2021 Pow-Wow Notes: NFC West


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2021 Pow-Wow Notes: NFC West

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. I highly encourage you to check out the entire conversation by accessing our Livestream archives.

Greg and Adam 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. John has been holding these closed-door meetings with Greg and Adam for the last 15+ years. The Fantasy Points staff is proud to let the public peek behind the curtain during these exclusive Livestreams! Here are the notes I compiled from the NFC West meeting, and I included my biggest fantasy takeaways for each team.

Arizona Cardinals

  • Greg is sure that Kyler Murray is a great fantasy player, but he’s been a mediocre quarterback to this point in his career. Kliff Kingsbury is so good with designed run concepts for Murray inside the red zone. He has walked into the end zone untouched many times. Murray needs to take the next step as a passer. He is too erratic and scattershot with his accuracy.

  • Kingsbury wants to go back to his roots with four WRs on the field after adding A.J. Green and Rondale Moore this off-season. The Cardinals played with 10 personnel 31% of the time in Kliff’s first season before dipping to 20% last season. Greg wouldn’t be shocked if 10 personnel becomes their base offense given their WR depth. Green and DeAndre Hopkins will primarily play on the outside with Moore and Christian Kirk lining up the inside. Kliff threw in the towel a bit on Andy Isabella by drafting Moore in the second round.

  • Greg said Moore is built like a fire hydrant but he’s exceptional after the catch. His body type makes him an outlier, but he’s a great fit for this offense with his ability after the catch.

  • Greg said Green had moments when he looked good last season but there were also moments when it looked like he lost it. He’s lost some juice but he signed with Arizona because they want to throw the ball.

  • Adam said Arizona’s backfield battle is wide open between Chase Edmonds and James Conner. Edmonds is in the final year of his rookie deal so there’s a lot on the line, but he’s looked like more of a change-of-pace option to this point. Edmonds would be the biggest beneficiary if Kliff uses more sets with four wide receivers but Conner is also a solid receiver. Conner’s ability to stay healthy is the biggest question with him.

  • The Cardinals are extremely weak at cornerback, which could mean some shootouts could be coming for the Cardinals.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • I have Kyler Murray as my QB3 behind Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen and ahead of Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott, and I’m feeling a little better about him this season since they could run more 10 personnel this season. Murray’s receiving corps went from barren as a rookie in 2019 to fairly loaded by his third season, and we’re expecting Kliff Kingsbury to get four WRs or more on the field more than he has in his first two seasons. They also did little at running back, elevating Chase Edmonds to a bigger role, so they look prepared to spread teams out even more than we’ve seen through the first two years with Kliff and Kyler.

Los Angeles Rams

  • Greg thinks Matthew Stafford will be in the running for league MVP if he plays in all 17 games. Stafford is a high-level talent and he’ll get to play with great weapons under a great schemer in Sean McVay. Adam said McVay pushed to move Jared Goff, whom he inherited from the old regime.

  • Graham said the Rams ran so many tight formations last year to help Goff out. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp ran so many drag routes out of tight formations, but McVay is going to spread out the field a lot more this season with Stafford. Cam Akers should face lighter boxes this season if the Rams do spread it out more, and Graham also likes Darrell Henderson as a late-round pick with Malcolm Brown out of the mix.

  • Greg described Akers as skilled and workmanlike as a runner. He has a great feel for fronts, knowing where to run and where not to run. Greg added that McVay wants to run the ball so Akers should be active even with a new quarterback in town.

  • Greg said the Rams’ O-line wasn’t great last season but they also weren’t a problem like they were in 2019. Goff is going to make any offensive line look worse than it is because he’s a limited second-reaction player.

  • Adam said McVay and DeSean Jackson became pretty close during their time together in Washington. DeSean might play only 15-20 snaps per game but McVay will have a plan for him this season. Greg also thinks McVay has a plan for Tutu Atwell since they took him in the second round. He called him an intriguing prospect.

  • Adam said Tyler Higbee should theoretically be more involved with Gerald Everett gone, but they’ve spent fourth-round picks on athletic tight ends in each of the last two drafts in Brycen Hopkins and Jacob Harris.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • Cam Akers is setting up as a strong option in the early second round with an ADP sitting at 12.6 for the month of May. Matthew Stafford is obviously going to elevate Los Angeles’ passing attack, but I also see Akers benefitting by facing lighter boxes and by getting more scoring opportunities. Graham made a great point about all of the tight formations the Rams have used in recent seasons to try to help Jared Goff out, but Sean McVay is going to gash opposing defenses with Akers in more spread sets. It also doesn’t hurt that Malcolm Brown is no longer in the mix.

  • I thought I was going to be more heavily invested in Tyler Higbee this summer after Gerald Everett signed with the Seahawks this off-season, but his price hasn’t been to my liking with his ADP sitting at 116.5 as the TE12 in May drafts. I’m much more interested in Irv Smith and Jonnu Smith who are being drafted after him. The Rams drafted athletic TEs Brycen Hopkins and Jacob Harris in the last two rounds so Higbee isn’t guaranteed to have a massive passing-game role like he did when he tore it up in the final six weeks of 2019.

San Francisco 49ers

  • Greg really likes third-round pick Trey Sermon and he thinks he’s a perfect fit for Shanahan’s offense as a runner. Sermon also has some receiving ability and he even ran some vertical routes in college. He has the potential to be a solid receiver but he’s not going to be a volume option in this offense. Greg adds that Raheem Mostert is still the most explosive back on the roster and that Elijah Mitchell was an intriguing late-round draft pick.

  • Adam thinks Kyle Shanahan is going to use a heavy rotation with his backfield even with Jeff Wilson headed to the PUP list to start the season. He believes Sermon will eventually be the early-down back with Mostert moving into the explosive changeup role.

  • Joe adds that it says a lot that Kyle spent a third-round pick on Sermon since the Shanahans have a long history of turning late-round picks and UDFAs into fantasy studs.

  • Adam said Kyle Shanahan doesn’t have patience and he’s tired of waiting to see if Jimmy Garoppolo can stay healthy and put it all together. they’re going to move on with Jimmy G. Greg added that Kyle is all about perfect execution just like his dad, and he bets that Kyle is still bothered by Jimmy G failing to execute multiple throws in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

  • Adam thinks the 49ers will stick with Jimmy G for as long as they’re winning early in the season while Greg and Graham believe Trey Lance will play early if he does well in training camp and the preseason. They think the 49ers gave up too much to move up to not play him early. Lance did play just one exhibition game last season and he played at the FBS level so he does have more of a learning curve than most rookie QBs.

  • Greg said Lance’s delivery is a bit elongated and he pauses a bit when he hits his back foot, but he doesn’t see these issues as being truly problematic. Lance has a reputation as being a super smart kid and a phenomenal leader.

  • Greg said Shanahan’s offense is still heavy zone schemes but they added more gap schemes last season. He bets Shahanan can’t wait to design some quarterback runs for Lance, which he really hasn’t been able to do since the Shahanans had Robert Griffin III in Washington.

  • Greg said Jalen Hurd could be the slot receiver in 11 personnel this season after missing each of his first two seasons because of injuries. He also said to keep an eye on UAB’s Austin Watkins who he viewed as a draftable prospect.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • I got some early shares of Trey Sermon when he’d fall outside the top-100 picks, but his 101.6 ADP from May isn’t going to hold this summer with Jeff Wilson starting the season on the PUP list. Sermon has been drafted in the early eighth round since news first came out about Wilson’s knee injury on May 25, and his price is likely to get even more prohibitive as the summer goes along. This backfield is still incredibly deep even with Wilson out of the mix and it could be just a matter of time before he’s being drafted before Raheem Mostert. I’m expecting Shanahan to continue to rotate his backs and his backs are rarely factors in the passing game so I’ll likely be out on Sermon if he routinely is drafted in the top-75 picks.

  • I touched on this in the NFC North writeup, but my favorite best ball quarterback draft strategy this year has been to take one of Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, or Dak Prescott in the fifth or sixth round before taking one of Trey Lance or Justin Fields in the 13th- to 15th-round range to finish off the position. My thinking is that those elite quarterbacks should carry the position for me early in the season (and most weeks) before getting the upside weeks from the mobile Lance and Fields later in the season once they get into the starting lineup for their respective teams. It will be a bonus if I get 13+ starts from Fields and/or Lance this season. Kyle Shanahan could turn Trey Lance into a fantasy monster if he’s in the laboratory this summer cooking up running plays for his first mobile QB since RGIII. Lance also has three monsters after the catch in George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel so it’s easy to envision early fantasy success for Lance once he gets into the starting lineup.

Seattle Seahawks

  • Greg said Russell Wilson played poorly in the final eight games of last season, adding that Wilson has always been a streaky player. He has a couple of inexplicable flat performances every season.

  • The Seahawks brought back Chris Carson and they drafted Rashaad Penny in the first round a couple of seasons ago because Pete Carroll views the running game as an important part of his offenses. Adam said new OC Shane Waldron is going to run an old-school West Coast Offense while trying to get the ball out of Wilson’s hands quicker.

  • Adam believes Penny could be used on third down if his health checks out. The offensive line is still a work in progress and Adam said they’re most concerned about right tackle. They’re feeling much better about the interior of their O-line after trading for Gabe Jackson this off-season.

  • Adam said every scout at the Senior Bowl raved about second-round pick Dwayne Eskridge, who is the favorite to be the third receiver. Eskridge played just one season at wide receiver but Greg loved his competitiveness on tape. Eskridge can line up all over the field, he’s an explosive route-runner, and he adds another vertical dimension for Wilson.

  • This offense has some playmakers after adding Gerald Everett this off-season, and he burned the Seahawks in a 2019 contest. Will Dissly certainly surprised them early in his career, but he’s become too unreliable for them because of his extensive injury history.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • I’ve been lukewarm on Seattle’s offense this off-season because of what happened at the end of last season when Pete Carroll reverted the offense back to a run-fueled unit. I’m likely going to be a bit underweight on D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett for that reason and they did bring in some target competition in Dwayne Eskridge and Gerald Everett. I do like Chris Carson if the running game is going to be a big part of this offense once again. His current fourth-round ADP of 39.5 (RB21) in the month of May is appealing if I’m looking to take my second running back in that range.

  • I’ve been out on Russell Wilson at his seventh-round ADP of 77.8 since I’ve been aggressively attacking the quarterback position in the fifth and sixth rounds. Wilson’s rushing upside had been dwindling in recent seasons until he got back to averaging 30+ rushing yards per game last season. He could go back to averaging 22.4 rushing yards per game as he did in 2018-19 with his dropbacks potentially being limited a bit compared to early last season and with Shane Waldron trying to get the ball out of Wilson’s hands quicker.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 64.3% clip last season and he owned the last undefeated team out of 3000 entries in Scott Fish Bowl 12.