To help prepare for the upcoming season for all you fantasy footballers, we will examine every team in the league in the month of July. This effort will be organized through divisions and we will go roughly in order of overall strength of offenses from worst to best. Since teams in the same division play roughly to same schedule, it can be helpful to consider the defenses each division will face. I use team stats from Football Outsiders (DVOA), Average Draft Position (ADP) from Fantasy Football Calculator, and standard fantasy scoring on Yahoo. As always, comments, disagreements, and questions are welcome.
Today we cover the AFC West. The defending champions are in this division but they’re the offense I’m least excited about for obvious reasons. This division is a bit tricky with the Broncos seemingly moving downward, the Raiders ascending, and the Chargers and Chiefs trying to stay healthy.
25th Passing DVOA, 20th Rushing DVOA
QB: Mark Sanchez / Paxton Lynch / Trevor Siemian???
RB: CJ Anderson, Devontae Booker, Ronnie Hillman
WR: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer
TE: Virgil Green
Under the direction of Brock Osweiler and the shell of Peyton Manning, this Broncos passing game was towards the bottom of the league last year. They will try to replace that production with Mark Sanchez, Paxton Lynch, or Trevor Siemian. We all know the limitations the Sanchize brings to an offense but Lynch and Siemian are unknowns. The scouting report on Lynch was that he needs probably two years as a backup before he’s ready to be an NFL starter. As a result, the value of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders takes a nose dive. I don’t want anything to do with this passing game – let someone else bet on it.
Almost certainly, Kubiak’s Broncos are going to try and establish the running game. They brought back CJ Anderson by matching the Dolphins’ offer and resigned Ronnie Hillman. They followed free agency up by taking the intriguing Devontae Booker out of Utah. Anderson struggled in the lead role last year, lost his job to Hillman, and regained it after a Hillman injury and did well to end the year. Part of that was the offensive line solidifying but it’s worrisome to invest in a volatile backfield with plenty of talent. My favorite of the bunch is probably Booker, a do-everything kind of back at Utah, he could find playing time early in the season on 3rd downs and could roll that into more time if effective.
San Diego Chargers
8th Passing DVOA, 31st Rushing DVOA
QB: Philip Rivers
RB: Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver
WR: Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Stevie Johnson, Dontrelle Inman
TE: Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry
No one ever lost money betting on Philip Rivers in fantasy. He always seems to be a bargain at the draft table and he has produced numbers throwing to lawn chairs in the past. Keenan Allen’s freak injury that cost him the rest of his 2015 season shouldn’t be a long-term issue. In 8 games, Allen logged 67 grabs for 725 yards and 4 scores. Extrapolated out (lazy and sloppy, but let’s just look at it) that’s 134 catches for 1,450 yards and 8 scores. That’s comfortably in the top 10. Avoid him at your peril. One interesting story to watch is Gates and Hunter Henry. Henry was truly a big winner of the draft as he landed in the perfect position. I expect Henry to be near the top of the TE rankings in 2018, but I’m not looking to roster him in 2016.
Melvin Gordon looked good coming out of Wisconsin and it’s not fair to give up on him this early but unless that Chargers offensive line improves, it doesn’t make a ton of sense investing in this running game. Danny Woodhead has sneaky PPR or even flex value given his Darren Sproles-like ability.
11th Passing DVOA, 24th Rushing DVOA
QB: Derek Carr
RB: Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington
WR: Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree
TE: Clive Walford
After years of languishing as a cellar dweller, the Oakland Raiders appear poised to make a comeback in real and fake life football. Led by the Silver and Black triplets of Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, and Amari Cooper, there’s a lot to get excited about in Oakland. After a rookie year of mostly short yardage dink and dunk, Carr elevated his game helped by the polished Amari Cooper. Carr is currently the 12th QB off the board and that seems about right to me. I’d be happy to take Carr and pair him with a guy like Kirk Cousins and play the matchups. Cooper gets the green light as a low-end WR1 / high end WR2 who will command at least a 3rd round pick. Crabtree isn’t much more than a WR4 but could be useful on bye weeks.
Murray is joined by DeAndre Washington, the Texas Tech Red Raider who projects as a third down complement to Murray. The early down work and likely the goal line carries are Murray’s and he’s being drafted as a middle of the road RB2. Because of the ascending offense, there’s a profit to be made here and anyone employing a zero running back strategy in the top 2 rounds would be wise to look for Murray in the 3rd.
Kansas City Chiefs
14th Passing DVOA, 1st Rushing DVOA
QB: Alex Smith
RB: Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West
WR: Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley
TE: Travis Kelce
Finishing as the best rushing offense last year is impressive considering the Chiefs were missing Jamaal Charles for most of the year. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West are still on the roster but this is Jamaal Charles’ backfield if he’s 100% healthy. His injuries haven’t exactly taken a toll on his draft expectations as he’s still taken as a RB1, even if he’s not in the conversation for #1 overall this season. Someone is going to take a shot on him at the tail end of the first round / early second and is going to make a profit.
The passing game simply can’t support much more than Jeremy Maclin and the dynamic Travis Kelce. Alex Smith might sneak into your lineup on a bye week but he’ll likely be out on the waiver wire most of the year. Maclin is worth a WR2/3 investment somewhere in the 5th round. Kelce goes a round later after the Greg Olsen / Jordan Reed tier gets cleaned out. Otherwise, this team is best when it’s running the football and opening up safe throws for Alex Smith.
AFC West Review
The AFC West will be one of the more interesting divisions to follow this season as the Chiefs have been playing some good football that has largely been under the radar. With the ascension of the Raiders and the return to health of Keenan Allen for the Chargers, there are plenty of interesting players to keep in mind during draft season. As a bonus, the AFC West draws both the NFC and AFC south teams and some of the more porous defenses in the league.
All AFC West Fantasy Team – The ideal roster as chosen from only AFC West squads:
QB: Philip Rivers
RB: Jamaal Charles
RB: Latavius Murray
WR: Keenan Allen
WR: Amari Cooper
WR: Demaryius Thomas
TE: Travis Kelce
What are your thoughts on the AFC West?