2022 NFC West Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Chris Sanzo breaks down the AFC West from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review

 

Points per Game 27.1 7th
Offensive Snaps 1058 18th
2021 Record 12-5 3rd
2022 Vegas Win Projection 10.5 T-4th

 

The Los Angeles Rams are… sorry… The “Super Bowl Champion” Los Angeles Rams are poised to defend their title after going 12-5 in the regular season and winning the NFC West. Most of their core pieces are still in place despite losing ED Von Miller, WR Odell Beckham Jr., and CB Darious Williams to free agency, LT Andrew Whitworth to retirement, and WR Robert Woods to the trade market. Not wasting a minute, they signed WR Allen Robinson and LB Bobby Wagner, restructured LB Leonard Floyd, and brought in three offensive linemen including T Joseph Noteboom. Their draft class started in the third round with G Logan Bruss as GM Les Snead has been notorious for trading picks for proven players and leaving the road to be decided by future Les. With the rest of the division taking a step back, the West should belong to Los Angeles again in 2022.

 

Passing Game

 

Passing Yards per Game 273.1 5th
Passing Touchdowns per Game 2.4 T-2nd
Pass Attempts per Game 35.7 10th

 

QB Matthew Stafford was the obvious splash that proved to be the key to getting to the mountaintop. Although he does not have OBJ any longer, he still has Super Bowl MVP, WR Cooper Kupp. Kupp will likely see some regression from his absolute bonkers year of 1947 yards and 16 touchdowns on 145 receptions but is still a top-3 option in fantasy football. Robinson, on the other hand, had arguably his worst year in the league this past season. He’ll be playing at 29 this season so his window is fairly similar to Stafford’s in that regard. If he can reawaken the skills he showed before 2021 as a team’s legit number one, this offense won’t skip a beat.

WR Van Jefferson will look to build upon a season in which he developed more as a pass catcher, but he is a very distant third option behind Kupp and Robinson. Even with an aDOT near double that of Kupp and Woods, Jefferson from the Z still earned over 100 targets. If he can convert a few more chances and prove that his clean route running can open more opportunities in the short to intermediary game, he could look to cut into Robinson’s ceiling. Still manning the tight end position is Tyler Higbee. Higbee is more of a red zone threat than he is between the 20s but still moves the chains when called upon.

 

Running Game

 

Rushing Yard per Game 99 25th
Rushing Touchdowns per Game 0.6 T-28th
Rushing Plays per Game 24.7 T-23rd

 

The Rams’ running game has always been condensed to feature one back. It was the main reason for the hype surrounding RB Cam Akers last season. Unfortunately, Cam tore his Achilles before the season got going and he wasn’t able to return until the playoffs. Though way ahead of schedule, he was not quite the same back, unsurprisingly, averaging just 2.6 ypc over 67 carries. That’s not inspiring, though the 2.5 targets are. If he can expand this part of his game, he has a chance to pay back his return on investment. Then again, there may be a reason why RB Kyren Williams was brought in–a receiving back with excellent blocking skills that could establish himself as a third-down back if HC Sean McVay decides to adapt his philosophy.

With an entire offseason to get back into playing shape, Akers should be the feature back once again. The risk is obvious: can you trust a running back coming back from a once career-killing injury and expect him to pick up where he left off pre-injury? It’s hard to say anything definitively, but it would not shock many people if the work was a bit more diversified this year.

 

Sleeper

 

Van Jefferson, WR

At pick 154, you have a shot at the Rams WR2. Not saying that this is a lock. Jefferson has not been the threat he may have been drafted to be in the second round, but there is at least a chance that Allen Robinson didn’t perform well because he just couldn’t. He’ll be playing at age 29 which is not unheard of to drop off, especially when you’re the WR1 to guys like Blake Bortles, Mitch Trubisky, Andy Dalton, and most recently Justin Fields in his rookie season under Matt Nagy. Jefferson will be on the field as the third option behind Kupp and Robinson, but if he continues to win routes and ARob struggles, watch out for Van.

*note, Van Jefferson had knee surgery and will be out for a few weeks in camp*

 

Deep Sleeper

 

Kyren Williams, RB

The best receiving back on the team may be RB Kyren Williams. If the combine had not happened, he would not be a deep sleeper because he would have been drafted to fill a role similar to RB Kenneth Gainwell in Philadelphia. He can take the receiving load, but he’s also a willing runner. He is better when he can one cut and run through an opening much like RB Sony Michel, who found success in this offense last season. He is also a solid pass-blocking RB so his third-down usage may pop up early in the season. Given that RB Darrell Henderson is a free agent next offseason, Kyren could immediately fill that role. The Rams aren’t going to pony up the cash to another RB, much less another that can’t stay on the field. With all the uncertainty around the team’s backfield, Kyren is worth a shot in deep leagues and dynasty.

 

Bust Candidate

 

Matt Stafford, QB

It has become obvious that the landscape of the NFL is shifting to a more athletic, more dynamic QB style and fantasy football is changing with it. Running QBs are the new Konami Code and those with no rushing upside are getting left far behind. Though solid mainstays on the field, you can no longer pay up for yardage and touchdowns when an entire season may tally under 100 yards of rushing. Currently, Stafford is being drafted inside the top 100 at QB 11 which is what he finished last year in terms of points per game with 19.4. That was his ceiling. The team was built with all-stars around him, the running game was non-existent, and Cooper Kupp, statistically, put up a Jerry Rice-like season.

The days of the statuesque quarterback are ending, and it just isn’t wise drafting a 34-year-old QB at his ceiling price when you can get someone like QB Jameis Winston 80 picks later to get almost the same ppg. Better yet, draft a guy like QB Trey Lance that you can get in a similar range and give yourself a shot at league winning upside.

 

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)/Photography by Bob Kupbens, Kevin Reece, Kiyoshi Mio + Andy Lewis / Icon Sportswire

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