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NFC West Fantasy Football Deep-Dive: Best Picks, Sleepers, Draft Advice for 2021

A team-by-team deep dive, bringing you the best of the NFC West for 2021 fantasy football.

With the 2021 NFL season fast approaching, I’ve taken it upon myself to go division-by-division and breakdown each team for 2021 fantasy football. For each team, I’ve picked the best fantasy options and a few up-and-comers on the roster who could have sneaky fantasy value this coming season. I’ve also included Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule Metrics for each team (1st = easiest, 32nd = hardest) and my own 2021 .5PPR rankings for the players were applicable. (Listed ADPs via FF Calculator)

Arizona Cardinals
Overall Strength of ScheduleOpposing Off. EfficiencyOpposing Def. EfficiencyOpposing Pass D EfficiencyOpposing Run D Efficiency
24th32nd11th10th22nd

Pass, pass, and pass some more. Although Kliff Kingsbury’s been a frequent run-caller in his short NFL head coaching tenure—the Cardinals had the 11th lowest passing rate on first-half early-downs last year (FH/ED) at 54%—they’ll be hard pressed to repeat that again this year. Arizona faced just the ninth softest slate of opposing passing games last year, per SharpFootballStats.com. This year, Kyler Murray and Co. are expected to square off against the fourth best.

Making matters worse (or more exciting for our purposes), Arizona faces an even more daunting group of opposing run games than they did last year with the second best group incoming, as opposed to last year’s still frightening seventh ranked series of rushing attacks. Arizona’s defense is not pushover, but it will be difficult to consistently slow the offenses of teams like the Tennessee Titans (Week 1), Minnesota Vikings (W2), Los Angeles Rams (W4 and W14), San Francisco 49ers (W5 and W9), Cleveland Browns (W7), Green Bay Packers (W8), Carolina Panthers (W10), a potential bout with Justin Fields-led Bears (W13), Seattle Seahawks (W11 and W18), Indianapolis Colts (W16), and the Dallas Cowboys (W17). Those offenses are going to push the pace on the Cardinals early in games this year and Kingsbury is going to be forced into pass happy game scripts whether he likes it or not.

The Best of the West

QB Kyler Murray (My 2021 rank: QB4)

Murray was on a tear through the first 11 weeks of the NFL season, leading the league in fantasy points scored at the position (291.6), posting 280+ combined passing and rushing yards in 8 of 10 games, and scoring a minimum of 2 touchdowns per game in the process. A sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder slowed the breakout passer a hair, yet he never missed a game and still managed to finish as the QB2 overall.

Murray’s 4.04, QB3 ADP isn’t as pricey as Patrick Mahomes (2.11, QB1) or Josh Allen (3.11, QB2), but it’s also not as good of a deal as Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert in the mid-to-late 5th round as the QBs 4 and 5. If Murray is your QB1, go for it. He could easily finish there. Just be sure to try to stack him with DeAndre Hopkins in the second round.

WR DeAndre Hopkins (WR6)

Pre-2020 there were a number of big name receivers who switched teams in the offseason and had a down year in their first season with the new team. Sometimes it takes a while to learn a new scheme. DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs teamed up to end that narrative’s short stint as a rule, not an exception, once and for all in 2020 as both cruised to top 5 finishes at the position.

Given the expected barrage of targets headed Hopkins’ way in 2021, it’s reasonable to have him ranked in the top 5 at the position this year—doubly so when factoring the strength of schedule metrics dissected above. However, for fantasy purposes, it’s important to get an understanding of the NFL’s policy on positive COVID-19 tests with relation to Hopkins.

While full NFL COVID-19 protocols can be found here, the biggest issue for our purposes is return time. If a vaccinated player tests positive, said player is allowed to return from isolation if they are able to test negative twice, over a 24 hour period. So if Vaccinated Player X tests positive on Tuesday, produces two negative tests on Wednesday, Player X can return to the team on Thursday and would even be allowed to play that day. If an unvaccinated player like DeAndre Hopkins were to test positive, that player must immediately enter isolation and is ineligible to return for 10 calendar days. Said unvaccinated player must also be asymptomatic and be testing negative for COVID-19. That fact bears massive ramifications. Were Hopkins to test positive on a Friday and the Cards were scheduled to play on Sunday both that week and the following week, Hopkins would not be allowed to play in either game.

Of course, Hopkins has all the talent in the world and will assuredly produce as an elite wide receiver in fantasy football, but these are the types of things one must factor into one’s draft plans. Assuming full health, Hopkins’ 2.06, WR4 ADP is a reasonable place to draft him.

Best of the Rest

WR Rondale Moore (WR48), A.J. Green (WR80), & Christian Kirk (WR78)

This year’s No. 49 overall pick, WR Rondale Moore looks to be the last man standing in Arizona’s No. 2 WR competition. A.J. Green had (strangely) been playing well before being sidelined with an unknown injury and Christian Kirk was held out of practice for a while with an unknown injury of his own.

Although a hair undersized, standing 5-foot-7, 181 pounds, Moore is a remarkable athlete. His 4.32 40-yard dash and 42.5” vertical really standout as impressive marks from his Pro Day. His 6.68 three-cone drill reveals enticing change of direction ability as well. The latest buzz from camp has Moore slated to take over the starting slot receiver gig. With he and Hopkins standing alone as the healthy, solid performers in training camp, Moore is well worth a late round selection. Pass on the other two for now.

Player Note: Running back Chase Edmonds should not be drafted anywhere near his 5.07, RB27 ADP. The team has shown no intent to use him as anything more than a pass catching back. In the few times he’s receiver full workloads, he has resoundingly not risen to the occasion.

Los Angeles Rams
Overall Strength of ScheduleOpposing Off. EfficiencyOpposing Def. EfficiencyOpposing Pass D EfficiencyOpposing Run D Efficiency
23rd29th22nd15th28th

The only favors offered by the Rams strength of schedule metrics, as projected by SharpFootballStats.com, are favors offered to us, the fantasy managers. Although LA is set to face a grueling trough of defenses, opposing offenses are primed to make some noise against the Rams as well, giving us the desired setup for a season of shootouts. The front office’s acquisition of QB Matthew Stafford couldn’t have come at a better time.

Best of the West

QB Matthew Stafford (My 2021 rank: QB12)

After 12 years in the NFL, Matthew Stafford finally has a play-caller good enough to truly unlock his talents. Don’t overthink this. Stafford’s still one of the best pocket passers in the game and he’s got a loaded receiving corps at his disposal. Expect the veteran passer to produce push for marks on par with his dominant 2011 season. Draft Stafford confidently at his 7.11, QB10 ADP.

WR Robert Woods (WR12)

Finishing as the WR10, WR17, and WR13 over the last three years, Robert Woods has been the model of remarkable, unheralded consistency. Now playing with the best quarterback of his life, the 29-year old needs to be considered as a top 12 producer in 2021. Given his 4.11, WR17 ADP though, the drafting public has not come to their senses. Draft Robert Woods confidently as a WR1 this year.

WR Cooper Kupp (WR31)

Cooper Kupp has been a dominant slot receiver, mainly operating in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field over the last few years. Despite missing half of the 2018 season due to a knee injury, Kupp’s been the team’s most targeted Ram in the redzone over the last four year (64), which goes to show just how much Sean McVay loves scheming him up targets in crunch time. The drafting public is perhaps a little overeager on Kupp this year though, drafting him in the early-to-mid 5th round as the WR20. That’s a bit too high but if you’re looking for a high-floor guy, Kupp’s a decent option.

TE Tyler Higbee (TE8)

The 2020-drafting-world clung to Tyler Higbee’s five-week stretch that closed the 2019 season and were severely burned in the process. Their demise came as they failed to take note of then-fellow tight end Gerald Everett’s injury-absence during that span. The two tight ends routinely poached each other’s production through 2020, but Everett’s a Seahawk now and the only in-house competition for Higbee is the rookie Jacob Harris. Harris continues to draw positive reviews in training camp but it takes years for most tight ends to fully develop—and Harris just went under the knife for a “minor core injury”. Expect a solid season from Higbee this year. He’s a good, non-elite candidate to post usable production on a weekly basis and his 11.06, TE14 ADP is nothing.

RB Darrell Henderson (RB23)

With Cam Akers out for the year (and potentially beyond) due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, third-year back Darrell Henderson is in-line for starting duties. The team is likely to spell him with their deep running back room but Henderson should safely be billed for 200-250 touches this year, with the majority of the work coming via the run game. Given his potential lack of passing game work, Henderson’s 5.02, RB25 ADP is a fine place to take him.

Best of the Rest

RB Xavier Jones (RB51)

Head coach Sean McVay recently made it a point to say that Xavier Jones is “going to carve out a role for himself”, indicating that we may now know who the Rams’ projected No. 2 RB is for 2021. The second-year UDFA was a respectable dual threat at SMU and he can now be reasonably billed for some type of regular workload. The fact that LA has yet to sign a veteran back in the wake of Akers’ injury bodes well for Jones’ 2021 usage. The drafting public is on-point with Jones, as his current 11.08, RB51 ADP is in line with our expectations.

San Francisco 49ers
Overall Strength of ScheduleOpposing Off. EfficiencyOpposing Def. EfficiencyOpposing Pass D EfficiencyOpposing Run D Efficiency
1st25th14th7th26th

San Francisco has one of the most fantasy-friendly schedules in the league this year. Per SharpFootballStats.com, San Fran will face an onslaught of dominant, complete offenses, while offering the seventh-softest slate of pass defenses. Although opposing front-sevens might be intimidating, head coach Kyle Shanahan is the best run game coordinator in the league. He’ll get the job done.

Best of the West

QB Trey Lance (My 2021 rank: QB9)

There’s not a lot that Trey Lance can’t do on the football field. His sample size is small, due to COVID-19 derailing the world in 2020. But what we saw in 2019 was head-turning. Operating as the QB1 at North Dakota State, Lance completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. As if that wasn’t enough, Lance diced up opponents on the ground for 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, on 169 carries. The 6-foot-3, 224 pound signal caller is going to take flight this year and it’s imperative that savvy drafters add him to the end of their rosters this year.

Related: Breakouts and Busts Based on NFL Strength of Schedule

The most pragmatic comparison for one to make with Lance is the 2012 version of Robert Griffin III, who played 13 mostly healthy games as a rookie under then-Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, before suffering career altering knee injuries in Week 14. Through those beautiful 13 weeks, Griffin stood atop the fantasy quarterback podium as the highest scorer in the league with 271.88 fantasy points, 18.9 points ahead of the then-QB2, Tom Brady. For reference, that’s more than an entire game’s worth of average production from Andrew Luck, who was the QB7. Despite the injuries, Griffin still managed an overall QB5 finish on the year.

Mixed messages abound regarding Lance’s status vs. incumbent passer Jimmy Garoppolo. But two things are for sure; Lance has had a tremendous training camp and the fact that the SF brass traded two 1st-round picks, plus a future 2nd in order to move up No. 3 overall so they could secure their quarterback of the future. Kyle Shanahan is smart. He knows which QB gives him the chance to win a Super Bowl this year. It’s Trey Lance, not Jimmy Garoppolo. Draft Trey Lance a Round or more ahead of his current 12.05, QB18 ADP.

WR Brandon Aiyuk (WR16)

Brandon Aiyuk finished as the WR17 in .5PPR PPG last year, despite it being his first NFL season, and one that that was turned on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among rookie wide receivers, Aiyuk posted the fifth-best Yards per Route Run (Y/RR), 1.73, en route to the class’s second highest PFF.com receiving grade. Should Trey Lance take over as QB1 sooner rather than later, Aiyuk has a clear path to a top 12 finish, operating as San Francisco’s No. 1 WR. His 6.07, WR26 ADP is a steal.

TE George Kittle (TE2)

George Kittle was recently moved from the TE3 to the TE2 spot in my rankings, as former No. 2 Darren Waller continues his mysterious training camp absence. Although Kelce is the Tight End King, Kittle’s three-stretch is a sight to behold. The latter took TE3 honors in both total .5PPR points and PPG in 2018, was the TE2 overall and tied for TE1 honors in .5PPR PPG in 2019, and finished TE3 in .5PPR PPG last year via eight games played.

Related: Tight Ends to Target for 2021 Fantasy Football

As a result of his stunted 2020, Kittle’s been slapped with the “injury prone” title this offseason, despite missing a combined three games in the preceding three years. For those concerned that his gung ho style of play is a concern, Dr. Edwin Porras confronted that idea on his most recent Injury Prone episode, highlighting the fact that all three of Kittle’s major recent injuries were the result of a blocking play (one occurrence) and as a defenseless receiver (twice).

George Kittle is my No. 1 TE to target this year and his 3.05, TE5 ADP is the perfect place to draft him.

WR Deebo Samuel (WR32)

Head coach Kyle Shanahan works hard to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers. Deebo Samuel handily fits the bill as, perhaps, the league’s premier Yards After Catch player. According to PFF.com, Samuel averaged 8.5 yards after catch per reception (YAC/REC), good for second-most amongst NFL wide receivers. Samuel managed to best that mark in 2020, with an astounding YAC/REC mark of 12.2 (4 yards more than any other WR). Incredibly, this was done with the lowest average targeted air yard depth (just 2.1) in Next Gen Stats’ 2020 database, across all positions. Although, he’s been plagued by injuries through his first two seasons, Samuel is far too talented of a player for us to pass on at his current 8.05, WR35 ADP.

RB Raheem Mostert (RB21) & Trey Sermon (RB20)

Raheem Mostert produced the two fastest speeds in the NFL last year, en route to two 75+ yard touchdowns. The journeyman back is outrageously talented but questions abound as to whether the 29-year old back is an injury risk as he approaches the treacherous Age 30 Wall for RBs. Regardless, when on the field, Mostert can handily reach 100 yards from scrimmage as the likely lead back in Kyle Shanahan’s high-volume, dynamic rushing attack. Although his RB26 ADP designation is a bargain, his 5.03 draft spot brings an expectation of full 2021 availability. Draft with caution.

Rookie Trey Sermon does not come without injury concerns himself, and comes with the added benefit of receiving the Matt Waldman Stamp of Approval. At worst, Sermon should operate as the No. 2 RB in San Fran, making him well worth his current 7.11 RB37 ADP.

Best of the Rest

WR Jalen Hurd (WR75)

Jalen Hurd’s short career has been ruined by injuries and unfortunately, 2021 may be no different. Still though, the 6-foot-4, 227 pound WR/RB is too perfect of a fit for Kyle Shanahan’s YAC-centric scheme. Using your final pick on Hurd is as good of a dart throw as any.

Seattle Seahawks
Overall Strength of ScheduleOpposing Off. EfficiencyOpposing Def. EfficiencyOpposing Pass D EfficiencyOpposing Run D Efficiency
8th24th32nd32nd31st

Defensively speaking, this schedule is brutal. Russell Wilson and Co. have their work cut out for them. Fortunately though, his offseason trade request seems to have forced an improvement in the offensive coordinator department. Although former OC Brian Schottenheimer’s desire to pass more likely ultimately led to his firing, the team is unlikely to return to it’s boneheaded clock-killing, run-first mantra that Carroll so badly desires.

Enter new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, the former passing game coordinator of the division rival Los Angeles Rams. (For a thorough breakdown of Waldron will bring to Seattle, it’s imperative that readers listen to the exceptional Dwain McFarland and Brian Drake of the Fantasy Football Hustle podcast.) Over the last three seasons, the Rams have finished 3rd, 8th, and 5th, respectively in offensive plays per game. Conversely, the Seahawks have finished 22nd, 11th, and 23rd. Although there will be heavy helpings of Chris Carson on the ground, Russell Wilson is going to get far more opportunities to sling it this year. Don’t pass on him.

Best of the West

QB Russell Wilson (My 2021 rank: QB7)

Russell Wilson has never missed a game in his nine-year career. His lowest total touchdown mark was 23 in 2016. Over the last four years never totaled fewer than 33, while maintaining top-5 Completion Percentage Above Expectation marks. Wilson’s 4,506 rushing yards are fourth all-time at the QB position. In 2021, Wilson will likely be playing with the best offensive coordinator of his career. Draft him aggressively at, or a round ahead of, his 6.08, QB8 ADP.

WR D.K. Metcalf (WR6) & Tyler Lockett (WR23)

Over the last two seasons, D.K. Metcalf has totaled 2,203 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. Tyler Lockett has totaled 2,111 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. Metcalf’s absurd measurables make for fantasy upside that’s difficult to quantify. Although he’s unlikely to garner the volume that the five WRs ranked above him may see, he’s got a great shot at surpassing both their yardage and touchdown output. His 2.08, WR6 ADP is perfectly reasonable.

The biggest “knock” on Lockett is his propensity for off and on explosive performances. Unfairly, the diminutive route runner has been deemed somewhat of a boom/bust player, but in reality, he’s more of a solid/boom producer. Hot off WR14 and WR9 finishes in 2019 and 2020, respectively, Lockett remains an excellent choice at ADP; 5.11, WR22.

TE Gerald Everett (TE6)

Russell Wilson’s managed to get the job with his underwhelming tight end groups a la an ancient Greg Olsen, injury-depleted Will Dissly, and journeyman Jacob Hollister who never made good on the promise he showed early in his career. The last time he had a high-end receiving target at tight end was Jimmy Graham in 2017. Although sapped of his play-making ability following his patellar tendon rupture in 2015, Graham was still a beast in the red zone, hauling in 10 of his 29 redzone targets for touchdowns, en route to a TE4 finish. For reference, Paul Richardson and Doug Baldwin were tied for the second-most RZ targets that year with 12 apiece.

Seattle’s new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron was signed away from the Rams on January 26, 2021. On March 21, 2021, just four days after NFL free agency began, Seahawks GM Jon Schneider signed free agent/former Rams tight end Gerald Everett to operate as the team’s clear cut No. 1 TE.

Everett and Rams TE Tyler Higbee spent the last four seasons competing for targets, but often capitalizing the moment that one of them wasn’t able to play. In Week 7 of the 2020 season, when Higbee couldn’t go due to a hand injury, Everett immediately posted an efficient 4/5-28-1 stat line.

As evidenced by his exceptional athletic profile, Everett is the perfect passing game piece to operate as the team’s No. 3 pass catcher and has a real shot to produce as a fringe-elite player at the position. If you’re unable to draft one of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller, Kyle Pitts, or Mark Andrews then Gerald Everett needs to be your primary target at his ludicrous 15.09, TE23 ADP.

RB Chris Carson (RB11)

The biggest hindrance to running back production has been their predictable play-calling. It’s a lot easier to run the ball well when the defense doesn’t know if you’re running or passing. Pete Carroll became far too predictable over the years, deploying obvious personnel packages that alerted the defense as to the offense’s intent. With Shane Waldron’s high-paced, heavy use of 11 personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back), the defense isn’t going to have to deduce the play-call on their own.

Chris Carson has never managed to play a full season through his short career, but his injury history really isn’t as bad as many believe. The average number of games played by No. 1 RBs hovers around 14 (Carson has played in 14, 15, and 12, respectively, over the last three seasons) and his injuries suffered over the last two years really aren’t causes for concern this year.

Over the last two years, Carson has consistently produced as a borderline RB1/2, just north of 14 .5PPR PPG. With an improved offense, Carson should have no trouble returning low-end RB1 value. The drafting public is far too low on him at his current 3.03, RB17 ADP.

Best of the Rest

RB Travis Homer & DeeJay Dallas

There should be enough work to go around in the Seattle’s backfield for a secondary running back to be viable in spot starts. Although Rashaad Penny is slated for No. 2 duties, his issues with weight and a slow recovery from ACL reconstruction caused the team to decline the fifth-year option on his contract. He’s an avoid.