2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 5: Cardinals 17, 49ers 10
What an interesting, weird, ugly at times game.
The Trey Lance debut. The undefeated Cardinals. No George Kittle. Arizona scoring a bunch of points all season but struggling here, while shutting out the 49ers for the 1st-half.
It was only 10-7 Arizona halfway into the 4th-quarter…and then the Cards held on to win 17-10, but it was touch-and-go all 2nd-half.
My rewatch confirmed what I thought I saw live: San Francisco made a lot of mistakes…rookie/Lance mistakes and had a bunch of offensive holding penalties to start drives or ones declined by Arizona for tactical reasons. With all the sloppiness, the 49ers really went toe-to-toe with Arizona…and had a few things/inches go against them to ruin SF taking early momentum away.
The Cardinals stopped an early 4th & 1 attempt around midfield by SF, and then the next series on a 4th & goal run by Lance that looked like an easy score but the Cardinals DBs hit Lance like a Mack truck at the goal line and dropped him cold…inches away from the score…which really took the SF momentum away.
The Arizona Cardinals defense won this game more than anything. It’s such a good defense…and it rises to the occasion on 3rd and 4th-downs in key spots like an elite defense should.
Arizona is (5-0) now, best record in football/the only undefeated team left, but lucky to not be (3-2). This is a really good team, capable of beating any team in the league…but they absolutely do not look like the best team in football to me. NFC West winners. Possible Super Bowl NFC reps…possible winners of the Super Bowl even, but they are not as aesthetically (to me) good as Buffalo, Cleveland, or the L.A. Chargers. The Cardinals seem just a hair shy/not ready…but close, and maybe grows into it. Best team in the NFC? I am fine saying that…Dallas, Green Bay, and Tampa Bay will have their say in that too.
The 49ers are on a 3-game skid, now (2-3) and the season is about to get away from them. They just don’t have the talent of the Cards or the Rams in division, plus they are constantly injury riddled. If they lose to Arizona again in Week 9, and then lose to the Rams Week 10…then they probably throw in the towel on the season…but Week 8 end/going into Week 9 is the NFL trade deadline. Two losses Week 7-8 and still banged up…SF may cash out at the deadline and start prepping for 2022. Either way, I don’t believe the 49ers are winning the NFC West or going to the playoffs…and haven’t thought that going back to August.
There were three key rookie performances to discuss here (Lance, Mitchell, Rondale), and I’ll do that last…we’ll clear the other notes first, because I want to dig in on the rookies.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Kyler Murray (22-31 for 239 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) didn’t have a great FF game. His first dud of 2021. He had a rushing TD opportunity near the goal line but was cut off by a good defensive play. He had an easy, wide-open short TD toss to DeAndre Hopkins but threw it soft down by his knees and Hopkins couldn’t bring it in, leading to a field goal instead. Arizona’s 1st TD was a screen to Rondale Moore, who went 30+ yards for the score, but then upon further review…Arizona’s favorite play of 2021…out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Setting up a you-know-who TD (Conner).
It wasn’t a gem, but it was nearly normal Kyler scoring. No need to worry about his effectiveness. He did hurt his shoulder a bit, nothing horrific, and kept playing, but it brought back memories of his shoulder injury late last year that he played through and his FF numbers started to fall because of it. All we can do his hold our breath and see. He has been a limited practice this week, so that’s a sign he’s good enough to play through it. And Friday he was removed from the practice report, so all good-to-go.
-- I will keep saying: Sell Deebo Samuel (1-13-1, 3-58-0/9) HIGH.
It’s not ‘sell Deebo at all costs’. It’s not ‘sell Deebo before he busts’. It’s just he’s running as a top 3-5 FF WR in scoring right now, but his play does not match the output – it’s been a couple lucky long TDs, pushing yards and the TDs. He got a rushing TD here to keep the party going, which is good for Deebo owners…because his receiving game was pretty bad here – 3 catches on 9 targets and three drops.
Lance throws a different kind of ball, and it’s off target a lot…and coming in hot…so there’s that but there cannot be a pitch-and-catch relationship with Lance established for Deebo at this point. And if Jimmy G. is back, then it’s a wimpy passing game again.
Deebo’s trading at peak value, and I want to use that to get something major for him before he does fall off in value. I don’t mind holding him, but I have been trying for three weeks to turn him into gold bars. I continue to do so through the bye. You can hold this week and see what needs you have after this week…and any recipients of him in a trade would be getting him to play Week 7…good for trade value. Buyers of Deebo in his bye week are more trying to bargain hunt a bit.
-- Chase Edmonds (6-15-0, 3-19-0/4) had a shoulder injury coming in, but still played his normal snap share…just not a lot of touches in this game flow.
Edmonds is a nice PPR RB2-2.5, good catch counts/no rushing TDs…he is what he is right now. I’ll hold for depth/usage…I’ll trade in a deal trying to upgrade. I’m not locked into him one way or the other in this offense, and more reason why coming up in a few segments.
-- As I was finishing this piece, the Cardinals traded for Zach Ertz. It’s the move a team going for the title makes…and a desperate one because of the Maxx Williams injury.
It’s an upgraded situation for Ertz, because it’s a better pass game than Philly…and no longer splitting attention with Dallas Goedert. But I don’t equivocate that Ertz is now some TE1 with a bullet moving to Arizona. The Cardinals have never featured the TE. Ertz is new to the offense. This could take 2-3 weeks to even show a spark. People think it’s the greatest deal for Arizona, thus the Ertz value pops – I’m willing to sell the steak based on the sizzle.
I’m not buying Ertz. I’ll either hold or sell.
-- One final note before we get to the rookies…the Arizona Defense.
You know it warms my heart/drives me insane every time I listen to pregame or post-game highlights chatter or some random FF show on TV during the day in the background of my office, where the ‘smart’ analyst says…hey, this Arizona defense isn’t bad – as if they discovered (5 weeks in) it first and are hipping the ignorant masses to it now (but even the analysts don’t really believe it).
Raise your hand if you’ve had the Arizona-DST for the last 3-6 weeks? You’re welcome.
Your support of FFM allows me to put in the time to watch all these preseason games and regular season games, and college draft study games all year ‘round so that I can find these gems 3-6 weeks ahead of THEM and bring it to you for your consideration. It’s real work. It’s not the glamour job you think, but it beats a lot of occupations! And I need to produce magical football finds or there’s no reason to support the cause. We produced some magic with the Arizona Defense with good old fashioned scouting. It takes time and experience, which your support allows us to do.
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It’s possible the QBs for Arizona-DST to face ahead are: Baker-Mills-Rodgers-Jimmy G.-Darnold-Geno-BYE-Fields-Stafford-Goff-Wentz-Dak (through Week 17). The problem/not optimal weeks are Week’s 8 (GB), Week 12 (BYE), Week 14 (LAR).
Just noting, the L.A. Chargers-DST has Mac Jones (Wk8), Teddy B. (Wk12), and Dan Jones (Wk14). A sweet pairing the rest of the way, with two high-end defensive units…ARI and LAC.
OK, the three rookie reports…
-- (1) Rondale Moore (3-38-0, 5-59-0/6).
One of the best plans for a WR by an O-C/HC this season this side of the Kadarius Toney event Week 5. Moore had half the carries starting RB Chase Edmonds had in this game…and some of them as a straight up RB…not a jet sweep WR.
Moore’s carries the last three weeks: 1-2-3.
One of his catches in this game was a catch-and-run gem for a TD but ruled out a yard short.
Moore is only playing 40%+ of the snaps in games, but when he’s in they are having him in the backfield and throwing designed bubble screens. It’s game-on with Moore. We need to own him and get ready for the breakout that may have already started. He doesn’t have to start or play all the snaps to be a WR2.
He’s the best FF WR from the 2021 NFL Draft…ahead of Kadarius Toney, but Toney closing fast.
-- (2) Elijah Mitchell (9-43-0, 2-19-0/2) returned to action.
Last we saw him, he took over the backfield Week 1 from injured Mostert, and then got hurt himself Week 2. He’s a pros pro. Just a smart, talented, non-attention seeking back…and not-super tall or super-speedy or 225+ pounds. He’s just a ‘plus’ athlete with a great feel for running the ball between the tackles. He reminds me of Damien Harris or a thicker/smarter Darrell Henderson.
Fears to address:
Does Trey Lance hurt Mitchell for FF? Yes, to some degree…because Lance will take a lot of rushing numbers. But Mitchell will still be that 15+ touch a game guy. But note the next few weeks will probably be the final acts of Jimmy G., and then you might see Mitchell with 20+ carries a game.
Do Trey Sermon or JaMycal Hasty or Jeff Wilson scare you? No. I think Shanahan found his guy. One of the other guys will be the 25% part of a 75/25 split. Lance is more the fear for taking short TDs, etc., for FF. Trey Sermon played 2 snaps in this game, if you want to know where he stands with Shanny right now.
I mention all this to say… Mitchell has been out for weeks, then this FF meh, then a bye. He’s getting outta sight, outta mind. Then the Jeff Wilson people are gonna start howling soon. They already are. It’s all reducing Mitchell’s value down to an RB2.5-3.0.
If you go straight up asking for Mitchell in a deal, you’ll raise flags. If you just toss Mitchell in as a body to a multiplayer deal…you can get him with little resistance.
One of the best low-key bargains out there this week is Elijah Mitchell…a solid RB1.75-2.0, maybe 1.5…trading as a ‘who cares’ RB2.5-3.0.
-- (3) Finally, the Trey Lance (15-29 for 192 yards, 0 TDs/1 INT, 16-89-0) full starter debut.
I’ve been cautious on Lance. He really isn’t ready for pocket passing NFL games, fully. He’s making many rookie passer mistakes and is erratic with his passes…rarely throws to a WR on the money. All the flaws were on full display in this game.
But so-to was all the reasons to love him.
Lance in the pocket = bad.
Lance moving around to make plays = good.
Trey Lance has gone from skittish-to-run rookie in the preseason to Week 4 you started to see his elite movement skills, and then they were on full display here – Lance is like a hybrid version of Jalen Hurts and 1st-year Josh Allen right now. Sixth sense movement, way faster feet than Allen, with the cannon arm like Allen…with all the erratic-ness of 1st-year Allen.
The career floor is = Never gets better than erratic 2nd-year Josh Allen.
The career ceiling is = Better version of Josh Allen. He’s got the same arm skill, but a terrible delivery with faster feet.
Lance, in his ‘still baking’ cake-state, being thrown in against Arizona, of all defenses, was going to be a chore. But I thought he handled it better than expected. He was a running weapon. 16 carries. Josh Allen has never run the ball 16 times in a game in the NFL. Lamar Jackson hasn’t rushed it more than 16 times since 2019 (Week 17, 17 times). Right now, Lance is a running weapon who could also pass – that’s a good thing for FF production.
Jalen Hurts isn’t pretty, but he always makes plays because of his feet…even if that’s passing plays on the move. Lance could be the better Hurts in short order but isn’t the better Hurts right now.
Lance as a bust who never gets his passing together is still on the table. Not every story is now ‘But, Josh Allen did it!’ Josh Allen’s conversion from wild cannon-arm guy to NFL MVP in three seasons is the exception, to this point, not the rule in recent NFL history. But for a debut against a defense like Arizona…this was very encouraging for Lance’s future.
And there’s no way Jimmy G. is keeping that job as Lance redshirts (per Shanahan’s wishes) unless the 49ers blaze a win streak, and that’s not likely to happen. I suspect Lance will take over (after) if SF loses to Indy Week 7…or if they lose to Chicago Week 8. The only way SF has a chance of beating ARI-LAR Weeks 9-10 is with Lance.
Ross Jacobs has been calling for the Trey Lance revolution all along. This was the first real shot fired in that event to come.
Snap Counts of Interest:
56 = Hopkins
49 = AJ Green
33 = Kirk
29 = Moore
37 = Edmonds
29 = Conner
56 = Deebo
46 = Aiyuk
30 = Sanu
44 = Mitchell
02 = Sermon