It’s preseason time, which means we get to see all 32 teams doing something at least relatively meaningful. It also means there are only a few weeks left until the rosters and depth charts are set for the start of the season. We are going to take a little trip around the league and take a look at all 32 teams and address one of the biggest fantasy questions about each of them. After all, in terms of dynasty leagues, if you aren’t thinking about these things now you’re already behind.
Ah, the NFC West. Home to Pete Carroll’s Evil Empire, the Seattle Seahawks. They just know how to win, year after year, and it usually ends in the NFC West title unless the Cardinals put it all together. That story has been the same for the last few years. The 49ers have floundered in mediocrity and worse since firing a certain high-profile head coach, and the recently transplanted Rams crashed and burned last year under the All or Nothing microscope. While I don’t know if the standings will be all that different this year (as I fully expect it to be a two horse race again,) there are still some interesting developments to follow from a fantasy perspective. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, are there any Arizona wide receivers worth owning?
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Fitz is one of the best receivers of his generation, and he’s a gift that keeps on giving. Old man Fitz managed to put up over 2,300 yards receiving and 15 TDs in the last two seasons. That’s not bad for a guy north of 30. Fitzgerald is also a relatively rare modern example of a “lifer” for a particular team, having spent his entire career in Cardinal red.
2017 is shaping up to be particularly tough in identifying which Cardinal receivers to target outside of the venerable Fitz. Michael Floyd is finally out of the picture, but there are a host of options that could be something this season. John Brown had a sterling start to his career, but has fallen off of late due to injury and illness. Then there’s the other Brown, Jaron Brown, with an anemic 229 yards and two TDs in his very best year in 2014. Ouch. JJ Nelson finished 2016 very strong, ending the year with 568 yards and six scores. Owners are still skittish on the diminutive speedster due to his size and catch rate. The last piece of this puzzle is third round rookie Chad Williams, who has decent size and had some positive buzz in dynasty circles after the third round selection.
If I have to absolutely plant my flag in a guy here, I have to go with Nelson. He is awfully small, but he’s one of the only guys to actually show me something on the field (well, who was actually ON the field last year anyway.) The obvious answer would be ol’ Smokey John Brown if he could only stay in the lineup, but recent news is not good. While I took some flyers late in drafts on Chad Williams, his camp news has been the tale of the out of shape, not ready for big-time rookie. Too bad.
Los Angeles Rams
Which Todd Gurley is the reality, 2015 Gurley or the 2016 version?
Rewind 24 months or so, and Gurley was on the top of quite a few dynasty draft boards. Talk of his rare combination of speed and power often included the dreaded “generational talent” tag. At the time, nobody was worried about his ability – we all felt secure in his talent. The only worries centered around durability questions along with some minor concerns about the landing spot. When Gurley hit the field after missing the first couple of games in his rookie year, he came out a house of fire. And while he faded a bit late in his rookie year, most owners were all-in on Todd Gurley.
Then came 2016. Where Todd Gurley ran over 2015, 2016 ran over Todd Gurley. He had a train wreck of a year behind a train wreck of a line under a train wreck of a head coach in Jeff Fisher. Oh, and I’m pretty sure there was a dumpster fire involved as well. So what did that do to his ADP?
It’s been a long, slow decline, though honestly it didn’t quite tank either. There are still many out there who think Gurley the victim of circumstance – that circumstance being Jeff Fisher and a very bad line.
So will the real Todd Gurley please stand up? I for one believe in Gurley. I think he’s an excellent example of a good “buy low.” If he does turn it around and be the back many think he CAN be, buying him now could be a massive long-term value. I recently traded Ezekiel Elliott for Gurley and a first next year, and I was happy to do so.
San Francisco 49ers
Can Carlos Hyde blossom in Kyle Shanahan’s rushing offense?
Smart fantasy owners make a habit of salivating over running backs under Kyle Shanahan. He has a great track record of successful running backs, from Alfred Morris to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Heck, he’s even behind the legendary Steve Slaton. His Outside Zone Blocking Scheme has worked wonders for quite a few backs over the years. So can Carlos Hyde, his inherited starter, flourish in that system?
The good thing about this question is that former head coach Chip Kelly also ran a running game based on zone blocking concepts. This helps because San Francisco does have a line built around those concepts (though it’s questionable if they are actually a good line for this system.)
It’s also important because we got to see how Hyde did in that system last year. In 2016 he rushed 217 times for 988 yards and six touchdowns. It’s a decent 4.6 YPC average, but he still hasn’t managed to crest 1,000 yards rushing, though injuries have slowed him down a little (or a lot) each season. Shanahan also likes to throw to his backs quite a bit, but Hyde hasn’t shown any great aptitude in that area. Of course he hasn’t been targeted in significant numbers, either.
Personally, I’m not sold he has the right vision and short area quickness to flourish in this system, but I certainly could be wrong. I’ve just always been enamored with Hyde for his power, and would love to see him in a system that takes advantage of that. I’m not sure the Shanahan system is the right one for Hyde.
The Seattle rushing offense of old was quite a force. Marshawn Lynch punished defenders left and right, and Russell Wilson liked to chip in with his own rushing magic. Last year wasn’t quite the same in the Emerald City, as injury questions surrounded Thomas Rawls all off-season, and then the Seahawks selected not one but two new running backs in CJ Prosise and Alex Collins in the draft. Most of us had no idea what they were doing, and the way the season went for Seattle tells me they didn’t really know either.
Not to be outdone, they added another layer of complexity this off-season with the acquisition of Eddie Lacy via free agency. He netted himself a whopping one year incentive-laden deal with Seattle, though laden might not be the best way to describe anything involving Lacy. My, how the mighty Lacy has fallen. Around this time three years ago, Eddie Lacy’s ADP was tenth overall. You read that right, tenth. But each year he seems to fall lower and lower, and now his ADP looks a little more like this:
He currently sits at the 81st spot overall in ADP. And I have to be honest, I think that might be high still. I get it, it sounds appetizing. Images of Eddie Lacy feasting on opposing defenses like Marshawn once did can be captivating. But I personally have to push back from the table and leave this plate for someone else. I just don’t have the faith that Lacy is very long for this league – it isn’t a buffet line in Seattle, after all – and eating jokes aside, that offensive line in Seattle leaves me very, very nervous.