THFantaC 2023 Fantasy Football Division Previews: The NFC West

Disclaimer: we are not researchers, just compilers and writers. A majority of these numbers can be found in a myriad of places. For simplicity’s sake, and to prevent you from having to read extensive in-text citations, the list of places we got our data (and what we used) is here:

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San Francisco 49ers

This section might be the most pivotal in THFantaC history as if I butcher this, our resident 49er fan and Lord Jeff Krisko might pull the pod if I say anything egregious about his team. 

As a forewarning, the analysis that occurs in this segment is based upon Brock Purdy being the starting QB for the 49ers for the 2023 season. I’d like to say that the player they spent 3 1st rounders on would finally be the starter after 3 years, but it looks like we’re approaching Trey Lance as the backup on this offense for the time being.  [Editor’s Note: oops.]

It really goes to show that Shanahan wanted Mac Jones at #3 overall and then for whatever reason, management, and media pressure, chickened out and went with the ceiling play. I love the fact that Lance went to the strip club after losing to the Bears, so shout out to him but this is where his segment ends for us: it’s the JimmyG 2.0 show now with Brock Purdy. 

We’ll start at the top with free agency and the draft:
SF lost 2 linemen, 11 defensive players, 2 QBs, a TE, a WR, and most importantly a Kicker.
They acquired 4 defensive players, 2 QBs, 1 lineman, and a kicker in free agency.
They then drafted 4 defensive players, 2 TEs, a WR, and a Kicker, who they took in the 3rd round. 

I’m not going to question Shanahan, as the dude clearly knows what he’s doing, but some of these moves are very head-scratching for a team that has a lot less depth than they had last year. With the fact that they are cursed with injury as a franchise, I am a taaaaaaad apprehensive about the overall outcome of this season.  

2017: #10 most injured
2018: #4 most injured
2019: #6 most injured
2020: #1 most injured
2021: #3 most injured
2022: #9 most injured

Even with this injury plague, the 49ers are still a division-winning team and always have a shot to make the Super Bowl, but luck never really seems to fall their way. Outside of their depth being thinner than in previous years, the 49ers also have the worst negative net rest day average in the league. This means that they have the least amount of rest differential out of any team. They play 4 teams coming off their byes: CLE WK 6, CIN WK8, JAX WK 10, and AZ WK15, 3 of which are on the road. There are a total of 5 games with a rest disadvantage, which totals up to 26 days of lost days of rest compared to their competition. 

The bright side of this is that they have the 5th easiest schedule according to Warren Sharp, so hopefully they pull starters in games when they beat AZ 31-3. 

Quarterbacks

I will break down the impact that Brock Purdy had last year at the helm and project what we should expect from him in the future. In simple terms, it doesn’t really matter as you can basically plug in any QB into the Shanahan system and they are going to be successful and almost identical due to scheme.

Passing without pressure: Brock #3, Jimmy #4
Passing from the pocket: Brock #4, Jimmy #6
Early downs without play action: Brock #2, Jimmy #1
First downs in the first three quarters: Brock #4, Jimmy #8
Layup throws: Brock #6, Jimmy #4
Attempts in fewer than 2.5 seconds: Brock #6, Jimmy #2
All passes outside the red zone: Brock #4, Jimmy #5

The 9ers are known for the YAC and that is a two-fold tale of talent and scheme. 

Completion rate:
2022: Garoppolo #1, Purdy: #2
2021: Garoppolo #5
2020: Garoppolo #1, Nick Mullens #6
2019: Garoppolo #3
2018: C.J. Beathard #1, Mullens #13
2017: Garoppolo #9, Beathard #10

YAC:
2022: Garoppolo #1, Purdy #3
2021: Garoppolo #1
2020: Garoppolo #1, Mullens #4
2019: Garoppolo #1
2018: Beathard #1, Garoppolo #2, Mullens #3
2017: Garoppolo #5

So as long as you can throw the ball around 7 yards, you can be a successful QB in a Shanahan offense.

Now there is a caveat to all of this, as defenses didn’t have enough time to prepare tape to analyze the tendencies of play calling and reads that Purdy makes, since he came on so late in the season. SF was playing with a lead most of the time, which took pressure off of Purdy to have to do more than he needed to. This was done by avoiding passing situations when they didn’t have to throw the ball, making CMC do the heavy lifting, and avoiding 3rd down so defenses wouldn’t have the chance to change the defensive look and put more people into the secondary. 

There’s a very small sample size of Purdy playing and playing from behind and those stats aren’t great:
16-of-25, 64% comp, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
Of 47 QBs, he ranked 47th in completion rate, 41st in TD:INT rate, 34th in success rate.
Of 47 QBs, Purdy ranked 45th in the percentage of passes thrown when trailing in the second 

We have this offseason for Shanahan to scheme new things for the recovering Purdy, so we’ll see how it pans out. However, there are still question marks on what the future holds for Purdy’s success in this offense, but pinning around Jimmy G’s performance and fantasy points seems pretty on the nose. During his tenure in SF, Jimmy G passed for around 30 attempts per game with a YPA of 8.2 for his career, so a floor of 28 attempts per game and ~3500 yards for Purdy seems pretty reasonable. 

Now, if we go back and look at the rushing history of Purdy, it has declined over the course of his college and current career. For the time being, I think that remains the same, especially if Trey Lance is still in town. I feel like Shanahan will scheme up wacky RPO plays to force him into the meat grinder again. 

If we project 480 passing attempts next year for Purdy, that puts him around the tier of Carr, Russ, Mills, and Daniel Jones, AKA the tier of “good but not good enough for fantasy relevance in 1QB leagues.” Jimmy G has never finished above QB14 on the year and if you’re playing in 12-team leagues, that sucks. 

I hope Lance gets traded for himself so he can get paid and I think there’s a non-zero chance Sam Darnold starts at least one game this year and he’ll look good because of the system and people will do some heinous things in dynasty leagues.

Take Purdy as your QB3 in superflex leagues, but other than hard fade. 

Running Backs

We all know that San Francisco is the place we want RBs to be, as volume is king, and the passing work funnels through them as well. We also know who Christian McCaffrey is, and I don’t think I really need to pin down who he is or what his outcome can be. He’s good, he’s the back to have in fantasy. 

Since Shanahan has become head coach in SF, the RB room has had an average of 387 touches and 87 targets per year. 

The current depth chart is CMC, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, and Tyrion Davis-Price

Last year, RBs not named CMC and Elijah Mitchell accounted for 37% of rushing attempts, while Mason and TDP combined for 75 attempts. Those numbers will go up now that Jeff Wilson is gone, but the real juice here is CMC and Elijah Mitchell. 

Right off the rip, CMC will get a majority of the targets and touches. Last year CMC had a 20% target share and even with all players coming back healthy, I still believe that number hovers around the same: as he averaged 5.5 targets per game when he became a 49er. When you extrapolate that value out to a full season, that is 94 targets to CMC. I think conservatively saying 70 is sort of where we will be. CMC also averaged 14.5 touches per game, putting him at the sweet spot of 245 touches. Now, that number will be lower due to the Shanahan shenanigans that take place with how he uses everyone in the backfield but projecting 220 touches for the year is where I want to plant my flag. 

Right now CMC is the 3rd player off the board behind JJ and Chase as RB1. I think this is a perfect spot and if I could choose to draft in the top 3, I’d pick the 3rd spot because you’re getting the best of the bunch without the probability of losing more ROI. 

While Elijah Mitchell does lower the ceiling of CMC, I’m not too concerned about his role in this offense taking away from CMC’s pie. They do different things, and he’s much more inefficient and will be used to bulldoze into the endzone. The biggest vulture of CMC’s ceiling is the TD share that he can miss out on if Mitchell gets goal-line shine, but that offense is already touching the endzone higher than most teams, so it’s not a tremendous red flag like say in Houston.

The passing game is tricky even if we’re going to anticipate 450 attempts. TE gets ~90, RB gets ~90, WRs of note get 100ish and the rest goes to Kyle’s Wild Ride so I’ll break down where I think those targets are going and who we want to draft out of the three-headed YAC god that is the SF receiving room. 

Tight Ends

I don’t care about Cameron Latu, he’s boring and slow so we’re only going to talk about George Kittle. Even though Kittle misses around 3-5 games a season, when he is in your lineup, he has the potential to go nuclear and win you weeks. Last year Kittle finished #10th in targets, #6th in target share, #7th in reception, and 6th in YAC but finished as TE3 due to his 11 touchdowns as well as his efficiency as a receiver. 

Now, it’s a tad hard to predict how the 3 receivers of Kittle, Deebo, and Ayiuk eat into each other’s production, but outside of his rookie year, Kittle has never dipped below a 19.5% target share on the 49ers offense. If we’re conservatively projecting 350 passing attempts from this offense, that allows Kittle to have 70 targets as his floor which is extremely good. If we do hit the average for Kittle at 25%, that puts him at 88 targets which I believe is more in line with his utilization especially with Purdy still being green and returning to form. There will be TD regression, but last year Kittle did lead all SF receivers as THE red zone threat and dominated within the 5. Ultimately Deebo does eat into Kittle’s production more than Aiyuk, so we’ll see how that pans out.

Wide Receivers

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. 2021 was Deebo Samuel’s ceiling and it ruled, but I think where we see him being drafted now is much closer to what his final season production will be than last season. Even though Deebo played in 14 games he still had 87 targets and 632 yards, which is better than what most guys put together in a full season. His stats are kind of all over the place as he’s missed time in the past, so his averages are a little wonky, but an average of 12ish YPR is pretty nice even with an inflated value from 2021. Last year, even though Deebo only had 632 total yards, 499 of those came after the catch so he is a YAC monster. Deebo still had a 19% target share, and I’m going to assume that goes up this year as he is a game-breaker. Deebo can see anywhere from 90-110 targets.

Now I’ll open up and be transparent with the fact that I’m more of a Brandon Aiyuk guy than I am a Deebo guy. Even when he was in the Shanahan doghouse, I knew he was that dawg and he showed out in Deebo’s absence in both 2020 and 2022. He hit career-high metrics last year in all areas and the only reason why his ascension will plateau is the amount of mouths to feed in that offense. There are only so many targets and unless Brady comes out of retirement, someone is going to have to take the short end of the stick when it comes to target share and it honestly feels like this team is an experiment of “close your eyes and pick someone”. As I’ve reiterated before, I’ll take the guy at the better price who I think can achieve the same thing as the same guy at a higher cost and Aiyuk is that dude for me. Aiyuk can also see 90-110 targets. 

Hopefully, Krisko will chime in on what he thinks of this, and if you don’t ever hear from me Blackrock came and turned me into a fine red mist.  [Editor’s Note: Thank you for your contributions, security will escort you out.]

In summation:
CMC is still RB1 and if he’s in your lap at 1.03, clap like a seal.
Kittle is appropriately priced but expect regression and probable TE6 finish instead of TE3.
I’d rather have Aiyuk over Deebo.

Los Angeles Rams

I’ve covered some shit teams this offseason, I covered the Titans, and I’ve covered the Texans, but my god is this team disgusting. I watched Class of Nuke Em High this week and I’m going to be honest, this team should be nuked. 

They did it, they got the stadium and the ring but what a catastrophic decline it’s been. 

The Rams took every workable part from their franchise and hucked it to anyone who would give them anything for it outside of a 35-year-old injured Matt Stafford, a pending retirement Aaron Donald, and a 30-year-old injured wide receiver. 

Sean Mcvay has a lot to do this year along with fired NYJ OC Mike LaFleur. While I do believe you can’t be a complete moron out of the Shanahan tree, and maybe he was scapegoated for the demise of the Jets last year, I am still skeptical. I mean the run game was good thanks to Breece and they force-fed Garret Wilson?

Buuuuut Elijah Moore told him to go fuck himself and I’m with my guy here as other players have said he’s bad and that the offense was unnecessarily complicated even when dumbed down for Zach Wilson. I honestly feel like this is a nepotism hire here from McVay as a courtesy to his best friend to hire his little brother. Idk it’s still the Mcvay show and he’s shown he can coach people up so maybe he can save him or tell him to just hold the clipboard.

The Rams shed 24 players, signed 2, and then drafted 14 players. For fantasy purposes, outside of Matt Stafford pulling an Andrew Luck, Bennett might play the last stretch to get abused by Nick Bosa. 

Puka Nacua is whatever. 

Zach Evans is interested in dynasty, but I’ll touch on him later. 

I won’t do my Panthers thing of ignoring all of last year even though the team is so different, but I will try to minimize my talk on the catastrophic decline of the Rams last year. Ultimately it came down to being the #2 most injured team in the NFL which led to the demise and having the team basically being shut down after week 11. 

Quarterbacks

This all sort of hinged around Matt Stafford playing with an elbow ailment and an atrocious offensive line, which led to a career-worst season in all metrics as well as Stafford completely collapsing against zone defenses. 

Although Stafford was hurt, the fact that McVay didn’t use pre-snap motion led to a significant decrease in efficiency from the offense. 

Without pre-snap motion: 44% success, 3.7 YPA, 50% completion
With pre-snap motion: 62% success, 10.7 YPA, 65% completion 

They only ran pre-snap motion on 34% of their plays against man coverage.
Stafford WITH pre-snap motion on all att:, #3 in success rate, #5 in YPA
Stafford WITHOUT motion on all att: #33 in success rate, #45 in YPA

 I think Mcvay was just cashed and didn’t care to be honest as that season was sunk.

So we might think “Oh you can’t get injury-plagued again in back-to-back years.” Well, going into 2023, the Rams have the worst rest differential in the NFL, losing 28 days of total rest in comparison to their competition. In 2023, the Rams are favored in only 2 games, even though they have a projected Vegas line of 7.5, which you should go bet the under on right now. 

The defense did not stack the box against the Rams, they knew it was a pass-first offense and exploited that. The run game was bad last year, once again due to a bad line. Neither Akers nor Hendo had over a 39% success rate in any metric and didn’t crack a 4.2-yard per carry. 

The Rams have the 31st-ranked offensive line per Warren Sharp. It’s bad, and we’re going to build off of this. After everything I’ve given to you on Stafford, we’re still going to project a full healthy season for the ceiling projection here. Stafford on average throws 34.5 times per game, which is around 587 attempts for the season, with a career average of 65.8% accuracy and a career average of 7.6YPA we can rough-shot guess around 3k air yards and let Cooper Kupp do the rest. Remember, this is the moon shot play and I think the line, low rushing volume, and limited weapons will bring this number down, if the coaching staff is cashed like last year we will see worse numbers if pre-snap motion is not worked back into the scheme, or if defenses continue to dominate Stafford when they play zone. 

The Rams had the 8th fewest rushing attempts last year, and the 3rd lowest rushing yards in the league. It’s probably going to get worse. Let’s start with the RBs. 

Running Backs

I’m very glad Cam Akers recovered from what most thought was a career-ending injury, but I always feel like he’s a trap that people fall for every offseason due to the end-of-season tears he goes on. Yes, he will win you weeks, but those are going to be spotty at best. That level of production is fine when he’s free in drafts his rookie year, or last year when he was a FAAB guy. In my mind, him playing a full 15 games healthy and showing up for recency bias was one of the worst things that could have happened, and people will fall into the trap. 

Akers has shown that he has bad vision and with those holes filling up fast with that bad of a line, I think the efficiency of last year is doomed to be repeated even as the “bell cow” of the offense. Akers was 26th in average defenders in the box, which is a great number because he faced such a light front so often which should theoretically increase his production. However, he ranked 36th in yards created per touch, and 43rd in true yards per carry, while at the same time having the 17th-highest snap share at the RB position. For an RB that doesn’t also catch passes, this just spells absolute disaster to me of falling for the same trap based on a highlight and recency bias. 

Now I did say that I’ll talk about Zach Evans here, but in college, Evans had 10-mile-wide rushing lanes and vision has been one of his question marks so I feel like we’re just getting Akers 2.0. I would only advise taking him in the last round due to the upside play as there is no competition if Akers goes down or gets the trade he wanted, but outside of that faaaaaaaaade.

Tight Ends

I don’t know how to say this as Tyler Higbee is one of the most unsexy picks in fantasy, but he has value as the #2 weapon on this offense. He had a career year last year with 108 targets and led the team in target percentage. That number is artificially inflated as Kupp did miss part of the season, so that will decrease, but I don’t think the targets will decrease, to be honest. I still think he’s in line for 100 targets, as he actually had more targets when Kupp was in the game, contrary to the easy take of “Oh he gets more passes when WR1 is gone.” When teams are worried about Kupp, they have to let up on the gas somewhere, and the person who benefits is Tyler Higbee. When they were both playing, Higbee saw 1.8 more targets per game compared to when Kupp was out of the game. 

He had some bust weeks and he had some real boom weeks, like when had 14 targets against a splintered San Francisco secondary. On average, he saw around 6 targets per game, and I’m pretty confident that Higbee can have the same number this year, which puts him once again in the top 5 in targets at the position. 

Wide Receivers

Alright here comes the heat and the crown jewel of this offense this section is not going to be an indictment on Cooper Kupp, its an indictment of this offense potentially holding him back. 

Kupp played in 9 games last year and left the last game early. The lowest targets he saw in that 8 game stretch was 6 targets. In that time frame, Kupp averaged 11.25 targets per game. The dude was THE weapon of the offense. Even in 9 games, Kupp had the 3rd highest target share at the position, 14th in YAC, 14th in TDs, #2 in points per route ran, and first overall in fantasy points per game. To say he’s a monster is an understatement. 

As I mentioned before, I’m not hesitant about him this year because of him, it’s the circumstances around him. If his injury is fully healed and he plays all 17 games, he can easily get 170 targets without hesitation. The questions to me are: can Stafford keep it together, does Mcvay sandbag it once the season is lost, can the offensive line hold up enough to let Stafford get the ball out efficiently, will defenses play man against Kupp, will 30 catch up to him as it did to Keenan Allen? I don’t know. For me, the way I analyze the first round is we’re trying to reach our best return on investment and trying not to lose at this point in the draft. We want the highest return for the highest pick we have and want to avoid landmines that tank our season out of the gate. For that reason, Kupp at 1.04/1.05 is too expensive for me based on the context of this team and the variables I listed above, but that’s how I play. The ceiling is there, we know what is possible, don’t get me wrong and if you want to moon shot I do not doubt that play and will shake your hand. 

In summation, we’ll probably see this team 10 times on RedZone. 

I don’t care about any other receiving options on this team unless you’re in a golf league or a super deep best-ball league. 

Fade QB
Fade RBs
Draft Tyler Higbee
Draft Kupp with your best judgment.

Arizona Cardinals

Before we hop into player reports, let’s look at what changed. Jonathan Gannon is the new HC of Arizona, and he’s off to a great start: the NFL and Philly were super pissed that the Cardinals and Gannon talked while he was still coaching, and he got a ton of shit for how bad his defense played in the second half of the Super Bowl, so the teams had to swap draft picks in the 3rd round of the 2023 draft due to some tampering. 

Gannon is a defensive-minded coach, so he’s not the guy bringing the offensive scheme in. That goes instead to Drew Petzing, who has never been a playcaller before. He’s coached almost every offensive position group, he’s been a position coach for Justin Jefferson in Minnesota, the bad man in Cleveland, and David Njoku as Cleveland’s TEs coach. We have no idea what kind of scheme he’s going to be running. Sick. 

One thing we know for sure: the Air Raid of Kliff Kingsbury is gone. Thank fucking god, by the way. This year, Arizona won’t be running constantly out of 4WR sets and might have some semblance of balance. They passed at the 6th highest rate in the league and we can all agree that ain’t happening this year. We can also hope for positive injury regression since the trio of Hollywood Brown, DHop, and Zach Ertz didn’t play a single game together last season. So, how does this bode for Arizona? Let’s find out. 

Quarterbacks

Kyler Murray is, depending on who you ask, ahead of or behind schedule on the rehab for his torn ACL. My question is, why rush him back? This roster is a joke, and if a typical ACL tear takes you out for 8-9 months, and he got hurt in December and had surgery in January, why rush him back? Arizona could be picking in the top 5 next year, as could Houston, who gave up their 2024 1st to Arizona in a trade. If it’s Caleb time in Arizona, Murray could thrive somewhere else, even on the heels of an ACL/Meniscus tear and a down year in a number of different important passing statistics. When he comes back, he will be a borderline QB1 once again, almost independent of how much of his rushing upside went away with the ACL tear. I believe a stronger offensive scheme will hurt Kyler’s pass volume, but should increase his efficiency. We can’t really project Kyler right now because we don’t know what his status is going to be, but I guarantee you that I’ll be watching Arizona’s offensive scheme with a microscope over the first few weeks to see if I can get a beat on tendencies, and if those seem to line up with what Kyler does well, I’ll make a move to get him anywhere I can. 

Whoever ends up starting at the beginning of the season is most likely not worth rostering in redraft fantasy football. No thanks to Clayton Tune or Joshua Dobbs!

Running Backs

Hey guys, guess who benefits when Kyler Murray isn’t in the lineup? Yup, it’s James Conner. EVERY SINGLE stat goes up for Conner when Kyler is out, from touches to yards to targets to touchdowns. This, even with a new OC, bodes well for James Conner as a major bounceback candidate. He was 10th last year in FFPG in 13 games, and didn’t even break the 800-yard mark, averaging 3 catches a game in PPR certainly helps, and he’s number 10 amongst all backs in routes run. When Conner is healthy, he’s one of the last true workhorses in the league: he was 6th in snap share last season and 8th in opportunity share. 

Though I believe the loss of the Air Raid might lower his dump-off rates, I’d hope he’d get more screen passes, since 9.6% of his targets being on screens is about in the middle, and you’d want even more of that going forward. Arizona’s offensive line took what they hope is a step forward this offseason, drafting Paris Johnson Jr who will eventually be the team’s left tackle of the future but will get his rookie year underway at the area of highest need: left guard. The team also signed Cleveland backup Hjalte Froholt to be the Danish man at Center. He’s a plus run blocker and he hopes he can provide some help. Plus, I hope that if he blows a block, Cardinals announcers can say that something’s rotten in the state of Denmark. Like Hamlet stabbing Polonius through the curtains, the Cardinals running off the left guard last year felt like a dagger through the center mass, so pretty much anything will be better than what was there before. My OL sources have Arizona ranked 31, 22, and 25. Obviously, this team is not in a spot to compete, but there’s a possibility here that the run game is improved just simply because Kliff Kingsbury isn’t there, and the potential to be healthy in 2023 since they started 13 different starters and had 10 different lineups. I love Conner this year, and though the discount only exists because he’s never played a full season in his career if I get 13 games of him at his price and usage, that’s still a great deal. No Eno Benjamin and no Kyler (we think) will open up 30 red zone carries, and 10 of those came inside the 5. There’s a Jamaal Williams type of goal-line work available for Conner if the team can figure out a way into the red zone (not a guarantee). He’s reliably top 15 in most of his pass game metrics, including team target share, catch rate, receiving yards per game, yards after the catch per reception, catchable target rate, 

As I said at the beginning, we don’t know much about what Drew Petzig looks like as a play-caller, but his time in Minnesota with Dalvin Cook rushing for over 1k, and his time in Cleveland, with Nick Chubb also hitting the 1,000-yard mark says to me he will look to use the back often. 

Keaontay Ingram was a late pick for Arizona last year, and managed 64 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, for a whopping 2.5 yards per carry. Nothing I’ve seen from Murray, Clement, or Ty’Son Williams tells me they are going to be more than an injury replacement or spellback for Conner. Brett Kollman is adamant that Ingram is the better fit for the run scheme that Arizona should be looking to run, so I guess that’s something to keep in your back pocket. 

We have 217 open targets on this offense after roster reconstruction. The question is, who sees what? 

Wide Receivers

Let’s start with Hollywood Brown. He came in and lit up the league in his first 6 games, with 64 targets, 33 catches, 485 yards, and 3 TDs. When Kyler is in, he averaged 10 targets, 6.6 catches, 70.6 yards, and half a touchdown. Even without Kyler, his averages are 7/4/36. With no DeAndre Hopkins, I expect Hollywood to smash. In games without DHop last year, you saw Hollywood get an extra 2 catches for almost 30 more yards. He had 103 targets in 12 games last year, and I think if we project Hollywood without Hopkins on a 17-game pace, we’re looking at 140-150 targets. That sort of volume is king, and while the offense isn’t going to score enough to put him in the WR1 conversation, a high WR2 finish is absolutely on the table for Brown this year. 

Here’s some stuff that bodes well: Brown is ultra-successful in the short intermediate range, which is where Murray and Colt McCoy are the most accurate, and an offense that isn’t an Air Raid one may allow Murray and McCoy to operate out of play action. Murray’s accuracy, ADOT, QB rating, and yards per attempt all rocket up off the play fake, something Kingsbury didn’t care to exploit. Murray’s ADOT is 7.2 per pass altogether, and on the play-action, it jumps up to 10.3. That’s substantial, and if this stoner sitting on his couch can see it, I’d sure hope an offensive coordinator sees the same thing. Similarly, McCoy’s ADOT also goes up about 3 yards off play action. Hollywood Brown could be an amazing return on investment if things fall right, and there’s a reason I prioritized him in our shared dynasty draft this year. 

My love for Rondale Moore last year was no secret: I had him as a flag plant player since the volume was going to be insane after Kirk departed. Sure enough, he and Greg Dortch crushed in the slot role last year despite both being injured and Dortch hilariously running out of the slot at a higher percentage than Rondaddy. What made them both appealing to me is how frequently the Air Raid asked the QB to look in the short and intermediate areas for crossing and drag routes, and both of them averaged 6 and 7 yards after the catch, respectively. I don’t want Dortch or Moore in fantasy this year not because I don’t believe in the talent, but because having two slot WRs is one slot WR too many for the targets to matter, and I believe the new offensive scheme has to be less slot inclined simply because it’s not a Kingsbury scheme. 

The extra corollary to this whole dumpster fire is the addition of Zach Pascal, who Gannon brought with him from Philly and the drafting of WR Michael Wilson from Stanford. Pascal is a career slot WR, but the departure of AJ Green and Chosen Anderson might make that second boundary spot a competition similar to the slot role. Pascal is a guy who was getting 70 targets a year in Indy and then went to Philly and got 22, so the role is most likely to increase, but Arizona used a top 100 pick on Wilson, so you’d have to believe he gets some looks. Wilson would’ve gone higher, but as Dane Brugler points out in The Beast, he’s missed significant chunks of time in all three of his college seasons and had more drops than TD catches in his college career. He’s a contested catch specialist but I’m not interested in anyone past Hollywood. 

Tight Ends

This offense did not like using Zach Ertz and Trey McBride at the same time, and it shows. Ertz played the first ten weeks of the season and was running around 80% of the team’s routes, and when he went down McBride came in and did pretty much the same thing. Ertz was hammering production before getting hurt, averaging over 7 targets a game. However, when Ertz went down, and Murray followed a couple of games later, McBride flashed some of his potential, catching a little under 4 passes a game. The issue is, both Ertz and McBride had ADOTs of 8 and 6, so 4 catches won’t do much if they only get 30 yards and no TDs. As of this writing, I think the tight end in Arizona is a streaming option at best. I feel like the position will have volume, but as we know with TEs it’s either 10 targets a game, consistent TE production, or nothing. Ertz was a big-time target in the red zone last year (top 3 in the league in targets inside the 10 and red zone target share), but that’s expecting this offense to score a lot more than it looks like it’s going to. I don’t think either of these guys have it. Should Ertz get traded or cut, I’ll be ready to look at McBride as a real cheap punt option in redraft, but I’m not excited about it. If you’re in a crazy tight end premium league, maybe, but otherwise these guys are the very back of the blob.

Seattle Seahawks

Quarterbacks

Seattle, historically sold as a team that runs to set up the pass, ended up passing on 59.3% of their offensive snaps last year. For all the tank commander labels Geno Smith was expected to wear at this time last season, he actually had the highest completion percentage last year of all QBs that played more than seven games with a 69.8% clip, passing for almost 4300 yards and 30 TDs. Where did this come from? Well, long story short, a revitalized running game, a better collection of skill position players than Russ ever had, and hitting on starting tackles on each side in the draft certainly put all the pieces in place. Geno was strong off of play-action and was hyper-efficient both from 0-9 yards downfield and passes 20 or more yards past the line. His ADOT was actually 9th in the league last year at 7.5, and he also had the league’s best completion percentage in passes that traveled more than 20 yards from the line. When he’s kept clean, he’s an assassin. However, some of his luck will have to slow down, not because it’s a reflection of his talent, but because for a guy with 41 charted interceptable throws to only end up with 11 actually picked off says to me that number could jump up to 15-18 this season if he continues to make those mistakes. 

With this collection of skill position players, I don’t think Geno ends up a top 5 fantasy QB, but 4for4’s ranking of him at QB10 is probably about right. In a pure redraft sense, I love Geno Smith this year, as he has 2 games each against Arizona and the Rams, the Lions, the Ravens, and the Commanders on the schedule. His playoff schedule sucks: going against Philly, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh, but there’s a lot of production he’s going to have this year with upgrades on the offensive line and with who they added in the draft. The issue is how often this offense passes, and if they try to play ball control it could hurt Smith. The Seahawks were 14th in neutral game script pace last season, and if it slows down that worries me. Drafting Charbonnet in the second worries me for that exact reason. As an addendum, the difference in opponents may affect Smith, since he beat up on bad teams and sucked against good teams, while also ending the season trending negatively in most static categories. He was also 36/39 in EPA when blitzed, and his TD/INT rate was 38. He goes against teams that blitz much more this year. 

If you choose not to go after the first tier of Quarterbacks in this upcoming season, Geno Smith could be your middle-round target. He was QB5 last year, but that exact same production would have made him QB12 in 2020 and QB12 in 2021. As the offseason has gone on, I’ve cooled on Smith myself, and I think I’m very whatever on him. I think he’s bound for regression, and his turnover luck most likely won’t be as amazing as it was this year. 

Running Backs

Kenneth Walker was the runner-up in the 2022 Rookie of the Year voting behind Garrett Wilson after putting up 1,050 yards and 10 TDs on 228 carries over 15 games. He was a second-round pick, so the Seahawks taking Zach Charbonnet in round 2 this year left people scratching their heads. Let’s dig in, shall we? I decided to get real fucking weird here to bear with me. 

The percentage of Kenneth Walker’s rushing total gained through his longest run, by week:
Week 2: 80% (10 yards, long of 8)
Week 3: 110% (19 yards, long of 21)
Week 4: 44% (29 yards, long of 13)
Week 5: 78% (88 yards, long of 69)
Week 6: 35% (97 yards, long of 34)
Week 7: 44% (167 yards, long of 74)
Week 8: 31% (51 yards, long of 16)
Week 9: 13% (109 yards, long of 15)
Week 10: 29% (17 yards, long of 5)
Week 12: 53% (26 yards, long of 14)
Week 13: 83% (36 yards, long of 30)
Week 15: 32% (47 yards, long of 15)
Week 16: 18% (107 yards, long of 20)
Week 17: 45% (133 yards, long of 60)
Week 18: 17% (114 yards, long of 20) 

So, when averaged out, in a given game, 47% of Kenneth Walker’s rushing production comes on a single play. This is a good thing. However, it speaks to his inefficiency on the other, you know, the major bulk of his carries. This is why I think Zach Charbonnet was also drafted in the second round by Seattle, to be the more efficient back here. The expectation is that someone from the signing of Evan Brown, the drafting of Olu Oluwatomi, and Joey Hunt will compete to be the Center and that Phil Haynes will return to his 2021 form. With a more efficient blocking attack, there’s a chance both Walker and Charbonnet are weekly viable fantasy starters. 

Walker had a 60% snap share, which means the opportunity is there even if he remains healthy. He had 52 red zone touches (3rd in the league), but ranked 40th in Player Profiler’s Fantasy Points Per Opportunity, which averages out fantasy points per touch and target. Furthermore, he had 54 of his runs stuffed at or behind the line, the 4th most in the league. He was 41/42 in percentage of runs that gained more than 5 yards. So, he’s boom or bust. In full PPR on 4for4 he’s RB21 due to his lack of pass-catching profile, and that’s honestly where he should be in those leagues. He doesn’t catch and is big play-dependent. I love Kenneth Walker the football player, but he will be overdrafted by the time September comes around. 

Enter Zach Charbonnet, a ThfantaC podcast favorite. We all love the physicality he brings to the table, as well as his ability to get the tough yards that the metrics seem to think Walker doesn’t consistently pick up. In a lot of ways, this looks less like a 50/50 split but more like a 60/40 Walker split with Carroll riding the hot hand when needed. It was mostly due to injuries, but Pete Carroll’s offenses give multiple backs over a hundred carries a season. From Chris Carson to Rachaad Penny, from Marshawn Lynch to Robert Turbin, Carroll does this. It just so happens that Zach Charbonnet is the best “RB2” Seattle has had in his time there. They’ve drafted 9 RBs since 2016, the most in the league. I love Charbonnet at cost (RB34 on 4for4), and while I don’t mind Walker in the 5th, he won’t be there. I’ll take Charbonnet in round 8 and get his weekly 8-10 points with the chance to become the alpha in the event of anything happening to Walker. Ken Walker was the running back with the second-highest number of routes that came while he was lined up out wide, which hints that we could see both on the field at times next season. 

Charbonnet is actually a more competent receiver out of the backfield than his physical profile would suggest, but the 3rd down back role is going to be a competition between DeeJay Dallas and rookie 7th-round pick Kenny McIntosh, who was specifically brought on to be a pass catcher. Both will get some looks and the opportunity to play on 3rd and long, but it would take more than one injury for either of them to be relevant. Outside of San Francisco, Seattle only played one top-10 rush defense last year. Also, keep in mind that much of what we saw last season came from them destroying bad rush defenses. 

Wide Receivers

Taking Jaxon Smith-Njigba at pick 20 isn’t as out of character as we might believe. This is Pete Carroll, who pushed to take Dee Eskridge at pick 56 when he already had Lockett and Metcalf as established wideouts. Carroll wants the third WR, and JSN is the best one he’s had. Lockett has pretty consistently run about half his routes from the slot compared to out wide, and that sort of versatility means that Seattle has the option to have all 3 on the field at any moment. 

Pre-draft, I had DK Metcalf as a sell. As I said, he was WR17 in PPR last year, but WR28 when broken down on a points-per-game basis. He’s going to get 130 targets, 80-85 catches, and 1000 yards. Last year he actually had more catches and yards than 2021, but his TDs went from 12-6 and I don’t know if he’s going to be able to command 27 red zone targets again (2nd best in the league). This is the rub for me. Seattle used a first and a second-round pick on skill position players that are red zone threats, JSN with his route running and quick space separation abilities, and Charbs with his bruising play style and pass-catching profile. DK still struggles to get consistent separation (especially vs. zone, per reception perception), and since the Seahawks drafted a slot WR who plays to Geno’s short-game strengths and gets a ton of separation, I think it limits DK’s ceiling. The red zone rush/receiving chart at the end of the year is going to be extremely interesting. I actually think 4for4’s ranking of DK Metcalf at WR18 is pretty spot on, to be honest. He will most likely return on value, but his likelihood of breaking into that top 6/7 WR rankings is not going to work with Lockett, JSN, and a rookie RB who is a plus receiver all being there. His ceiling is going to be limited on a weekly basis, I mean check this out: 

DK Metcalf’s top 10 WR finishes in 2022: 2
DK Metcalf’s top 10 WR finishes in 2021: 4
DK Metcalf’s top 10 WR finishes in 2020: 3

DK led the league in end zone targets last year, and still couldn’t break into the top 12. I’m not sure adding more weapons to the mix makes that easier for him to repeat. His drop rate needs to go down and he needs to be better at winning in contested coverage, something he dropped off in this last season. 

As I mentioned earlier, Tyler Lockett is an inside/outside threat. He and JSN will be the elite separators that get open short. Lockett’s demise was predicted by everyone last year, including me. He went out and outperformed DK in fantasy, with 3 more touchdowns that overcame his 6 fewer catches and 15 fewer yards than DK. He produces, but he’s getting older and in his 30th year of life, I think this might be the last year that he goes out there and sneakily wins you week after week with solid production. DK and Lockett both have similar production, but I think with a shift towards more of a diversified attack, I’m not drafting either to be my WR1. Lockett’s top 10 TD rate is unsustainable, which may hurt his overall value, and since he was underdrafted last year, I’m predicting the course correction means he’s going to be overdrafted just like Geno this year. He’s a WR2, just like Metcalf, and neither is going to be the stud you need to elevate your roster in round 4 or 5. Lockett crushed on insane efficiency last year, producing over expected on per catch, per game, and overall. Efficiency like that doesn’t carry over on a year-to-year basis for WRs turning 30, and I’m not expecting Lockett to break the trend. He’s a dawg, but he’s in a crowded room that just got even more crowded.

46, 39, 34, 50. Those are the targets given to the 3rd WR in Seattle over the last 4 seasons. Realistically, how many targets will Jaxon Smith Njigba get? 

In that time period, the total number of WR targets is as follows:
2019: 310
2020: 323
2021: 298
2022: 317

If Lockett and Metcalf keep up their current target rates, it would look like this:
Metcalf: 140
Lockett: 115

That’s 255. That says to me that, save for the 20 or so that will go to Eskridge or whoever else, anywhere between 50-75 targets can go towards JSN this year if they keep targeting those top two guys at the same rate. Since I’ve established that I think they pass less this year, I think JSN cuts into Lockett, but really he takes more of his targets off the plate of Noah Fant. I think 60-80 targets is reasonable for JSN this year, but I also think if he shows out like Jaylen Waddle his rookie season, they’ll make sure to scheme him the ball however they can and those numbers will grow (I think this has a good chance of happening). He doesn’t drop passes, he’s an incredibly crisp route runner and short area separator. Geno will have his choice when he drops back to pass. He might not get the most targets out of the 2023 rookie class, but JSN will certainly be the most efficient.  

Tight Ends

Noah Fant was TE17 last year, and he will do worse this year. Noah Fant is not going to get another 63 targets this season and I’ll tell you why: his 168 slot snaps last year are a number sure to go down. He’s in the mid-20s in almost all opportunity metrics, including targets, target share, targets per route run, ADOT, air yards, snap share, and route participation. This has gone on long enough. I don’t want to talk Seahawks tight ends at all. Seattle was in 11 personnel at a clip that was 26th in the league and had over 24% of their targets to go TEs last year. Seattle was actually a top 10 team in TE stats last season, but the addition of JSN means we will see more 11-personnel which hurts this entire room. I’m good.