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NFC West Preview

Arizona Cardinals

QB- Matt Leinart

Matt Leinart is going to be a great fantasy quarterback. The question remains whether it will be this year or not. He has all the tools and weapons necessary but how much will the new coaching staff ask him to do? Last year Arizona played from behind often and the running game wasn’t producing. If the running game improves, and it should, then Leinart will have a good but not great year. Leinart is a low end QB1 with potential especially in keeper leagues.

QB- Other

Kurt Warner is the backup and will only see time if Leinart goes down with an injury. He has lost his value and carries no fantasy impact.

RB- Edgerrin James

Edgerrin James will be the biggest benefactor from the coaching change. Ken Whisenhunt is a run oriented coach and Russ Grimm will make that offensive line better. Arizona has the easiest ranked schedule in the league so expect them to be ahead in games and looking to run often.

RB- Other

J.J. Arrington and Marcel Ship will receive a few touches to spell James but nothing of substance. Neither is worth considering for your fantasy team.

WR- Larry Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald and Boldin are both #1 receivers that can be interchangeable. Larry missed a few games last year to injury but still posted solid numbers. Expect another good year from Fitzgerald with the continued maturation of Leinart and threat from the running game.

WR- Anquan Boldin

Boldin continues to put up incredibly consistent numbers. He averages almost 100 catchers per season and 1200-1300 yards. The scores were down a bit last year but should recover this year. He is not one of the elite wide receivers but a solid player to have on your team.

WR- Other

Bryant Johnson is the only other viable fantasy option to consider. He did a great job filling in when Fitzgerald went down and could see looks in 3 receiver sets. He is not a player to count on for production every week.

 

TE- Leonard Pope

Pope is a sleeper candidate for this year. It is easy to understand how he will be overlooked by defenses trying to stop James, Fitzgerald, and Boldin. He is a big target and could see an increased role in this offense especially around the goal line. He is not a starter for your fantasy team but could be a diamond in the rough late in drafts.

K- Neil Rackers

Last year Rackers solidified the logic of not taking a kicker early. After being a top point producer in 2005 he fell out of the top 10 in 2006. Arizona’s offense will give him his chances this year so don’t be afraid to take Rackers. Just don’t take him early.

 

 

San Francisco 49ers

QB- Alex Smith

Smith continues to improve and is entering his 3rd season. It appears he is ready for a breakout season and is being labeled a sleeper by some. Do not fall into this trap. Smith started 2006 very well. If you take away his first 3 games, however, he becomes a terrible fantasy quarterback. He averaged 25 pass attempts, 159 passing yards, and only 1 touchdown pass per game! He also has several other negative variables to contend with. Smith once again has a new offensive coordinator. The offense will be designed to go through Frank Gore. Darrell Jackson hasn’t played a full season in the last two years. Ashley Lelie has averaged 32 catches per season for his career! There are too many question marks and variables to give Smith two thumbs up this year. He will be good but not good enough to warrant being your number 1 quarterback.

QB- Trent Dilfer

Alex Smith took every snap for San Francisco last year. ‘Nuff said.

RB- Frank Gore

Frank Gore exploded last year and is now considered a top 5 pick. He has his share of question marks (knee surgeries and fumbles) but has worked through them so far. He will continue to get a huge workload this season both rushing and receiving. The 49ers should be leading more games this year which will increase Gore’s chances as well. The loss of Norv Turner hurts a bit but not enough to lower Gore’s ranking.

RB- Michael Robinson

Robinson is a very versatile player that can run, catch, and throw. He will spell Gore during the season but not be enough of a factor to consider as anything other than a late round flyer.

WR- Darrell Jackson

Darrell Jackson was traded to the 49ers by division rival Seattle. That should be a big red flag for anyone. Darrell Jackson hasn’t been healthy for two years now and offers good upside IF he plays 16 games. He will see his fair share of balls thrown his way and produce average numbers but his best days are behind him. He is a great number 2 receiver for your team but should no longer be considered a number 1.

WR- Ashley Lelie

Lelie will be given the opportunity to earn the starting spot with Darrell Jackson. He only has one 1000 yard season in his career and has had only one season with 50+ receptions. The team may be new but the player is the same. Lelie offers limited upside with late round draft pick written all over him.

WR- Other

Arnaz Battle and rookie Jason Hill will see playing time but not contribute enough to consider them on draft day. There simply isn’t enough yards being distributed threw the air to make these two players roster worthy.

TE- Vernon Davis

Vernon Davis is healthy once again and ready to make an impact. With Eric Johnson gone via free agency, Davis will see even more playing time. He combines speed and athleticism to give defenses nightmares. Look for Mike Nolan to exploit those match-ups. Davis will be Alex Smith’s main target and produce very good numbers. Consider Davis to be in the low end top tier TE’s that can be drafted once the big names are gone.

K- Joe Nedney

Nedney had a very solid year last year. He is expected to continue with what people to believe is an improved 49er offense. San Francisco is a tough place to kick and the 49ers only play 5 indoor games this year. Nedney has an okay year but probably won’t be back in the top 10.

 

 

St. Louis Rams

 

QB- Marc Bulger

Bulger threw for a career high in yards and touchdown passes in 2006. He still has tremendous skills and weapons around him for a repeat performance in 2007. He is in the final year of his contract and despite rumors of a holdout he will not miss any time. His only drawback is his lack of mobility. Bulger has missed games in each of the last 4 seasons. When healthy, Bulger should be considered a top 5 quarterback and drafted accordingly.

QB- Other

Gus Frerotte and Ryan Fitzpatrick will back up Bulger in 2007. It doesn’t matter who will be 2nd and 3rd string because the only value they have will be if Bulger is injured. If that happens you should have no problem finding them on the waiver wire.

RB- Steven Jackson

Steven Jackson had a monster 2006 campaign and has vaulted himself to the 2nd best running back in the league. He is a workhorse both running and catching the football. Scott Linehan will continue to utilize Jackson as his main offensive weapon and look to get him the ball as much as possible. Jackson should be the second player taken behind Tomlinson. The Rams have the 5th easiest schedule in the league which means Jackson should get plenty of opportunities to carry the rock.

RB- Brian Leonard

Leonard will see plenty of snaps this year but unfortunately it will be at fullback. He will spell Jackson and may see late game mop up duties but nothing more.

WR- Tory Holt

Tory “Big Game” Holt has averaged almost 1400 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the last 4 seasons. Although he had off-season knee surgery, he should return to those averages. Holt is one of the elite receivers and should be considered as such for your fantasy team.

WR- Isaac Bruce

Bruce will turn 35 this season and has shown signs of slowing down. The yardage has been there but he isn’t producing touchdowns. His role in the Ram’s offense continues to diminish and the signing of Drew Bennett isn’t going to help. Consider Bruce a low end 3rd receiver at best; producing 700-800 yards and a few scores.

WR-Drew Bennett

Bennett was a number 1 receiver for the Titans but has a better chance of scoring as a number 3 receiver in St. Louis. He has proven to be a solid receiver and if he picks up the new offense will pay dividends right away. Bennett will excel if given the opportunity in this offense. Keep him in mind if Holt or Bruce goes down.

 

TE-Randy McMichael

McMichael is a very interesting pick this year and may be a surprise to some. He was released by Miami where he played for current Ram coach Scott Linehan. McMichael is very familiar with the Ram’s offensive schemes and will fit in immediately. He averages 60+ receptions a year and should post that this year. The question remains how many touchdowns chances he receives with all the other weapons in the Rams arsenal. McMichael should be in the 2nd tier tight ends drafted.

 

K- Jeff Wilkins

Wilkins has been the model of consistency for kickers. It helps playing for a high scoring offense and also indoors. The Rams will continue to give Wilkins scoring chances and he will once again be one of the top scoring kickers in 2007.

Seattle Seahawks

QB-Matt Hasselbeck

Hasselbeck is coming off his worst stat producing season in the last 4 years. Most consider it due to injury but deeper analysis says there is more. The Seahawks offense hasn’t been the same since Steve Hutchinson left for Minnesota. Darrell Jackson was traded to division rival San Francisco. Shaun Alexander turns 30 at the start of the season. Seattle utilizes the west coast offense but is a run first team. They rarely throw the ball downfield and that will be less with the deep threat DJ gone. Hasselbeck will return to 100% but the numbers will not support a high draft pick. Consider him a low end QB1.

QB- Seneca Wallace

Seneca was forced into duty last year when Hasselbeck went down. He showed flashes of promise at times but made costly mistakes in clutch situations. The Seahawk offense will not be as dominant this year and even less so if Wallace is running the show. Wallace will be available all year so don’t waste a draft pick on him.

RB- Shaun Alexander

Alexander the Great should now be called Alexander the Good. Shaun turns the dreaded 30 this year and the almost 2000 carries will show their toll. The offensive line is not as strong as it was two years ago and since landing his contract extension he hasn’t shown the explosion he once had. Alexander’s performance will show signs of slipping and drop to the 1200-1300 yard range with 11-13 scores. Those numbers are good for your number 1 running back but he no longer warrants top 3 draft status.

RB- Maurice Morris

Morris was surprisingly ineffective during his 8 games started last year. When he spells Alexander he provides explosiveness and a change of pace that is very successful. He did not show that when asked to carry the full time workload. He failed to rush for a touchdown while Alexander was hurt last season. He has some value once again if Alexander gets hurt but should only be drafted as a late round insurance policy.

WR- Deion Branch

Warning! Do not draft Branch expecting him to be a top flight wide receiver. He has never had a 1000 yard season or caught more than 5 touchdowns. Branch will have had an entire off-season to learn the west coast system and establish chemistry with Hasselbeck but it is not going to produce huge results. Branch is being asked to fill the departed shoes of Darrell Jackson and he is not that type of receiver. In a PPR league Branch will be successful because he will catch a lot of short routes and try to make things happen. He does not possess breakaway speed and will thus have a good but not great year.

 

WR- D.J. Hackett

Hackett had a career high in catches, yards, and touchdowns last year. Most was due to Darrell Jackson’s injury late in the season. Hackett has good chemistry with Hasselbeck and will continue to thrive in 2007. He should earn the starting spot opposite of Branch and become the Seahawks deep threat receiver. Hackett is a breakout candidate this year with the real possibility of posting very solid numbers.

WR-Nate Burleson

Burleson showed great strides as the season continued last year. His presence was felt mostly on special teams as a return man but he will see his share of time as a 3rd receiver. Until he proves he can be a consistent performer he is not worth fantasy consideration.

 

TE-Marcus Pollard

Pollard has been in the league a long time and hasn’t been asked to be a big contributor for a while. That changes this year. Jerramy Stevens is no longer with the team and the Seahawks use the tight end a great deal in the passing game. Pollard will have a surprisingly good year and outperform his average draft position. Look for him to be a late round pickup and reap the rewards all season.

K-Josh Brown

Josh Brown had a solid season last year producing four game winning field goals. He will continue that next year as the Seahawks have a good offense to provide chances for him. He has a strong leg and is capable of hitting the 50+ yard field goals for leagues that reward yardage bonuses. With the Seahawks offense and 9th easiest schedule Brown has the potential to be a top 10 kicker this year.

 

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