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Fantasy Football: NFC West Divisional Preview; Sleepers, Breakouts, More

Kevin Hanson

This week, I have previewed one AFC and one NFC division from a fantasy football perspective. Check out the the NFC EastAFC EastNFC NorthAFC North, NFC South, AFC South and AFC West.

Each divisional preview will have a consistent structure—highlighting two each of the following: (1) undervalued players compared to average draft position (ADP), (2) overvalued players compared to ADP, (3) sleepers, (4) breakout candidates and (5) bold predictions.

With that said, let's get to the NFC West divisional preview.

Undervalued Players

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 52, WR22)

Despite a consistent level of targets—66 to 71—in all four of his seasons, Lockett posted career highs in receptions (57), yards (965) and touchdowns (10) as he shattered previous career highs in catch rate (81.4%) and yards per reception (16.9). While those ratios will likely regress, Lockett's target volume is all but assured to increase with Doug Baldwin's retirement.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 98, WR40)

Fitzgerald isn't getting any younger (then again, who is?) and he's coming off a disappointing season (69/734/6). Before last year, however, he posted three consecutive 100/1,000 seasons. The entire Arizona offense should benefit from the increased pace and creativity of the offense and I currently have Fitzgerald projected to perform as a top-32 wide receiver.

Overvalued Players

Jerick McKinnon, RB, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 143, RB49)

McKinnon had a PRP injection in his surgically-repaired knee and there is the potential that he lands on IR, as The Athletic’s Matt Barrows projects. If so, that would add clarity to the role and workload that Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida should expect. Either way, McKinnon is someone to avoid at this point given the risk.

Greg Zuerlein, K, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 106, K1)

I have nothing against Zuerlein or taking him as the top kicker. The problem I have is taking him in the ninth round of a fantasy draft. Unless your league starts three kickers (and you have a problem if it does), please wait until the final two rounds before you draft your kicker. There are plenty of upside options at running back and wide receiver that will have a much bigger impact on your fantasy team than a top-tier kicker will.

Sleepers

Note: For our purposes, a sleeper is defined as a player with a current ADP of Round 10 or later.

Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 135, RB46)

Breida dealt with a nagging ankle injury, but he led the team in rushing (814 yards on 153 carries). Recording the NFL's fastest speed on a run (22.09 MPH) last season, Breida was one of six running backs to have double-digit runs of 20-plus yards. If Jerick McKinnon ends up on IR, that would add some clarity to the 49ers’ backfield situation. Even if Tevin Coleman leads the duo in touches, Breida offers value in his 12th round ADP.

KeeSean Johnson, WR, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 282, WR97)

Even though the Cardinals drafted Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler ahead of Johnson, it’s the sixth-round rookie that appears to be one of the team’s top-three receivers along with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Johnson had 95 catches for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns for Fresno State as a senior. If he holds onto the WR3 role, there is top-50 upside.

Breakout Candidates

Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Productive after the team's Week 11 bye, Pettis had a four-game stretch through Week 15 last year with at least 80 yards and/or a touchdown each week. During that four-game span, Pettis had 17 catches for 338 yards and four touchdowns to score the fifth-most fantasy points amongst receivers.

Earlier this offseason, Pettis garnered praise from coaches and teammates as he looked ready to build upon his late-season rookie momentum. Even if the praise hasn’t been as free-flowing lately, Pettis still projects to be the team’s No. 1 wide receiver heading into his sophomore campaign.

Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Poised for a breakout, Kirk consistently produced as a rookie despite playing in last year's 32nd-ranked pass offense. Reaching the 40-yard mark in seven of his final eight games (Weeks 5 to 13), Kirk performed as the WR28 during that stretch. It would be reasonable to expect even better numbers for Kirk (although his ADP is only WR32) as the top receiver in an offense that will play at a much faster pace and be more efficient overall.

Bold Predictions

Note: Perhaps it will take a best-case scenario for these predictions to become reality, but if that weren't the case, they wouldn't be bold.

Todd Gurley will finish as a top-five fantasy running back in 2019.

There are obvious concerns with the knee and the team will manage his workload, but it feels a little weird calling a top-five finish “bold” for last year’s top-scoring fantasy running back. That said, there is certainly upside for those bold enough to draft Gurley at his current ADP (RB9).

Even if he scores 20% fewer fantasy points in 2019 than he had last year, Gurley would finish the season with 274.16 fantasy points—or drop from RB1 to RB5 based on last year’s scoring leaders. A 30% drop would push him down to seventh (239.82) on last year’s end-of-season ranking. Drafting Gurley as an RB2 at the beginning of Round 2 to pair with a safer option, such as James Conner or Joe Mixon at the end of Round 1, is worth the risk in my view.

Jalen Hurd will finish as a top-50 wide receiver in 2019.

A former running back at Tennessee, Hurd is a versatile player that could be used in a variety of ways by Kyle Shanahan. In his first preseason game, Hurd had three catches for 31 yards and two touchdowns. Trent Taylor’s foot injury could open up more opportunities for Hurd to make an early-season impact and Shanahan has complimented Hurd’s aggressive mentality as a pass-catcher.

Good luck in your league(s)!

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