Ah, Friday is here and nothing could possibly go wrong...What's that you say, its my last Division Update and I need new topics for next week (since Free Agency still hasn't started)? The only division left to cover in this series is the NFC West? Oh man, I am ready for the weekend too...
Arizona Cardinals: Arizona did not have a QB score over 100 pts in the 2010 fantasy season, and that will tell you why a stud like WR Larry Fitzgerald ended up 17th among receivers...a solid #2 season, but he is typically drafted as a #1 receiver in the first 3 rounds (only the second time in his career he had less than 8 TDs). WR Steve Breaston was barely worth owning, finishing 58th. No Arizona TE was in the top 50 at a position where the top 24 are all that really matter. RB Tim Hightower came in 33rd and RB Beanie Wells came in 56th among RBs on the year...but because of a couple of fluke games with weird plays, the D/ST actually finished top 10. I call it a fluke because no D/ST unit posts back to back 10 TD seasons, and that was the only area they dominated in 2010. What's New? CB Patrick Peterson, RB Ryan Williams and TE Robert Housler. So 2011... 1) They will pursue a veteran QB (Orton, McNabb, Kolb). None of them are top 10 players, but will improve this passing game compared to 2010. I won't be targeting the QB, but I bet Fitzgerald is a top 10 WR again in 2011. He catches 90+ passes and gets 1000 yards and more than 5 TDs even in years like last year. I will be looking for him starting at the mid 2nd. Ryan Williams is on my short list of "boom or bust" #4-5 RB options for 2011. Say what you want about rookies, but rookie RBs expected to carry the bulk of the load usually finish in the top 40. Health is my only concern on Williams, and as a 4th-5th option, I'll take that risk. I don't like Housler this year, but think he is going to be a nice pass catcher by 2013.
St. Louis Rams: QB Sam Bradford had a weak backup fantasy season (20th at his position), but if you are in a dynasty building league, its a good start. In almost the reverse of Arizona, Bradford did decent despite not having a top 48 fantasy WR or top 24 TE. Steven Jackson fell to #14 among RBs, mostly because for the 3rd straight year he can't get into the end zone. The Rams D/ST wasn't on my radar last year. What's New? DE Robert Quinn and some offensive help: receiving TE Lance Kendricks, WR Austin Pettis, WR Gregory Salas (a favorite slot guy of mine). So 2011... It's going to take 1-2 more years. Sam Bradford is worth owning if you can keep him for the long term (5+ year expectations), otherwise he is a backup again in 2011. Kendricks, Pettis, and Salas are a solid group in my opinion, but will take until at least 2012 if not 2013 to really be fantasy studs. Pettis may be worth grabbing as a 5th-6th receiver because of expected targets, but I'd take a wait and see UDFA approach. Steven Jackson will do what he does...Run for over 1100 yards, and frustratingly fail to score because he is tall, losing his legs from all these carries, and has no supporting passing threat near the goal line...But if I can get him as a #2 RB in rounds 2-3, I will, without thinking twice.
Seattle Seahawks: The division winning 7-9 Seattle Seahawks struggled with QB injuries and play in 2010, and none were top 24 players. RB Marshawn Lynch got a lot of hype but was a 3.6 YPC player who finished 34th among RBs, and toss WR Mike Williams on that pile too, he was 50th at the WR position. No TE made the top 24, and the D/ST was 17th, meaning a bye week replacement for specific matchups only. What's New? A desire to get Lynch going. Rounds 1 and 2 both went to O-Linemen, who will either be a Guard and a RT or both be Guards. So 2011... I don't know if Seattle is committed to Hasselbeck and I don't trust any QB here. Williams is a 4th-5th receiver even as the primary target in Seattle, meaning round 10. Lynch is more interesting to me and if I can draft him as a 3rd RB, being the primary ball carrier for a team upgrading its O-Line, I will take him. He has the talent and I for one will be looking for Lynch after I get my starters locked in at RB, QB and WR.
San Francisco 49ers: Ugly QB play, and ugly QB flopping. #20 RB Frank Gore was injured in week 11, and the passing game did manage to produce #30 WR Michael Crabtree while #2 TE Vernon Davis remained a solid threat and obvious starter. What's New? The entire coaching staff. DE Aldon Smith and QB Colin Kaepernick. Change of pace back RB Kendall Hunter. So 2011... This may be the most fantasy relevant NFC West team, regardless of standings. I won't trust their QB in year 1, but if its Alex Smith I will watch what Harbaugh does with him in case there is magic abounding...Vernon Davis will be a top 5 TE if the staff has any brains. Michael Crabtree, much as I dislike him, will probably keep improving, and could very well be a great pickup as a 3rd receiver with potential to jump into the "#2" category. Frank Gore will be a great back again. Had he not been injured, he probably could have been a top 12 back as it was. He may be a #1, but I am hoping he gets overlooked enough for me to get him as a #2 RB in the 2nd round to pair with a more consistent stud. This D/ST, though mediocre last year, should be nice for "situational" weeks, especially divisional games. The 49ers D/ST put up some nice games against AZ and Seattle last year, and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again.
Final Thoughts: Seems like this entire division is missing half of the equation for a passing game. The team with a QB doesn't have play makers, and the teams with play makers don't have QBs...and to be frank, it is Seattle that has the least talent in the passing game as a whole right now. I don't care who wins the division, this is Fantasy Football, and we want stats. Larry Fitzgerald, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson...These guys are starters in 2011.
Up Next: Great question. Start feeding me ideas, or I might resort to mock drafts/pre-draft ranking lists (which prior to FA mean nothing).