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State of the Team by Fantasy Position - NFC West
David Dorey
July 30, 2008
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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.
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ARI ATL BAL BUF CAR CHI
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Arizona Cardinals
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
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
2007 31 61 1 590 356 60% 4228 11.9 32 24 5 4

Quarterback - Matt Leinart was the 10th overall pick of the 2006 NFL draft but after a promising rookie season, he struggled greatly in the new offense installed last year. By week six he was on injured reserve perhaps mercifully so. He returns as the starter and his bigger problem is that Kurt Warner excelled last year and was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league for the second half of the season. Leinart is going to battle calls for Warner until he can put together a good season. That has to start now and this training camp has to go well for Leinart or Warner will become another waiver wire darling during the season. He's even getting drafted by speculators this year.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
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
2007 366 1344 3.7 8 104 64 62% 529 1 29 30 25

Running Backs - Surprisingly, the Cardinals really did not do much to address the anemic rushing numbers from last season. The great thing about Edgerrin James is that he rarely has shared carries in Arizona. The bad thing is that it still doesn't amount to much production. James gained 1222 rushing yards and scored seven touchdowns last year. That is almost the exact same numbers from 2007. James is the starter once again and J.J. Arrington and Marcel Shipp will get their crumbs. The only mildly interesting aspect to this unit is the drafting of Tim Hightower with their 5.14 pick. But Hightower has much to prove and only ran a 4.6/40 at the NFL combine. His biggest plus factor is that James is 30 years old and may hit the wall.

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 466 278 60% 3627 13 19 1 4
2006 372 218 59% 3124 14.3 16 2 9
2007 423 255 60% 3342 13.1 23 3 3

Wide Receivers - The Cardinals continue to have one of the most productive wideout units in the league with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Their numbers could take a dip this year if Leinart doesn't progress from last year and their schedule is more challenging but even with the two missing five games between them in 2008 they still had 19 touchdowns. How well Leinart connects with the two stud receivers should be a camp watch. Also notable is the loss of Bryant Johnson which is only really a loss in that he had decent numbers whenever he replaced either of the starters. Which has historically been surprisingly often in recent years. But the Cardinals drafted Early Doucet out of LSU with their 3.18 pick as a likely successor to Johnson. Until Doucet gets up to speed, Steve Breaston has been the most impressive in minicamps and should take the #3 for this year anyway. The offense has always focused on Fitzgerald and Boldin but given their injury history, the #3 guy in Arizona is always of interest. At least when Warner plays.

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 65 43 66% 432 10 2 24 26
2006 50 34 68% 321 9.4 1 30 32
2007 57 37 65% 357 9.6 8 30 10

Tight Ends
- The new offense installed last year did not make much use of the tight ends as receivers with only a total of 37 receptions between three players, but they scored an impressive eight times. Leonard Pope led the group with five scores but only had 23 catches for 238 yards before ending his season with a fractured leg in week 14. The touchdown numbers suggest that Pope is a red zone target but the yardage is so minimal here that there is no reliable fantasy value.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - Matt Leinart will be the most interesting part of this camp after a horrible start to his sophomore season in 2007. His progress needs to be obvious or Warner will end up coming off the bench yet again. Keep a casual eye on Tim Hightower as well since he could be called up in the event that Edgerrin James acts like he is 30 years old and gets injured.

Seattle Seahawks
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
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
2007 44 107 0 600 375 63% 4215 11.2 30 14 7 7

Quarterback - The lack of a formidable rushing game sent Matt Hasselbeck into passing mode in 2007 and he ended with career marks in yardage (3966) and touchdowns (28). And that happened with Darrell Jackson gone and the receiver corp incurring injuries. This year Julius Jones will take over for Shaun Alexander and depending on his success, Hasselbeck may need to throw as much again this year. The Seahawks did little to upgrade the receivers and Deion Branch is likely to miss the first part of the season. That leaves just the aging Bobby Engram and relatively unproven Nate Burleson. A rookie tight end may help but Hasselbeck has his work cut out for him this year.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
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
2007 384 1509 3.9 9 122 86 70% 675 2 22 15 20

Running Backs - After Shaun Alexander suffered an implosion after his 2005 record-setting performance, the Seahawks finally released him and will be going with "co-starters" in Maurice Morris and Julius Jones according to HC Mike Holmgren. The offensive line still is a shadow of the dominating line from just a few seasons ago and there is certainly questions surrounding Jones as a primary back when he struggled to stay healthy in Dallas. But Morris has already proven that he cannot be relied on to carry the load so Jones controls just how good the Seahawks can rush this year. T.J. Duckett is also on the roster but there has been no signs that Holmgren will go to a three-man backfield. He's not even well versed in using two backs.

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 305 206 68% 2681 13 18 7 6
2006 354 203 57% 2773 13.7 21 9 5
2007 396 242 61% 3104 12.8 23 6 4

Wide Receivers - The Seahawks carry the same crew into 2008 except Deion Branch is expected to enter the season on the PUP list. That means that 35-year old Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson will be the starters with second-year wideout Courtney Taylor likely to play the slot. Engram comes off a career best season of 94 catches for 1147 yards and six scores last year but Burleson enters his third season with the Seahawks and still has a lot to prove. His two seasons have only topped out at 50 catches for 694 yards last year. The loss of D.J. Hackett will also be felt here. Hasselbeck has done a masterful job at spreading the ball around and he'll likely do it again in 2008. Branch's mid-season return could mix up the roles yet again.

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 89 58 65% 643 11.1 6 15 11
2006 69 36 52% 332 9.2 5 29 16
2007 61 41 67% 355 8.7 5 31 20

Tight Ends
- While the Seahawks did not use their tight ends much at all in 2007, this offense operates best when it has a receiving tight end. To no surprise, the aging Marcus Pollard had little effect last year but the Seahawks spent their 2.07 pick in John Carlson from Notre Dame. That probably won't have a major impact this year but demands definite attention in dynasty leagues since the Seahawks would prefer to feature above-average tight end receiving numbers.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The only factor of big notice is how well Julius Jones is integrating into the offense and if he can command a lion's share of the work or if he and Morris will just make each other insignificant in fantasy terms. Carlson has the opportunity and situation to make some waves as a rookie but that almost never happens well enough to merit a fantasy start.

San Francisco 49ers
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
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
2007 35 128 1 513 274 53% 2685 9.8 15 17 32 27

Quarterback - Perhaps the most interesting - or is that perplexing - coaching move this season is Mike Martz of passing game fame heading to San Francisco where the passing game is not merely bad. It is only an annual question if they will turn in #32 ranked numbers (which is often "yes" obtw). Even better - there isn't even a starting quarterback there yet. The open competition is between Alex Smith who has started for three years with very, very minimal results and also Shaun Hill who looked good briefly (if not comparatively only) last year when he started three games after five years in the NFL without so much as one pass. Smith is considered the likely winner here, at least until he realizes how beat up a Martz-quarterback always gets.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
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
2007 316 1361 4.3 6 108 84 78% 633 1 28 25 28

Running Backs - Frank Gore comes off a down year where he rushed for only 1102 yards and five scores but added 53 catches for 436 more yards. He was hampered by a high ankle sprain but enters this year hungry to resume his dominating presence for the 49ers. New OC Mike Martz plans on using Gore as a "Marshall Faulk" type runner which means all the touches that Gore can handle and plenty of receptions as well. DeShaun Foster was signed for running back depth but Gore is not only safely the primary runner with little chance of sharing the ball, he is also one of the few backs in the NFL who can say that. If Martz can at least spread the defense out, there is no reason why Gore shouldn't have an excellent season.

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 240 109 45% 1508 13.8 8 32 29
2006 226 111 49% 1598 14.4 7 31 30
2007 255 114 45% 1329 11.7 8 32 29

Wide Receivers - The 49ers finally tilled the soil on the wide receivers and brought on board Isaac Bruce to help install the new Martz offense and Bryant Johnson who finally gets to be a starter again. Arnaz Battle will still be involved as will Ashley Lelie and Jason Hill. The problem with a Martz scheme is that it regularly used four different wide receivers so it is unlikely any of these receivers will have a stand out season, particularly with a questionable quarterback situation. But Bryant Johnson merits fantasy attention since his move should significantly increase his role as a receiver. This should be very interesting during the season since the 49ers have been so bad at passing for so long that it's hard to recall the glory years anymore.

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 33 17 52% 137 8.1 0 32 32
2006 95 56 59% 587 10.5 5 16 15
2007 128 73 57% 683 9.4 5 14 17

Tight Ends
- This is one area that will be either a huge success or a bitter failure with not much chance to end up in the middle. Vernon Davis has not been nearly as impressive as his first round draft pick suggested he should and this year one of two things are going to happen. OC Mike Martz is trying to plan ways to use Davis more and have him running wideout routes from the tight end position. They want him to succeed. He could be a major success here and become a major cog in a pass-heavy offense. Or - he could continue to be an injury problem and he has been knocked in the past for not learning the playbook well enough and now has one of the more complicated offenses to learn.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - From just an NFL perspective, this has to be one fascinating training camp. The most complex passing scheme comes to the team that has the worst passing attack and still are not sure who the quarterback is going to be. If Vernon Davis can show up in camp and in preseason games then his stock should rise. If not - let someone else take him. Bryant Johnson could end up a sleeper this year as well but much depends on what happens in camp.

St. Louis Rams
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
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
2007 18 0 0 573 332 58% 3559 10.7 18 28 18 21

Quarterback - The Rams brought over Al Saunders to install the offense he made famous in Kansas City and while that won't get Marc Bulger quite the same stats as he had under Mike Martz, it could still be pretty close. Trent Green ran the scheme and churned out 4000 yard seasons though his touchdown totals were less spectacular. Bulger comes off a disastrous 2007 season thanks to injuries both to himself (he missed four games) and literally every other person on the offense to some degree. This is a new offense that should suit Bulger once he digests the playbook and gets used to throwing more to tight ends and running backs. Trent Green is back on the roster to help serve as a mentor to Bulger - another positive.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
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
2007 378 1512 4.0 5 117 83 71% 555 1 21 21 31

Running Backs - This could be the year for Jackson and that's saying something for a player that already led the NFL in 2006 with 2334 total yards. The Saunders system that bred Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson now features Jackson as the centerpiece and he's already proven to be a devastating runner and adept receiver. But Jackson is currently holding out for more money. That should be resolved sooner than later but it doesn't help Jackson to miss time from camp with a new offense to install.

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 439 267 61% 3417 12.8 18 2 5
2006 391 219 56% 2891 13.2 18 5 6
2007 366 200 55% 2463 12.3 14 14 17

Wide Receivers - The injuries to the offense last year really showed up in the wide receiver numbers but Torry Holt still managed to end with 93 catches for 1189 yards and seven scores. Isaac Bruce left for the 49ers and now Drew Bennett will officially take over the flanker spot. The Rams also added Donnie Avery with their 2.02 pick as the first wideout drafted in 2007 (and perhaps the biggest surprise as well). They also nabbed Keenan Burton with the 4.29 pick so there is youth on the roster and a direction to grow for that year when Holt retires or leaves. The Al Saunders system uses running backs and tight ends so much that rarely has any wide receiver had significant fantasy value, let alone to the level we are accustomed with Torry Holt. Tony Gonzalez was always the primary receiver in Kansas City and Chris Cooley was the most productive in Washington. Holt will still get his but likely not as much as previous seasons.

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 29 22 76% 195 8.9 2 30 28
2006 45 27 60% 333 12.3 2 28 28
2007 80 48 60% 532 11.1 4 22 25

Tight Ends
- The Rams have never used a receiving tight end and their numbers reflect that. But Saunders has always loved the tight end and never failed to produce a Pro Bowl tight end. That means that Randy McMichael may have won the lottery when he joined the Rams in 2007. At the least McMichael should see more touchdown passes and if he can handle the load, his receiving totals should be up sharply.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The new offense needs Jackson to get signed and into camp since he will be the pivotal player in this offense. The entire team is learning that new offensive scheme and it is far different than any they have seen. What deserves most attention here is how much the Rams look to use McMichael because that pumps up his value while decreasing the wide receivers.

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