After eight weeks, we’ve finally made it to the end of the line. I’m sure there’s going to be a big hole in your life. I suggest you fill it with some of the great divisional coverage here on So-Called Fantasy Experts.
But before you enter your mourning period, we’ve got one more division to go through: the NFC West. Now the NFC West has for years been the best drafting division uncovering diamond in the rough after diamond in the rough. While these teams all have rosters chock full of late-round draft picks, most of these finds have been on the defensive side of the ball.
The one thing the NFC West has not been known for? Offensive talent. This year might be a little break from tradition as we’ve got some good players coming into the division.
Maybe that’s because all these teams have built very stacked defenses over the last few seasons and finally need to get some offensive playmakers to win the division. Sure defensive depth is good but at some point it’s just overkill. Someone’s got to score the points in this division.
Todd Gurley – RB, St. Louis Rams
In his three seasons at Georgia, Todd Gurley established himself as one of the best running back prospects in years. He was a phenom right out of the gate as a freshman and quickly drew comparisons to Herschel Walker. Becoming only the second Georgia freshman ever to rush for 1,000 yards (the first being Walker) will do that sort of thing.
Gurley is a do-it-all running back when he gets the ball in his hands. He can run over defenders with ease as he stays low to the ground and has a impressive burst when breaking through the line. He also puts that burst to good use when he need to run away from tacklers, which he did a lot of in the SEC. He does a great job of staying on his feet and is very difficult to knock off balance. Sum all of this up and you get the idea of just how hard it is for defenders to get Gurley onto the ground.
His talent is undeniable; the only problem is his knee ligaments ripped last November. If he was healthy, there would have been no question whether or not he was a Top 10 pick in the 2015 draft. He would also be a high pick in Fantasy drafts everywhere, but the knee injury remains a big question mark. There are varying reports on when he will actually be back on the field for the Rams. I’ve even heard he might miss the first six games, which would be a big blow to perspective Fantasy managers. The Rams also seemed to find a running back last season in Tre Mason, so whenever Gurley does get back to action, he’ll have to contend with Mason for carries.
I know Gurley has the talent to be a Top 10 running back in the league, but if someone wants to take Gurley very early I’d let them do that. Tre Mason was great last season and he’s definitely going to be a hinderance to Gurley’s value.
Tyler Lockett – WR, Seattle Seahawks
Tyler Lockett is just they type of player the Seahawks love to draft. He’s a multi positional threat who can work from the slot or out wide. He’s also a deadly punt returner making him a special teams ace as well. His punt returning skills alone will get him on the field and make him a fan favorite in Seattle.
Did I mention he’s seen as “undersized” standing 5’10”? That’s another thing Seattle likes in a player, a guy who is looking to prove doubters wrong about his skills. Sounds like Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and mostly every other player on the team. I think he’ll fit in nicely in Seattle.
And if there is one thing the Seahawks have been lacking in their recent run of success, it’s been wide receivers. We all saw what happened in the Super Bowl when, on the last play of the game, they threw the ball to their 4th receiver.
Lockett is an ideal fit for the slot receiver role with some game breaking speed (4.4 40-yard dash) and great route running ability. He utilizes a killer hesitation move and stutter steps to often completely turn his defender around. And while he is only 5’10” he has the ability to go up and get the ball on high throws and hold onto it as he comes down. While the middle of the field will probably be where he does most of his damage, that speed will help him turn those short catches into big plays. And don’t doubt his ability to be a deep threat either.
Seattle hasn’t had a dynamic playmaker like this since they shipped Percy Harvin out of town. Lockett is going to be a nightmare to cover on option routes and with Russell Wilson’s ability to keep plays alive, Lockett should quickly become a favorite of his on broken plays. Add in his return abilities and Tyler Lockett could be a nice steal late in drafts. Most people aren’t looking to pick Seattle receivers anyway but don’t forget about Lockett on draft day and you might end up with a great steal.
David Johnson – RB, Arizona Cardinals
Last season was a tough one for the Arizona Cardinals. Seemingly every important player on their team got hurt at some point and the running back position was not immune. Andre Ellington came into the 2014 season as a their featured back and looked poised for a big breakout year. That didn’t happen as Ellington dealt with various injuries all season long. Did the workload wear him out?
To alleviate some of that workload, or hoping to find a back-up in case another injury wave hits, the Cardinals took David Johnson in the third round. If Andre Ellington is the speed back, Johnson is definitely the bigger speed back?
Johnson has got some nice size, standing 6’1″ and 224 pounds. He doesn’t use his size as often as you’d like but he has the ability to bust through tacklers. He’s also got some great speed, running a 4.5 40-yard dash at the combine, but he hasn’t always shown that burst consistently. Lucky for him he’s coming into a situation where he won’t have to carry the ball every time out. His team likes to run the ball and he’ll get some opportunities to utilize his size/speed combo.
One thing that really helps his Fantasy value is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. His size makes him a great target and his speed makes him hard for opposing linebackers to cover. He makes great cuts that leave defenders lost and can change direction quickly. Those moves make him a threat out of the passing game; they also make him very dangerous in the return game.
If you’re in a deep league with a lot of RB slots, Johnson’s pass-catching ability will be a big boost in PPR leagues. Even if you’re not in a PPR league, he’ll be able to get out in space and could have a Devonta Freeman-type impact from Week 1.
Mike Davis – RB, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers let Frank Gore go to turn the RB position over to Carlos Hyde. Hyde is still unproven, so if he stumbles out of the gate, Davis has the skills to step in and see some carries. If Hyde doesn’t stumble, look for Davis to be used in a similar role to the one Hyde has last season.
The NFC West could be a break out division for Fantasy relevant rookies this year. You better keep these guys on your radar!
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