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Fantasy Division Update: AFC West

Is it Friday already? Besides the joy of the end of the work week, the promise of summer weekends, and all of the personal time or social time you get, I know this article is your #1 favorite Friday activity. Sometime in the future, I will lay out (inaccurate) predictions for the coming week's games, do player spotlights, evaluate any injury or other highlight news items...Right now I'll talk to you about the AFC West, and all of its glory (in Fantasy).

Who's in it? Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers

2010: The Kansas City Chiefs walked away with their first division win since 2003 and their first playoff appearance since 2006...Sadly, just like those two previous playoff appearances, the Chiefs were a 1st round out. San Diego, despite posting fantastic offensive and defensive ratings, couldn't muster to win the division. The Raiders went 6-0 in the division and 2-8 against the rest of the league before firing their head coach.

Denver Broncos: Orton opened up the season with great fantasy stats and looked like a stud (for fantasy) through 12 weeks, but gave way to first round pick Tim Tebow at the QB position. Classy WR Brandon Lloyd had a career best year and finished #1 among wide receivers before giving the old "FU" (not UF) reference to his former teams. Moreno actually finished #18 in overall scoring, but to me he never felt like a #2 option. What's New? The coaching staff, back 7 defense (OLB Von Miller, S Rahim Moore, ILB Nate Irving, S Quinton Carter) and O-Line, with a dash of a very raw former basketball player at Tight End(Julius Thomas). 2011... The first conversation that will occur (that really matters) will be who the starting QB will be. Former 1st round draft pick Tim Tebow faces off against former Bear Kyle Orton. Orton may be traded. He may be the starter. He may be the veteran backup. Its up in the air. The next question is, what does that offense look like? Mike McCoy ran a very conservative offense with McDaniels gone last year, and John Fox decided to retain him. I don't predict a light them up passing offense...Which could spell bad news for Lloyd who was never a consistent player to begin with. Sorry to say it, but if there is a receiver not named T.O. primed for a fall, its Lloyd. Not saying he can't have a good year...I am saying he might not see over 150 targets again. Moreno might have a career year in a run first system, if he can sustain 4+ yards per carry and stay healthy... Considering he had "#2" totals last season anyway, I would look at him for #2 potential probably available where you draft your #3 options. One would think with this draft the Broncos might improve on D/ST, but what else can you do from #32 of 32?

Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Cassel finished #12 overall for QBs, the worst starter in a 12 team league but a great #2 option and he had some very lucrative weeks. RB Jamaal Charles finished #3 for RBs with only 230 carries while splitting time with #25 Thomas Jones. I expect more of that to go Jamaal's way going forward, despite my long-time love for Jones, who's 3.7 YPC stat helped me decide his 800+ yard season won't repeat. Dwayne Bowe finished #2 overall for receivers and TE Tony Moeaki had a decent rookie season. D/ST finished #10 overall, but it sure didn't feel that way. What's New? The Offensive Coordinator, passing game help (WR Jonathan Baldwin) and Passing defense help (DEs Justin Houston and Allen Bailey plus CB Jalil Brown) 2011...The lack of a second option in the passing game and some defensive lapses ended Kansas City's season. 2nd year TE Tony Moeaki figures to have more impact, and enter WR Jonathan Baldwin, a pick for many WCG followers as a "potential 1st-2nd round wide out choice for Chicago". I don't see a big season for Baldwin this year, but I do think he, combined with Moeaki, help take some pressure off of Cassel, plus Charles is no slouch as a receiving back. 4 decent options on the field at the same time may push Cassel into the top 10 for QBs next year, and I expect Bowe to break his pattern and repeat his success next year. I am not sure about the D/ST, as it was good but unspectacular last year, and that can often lead to Fantasy drop offs even when they play well. A #2 option in my book until they start getting more big plays on that side.

Oakland Raiders: Oakland suffered from bad QB play in 2010, the sky was still blue, and water was still wet. Sorry. Luckily, Zach Miller remains a top 10 TE option no matter how many local Raiders fans get to play QB for their team. The QB indecision contributed to the Coach firing. Darren McFadden, on the other hand, finally did what he was drafted in the top 10 to do: he finished #6 among RBs and averaged over 5 YPC while doing it. The D/ST was #9 overall and contributed to that 6-0 record in the division. What's New? The head coach, O-Line help (OC Wisniewski, OT Joe Baker), a decent pair of Corners (Van Dyke and Chekwa) plus another speed back in Taiwan Jones. 2011...I don't trust anyone not named Zach Miller in Oakland's passing game, I don't care what QB coach they promoted to head coach. Miller should be a top 10 again though, stick with him, he is the best they've got. If you are going to touch an Oakland receiver, make it Louis Murphy as your #4-5 option. McFadden, on the other hand, may be posed to stay up in the top 10 at his position. I know his two previous seasons suggest otherwise, and his injury history scares me, but his raw running talent is top 5 in the league right now...Its hard not to take him if you can't get a more "sure thing" in the 1st. He and Jamaal Charles might both just blow up this year, as both had 230 or less carries in 2010. The probable free agent loss of Nnamdi Asomugha hurts the secondary, but they did draft 2 decent corners. I need 2 years to be a believer, but I do look at them as a #2 option.

San Diego Chargers: Something to be said for the #5 QB, right Phillip Rivers? The only thing more astounding than the Receiver carousel was River's production within it. MikeTolbert and Ryan Matthews both had under 200 carries, and both had less than 800 yards. If you knew who on any given week, it would have made them decent #3-4 options, but the unpredictable nature made it hard to use either. Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson both had bad fantasy seasons, one by injury the other by suspension/holdout. TE Antonio Gates did his thing, finishing #2 among TEs, but getting random injuries at random points. What's New? A lot of Defensive help, starting with fan favorite DT Corey Liuget and also including CB Marcus Gilchrist, OLB Jonas Mouton, and CB Shareece Wright. Toss in California native Vincent Brown, a solid possession/underneath receiver I really liked. 2011...Phillip Rivers is a top 10 (fantasy) QB for the next 5-7 years, book it and draft accordingly. Antonio Gates will get hurt at a bad time and cost you a game, but he is a top 10 TE every year. Maybe prioritize your #2 TE a bit more than normal if you draft Gates, but don't shy away. His production is too big to ignore. If Jackson stays in SD for 2011, he is a #1 receiver in 2011. If Floyd joins him, Floyd is a #3 receiver because of lost targets to Gates and Jackson...If Floyd stays and Jackson goes, though, Floyd becomes a top tier #2 fantasy option, and follow Jackson wherever he goes as a #1-2 option. Much as I feel about NE, I feel about SD post-LT era. Avoid the RBs as more than a #4 gamble on Ryan Matthews. They don't want to run...and they split the load...and they get hurt. The D/ST is going to finish top 10 in 2011, despite the ST part.

Final Thoughts: For 2011 I see 2 #1 QBs (Cassel, Rivers), 2 #1 RBs (McFadden, Charles) and potentially 2 #1 receivers (Jackson, Bowe) in this division. That's a good start, and 3 of the 4 defenses will probably be worth owning at some point...and that's without mentioning Gates or Moreno.

Next Up: NFC North, NFC South, NFC East, NFC West