We continue our series breaking down each NFL division and the fantasy implications that each team faces. Let’s dive into them and continue with the NFC West.
One Big Fantasy Question – NFC West Edition
Arizona Cardinals – Can Kyler Murray Finish As A Top-10 Quarterback?
From potential baseball star to number one overall pick in the NFL draft, Murray has had the spotlight on him all of 2019. The spotlight could not be any brighter now and the pressure never higher as the new franchise quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. He is also the key cog in the machine that is Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. With being the most integral part of the offense, can this lead to him finishing as a top-10 fantasy quarterback?
This offense is built around his skills and abilities. The players that were drafted are going into the offense that is tailored to Murray. This is a make or break sort of situation because if Murray fails, this means that the Cardinals franchise will need to hit the reset button again in the span of a few years. So you better expect that Murray is going to be given every chance to succeed and the offense will flow through his play. His ability to be a passer and a runner could mean serious points being put on the board for fantasy owners. Kingsbury employs a spread offense in that multiple receivers are on the field and passing is key to moving the ball down the field. Also, this will involve some run option and quarterback keepers which can lead to Murray being used as a runner more often than not.
Quarterbacks are important to your fantasy success and there are a lot of good ones out there to choose from in a 12-team league. If you miss out on the elite talents like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger, then grabbing Murray to complement your roster could be smart in the later rounds. He is probably going to go in a similar draft spot like Carson Wentz, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees. Murray has more upside than these mentioned players as this offense was built around everything Murray can or can’t do. Jackson is also in a similar situation, but his throwing ability could be a cause for concern initially. So is it crazy to think that Murray could finish in the top-10 among fantasy quarterbacks? Sure, but crazier things have also happened in fantasy football.
Projected Draft Round:
Kyler Murray – 9th, Patrick Mahomes – 2nd, Aaron Rodgers – 5th, Andrew Luck – 5th, Carson Wentz – 8th, Drew Brees – 8th, Cam Newton – 9th
Seattle Seahawks – Can Rashaad Penny Steal The Lead Job From Chris Carson?
Former Seahawk, Mike Davis, is now playing in Chicago. Penny was drafted in the first round last season but had a hard time getting on the field between Davis and Carson. Carson finished the 2018 season with 1,151 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. It’s going to be hard to supplant that sort of production, but Penny is out to prove many people wrong.
Penny just never was able to build any momentum last year to be an effective running back. Throw in the fact that Carson has the majority of that momentum and it is no shock that Carson is the lead back in 2019.
Penny took some time in the offseason to be more fit and he looks a lot more explosive than he did back in his college days at San Diego State. Now in an offense that has some inexperience in the wide receiver group, the running backs will be relied on to make this offense go. Penny and Carson are young players as well, but this offense was the only one to feature more running plays than passing plays. This means that both players will get heavy workloads.
So while Carson is the current starter, the resumé of Penny’s may make him a factor more often this season. Head coach, Pete Carroll, has said that he wants both players to be heavily involved in both facets of the offense. At this time until Penny proves his abilities in the regular season, Carson is the one to value just a bit more. Penny will be an eventual starter for this team, and Carson should have a very watchful eye on his fellow teammate.
Projected Draft Round:
Chris Carson – 5th, Rashaad Penny – 7th
Los Angeles Rams – What Can We Expect From Todd Gurley?
Everyone in the world was wondering what was going on with Gurley when he was limited in Super Bowl LIII. After having such a sensational season, the expectation was for that to continue into the playoffs and of course the Super Bowl. Instead, we saw him riding the exercise bike and mainly being a spectator on the sideline. Later in the offseason, we learned that he was experiencing arthritis in his knee. This does not bode well for his aspirations in the 2019 season.
The expectations for fantasy owners was the Gurley was going to be a top-five pick again and take owners to the fantasy playoffs. With this news surfacing about his knee, there could be some serious doubt as to whether he is even worth drafting in the first round. We all know that head coach, Sean McVay, was a big fan of Gurley and he was utilized in all aspects of the offense. Now McVay needs to pull back the reins and rely more on his depth chart in the backfield and his quarterback, Jared Goff. The Rams must have known that Gurley’s knee was going to be a long-term issue, as they drafted Darrell Henderson in the third round of the draft. They did let C.J. Anderson sign with Detroit in the offseason, but they also have the capable Malcolm Brown as well.
So this may become one of every fantasy owner’s worst nightmares: a running back by committee approach. Gurley will still be the no-question leader of the group, but his number of touches is going to take a severe dip and his value will also plummet. While Gurley is going to be worth drafting in all fantasy leagues, he is not that first-round sure-fire selection that he was the past two seasons. Grabbing Gurley in the second round is now more realistic and depending on how your draft goes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him slip into the early part of the third. So Gurley is still going to have a good year, but the Rams rushing offense will welcome the likes of Brown and Henderson. Both of those guys will be inserted often to keep Gurley fresh for another possible Super Bowl run. Tread with caution if he falls to your draft spot.
Projected Draft Round:
Todd Gurley – 2nd, Malcolm Brown – 14th, Darrell Henderson – 7th
San Francisco 49ers – Besides George Kittle, Who Is Going To Step Up In This Wide Receiver Group?
Kittle burst onto the scene last season, setting the single-season receiving record for tight ends. This was all with a cycle of starting quarterbacks from Jimmy Garoppolo to C.J. Beathard to Nick Mullens.
Besides Kittle, the receiving corps of the 49ers produced next to nothing. The leading receiver from that group, for San Francisco in 2018, was Kendrick Bourne who produced a stat line of 42 receptions, 487 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. This is not so promising in an offense that is led by Kyle Shanahan. There were some bright spots in rookie Dante Pettis emerging down the stretch of the season, but overall the wide receivers could not be relied on for consistent production. This can be worrisome heading into 2019 and figuring out who would be good to draft for your fantasy roster.
As mentioned earlier, Pettis started to be a consistent receiving option down the stretch of the season. After dealing with early-season injuries, Pettis was able to stay on the field and built a strong case to be a possible breakout candidate in the 2019 season. Now as exciting as it is to see that Pettis can breakout, it was also a small sample size of good games. So although the optimism can be believed, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
Next on the list would be Marquise Goodwin, who is known for coming on during Garoppolo’s debut five games with the 49ers in 2017. Since then, Goodwin has been a ghost on the field and has aspirations for competing in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Known as a burner and deep threat, those five games with Garoppolo saw him develop more of a route tree. The problem is can we depend on his production in the NFL if he has his eyes on the international stage of the Olympics? Goodwin has come out and said that he is fully committed to playing in the NFL as well, but it’s not a good sign when one of your players is thinking of other things besides playing wide receiver.
Now let’s jump into one of their more promising fantasy players in the wide receiver group, in rookie Deebo Samuel. Samuel is coming into the NFL as an established route runner and efficient in catching those 50-50 balls down the field. Another thing that can separate Samuel from the rest of the cloud of uncertainty, is his ability to get into the endzone in the red zone. Seven of his 11 receiving touchdowns in 2018 with the Gamecocks, came in the red zone. So his ability to separate and high-point the ball is going to be just what the 49ers have been missing in their offense. San Francisco was dead last in red zone conversions last season.
Another rookie receiver that could be fantasy relevant is Jalen Hurd. A former running back turned wide receiver, Hurd has the ability to be effective with the ball in his hands. He is also a big body target as he is one of the tallest receivers on the team, coming in at 6’4. Being a former running back, Hurd can be a dangerous threat to rack up serious yards after the catch. Also, his height is another great option to have in the red zone as he flashed some of that ability back at Baylor.
So of the options that the 49ers have at their disposal, the current group of receivers have a lot of promise but not serious credibility just yet to rely on. Samuel would be the leader of this group and Pettis would be close behind him. Hurd is an intriguing option to keep an eye on, but it will be based on how he will get used in Shanahan’s offense. Will he become a true receiver as we might hope or will he become another versatile option like a Tavon Austin or Cordarrelle Patterson that will be a threat in the NFL but not reliant enough in fantasy circles? Overall, there are better options at receiver to not have to worry about the 49ers situation, but if you want to use one of your bench spots on Pettis or Samuel, they could pay dividends for you. It just might take some time to see if they are worth the hype or not.
Projected Draft Round:
Dante Pettis – 8th, Deebo Samuel – 13th, Marquise Goodwin – 12th, Jalen Hurd – Undrafted, Kendrick Bourne – Undrafted