Fantasy Football Draft Danger Zone: NFC West Picks That Could Doom Your Team

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We’re currently in that mystical preseason place where anything can happen with your fantasy football squad. (Remember to get that lewd joke or Simpsons-based team name sorted out in advance.) Optimism is plentiful, you’ve decided to never trust Jeremy Langford again, and your would-be superteam is destined for glory. We at UPROXX believe in you and your holy quest and we want to help.

Every NFL squad always has a player (or six) that are bound to seduce you into drafting them too high and put you in some variety of Archer certified Danger Zone. These are the sort of fantasy options that could still pay off huge, but come with some serious questions before you make your official selection. We’ve wrangled together a tidy collection of 32 players (one for each team, including the dead mall of a football club that is the New York Jets) that we think are worth having a think about before joining your roster.

Today we visit the NFC West and quite possibly a little tiny part of ourselves. Mostly the first thing. Come along!

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals – QB Carson Palmer

Reason To Salivate: The Cards are in line for one last big hurrah (an appropriate old man noise) from Carson Palmer before he packs it in, and he’s doing so in an offense that generated 26.1 points-per-game (the NFL’s 6th highest ppg average) in what was considered a disappointing year for the offense. Palmer currently sits at the no. 20 spot in the FantasyPros consensus ADP rankings for quarterbacks, but he’s coming off a season in which he finished in the league’s Top 10 in touchdown and yardage columns and narrowly cracked the completions Top 10 as well. (Once again, this was an “off” year.) Palmer’s has Larry Fitzgerald and god rusher extraordinaire David Johnson to lean on, plus a healthy John Brown should help things along handsomely.

Reason To Worry: Aging quarterbacks aren’t designed to get lit up for 40 sacks behind a mediocre offensive line, but that’s what happened to Palmer in 2016. He’ll have to rely on that tissue paper protection again, as well as the faith that primary target Larry Fitzgerald will be consistent all season (never a promise for a thirty-something-era Fitzgerald) and have John Brown and J.J. Nelson live up to expectations in the Cardinals attack. The rise of Johnson as a superstar rusher has led head coach Bruce Arians to declare he wants to give the star back 30 carries a game. That spells trouble for Palmer’s passing numbers. It’s tempting to think sleeper with Palmer, but exercise caution before banking on a sneaky Palmer revival. Also, exercise caution when thinking about how you acted around a grade school crush. That’s an unrelated recommendation, but still something I’ll gab at you if you’re taking sizzling hot tips.

Los Angeles Rams – WR Tavon Austin

Reason To Salivate: Tavon Austin is a name brand weapon for Los Angeles’ longest-serving active NFL franchise and in 2016 he quietly racked up career-high totals in receptions and receiving yardage for the Rams. A dual threat on the ground and in the air, Austin could emerge as essential in the new head coach Sean McVay’s new regime. As Washington’s offensive coordinator, he was key to Kirk Cousins leading WSH to the 2nd best passing attack in the NFL. The Rams, who scored a league-worst 14 points-per-game in 2016, are in line to see their offensive numbers receive a boost. Is this someone that you want to let fall to go underrated and have scorch you during your 2017 campaign?

Reason To Worry: Tavon Austin doesn’t wind up on your waiver wire two to three times a year because things are always hunky dory. (Howdy wildly inconsistent week-to-week fantasy totals.) Austin’s receiving numbers went up in 2016, but his rushing totals hit the skids. Not helping matters is the league-worst offense that McVay is being tasked with draining the suck out of. Todd Gurley’s attempt at a bounce back campaign isn’t gussying up Austin’s ground totals and that tiny lil’ hurdle of Quarterback of the Future™ Jared Goff unleashing a coiled turd of a rookie season doesn’t bode well for Austin elevating his receiving numbers. The sudden arrival of Sammy Watkins this summer knocks down Austin’s value and his share of the fantasy points pie. (Legal/Culinary Note: Not a real pie.) Austin isn’t being snapped up in most drafts anyway, so why not wait until he’s a streaming option for a torchable matchup?

San Francisco 49ers – RB Carlos Hyde

Reason To Salivate: Like the Rams, the 49ers have a glitzy new head coach (Kyle Shanahan) to hug and squeeze into itty-bitty pieces of wunderkind football moxie. That means Niners running back Carlos Hyde is pairing up with the offensive coordinator of Atlanta’s league-best scoring attack, which sounds like a lovely thing. In a disastrous 2016 campaign for San Francisco, Hyde was a dazzling bright spot with 4.6 yards-per-carry and was 12 yards shy of cracking 1,000 yards in his 13 appearances last season. That sturdy offensive line in front of Hyde is pretty alluring too.

Reason To Worry: The arrival of Kyle Shanahan might equal good things for San Francisco’s offense, but it doesn’t guarantee improvement for Hyde’s numbers. Tim Hightower and 4th round pick Joe Williams (who could steal Hyde’s job with his skill set) are gunning for featured spots in the Niners attack. The consensus ADP on Hyde right now is 35th overall (16th among RBs) and a third round pick is a big gamble on a player returning from MCL damage that’s never gone injury-free in his pro career. Even if he’s on the field for 16 games, Hyde is likely to see his all-purpose TDs shrink with the influx of new SF receivers and the competition at running back. Draft ahead of round 5 at your own risk.

Seattle Seahawks – RB Eddie Lacy

Reason To Salivate: Have you seen Eddie Lacy in one of those insane Seattle color rush uniforms? That’s a visual worth backing for a variety of reasons, including the occasional professional football ones. Seahawks fans might be inclined to fantasize that Lacy can be a Marshawn Lynch-esque threat in the running game with Pete Carroll getting the most out of the ex-Packer. Lacy, who has never averaged under 4.1 yards-per-carry in a season, could be in line for a lot of goal line work which means a potential bounty of TDs for the fifth-year rusher. There are certainly worse options among RB2s than a Super Bowl contender’s new scoring threat, right?

Reason To Worry: As we speak, Thomas Rawls is currently serving as the lead back in training camp activity. This doesn’t spell doom for Lacy, but it’s no help for a running back (with team dictated weight expectations) that’s coming off a season-ending ankle injury and doesn’t evade in the style of Rawls. Plus, CJ Prosise is also looking to make an impact in Seattle’s rushing mix. The Seahawks have a dreadful offensive line that’s expected to once again leave their QB and rushers wide open for vicious hits. That’s rarely a good thing for the folks taking that battle damage no matter how big or small the victim. I don’t buy into Lacy being worth his 71st overall consensus ADP status. You can definitely get better value in the 7th round, so weigh your options first.