What To Watch For: NFC West (Fantasy Football)

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By Ryan Weisse

IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!!! Just about two weeks left until the NFL season kicks off and just two divisions left in our What To Watch For series… almost like I planned this.

BUT before we get into that… have you entered to win this week’s raffle items yet? What are you waiting for? Club Fantasy is supporting the Women of Fantasy Football with our shows all month long and the coolest part of that is that you can win things while donating to charity. Donate now.

The NFC West might be the most competitive division in the NFL this year. There is a legit chance that not one of these teams finishes with worse than eight wins. There are fantasy assets aplenty but also a few land mines to avoid. Let’s dig in.

Seattle Seahawks

Who Is The WR1

Lockett vs Metcalf: Who is the WR1? Does it even matter?
No matter which Seattle wide receiver you prefer, one debate we are all on the same side of is #LetRussCook. Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, three straight 30+ touchdown seasons, and is terribly underrated in most circles. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are going at just about the same time in fantasy drafts and fantasy managers and analysts all have an opinion on which will be better in 2020. The point they should be making is: get one of them — it will help your fantasy team.

Last year, Lockett was the WR13 with an 82/1057/8 stat line. What doesn’t show in that box score is that he basically missed two games recovering from a thigh bruise that required hospitalization. If he had played to his average in just one of those games, he’s the WR9 last year. D.K. Metcalf was the WR33, posting 58/900/7. He had five weeks as a WR2 or better in fantasy football… and they all came with a healthy Lockett. These guys make each other better. My personal thoughts lean toward Lockett — he is a higher volume play that catches everything, which tends to fare better in PPR scoring. But when you draft one of these guys, you are betting on Russell Wilson — and that is a good bet.

San Francisco 49ers

George Kittle for 130+

Is George Kittle a 130+ target monster again?
The 49ers seem to have caught a bit of an injury bug at wide receiver this offseason and that may mean a return to 2018 George Kittle. That is an ideal situation for everybody involved, including you, if you add him to your fantasy team. Kittle was the TE3 in 2018 but did some things in 2019 — when he was the TE2 despite missing two games — that showed he can be even better. If we were to get a combination of the two in 2020, there is little doubt that he will be the overall TE1 in fantasy football.

Starting with 2018. Kittle was targeted 136 times three years ago on a team that had Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis as its best two receiver. Guess who the best two are again in 2020? I’m joking of course, but there is a very real chance that those two are the starters in Week 1. Deebo Samuel will miss some time and nobody knows for sure what Brandon Aiyuk will be yet. Kittle’s 15.4 yards per reception was the highest for any tight end over 50 targets that year and would’ve been 2nd best in 2019. During the 2019 season, his YPR fell to 12.4 but his catch rate improved by 15%. THAT IS HUGE! If he combines the best stats of his career in 2020, we could see 135 targets turn into 106 receptions and close to 1600 yards. The fact that he has never scored more than five touchdowns won’t even matter. The ceiling is scary for Kittle, unless you go ahead and draft him in the 2nd Round of your draft.

Arizona Cardinals

Don't Forget About Kirk

Do not forget about Christian Kirk.
Arizona made the splash of the offseason when they traded away old and busted David Johnson for new hotness DeAndre Hopkins. Kyler Murray was already a hot commodity and this move brought that hype to a boil. While Hopkins will certainly be the WR1 and command a lion’s share of the targets, there will be plenty of work to go around and you might be sleeping on Christian Kirk.

Kirk had a so-so 2019, posting 68 receptions, 709 yards, and three touchdowns on 107 targets. The 107 targets will be key here. People love to talk about how Larry Fitzgerald led this team in targets but Kirk missed three games. As the true WR1 on this team last year, all due respect to Fitz, Kirk paced for 132 targets. Let’s assume that those and a few more go to Hopkins, that puts Kirk in the WR2 role over Fitz and in line for 110 targets. It also means that he will be facing CB2s and we can expect an increase in all major categories. He turned about 110 targets into a WR38 finish last year, and while that isn’t great, it’s exactly where he is being drafted right now. In the 8th Round, you can land a wide receiver that is almost certain to hit his ADP and has a great chance to be a fantasy WR2 going against lesser defensive competition.

Los Angeles Rams

An RBBC Nightmare

The RBBC Nightmare
Any time that I am asked which Rams running back I want on my fantasy team the answer is simple: none, please. The narrative being painted is that one of Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, or Malcolm Brown will step in and be the new Todd Gurley. Not one of these backs is as talented as the departed Gurley and it’s very likely we will see his work split into thirds. Todd Gurley was the RB14 last year with 220 full PPR points. One-third of that is undraftable.

Last year, Henderson and Brown split the work left over by Gurley almost 65/35 in favor of Brown. Brown also vultured five touchdowns, all in the red-zone, and that could make him very valuable in 2020. Akers had a solid college career playing behind a terrible offensive line, so he should feel right at home with the Rams. The difference is that the guys coming after him are bigger and faster than they were in college. If he can establish himself as a pass-catcher, something neither Brown nor Henderson did in 2019, there are 49 vacated RB targets up for grabs too. Finally, we have Henderson, the fastest of the bunch but has already sustained a hamstring injury this preseason. Those tend to linger and he is persona-non-grata for my fantasy teams. Your best bet is avoiding all of these guys but if you want to gamble, Malcolm Brown will cost you your last pick while Akers is going in the 6th Round of fantasy drafts.