When I initially pitched this idea, I planned to have finished this series before free agency started. Life got in the way, and we are a little past schedule. Luckily, free agency is starting to come to a lull, allowing me to catch back up and finish reviewing last year. With the NFL Draft only 32 days away, we are inching closer to BBM III. I can’t wait.
But, as I have been doing, I will outline each team in the NFL and outline how to take advantage of the prospective/actual changes they’ve made this offseason.
Onto the NFC West.
Heading into the 2021 season, there was optimism that the Cardinals would take another step forward in Kyler Murray’s 3rd season. The acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins in 2020 started to transform the offense and the Cardinals retooled their defense bringing in 3x Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt, Super Bowl legend, Malcolm Butler, and re-signing LB Markus Golden. They also brought in A.J. Green and James Conner to help out their offense. They started to push their chips into the center understanding the advantage of having an elite QB on a rookie contract. Due to these signals, 7 Cardinals were regularly drafted in BBM II – DeAndre Hopkins (16.3, WR5), Kyler Murray (54.3, QB3), Chase Edmonds (77.1, RB28), Rondale Moore (109.5, WR54), James Conner (118.1, RB37), A.J. Green (153.8, WR75), and Christian Kirk (174.3, WR80). Occasionally, Eno Benjamin (~2%) and Andy Isabella (~0.3%) were drafted.
The Cardinals started the season on fire winning their first 7 games and being the last unbeaten team. However, they ran into some injuries and were inconsistent in the second half, and completely folded. They went 4-6 in their last 10 games, losing 4 of 5 to end the year. In fantasy, the results were similar. They started out being the team to own and gradually came back down to earth. Overall, Kyler Murray was the QB26, James Conner was the RB3, Chase Edmonds was the RB59, DeAndre Hopkins was the WR94, AJ Green was the WR20, Christian Kirk was the WR15, and Rondale Moore was the WR76. Zach Ertz was acquired at the trade deadline and was the TE4.
Kyler flashed to start the year proving his worth as the 3rd QB taken in fantasy drafts. He showed that his rushing capability solidified his floor making him a weekly starter with the ability to provide spiked weeks due to his unique ability. However, defenses started to figure him out near the goal line limiting his upside. He sprained his ankle in Week 8 vs Green Bay and after missing 3 games, didn’t return the same player. He was ok in fantasy but proved ineffective in real life.
Part of Kyler’s struggles could be attributed to the loss of DeAndre Hopkins. He was also injured in the Green Bay game with a hamstring strain. He missed 3 games (like Kyler), returned, and tore his MCL against the Rams just two weeks later, missing the rest of the season. Losing your #1 option and a transcendent talent like DHop will surely reduce your efficiency as an offense. However, even when healthy, DHop wasn’t the same player he was in 2020 and the rest of his career. He didn’t have a single game above 85 receiving yards and only had one game above 10 targets (with 4 games under 5). Due to his draft capital, people expected him to be the #1 option and he only proved relevant when scoring.
Advance rate isn’t a perfect metric, and it is shown by how well AJ Green rated. AJ Green proved what most people were saying that he was no longer the same player and was washed. On the field, he lacked explosiveness and his signing was to draw coverage away from DHop, which didn’t happen. Teams didn’t have to respect that he would beat them, which was proven as he put up over 100 yards twice in 16 games. He had 5 games over 10 fantasy points (with none over 17), but due to his depressed price tag, only helped teams. Christian Kirk, on the other hand, was a bit more useful. Kirk averaged 9.9 fppg and had 8 weeks over 10 points despite only having one game with more than 10 targets. With a similar draft cost to AJ Green, he was a staple for best-ball rosters.
Blatantly speaking, Rondale Moore did not produce the way we had envisioned. As a gadget player selected in the 2nd round, the industry expected the Cardinals/Kliff to use him in creative ways. Turns out, that wasn’t the case as Rondale had an ADOT of 1.4 and YBC (total yards passes traveled before being caught) of -3, which I didn’t even think was possible. Kliff only trusted him in the screen game which caused him to lack any upside at all.
Chase Edmonds has been the darling of the fantasy community for the last few years. It was consensus in the industry that if he was allowed to be showcased as the main back, he would excel. With the departure of Kenyan Drake and the addition of James Conner (on a 1-year prove-it deal), he was expected to get his chance. One of the main concerns was that he wouldn’t be able to sustain a full workload and his body would break down. This came true when he missed 5 games throughout the year. He also wasn’t used as the goal-line back. That role was used for James Conner, who had the 3rd most carries inside the 10-yard line and 8th most inside the 20. It led to him scoring 15 rushing touchdowns (all occurring inside the red zone) and 3 receiving touchdowns (all when Edmonds was hurt). Conner broke the regular season for best ball due to his cost. But got injured and missed 66% of the fantasy playoffs.
Looking forward to this year, the Cardinals have not been active in free agency. They have retained most of their free agents, outside Christian Kirk, Chase Edmonds, Jordan Hicks, and Chandler Jones. They currently have $7.7M in cap space and I would expect their moves to come through the draft. They should look to improve their line and continue to improve their defense with their offense mostly intact.
In terms of drafting, give me all the DHop. He is still one of the most talented WRs in the NFL and I am betting on a resurgence. DHop and Kyler had a great connection in 2020, expect it to happen again. Due to my DHop exposure, I also think Kyler is going too low. He has QB1 upside. Conner is still a buy, even with his ADP steadily rising. He should be at worst a top 20 RB. I have very little Ertz but due to his re-signing, I will probably increase that moving forward. There are just age concerns. I have been reluctant to take Rondale due to his role. I don’t expect it to change much, and he was just not good last year. I prefer other options.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams made one of the biggest moves in the offseason when they pushed all their chips in and traded Jared Goff and picks for Matt Stafford. Getting Stafford was just another example of the Rams preferring veteran players over rookies to try and capitalize on their Super Bowl window and they managed to do just that by winning the Super Bowl in 2021. Overall, they had lofty expectations from the public and it resulted in 8 players being regularly drafted in BBM II – Cooper Kupp (36.8, WR17), Robert Woods (32.9, WR14), Darrell Henderson (42, RB19), Tyler Higbee (101.6, TE8), Matthew Stafford (115.3, QB13), Xavier Jones (174.3, RB52), DeSean Jackson (185.2, WR83), and Van Jefferson (207.8, WR94). Occasionally, Cam Akers (~39%), Jake Funk (~3%), and Tutu Atwell (~8%) were drafted.
Fittingly for the Super Bowl Champs, they were successful in fantasy too, for the most part. Owning Cooper Kupp was truly the skeleton key to the season, advancing rosters at a monstrous 48% clip, 6% more than the second-highest regularly rostered player (JT). Partnering Kupp with Stafford was a very efficient (and cheap) way to get a leg up on the competition. Overall, Cooper Kupp was the WR1, Robert Woods was the WR43, Darrell Henderson was the RB9, Tyler Higbee was the TE22, Matt Stafford was the QB3, DeSean Jackson was the WR27, and Van Jefferson was the WR9.
There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said for Cooper Kupp. He should have been the MVP with how consistent he was week in and week out. He truly took over games and was uncoverable. The relationship/chemistry that was built between Stafford and Kupp will be a sight to watch over the next few years as their games complement one another so well. The Breakfast Narrative will live on.
Similar things could be said for Stafford. He finally got away from the confines of Detroit and showed the ability that made him the #1 pick in 2009. For him, getting to play for offensive genius, Sean McVay, was transcendent on his career trajectory. The public opinion has shifted from an overrated gunslinger that couldn’t win when it mattered most (mostly due to his surrounding team) to now being a winner and a likely Hall of Famer. All that aside, Stafford did struggle with turnovers and will need to limit them to move into the next tier with Herbert & Burrow.
Unfortunately for some early drafters, Cam Akers tore his Achilles in the pre-season causing him to miss all of the regular season. This caused Darrel Henderson to be thrust into starting RB duties and he was a revelation for fantasy owners. Although he missed some games, his draft capital was a significant leg up over the field. With the projected offensive firepower, the Rams were expected to be, fantasy owners were trying to find any path to the Rams’ backfield, drafting Xavier Jones and Jake Funk, however, both were injured in the preseason leading the Rams to trade for Sony Michel. Sony was the only back that managed to stay healthy throughout the season and topped the Rams in rushing yards. He produced inconsistently and was a manageable fill-in when Henderson was hurt but did not cause players to advance at a high rate.
Behind Cam Akers, you could make a case that Robert Woods was the next most disappointing player for owners in 2021. As a staple low-end WR1 in the Jared Goff days, it was expected the addition of Stafford would transcend Woods into a more consistent player. However, the two were rarely on the same page leading to only 2 games above 70 yards, before getting hurt in week 9 and being lost for the rest of the season. Although Woods wasn’t producing, he was still a focal point for the defense which allowed the deep threat to become very valuable in fantasy. DeSean Jackson was brought in during the off-season to fill that role, however, he was beaten out by Van Jefferson for the job and eventually traded to the Raiders. Van Jefferson thrived in this role averaging 16 yards per reception, a 13.5 aDOT, and topped 800 yards as the #3 WR. The reason Van didn’t elevate from the #3 WR once Bobby got hurt was the Rams were able to sign Odell Beckham Jr. Although he didn’t light the world on fire once arriving in LA, he quickly became a favorite target for Stafford averaging 6 targets a game.
Tyler Higbee was a disappointment. Finally ridding himself of Gerald Everett, owners expected his production to increase. However, that resulted in 17 additional receptions, 39 additional yards, and 0 additional TDs. He was used as a check-down option, rather than a down the field option with an aDOT of 5.3. He was more of an ancillary piece rather than a focal point on the offense.
Looking forward to this year, the Rams have lost Von Miller, Darious Williams, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Austin Corbett. They also traded away Robert Woods but brought in Allen Robinson to be his replacement. They have lost some major factors in the defense, but the offense should continue being elite. They do not have a pick until the compensatory section of Round 3 and currently have $8M in cap space. There are ways for them to get creative with the cap to maximize the roster but will need to rely on some low-cost signings to produce for them to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
In terms of drafting, there aren’t many Rams I am not targeting. The offense is one that we should want parts of, and I think the market is undervaluing them as a whole. I have been drafting Kupp (obviously), Akers, Woods (before the trade), Stafford, ARob, OBJ, Higbee, Henderson, and Sony. I have been underweight on Van just due to the mutual interest in a reunion with OBJ.
San Francisco 49ers
All eyes were on the 49ers when they traded up from #12 to #3 with 2 additional firsts (in 2022 and 2023) and a 3rd round pick in 2022. With that pick, they selected their potential franchise cornerstone and QB, Trey Lance. It was a clear signal they wanted to upgrade their QB situation for a roster that was in Super Bowl contention. Due to this, the industry was very excited about the 49ers’ prospects, and 6 players were regularly drafted in BBM II – George Kittle (27.4, TE3), Brandon Aiyuk (43.8, WR21), Deebo Samuel (65.4, WR30), Trey Sermon (71.2, RB26), Raheem Mostert (85.2, RB30), and Trey Lance (105.3, QB10). Occasionally, Wayne Gallman (~16%), Elijah Mitchell (~5.4%), and Richie James (~1.3%) were drafted.
Overall, owning 49ers was a poor outcome. They had to overcome some injury misfortunes, but also the death spell that is Jimmy Garoppolo for fantasy assets. Overall, George Kittle was the TE12, Brandon Aiyuk was the WR88, Deebo Samuel was the WR2, Trey Sermon was the RB70, Raheem Mostert was the RB67, and Trey Lance was the QB30.
As stated above, the 49ers decided to start Jimmy G when healthy (or even when he wasn’t at full health), proving that they intended on sitting Lance for a year (after he sat out 2020) to learn the system. He was thrust into action for 2 games and went 1-1, showing his dual-threat ability averaging 18 fppg. Since he wasn’t the starter, he severely let down fantasy owners, but the skills are still there.
We also found out that Kyle Shannahan hates people with the name Trey. Lance was at least understandable, but they traded up for Sermon and wouldn’t let him on the field even when the backfield was injured spoke volumes. He must just have a personal vendetta against the name. It is the only logical solution. Instead of Sermon, the 49ers elected to play and start 6th round rookie, Elijah Mitchell when Raheem Mostert tore his ACL (and Jeff Wilson rehabbing from a pre-season injury).
Mitchell was good. Running behind one of the best lines in football, Mitchell posted a 207-963-5 line while playing in 11 games. He was running for nearly 90 yards a game at a 4.7 YPC clip and being effective in the screen game, catching 95% of his targets. He broke 1000 scrimmage yards and is set to become the primary RB in 2022.
After breaking out in the second half of 2020, Brandon Aiyuk disappointed based on his draft capital. He played in 5 more games yet produced 4 fewer receptions and only 78 more receiving yards. Jimmy’s inability to push the ball downfield lowered both the floor and ceiling outcomes for Aiyuk.
The inability to push the ball downfield helped the unicorn that is Deebo Samuel. He was used in a unique HB role to give him the ball in space. He posted a 77-1405-6 receiving line and a 59-365-8 rushing line. Shannahan created plays designed to give Deebo the ball while he had a head of steam which resulted in a crazy 6.2 YPC and 768 YAC. They allowed Deebo to do Deebo things, hopefully revolutionizing the NFL.
George Kittle was alright. He didn’t produce at the level we expected due to playing injured. But he still managed a 71-910-6 line in 14 games and remained a reliable and dangerous threat over the middle. Increased QB play should only continue to elevate his game.
Looking forward to this year, the 49ers have brought in a #1 corner, Charvarius Ward, and managed to re-sign some pivot free agents. They have lost Laken Tomlinson, D.J. Jones, K‘Waun Williams, and Raheem Mostert, but they should be able to replace the production. The biggest move still to be made is where and when do they trade Jimmy G? By getting him off the roster, they will free up over $20M in cap space and that will allow them to make some additional moves (or roll it over to next year).
In terms of drafting, sign me up to get hurt. I am back in on the Lance hype train with the expectation they move Jimmy. Due to that, I am in on all 49ers and have been trying to stack where I can, especially with none of their prices outrageous. The biggest concern I have is for Mitchell where I will probably be underweight due to his price. I have been grabbing Sermon in hopes Shannahan comes to his senses.
Although their defense is usually a crapshoot, every year the Seahawks have Russell Wilson they are considered a contender. 2021 was no different, with an explosive offense led by Russ, D.K., Lockett, Carson, and new additional Gerald Everett, fantasy owners wanted a piece. Overall, 7 Seahawks were regularly drafted in BBM II – DK Metcalf (18.4, WR6), Tyler Lockett (35.1, WR15), Chris Carson (40.1, RB18), Russell Wilson (74.2, QB6), Gerald Everett (145.5, TE15), Rashaad Penny (175.4, RB53), and D’Wayne Eskridge (206.4, WR91). Occasionally, Deejay Dallas (~0.6%) and Will Dissly (~0.9%) were drafted.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, their offense never really found its rhythm and struggled to be consistent. Their inconsistencies led to a 7-10 record which was an overall disappointment. As you could guess, owning Seahawks was no different. Overall, Russell Wilson was the QB31, Chris Carson was RB69, Rashaad Penny was the RB30, D.K. Metcalf was the WR92, Tyler Lockett was the WR35, Dee Eskridge was the WR83, and Gerald Everett was the TE21.
It was honestly surprising to me that Russ played in 14 games. His 3-game absence for a torn thumb felt much longer, which was probably due to him being a shell of himself in the first few games coming back from injury. He had 1000 fewer passing yards and he wasn’t aggressive through the ground severely capping his weekly upside.
Due to the inefficiency from Russ and Geno Smith (who started 3 games), it should be no surprise that DK, Tyler Lockett, and Dee Eskridge failed to be league winners. DK lacked the explosiveness he showed in 2020. He had 300 fewer YBC this year and averaged 1 yard less per target than last showing his reduced role downfield. Dee Eskridge couldn’t get on the field and only managed a 10-64-1 line. Truly disappointing for a 2nd round rookie. Lockett on the other hand had a good line of 73-1175-8. He had a different role than usual as his average depth of target increased by nearly 5 yards. He was used more downfield instead of his steady over the middle role.
Chris Carson was disappointing due to injury. In week 5, he suffered a neck injury in practice and went on to miss the rest of the season. Before the injury, he had shown his upside by scoring 14+ in 3 of 4 games. Losing Carson for the season left the Seahawks with an opening at RB, which they filled with Alex Collins until Rashaad Penny recovered from his preseason injury. The former first-round pick was an absolute force down the stretch and was a proponent for Liam Murphy winning BBM II and 1 million dollars. In the 6 games in which he started, he scored 6 touchdowns and ran for 706 yards, averaging 6.9 YPC.
On a less positive note, Gerald Everett, like Tyler Higbee, seemed poised to breakout. He was finally the only receiving TE option and had an elite QB. However, he translated that into a 48-478-4 line. He only played on 65% of snaps and only had 8 targets in the red zone. This is not the type of outcome you were expecting drafting him as a TE2 with upside.
Looking forward to this year, the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for Noah Fant, Shelby Harris, Drew Lock, and two first and second-round picks. There are rumors they may be interested in using one of the picks to select a QB (they have the #9 pick) but are also said to like Drew Lock. Drafting a QB isn’t their only priority though, they have holes all over their defense and desperately need an offensive line. They should trade some assets, recoup some picks and enter a full-fledged rebuild rather than whatever the hell they are currently doing. Which includes releasing Bobby Wagner and losing Gerald Everett and DJ Reed. They have retained most of their other free agents while signing Uchenna Nwosu, Austin Blythe, and Justin Coleman. The Seahawks still have $15.9M in cap space.
In terms of drafting, I had been grabbing DK and Lockett until they traded Russ. Now I only like them if I can get them at a discount. Fant is an upside low-end TE1, and I have mixed him in. I like the discount on Carson, who is expected to come back fully healthy. My current strategy is staying off all Seahawks until there is clarity with their situation. I am not a Drew Lock fan and do not think this offense will be successful if he is the guy.