Well folks, we’re about 15 days away from rookies reporting to mini-camps! Football season is almost upon us and what a glorious time it is. I have two more divisions remaining in the 2016 “Bold Predictions.” This week we will take a look at the ultra-competitive NFC West and see who comes out on top this year.
Arizona Cardinals- There’s going to be two stars in Arizona this year, David Johnson and John Brown. Johnson only had 125 rushes to go along with 36 receptions last season after playing in just over 43 percent of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps on the year. I would be that he has a massive increase in the amount of touches he gets this season and bet he sees 225+ and 50+ receptions. This is going to be a big year for Johnson and he is going to pay off big for those that grab him. Consider yourself lucky if he falls to you in the early second. I’m looking for 1,700 yards of total offense to go with 13 touchdowns. Brown made a significant leap in year two from his rookie season, and I expect him to take on a larger role this season for the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald was magical last season, but he wants to win and that will create more opportunities for Brown to produce. Expect and 85 reception season to go along with 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns. One thing I was bummed about over the off-season was the Cardinals lucking into Robert Nkemdiche. This guy is going to absolutely flourish with this team and I expect him to get a minimum of seven sacks this year and be in the talk for DROY.
Los Angeles Rams- Well if you go running back in the first round this year, make it Todd Gurley. Todd Gurley is going to be the No. 1 back in fantasy land this season. The Rams have hired former Bears’ wide receiver coach Mike Groh and former running backs coach in Skip Peete. I fully expect Gurley to be more involved in the passing game this year, especially with Jared Goff in his rookie season and loaded boxes. Gurley had 21 receptions and 229 rushing attempts in only 11 games last year and in three of those games he had single digit touches. He will see well over 300 total touches this season and will reward those who take him high. He will be in the top-5 overall non-QB scorers in 2016. If you’re in a Dynasty league, make sure you grab Tyler Higbee. This guy is going to be a stud and be compared to Rob Gronkowski, you watch. Another sleeper to grab is running back Aaron Greene out of TCU. I think he takes Tre Mason’s spot on the roster and sees a healthy amount of action this season.
San Francisco 49ers- Besides Carlos Hyde, I expect Vance McDonald to be a pleasant surprise in 2016. McDonald started the final eight games of the season in 2015 and became a favorite target for Blaine Gabbert. With Gabbert being slated at the starter come week 1, I would expect that relationship to grow and expect him to be one of the more consistent weapons on offense. Grab him later and get a decent return of 750 yards and eight touchdowns. Though I expect big things from Carlos Hyde, I don’t trust that he can stay healthy so make sure you have a back-up. I like Shaun Draughn for his passing game abilities regardless of the situation with Hyde. Hyde has never had more than 16 catches, even in his college career. Expect Draughn to have 40+ receptions this season and for Jeff Driskel to see some playing time.
Seattle Seahawks- One guy that is going to be absolutely stolen in fantasy drafts this year is Tyler Lockett. I expect him to make a huge splash for the offense and special teams in 2016. Look for him to combine rushing, receiving, and returns for 15 touchdowns. His reception yards should increase too at just over 1,000 yards for the season. This guy will be in the top-20 receivers by the time the year is over and maybe top-15. Also, don’t be scared of Thomas Rawls because of his injury last season. I’d be more scared due to all the picks the Seahawks used on running backs. There will be a Christine Michael hype train again this season, but Rawls should still be warranted as a RB1 or very high-end RB2. I would still expect double-digit scores and 1,200 all-around yards from him.
This year is going to be another great battle, but I think it comes down to two consistent teams. I’m looking at the Cardinals to take the NFC West again this year and for their defense to dominate the league. This could be a closing of a window for Carson Palmer and his health is what may dictate the season and future. Bruce Arians is a great coach and I think he brings his team back hungrier than ever after their embarrassing loss to the Panthers last post-season. Seahawks will be No. 2 even though the Rams are going 16-0!
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