With the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, so are fantasy football drafts.
To help get you ready, Sportsnet’s Andy McNamara will down a division position by position every Friday until the start of the campaign.
Next up: the NFC West
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson has been so good for so long we sometimes take him for granted. There’s still an underlying stigma that Seattle is a “run first” team, and while they certainly like to tote the rock, Wilson has been a top-four fantasy QB in four of the past six years. He’s thrown over 30 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons, and the extra rushing yards are always gravy on top of it all.
The Seahawks pivot is a perfect “set it and forget it” type of quarterback that you can draft in the fourth or fifth round.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
The upside of Murray is huge entering Year 2. Finishing his rookie campaign as a QB7, the sophomore gets a stud weapon in DeAndre Hopkins and hopefully a full 16 games with Kenyan Drake in the backfield. There’s always the chance of regression for a quarterback in their second season, but Murray’s legs should keep him very relevant as a starter for 2020.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Which Goff will we see once Week 1 begins? The QB7 from 2018 or last season’s 13th-ranked fantasy quarterback? The Super Bowl hangover was quite real in 2019 for the Rams, who stumbled to a 9-7 finish. Goff threw for 10 fewer touchdowns and four more interceptions than his stellar 2018.
Los Angeles’s offensive line troubles concern me because Goff is not great under pressure and he’s without an established star running back to help relieve opponent blitzes. The good news is that I believe the former first-overall pick will pass enough to keep his receivers relevant (626 attempts in 2019). However, I’m not buying him as a stand-alone-calibre signal-caller in 12-team leagues.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
In his first full season as a starting quarterback in the NFL, Garoppolo was real-life efficient but not a fantasy force. The 14th-best QB in 2019 will have a tough time boosting his status with how bare the San Francisco cupboard is at wide receiver, amplified even more by injury. It’s pretty much George Kittle and patch work everywhere else. At most I’d use Jimmy G. as a second in super-flex or two-quarterback formats.
I am super excited about the possibilities for Kenyan Drake in Arizona this season. After joining the club from the tanking Miami Dolphins mid-way through last season, Drake was the fourth-highest fantasy point-producing running back from Weeks 9 through 17. More importantly from a fantasy perspective, he’s a clear-cut No. 1 running back in a world full of committees. In half-PPR formats, I have Drake ranked as my RB8 overall. Get him on your roster.
This is another classic case of a backfield committee and it got more complicated with the addition of Carlos Hyde. His usage could be just enough to take fantasy points away from Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny.
Carson was stellar, rumbling for over 1,200 yards on the ground as a RB11 last season, while Penny averaged an incredible 5.7 yards per carry over 10 games. Penny’s ability to stay healthy will directly impact Carson’s value. With that big unknown, it’s tough to project either one higher than a second or third running back on your fantasy roster.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers running back situation concerns me. At 28-years old, is journeyman Raheem Mostert really going to be considered “The Man” after a breakout year with Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson lurking behind him? I love the story, but I wouldn’t reach for Mostert with so many mouths to feed in what smells like a full-blown committee. Counting on the veteran as the third RB for your fantasy squad would be the safest bet.
Los Angeles Rams
Another NFC West log jam in the backfield here in Los Angeles. Todd Gurley’s departure leaves Darrell Henderson, rookie Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown to share the load. In dynasty formats, Akers is the most intriguing but I don’t see any of these rushers separating themselves as a standalone fantasy powerhouse.
Henderson suffered a hamstring strain last weekend, making him questionable for Week 1. Brown took over reps with the first team at practice for now, and the workload split between him and Akers remains unknown. Akers will need to earn goal-line carries to boost his fantasy stock since he’s not known as being much of a pass-catcher.
Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp remains as a PPR star at wide receiver, and if Robert Woods can find the end zone a few more times, he would enter WR1 territory. For roster depth, I like Josh Reynolds, but in dynasty formats scoop up rookie Van Jefferson to stash for the future.
If Sean McVay keeps with his dual tight end formations then only two wideouts will accumulate significant snaps.
DeAndre Hopkins brings a whole new dynamic to the Cardinals attack as Kyler Murray now has himself a bona-fide No. 1 receiver. Hopkins hasn’t had less than 127 balls thrown his way since 2013! I’m sure the former Clemson Tiger will also be kept busy in the desert.
Will there be instant chemistry between the wideout and new quarterback? How much will Murray tuck and run, and what does that mean for targets? Despite those questions, still look to draft Hopkins at the beginning of the second round.
Larry Fitzgerald isn’t a fantasy option anymore and Andy Isabella is best thought of as a cheap salary fill in on Draft Kings DFS contests. Christian Kirk does interest me as a later pick for bench depth that has a chance to pop as he builds off of a solid 2019.
Give me a little bit of that D.K. Metcalf, please! Metcalf’s elite size and speed were complemented by improved route running throughout his rookie season. The six-foot-four man-beast is poised to join the WR2 conversation for any fantasy roster.
Teammate Tyler Lockett remains Russell Wilson’s first go-to option in the air. The veteran’s high floor keeps him as a steady back-end starter choice.
San Francisco 49ers
What a mess this position group is! From injuries to player opt-outs, wide receiver is a sore spot in San Francisco. Deebo Samuel is rehabbing an ankle injury and highly touted rookie Brandon Aiyuk is listed as week-to-week with a hamstring strain. The remaining pieces of that wideout room don’t give fantasy owners much to be excited about.
Also, remember that coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme is based on two-receiver sets as the emphasis is placed on tight ends and running backs. If healthy, Samuel and Aiyuk could become a formidable quick-twitch duo for Jimmy Garoppolo. However, missing practices in this already shortened off-season worries me on a slower ramp-up once the games start to count. Track the status of both speedsters and draft accordingly.
San Francisco 49ers
George Kittle is really the only true must-own fantasy starter on the 49ers. At worst, the second-best playmaking tight end in the NFL, Kittle’s value increases more than usual because of the injuries at wide receiver.
Seeing over 100 targets and eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark seem like givens for a 26-year-old who’s just entering his prime.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams tight ends present a fascinating dilemma. Tyler Higbee is a riser on many owner fantasy boards, but should he be? Finishing as a TE9 in standard leagues in 2019, Higbee was the beneficiary of looks from Jared Goff because of the injury to Gerald Everett. Before that, McVay was rolling out more and more two tight end sets, which could neuter the fantasy possibilities for both players if that strategy continues.
Seattle’s tight end group? No, thank you! Greg Olsen hasn’t been fantasy-relevant in three years, and his mere presence squashes any hopes of Will Dissly or Jacob Hollister breaking out. However, six-foot-seven, 251-pound rookie Colby Parkinson is a raw talent who would be a smart add later in dynasty rookie drafts.
If the Cardinals have a good year on offence, it won’t be due to tight end usage. In 2019, a tight end saw more than three targets in a game only once. The position is just not a part of head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s playbook and should be avoided.