GET: TE Jimmy Graham, CB Cary Graham, CB Will Blackmon, RB Fred Jackson, DT Ahtyba Rubin
LOSE: CB Byron Maxwell, C Max Unger, DT Kevin Williams, OLB Malcolm Smith, OLB O’Brien Schofield, G Stephen Schilling, G James Carpenter, QB Tarvaris Jackson, TE Tony Moeaki
RE-SIGNS: RB Marshawn Lynch, FB Will Tukuafu, DT D’Anthony Smith
DRAFT: 2nd round: DE Frank Clark, Michigan 3rd round: WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State 4th round: OT Terry Poole, San Diego State G Mark Glowinski, West Virginia 5th round: CB Tye Smith, Towson 6th round: DE Obum Gwacham, Oregon State DE Kristjan Sokoli, Buffalo 7th round: S Ryan Smith-Murphy, Oregon State
SUMMARY: The Seahawks look primed to return to the Super Bowl for a third straight year. If they do, it will be the first time since Jim Kelly’s Bills that a team made it to the Super Bowl three consecutive years. With the play-makers and talent this team has, they come into this season as my favorite to win the Super Bowl. They signed a lot of their young talent over the offseason and re-signing Lynch was huge. Lynch comes into this season as the league’s top back and the Seahawks success hinges on him carrying this offense. With that said, the offensive line needs improved. Trading for Jimmy Graham may have been the biggest move of the offseason, but I remain skeptical of how he will be inserted into the offense. Graham isn’t known for his run-blocking and with the Seahawks being so run-heavy, I’m unsure how he’ll make an impact. The insane contract Seattle signed Russell Wilson to was a gross overpay. When Wilson has to be the star of the offense, he struggles. He’s a game manager, similar to Alex Smith, and making him one of the league’s highest-paid players is a move I think management will regret.
However, the only way Seattle loses their grip on the NFC is if Dan Quinn’s departure causes the defense to lose their identity and if the offensive line struggles to run block. If Lynch is stuffed, I have little confidence in the receiving tandem of Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. Tyler Lockett looks like an exciting commodity though.
For fantasy, Lynch, the Seahawks defense and perhaps Lockett in deeper leagues.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 12-4
Week 1: @STL Week 2: @GB Week 3: vs. CHI Week 4: vs. DET Week 5: @CIN Week 6: vs. CAR Week 7: @SF Week 8: @DAL Week 9: BYE Week 10: vs. ARI Week 11: vs. SF Week 12: vs. PIT Week 13: @MIN Week 14: @BAL Week 15: vs. CLE Week 16: vs. STL Week 17: @ARI
ST. LOUIS RAMS
GET: QB Nick Foles, DT Nick Fairley, OLB Akeem Ayers, QB Case Keenum
LOSE: DE Alex Carrington, LT Jake Long, RB Zac Stacy, QB Sam Bradford, DT Kendall Langford, OT Joe Barksdale, QB Shaun Hill
RE-SIGNS: TE Lance Kendricks, WR Kenny Britt
DRAFT: 1st round: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia 2nd round: OT Robert Havenstein, Wisconsin 3rd round: OT Jamon Brown, Louisville QB Sean Mannion, Oregon State 4th round: OT Andrew Donnal, Iowa 6th round: WR Bud Sasser, Missouri G Cody Wichmann, Fresno State 7th round: ILB Bryce Hager, Baylor DE Martin Ifedi, Memphis
SUMMARY: The St. Louis Rams may have the best defensive line in football. The Seahawks are great but the argument could be made that the Rams have surpassed them. Chris Long, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn, and Nick Fairley complete an undersized defensive line, but they make up for it with their speed. Few backs will surpass 100 yards against this defensive front. Alec Ogletree, the always reliable James Laurinaitis and Akeem Ayers complete what should be one of the best front sevens in football. The secondary will have room to grow with the buffer this front seven will deliver. On offense, 20th in rushing and 23rd in passing should improve considerably now that the offense is playing with starters instead of the second-stringers and in some cases third-stringers that had to start last season. The offensive line is still struggling. That’s got to change. If it does, the Rams will contend for a wild-card spot.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 9-7
Week 1: vs. SEA Week 2: @WAS Week 3: vs. PIT Week 4: @ARI Week 5: @GB Week 6: BYE Week 7: vs. CLE Week 8: vs. SF Week 9: @MIN Week 10: vs. CHI Week 11: @BAL Week 12: @CIN Week 13: vs. ARI Week 14: vs. DET Week 15: vs. TB Week 16: @SEA Week 17: @SF
GET: G Mike Iupati, DE Cory Redding, LB Sean Witherspoon, RB Chris Johnson, LB LaMarr Woodley, LB Darryl Sharpton, DT Corey Peters, CB Alfonzo Dennard
LOSE: CB Antonio Cromartie, DT Darnell Dockett, LB John Abraham, LB Larry Foote, S Adrian Wilson, DT Dan Williams, RB Jonathan Dwyer, DT Tommy Kelly, TE Rob Housler, WR Ted Ginn, Jr., QB Ryan Lindley
RE-SIGNS: WR Larry Fitzgerald
DRAFT: 1st round: OT D.J. Humphries, Florida 2nd round: DE Markus Golden, Missouri 3rd round: RB David Johnson, Northern Iowa 4th round: DT Rodney Gunter, Delaware State 5th round: DE Shaq Riddick, West Virginia WR J.J. Nelson, UAB 7th round: TE Gerald Christian, Louisville
SUMMARY: Arizona was hot to start last year but once Palmer was ruled out for the year, Arizona’s future slowly crumbled. Palmer’s inability to stay healthy is a concern and the Arizona backfield is weak. Arizona is the only team in the NFC West that hasn’t boosted their backfield in recent years. Andre Ellington has great burst but also has suffered injuries in recent years, leading to the team finishing second to last in rushing in 2014. Larry Fitzgerald on almost any other team would be a top-15 receiver but has slowly disappeared into the background because of the continued setbacks in Arizona. He and Michael Floyd form an adequate receiving tandem and when Palmer’s healthy, the chemistry is there but injuries have plagued this team the last two seasons and I don’t see that changing because these players have just gotten another year old. The departure of some of the team’s franchise players, including Antonio Cromartie, Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson leaves Arizona with a young group and little veteran leadership. With the secondary the Cardinals have, there’s no excuse for their 29th ranking against the pass. I just don’t think Arizona is built for the long run.
If you have a solid backup, Palmer is a competent starter and I’ve been drafting Ellington despite his recent injury issues. I’d wait to see how the Cards’ defense does before I draft them.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 7-9
Week 1: vs. NO Week 2: @CHI Week 3: vs. SF Week 4: vs. STL Week 5: @DET Week 6: @PIT Week 7: vs. BAL Week 8: @CLE Week 9: BYE Week 10: @SEA Week 11: vs. CIN Week 12: @SF Week 13: @STL Week 14: vs. MIN Week 15: @PHI Week 16: vs. GB Week 17: vs. SEA
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
GET: WR Torrey Smith, CB Shareece Wright, RB Reggie Bush, LB Philip Wheeler, WR Jerome Simpson
LOSE: G Mike Iupati, LB Patrick Willis, LB Chris Borland, LB Dan Skuta, DL Justin Smith, RB Frank Gore, CB Chris Culliver, CB Perrish Cox, WR Michael Crabtree, T Jonathan Martin, WR Steve Johnson, WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Trindon Holliday
RE-SIGNS: CB Chris Cook, S Craig Dahl, QB Blaine Gabbert
DRAFT: 1st round: DE Arik Armstead, Oregon 2nd round: S Jaquiski Tartt, Samford 3rd round: OLB Eli Harold, Virginia 4th round: TE Blake Bell, Oklahoma RB Mike Davis, South Carolina WR DeAndre Smelter, Georgia Tech 5th round: P Bradley Pinion, Clemson 6th round: G Ian Silberman, Boston College 7th round: G Trent Brown, Florida TE Rory Anderson, South Carolina
The 49ers had quite possibly the worst offseason I’ve ever seen in my 21-plus years on this planet. Half of their team left shop. Four starting linebackers, (Willis, Borland, Skuta, Smith) gone. Three starting offensive lineman, (Iupati, Martin, Davis) gone. Two starting defensive lineman, (McDonald, Smith) gone. Both starting corners, (Culliver, Cox) gone. A starting running back and receiver, (Gore, Crabtree) gone.
Whether it was Jim Harbaugh’s brash coaching style or the fact that all of them felt like it was the right time to retire, I don’t know, but the 49ers that made two straight NFC Championship games are no more. They had one of the best defenses in the league for the last five years, but that train has left the station. Any 49ers fan that expects the same is being unrealistic.
Before the season has started, it seems fair to say the 49ers are back in the cellar of the NFC West. No stats from last year matter because this is a completely different team. There’s no way to determine how bad this team will be, but it’s not looking good. Kaepernick, as I originally predicted, was a one-hit wonder, and has shown to be an immature and not-at-all polished quarterback. With the offensive line San Fran has, it’s embarrassing that Kap found a way to get sacked 52 times last season, tied for third-most in the league.
The signing of Torrey Smith is interesting when you consider Kap’s inability to throw the deep ball and while I have a lot of confidence in Carlos Hyde, it seems unfair he’s expected to carry the whole offense by himself. Despite all of the losses on the defensive side of the ball, I could easily argue Frank Gore was the team’s biggest loss. Gore had been a stalwart in the backfield for a decade. He broached the 1,000-yard mark in eight seasons and missed 12 games in ten years, including none in the last four seasons. Frank Gore is the oldest starting running back in the league and while many consider that a cause for concern, I would argue it demonstrates his incredible ability to endure. Is his career coming to an end? Of course, but I think the signing of Gore should have been the 49ers’ top priority.
Next on that list should have been G Mike Iupati, one of the best guards in the league, but he was allowed to go to division rival Arizona.
The team just looks desolate. All of this team’s best play-makers have departed or retired. The departure of LB Chris Borland, who led the team in tackles last year, was especially painful. The team was hoping he could be their next franchise linebacker.
San Francisco’s secondary was weaker last year than it had been in the past and now has only fallen farther off the cliff. Safeties Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid will be expected to bail out its young corners. Thankfully, the Niners are deep at the safety position, with second-year safety Jimmie Ward ready to come in at a moment’s notice.
This team’s depth and starters have been cut in half and given their competition of the AFC and NFC North, San Francisco is looking at a down year for sure. It will give the young team a chance to prove themselves and show new coach Jim Tomsula what he has to work with, but little more than that. If the Niners expect to compete, these are the things that have got to happen:
- They’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback. Last year, San Francisco had a below-average 36 sacks. That won’t cut it.
- The secondary must hold. They led the league with 23 interceptions but there’s no way they can repeat that. The 86 passes defended, good for fifth in the league? That should be their goal.
- Hyde has to eclipse 1,000. With Kap’s imminent struggles ready to resume, Hyde must outperform him and make the transition from Gore as easy as possible.
- They’ve got to find offense. Last year, they averaged 19.1 ppg, 25th in the league. The teams below them? Washington, Cleveland, New York Jets, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Oakland and Jacksonville. Not the bunch you want to be with. The defense allowed 21.3 last year, good for tenth-best. That’s right, even with that highlight-reel roster, the team allowed more points than they scored.
Those are the four things that have got to happen if the Niners want to remain relevant, but I’d be surprised if two of those things happen let alone four. It will be an interesting year in San Francisco. We will know this team’s identity early on.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10
Week 1: vs. MIN Week 2: @PIT Week 3: @ARI Week 4: vs. GB Week 5: @NYG Week 6: vs. BAL Week 7: vs. SEA Week 8: @STL Week 9: vs. ATL Week 10: BYE Week 11: @SEA Week 12: vs. ARI Week 13: @CHI Week 14: @CLE Week 15: vs. CIN Week 16: @DET Week 17: vs. STL