The Fantasy Points staff recently welcomed NFL Films legend Greg Cosell and NFL Insider Adam Caplan to talk about the NFC West as part of our Virtual Pow-wow Series. We highly encourage you to check out the entire conversation by accessing our Livestream archives.
Cosell and Caplan joined John Hansen and company to break down the NFC West from front to back to help us get a deeper understanding of every roster heading into the summer. Hansen has been holding these closed-door meetings with Cosell and Caplan for the last 15 years. The Fantasy Points staff is proud to let the public peek behind the curtain for the first time ever during these exclusive Livestreams! Here are the notes I compiled from the NFC West, and I included my biggest fantasy takeaways for each team.
Greg said Kliff Kingsbury started last season playing in 10 personnel (four WRs) but abandoned it because he didn’t have the WR depth. Greg thinks he would like to use more 10 personnel this year, but they’ll need to see how their young WRs develop.
The Cardinals have a schemed run game. They’ll spread out opposing defenses to create lighter boxes for Kenyan Drake. They have more WR depth now, which should help Drake get into more one-on-one situations as a runner and receiver. They’ll have explosive elements all over the field in this offense.
Arizona’s once terrible O-line has improved too. It’s still not a great line, but they like the group and it’s serviceable now. Drake should be on the field a lot after they traded away David Johnson, and Arizona could potentially lead the league in snaps this year.
Greg said Kyler Murray throws the ball so well in addition to moving well. The game has changed with more spread principals and it fits Murray’s game well. He isn’t an under-center quarterback.
Adam said coaches are evaluating the QB position differently. Patrick Mahomes has changed the way evaluators look at the position. The Packers and the Eagles were the latest teams that went for the movement QB early in this year’s draft.
This offense could have six or seven viable receivers if you throw Drake into the mix. DeAndre Hopkins is going to get targets but it might not be the amount he’s used to seeing in Houston.
Greg said Hakeem Butler is big and moves well. He was an X receiver at Iowa State, but he can play inside and outside. He can work in the middle of the field, and he can create after the catch.
The Cardinals have upgraded their defense. Greg always liked De’Vondre Campbell when he was with the Falcons. Isaiah Simmons will play linebacker in their base. Greg saw him more as a safety. The Cardinals still have secondary questions, but they have talent on the back end.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
Kenyan Drake looks to be undervalued in early drafts. Kliff Kingsbury wants to spread the field out like he did to start last season before rolling back his 10 personnel usage, which should create lighter boxes and more big-play opportunities for Drake. The former Miami RB doesn’t have much competition for work in this backfield, and the Cardinals have a chance to surge to the top of the league in plays per game. Add it all up and Drake is looking like a nice bargain as the RB13 in early ADP in the second round.
On the other end of the spectrum, Drake’s new teammate DeAndre Hopkins is looking a bit overvalued in early drafts. The Cardinals could have six or seven viable passing game options if their young WRs Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson improve in their second years. Nuk is by far the best receiver in this Cardinals offense, but he could have some growing pains with a new QB in a potentially deep passing attack. I’ll be passing on Nuk if he continues to be selected as the WR4 in the early second round.
Los Angeles Rams
Greg liked that Cam Akers had both pre-snap and post-snap recognition. He had a great feel for defensive fronts before the snap, and he had a great sense for the fluidity of gaps too. Greg thinks he has the chance to be a good multidimensional back with elements of a foundation back. Akers has some ability as a receiver.
Graham agreed that he was a creative back behind a bad O-line at Florida State, noting that Akers was contacted behind the line of scrimmage on nearly a third of his carries.
The Rams O-line could be rough again. They started using more 12 personnel at the end of last year, and they started using more gap schemes. The Rams don’t have athletes on the O-line right now, which necessitated the move to a gap scheme.
Once Akers knows what he’s doing, he should lead this backfield. Akers should open as the 1A in the committee, but it’s notable that both John Kelly and Darrell Henderson each had trouble learning Sean McVay’s offense as rookies. Malcolm Brown is experienced, and he was the fall-back option for Todd Gurley last year.
Adam said the Rams went to 12 personnel because of Brandin Cooks’ injuries and because of Sean McVay’s love for Gerald Everett. They’re going to use a mix of 12 personnel and 11 personnel this season.
Adam said Tyler Higbee is well respected by other coaches around the league because they didn’t know he could move the way he did at the end of last season. Greg noted that he was a detached player at Western Kentucky.
Greg isn’t concerned about Cooper Kupp working against perimeter CBs when they’re in 12 personnel.
Scott said Robert Woods is underrated in ADP. He’s going to be helped out by Cooks being gone. He exceeded 1100+ yards with just two TDs, which has happened only four other times.
Greg said Van Jefferson isn’t explosive, but he knows how to separate and run routes.
New DC Brandon Staley is an up-and-coming play-caller and a Vig Fangio protege. McVay started getting more involved on the defensive side of the ball starting last summer so the writing was on the wall for Wade Phillips. They need to find ways to create pressure outside of Aaron Donald. They brought in Leonard Floyd, who hasn’t lived up to his first-round draft status because of injuries. Greg likes David Long, who could give Troy Hill some competition for the other outside CB spot across from Jalen Ramsey.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
I’m warming up to Cam Akers and his fifth-round ADP after our conversation. This offensive line is still a major concern, and consecutive rookie RBs in Darrell Henderson and John Kelly struggled to pick up Sean McVay’s offense as first-year players. I’m still loading up on free Malcolm Brown picks with his ADP in the 200+ range in best-ball drafts in case he handles goal-line work and/or these young RBs struggle again.
Robert Woods continues to be one of the biggest values among players being drafted in the first five rounds. Woods has never topped 6+ TDs in a season, but even he had incredibly bad luck in the touchdown department last year. Woods is an autopick for me if he’s still on the board in the fifth round.
San Francisco 49ers
Greg said Kyle Shanahan runs a schemed offense, and he’s not going to change since he’s had success at every stop. They have a whole bunch of movement players all over the field.
Adam said the 49ers really wanted a player with Jalen Reagor’s speed but he was drafted before them. Brandon Aiyuk is special with the ball in his hands, but they don’t have that one game-breaking receiver. They wanted Marquise Goodwin to be that guy but it never happened. They added Travis Benjamin, but he may not have much left.
Shanahan told John at the Combine that Deebo Samuel has room to grow as a receiver and that Trent Taylor was their best receiver in camp last year before breaking his foot.
Greg liked Jalen Hurd coming out of Baylor. He’s big (6’4”, 230 pounds) and plays physical after the catch. He played running back at Tennessee before going to Baylor. He’s a very intriguing prospect
Graham believes Deebo and AIyuk will help George Kittle get more one-on-one opportunities down the seams this year. Kittle is due for some positive touchdown regression after scoring just five TDs in each of the last two seasons. Kittle could supplant Travis Kelce as the TE1 if he gets some TD luck this year.
Adam said the backfield is currently Raheem Mostert/Tevin Coleman/Jerick McKinnon/Jeff Wilson with Wilson being the odd man out if McKinnon is healthy to play. Mostert is a special teams ace and it’s not out of the question that they could get him involved again on special teams if they feel good about McKinnon’s health?
Mostert was awesome down the stretch, but he was TD dependent and he did little as a receiver. Coleman got hurt early in the year and it harpooned his season.
Adam said they could move Dante Pettis if they get the right offer. The 49ers held onto him even when teams asked about him around last year’s trade deadline. He fell into Shanahan’s doghouse and couldn’t get out.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
I love watching Deebo Samuel, but I’m mostly out on him at his current price as an early sixth-round pick. I don’t see a high enough ceiling for him in this run-first attack that’s suddenly loaded with quality depth at receiver with George Kittle, Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor, and others. I’m typically targeting receivers with higher upsides like DeVante Parker, Terry McLaurin, and A.J. Green in the same pick range.
Raheem Mostert made for an awesome story in the final months of last season, but his early ADP is awfully optimistic as an early fifth-round pick. Mostert is the favorite to lead this backfield early in the season, but Tevin Coleman is looking like the much better value almost 50 picks later. Mostert was awfully reliant on finding the end zone last year, scoring 11 TDs over his final nine games (postseason included). He also had just 10 catches in that same span. Shanahan is likely to roll with a hot-hand approach again in this backfield, and I’ll take my chances on Coleman playing better this season on two healthy legs after they gave him a $10 million contract last off-season.
Greg said there’s no mystery to how the Seahawks want to play. The offense starts with the running game, and they used a lot of six offensive linemen last season — they need to replace George Fant in that role. The passing game attacks off of run looks and run personnel.
D.K. Metcalf is a perfect fit for the offense because he can run a lot of deeper routes. The Seahawks are looking for explosive plays off their running game, and they added more speed with Phillip Dorsett added to the mix, which could create more rushing lanes for Russell Wilson.
Adam said the Seahawks liked last year’s seventh-round WR John Ursua. He could get some snaps in the slot, which would push Tyler Lockett more to the outside.
Greg Olsen should lead their TEs in snaps, but they’ll use a lot of two-TE personnel. Jacob Hollister flashed quite a bit in the second half of last season, but he isn’t strong enough.
Adam said the Seahawks offered Devonta Freeman, but he wanted too much money and didn’t back off his asking price. Rashaad Penny is unlikely to be ready for Week 1. The Seahawks ideally want their backfield to be Carson/veteran RB/Penny/Dallas-Homer to start the year.
The Seahawks stayed in their base 4-3 way more than anyone else, but Adam said they’re planning on running more nickel this year. Quinton Dunbar would be the guy to move into the slot (if he’s playing in the fall). Seattle’s pass rush was awful last year. They brought back Bruce Irvin, and they drafted two guys Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson to help create more pressure in sub-packages.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
- The Seahawks backfield has been fruitful for fantasy during Russell Wilson’s career, but it has the potential to be an absolute mess if Chris Carson is a little bit behind schedule off his fractured hip. The Seahawks could still add a veteran RB to their room for insurance, and Rashaad Penny is going to push to return in October if he starts the season on the PUP list. I’ve mostly been avoiding this backfield in my early fantasy drafts until we get a little more clarity about Carson’s outlook for the start of the season.