NFC West fantasy football preview: Top draft day targets, sleepers and more

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Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) and wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) slap hands at the NFL football team's training camp, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

The NFC West is somewhat down this year compared to recent seasons, but there’s still enough talent for fantasy football players to get excited. The division features a pair of strong offenses in the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks along with a couple of rebuilding projects in the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals.

We’ve broken down the fantasy-relevant players from all four teams and identified four draft day targets and four deep sleepers.

San Francisco 49ers: The quarterback job is Brock Purdy’s to lose, but Trey Lance and Sam Darnold have been getting first-team reps as Purdy recovers from elbow surgery and could get some early starts. The offense is in good shape no matter who starts, as the running game will be front and center with star running back Christian McCaffrey leading the way, and talented backup Elijah Mitchell will see touches as well. No. 1 receiver Deebo Samuel is coming off a down year and should bounce back, but Brandon Aiyuk will also be heavily involved in what profiles as a 1A-1B situation for a receiving corps that doesn’t have much else outside of those two talented weapons. Tight end George Kittle will also see plenty of targets and is still among the elite options at the position despite his age and injury history.

Seattle Seahawks: Geno Smith’s resurgence was one of the most surprising stories from last season, and he showed enough to be the clear-cut starter and is on the fantasy radar. The Seahawks’ offense is still run-heavy, so second-year back Kenneth Walker is in line to build upon his first-year success, but rookie Zach Charbonnet is talented and will likely be involved in passing situations. The receiving corps has steady presences DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett leading the way once again, and dynamic rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba is now in the fold to where predicting which two receivers are going to produce on a weekly basis could be tough since all three are more than capable. Noah Fant returns as the main receiving tight end, but there likely won’t be enough targets left for him to be fantasy relevant due to JSN’s addition.

Los Angeles Rams: Matthew Stafford showed his age in what was an injury-plagued 2022, but he’ll return as the Rams’ starting quarterback and could make for a solid bounce-back candidate under Sean McVay. McVay’s offenses are typically pass-first, but the running game should be featured more if Cam Akers’ strong stretch run proves to be legit, and he’ll have a chance to be the leader of a promising backfield that also includes young backs Kyren Williams and Zach Evans. The receiving corps will mainly feature Cooper Kupp once again, but Kupp’s age and history could force some of the younger wideouts in Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell and rookie Puka Nacua to step up. Tyler Higbee returns as a reliable starting tight end, but he doesn’t have the receiving upside of a must-start fantasy option.

Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray will likely miss half the season recovering from a season-ending torn ACL, and he’ll have a steep learning curve when he returns in a new-look offense. The offense will likely be run-heavy early on, so James Conner should be fantasy relevant when healthy, and Keaontay Ingram appears to be next in line if Conner goes down. The receiving corps took a hit when DeAndre Hopkins was released, but Marquise Brown proved capable of being a go-to target for Murray while Hopkins was out and should lead a group that has some intriguing secondary options in Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch and rookie Michael Wilson. Veteran tight end Zach Ertz’s status is uncertain coming off a season-ending injury, so second-year tight end Trey McBride is the name we’re keeping an eye on for fantasy purposes.

TOP DRAFT DAY TARGETS

Kenneth Walker, Seahawks RB: The running game is still the bread and butter of the Seahawks’ offense, and Walker looks to be the clear lead runner despite the presence of rookie Zach Charbonnet.

Deebo Samuel, 49ers WR: Deebo was a top-five wide receiver in 2021, and while it’s unlikely that he’ll return to that level, he should at least get back to being a reliable starting option and offers value in the middle rounds.

James Conner, Cardinals RB: The Cardinals passing game enters 2023 in a tailspin, so Conner should see all the work he can handle and makes for a quality mid-round target even if his goal-line opportunities drop.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seahawks WR: JSN’s role is somewhat unclear next to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but the bottom line is that he’s too talented to keep off the field to where he should see enough looks to be fantasy relevant.

DEEP SLEEPERS

Elijah Mitchell, 49ers RB: Mitchell’s name no longer comes up until the double-digit rounds, but the run-heavy 49ers still utilized him even with Chrisitan McCaffrey in the fold, and Mitchell would be the clear lead back in the event of a McCaffrey injury.

Matthew Stafford, Rams QB: Stafford is no longer a reliable starting option in single-quarterback leagues, but he makes for a quality backup as someone who’s still capable of throwing for 300-plus yards when healthy.

Van Jefferson, Rams WR: The field-stretching Jefferson appears to have established himself as the No. 2 option behind Cooper Kupp, and another Kupp injury could propel Jefferson into a high-volume role at some point.

Trey McBride, Cardinals TE: It’s tough to trust any Cardinals pass-catchers, but McBride is a sneaky option assuming he holds off Zach Ertz for the starting job since the new-look offense will likely feature the tight end.

OTHER FANTASY FOOTBALL DIVISIONAL PREVIEWS

AFC North

AFC East

AFC South

AFC West

NFC North

NFC East

 

NFC South

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