Monday, September 3, 2007

Top Fantasy Stars: NFC West

Just got back from my wild Las Vegas Bachelor party week. For those of you who plan to travel there, I have two words for you: Mandalay Bay.

On to the blog.

Arizona Cardinals:

1. Edgerinn James-RB- James chose to leave the Indianapolis Colts via free agency in order to become an Arizona Cardinal and, thus far, it would appear that he made a fairly bad decision. However, there is room for hope with new coach Ken Whisenhunt promising a more balanced offensive approach. While giving an aging RB like James 400 carries seems like a dubious proposal, he proved he could carry a decent load last season, rushing 337 times for 1,159 yards and six touchdowns. While these are not numbers you'll want out of an RB1, he'll make a nice RB2 and should be available in the early third round.

2. Larry Fitzgerald-WR- Value Alert: Fitzgerald missed three games last season with an injury and therefore may have fallen off a few owner's radar screens because his stats weren't exactly in line with what one expects from a WR1 (69 catches, 6 touchdowns). However, his talent is undeniable and a huge rebound season could be in the works. Even though he shares the wealth with Anquan Boldin, he has a talented QB in Matt Leinart and an aggressive offensive scheme which should ensure that his numbers return to their previous lofty levels. Steal him by the third round as your WR1 and watch him become a top 5 receiver.

3. Anquan Boldin-WR- If you miss out on Fitzgerald, Boldin makes a pretty nice consolation prize. He played in all 16 games last season for the first time since his rookie year, but his numbers didn't rise dramatically with Fitzgerald being out due to the fact that he was constantly double-teamed. A healthy Fitzgerald will paradoxically result in better totals for Boldin. Take him in the late third round as a high end WR2.

Bargain Bin: Matt Leinart-QB- While he still has some growing to do, Leinart has some impressive weapons at his disposal in the above three. He will also benefit from newly bolstered offensive line which should translate to fewer sacks and interceptions caused by pocket pressure. He should still be available in the ninth round as a very low level QB1 or a good QB2/reserve.

San Francisco 49ers:

1. Frank Gore-RB- The fact that he injured his hand in preseason should be looked on as both a gift and a curse: While he avoided a more serious injury and should be fully healthy for the season, a broken hand could spell trouble in terms of holding on to the football. He was the most pleasant surprise in Fantasy Football last year when he seemingly came out of nowhere to garner 1,695 rushing yards, 61 receptions and nine total touchdowns. With the San Francisco offense slightly better on paper this season, Gore should be able to come close to those totals again as he is no longer the lone threat. He'll be gone by the sixth pick of the draft as someone's RB1.

2. Vernon Davis-TE- A physically gifted freak of nature, Davis had his rookie year stunted by a broken leg. However, his potential is off the charts and the 49ers plan to make him a huge part of their attack. It is feasible he could triple his numbers from last year (20 catches, three touchdowns.) Better known TE's will taken before him, but if you take him by the seventh round as your TE1, you could wind up with the steal of the draft.

3. Darrell Jackson-WR- Though Jackson is a supremely talented receiver, his injury problems in past seasons and now this preseason are a major caution flag. He will be San Francisco's starting WR and they'd love to get him involved in a major way. Despite his injuries, Jackson has a nose for the goal line the likes of which few possess, having averaged nearly seven touchdowns per season in his career. Target him in the eight round as a WR2 and hope for the best.

Bargain Bin: Alex Smith-QB- Smith has shown signs of potential as a franchise QB and should benefit from the new weapons he has. His maturation process will continue to be slow, but expect his numbers to rise slightly higher than last year's totals (2,890 passing yards and 18 total touchdowns.) He should be available in the later rounds as a good reserve QB.

Seattle Seahawks:

1. Shaun Alexander-RB- With the Madden Curse behind him, Alexander should once again reclaim his standing as one of the top 5 running backs in the league. There have been whispers that his broken foot has not healed properly, but those are likely just scuttlebutt rumors. Even with his 10 game season last year, he still scored seven touchdowns and a healthy season could produce double that number. He'll taken as an RB1 with one of the top ten picks in the first round.

2. Deion Branch-WR- With Jackson having moved onto to the 49ers, Branch becomes the #1 WR for the Seahawks. He has ached for the chance to prove that he can be a top flight receiver and now he has his opportunity. He has good chemistry with QB Matt Hasselbeck and his new role should increase his stats above last year's (53 catches and 4 touchdowns). Target him in the sixth round as an excellent WR2.

3. D.J Hackett-WR- Hackett also benefits from the Jackson trade and moves into the second WR spot. A burner with tremendous speed, he is the Seahawks' best threat for long touchdowns. He should definitely increase last year's numbers (45 catches and 4 touchdowns.) A certifiable sleeper, he will outperform bigger names and should be grabbed in the eight round as a WR3/Flex player.

Bargain Bin: Matt Hasselbeck-QB- Once considered one of the best QB's in fantasy football, Hasselbeck's stock dropped quite a bit with a subpar season last year. However, he is still a top ten choice and will benefit from having a health Alexander to alleviate some of the pressure. He makes an excellent pick as a QB2/Reserve by the ninth round.

St. Louis Rams:

1. Steven Jackson-RB- If not for a guy named LaDainian Tomlinson, Jackson would be the consensus #1 pick in the draft. He possesses every aspect that comprises a top flight RB (speed, power, intelligence and receiving ability). He has set a goal of 2,500 total yards for this season and realistically has a shot to achieve it. If you don't have one of the first two picks in the draft, forget about him as your RB1.

2. Torry Holt-WR- Year in and year out, Holt is one of the safest picks in all of Fantasy Football. Despite turning 31 this offseason, he is not showing any signs of slowing down either. He is durable (only two games missed in eight seasons) and he has not recorded less than 91 receptions since 2001. Taking him in the second round as your WR1 will put you heads and shoulders above most teams in your league.

3. Marc Bulger-QB- His name is often mentioned among the top 5 Fantasy quarterbacks (and with good reason.) He not only has Holt, Isaac Bruce and Randy McMichael to throw to, he can also dump the ball out of the backfield to Jackson (which he did 90 times last year.) He also played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last season, dispelling concerns about his health. At 31 years old, he is still in his prime and is a steal of a QB1 in the third round after you've loaded up on RB's and/or WR's.

Bargain Bin: Randy McMichael-TE- No one was happier to escape the Miami quagmire than McMichael. He steps into a perfect situation in St. Louis and should respond accordingly by becoming one of the top 7 TE options. Best of all, his name appears to be off the radar in recent drafts and you can still nab him as your TE1 past the ninth round.

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