Offseason Fantasy Football Impacts: AFC & NFC West
Remember, this is a basic overview of player changes from the offseason and does not include an in-depth look at coaching changes or the draft. This summer has been a whirlwind of moves around the league and this article will help get a handle on those changes for fantasy football this season.
In one of the biggest offseason trades, Russell Wilson was sent to the Denver Broncos in return for their left kidney, first-born, Drew Lock and Noah Fant. Is there any bad news here? The only thing I can really see is a dip in touches for Javonte Williams and veteran Melvin Gordon who re-signed with the team. Even so, a better passing game tends to open up the run game, so I am not that worried about their production. When it comes to the running backs, what is the most upsetting is their near 50/50 split in usage, not the addition at Wilson under center.
This is also excellent news for Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and K.J. Hamler. There are a lot of mouths to feed in that receiving corps, but they have a much better chance to be fantasy relevant with Wilson as opposed to Lock or Teddy Bridgewater.
Travis Kelce just became even more important to Patrick Mahomes than he has ever been. Tyreek Hill has moved on to the Dolphins (a recurring theme throughout this piece) and vacates 159 targets. Mecole Hardman also finds himself in a much better position with his opportunity to partake in those targets. To help fill the gigantic void left behind with Hill’s departure, the Chiefs added Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster.
Hill’s loss could potentially be a huge blow for Mahomes, but he will likely find a way to make it work. I find it hard to believe that a team who ranked second in passing attempts last season will slow down any time soon.
Derek Carr will enter 2022 with a very shiny, very elite new toy with Davante Adams from the Packers. It still seems hard to believe, but here we are. WRs Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards have departed but Hunter Renfrow remains. Renfrow was last year’s target leader with 128 and TE Darren Waller came in second with 93.
Carr is certainly not averse to throwing the football, logging 531 pass attempts in 2021. However, no matter which way you slice it, Adams will likely see the lion’s share of Carr’s attention. I’m not as concerned about Renfrow as I am for Waller. I not only worry about his sustainability but he will likely be knocked down a peg in the pecking order.
With an anemic run game that ranked 26th in attempts and 28th in rushing yards, Carr will likely continue to roll with his arm to lead the offense. With a player like Adams to round out his pass-catchers, Carr is a very intriguing option this season.
There isn’t too much to say about the Chargers’ offseason from an offensive standpoint. They re-signed Mike Williams to a 3-year extension but the same crew will run it back. With another year of Justin Herbert under center and his array of talented players around him, the Chargers will have a cornucopia of options for fantasy in 2022.
The Cardinals are having a very interesting offseason so far. Elite WR DeAndre Hopkins was suspended for six games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, they acquired Marquise Brown from the Ravens, lost Chase Edmonds to the Dolphins, and mom and dad (a.k.a. Management and Kyler Murray) are fighting again. Things could be better.
I’m not worried in the slightest about Murray’s availability this season. They will kiss and make up and all of this will be water under the bridge in Week 1. I have absolutely no idea of what to do about Brown and Hopkins and am likely to fade both players this season.
However, I am intrigued by James Conner who has no more competition from Edmonds and I am downright pumped for Zach Ertz. In 11 games, Ertz saw 81 targets for 56 receptions for 574 yards and three touchdowns and finished the season as the TE8 with the Cardinals. Remember, he was on a brand new team starting Week 7 after leaving the Philadelphia Eagles. If we put Ertz on a 17-game pace with just the Cardinals, he could have finished with 160 points in half-PPR, landing him squarely as the TE5. He has the opportunity to continue the resurgence next season with a better understanding of the offense and targets available for the taking.
Are we really supposed to believe that Pete Carroll and the Seahawks are serious about Drew Lock or Geno Smith at quarterback? I am a graduate of the University of Missouri, and I am a huge fan of Lock. However, I am also realistic. He was great in college. In the NFL… not so much. At least, we haven’t seen much to get overly excited about yet. So far, the battle for the starting position between Smith and Lock is hot and continues to heat up as the offseason progresses. There is still the possibility that the Seahawks acquire the likes of Baker Mayfield or even Jimmy Garoppolo before the season begins.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Seahawks, though. With a sub-par passing game comes the need for a strong run game. Rashad Penny finally got his opportunity to excel even if he didn’t play a full season last year. Unfortunately, veteran Chris Carter has no timetable, or even good news, regarding his neck surgery and his status is very much in doubt for 2022. So, it makes perfect sense that Seattle opted for star RB Kenneth Walker in the draft instead of targeting a quarterback.
Carroll is known for rotating his running backs so it’s unlikely Walker will become the de facto RB1 right out of the gate. Instead, we should see a timeshare. However, Penny has yet to play a full season, which lends itself nicely to taking Walker in mid-rounds if available as a solid insurance policy with upside.
To finish up the AFC West, we have the unpredictable mess in San Francisco and the predictable champs in Los Angeles.
The 49ers’ offense could look completely different than what we have known for the last four years. Garoppolo could (let’s be honest… likely) be traded in favor of second-year QB Trey Lance. They also lost their offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel to the Dolphins. While the players haven’t exactly changed that much like other teams, how they will be utilized is up in the air. Unlike Garoppolo, Lance is a highly mobile quarterback and brings a completely different dynamic to the position. He is also young and we don’t have enough of a sample size to be confident in his accuracy. With that being said, it’s nearly impossible to dismiss players like Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, but I am not overly enthusiastic about their future.
The Rams, on the other hand, pretty much look exactly the same with one big exception. Former Bears’ Pro Bowler, Allen Robinson, will round out the wide receiver room. He replaces Robert Woods, who is now in Tennessee, and will likely supplant Odell Beckham who has not yet been re-signed to the team and is a free agent. Other than that… well… the Rams are really good again this year.