2022 NFC West Fantasy Preview
The 2022 NFL regular season is just around the corner and the preseason is underway. As part of an 8 part series, Truth Serum Football will dive into each NFL division and discuss the offseason and the fantasy implications of each of these offseason moves. Today we will dive into the NFL West.
The Los Angeles Rams acquired Matthew Stafford before the start of the 2021 season. He instantly linked up with Cooper Kupp to produce the top connection in the league all the way to a Super Bowl championship. They may have even more firepower this season as they look to defend their title. Matthew Stafford barely missed passing for 5000 yards last season and threw 41 TDs on the year. He finished as QB5. He won’t give you much with his legs, but he should have one of the safest floors in the league. Draft him with confidence.
Cam Akers is a little bit of a wildcard. He has shown flashes but achilles injuries are notoriously tough to come back from. He didn’t take long to recover and he clearly has the talent, but we haven’t seen enough to warrant his draft capital in my opinion. In addition to coming back from the injury he still will concede a chunk of his workload to Darrell Henderson. The Rams backfield is one I will be avoiding entirely.
The Wide Receiver room is a different story. Cooper Kupp exploded last season. 145 catches, 1947 yards, 16 TDs and 67 more points than anyone else at the position. Kupp is going as the first WR off the board and rightfully so. He may give up a little bit of his volume to newly acquired Allen Robinson, but he should be locked in as a top 3 fantasy wideout heading into next season. Allen Robinson witnessed his worst season as a pro seeing only 66 targets last season for the Bears. Kupp benefitted tremendously from having Matthew Stafford and Robinson has to be licking his lips. Playing with Blake Bortles, Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles, and Justin Fields has only slowed him down minimally throughout his career. He has WR1 potential even with Kupp on the other side of the field.
The San Francisco 49ers came up just short of another Super Bowl appearance as they lost to the Los Angeles Rams. Unlike the Rams, the 49ers will be ushering in a new era with last year's number 3 overall pick Trey Lance. Lance will be the youngest starter in the league but we saw glimpses of something special last season. There is ability for 800 plus rushing yards and a big arm to accompany it. Lance could be primed for a huge sophomore season with a big supporting cast.
A lot of owners, myself included, went all in on Trey Sermon at the start of last season. While Sermon failed to impress, another rookie, Elijah Mitchell, emerged as an unlikely bell cow in a San Francisco offense that doesn’t typically feature a running back getting that much usage. I do have concerns with the drafting of Tyrion Davis-Price who just adds another big body to the rotation, but it won’t be enough to scare me away from taking a few flyers on Mitchell.
Last season the Rams had a Kupp but the Niners had a Deebo. Fantasy’s number two overall WR last season was nothing short of electric. Deebo may have reached his ceiling, but if Trey Lance is as advertised, he may not have. Deebo is going outside of the top 3 WRs right now. The further he drops the more of a value he becomes. Across from Deebo the 49ers will bring back Brandon Aiyuk. Aiyuk was one of the most frustrating WRs in the league last year as he was expected to make a sizable jump. He did pick it up the second half of the season so there is some optimism this may be the year he puts it all together. George Kittle will be back in the mix and should be one of the first tight ends off the board in every draft. A Tight End is a young Quarterbacks best friend and there aren’t too many better than Kittle.
The Seattle Seahawks have been a mainstay in fantasy football lineups for several seasons. That is not the case this year. The Russell Wilson era is officially in the rearview and it is now Drew Locke season. Or maybe it’s Geno Smith season. Whichever season it is, it’s gross and should be avoided at all costs. Seattle still has a few weapons on the offensive side of the ball, but their QBs should be rostered only in deeper formats. That’s not the case for the other position players.
The Seahawks will also bid adieu to longtime stalwart, Chris Carson. The oft-injured running back finally hung them up. There weren’t too many backs more effective over the last six weeks of the season than Penny. Penny, a former first round talent, has seen his fair share of time on the IR himself. After starting the year with less than 50 combined rushing yards he exploded for 700 yards over the last six weeks of the season. Seattle brought him back on a one year prove it deal and if he stays healthy, he could finally live up to the first round billing. He’s currently going in the back half of the 8th round and is a great dart throw in that range. He’s very boom or bust though.
The Seahawks also drafted RB Kenneth Walker III out of Michigan State. Walker, who started his college career with Wake Forest, transferred before last season and broke out in a huge way capturing First Team All American honors, First Team Big Ten Honors, The Doak Walker award for nation’s top running back and the Walter Camp Player of the Year award. Walker is built to be a three down back in this league and should get every opportunity to prove himself. His ADP is a little high for my liking right now but if Penny starts strong I’ll be buying him everywhere for the second half surge that seems more likely than not.
The WR core for the team still looks excellent, on paper at least. DK Metcalf will remain one of the most popular receivers in the league and for good reason. Even after losing Wilson last year Metcalf was still able to produce decent numbers. But decent numbers aren’t superstar numbers and Metcalf’s ceiling is much lower with either Lock or Smith tossing him the ball. He’s one of my top bust candidates for this upcoming season and I cannot justify drafting him at his draft cost. While DK concerns me, Tyler Lockett has now become untouchable. There haven’t been many deep ball combos more effective than Russ and Lockett, but even with Russ, Lockett was a lineup nightmare. When he was good, he was as good as anyone, but those rough weeks were already too prevalent. I will not roster a single share of Tyler Lockett this season.
Seattle did acquire Noah Fant in the Wilson deal. While Fant has everything needed to produce as a TE1 it hasn’t happened, it hasn’t happened with Lock, and it probably won’t happen in Seattle.
Last but certainly not least is the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals started the season off on fire before stumbling down the stretch. They were able to sneak into the playoffs but suffered defeat to the eventual champion Los Angeles Rams. The Cardinals brought back most of their core headlined by locking in franchise QB Kyler Murray to the tune of 230 million. Murray has finished as a QB1 every season since entering the league, but had his lowest season finish yet, slotting in at 10th overall. His yards and TD numbers didn’t take a huge dip but his rushing statistics definitely did. TD regression was bound to happen as he went from 11 TDs in 2020 to 5 TDs in 2021. However his attempts and yards were practically cut in half. Still, even if Murray hits his floor he should still be a top option at the QB position. Draft with confidence.
On the other side of the coin is RB James Conner. Conner revived his career last season with his first top 5 finish in both standard and PPR. This was largely due to his 18 total TDs and 1000 all purpose yards. Now Chase Edmonds is gone and Conner seems like he will get all of the work. All that sounds great, right? The downside is Conner saw his YPC dip under 4 for the first time in his career with only 3.72. There should be plenty of red zone work available which still gives Conner a decent floor. He also could see some of Deandre Hopkins missing targets.
Speaking of Deandre Hopkins, the wideout was slapped with a 6 game suspension in the offseason for PED usage. There aren’t many WRs with DHOPs capabilities, however, he will be tough to draft with that suspension. That’s not the only cloud hanging over his head either. His target percentage is down almost 10% since coming to Arizona. He will certainly have his days where he pops and he could be a monster down the stretch, but it’s best to avoid DHop in your draft and wait to pounce on him in week 3 or 4 when the owner that drafted him is desperate. The biggest move the Cardinals made on the offensive side of the ball was bringing in Marquise Brown from the Ravens. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Hollywood I can’t help but fill like he landed in the absolute perfect spot in Arizona. Reunited with his college QB, Brown should see plenty of deep targets in this Cardinal offense. Kyler should be able to hit him more often than anyone did on the Ravens. Brown is currently going at the beginning of the 6th round in drafts and has WR1 upside. He should see no shortage of targets with the DHOP suspension combined with the departure of Christian Kirk. He will be the top dog in the Cardinal offensive attack for at least the first 6 weeks. I’m buying every share I can of him now. Rondale Moore was my favorite player out of last years draft and should also see a nice bump in workload early. With his current adp in the 12th round I am throwing every dart I can. He is prime for a breakout and has all of the talent to do so. The Cardinals will also bring back AJ Green. Gone are the days of the set it and forget it AJ Green and he should only be rostered in the deepest of deep leagues.
That’s a wrap on our Divisional Preview article series! Keep an eye out for more articles and other content!