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State of the Team by Fantasy Position - NFC West
David Dorey
July 20, 2006

This series of analysis on the 32 NFL teams takes a look at where teams have been over the last three years for each position - where they have ranked in the most notable categories and the hard statistics produced. This is to give a view of each team heading into training camp and what they most likely need to improve on this season and where their strengths lie that likely won't need any changes. Ending each team review is a brief summation of what to watch in training camp in August to uncover those developing situations that you can take advantage. Combining where teams have come from and what they have done in free agency and the NFL draft gives you the very same thing that NFL coaches are looking at as they attempt to improve their team for 2007.

Arizona Cardinals
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 45 142 2 532 298 56% 3181 10.7 13 18 23 29
2005 42 167 0 669 419 63% 4719 11.3 21 21 1 12
2006 36 47 2 544 321 59% 3919 12.2 17 17 9 22


Quarterback
- After only four games last year, HC Denny Green decided that the Matt Leinart era had begun. For the next 11 weeks, Leinart played as well as could have been hoped, passing for over 200 yards eight times and scoring scoring in all but three games. Were he to be playing the second year of the same offense, Leinart would be expected to turn in a very nice year in the old pass happy offense mandated by Green. But the Cards have a new coaching staff with Ken Whisenhunt from Pittsburgh taking over and influencing the new offense that should resemble the Steelers. That doesn't mean the passing numbers will nosedive but there should be a more balanced offense this year with a greater desire to run. And that could actually benefit Leinart's effectiveness. There will be a learning curve but with veteran wideouts like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, it shouldn't cause a noticeable problem. Leinart was as good as billed and will be better in 2007. He just needs camp reps to embrace the new scheme.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 417 1509 3.6 13 78 58 74% 499 2 22 27 11
2005 297 885 3 2 131 97 74% 660 0 32 31 32
2006 377 1256 3.3 10 97 69 71% 474 0 30 29 20


Running Backs
- If any player should be excited about the new offense, it would be Edgerrin James. While his production last year didn't change the lowly rankings the Cardinals typically had, he did improve as the season progressed and even had three games exceed 100 rushing yards in the final five weeks. Now OC Whisenhunt brings in a desire to improve the rushing numbers via- 'gasp' - better blocking. O-line coach Russ Grimm can only be a positive here and that leads to James turning in a better year. James is 29 years old and likely has a couple of good years left - no time like the present to take advantage of that. What could be impacted a bit is using James as a receiver since Whisenhunt limited Willie Parker to just 30 catches in a heavy workload season of 2006. That's not many less than what James had last year but indicates that James won't likely see any increase in use as a receiver. This should be a better year for James but how much better will rely on how successful Grimm is with that O-line.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 85 53 62% 496 9.4 2 19 28        
2005 65 43 66% 432 10 2 24 26        
2006 50 34 68% 321 9.4 1 30 32        


Tight Ends
- The Cardinals under Denny Green rarely used the tight ends and last year almost no team were worse at including the position in the passing game. This despite using their third round pick on Leonard Pope last year. But training camp could prove interesting if Whisenhunt and OC Todd Haley decide to take advantage of Pope's supposed receiving skills and balance the offense more by including the tight end as a target for Leinart. That makes Pope a sleeper this year - but a very minor one unless August has Pope show up in preseason games.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 367 187 51% 2212 11.8 10 21 26        
2005 466 278 60% 3627 13 19 1 4        
2006 372 218 59% 3124 14.3 16 2 9        


Wide Receivers
- The duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are as good as almost any other in the NFL. And a change in scheme will likely decrease the roles of the two star wideouts - at least for one of them. Under Green, the Cardinals were content to literally focus their entire attack on getting the two the ball down field. For the last couple of years, there have been no less than 260 passes thrown at them each season and even more when both remain healthy all year. But that was hardly a balanced offense and the expected increase in rushing will come at the expense of the ridiculously high number of passes the pair have been getting the last few years. That should favor Fitzgerald to remain close to past numbers while Boldin should see a decrease. Leinart only played in eight games with Fitzgerald last year and scored four times with him. Boldin only scored once in the last seven games with Leinart. A balanced offense doesn't mean these two lose all value, but it will signal that the days are definitely over with both players turning in 100+ catches each.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The Cardinals really changed no fantasy relevant players this year but are installing a new scheme predicated on a more balanced attack (and likely a few tricks plays). That will benefit James but likely won't be apparent in the scant playing time that he will get in preseason games. Leinart needs the reps in camp and preseason to be comfortable with the new scheme. The only change that is likely to come out of camp is if the Cardinals decide to start using Leonard Pope as a receiver. Even then it would be hard to expect fantasy significant numbers.

Camp starts July 27th; Preseason Games: 1-@OAK, 2-HOU, 3-SD, 4-@DEN

 

Seattle Seahawks
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 38 108 1 532 304 57% 3723 12.2 23 18 14 14
2005 42 119 1 474 307 65% 3628 11.8 25 10 14 4
2006 31 229 0 512 292 57% 3369 11.5 26 22 18 6


Quarterback
- While Matt Hasselbeck missed four weeks in 2006 due to a sprained MCL, Seneca Wallace stepped in during a very nice stretch of the schedule (KC, OAK, STL SF) and scored eight touchdowns over those weeks. That gave the Seahawks their best passing touchdown total since 2003. But what went down noticeably was the passing yardage last year which was Hasselbeck's lowest since becoming a starter in 2002. But he also played with a broken finger on his left hand for the last half of the season and played with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder for the entire season. Hasselbeck had surgery on the shoulder and is expected to be completely recovered in training camp. That helps explain why Hasselbeck had an uncharacteristic 15 interceptions last year. The only difference going into this year will be the absence of Darrell Jackson. That's only one player and Jackson has missed plenty of time along the way, but he's also been the most consistent and productive wideout for Hasselbeck who will now have to make Deion Branch become the #1 wideout.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 430 1980 4.6 16 94 55 59% 334 4 6 12 5
2005 475 2326 4.9 28 63 43 68% 304 1 1 4 1
2006 446 1649 3.7 8 78 53 68% 264 0 17 25 23


Running Backs
- Nothing like going to extremes. Alexander came off a record-setting 2005 season with 28 rushing scores and led the NFL with 1880 rushing yards only to stumble mightily in 2007. Alexander suffered a cracked bone in his foot early in the season and missed weeks four through ten. The loss of guard Steve Hutchinson was also considered to be a contributor to the lackluster rushing effort last year which came on the heels of such a great 2005 season. Better late than never, Alexander had two big games in the later half of the season but those were the only times he topped the century mark. He ended with a paltry 3.7 yard per carry average and there is concern that the 30-year old Alexander may have seen his best days already pass. Maurice Morris finally was given the start while Alexander was out and while he had two nice efforts against the visiting Raiders and Rams, otherwise there was no comparison to what Alexander had been doing in his career before 2006. There was a very good reason why Morris has been a career back-up. Alexander's foot is still an issue according to reports though Alexander adamantly states that it feels completely fine. At the age of 30, it better be because a lesser offensive line and injury woes don't allow him much time to get back on track.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 92 62 67% 699 11.3 4 12 23        
2005 89 58 65% 643 11.1 6 15 11        
2006 69 36 52% 332 9.2 5 29 16        


Tight Ends
- The Seattle tight ends had a horrible year in 2006 and Jerramy Stevens ended up being shown the door. The only replacement was Marcus Pollard who is 35 years old and unlikely to have any rejuvenation of his career. Stevens may have never delivered on his promise but at least he supposedly had some upside. Not so for the tight ends this year.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 339 187 55% 2690 14.4 15 10 14        
2005 305 206 68% 2681 13 18 7 6        
2006 354 203 57% 2773 13.7 21 9 5        


Wide Receivers
- The loss of Darrell Jackson is the big news here. Deion Branch came over to the Seahawks right as the season started and it took him a few weeks before he was ready to play. He only ended with 725 yards and four scores but that came in the same season that Hasselbeck had all his injury problems and the passing game was depressed all around. Branch moves over to take Jackson's place and D.J. Hackett moves up to start this year. Hackett enters his third season and comes off a 45 catch, 610 yard season in 2006 with four scores. This is his big chance and with the Seahawks doing nothing to refresh the wideouts, he can latch onto the starting job for a while with a good season. Camp will be critical for him to get reps with the first team and gain more chemistry with Hasselbeck. The Seahawks also welcome back Bobby Engram who has finally over his thyroid condition thanks to medication and he too should contribute this year. With Alexander no longer rushing as well he did for so long, the passing game should become a bigger part of the offense and that will bring all three wideouts into the mix more in 2007, so long as Hasselbeck can return to form. Branch and Hackett both are worth watching in preseason games since they will both need to come through for the Seahawks to return to the playoffs this year.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - Not a lot of change here but in the same sense, not much in the way of upgrades from a down 2006 season. Branch and Hackett take over as the #1 and #2 wideouts with some help from Engram but it all depends on Hasselbeck returning to form. He is reported over his maladies and should have a good season, but it will be good to see some proof. Alexander won't be used much in the preseason which is unfortunate since his level of play last year doesn't inspire a lot of confidence that he too will return to form. Seattle is trying to hang on to what they have had for several years and yet not replaced players to do that. The tight ends look like they have no fantasy value this year. Even the typically weak NFC West looks like it will have improved defenses all around so the Seahawks cannot rely on an easy schedule to get them to the playoffs again.

Camp starts July 28th; Preseason Games: 1-DEN, 2-OAK, 3-@CHI, 4-@SD

San Francisco 49ers
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 18 67 0 561 325 58% 3455 10.6 16 21 19 27
2005 54 174 0 387 202 52% 2163 10.7 8 21 32 32
2006 41 151 2 442 257 58% 2890 11.2 16 16 29 26


Quarterback
- The perception by many is that Alex Smith took a big step forward last year and that has to be considered true given that he only had one touchdown in seven starts as a rookie in 2005. But after 16 games last season, Smith still only had 2901 yards and 16 passing scores against 15 interceptions. He did not have much in the way of receivers to be fair but since Terrell Owens left, that has been true every season in San Francisco. The new offense and tutelage under Norv Turner paid off big for the 49ers though primarily in the rushing game. The 49ers should, finally, have a better set of receivers this year with the addition of Darrell Jackson and the hoped for healthy second season from Vernon Davis. The 49ers have promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Hostler into being the offensive coordinator to keep the same offensive system and prevent a slide backwards by Smith. This will be the second year of the same offense with better players involved. Smith just needs to get comfortable with Jackson and the stats should increase again this year.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 392 1371 3.5 10 130 87 67% 581 0 29 29 19
2005 365 1511 4.1 9 110 78 71% 545 0 17 22 22
2006 381 1901 5 10 118 88 75% 705 4 6 8 16


Running Backs
- Hard to recall how once upon a time Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore shared carries with Barlow getting the bigger share. The new offense from Turner was custom made for Gore who merely gained 1695 rushing yards (3rd best in the NFL), added 485 yards on 61 receptions (4th best) for a total of 2180 yards (4th best) and nine scores. Not too bad for a player that was often drafted in the third and fourth rounds last year. Gore already ranks top five this summer in fantasy drafts and if he can only get his touchdown totals to mirror his success with yardage, he'll be top 3. No changes here this year by design.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 139 95 68% 959 10.1 3 4 26        
2005 33 17 52% 137 8.1 0 32 32        
2006 95 56 59% 587 10.5 5 16 15        


Tight Ends
- Vernon Davis was drafted in the first round by the 49ers as the freak of the draft - 6-3 and 253 pounds that can run as fast as any wide receiver. Unfortunately the only freakish thing that happened was Davis breaking his leg and missing seven games. In his place Eric Johnson took over but did little last year and now has left for the Saints. Davis gave only a brief glimpse of what he could do last year when he had games of 74 and 91 yards. While Darrell Jackson brings veteran experience and a lengthy NFL resume to the team, Davis is the one to most watch on this squad. He's already look great in mini-camp and a solid training camp will raise not only his draft stock this summer, but that of Smith and even Jackson who won't be the only player the secondary needs to prepare to cover.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 291 143 49% 1912 13.4 13 26 19        
2005 240 109 45% 1508 13.8 8 32 29        
2006 226 111 49% 1598 14.4 7 31 30        

Wide Receivers
- For the last couple of years, the 49ers wideouts have been among the least productive in the entire NFL. Even last year with an improved showing by Alex Smith, they still ended up 31st in yardage and 30th in TDs. Antonio Bryant was the "prized" addition but he only accounted for 733 yards and three scores. Arnaz Battle has been a starter for two years now and hasn't done better than 686 yards or three scores in a season. The 49ers finally brought in an experienced veteran in Darrell Jackson who can only help - there's not really any room to get worse here. Jackson is only 29 years old but has been hampered by injuries for the last two years which played into the Seahawks decision to cut ties. If Jackson can stay healthy, he should end up with a high number of targets if nothing else. Battle still has never shown to be of true starter quality and could be challenged by Ashley Lelie. With Jackson there as the possession receiver, Lelie could be free to run the deeper routes that play more to his strengths. The rookie Jason Hill was drafted with the 3.12 pick and deserves a casual look as well because no returning wideouts from 2006 have a safe job here.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - With Gore upgrading the rushing attack into one of the best in the league, the passing offense needs to get up to speed and Darrell Jackson should help. Training camp needs to get reps for Smith throwing to Jackson. And Jackson must prove that he is over his most recent knee injury and that he can possibly remain healthy for the season. The player most to watch here is Vernon Davis who should be a lock to become a fantasy force this year if he too can remain healthy. The offense is not supposed to change and this team should be improved in the passing game this year.

Camp starts July 26th; Preseason Games: 1-@SD, 2-@GB, 3-MIN, 4-OAK

St. Louis Rams
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 20 91 3 578 372 64% 4612 12.4 23 22 4 13
2005 32 99 2 599 392 65% 4351 11.1 23 24 2 9
2006 18 44 0 591 371 63% 4328 11.7 24 8 3 8


Quarterback
- The Rams parted ways with Mike Martz last year and brought on Scott Linehan of Viking/Dolphin fame. The fantasy fear was that the always great passing offense of the Rams was going to take a major step backwards. What actually happened was that there was a dramatic change. Sure, Bulger still threw for 4301 yards to rank #3 in the NFL and he tossed a career high 24 touchdowns but he only threw an all-time low eight interceptions. Something about giving the quarterback more protection resulted in less sacks and interceptions. Bulger even managed to play all 16 games without being injured for the first time. But as great as all that was, the offense underwent a change that evolved as the season progressed. Up through week ten, Bulger had scored in seven straight games and had 13 touchdowns. He also had topped 300 passing yards five times. But after week ten, he had three of the final seven games without any scores and also had three games with 200 or less yards - that's not what the old Martz system would ever do. Bulger still had three more games over 300 yards and he did had two efforts which contained three or more scores in that final stretch, but the passing here is not as consistent as before. Bulger brings back the same receivers from 2006 except for Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald but the #3 and #4 wideouts had a major drop in use in the new scheme anyway. And the Rams brought in Drew Bennett as a likely replacement for the aging Isaac Bruce sooner than later. And what is very different, the Rams obtained Randy McMichael which means a fantasy relevant tight end may be sighted in a Ram's uniform for the first time in a very long time.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 352 1516 4.3 8 110 83 75% 590 1 21 21 26
2005 343 1424 4.2 10 131 101 77% 725 3 19 15 18
2006 396 1725 4.4 13 157 124 79% 1094 4 14 4 12


Running Backs
- Not since the glory days of Marshall Faulk have the Rams enjoyed so much production from their backfield. Stephen Davis was a great fit for the new Linehan system and instead of serving to support the passing game, Jackson became the central figure in the Rams offense. He ran for 1528 yards and added an NFL leading 90 catches for 806 yards. He also scored 16 times and only had two efforts all season that failed to net at least 100 total yards. Even more encouraging was the tear he went on at the end of the year when he closed out the season with three straight games over 125 rushing yards and scored eight touchdowns. His role as a receiver was a dramatic change from 2005 when he only had 43 catches for 320 yards. Over the final nine games when the offense was clicking, Jackson totaled 62 catches, a pace that would have totaled 112 catches if sustained over 16 games. Once the offense came together, Jackson just got better and better both rushing, receiving and scoring. One change to watch for here was that Jackson was a huge factor as a receiver but the tight ends were not. But the Rams brought in Randy McMichael who reunites with Scott Linehan - that is bound to have an effect on how many passes Jackson gets this year.

The Rams added Brian Leonard with their 2.20 pick and it will be interesting to see if Leonard plays any significant role or if he will only take the place of Stephen Davis (40-177). Leonard is a bull in a china shop and could contribute if called upon but as successful as Jackson has been in this new Linehan offense, it would be a surprise to limit what works so well.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 33 22 67% 231 10.5 1 30 31        
2005 29 22 76% 195 8.9 2 30 28        
2006 45 27 60% 333 12.3 2 28 28        


Tight Ends
- Under Mike Martz, the Rams tight ends traditionally were ignored to the point of always being in the bottom three in the NFL. That was supposed to change with the more balanced offense of Scott Linehan but despite drafting two - Dominique Byrd and Joe Klopfenstein - there was little change. Klopfenstein was the primary with just 20 catches for 226 yards and one score. But the Rams opted to forget growing the talent and brought in Randy McMichael instead. The same tight end that Linehan coached in 2005 when he caught 60 passes for 582 yards and five touchdowns. Linehan didn't bring him in just to block.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 426 266 62% 3770 14.2 21 1 4        
2005 439 267 61% 3417 12.8 18 2 5        
2006 391 219 56% 2891 13.2 18 5 6        

Wide Receivers
- Always a top group every year, the Rams wideouts continued their reign in 2006 but overall they stepped down just a notch. The reality here is that it was really more of a free fall after a red hot start to the year. Torry Holt is a perennial elite wideout and he started the year out with seven scores in the first six games and topped 100 yards three times in that stretch. But after week six, he only scored in two more games and only topped 75 yards twice. Isaac Bruce fared no better though he did not have a hot start either. Bruce is slowing down at the age of 35 and to prepare for the inevitable, the Rams picked up Drew Bennett. They also added Dante Hall though mainly for special teams. The new scheme installed last year does not use all the multiple receiver sets that Martz once did and only the two starting wideouts have fantasy value now. Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald are gone and Drew Bennett will take their place until he finally replaces Isaac Bruce. This is a more balanced offense now that no longer expects every play to result in a 30 yard catch. Jackson is running great, McMichael is added to the passing mix and the wideouts here already suffered a sharp drop off last year. That's more likely to continue to decline than improve.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The second season of the Linehan offense should be mostly like what we saw towards the end of 2007 - a balanced attack with plenty of rushing. What training camp could provide, though perhaps it will be hard to tell, is knowing how much Randy McMichael will be used since he will detract from both Jackson as a receiver and the wideouts. Bulger has never spend much time throwing to a tight end in his career, so he'll need at least the camp reps if this is going to change. Drew Bennett will likely play a #3 role but could take the #2 outright in training camp since Bruce has been on the decline anyway. It won't be nearly so pass happy as it was under Martz, but the #2 in St. Louis still has fantasy value as a bye week filler or a worst case starter. This offense was running very well once it all came together in 2006 even if it really affected the production of Torry Holt. He went down, but everyone else went up.

Camp starts July 26th; Preseason Games: 1-@MIN, 2-SD, 3-@OAK, 4-KC

Related Articles

State of the AFC East
State of the AFC North
State of the AFC South
State of the AFC West
State of the NFC East
State of the NFC North
State of the NFC South
State of the NFC West
a d v e r t i s e m e n t