Prepping for the upcoming fantasy football season requires asking tough questions.

Which NFL teams are set up for success? Which teams are set to struggle? Where can fantasy managers mine for latent fantasy talent? Which brand-name stars could actually disappoint?

Throughout June, I’ll sift through every NFL division and highlight the most pressing fantasy question facing each team. Next up: the NFC West

Pressing fantasy questions by division:
AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West |

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What should fantasy managers expect from Marquise Brown with DeAndre Hopkins gone?

Brown figures to be high on looks and low on efficiency in 2023. The former Raven averaged 10.6 targets per game while Hopkins was absent last season, managing either a score or a 100-plus yard effort in four of six games. But those numbers came with Kyler Murray under center.

Murray — who tore his ACL and meniscus in Week 14 of last year — could be sidelined for the first half of the season. While a definitive timeline has yet to be revealed, it’s unlikely he’ll be ready by Week 1.

That means Brown is going to be the No. 1 WR on a team helmed by Colt McCoy and/or rookie Clayton Tune. McCoy managed three starts in place of Murray last year but the 36-year-old backup failed to clear 250 passing yards, threw a single TD, and averaged 6.33 YPA over those three outings. The sample size is small, but nothing about the Cardinals QB situation figures to bolster Brown’s fantasy floor.

Takeaway: On a team missing Hopkins and with a projected win total of around five, Brown could see as many as 10 targets per game. Without stability at QB, however, he’ll likely struggle to convert 60 percent of his opportunities. Consider Brown a volatile WR3 for fantasy purposes.

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What is Cam Akers‘ range of outcomes in 2023?

After a season chocked full of dramatic narratives — a potential heroic return from injury to trade rumors to a promotion — Akers’ role appears surprisingly straightforward heading into 2023.

The 24-year-old recorded weekly double-digit totes after the Rams cut Darrell Henderson Jr. down the stretch of last year. The volume appeared to grow for Akers, as he posted three consecutive outings of 20-plus touches from Weeks 16 through 18. He additionally managed a run of at least 20 yards and a catch of at least 10 yards in each of those final regular season efforts.

Akers seems poised to pick up where he left off, especially when noting the other members of L.A.’s backfield. The Rams spent a sixth-round pick on Zach Evans and added Sony Michel, both of whom will join the seemingly injury-prone Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers on the team’s depth chart. With little competition at the position, Akers should be in line for 15 to 17 touches per game.

Takeaway: Cam Akers figures to regularly record double-digit touches as the Rams RB1. His production could underwhelm, however, given an unfavorable strength of schedule and previous clashes with his HC. Akers is an interesting RB3 target for value-minded managers.

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Which Deebo Samuel will we see this season: the dynamic 2021 version or the less-explosive 2022 model?

“Cannot predict now.” At least that’s the message my Magic-8 Ball delivered. I know it feels like a cop-out but so much of the 49ers’ upcoming season is reliant on clarity at quarterback.

What is known for certain, however, is that Samuel’s production plummeted last year. He posted just three games of 60-plus yards (which was fewer than Mack Hollins or Noah Brown). Not only was the wideback less efficient (dropping from 3.24 yards per route run in 2021 to 1.88 yards per route run in 2022) but his total touches also took a hit. Between the continued emergence of Brandon Aiyuk and the addition of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo’s volume was compromised. And it doesn’t figure to rebound with Aiyuk coming off of a career campaign and CMC emerging as the team’s offensive engine.

It’s also worth mentioning that Samuel wasn’t in the #BSOHL last fall. He recently admitted that he was distracted by his contract situation and wasn’t as motivated to work out during the offseason, which contributed to an “awful” 2022 performance. The first step in changing a problem is recognizing there is one. So, kudos to Samuel for taking accountability and potentially improving the odds of a bounce-back.

Takeaway: Samuel’s next-level versatility and talent provide him with an intriguing fantasy floor. Even in a down year, he cleared 12.5 fantasy points over the majority of his games. However, reduced opportunities and a history of soft tissue issues make him a risky proposition inside the top-15 fantasy WRs.

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Does Jaxon Smith-Njigba offer fantasy sleeper appeal as a rookie?

Smith-Njigba certainly has the talent to produce. He’s a first-round pick who runs squeaky clean routes and regularly showed off his 99th percentile agility at Ohio State. The issue is not his ability. Rather, it’s whether or not he’ll garner enough opportunities with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett both on the field.

The rookie figures to man the slot (where he played over 88% of his snaps during his dominant 2021 season in college) and work as Seattle’s No. 3 WR. The Seahawks used three wide receiver sets on 62.5% of their passes (sixth-lowest rate in the league) last year. That number could increase with the addition of JSN (especially considering the draft capital spent) but any tweak is unlikely to result in an immediate and regular amount of production. He’s outside of my top-40 fantasy players at the position.

Takeaway: Jaxson Smith-Njigba’s future is plenty bright. He’s unlikely to shine in year one, however, while sharing the field with two super stars. JSN should be rostered as a high-upside insurance policy whose fantasy stock would skyrocket if either D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett were to miss time.

Follow Liz on Twitter: @LizLoza_FF

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Fantasy football rankings questions – NFC West