Chris Sweet – Senior Fantasy Analyst: The Wagner Wire
This is the 4th part of an 8 part series. You can find the previous installments below.
Our 4th and final Division of the AFC brings us to the Wild Wild West. The West is perhaps the best division in the NFL at the moment. There are a few high powered offenses and a few stout defenses and plenty of intriguing Fantasy Studs and sleepers. Some players and teams have changed places, old fantasy favorites have unretired to come home. Let’s get it on!
Just a few short years ago Peyton Manning helped make virtually every member of the Broncos offense a fantasy stud, even Knowshon Moreno. Peyton is gone now and someone named Trevor Siemian started at QB last year. Siemian was up and down but did have some big weeks. Paxton Lynch was drafted in the 1st round last year but looked over matched in his starts. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly is in Camp and is intriguing if he lands on the roster. The run game gets a veteran boost in the signing of Jamaal Charles. Charles should complement CJ Anderson and be more of a 3rd down receiving back at this stage of his career. If Charles is forced into a lead back role he could still return RB1 value but the injuries have certainly stacked up. Devontae Booker will see some work but looked unimpressive when forced to be the lead back last year. The strength of this offense is the Wide Receivers. Few teams can match the star power and consistency of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel “In Space” Sanders. Both receivers topped 1000 yards last year even with the unproven Siemian at QB. The TD upside they had with Peyton Manning is no longer there but they are a two man unit as no other player on the team even topped 300 yards receiving last year. The Tight End position has not been fantasy relevant since Julius Thomas left. AJ Derby and Virgil Green will start the season battling for the job, however, rookie Jake Butt probably has the most potential. The Broncos D is a top 10 option. K is Brandon McManus.
Studs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders
Solid Starters: CJ Anderson, DEN D
Sleepers: Trevor Siemian, Jamaal Charles
Deep Sleepers: Jake Butt
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City has been a Super Bowl Contender for a few years now. The only problem is they don’t have a QB capable of taking them there. Alex Smith will never be a top Fantasy option but his legs make him at least a bye week and 2 QB league starter. Patrick Mahomes is more of a traditional downfield passer but should just get to study behind Smith in 2017. Spencer Ware returns as the lead back but will be pushed hard by rookie Kareem Hunt. Hunt is one of the trendier sleepers in Fantasy Football. Spencer Ware is being overlooked and could end up being a really good value. Charcandrick West is there for RB depth as well as former fantasy bust CJ Spiller. The passing game lost Jeremy Maclin and now will rely on Tyreek Hill to become the Number 1 WR. Hill had a phenomenal rookie season but he has to prove he can be a high volume WR as many of his Fantasy Points came on long yardage plays which are very hard to repeat. Chris Conley will probably start at the other WR spot and does have sleeper potential. The true top receiving option on the Chiefs is Travis Kelce. The TE1 in fantasy football last year, Kelce will look to build on his breakout season. Kelce is my TE1 this year as I think the loss of Maclin will give him even more opportunity. The Chiefs D is a top tier option and was the top Fantasy Defense last year. Cairo Santos is also a top option at Kicker.
Studs: Travis Kelce
Solid Starters: Spencer Ware, Tyreek Hill
Sleepers: Kareem Hunt, Chris Conley
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have spent the past few years with uncertainty about their future. That uncertainty is over now as the Chargers are heading up the 5 to Los Angeles. The familiar Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers once again. Rivers is being drafted a few rounds too late as he is pretty much every year. Rivers was the QB6 last year and is being drafted around QB15 right now. He is definitely a guy to grab if you wait on QB. New coach Anthony Lynn comes from Buffalo where his offense led the league in rushing over the past 2 years. This bodes very well for Melvin Gordon who was on his way to well over 1000 yards when he got injured last year. I am pegging Gordon to be a Top 4 RB this year. His backups are Brandon Oliver and Kenneth Farrow, not exactly world beaters. Rivers targets at WR were looking to be the best of his career before rookie Mike Williams was placed on the PUP list. It’s unclear how much he will play this year. Rivers will return top WR from last year Tyrell Williams as well as a top target since 2013 Keenan Allen. Allen is a no doubt about it Top 10 WR if he can stay on the field in 2017. He missed almost all of last season and half of 2015 with unrelated injuries. Behind Allen and Williams are Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin who are both serviceable if forced to start. Hunter Henry flashed last year as a rookie Tight End and tied for the league lead at his position with 8 TDs. Antonio Gates is still there, however, so it’s tough to totally trust Henry as a TE1. The Chargers D is getting better and should be a great streaming option some weeks. Josh Lambo is average at best at the Kicker position.
Studs: Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen
Solid Starters: Philip Rivers, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Henry
Sleepers: Antonio Gates, Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman
The Raiders were on pace for a bye in the playoffs when Derek Carr was injured. Derek Carr may have been on pace for the MVP. Carr is being severely under drafted in 2o17. His offensive line and run game should be better, giving him all day to throw. He is a sleeper to finish as a Top 3 QB. Speaking of the run game, the Raiders are welcoming Oakland’s own Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. Lynch should have no problem reaching double digit TDs in 2017 with good health. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are both interesting if either gets a few starts due to injury. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree lead the Wide Receivers Unit. Cooper is in year 3 and should make a leap of sorts. The only drawback to Cooper is his lack of TD opportunities as Carr seems to go to Crabtree in the red zone. Seth Roberts has some sleeper potential and Cordarelle Patterson joins the team for depth. Patterson was a huge sleeper at one time and could be a hidden gem. Tight End Jared Cook was signed in the offseason to go with Clive Walford. Cook has big games in him but is mostly all potential and no realized potential. Walford was a sleeper last year and fizzled. He could be a deep sleeper. The Raiders D should not be touched. Sea Bass should return as the Kicker.
Studs: Amari Cooper, Derek Carr
Solid Starters: Marshawn Lynch, Michael Crabtree
Sleepers: Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Seth Roberts
Deep Sleepers: Cordarelle Patterson, Clive Walford
Thanks for reading, leave me a comment or a tweet. Check back soon for the NFC East preview. Follow me on Twitter @TheChrisSweet