It’s only right to end my summer-long bold prediction series with the NFC West. After all, the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams play in this division. While they look to repeat, there have been plenty of changes amongst the other three teams with the goal of dethroning the Rams. With those changes come plenty of fantasy football implications.
Each week, I have highlighted one bold prediction from each team, division by division, until the start of the 2022 NFL season. These predictions all hopefully get the gears in your head turning. Most are positive, but some may be negative. The likeliness that every single one of these predictions hits is certainly not 100%. However, they should generate some buzz or cause you to think twice about each player. Just be confident in your feelings when you’re on the clock. Be sure to check out my Fantrax author page for every other division’s bold predictions as well as follow me on Twitter @Colin_McT for plenty more fantasy football content.
A Fantasy Football Bold Prediction for Each NFC West Team
McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Marquise Brown finishes as the overall WR1
I’m not here to tell you that Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is “the next Cooper Kupp.” I am here to tell you he is undervalued ahead of the 2022 fantasy football season. Brown, like Kupp in 2021, is a prime candidate to be the next consensus mid-round pick to explode in fantasy football.
Brown is coming off of a breakout season in Baltimore. His 91 receptions and 1,008 receiving yards from last season are both career-highs. Brown’s ability to achieve those numbers is even more impressive given quarterback, Lamar Jackson, only played in 12 games due to injury. Furthermore, since Hollywood Brown has been a Baltimore Raven, the team has ranked 1st, 1st, and 3rd respectively in total rush attempts per season. With slightly more passing in Baltimore last season, Brown saw 146 of the team’s targets, up from 100 the year prior, and good enough for a 25% share.
Marquise Brown is now an Arizona Cardinal following a draft night trade back in April. He reunites with his college quarterback, Kyler Murray, as a result. Murray is one of the best deep-ball passers in the NFL and, at the very least, an upgrade over Lamar Jackson in that regard. In addition to fitting in better in Arizona, Brown is going to see a massive target share. Not only is DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first six games, but the Cardinals let wide receiver, Christian Kirk, and pass-catching running back, Chase Edmonds, walk in free agency. Those three players accounted for 53% of the Cardinals’ target share from Weeks 1 through 6 last season.
Not only will Brown command Hopkins, Kirk, and Edmonds’ vacated targets at the start of the season, but upon Hopkins’ return, he should see less attention, as well. Brown will excel on this pass-heavier offense and should be a favorite target of Kyler Murray’s. There is an abundance of talent at the wide receiver position that makes Brown’s chances to finish at the top a bold prediction. Just being in the conversation makes him one of the best return on investment picks this fantasy football season.
Los Angeles Rams
McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Cam Akers finishes outside the top-25 running backs
Please understand that what Cam Akers did in 2021 is nothing short of remarkable. Returning from a July Achilles tear to play in the same season just five months later is something we’ve never seen before. That’s key.
We have seen players, like D’Onta Foreman, Marlon Mack, and others, return to form, but years after tearing their Achilles, if they’re able to return at all. Akers’ current ADP is RB18 which is typically a fourth round pick. My bold prediction is he finishes more as a flex than an RB2, or for some hopefuls, an RB1, this season.
During the 2021-22 playoffs, Akers carried the ball 67 times in the Super Bowl champion Rams’ four-game title run. On those 67 carries, he averaged a measly 2.6 yards per carry without finding the end zone. He caught a singular 40-yard pass in their first playoff game, but then just seven more for 36 total yards the rest of the way. Furthermore, the Rams have targeted their running backs a league-low 12.63% of the team over the last two seasons.
Akers is known to have been dealing with a soft tissue injury during training camp. Quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is also dealing with an elbow injury of his own. The Rams’ offensive line is lacking the strong veteran presence of Andrew Whitworth from years prior, too. Lastly, Darrell Henderson’s presence should also limit Akers’ opportunities in this backfield while Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, and others dominate the receiving work.
There is just too much working against Akers for the 2022 fantasy football season. I’m not willing to invest my championship hopes into a running back in his situation with the draft capital it requires. Let this be a bold prediction that guides you similarly.
San Francisco 49ers
McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Trey Lance leads all quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns
If you have doubts about Trey Lance because of Jimmy Garropolo’s return to San Francisco, I’m going to direct you to this Trey Lance 2022 update from Fantrax’ own, Meng Song. He is one of Lance’s biggest advocates for this fantasy football season. It’s a must-read.
Now, it’s my turn to hype up Lance. First of all, this is Lance’s first off-season as the clear-cut starter. Even with Garropolo coming back, he hasn’t been practicing with the team until just this past week. Secondly, in last year’s draft, the 49ers made a major move to go up and get Lance with the third-overall pick. That said, they understand what he brings to the table and figure to emphasize his skillset.
What Lance brings to the table is rushing upside. His 967 rushing yards on designed runs from 2019-2020 rank first amongst all quarterbacks in the 2021 draft class. Additionally, 66% of Lance’s rushing attempts, in limited action last year, were designed runs.
Jimmy Garropolo only ran the ball 38 times during last year’s regular season. He also logged just 55 passing attempts, the 17th-most, in the red zone. The San Francisco 49ers rank fourth in team red zone scoring from last season. The key here is that if the 49ers can move the ball similarly to their 2021 success, Lance is going to be a major factor in the run game. This is a slight knock to Elijah Mitchell’s value and likely decreases Deebo Samuel’s touches, as well.
When the Niners are in scoring position, look for Lance to punch it in. That’s what he does best and the team knows it. It wouldn’t be the first time a second-year player, with his first full season as a starter, led all quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns. Jalen Hurts did it last year with the Philadelphia Eagles.
McTamany’s Bold Prediction: D.K. Metcalf averages the most fantasy football points per game in his career
D.K. Metcalf is entering his fourth NFL season. In his first three seasons, Metcalf’s points per game averages are 11.1, 17.0, and 14.4 respectively. Metcalf’s also on a three-year streak of setting career-highs in receiving touchdowns each season with 7, then 10, and 12 last season. As a result, 22.4%, 22.1%, and 29.4% of his fantasy points have been a result of his touchdown totals. If Metcalf is going to live up to my bold prediction, he is likely going to need to score. A lot.
The Seahawks’ decision to trade Russell Wilson to Denver is one of the biggest moves of the off-season, especially for fantasy football. As a result, Metcalf’s WR18 Average Draft Position is lower than the last two seasons. With Geno Smith winning the starting job for 2022, many fantasy football managers are fading Metcalf completely.
Last season, Smith took over for Wilson following a finger injury. With Smith under center, Metcalf averaged 19.6 points per game. He finished as the WR4 from Weeks 5 through 8 behind just Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase, and A.J. Brown. He scored five of his 12 touchdowns last season during that span, as well.
Metcalf’s competition for targets in 2022 are 29-turning-30-year-old Tyler Lockett, Dee Eskridge, Noah Fant, and Marquise Goodwin among others not worth talking about. Not only will D.K. dominate this team’s target share, but his 19 red zone targets last season tied for 14th in the entire league.
The bottom line is that Geno Smith might not tank Metcalf’s fantasy value as badly as you think. His floor is what makes everyone nervous, but the ceiling is a volume-based WR1. I’m betting on the player in addition to a successful sample size with Geno Smith last season for this bold prediction. With where he’s going in drafts, he’s an easy add to every roster.