Links to similar discussions of other divisions:
Not that much is going to happen around NFL circles for the next month, save for a few trades and some third-wave free agent signings. That means it’s time to build up your drafting chops with best-ball drafts! What does each offense offer? I’ll break it down division by division. Let’s go to the NFC West, which will welcome at least one new starting quarterback this year.
Note: All ADP courtesy of Underdog
Offensive Outlook: The addition of Rodney Hudson gives the Cardinals their best offensive lineman in ages. They also improved the wide receiver group by signing A.J. Green and drafting Rondale Moore. Kyler Murray was denied his first full offseason in the NFL by covid, but he should be better prepared. This could be an offense on the rise.
Kyler Murray - 5th round ADP
Murray was on his way to being the #1 fantasy quarterback by a clear margin before hurting his shoulder. Does that mean he’s a value as the #3 quarterback off of the board or is destined to let us down because he’s too small to leave himself open to so many hits? If he’s on the board when your fifth-rounder is on the clock, he’s definitely a worthy option.
Edmonds is a little cheaper than Myles Gaskin and Mike Davis, but he has more proven competition and he’s still unlikely to be the goal-line back. The best argument for taking Edmonds is James Conner’s injury history, but if Conner can stay healthy on a lighter workload, he’ll be a solid pick as long as he inherits most of Kenyan Drake’s 10 rushing scores. The Cardinals are not a good running team so staying away from this backfield is also a reasonable strategy.
Hopkins had a red hot first seven weeks of the season, but his production was ordinary as often as it was elite in the second half of the year. The Cardinals additions at wide receiver should take some of the load off of Hopkins and make the offense less predictable, but also take some of the oomph out of his weekly volume-based ceiling. There are other wide receivers available in the second that are better picks. Moore, Kirk, and Green are all cheap enough to make any defensible picks. Moore has the highest ceiling as an unknown, Kirk had a few outbursts as a deep target last year, and Green should get Larry Fitzgerald’s volume with some chance that he’ll be more effective than Fitzgerald was last year. Green is a good late pick if you need another weekly floor play to cover for some unreliability in your earlier picks.
Unless you are in a 32-team tight-end premium league, there’s nothing for you here.
Bottom Line: If Kyler Murray becomes a more nuanced passer who meshes well with a restocked wide receiver group a la 2020 Josh Allen, he could run away with the #1 fantasy quarterback title, but it’s not clear who, if anyone, would be best to stack him with.
Los Angeles Rams
Offensive Outlook: How much better will this unit get with Matthew Stafford at quarterback? How much will the playbook open up because Sean McVay trusts his quarterback? Can Cam Akers hold up for an entire season as a bell-cow back? Will Tyler Higbee return to fantasy relevance now that Gerald Everett is in Seattle? This offense has a lot of questions, but the answers to at least a few of these should please folks who invest in it.
UPDATE: With Cam Akers out for the season, the passing game should be leaned on more heavily, making Stafford, Woods, Kupp, and Higbee more attractive picks at ADP.
Matthew Stafford - 9th round ADP
Stafford has once reached elite fantasy quarterback status. He could again this year if his value adds in the deep passing game and outside of structure returns this offense to the stratospheric efficiency levels it achieved in 2018. He’s not a better pick than Tom Brady but is worth considering if he slips a little in your draft.
Xavier Jones - 15+ round ADP
Akers is being drafted at or close to his ceiling, but he does have a better top range of outcomes than Nick Chubb and Austin Ekeler. If you believe in Akers and this offense, it’s not crazy to take him in the late first, and Todd Gurley’s numbers in 2017-18 Rams offense point the way to Akers' best-case scenario, even if it is a bit of stretch to mention the two in the same sentence right now. Henderson is a mere Akers injury upside play if you go by his usage once Akers took over late last year. He’s one of the more talented #2 backs in the league, but should only be in your draft plans if you are highly skeptical about Akers ability to hold up or the Rams willingness to use him as a bell cow for a full 17-game season when they have plans of playing late into the postseason.
UPDATE: Jones is the backup unless the Rams sign a veteran running back before the season. Henderson is now going around the fifth round following Akers season ending achilles tear.
The uncertainty of just how Matthew Stafford will affect Rams wide receiver values makes it difficult to invest in this group. Each target is worth more, but how will those targets be distributed? The Rams have two deep ball targets in Jackson and Atwell, and Jefferson can play all of the wide receiver positions. It’s possible that this group is more of a committee than we would like for fantasy, and that included Kupp’s former domination of targets with Jared Goff going away because Stafford is a more capable passer who can use all of the options McVay installs in his play designs. Chris Godwin is going at about the same ADP as Woods and Ja’Marr Chase is going at about the same ADP as Kupp, and the Rams aren’t the winners in the final choice of those pairs. Jefferson, Atwell, and Jackson all can contribute to deep drafts like the FFPC 28-rounders.
UPDATE: Be more willing to break ties in favor of Woods and Kupp in the mid-rounds in light of Akers injury.
Tyler Higbee - 8th round ADP
Higbee isn’t that much less expensive than he was last year, which could be a good or bad sign, depending on how rigid you think his role is in the offense. In 2020, there was a lot of optimism around Higbee in fantasy circles after he ruled the tight end roost in December 2019, but that was while Gerald Everett was sidelined. Higbee was a disappointment last year as the target split at tight end returned, but now Everett is gone. How much of his league-winner outburst was because of Jared Goff’s limited abilities? How much can Stafford help make each target more valuable to offset less than anticipated volume? Higbee is a suitable TE1, but you’ll need to spend on your TE2 unless you are relying on an ace in the hole like Blake Jarwin.
UPDATE: Be more willing to break ties in favor of Higbee in the mid-rounds in light of Akers injury.
Bottom Line: This offense could be a lot better than last year, but it seems like that is already being baked into Rams ADPs.
San Francisco 49ers
Offensive Outlook: Jimmy Garoppolo will likely be the quarterback to open the season, but Trey Lance still can change that conversation in camp, and Kyle Shanahan should be ready to put Lance in if Garoppolo struggles as he did in Week 1 last year, and we can’t forget Garoppolo’s spotty injury history. Garoppolo, if playing well enough to keep the job, should make this a more efficient pass offense, while Lance will make it a better run offense and lower an already low passing game volume.
Lance is an attractive best ball option once he’s the starter, but when will that happen? If it’s the first half of the year, he’ll be a good pick. If it’s the second half of the year, hopefully, you didn’t depend on him too much in your team build. His price is more optimistic than risk-averse, so he only fits in team builds with three quarterbacks where he is the first of the three chosen. Garoppolo is only of note in superflex best-ball leagues.
Sermon had a good enough spring to merit moving ahead of Mostert, who will still be the lead back as long as he is healthy. Lead back is used a little loosely here because the 49ers won’t overwork Mostert, and likely turn to Sermon at the goal line. Sermon has a much higher ceiling and if he has a good camp and preseason, he’ll move even higher. Mostert isn’t going to truly be a value pick until he falls another round or two while still being healthy in camp, and that could be in the cards. Gallman might only have value when two of the 49ers' top backs are hurt. Mitchell has a chance to be the third-down back with some injury upside, and Wilson could have value in deep drafts if he comes back on the early side of his timeline for knee surgery recovery and before Sermon asserts control over the backfield.
What will this pass offense look like if all three of Aiyuk, Samuel, and George Kittle stay healthy? They played together in four games last year and only Kittle produced at a clip that would justify current ADP. Unless you can predict which piece of the 49ers pass offense will miss the most time, you should probably stay away. Hurd is a consideration in very deep leagues as the top slot receiver and potential short-yardage back if healthy, which hasn’t been the case for the first two years of his career.
George Kittle - early 3rd round ADP
Kittle was still a monster when he was on the field with a healthy Samuel and Aiyuk last year, and that included big games with both Nick Mullens and Garoppolo at quarterback. Still, between injury history, the possibility of Lance taking over, and the lack of a big red zone profile, Kittle is easy to pass on when Waller is just a little more expensive and Pitts is (as of now) a lot cheaper.
Bottom Line: This offense could change to de-emphasize an already secondary passing game, so running back is probably the best position to spend picks.
Offensive Outlook: The Seahawks let Russ cook in the first half of the year to excellent fantasy results and then shut down the restaurant for team W-L health code violations in the second half of the year. Wilson expressed his displeasure early in the offseason and the team actually hired a passing game coordinator (Shane Waldron) to run the offense, spent on a receiving tight end in free agency (Gerald Everett), traded for a top offensive lineman (Gabe Jackson), and spent their first pick of the draft on a wide receiver (DWayne Eskridge). Hope you kept your takeout menu.
Russell Wilson - 6th/7th round ADP
Wilson isn’t that much cheaper than his top five peers and he comes with more risk, but if he falls more than a couple of rounds beyond QB5, he becomes a solid pick. Signs point to an offensive approach that will allow for more uptempo play, and it’s possible that we may see Wilson return to his first half of 2020 form.
Chris Carson’s outlook is more like a second-round running back than a third-rounder, so consider his ADP a bargain. Carson allows you to get a possible RB1 as your RB2 in the third while still spending one of your first two picks on a non-running back. Penny’s ADP should be falling after news of his offseason knee surgery came out. Alex Collins actually looks like the better injury hedge to pair with Carson than Penny as of this moment.
If Metcalf’s price seems too high when you look at his year-end numbers, consider that he was on pace for 1576 yards and 16 touchdowns in the first half of the year. He’ll need to do a lot better than the 80-1030-4 pace he set in the second half of the year, and if he splits the difference, he won’t be a bust, but obviously putting a chip on him is putting a chip on this pass offense to bounce back. Lockett had huge weeks last year but was even quieter in the second half of the year than Metcalf. The team gave him a big extension this offseason, so they believe in him. Eskridge had a toe issue in OTAs that should be monitored, but as the third receiver in a potentially resurgent and efficient pass offense, he’s a fine last wide receiver on your roster.
Gerald Everett - 14th/15th round ADP
Everett has the advantage of reuniting with his passing game coordinator and he’s a receiving tight end, but Colby Parkinson and Will Dissly could take the edge off of his upside. He’s a fine cheap TE2 to pair with a strong TE1 or piece of a three-late-pick-at-tight-end approach to team building.
Bottom Line: This whole offense could be a value across the board if they are really going to let Russ cook again. Watch training camp closely and try to build a few rosters that will feast if Wilson is unleashed.