TEMPE, ARIZONA - MAY 29: Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals practices alongside head coach Kliff Kingsbury during team OTA's at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center on May 29, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In this edition of the 2019 NFC West fantasy football outlook, I look at how to evaluate Kyler Murray. How far is Todd Gurley‘s average draft position sliding? Russell Wilson loses a top target. Will it affect his fantasy production? And, Jimmy Garoppolo is flying under the radar. Should you target him in later rounds of your fantasy draft? The 2019 NFC West is sure to be a wild one!

2019 NFC West Fantasy Football Outlook

Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams head coach, Sean McVay, is to credit for helping Jared Goff reach his full potential. In his third year, Goff led the NFC West champions to Super Bowl LIII.

2018 was a solid fantasy football year for Goff. During the first eleven weeks of the 2018 NFL season, Goff put up more than 20 fantasy points (FP) six times. However, he did have some weeks in the mid-teens for fantasy points and even put up a dud of eight FP week six.

During the run into and during the 2018 fantasy football playoffs, Goff averaged a mere nine FP per game. This came during a time that he was unable to lean on an injured Todd Gurley to help the passing game. The Rams already picked up Goff’s fifth-year option and he should be primed for another solid fantasy football campaign with a host of fantasy weapons surrounding him.

The Gurley Question

After signing a lucrative contract extension Gurley displayed exactly why the Rams invested heavily in him. Gurley was a force for the Rams and fantasy football owners. Through 15 weeks, in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring format, Gurley posted over 20 fantasy points 12 times (five games over 30 FP). Unfortunately,  Gurley’s in-human run would come to an end. He suffered a knee injury at the end of week 15 and missed fantasy football championships, disappointing many fantasy football owners.

The Rams drafted Darrell Henderson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Memphis. McVay also hinted at a timeshare between Henderson and Gurley to preserve Gurley’s health. These are two reasons to downgrade Gurley in your rankings. However, because of Gurley’s ability to get into the endzone, I would be hard-pressed to pass on him in the second round. But, make no mistake, Henderson should be “hand-cuffed” in later rounds.

A Trio of Options

Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are as good a trio of receivers that there is in the NFL. The question will be how you treat them in your draft rankings. Cooks and Woods were virtually interchangeable in 2018 as indicated by there stats: Cooks, 80 receptions on 117 targets, five touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown; Woods, 86 receptions on 130 targets, six touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown. Kupp was averaging six receptions per game and had six touchdowns at the time of his injury. Extrapolating those numbers over a full season, he would have easily approached 100 receptions and double-digit touchdowns.

The question becomes how to rank these receivers. With all signs pointing to Kupp being ready to go by September, I would rank them in this order: 1. Kupp 2. Woods 3. Cooks. With that being said and their statistics being so close, I will be looking to draft any of those players as my WR2.

Seattle Seahawks

The uber-efficient Russell Wilson is a difficult quarterback to peg for fantasy drafts. He was the number one overall quarterback in 2017 in terms of fantasy points. He was the number nine overall quarterback in 2018. The conundrum in drafting Wilson for the 2019 fantasy football season is the fact that we know the Seattle Seahawks run a balanced offensive attack.

Wilson’s passing attempts will hover right around 30 per game (average of 26.7 per game). But, he passed for 35 touchdowns in 2018, tied for third-best. Conversely, he passed for a total of 3,448 yards, 18th overall. So, where does that place him? I think it’s safe to say he will end up right around the tenth best fantasy quarterback, steady but rarely spectacular. Let’s also add the loss of Doug Baldwin; that has me moving him down my ranks.

Ground and Pound

The Seahawks are going to run and run some more. Chris Carson ended up taking the starting job rushing for 1,151 yards on 247 carries and nine touchdowns. The leftovers were split between Mike Davis (now a Chicago Bear) and Rashaad Penny (2018 first-round draft pick).

Can Penny live up to his draft status? If Carson continues to lead the touches he’s worthy of RB2 status. Dynasty owners can only hope that Penny is ready to take over the feature spot.

How to Rank the Seahawks Receivers

The retirement of Doug Baldwin will leave a significant hole in the Seahawk passing offense. Even with the drafting of D.K. Metcalf the Seahawk passing game for fantasy purposes will leave a lot to be desired. Tyler Lockett will be the receiver to target in your fantasy football draft. Lockett eclipsed in double-digit fantasy points in every game but two (in PPR scoring format) and was the number sixteen overall receiver in that format. However, he did not catch more than five balls in any one game and went for more than 100 yards only once. Considering he should be the focal point of Wilson’s passing game he should be viewed as a low-end WR2 or WR3. There just isn’t much after him.

You can talk about David Moore or Jaron Brown but they offer little value in fantasy football. Metcalf is a must draft in Dynasty leagues and can be considered in deep re-draft leagues. If he’s able to separate himself as the second receiving option than he will be worth an add in re-draft leagues.

San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo is returning from an injury-shortened 2018. As one of the most talked-about fantasy quarterbacks in 2018, Garoppolo is flying under the radar in the NFC West due to the hype surrounding Kyler Murray. If Garoppolo proves fully healthy he could be mid- to late-round steal in your fantasy draft that can lead to fantasy glory.

Scat Back or Bust

Matt Breida seems to be the feature back at this point (keep your on training camp). And, then there are two outstanding third-down backs that the 49ers signed as priority free agents, Jerick McKinnon, in 2018, and Tevin Coleman, in 2019. Those are three quality running backs to split touches with. Quite frankly my fantasy football philosophy is to stay away from situations like that. With that being said, Breida could be a low-end RB2 if he gets the first and second down work. The flex spot is a toss-up between Coleman and McKinnon. Again, we can only hope that the training camp will sort this issue out and then we can adjust our rankings accordingly.

Give Me All the Kittle

There isn’t anything that hasn’t been said about George Kittle‘s breakout 2018 campaign. He surpassed double-digit fantasy points in every game except three (PPR format). And, that was with back-up quarterbacks in week four through sixteen. If you’re worried about his rapport with returning starter Jimmy Garoppolo? Don’t be. Garoppolo targeted Kittle just under seven times per game while under center. There is no reason to think that will slow down. One only has to look at the 49ers receiving corps to draw such a conclusion. Dante Pettis, Kendrick Bourne, Jordan Matthews, Deebo Samuel (rookie), Jalen Hurd (rookie). Those are names that don’t inspire fantasy football confidence. However, there is speed to burn with this group and a diamond in the rough could emerge.

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray is this year’s darling of the NFL. But, can he be the darling of 2019 fantasy football? Some say, new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury is a perfect fit for Murray offensively. I’m going to project Murray as a combination of Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 yards and 25 passing touchdowns and 500 rushing yards with five to ten rushing touchdowns. Those are numbers good enough for the top 15 overall fantasy quarterback with room for upside.

The DJ Conundrum

Where to rank David Johnson? He has the talent to be a first-round selection in drafts. However, in a new offensive scheme and running quarterback, I’m not so sure. He missed 2017 and had an inconsistent 2018 (although on a terrible team with a terrible scheme). So how to view him in the 2019 fantasy draft. I think there are other running backs in more predictive models that I would take in the first round of fantasy drafts ahead of Johnson. Right now I like him in that second tier of running backs that will be apart of the running back run that will hit in the third round of fantasy drafts. He’s a boom or bust pick with PPR upside.

The Old Sage

Larry Fitzgerald is just the most consistent football player there is. While he’s not the fantasy producer he once was, he was still good enough for number 25 overall wide receiver in PPR formats in 2018. Fitzgerald will likely be the safety valve for Murray in 2019. Good enough for WR2 on fantasy rosters. To go with Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have second-year speedster Christian Kirk who is rising on fantasy draft boards. Add to that, rookies, Hakeem Butler and Andy Isabella, another track star, and the Cardinals have the makings of a fantasy juggernaut in years to come.

Adjust Your Rankings

The shiny new toy that is Kyler Murray is sure to be higher on draft boards than proven quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Jared Goff. If you have the fortitude to ride with a rookie QB, it could make or break your chance at a playoff run.

Todd Gurley and David Johnson are two running backs that could bolster rosters as they take a slide down average draft position. If you like a stud, wide receiver in the first round, then Gurley and Johnson are players to look for in the second or possibly third round.

The Rams’ trio of Kupp, Woods, and Cooks are sure bets. But, who is a sleeper to look for in the later rounds of drafts? Keep your eye on Christian Kirk. If he establishes a rapport with Murray, he could make for a solid WR2 on your roster.

Good luck and good drafting!

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