AFC West Training Camp Preview

AFC West

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Denver Broncos: Rookies 7/17, Veterans 7/17

The Broncos brought in new head coach Vic Fangio and OC Rich Scangarello.  Fangio was the Bears defensive coordinator the last few years and held that position in San Francisco for a few more before that.  Scangarello served as the 49ers QB coach the last two years and has loads of experience at multiple colleges as offensive coordinators, assistants and QB/WR coaches.  He has roots in Kyle Shanahan’s zone running system and will use the running game as the foundation for his offense.  Fangio is a defensive minded coach and will fit nicely with Scangarello’s run oriented offense.
The Broncos addressed the QB position heavily this offseason, trading away Case Keenum and landing former Raven Joe Flacco.  Flacco will bring veteran leadership to this young offense and will be an improvement right away.  The Broncos have suffered from below average QB play the last two years with guys like Keenum, Trevor Simien, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch.  Securing a steady veteran in Flacco, the Broncos decided to draft Drew Lock in the second round of the draft.  The Broncos went one step further and also added UDFA Brett Rypien out of Washington State.  Both rookie QBs will be behind Kevin Hogan on the depth chart but expect the two rookies to get ample playing time this preseason.  While adding Flacco is not a very splashy play, he should give the Broncos time to develop one of these young passers while he holds down the fort for at least this year.  I’m actually somewhat optimistic he can be the starter here for at least two years and should provide QB2 numbers this year.
We mentioned new OC Rich Scangarello above so we should be excited about the Bronco RBs this year and going forward.  Phillip Lindsay lit it up last year as a UDFA but broke his wrist in week 16.  He has not participated in any offseason activities besides light work on the side but should be ready to participate in camp, although to what extent remains unknown.  He suffered a very severe break so it makes sense ease him in and to not let him take many hits early on.  Behind Lindsay is second year Royce Freeman.  Scangarello’s offense is a zone running scheme, which Freeman excelled with at Oregon.  Freeman also suffered a high ankle sprain last season so this can help explain his underwhelming rookie year.  Freeman has been taking the majority of reps with the 1s all offseason and will continue to mix in with Lindsay.  With Lindsay being a smaller speedy back, it might make sense for Freeman to take on more work to keep Lindsay fresh and healthy.  I’m open to Lindsay being an RB2 with Freeman having RB2 upside in this run heavy offense.  Behind these guys we still have Devontae Booker who is primarily used as a pass catcher. He caught 38 balls on 51 targets last year so he could limit the upside of Lindsay and Freeman again in PPR leagues, although Lindsay has already said that he expects more work as a receiver in year 2.  There’s not much behind Booker on the depth chart but we’ll monitor UDFA Devontae Jackson from West Georgia.  He’ll try to make the team and beat out Khalfani Muhammad.  The Broncos could possess two startable fantasy assets at RB this season so feel good about both Lindsay and Freeman at ADP.
With being led by Joe Flacco and getting excited about the Denver running game, what can we expect for fantasy from the WR group?  Second year WR Courtland Sutton is expected to take a step forward.  He produced 42rec, 704yds and 4TDs on 84 targets last year.  A very high yards per catch rate is nice to see, but Sutton was not very efficient with his targets, something to watch for this preseason.  Early reports are that Flacco has had success finding Sutton deep and is developing into one of his favorite targets.  Emmanuel Sanders appears to be doing well with his rehab from his Achilles injury and has been seen running routes at full speed.  We will need to monitor his training camp activity to see if he’ll be ready to go full speed to start the year.  If he keeps falling in drafts, I might be willing to snag Sanders at the end of my bench in PPR leagues.  Behind Sanders and Sutton, the clear number 3 will be DaeSean Hamilton.  Hamilton is basically a young Sanders and had a strong end to his rookie season.  He was a target hog in the last four games of the year, catching 25rec, 182yds and 2TDs on 38 targets.  He’s not a bigt yards per catch player but has the ability to get open quickly and rack up PPR points from the slot.  We shouldn’t really look to any WRs past the top three here, but the guys to monitor would be Tim Patrick, River Cracraft and 6th round pick JuWann Winfree.
Joe Flacco has always been fond of his TEs in the past, so Denver made a move in the draft to trade down and land Noah Fant from Iowa.  Fant will immediately step into the starting pass catching role for them and has probably the brightest outlook for rookie TEs in redraft leagues.  It would not surprise me to see Fant reach 50 receptions and compete for the team lead in TDs with Sutton.  Behind Fant, we have Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli.  I’d be most excited about Jake Butt here, but Heuerman will be the #2 for now.

 

Kansas City Chiefs: Rookies 7/23, Veterans 7/26

Andy Reid is entering his 9th season with the Chiefs and will have Eric Bieniemy as his offensive coordinator for the second season.  Not much needs to be said about this Chiefs offense but we’ll recap their 2018 season.  They were number one in total offense and finished third in passing yards.  They were 16th in rushing, but were one of the most efficient teams on the ground with 4.8 yards per carry and 16 rushing touchdowns.  The offense is the teams’ greatest strength, while the defense is its greatest weakness.  They ranked 31st in total defense and gave up 26.3 points per game.  This recipe is the perfect storm for fantasy football.  Continue to value all Chiefs offensive players.
Patrick Mahomes is fresh off of his spectacular MVP season and is the unquestioned QB1 in all formats.  It is difficult to repeat as the QB1, but Mahomes was well ahead of the QB2 and has room for regression.  The biggest number that is sure to come down is his touchdown total.  I’m still projecting Mahomes to throw over 40 touchdowns and finish as the QB1, so the decision to select Mahomes in your redraft league is all up to you. If you are comfortable spending a late third or fourth round pick on him, nobody will bat an eye.  Chad Henne and Chase Litton will be the backups.
Damien Williams has been touted as the starting back by his coaches and is primed for a career year.  When he got his chance last year, he capitalized on the opportunity and helped many fantasy teams win a championship.  He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and was effective as a receiver.  He ended the year with four straight double digit + fantasy points and had two monster games in the playoffs, scoring 26.4 and 32.6 points.  Many are concerned with Williams being able to maintain his starting role throughout the season, making him one of the more controversial picks in the first couple rounds.  He is being drafted around the RB14 range in the early third round.  He’s in the most potent offense in the league and could easily have top 5 upside this year with a full season.  The Chiefs signed Carlos Hyde this off-season and is another reason many are not convinced on Williams.  He could take red-zone work off of his plate and possibly fourth quarter carries.  Darrel Williams is the third back and should have a chance to compete with Hyde for the RB2 spot.  The Chiefs also drafted Darwin Thompson out of Utah State.  He has been compared to Brian Westbrook by some.  Thompson is a fantastic dynasty stash and could skyrocket up the depth chart if he starts making plays this pre-season.  Monitor this backfield closely this August.  Andy Reid’s RB1 has always been a fantasy asset for us and this year will be no different.
Tyreek Hill will play a full season this year.  There may still be some on-going investigating going on so I wouldn’t say he’s in the clear yet, but Hill’s ADP is about to skyrocket in the next few weeks.  He has top 5 upside at the position and can be a league winner if he falls too far in your draft.  Whether you like him or not, Hill is a fantastic player and should be worth a second round pick if he is able to play all 16 games.  Behind Hill, we have Sammy Watkins as the clear number two.  Watkins has been injured on and off throughout his whole career and will have many fantasy drafters skeptical of his reliability this year.  When he played healthy last year, he produced 6 games with double digit fantasy points out of 10.  He was injured in two of those games early, so it was really 6 out of 8 games.  I’m open to Watkins in redraft leagues this year.  With the Tyreek Hill news, Watkins’ ADP is sure to slip into the 6th and 7th rounds.  He was healthy in the Chiefs two playoff games and recorded 6 receptions for 62 yards against the Colts, and then 4 receptions for 114 yards against the Patriots.  Behind Hill and Watkins, we’ll have a very interesting training camp battle to monitor.  They spent a third round pick on Mecole Hardman out of Georgia, and also have Demarcus Robinson entering his third year in the league.  Byron Pringle flashed last pre-season before his season ending injury.  Gehrig Dieter and Marcus Kemp made the team last year and will be competing for their spots this year as well. And then to top it off, they signed four UDFA’s; Felton Davis III, Jamal Custis, Cody Thompson and Joe Forson.  Hardman and Robinson will get the first crack and securing the #3 and #4 spots, but we’ll have a large competition to round out this receiving group.
Kelce, Kelce, Kelce.  Travis Kelce is the top tight end in the league and is being drafted as early as the first round.  Now that Tyreek Hill’s news has sprung, Kelce’s ADP is likely to slide into that early round two pocket.  Kelce is clearly above the next best tight ends George Kittle and Zach Ertz, and presents us with an advantage at the position.  You can make the argument that regression is coming for both Kittle and Ertz, whereas Kelce seems like he can do even more this year.  If you’re comfortable doing it, grab him.  The Chiefs lost Demetrius Harris in free agency, so we’ll have a camp battle for the back up spot between Blake Bell, David Wells, Neal Sterling, Deon Yelder and John Phillips.  Only one UDFA was signed, John Lovett.

 

Los Angeles Chargers: Rookies 7/24, Veterans 7/24

Anthony Lynn enters his third season as head coach for the Chargers.  Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is entering his fourth season with the team at this position.  The Chargers finished 11th in total offense last year, 10th in passing and 15th in rushing.  They will be one of the most balanced teams again this season. They also finished with the 9th best defense in terms of total yards.  With veteran Philip Rivers as the helm for another season, the Chargers will be favorites to compete with the Chiefs for the AFC West title and should make another playoff run.
Philip Rivers was a fringe QB1 last year, finishing with 4,308 passing yards and 32 TDs.  He has never been useful with his legs, so these are the two numbers we care about for fantasy.  Rivers’ current ADP around QB16 presents us with value and is just another reason why it’s a good idea to wait on quarterback.  The return of Hunter Henry could be a boost for his touchdown totals.  We’re also waiting on the Melvin Gordon contract/hold-out.  With Rivers facing the Chiefs and Raiders twice this year, I’m open to Rivers delivering a QB1 season for us this year.
I won’t talk too much about Melvin Gordon.  If he gets his new contract, he’ll be a top ten pick.  If he doesn’t and decides to hold out, this makes Justin Jackson the main back.  Austin Ekeler is the pass-catching back and will likely stay in the same role, perhaps with just a slight uptick in volume.  Ekeler is currently being drafted around the RB43 range, while Jackson is way of the radar.  His ADP is sure to move up over the next few weeks while we have this standoff.  Even if Gordon returns, Ekeler’s current ADP is a value for us.  He finished as the RB25 in PPR leagues last year.  Target both Jackson and Ekeler.
Keenen Allen was the WR12 in PPR leagues last year.  He has an ADP around WR10.  I love targeting Allen when he falls into the third round.  He looks best as a WR2 on your fantasy team but can provide us with WR1 numbers.  With Tyrell Williams now in Oakland, Mike Williams steps up as the clear number two option.  He led the team last year with 10 receiving touchdowns and has a good chance to get close to that again.  He finished as the WR32 and is now being drafted as the WR30.  His targets, receptions and yardage totals should all increase, but it’s his touchdowns that might come down.  Either way, Mike Williams looks poised to have a successful year three.  After Allen and Williams, we have Travis Benjamin.  Benjamin is more of a best ball pick and would only have redraft value if injury occurred to the top two guys.  We’ll have to monitor the training camp battle for the fourth receiver spot, most likely between Dylan Cantrell and Artavis Scott.  Other names trying to make the team are Geremy Davis, Andre Patton, Justice Liggins, Fred Trevillion and Jason Moore.
Hunter Henry returns after missing all of 2018.  He’s currently being drafted as the fourth or fifth tight end off the board.  Henry will be in competition with Mike Williams to lead the team in touchdowns.  I think Henry is being drafted at his ceiling so I haven’t been targeting him in the fifth round where’s he going, but I get it.  He is most likely a top five tight end this year.  After Henry, we have Virgil Green and Sean Culkin.  Nothing to worry about for fantasy.  This team will run through Allen/Williams/Henry through the air, mixed with lots of running back passes.

 

Oakland Raiders: Rookies 7/23, Veterans 7/26

Jon Gruden enters his second year with the Raiders in much better shape than a year ago.  Greg Olson is back as the offensive coordinator, so we should expect similar tendencies from last year.  The Raiders ranked 23rd in total offense, 18th in passing and 25th in rushing.  Their biggest issue was scoring points, ranking 28th with just 18.1 points per game.  Their defense was not any better, finishing 26th in total yards allowed.  They drafted well this year on both sides of the ball and brought in veteran receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams to headline their receiving group.  They are primed for an improvement in all areas, it’s just a matter of how much.
Derek Carr finished as the QB18 last year and has a current ADP around QB25.  He’s one of my favorite best ball targets real late.  He actually set some career highs last year.  He threw for  4,049 yards, his first season over the 4,000 mark.  He also had his most efficient completion percentage, coming in at 68.9%.  It was the scoring that was the biggest problem though, only throwing for 19 TDs, a career low.  I’m open to Carr finishing better than QB18 this year with his new weapons and an overall better team around him.  His backups are Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman.
The Raiders selected Josh Jacobs in the first round of the draft, 24th overall.  Jacobs is a great runner and might be an even better pass-catching back.  Jalen Richard is expected to still have a third down role, so this will limit Jacobs upside, although I’m still expecting 30 to 40 catches for him this year.  Gruden has been known to heavily rely on his RB1, making Jacobs an intriguing option in the fourth round.  He’s currently being drafted around RB22 and 45th overall.  Richard has value as your last pick for PPR leagues.  We won’t worry about any of the other backs on this roster, but they are Doug Martin, Chris Warren and DeAndre Washington.  I’ll keep an eye on Warren in pre-season games.
Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams will bolster this young receiver group.  Brown is coming off a monster season, posting 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and 15 TDs.  He did this in 15 games last year.  We should not be expecting top five numbers from Brown with Derek Carr this year, but a WR1 season is within reach.  His current ADP is around WR7, 19th overall.  He would look better as your WR2, but that requires a WR/WR start.  I would rather target Mike Evans with my late second round pick, or snag a running back.  Tyrell Williams is probably a better best ball pick than a redraft target.  He should finish as a WR4 at least and might be worth a late round pick.  After these guys, we have 5th round draft pick Hunter Renfrow, JJ Nelson, Ryan Grant and Marcell Ateman.  Renfrow is the favorite to start in the slot and is worth a dynasty stash.  Guys trying to make the roster include Saeed Blacknall, Keon Hatcher, Dwayne Harris, Keelan Doss and Brian Burt.
Jared Cook has left in free agency, making the Raiders TE1 a position to watch for in August.  Darren Waller, a converted WR from Georgia Tech, is the favorite to step into the stating role. Jon Gruden has praised Waller and is excited for his opportunity this year.  Waller can be a TE1 streamer for us this year.  With all of the attention going towards Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and Josh Jacobs, Waller should be able to provide mismatches in the middle of the field.  After Waller, the Raiders drafted Foster Moreau out of LSU in the fourth round.  Derek Carrier and Luke Willson are veteran  backups and should not be on our radar.  Watch for Darren Waller and Foster Moreau this pre-season.

 

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