2021 Fantasy Football Coach & Coordinator Breakdowns: NFC West

Senior analyst Michael Fabiano breaks down the fantasy history along with the potential of the NFC West coaches and offensive coordinators.
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These days, there's no shortage of information to prepare for your fantasy drafts. Heck, there might even be too much info! Well, I'm going to add to the madness with a look at how offensive coordinators and head coaches have run their offenses and what it might mean for the 2021 season. After all, coaches and OCs are the minds behind the chess game that is the National Football League. Some coaches like to run the football, thus producing a ton of fantasy points at the running back position. Others prefer the air assault, making fantasy heroes out of quarterbacks while loading up wide receivers and tight ends with oodles of targets and chances to score points in the passing attack.

Well, this article will break it all down for you.

Coaches & Coordinators Series
AFC
: East | North | South | West
NFC: East | North | South | West

We’ve already looked at the entire AFC, the NFC East, NFC North, and NFC South, so let’s wrap up with the NFC West. What you'll find below are each team’s current head coaches and offensive coordinators. I’ll discuss which positions have thrived or failed based on past statistics and fantasy finishes during their respective tenures in the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals

Head coach: Kliff Kingsbury (2020-present)

Offensive Coordinator: Kliff Kingsbury (2020-present)

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Kingsbury’s offense has helped to produce a pair of top-8 fantasy finishes for the mobile Kyler Murray. He ranked second at quarterback in RPO percentage (23.7) in 2021, and his 11 touchdowns on the ground were second at the position behind Cam Newton. Murray also tied for third among signal-callers in red zone rushing attempts with 24. He’ll be one of the first five quarterbacks selected in most fantasy redrafts.

The Cardinals' ground attack produced a pair of top-25 running backs last season as Kenyan Drake (RB16) and Chase Edmonds (RB25) both found levels of success. With Drake and his 264 touches no longer on the roster, James Conner figures to pick up a good portion of those opportunities. Edmonds is the better option in PPR formats, but this will be a committee situation where neither back brings more than flex value.

DeAndre Hopkins produced a WR4 season in his first year with the Cardinals, but he’s the lone wideout to finish better than WR35 in Kingsbury’s offense. With the addition of A.J. Green and rookie Rondale Moore to a passing attack that still includes Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, it’ll be tough for any wideout besides Hopkins to make an impact.

Cardinals' tight ends saw a combined 66 targets last season, and no player at that spot has finished better than 24th in fantasy points under Kingsbury. There’s no value here.

Los Angeles Rams

Head coach: Sean McVay (2017-present)

Offensive Coordinator: Kevin O’Connell (2020-present)

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The quarterback position has found success under McVay’s guidance with three top-8 finishes and one top-12. Those finishes came from Kirk Cousins (2015-2016) and Jared Goff (2017-2018). The addition of Matthew Stafford to an offense that could be one of the most explosive in the NFC is a positive, so Stafford has top-10 potential in 2021.

Todd Gurley had a pair of top-3 finishes and an RB14 season under McVay, but just one other running back (Alfred Morris – 2014) has ranked better than RB29 in his offensive system. That won’t be the case after 2021, however, as Cam Akers figures to be a bust-out candidate in the fantasy landscape. He averaged 21.7 touches and 16.3 fantasy points over his final seven games (including the playoffs) as a rookie. During that time, he received a solid 32.5 percent touch share compared to Darrell Henderson’s 9.6.

McVay’s wideouts have had varying degrees of success, but only one (Cooper Kupp – 2019) has finished in the top 10. Robert Woods has recorded a pair of top-15s, and Brandin Cooks was the WR13 in 2018. The upgrade from Goff to Stafford should be a good thing for Woods and Kupp, however, so expect both to be on the WR2 radar. The Rams added DeSean Jackson and rookie Tutu Atwell, but don’t expect much in 2021.

Tight ends have done relatively well under McVay, as the position has produced a trio of top-9 finishes. Two of those came in Washington with Jordan Reed, while the third was Tyler Higbee (2019). With Gerald Everett now in Seattle, Higbee could be a draft steal. Last season, Stafford threw to his tight ends 22 percent of the time. That ranked 13th among quarterbacks with at least 10 games. Goff was at 20.8 percent (16th).

San Francisco 49ers

Head coach: Kyle Shanahan (2017-present)

Offensive Coordinator: Mike McDaniel (2021)

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Shanahan’s offensive system has produced a total of three top-5 fantasy quarterbacks, but it hasn’t been that fruitful for Jimmy Garoppolo. His best finish was QB14 in 2019. It’s notable that Robert Griffin III, Shanahan’s most mobile quarterback, ranked as the QB4 as a rookie. His skill set is closest to Trey Lance of any signal-caller Shanahan has coached. Garoppolo will open as the starter, but the rookie could see some starts too.

Running backs have done well under Shanahan, as his offense has produced five top-8 finishes. Three other backs have put up RB19-RB24 ranks. Shanahan’s top runner has also seen at least 281 touches six times, so he’ll use a featured back when one is on the roster. The likely best bet to lead the team in touches now is Raheem Mostert, but don’t be surprised Trey Sermon earns a bigger offensive role as the season rolls on.

The wide receiver position has had some success, but not in recent seasons. In fact, no wideout in a Shanahan offense has finished better than WR31 (Deebo Samuel – 2019) during his time with the Niners. Brandon Aiyuk, who averaged more than 15 fantasy points a game as a rookie, could break the trend. He’s a potential break-out candidate. Samuel has shown some flashes in the past, but he’s missed 10 games in two years.

George Kittle has two top-3 finishes under Shanahan, and his 15.4 fantasy points per game average last season ranked third among tight ends. In all, Shanahan has coached four top-6 tight ends, while another (Fred Davis), finished 13th at the position in 2011. What’s more, Shanahan’s tight ends have averaged more than six targets a game eight different times, including four where his top option averaged 7.6 targets per game.

Seattle Seahawks

Head coach: Pete Carroll (2010-present)

Offensive Coordinator: Shane Waldron (2021)

Pete Carroll

Waldron has never been an offensive coordinator at the NFL level, but he did work with McVay for several seasons in Los Angeles. He was their tight ends coach in 2017 and has also served as a quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. In four years, the Rams ranked in the top 10 in passing yards three times. The team also ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards three times, so Waldron learned to run a balanced attack. In any event, Russell Wilson will remain a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 2021 redrafts.

Carroll wants a more balanced attack with a greater emphasis on the run, which should be good news for Chris Carson. He’s finished as high as RB12 under Carroll’s watch while also producing two other top-20 finishes. The loss of Carlos Hyde should open the door for Rashaad Penny to see more work, making him worth a late-round choice.

Wide receivers have ranked in the top 24 under Carroll eight times overall, but the two best performances came last season from DK Metcalf (WR7) and Tyler Lockett (WR8). Waldron has talked about keeping some aspects of the Seahawks offense from last year, so fantasy managers should expect both to remain highly involved this season.

The tight end position has produced five top-6 finishes, but just one player (Jimmy Graham) has ranked higher than 20th since 2017. The best fantasy option this season could be Everett, who Waldron is familiar with during their time together in Los Angeles. He’ll be worth a late-round selection as a No. 2 fantasy tight end in redrafts.


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Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!