Predictions and projections are beginning to fill our timelines as fall approaches. What does Vegas think of these four NFC West studs?
Optimism for the NFL season seems to be increasing as we creep into summer. Although we don’t know details, most are under the impression that games will be played, meaning fantasy football will take its rightful place at the forefront of our minds at some point in the fall (fingers crossed).
Regardless of whether you gamble, oddsmakers’ projections carry some validity. They say “Vegas knows,” for a reason. Even if you don’t partake, odds and projections can provide a realistic framework and projection for an individual player’s season.
I’ll be going through each team in the NFL, division by division, highlighting one player’s over/under numbers. Then, we’ll dig into the numbers and project whether said player will finish with a higher or lower figure than the one presented.
Let’s start with the NFC West.
All odds are via Bovada.
Arizona Cardinals – DeAndre Hopkins
2020 over/under projections: 93.5 receptions, 1,125.5 yards, 8.5 touchdowns
One of DeAndre Hopkins’ most underrated and undermentioned qualities is the fact that he doesn’t miss games. He’s played in 110 of the Texans’ 112 regular-season contests since he was drafted in 2013.
We know he’s someone who should be available throughout the season. Nobody can predict injuries, but you do have a good idea of the differences in players’ durability. Keep that in mind when evaluating players in startups – and when predicting what kind of season they might have. The best ability is availability.
Hopkins has averaged 100.8 catches during the past five seasons, totaling at least 96 in all but one. He’s been a target machine, averaging an incredible 166 per season over that span, more than 10 per game. If Kyler Murray has his way, that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Houston ran 30 more plays than Arizona in 2019, but the Cardinals still passed the ball 20 more times. The Texans threw the ball on 57.93 percent of their plays (22nd), and the Cardinals passed the ball 60.40 percent of the time. In Year 1 with Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals relied on the passing game, even though their time of possession was low: Arizona ranked 31st in time of possession yet was 21st in plays from scrimmage.
The only figure I wouldn’t count on here is the nine touchdown mark Hopkins would need to hit to cash in. Throughout his seven-year career, Hopkins has reached nine touchdowns just three times.
Projection: OVER 93.5 receptions, OVER 1,125.5 yards, UNDER 8.5 touchdowns.
If we were to take the baseline of the first two figures, and conservatively give Hopkins six touchdowns, that would equate to 242 fantasy points, which would have made him the 12th-rated PPR WR. That is his absolute floor (given our conservative estimations on the stats). He could end up crushing those figures, putting him into his usual place in the top five receivers.
Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff
2020 over/under projections: 24.5 touchdown passes, 4,350.5 passing yards
First off, before getting into projections, we’re always going to look at the player’s injury history to see if that should dampen our expectations. But we don’t need to fear injury with Goff; he has started all but one game for the Rams in the past three years.
The Rams’ massive jump in passing frequency directly coincides with Todd Gurley’s drop-off in efficacy. Gurley was the PPR RB1 in 2017 and the RB3 in 2018. During those two seasons, the Rams ranked 23rd and 24th in pass percentage, respectively. Last season, however, the Rams threw the ball at the eighth-highest rate, as Gurley slipped to high-end RB2 territory.
Goff wasn’t efficient last year – he ranked 19th in the NFL in completion percentage – but the volume was enough for him to eclipse 4,600 yards for the second consecutive season. The Rams likely will use a running back by committee approach in 2020. Without a true workhorse back, I think they will continue their trend of being one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league.
Projection: OVER 4,350.5 passing yards, OVER 24.5 touchdown passes
Goff could lose 300 yards of production from last season and still reach his projection, so I feel pretty confident in that figure. Despite losing Brandin Cooks, Goff still has Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee and Josh Reynolds. They also acquired Van Jefferson out of Florida in the second round of the draft. Combine those weapons with Sean McVay, and I think a third-straight 4,400-yard season is in the picture. As far as touchdowns go, Goff finished with 22 last season, and that was with Gurley rushing for 12 scores. I think he easily gets to 25, as he’s not even two years removed from throwing 32 touchdown passes in 2018, even in a year where Gurley rushed for 17 touchdowns.
If Goff reaches these figures and nothing higher, he’d finish with about 275 points, which would place him right around QB12. I think those numbers are not only manageable, but realistic.
San Francisco 49ers – George Kittle
2020 over/under projection: 1,075.5 receiving yards
Kittle only has one stat projected via over/under on Bovada: receiving yards. And of all the projections thus far, this is the one I have the least amount of confidence in predicting. Kittle racked up 1,377 yards in 2018 and followed it with 1,053 yards in 2019, despite missing two games. It’s assumed if Kittle plays every game, he’ll surpass this mark. He missed two games last season, but he has played in all but three games in his short career thus far.
San Francisco ranked second-to-last in pass percentage last season, electing to throw the ball on only 48.61 percent of their plays. The 49ers, along with Baltimore, were the only teams who elected to run more than pass. Although I don’t anticipate San Francisco suddenly becoming a pass-heavy team, I’d be surprised if they passed as little as they did in 2019.
Projection: OVER 1,075.5 receiving yards
The 49ers will have a larger target on their back this season, and if I had to guess, they’ll finish worse than 13-3 and will trail in more games. If you think Kittle can stay healthy, you take the over here. Only two tight ends managed to reach 1,075 yards last season: Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. If Kittle reaches this figure, he, in all likelihood, will once again finish as a top-three tight end.
Seattle Seahawks – D.K. Metcalf
2020 over/under projections: 62.5 receptions, 875.5 receiving yards
The Seahawls run the ball a lot, but Metcalf is, at worst, Seattle’s second-best weapon in the passing game. During the three previous seasons, Seattle’s No. 2 option in the passing game (Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham twice) averaged these season-long totals: 88 targets, 57.3 catches, 687 yards.
Despite only four games with eight or more targets, D.K. Metcalf impressed as a rookie, totaling 58 receptions for 900 yards and seven touchdowns. As a first-year receiver, he outperformed the average No. 2 Seahawks WR from the past three seasons.
Perhaps the most encouraging number: 100 targets, just 10 fewer than Tyler Lockett, who turned his 110 looks into 82 receptions for 1,057 yards.
Projection: OVER 62.5 receptions, OVER 875.5 receiving yards
We just saw, in Year 1, Metcalf put up numbers that rival Russell Wilson’s No. 1 receiver. Not only that, but last season we saw a continuation of what happens when Wilson is asked to sling it. He failed to surpass 500 attempts for the first four seasons of his career, but he has eclipsed that figure in three of the past four seasons.
Even if Metcalf doesn’t supplant Lockett as the team’s top weapon, he can hit his numbers with a marginal improvement on his catch rate. If he barely reached these numbers and scored five touchdowns, a conservative guess, he’d score 180.6 fantasy points, which would have made him WR30 last season (he finished as WR33). I’m expecting a much better finish for Metcalf in 2020, so I’ll take the over from both statistics pretty easily.