NFC West Offseason Review

Jon Bray

04/18/2016

Arizona Cardinals 

  • Overview – The Cardinals arguably made the biggest acquisitions on both the offensive and defensive lines this offseason.  Trading G Jonathan Cooper and a 2nd round pick for Chandler Jones looked questionable at first glance given Jones’ bizarre offseason run-in with the legal system, however upgrading the Guard position by signing Evan Mathis subsequently brought the front office vision into view.  Neither Mathis nor Jones are typical talents found in the second round and the Cards now have a pass rush presence they have scarcely known this century and showcase the best combination of Guards in the league between Mathis and Mike Iupati.
  • Offense – Aside from the Mathis acquisition, the only noteworthy moves were allowing serviceable Tackle Bobby Massie to walk and resigning Chris Johnson to a stacked backfield that also includes David Johnson and Andre Ellington.
  • Fantasy Impact – All around slight upgrade for the offense with an aging Mathis in the fold.  Running back with likely look similar to 2015 Eagles with three quality options in the fold.  David Johnson has to remain a RB1, particularly in PPR leagues, but hard to count on Ellington or CJ2K for more than RB3-RB4 status unless an injury occurs.
  • Defense – Aside from adding the much needed talents of Chandler Jones, Arizona upgraded at safety a bit moving on from Rashad Johnson to Tyvon Branch.  Ideally they keep restricted free agent Tony Jefferson in the fold.  At LB, the Cardinals appear to be okay allowing Dwight Freeney, Lamar Woodley and Sean Weather spoon to all walk…however, Daryl Washington returns from suspension with the hopes of resurrecting a once very promising career.
  • Draft – First round: 29th overall selection; Second round: 61st overall selection
  • Coaching Some consider Bruce Arians to be the best in the business.  Barring injury, this will likely be his most talented Cardinal team to date.  Watch out for the Cardinals in 2016.

 

Los Angeles Rams

  • Overview – It seems the Rams franchise was too busy packing bags and moving halfway across the country to LA to pay much attention to making solid moves in the offseason.  While a couple of key defensive free agents were retained, by and large it appears the organization just had their focus in another place as several key pieces are now departed.
  • Offense – The Rams coaching staff has fully endorsed Case Keenum as its starter for the upcoming season.  Keenum actually graded fairly decent in 2015, so this strikes me as a “we are going to ride Gurley’s coattails as much as possible next year and just need a QB that doesn’t get in our way”.  Jared Cook moved on to Green Bay, where he has his best opportunity yet to live up to his potential.
  • Fantasy Impact – This time last year, Gurley was not yet a Ram and was known to need a portion of the 2015 season to continue healing before he would be a contributor. Fast forward 365 days and you have a clear-cut cornerstone to build around after showing his immense upside in a few games last season.  I believe the Rams’ offense will take a step forward in 2016 based on Gurley alone, and the tangential impact he will have on all other skill position players.  Plus, former #2 overall draft choice LT Greg Robinson has to finally approach expectations in 2016….right??
  • Defense Out are DT Nick Fairly, DE Chris Long, LB James Laurinaitis, CB Janoris Jenkins and S Rodney McLeod.  Retained are CB Trumaine Johnson, S Mark Barron and DE William Hayes.  That is a large number of starting player free agents for one side of the ball.  I can’t say I fault the organization for where the signing priorities were, but it is still a lot of holes to fill and no noteworthy acquisitions have yet been made.
  • Draft – First round: 15th overall selection; Second round: 43rd and 45th overall selections
  • Coaching –  Solid but unspectacular coaching staff returns, led by Jeff Fischer, with QB coach Frank Cignetti being promoted to OC and long time NFL coach, and former Ram, Greg Robinson returning to try and work magic with the retooled Ram D.

*UPDATE (4/14): The Tennessee Titans traded the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft to the Los Angeles Rams Thursday morning (4/14). The price to acquire the 1st pick in this year’s draft – LA gave a 2016 first-round pick (15), two 2016 second-round picks (43 and 45), one 2016 third-round pick (76), and a first and third round pick in next year’s draft (2017). The Rams also receive a 2016 fourth- round pick (113) and seventh-round pick (177) from the Titans.

 

San Francisco 49ers

  • Overview – Will he stay or will he go?  Colin Kaepernick just locked in a very large payday by simply remaining on the 49ers roster through March 31.  Rumors abound that he is being shopped (Denver is mentioned most it seems), yet he remains the SF starter for the moment. I have never much followed Chip Kelly personnel logic, so how this ends up for Week 1 of the 2016 season is anyone’s guess.
  • Offense – Quite a surprisingly dormant offseason for a team with significant cap room and a new coach that historically loves to make roster moves…though Kelly does not have the GM latitude he had in Philadelphia.  All in all this is not a good thing seeing as the 49ers offense languished for most of the 2015 season.  Until QB is settled and a move is made at WR or TE (even resigning the ageless Anquan Boldin would be a big positive given the dearth of production here), there just isn’t much to speak to.  Carlos Hyde returns from injury and he, along with LT Joe Staley are two top notch talents at their respective positions to build around. The potential reinstatement of Anthony Davis would make 3 studs. Otherwise, this offense remains one that needs an overhaul….Chip Kelly system and pace or not.
  • Fantasy Impact – Hyde would be moving towards high-end RB1 on most any other offense, but have to call him a RB2 until things begin improving here.  Torrey Smith only goes as far as his QB can take him, and with Kaepernick’s skillset, he simply won’t put up fantasy attractive stats.  Not much else worth mentioning on this offense currently, but perhaps Kelly will make late moves and/or brings out the best in the incumbent talent here.
  • Defense Resigning DT Ian Williams was important and SF got the task done.  Talent exists on this defense, but somehow they failed to measure up to their potential last season. Perhaps it was coaching.  Perhaps it was the amount of time left on the field thanks to a mostly inept offense.  Regardless, I do think that improvement is in the fold with no turnover in the starter ranks and a new Defensive Coordinator (see below).
  • Draft – First round: 7th overall selection; Second round: 37th overall selection
  • CoachingChip Kelly will be left to focus solely on the coaching element in SF, and I believe this to be a good thing, as Kelly is clearly an intelligent football mind but one that is perhaps prone to over-extension.  Highly regarded Jim O’Neil takes over as the SF D-Coordinator after seeing success in all previous NFL stops, including the past two seasons as Cleveland’s D-Coordinator.

 

 

Seattle Seahawks

  • Overview – I’m not sure what to make of Seattle’s general offseason strategy.  Losing Marshawn Lynch was quite foreseeable and to be expected.  Beyond that, letting Bruce Irvin and Russell Okung walk while focusing resign efforts on part-time starting CB Jeremy Lane, skilled but complementary at best WR Jermaine Kearse and mediocre run-stopper Ayhta Rubin.
  • Offense – Seattle’s O-Line was one of the worst in the league in 2015 and they let Okung walk. Russell Wilson is the exact QB that can allow for team success despite an inferior line, however even he has limits.  Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael look to form an effective pair at RB and the Doug Baldwin/Tyler Lockett pairing appear to have an ever-increasing WR ceiling in their young careers.  Jimmy Graham I expect to fizzle from here….I know that may be an unpopular opinion, but I think he benefitted from Drew Brees and Sean Payton a lot more than they did Jimmy.
  • Fantasy Impact – I expect Seattle to take a big step back in 2016.  I don’t think the continual lack of attention to the OL is a recipe for success.  An injury to Wilson or Baldwin could spell real doom for what appeared to be a fringe dynasty team just 15 months ago.  RB Michael’s performance down the stretch is possibly enough to cannibalize from Rawls as well.  I do believe Lockett continues to mold into a very effective WR, and likely becomes a week by week starter in most fantasy formats, but otherwise I am probably a seller of most Seattle skill players this season at their projected draft position.
  • Defense – Losing Bruce Irvin and Brandon Mebane hurts both the pass rush and the run stoppage, but as much consternation as I have for the Hawk offense, I just don’t feel the same towards their defense.  I guess that’s called sanity when you still boast the likes of Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett and company.  Not to mention the most effective home crowd in the league.  The D will be just fine here.
  • Draft – First round: 26th overall selection; Second round: 56th overall selection
  • CoachingPete Carroll certainly likes to go against the grain, and in most ways it tends to pay off.  Seattle is often on the cutting edge of technique and process.  I just don’t know what to make of the lack of concern for the OL, but I am certain that there is a strategy going on behind the scene

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