NFC West Division Preview: Fantasy fireworks all over Cardinals, Seahawks, Rams, and 49ers

Yahoo Sports Fantasy Staff
·10-min read

The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all eight NFL divisions during the 2020 fantasy football draft season. Here, we’ll tackle each team’s most pressing fantasy question, and team win totals. Be sure to also check out each team’s full preview linked up below. Next up, the NFC West.

San Francisco 49ers: Only Dalton seems to believe in Jimmy G this season, ranking him in the top 15. Is this well beyond Garoppolo’s most likely outcome for 2020, or is there hidden value in selecting him?

Matt: Dalton has made his case for Jimmy Garoppolo to me many times on the Yahoo Fantasy Football Podcast over the last few months. He has a multitude of good points. I think those add up to make the case that Jimmy Garoppolo will have many big weeks that help you win a head to head matchup. I just don’t see the upside for Garoppolo to develop into anything more than a priority streamer. We know the 49ers want to lean toward being a run-heavy offense. The supporting cast is weaker than it was in early May, following Deebo Samuel’s offseason injury. The opening schedule (vs. Cardinals, at Jets, at Giants, at Eagles) is in his favor. So Garoppolo could get off to a nice start and be a solid QB1 to start the year. Still, if I’m deploying the late-round quarterback strategy, I want the player I’m targeting to have a pathway to be a high-end, every week starter. I don’t see that in the range of outcomes for whoever is piloting this offense.

Scott: Kyle Shanahan builds successful running games, no matter the personnel. And the Niners have the foundation of an excellent defense. So it’s impossible to imagine Garoppolo playing with his hair on fire weekly, a volume collector. Garoppolo is also unlikely to run much. George Kittle is obviously a god at tight end, but the receiver collection is nothing special if we assume Deebo Samuel is out on opening day.

If you want to use Jimmy G as your No. 2 quarterback in a Superflex format, or a depth guy in Best Ball, knock yourself out. I don’t see how you can build an upside case. The volume is unlikely to be there.

Dalton: He got 10.0 YPA(!) on first downs last year and plays for a team that just scored the second-most ppg and likely to be fast-paced but will almost certainly regress on defense in 2020, resulting in higher volume. During the offseason, the team added Trent Williams at left tackle, a receiver who led college football in yards after the catch average (with the third-lowest drop%) with a wingspan like Calvin Johnson in the first round of the draft and saw Jalen Hurd and Jerick McKinnon return. During Matt Ryan’s second full year as a starter in Kyle Shanahan’s offense (like Garoppolo will be this season), he threw for nearly 5,000 yards with 38 touchdowns and won MVP. Garoppolo was blitzed by far the highest rate while still recovering from knee surgery last season, and there’s room for further growth having fewer career starts than Baker Mayfield and fewer career pass attempts than Sam Darnold. The 49ers also have one of the more favorable QB fantasy schedules, so Jimmy G’s ADP is comically low.

OVER/UNDER on 10.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: The 49ers play in a competitive division and history hasn’t typically been kind to Super Bowl losers the following season. But this team remains loaded (adding Trent Williams and two first-rounders during the offseason, and what if Dee Ford is actually healthy?), has extra motivation coming off such a devastating loss, and continuity seems especially important given our current unique circumstances. Whether or not you believe in Jimmy G, this offensive system should be highly productive (one could easily argue Kyle Shanahan is a top-three NFL commodity), and the defensive line should again be a force, so give me the OVER despite the high number.

(Click here for our full, in-depth San Francisco 49ers team preview)

Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley is gone; the Malcolm Brown-Darrell Henderson Jr.-Cam Akers triumvirate remains. What’s your prediction for this backfield and how should fantasy drafters proceed?

Dalton: Henderson was a huge bust last season, while Akers enters the league already as the far better pass protector (something the Rams ask their RBs to do more than most teams), is coming off an impressive college campaign and is accustomed to running behind a poor offensive line. The Rams don’t have a good quarterback, but they do have Sean McVay, and Akers will be replacing a running back who led the NFL in touchdowns over the last two seasons despite missing multiple games and playing on one leg (and finishing last in yards per route run by a mile last season), so the rookie’s upside is extremely high in this system. Hopefully Malcolm Brown doesn’t ruin it.

Liz: The Rams have been steadfast in their commitment to Brown, as evidenced by matching the Lions’ offer sheet in March of 2019 and by the fact that he was second in team snaps last year. He may never be LA’s RB1, but he’s not going away.

Henderson is in possession of awesome burst and balance, but he was largely ineffective last season. He’s also still rehabbing an ankle injury that he sustained in mid-December.

Clearly, the Rams brass wanted to add depth to their backfield in the wake of Gurley’s departure and Akers’ suddenness paired with his ability to create (especially behind a woeful offensive line) captivated the team’s front office. The FSU alum is, therefore, likely to be the favorite for RB1 duties, but the wealth in this backfield figures to be shared. Sean McVay admitted as much in May.

Scott: I’ll consider Akers if where he goes in drafts is reasonable. Otherwise, there’s nothing much that interests me in this group. All context clues point to the Rams wanting Akers to be that guy, and that’s important.

OVER/UNDER on 8.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: The Rams went all in recently and are paying for it now, with $38 million in dead money on Gurley and Cooks while also taking the NFL’s biggest cap hit ($36 million) this year on a QB who just posted an ugly -3.6 CPAE. At least their new stadium has this awesome double-sided video. I still believe McVay is a good coach and will produce a productive offense despite Goff, but this roster is overmatched in a loaded division, so give me the UNDER.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Los Angeles Rams team preview)

Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray was the seventh-highest scoring fantasy QB as a rookie. He’s being selected as the fifth QB this year. Is his upside worth proactively drafting or are you waiting on a QB in the classic analyst move?

Matt: Kyle Murray doesn’t really have holes in his outlook. He plays for a progressive offensive mind who was flexible enough to adjust when injuries struck his receiver corps last year. The team added a true alpha No. 1 wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins. Not only will the former Texan provide a major boost to Murray as a passer, but he’s also a true coverage-dictating wide receiver who will boost the efficiency of the entire offensive unit by the opportunities he creates for others.

Murray is also already one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the game. He has access to a tremendous ceiling in addition to the safe floor he showed last year. That said, his draft price as the QB5 overall and therefore a mid-round pick (Round 5-7) in almost every draft puts him in a range where I won’t personally click his name simply because of the opportunity cost. But I’ll never talk you out of doing it based on the player.

Andy: Another way to look at this is that Murray was a top-8 fantasy QB in a season in which he only threw 20 touchdown passes and his top receiver finished with only 804 yards. His team has since added DeAndre [Expletive] Hopkins, one of Earth’s finest receivers. Murray’s upside as a runner is obvious, as he just averaged 5.8 YPC and very nearly led the Cards in rush yards. He benefits from year-to-year system and coaching continuity, too. He’s an easy bet for a top-5 finish. I’m in.

Scott: I see all the pro angles for Murray, but because the last two MVPs were sophomore year breakouts (Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson), I suspect the market has been an eyelash too proactive with Murray. There is nothing wrong with sticking a flag on the Arizona quarterback, but I see values that intrigue me more. As usual, the quarterback board is loaded with juiciness.

OVER/UNDER on 6.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Scott: Most of the crowd is chasing OVER, which is why you have to tack on the -164 juice. I’d take that side in a vacuum, but the extra bump chases me off a window trip. If you’re pro-Arizona, consider taking a stab at their exact win total, or putting a playoff ticket at +275. I’ll take the over for the purpose of this assignment, but I’ll fill my portfolio with other tickets.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Arizona Cardinals team preview)

Seattle Seahawks: DK Metcalf is ranked 24th among wide receivers after an impressive rookie season. How big of a plausible leap could he take in 2020, or will this run-first offense hold his ceiling back?

Andy: During the Wilson-Carroll era, no Seattle receiver has seen more than 125 targets in any season (Baldwin, 2016). So it’s probably not realistic to consider Metcalf (or Lockett) a serious threat to finish as the overall WR1. But Metcalf has the benefit of playing with one of the game’s most efficient and accurate passers, plus he’s a burner with 4.3-speed and exceptional strength. It’s definitely reasonable to expect him to make a leap in his second year; draft him expecting 1,000 yards and 8-10 spikes.

Scott: If Metcalf merely keeps last year’s efficiency and adds a little more opportunity and route diversity, I think everyone is happy. Of course, I’m just as pleased to draft Tyler Lockett, too. Targets from Wilson are plated in gold. I love to draft wideouts who are young but with experience; in other words, go after an established wideout heading into his second or third year.

Liz: Seeing an increase in targets from Metcalf is less important to me than seeing a variety of targets from the speedster. As Andy points out above, the likelihood of Metcalf's volume blossoming is slim. However, growth to his route tree would indicate evolution of his skill set and increased versatility. A player who can do more than one thing will, obviously, remain more valuable to the franchise, and its elite QB … thus upping the value of said looks. From Weeks 8-17, Metcalf managed a snap share of nearly 94 percent. In that time he ran an average of 28 routes, hauled in 4.2 balls, and posted 56.7 yards per contest. Assuming he picks up where he left off, a 70-950-9 stat line is well within reason.

OVER/UNDER on 9.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Scott: I hate betting against Wilson and Pete Carroll is also a pillar of stability. But the division looks nasty, perhaps home field will be negligible in 2020, and Seattle’s defense is held together by scotch tape. I dare these guys to win 10 games, no matter how much fun Wilson, Lockett, and Metcalf have. Punching the UNDER.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Seattle Seahawks team preview)

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