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IDP Pre-Season Preview: NFC West
Steve Gallo
August 19, 2013
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Every year there are new faces in new places – not just players, but coaches too.  With those changes come scheme changes, and value changes with regard to fantasy football.  Which is why drafting off stats from the previous year isn’t a wise thing to do. However, reading each divisional preseason update would be a wise thing to do. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at gallo@thehuddle.com or find me on twitter @SteveGalloNFL.

Arizona Cardinals

HC: Bruce Arians
DC: Todd Bowles
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
What came first the chicken or the egg, or should I say, did Ray Horton create Calais Campbell’s value or did Campbell create it? Campbell is a heck of a talent so I suspect he has something to do with it, but at the end of the day you can’t look past how Horton used Campbell and what that did for his fantasy value. I still own Campbell in a dynasty league but I’m slightly downgrading by expectations with Horton out of the picture.

Linebacker
Daryl Washington has been suspended for the first four games of the season, and that is why his ADP sits at LB11. LB11 is still a hefty price to pay for a LB that will miss 25% of the season. When you add in that Ray Horton and his aggressive scheme (Washington had 10 sacks in 2012) are now in Cleveland, I can safely say I’m passing on Washington at that point in the draft. The Cardinals signed former Dolphins LB, Karlos Dansby and he’ll have early season value filling in for Washington. As far as having value all season long will depend on how rookie Kevin Minter plays and if Dansby can push him to the bench once Washington returns to the lineup. LB39 (Dansby) seems like a steep price for a LB that will be starting for four games but then could be relegated to a rotation after that.

Secondary
Both Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes are gone from the Cardinals defense – replaced by the combination of Yeremiah Bell (SS) and Rashad Johnson (FS). Bell should put up DB3 numbers at worst, and he presents some upside to hit DB2, and considering he isn’t even being drafted in most drafts he makes a nice value pick in the last few rounds. But the real big value could be in rookie Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu just needs to keep his nose clean and stay on the field. If he does both he could surprise and put up DB2 or better numbers. Easily worth a late round flier. If he hits, great, if he doesn’t cut bait. The only other player we need to talk about is Patrick Peterson. Peterson is turning into one of if not the best CB in the game today. However, that doesn’t mean he is going to be fantasy stud. I don’t quite get his ADP of DB6. I wouldn’t even touch him as a DB36, that is unless you are in a big play league, then and only then is Peterson worth drafting.

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St. Louis Rams

HC: Jeff Fisher
DC: Tim Walton
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
There is a lot to like about the Rams defensive line this year. Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers are worth being selected in fantasy drafts. Of the three, believe it or not, the one I like the least is Long. He’s a nice DE, but fantasy wise he is just far too inconsistent for my taste. I really expect we see Quinn take the step forward this year. And I’m evidently not alone in that feeling as Quinn has an ADP of DL12 and Long’s is DL16. My biggest disagreement is that I think that’s too high for Long. I’d be much happier if I could nab Quinn around DL16 but even as DL12 I’d draft him, he doesn’t hold much value there but would still be a solid acquisition. As for Brockers his value is tied to DT mandatory leagues – where I think he has top-5 upside. In overall leagues, I’ll even go as far to say that I won’t be surprised if Brockers finishes the year ranked higher than Long does.

Linebacker
James Laurinaitis finished as the top ranked LB in 2012 and this year he’s being drafted as LB2. So, it’s easy to see people are still expecting big things from “Lil’ Animal” in 2013. My biggest gripe concerning Laurinaitis is that in home games he records so few assisted tackles that it really keeps him from putting up monster numbers every week. At worst I think he’s a top-6/7 LB this year. The thing that could put a slight dent in his numbers is the addition of rookie Alec Ogletree. However, in his first preseason game Ogletree didn’t exactly look very good. But I wouldn’t let one preseason game dissuade me from liking what he can bring to the table. You might have to temper expectations in redraft leagues, but in dynasty leagues I’m still very bullish on him.

Secondary
Last year Cortland Finnegan was a player I was targeting in drafts because he was a great value (I got him as DB31 in SOFA IDP last year), and he paid off, finishing as DB4. This year I like him, but value wise not nearly as much. With an ADP of DB12 there isn’t much room for error. So, if you take ADP out of the equation I can safely say I still like him a ton, but ADP is a part of the package – like it or not – so more than likely, more often than not, I’ll be missing out on Finnegan this year. Opposite of Finnegan is Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins finished 2012 ranked as the #12 DB. For some reason, IDP drafters are liking Jenkins more than Finnegan. Look no further than his ADP of DB10 versus Finnegan’s DB12 ADP. I can safely say that Jenkins won’t be on any of my teams, not even CB mandatory ones. It isn’t that I don’t like him or his talent – I do – but I can’t look past 24 of his points coming from touchdowns last year. Touchdowns for a DB are even harder to replicate than INTs are, and if you deducted those 24 points from his 2012 point total he would have ranked as DB37. Easy to see why I’m steering clear of Mr. Jenkins. At safety T.J. McDonald is going to be starting next to Darian Stewart (FS). McDonald is the player I’d be targeting at the end of drafts. He has DB2 upside and can be had after 40+ DBs have been drafted.

San Francisco 49ers

HC: Jim Harbaugh
DC: Vic Fangio
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
Justin Smith is one of those rare 3-4 DEs that has fantasy value. In 2012 he missed week 16 and still ended up ranking 11th among DL in fantasy points scored. He has an ADP of DL29, which is almost criminal. Smith doesn’t present a ton of upside, but as a DL3, I’m all over him at that point.

Linebacker
Last year in this very same IDP preview article I said that Patrick Willis – who at the time was sporting an ADP of LB1 – wouldn’t be a top-10 LB – he finished as LB15. Fast forward to this year and Willis no longer sits as ADP LB1 (that distinction goes to Luke Kuechly), no, Willis’ ADP now sits at LB6. LB6, after finishing top-15 or worse the past two years. There’s no denying that Willis is a beast and an integral part of the 49ers defense, but fantasy wise he isn’t what he used to be – the most dominant LB in the game. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a plug and play LB, because he is. The thing is, I just can’t get on board with drafting him that high.  Especially with the highly talented Navorro Bowman (ADP, LB3) playing next to him. Speaking of Bowman, he finished as LB6 last year, so based on ADP, it’s safe to say that people expect him to continue his ascent among the LB rankings. The only thing I’ll point out is that with Kaepernick as the starter from week 10 thru week 16, Bowman put up the 3rd most fantasy points among LBs during that span of time. As dominant as Bowman can be, I just see too much value at the LB position to spend that high a pick on him. I look at LB much like I do QB value…but I should say that I haven’t conducted any research to back that up yet. I hope that I can tackle that next year.

Secondary
The 49ers lost FS, Dashon Goldson, to the Buccaneers, but they nabbed Eric Reid in the 1st round of the NFL draft. Fantasy wise, Reid only has minimal value in deeper leagues. SS Donte Whitner has a bit more fantasy value but still not enough to warrant drafting in anything but the deepest of leagues. Former Raiders shutdown CB, and Eagles bust, Nnamdi Asomugha is trying to make the 49ers team, but I won’t be surprised in the least if he gets cut. Fantasy wise, he’s not even an afterthought.

Seattle Seahawks

HC: Pete Carroll
DC: Dan Quinn
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
The Seahawks lost Chris Clemons to an ACL tear in the playoffs last year against the Redskins. In a not so distant past and ACL tear that late in the season would have meant a full season on the mend before getting back on the field. However, there is a chance, no matter how slim, that Clemons could actually be ready to play in week 1 this year. But, that didn’t keep the Seahawks from bolstering their pass rush earlier this offseason by adding former Lions DE, Cliff Avril and former Buccaneers DE, Michael Bennett. As they say, the rich get richer. Fantasy wise, Avril is the only one worth drafting, and with an ADP of DL24 he is actually a pretty decent value. Get him as a DL3 and I like it even more.

Linebacker
Bobby Wagner had a fantastic fantasy season, both NFL and fantasy wise. NFL wise he headed up a LB core for one of the best defenses in the league and fantasy wise he finished 11th in fantasy points among LBs. Now it seems that IDP owners are looking for Wagner to take a big step forward in 2013 – a step into top-5 LB land. I like Wagner, a  lot, I just don’t love his ADP, and because I’ll more than likely be hitting the DE position when Wagner comes off the board it’s highly unlikely I’ll own him in any leagues this year. That doesn’t mean I don’t think a top-10 season isn’t there for the taking, I do, top-5, that I’m not as sold on. Outside of Wagner I don’t really see much value worth worrying about at LB for the Seahawks. K.J. Wright has had some nice games but he is inconsistent and if you really want to roster him you can get him off waivers. The only other LB worth mentioning is that DE Bruce Irvin has been moved to LB, which kills any and all fantasy value he had.

Secondary
The Seahawks secondary is fun to watch, and read, that is if you follow Richard Sherman on twitter. Fantasy wise, Kam Chancellor has an ADP of DB9, that seems a bit high but he clearly has top-10 ability. I just don’t like the price to own him is all. At CB, Sherman and Brandon Browner are formidable defenders, but fantasy wise they don’t have top-10 upside. Yet, Sherman has an ADP of DB4 which is just absolutely nuts. If you are in a big play league then Earl Thomas has some added value but in tackle heavy/neutral leagues I’m passing on him as DB19 (he finished as DB67 in 2012).

Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).


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