NFC West fantasy team previews

After spending all summer analyzing teams, player situations, and tracking news to get prepared for the 2019 season -- it's time to get down to the fun stuff. To get you prepared to draft your squads this season, my fantasy team previews discuss every fantasy-relevant skill position player, positional strategy, and where I have players ranked versus their average draft position (ADP). Let's get to it!

Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback: After a disastrous 2018 campaign led by one of the worst coaching staffs in recent memory, the Cardinals knew they needed to do something different this year. Retread OC Mike McCoy was fired mid-season, and his game-plan on offense could not be any different from new HC and Air Raid aficionado, Kliff Kingsbury. To help facilitate this change in philosophy, Arizona wisely chose to go with Kyler Murray over 2018 first-rounder Josh Rosen and selected three rookie wideouts with their first 7 picks in the draft. Skeptics correctly point out that an Air Raid offense has never been fully installed in the NFL, but the NFL has recently been infused with college QBs extremely familiar with the concepts. Nick Foles and Jared Goff were both coached by Air Raid disciple Sonny Dykes in college while Kingsbury recruited both Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech. Air Raid is coming to the NFL, and for fantasy, it's easy to get excited. After Arizona averaged just 56.4 plays per game last year (second-fewest), their 2019 attack will look like they are playing at lightspeed. Kingsbury's Texas Tech Raiders ranked 2nd, 1st, 10th, and 4th in plays per game over the past four FBS seasons. Murray's dual-threat ability in this fast-paced offense has fantasy managers salivating, and the Cards' early schedule looks ripe for points. Before their Week 12 bye, Arizona faces nine opponents that ranked inside of the bottom-10 teams in fantasy points allowed per pass attempt last year. However, Murray's fantasy hype train left the station the second he was taken No. 1 overall, and he will be expensive on fantasy draft day. Just know that selecting Murray too early may not be a prudent move considering how many great QB options there are in fantasy this season.

-- Murray (Rk: QB14 vs. ADP: QB11)

Running Back: David Johnson is a massive bounceback candidate in the Cardinals revised offense. After being repeatedly slammed up against the middle of the defense in Arizona's archaic 2018 attack, Johnson should enjoy much more space to maneuver and more efficient usage under Kingsbury. Johnson ran the ball behind center on an astronomical 60 percent of his attempts last year, nearly double the league-average for RBs (31 percent). Unsurprisingly, Johnson's unimaginative usage netted an abysmal 3.6 YPC. Kingsbury won't be a fan of inefficient runs. Over the last four seasons, Texas Tech ran the ball up-the-middle on just 28 percent of their designed run plays (per PFF). Kingsbury's backs have also been a staple of his passing offense, ranking 10th among all FBS teams in receptions per game. In fact, Kingsbury has made it a part of his philosophy to feature RBs as receivers on early downs. Air Raid genius Mike Leach also follows these ideals, and only Leach's Washington State Cougars threw to their RBs on first-down more often than Texas Tech from 2015-18. Kingsbury's pass-heavy, spread offense will be designed to move fast and break things -- and DJ will reap the benefits. As one of the league's few entrenched workhorse backs, I'm confidently taking Johnson as early as 5th overall. Chase Edmonds is the only real depth Arizona has at running back, and he's one of a few handcuffs actually worth drafting late.

-- Johnson (Rk: RB5 vs. ADP: RB6)

Wide Receiver: Christian Kirk is the Cardinals top fantasy wideout entering 2019. Kirk led Arizona in yards before breaking his foot in Weeks 13, and nearly supplanted Larry Fitzgerald as the Cards' main target as a rookie. Kirk saw 68 targets to Fitz's 75 in their 12 games played together last season. Kingsbury gushed over Kirk's route running this spring and went out of his way to mention Kirk's understanding of the Air Raid offense from his time in a similar system in college at Texas A&M. Our own Marcas Grant wrote a great piece about how drafters are * still*too low on Kirk in fantasy. While Fitzgerald is a veteran value at his 9th round ADP, he faces stiff competition for looks with three new rookies. Andy Isabella was a monster producer for three-straight years at UMass, and ended his collegiate career by leading the nation in target share (36 percent), receiving yards (1,698), yards gained per route run (4.2). After taking him in the second round of the NFL Draft, Kingsbury mentioned that Isabella profiles as a shifty, do-it-all weapon in his offense. "Isabella had a lot of production inside and outside and that's what's exciting to us is his ability to play on the outside and create space... He's a guy that showed he could do both at a high level," said Kingsbury. The Cards' also used Day 3 picks on hulking wideout Hakeem Butler and Fresno State's KeeSean Johnson. Butler likely fell in the draft due to concerns over his hands, one year of production, and the fact the NFL seems lower on big wide receivers in general. Still, Butler is a size-speed freak with 98th percentile height-adjusted speed who dominated deep downfield in his final season at Iowa State. Butler led all draft-eligible WRs in yards per reception as 55 percent of his catches gained 20 or more yards (which also led the class). Johnson produced back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in his final two years in college and showed some versatility by lining up in the slot on 36 percent of his routes in his final year. Because the Cardinals will rip off a ton of plays and use 4-receiver sets more often than any team in the league this season, all of their receivers look potentially undervalued in fantasy.

*-- Kirk (Rk: WR34 vs. ADP: WR36); Fitzgerald (Rk: WR44 vs. ADP: WR40); Isabella (Rk: WR65 vs. ADP: WR76) *

Tight End: Ricky Seals-Jones' limited fantasy output from 2018 will be further exacerbated by all of the Cardinals personnel and scheme changes. Hilariously, RSJ almost saw more targets than David freaking Johnson last season -- a figure that is surely not going to come close to repeating. RSJ saw 70 passing looks to DJ's 78 last year. Seals-Jones makes sense as a last round pick in best ball formats to get a cheap piece of this passing offense, but he's not on the fantasy radar in 10- or 12-team leagues.

-- Seals-Jones (Rk: TE26 vs. ADP: TE32)

Los Angeles Rams

Quarterback: In his first two years with Sean McVay, Jared Goff has orchestrated back-to-back QB1 fantasy seasons -- finishing as the QB12 in 2017 and QB7 last year. Attached to McVay and the Rams elite talent, Goff is already a no-brainer fantasy QB, but Cooper Kupp avoiding the physically unable to perform list after a midseason ACL-tear is huge news for LA's outlook, too. Goff's passing stats fall sharply when Kupp does not play, illuminated by drastic dips in YPA (8.6 to 7.3), YPG (279 to 256), completions (64 percent to 60 percent), and touchdown rate (6.0 percent to 5.2 percent). The Rams will be starting a new C (Brian Allen) and LG (Joseph Noteboom) this season, but Kupp's return combined with McVay's tutelage makes Goff a layup value pick in the 10th-11th rounds of fantasy drafts.

-- Goff (Rk: QB10 vs. ADP: QB10)

Running Back: Todd Gurley's arthritic knee condition is the most precarious injury situation to monitor entering the 2019 season. Gurley has been one of the most dominant RBs in fantasy football history under Sean McVay, averaging 26.0 fantasy points and 135.2 scrimmage yards on 22.7 touches per game. Gurley's red-zone role is invaluable, as the Rams featured back has seen 2.1 carries per game inside of opponents' 10-yard line over the last two seasons. The next closest back in this span is Ezekiel Elliott with 1.6 inside-the-ten attempts per game. However, all of the Rams moves this offseason indicate concern over Gurley's surgically repaired left knee. Gurley was banged up to close the 2018 regular season and he then lost snaps to C.J. Anderson during the RamsSuper Bowl run. In March, the Rams matched the Lions offer sheet for Malcolm Brown and then proceeded to trade up and select the most explosive back in the class, Darrell Henderson, at 70 overall in the NFL Draft. Henderson led draft-eligible RBs in yards created per attempt (6.44) and yards gained per route run (2.80) last season, and he is a perfect fit in Sean McVay's outside-zone scheme. Per PFF, no team has called outside-zone runs more often than the Rams over the last two years while Henderson's 10.7 yards per carry on outside-zone attempts led the nation last year. The Rams gave Gurley a massive contract in 2018 and are incentivized to get the most out of their All-Pro back, but the days of him being a true three-down workhorse may be over. Gurley has handled 1,031 touches and played 81 percent of Rams' snaps over the last three combined seasons, and CBS Sports reported that he was considering stem cell treatment for his knee back in March. Gurley can pay off his average draft position by getting 75 percent of his usual workload, but in truth, no one will know where he's at health-wise until Week 1. McVay notoriously rests starters during the preseason, and as Super Bowl contenders, there is theoretically no reason for the Rams to load Gurley up with a heavy workload early in the season. Still, Henderson is one of my favorite backs I've ever charted in my four years of doing Yards Created, he's a perfect fit in the Rams scheme, and GM Les Snead mentioned that Henderson could be the Rams version of Alvin Kamara in a press conference days after moving up the draft board to get him. Ironically, I also compared Henderson to Kamara in my pre-NFL Draft notebook. There is a lot to worry about if you take Gurley in the first two rounds of your fantasy draft.

-- Gurley (Rk: RB12 vs. ADP: RB8); Henderson (Rk: RB34 vs. ADP: RB36)

Wide Receiver: Last year, an astounding 86 percent of Jared Goff's throws were directed at Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Todd Gurley. As the most concentrated passing offense in the league, we know exactly where the ball is going each and every week. That's extremely valuable in fantasy. Unsurprisingly, Cooks was the Rams main deep-threat in his first year in LA, leading the team in air yards per target (12.7) and passing looks 20 or more yards downfield (24). Woods has been a bastion of consistency in each of the past two seasons, hauling in at least 4 receptions and gaining 60 or more yards in 25-of-32 possible games in LA. Meanwhile, Kupp is the most discounted Rams receiver in fantasy as he comes off of a knee injury. In 22 full games over the past two seasons, Kupp has averaged 14.7 PPR points per contest (X-most in span). Because the Rams rarely use tight ends in scoring position, Cooper Kupp quietly has one of the best red-zone roles in fantasy, too. Even with the missed time, Kupp leads the Rams in red-zone targets over the past two seasons (31) and has incredibly drawn at least one passing look inside the 20-yard line in 19-of-22 games. While Woods and Cooks are locked-in fourth round picks in 12-team leagues, Kupp lasts into the fifth. As consistent WR2 producers on a top-5 offense, I'm actively targeting all three Rams wideouts in all of my fantasy leagues.

*-- Cooks (Rk: WR16 vs. ADP: WR18); Woods (Rk: WR17 vs. ADP: WR17); Kupp (Rk: WR22 vs. ADP: WR24) *

Tight End: Cooper Kupp's return roadblocks any of the Rams tight ends from breaking out. In fact, in eight games with Kupp last year, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee registered just 34 combined targets. Everett has been slightly more involved than Higbee on passing downs over the last two years, but it'll take an injury to one of their wideouts for either of these two to be on the fantasy radar.

-- Everett (Rk: TE28 vs. ADP: TE28)

San Francisco 49ers

Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo has only made eight starts for the 49ers so far, but his small sample success should excite both fantasy and 49er fans alike. Garoppolo has averaged 8.5 YPA in San Francisco over the past two seasons, a figure only bested by Patrick Mahomes (8.8 YPA) in this span. Garoppolo's passing success rate with the 49ers is 52 percent, which ties Tom Brady for the fourth-best efficiency in the league behind Brees (56 percent), Mahomes (54 percent), and Luck (53 percent). A hard-luck ACL-tear ended Garoppolo's season in Week 3 last season, but his elite passing efficiency shows a breakout is near. It doesn't hurt that HC Kyle Shanahan has made a career out of getting the best out of his passers, too. Shanahan most recently worked his magic with Nick Mullens (8.5 YPA; 91 rating), but he previously coached Matt Ryan to two fantastic seasons (8.3 YPA; 102 rating), he got a career-best 7.6 YPA out of Brian Hoyer in Cleveland in 2014, and he was a partial architect to RG3's rookie season (8.1 YPA; 102 rating). Everywhere Shanahan has gone in his career, offensive success has followed. With restocked weapons at WR and RB, 5-of-5 starting OL returning, and Shanahan calling plays -- Garoppolo is a good bet to vastly outperform his lowly 143 overall ADP.

-- Garoppolo (Rk: QB19 vs. ADP: QB19)

Running Back: Most fantasy drafters look at the 49ers stable of runners and see a backfield to avoid. I see an opportunity. Kyle Shanahan's backfields have also been completely dominant when he's the play-caller, finishing top-10 in yards from scrimmage in four-straight seasons and ranking top-12 in touches per game in five-straight. While the bulk stats are impressive enough, what Shanahan has done with 49ers offensive line in the run game deserves even more praise. Per PFF, only the Patriots, Rams, Saints, and Broncos OL groups have opened up more yards before first contact per attempt over the past two seasons. To help his run attack further, Shanahan decided to reunite with Tevin Coleman via free agency, bringing the former-Falcon in on a two-year deal. Coleman is obviously well-versed in the 49ers current scheme. While in Atlanta, no team called more outside-zone runs than the Falcons. In fact, Coleman (4.8 YPC) was more effective than backfield-mate Devonta Freeman (4.1 YPC) on their outside-zone attempts (per PFF). Coleman also notably posted career-highs in targets, receptions, yards, and catch rate under Shanahan in 2016. As long as Matt Breida is around, though -- Coleman won't be the 49ers true featured back. Breida has easily been the most effective running back in SF over the last two years, and his presence on all three downs will severely limit Coleman's weekly upside. Breida's 5.6 yards per touch ranks 10th-best among 60 running backs with at least 150 carries from 2017-18. While Jerick McKinnon tries to bounceback from a setback in his rehab off an ACL-tear, Coleman, and Breida project as the 1-2 punch early in the season. Coleman is fairly priced as a FLEX starter in the 6th or 7th round, but Breida offers a massive bargain at his 145 overall ADP. With the easiest slate of run defenses on their schedule per Warren Sharp's metrics, the 49ers backfield has a ton of upside in 2019.

*-- Coleman (Rk: RB26 vs. ADP: RB30); Breida (Rk: RB39 vs. ADP: RB50); McKinnon (Rk: RB63 vs. ADP: RB54) *

Wide Receiver: Dante Pettis enters 2019 as the favorite to lead the receiver group in targets, but more competition is on the way. Knee and foot injuries limited him all year, but Pettis flashed as a rookie. In the six games Pettis played over 70 percent of snaps, he put up a monster 20/484/5 stat line. In a wide-open pass catcher corps, Deebo Samuel is an actual fantasy sleeper this season. Samuel dealt with injuries his entire college career, but he perfectly complements Pettis as another do-it-all 49ers wideout. Samuel broke out for a huge final season at South Carolina, ranking second in the class in yards after the catch (9.7). Samuel was also heavily featured in the red-zone, leading all draft-eligible WRs in targets inside the 10-yard line (14). Marquise Goodwin will fill out the 49ers final starting receiver slot, while Jalen Hurd, Kendrick Bourne, and Jordan Matthews round out the receiver corps. Pettis is being drafted as the featured receiver here, but George Kittle is fortified as the 49ers lead target while Samuel may prove to be stiff competition.

-- Pettis (Rk: WR33 vs. ADP: WR36); Goodwin (Rk: WR68 vs. ADP: WR70); Samuel (Rk: WR69 vs. ADP: WR65)

Tight End: George Kittle was a fantasy league winner last year, but no player has seen their value skyrocket more than him over the last year. After routinely being selected in the late rounds last year, Kittle's 2019 ADP is in the early third round, and I have seen him go as early as the second round in some leagues. Kittle is already one of the best tight ends in the NFL -- no TE has gained more yards per route run over the last two seasons -- but his record-breaking 2018 season needs context. Last year, the 49ers top three receivers -- Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and Dante Pettis -- combined to miss a total of 17 games. Now, not only are Pettis and Goodwin fully healthy, Kittle has added competition for targets in the two rookie wideouts and two new RBs (counting McKinnon). Let me be clear: I am by no means projecting Kittle to bust this season. Just understand that taking a TE early while the board is filled with high-end RB and WR talent is a bit risky in 12-team leagues, especially with O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, and Hunter Henry going 2 to 3 rounds later than Kittle.

-- Kittle (Rk: TE2 vs. ADP: TE3)

Seattle Seahawks

Quarterback: In his first year as OC, Brian Schottenheimer's Seahawks were the only team in the league that ran the ball more often than they threw it. Seattle went a league-leading 59 percent run-heavy on first- and second-downs last season, and the 'Hawks ran on an absurd 61 percent of plays when they were ahead by three or more points on the scoreboard. Wilson's pass attempts cratered to a career-low in 2018 as a result of Schottenheimer's run-heavy scheme, and the lack of pass play volume also had a trickle-down effect on Wilson's rushing. Because Seattle called so few passing plays, Wilson scrambled far less often -- causing a career-low 4.5 rush attempts per game as he failed to record a single rushing score for the first time as a pro. Wilson is also a regression candidate in the touchdown department after miraculously throwing a career-high 35 scores last season. Despite Seattle's immensely run-heavy tendencies, Wilson threw a passing TD on 8.2 percent of his attempts in 2018 -- well above his career 5.7 percent clip. Russell Wilson's track record is as good as it gets, though, and Seattle's once elite defense has lost of talent. Last year, the Seahawks quietly gave up the ninth-most yards per drive to opposing offenses. More shoot-outs mean more pass attempts for Wilson in 2019. While I'm not buying at his lofty QB6 ADP on, Wilson will always be a target of mine when he slips past Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, and Cam Newton on the board. There is no way Wilson can sustain his absurd touchdown rate from last season and we know Seattle wants to pound the rock, but you can't stick to your game-plan when your defense keeps giving up points. I'm betting Wilson's pass volume bounces back this season.

-- Wilson (Rk: QB9 vs. ADP: QB6)

Running Back: As the most run-heavy attack in the league, it's more than likely Seattle supports two fantasy-relevant backs in 2019. Chris Carson never looked back after he earned the starting gig over first-rounder Rashaad Penny last year. Even though he missed two games last year, Carson rolled up 1,151 yards and 9 TDs on 260 carries. Carson was one of the league's most effective backs in 2018, finishing top-10 among all backs in yards after contact, missed tackles forced, and success rate. Rashaad Penny shook off a slow start and finished his rookie year with a monster 5.9 YPC on his 69 carries from Week 4 on. While Carson has the starting job and goal-line duties on lock, Penny will be featured more often in his second season. Mike Davis' departure opens up 146 touches for the taking, which should be more than enough volume to keep Penny on the weekly FLEX radar. Seattle very quietly targeted their backs on 26 percent of their first- and second-down pass plays last year, tying the Panthers and Bears for the eighth-highest rate. With all of their open opportunity in the passing game, both Carson and Penny are great bets to see their targets spike in 2019. Seattle's coaches have routinely stated all offseason that they want to get Carson more involved as a pass catcher, and Seattle's past usage and open opportunity certainly makes that goal easily attainable. For what it is worth, Russell Wilson was on the field for 17 plays in the Seahawks second preseason game and Carson out-snapped Penny 12 to 5. A soft schedule further helps Seattle's rushing game outlook. Per Warren Sharp's strength of schedule data, the Seahawks project to face the third-easiest slate of rush defenses based on last year's metrics. Carson has low-end RB1 upside this season while Penny has standalone FLEX value and an obvious ceiling should Carson go down with an injury.

-- Carson (Rk: RB20 vs. ADP: RB22); Penny (Rk: RB33 vs. ADP: RB35)

Wide Receiver: Tyler Lockett's 2018 breakout is genuinely one of the league's most uniquely dominant seasons ever. Including the postseason, Lockett posted 1,085 yards on 76 targets last season -- and his 14.2 yards per target is the highest ever recorded, by a mile, since the NFL began tracking targets in 1992. Russell Wilson and Lockett essentially broke Next Gen Stats' completion probability metrics, which simply captures how difficult a single throw and catch is by a variety of play factors. Lockett's catch rate was a league-leading 20 percent higher than expectation, led by league-highs in completions (78 percent) yards (663), and TDs (7) on passes that traveled 20 yards in the air. There is no chance Lockett will be as efficient as he was last year, but Doug Baldwin's retirement entrenches Lockett as the Seahawks WR1. The Seahawks won't throw it often this season, but when they do, it will be to Tyler Lockett. 36 percent of the Seahawks targets are up for grabs, and rookie D.K. Metcalf is next in line to soak up Baldwin's missing passing looks. It's easy to be blinded by Metcalf's 4.33 wheels at 6-3, 228lbs -- but he is a raw prospect. Metcalf only lined up on the left side of the formation in college while 72 percent of his receiving yards came on two routes (go and hitch), per PFF's Scott Barrett. Seattle was arguably one of the best landing spots possible for Metcalf, though. Metcalf will never run the league's most diverse route tree, but he won't have to on a run-first team. Metcalf lands significantly below ADP in my ranks on a low-volume passing attack, but I can't imagine trying to defend Metcalf's straight-line speed when the Seahawks try to get him loose on one of Wilson's patented deep balls off of play-action. While Metcalf rehabs a "minor" knee injury suffered during the preseason, third-year man David Moore may open up the season as Seattle's No. 2 wideout. He's been undervalued as a late-round dart throw in 12- or 14-team leagues all summer.

*-- Lockett (Rk: WR19 vs. ADP: WR19); Metcalf (Rk: WR63 vs. ADP: WR52); Moore (Rk: WR66 vs. ADP: WR75) *

Tight End: Your guess at the Seahawks best TE option is as good as mine. Will Dissly is returning off of a patella tendon tear, Ed Dickson and Nick Vannett have largely been used as blockers in their careers, while the Seahawks flipped the Patriots a 2020 seventh-rounder for Jacob Hollister in May. Hollister is the best athlete of this bunch, but that's not saying much. Unless someone breaks free from the pack in the preseason, Seattle will likely use a tight end by committee in 2019.

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