal confidence in Kaepernick’s deep ball.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Colin Kaepernick, QB
H/T: www.usatoday.com

H/T: www.usatoday.com

That being said, here we are with Kaepernick as our sleeper. Okay, Colin Kaepernick is not a good NFL quarterback and that’s just the unfortunate truth. However, Colin Kaepernick is an elite athlete and that produces a reasonable floor of production for a player in most cases. He is mobile, he is strong, he is built like a horse (or an ostrich), and he can PHYSICALLY make all the throws necessary (Flashback to last season against the Eagles when he made that unbelievable throw to the other side of the field across his body.). The fact that he’s being barely rostered as a QB2 is a concern to me. You could do worse than Kaepernick as your backup.

PPR Princess: Anquan Boldin, WR
H/T: fansided.com

H/T: fansided.com

34 year old Anquan Boldin isn’t the player he once was, but he’s the most tenured option in the passing option for Colin Kaepernick and will likely be leaned on heavily as the walls crumble around this team (I stopped counting Vernon Davis as a receiving option for them. He sucks.). Boldin led the team in catches last year by a wide margin (83 catches), targets (130), yards by A LOT (1,062), and touchdowns (five). He’s the only reliable piece on this offense and the sheer volume of targets he figures to receive again (It’s not like Torrey Smith is taking away a lot of looks) makes him a really good WR3 in PPR formats and is worth a bench spot in standard leagues as well. He’s hanging on for at least one more year.

Dynasty Darling: Carlos Hyde, RB
H/T: bleacherreport.com

H/T: bleacherreport.com

Originally, I had Hyde’s name penciled in as our “Bustworthy Beauty”, because I’m concerned about his ability to be productive this season and honestly a little concerned about his future regardless. He’s the best dynasty option this team has right now. Kaepernick isn’t showing much and if anything this is his last year to make that leap. Otherwise, we’ve seen his best, which is just a damn shame. Hyde showed me nothing last year to make me think that he’ll be a productive fantasy player. He’s being drafted based on situation. Theoretically, he’s shifting straight into Frank Gore’s role on a ground and pound offense, but he’s 23 years old already and doesn’t really look all that special. He and Gore looked like the same runner last year, and that’s not a bad thing, per se, because Gore was good again. But Gore is 34 and Hyde is 23. That means he’ll be cooked by 26 or so probably. No thanks.

 

SEASeattle Seahawks

The Seahawks’ move for Jimmy Graham was brilliant. I am in love with Jimmy Graham (I’m cheating on Carson Palmer with him. Don’t tell either of them.) Graham adds another facet to this offense that has historically been lacking receiving threats. We know Marshawn Lynch is elite and can carry an offense, but how much scarier does he become when teams can’t really stack the box against him since Graham needs to be blanketed by 25 guys to stop him. This was a team that was a terrible play from winning the Superbowl last year and they improved impressively. We have to pencil them in as favorites to get there again this year.

Bustworthy Beauty: Russell Wilson, QB
H/T: photos.nola.com

H/T: photos.nola.com

I’m really conflicted here. The addition of Graham is big for this offense, and I’m not worried about Wilson’s ability to throw touchdowns. But he also ran for more than 800 yards last season (and added six touchdowns on the ground) and that has never been done two seasons in a row. The rushing numbers have to regress even if the passing numbers return back to his usual pace. He’s currently being drafted as the fourth quarterback, but owners may have unrealistic expectations. Wilson has been great so far in his career and I expect him to continue to be great, but within reason.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Jimmy Graham, TE
H/T: footballfannetwork.us

H/T: footballfannetwork.us

There’s too much Jimmy Graham hate going around right now. I don’t think the move to Seattle hurts him as much as people think it will. He is unguardable. Just throwing the ball in his direction is enough for him to make magic happen. It just provides Wilson with one of the best red zone threats in the NFL, and I don’t think he should be drafted an entire round after Gronk. I wouldn’t be surprised if Graham ends up as the top tight end this season. In fact, I kind of expect it, as crazy as that may seem given his 2014 output. He was a borderline first round pick last year for a reason. Don’t let him fall too far!

PPR Princess: Doug Baldwin, WR
H/T: nflfemale.com

H/T: nflfemale.com

The Seahawks offense lacks volume receivers. They have options now with Graham, Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, and Lockette (They did that on purpose.). Graham probably finishes the season with the most catches, but if I had to choose another Seahawks receiver, it’s probably Baldwin. I expect him to finish with a ho-hum 70 catches. I’d look elsewhere for a PPR focus, but 70 catches isn’t a bad number for a guy that no one is expecting a ton out of.

Dynasty Darling: Christine Michael, RB
H/T: mynorthwest.com

H/T: mynorthwest.com

I know, I know, I know. I’m the loser that still believes he’ll happen. Marshawn Lynch has touched the ball more than any other running back in the last four years and every year we expect him to fall off a cliff but he just keeps running on air. It can’t possibly last forever… can it? I know Robert Turbin is technically in the way, but watching the two of them play it’s clear that Michael is the better running back. Now it’s just a question of when Marshawn Lynch will die or prematurely retire. Keep the faith, friends. Or don’t, I wouldn’t blame you for moving on from Christine. (Also, a shout out to his parents for naming him Christine. Christopher or Christian was too mainstream.)

 

STLSt. Louis Rams

I had such a hard time with this team. It would be wise to avoid the Rams offense entirely and make a play for the Rams defense, because that’s where the real value is for this team in 2015. Maybe you own the running backs, but no one is investing in a Nick Foles offense. If you do, I’m quitting on you. Gurley will matter someday, but we’re probably in for yet another rebuilding year for this Rams team. They need a quarterback as soon as possible, because whether we like it or not, a running back can’t do it all anymore. Open tryouts at the Edward Jones Dome next week.

Bustworthy Beauty: Jared Cook, TE
H/T: www.footballnation.com

H/T: www.footballnation.com

Outside of the running backs, no one expects jack shit from this offense. I didn’t have a lot of “bust” options on an offense that will have just a handful of players owned. Gurley and Mason will be owned (hopefully by the same owner) and rightly so. Brian Quick should get a look, and Kenny Britt is rosterable on a bench. No one is drafting Jared Cook, but he’ll have that ONE game where he looks like a beast because athletically, he is a beast. He’s not a good football player and that’s all there is to it. Just don’t buy the hype and start him and waste a week. That’s all we’re trying to say here.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Tre Mason, RB
H/T: sportsworldreport.com

H/T: sportsworldreport.com

First order of business: Tre Mason will lose his job. He’s 5’8″, not big enough to be a feature back in the National Football League. The question is not if he’ll have a starting job, it’s when he’ll lose it. Gurley will take over when he’s healthy, but we don’t know when that is. When drafting the Rams running backs (if you must), it’s imperative to get both. Gurley will miss at least a month of the season on the PUP, but knee injuries are scary sometimes, especially for a player who will need to be making cuts frequently.

PPR Princess: Brian Quick, WR
H/T: ramblinfan.com

H/T: ramblinfan.com

The Rams lack excitement in the passing game. Nick Foles is below-average if we’re being nice. Brian Quick seemed on the way to a breakout season before a season-ending injury in Week 8. He figures to be the number one receiver for the team, thus he should get first dibs on looks in the passing game. I don’t expect much more than 70 catches, if that, but just like the case with the Seahawks receivers (and to some extent the Niners receivers), if you HAVE to draft one, it’s Quick, with Britt close behind. Kenny Britt may surpass Quick as the number one receiver, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Actually, if you happen to draft him hoping for that, go ahead and hold your breath, because you’re on a long road of sorrow, and might as well end it now.

Dynasty Darling: Todd Gurley, RB
H/T: ftw.usatoday.com

H/T: ftw.usatoday.com

Todd Gurley is good enough that the Rams drafted him knowing he was coming off the ACL tear and wouldn’t be at full strength for some time. Gurley has a “rare combination of power and speed” and his weaknesses are all fixable issues. When you project to be Marshawn Lynch, there’s not too much to be worried about from the skills standpoint. I’m not too keen on drafting him in a redraft format, because not only will he start out on the PUP list, he’s still in a division with Seattle, Arizona, and San Francisco, three brutal rush defenses at least for the next couple years. In dynasty formats, I would definitely wait for his talent because it is very clearly there and very clearly great, but don’t get too overexcited with just 2015 in mind. I expect him to be good because I expect the Rams to be just good enough to stay in the game (attributed to that defense). Gurley, when healthy, will definitely get 20+ touches in this run-heavy offense.

 

Yesterday: NFC South

Click here to return to the 2015 Divisional Roster Breakdown homepage to catch the other articles in this series.

 

Featured Image: grantland.com

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