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NFC West Pressing Fantasy Football Questions

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Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson was fantasy’s top quarterback through Week 8 but was QB11 from Weeks 9-17 in 2020. Is he still a proactive pick or did Seattle’s second-half struggles reveal bigger concerns?

Liz: Russell Wilson has been a QB1 since entering the league in 2012. He has NEVER, not even once, fallen outside of the top-12 FF producers at the position. Shockingly durable despite years of playing behind a line that gave up more sacks than Ciara has Instagram followers, Wilson has yet to miss a game, even gutting through an ankle/knee sprain for the bulk of 2016. Whatever ups and downs 2021 will bring, Wilson will have the accuracy, mobility, and football IQ to overcome them. Not to mention elite pass-catching weapons (Seattle added second-round speedster D'Wayne Eskridge and former Rams TE Gerald Everett) and a new offensive coordinator that comes from Sean McVay’s uptempo scheme. He’s my QB7.

Andy: Every Seattle season has some sort of Jekyll/Hyde aspect to it, related either to the run-pass balance or Wilson's time-to-throw or defensive performance or ... well, something. Nothing is ever completely stable with the Seahawks. So far, the early reviews of OC Shane Waldron's system are extremely positive; it seems like we can expect Seattle to play with pace and for Wilson to be far more reliant on short, quick, high-percentage throws.

If you're actively fading Wilson, then you're choosing to avoid one of the most efficient and productive quarterbacks of his era. How many times do we need to re-learn that Wilson doesn't need significant volume to produce 30 or more TD passes? He's as safe as it gets at QB.

Dalton: While there’s some concern Seattle runs the ball more than they should, the team’s new offense is expected to be uptempo. Wilson is a future Hall of Famer, still in his prime, and has two strong weapons in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, so he’s a fine proactive pick. Seattle should be in a bunch of high-scoring games in their division alone. I’d prefer to come out of drafts with one of the big seven fantasy QBs who run.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers seem to be able to make any running back relevant under Kyle Shanahan. Are you prioritizing rookie Trey Sermon or veteran Raheem Mostert, and can both players be weekly fantasy starters?

Dalton: Mostert has the upside to be a top-three fantasy back given his skills and the setup in San Francisco, but he’s also one of the likeliest players to get injured in the league. He’s 29 years old with eight career starts and just 282 career carries, and he even missed OTAs with a similar knee sprain that hampered him last season. Sermon was no ironman in college, but he enters the league with fresh legs, "ahead of the curve" and as an apparent perfect fit for Shanahan’s outside-zone scheme (the rookie has also had a big game in the spotlight).

Both backs can be fantasy starters in this offense (and given the small hurdle it takes to be a fantasy RB3 these days), but it will become tougher when/if Trey Lance takes over, as he’ll absolutely steal rushing touchdowns (and likely target the RBs less too).

Matt: There is a zero percent chance they are both weekly fantasy starters; at least not guys you’d play with the utmost confidence if they’re both popping off at once. You have to make a stand on one or the other. I’d advise being ahead of the market on Trey Sermon. The 49ers' run game is one of the best soils to plant a running back and the team traded up to snag him. Clearly, they want more out of their running game. I want to be bullish on this offense outkicking expectations. Being aggressive on Sermon’s projection is part of that.

Liz: The fourth RB to come off the board, San Francisco moved up to add Sermon with the No. 88 pick. Before Jeff Wilson was officially lost (knee) until midseason, I was worried that the “Shanny effect” might inflate Sermon’s ADP. But now, I’m all-in on the former Buckeye. The investment in Sermon indicates a clear path to work. And those touches figure to come rather immediately, as Raheem Mostert already dealt with a knee sprain in OTAs. In possession of a three-down skill set, Sermon (were he to stay healthy, which shouldn’t be assumed given his running style and injury history) could post over 1,000 yards in his rookie effort. He’s on the RB2/RB3 bubble for fantasy purposes.

Los Angeles Rams: Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are once again similarly ranked. Two-part question: 1) Does the addition of Matthew Stafford change their ceilings and 2) Which one (or both, or none) are you targeting in drafts?

Liz: Over the past two seasons both receivers have averaged over 8 targets per game. While Kupp owned the red area of the field in 2019, recording 10 TDs, the roles reversed in 2020 when Woods posted a career-high 8 scores (6 receiving, 2 rushing). Kupp might be the flashier option but Woods can be used in a variety of roles, hence his higher snap total (over 1,000 for three consecutive seasons).

Replacing Jared Goff with the aggressively-minded and strong-armed Matthew Stafford should lift this offense considerably. While the receiving corps has grown to include DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson, and second-round speedster Tutu Atwell, the pace and efficiency of the squad also figures to increase with the addition of Stafford. This should allow both Woods and Kupp to maintain a healthy volume (flirting with 150 looks a piece, assuming health). Because of his versatility (and Stafford’s willingness to push the ball downfield, something Goff struggled mightily with), I’m prioritizing Woods over Kupp by a slight margin. They’re both top-20 options with top-15 potential.

Andy: Both of these guys caught 90 passes last season, yet somehow neither of them finished with 1,000 receiving yards. That ain't happenin' with Stafford. Without question, this QB upgrade matters. Jared Goff finished near the bottom of the league in intended air yards per target last season (6.5). We should all expect a more interesting, multi-level passing game from the Rams. It helps that Stafford was dealt to LA way back in January, so he'll have something close to a full, normal offseason as Sean McVay's quarterback.

Woods vs. Kupp is pretty close to a coin flip. These guys are similar in age, skill, and projected workload, belonging to the same rock-solid WR2 tier. I'm happy to land either at their ADPs.

Scott: It's definitely go time on both of the LA wideouts. Sean McVay not only has an upgrade at quarterback, but he also has a quarterback he fully trusts — this opens up the playbook. And the Rams have a narrow passing tree, without a notable third option on the outside. I'm happy to draft Kupp or Woods at their current market.

Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray finished as the second-highest scorer among fantasy quarterbacks last year, and he's ranked third this draft season. What needs to happen for Murray to finish as the No. 1 QB of 2021?

Liz: From carries per game to rushing yards to ground scores, Murray recorded top-four or better stats in numerous advanced rushing metrics. His numbers as a passer, however, were not as elite. Averaging under 35 pass attempts per game (QB7), 7.1 YPA (QB22), and a true completion percentage of 73.2% (QB22), Murray improved in plenty of passing categories. But his deep ball completion percentage decreased slightly (to 40% from 44.3%) on the same number of attempts (70). With Nuk on board for a second effort and the addition of rookie speedster Rondale Moore, Murray could find more vertical success … and lead the position as a result.

Dalton: He’d have to improve quite a bit as a passer to finish ahead of Mahomes, Prescott, Allen, and Jackson. Murray has proven to be a great runner, which helps in fantasy a ton, but he got just 6.6 YPA over the second half of last season. It’s possible his injury was solely to blame, and Murray is young enough to still make a leap, but it would have to be a drastic one to surpass those other four.

Matt: Honestly, we’d just be looking for him to break right on the variance scale. Murray is the second-most dangerous and productive runner in the NFL after Lamar Jackson. He can have a special season as a pure rusher at any point in his prime.

Then, we’d just be looking for him to have a remarkably efficient season as a passer.

I believe Murray has the pure arm talent to get it done. The Cardinals’ passing offense just hasn’t been able to consistently produce at a high level, especially in the vertical game. Murray’s 7.0 yards per attempt and 4.2 touchdown rate would need to take huge leaps to have the QB1 overall finish within his grasp. Given that the offense has an elite alpha receiver and improved blocking in front of Murray and some of the receiver spots around him, that is possible in 2021.