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The Alpha & The Omega
Join Date: Apr 2001
Kush & Irsay
Fantasy Football : AFC West Preview
Jay Cutler was nothing short of stellar last season for the Broncos. The combination of him and Brandon Marshall was nearly impossible to stop, making them one of the top duos in the league almost over night.
Enter Josh McDaniel as the head coach, and the entire landscape was altered. Rumors began to swirl about Denver looking to trade away Cutler for either Matt Cassel of New England, or more first round draft picks.
The only problem was that Cutler caught wind of that, and wanted out immediately. The Broncos were then left with little choice but to trade away their franchise quarterback to Chicago, in exchange for Kyle Orton and a first round pick.
Kyle Orton will now be at the helm for the Denver offense this fall. Orton has been a serviceable quarterback during his time in Chicago, beating out Rex Grossman for the starting job. Although I guess thatís not really saying much. To Kyleís credit, the offense gave him little to work with as far as weapons are concerned.
Denver will at least give Orton the tools he will need for success as the quarterback. Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and Knowshon Moreno would rival many offenses in the league.
Currently, Orton is the 16th best quarterback to get selected based off of the ADP. This is obviously up from previous years, but you shouldnít expect to select him until sometime around the tenth round on. Remember, consistency on the field does little for a player in a fantasy league. If you can select him in those later rounds then the value for him should be solid.
Backing up Orton will be Chris Simms. Some had whispered that he would possibly contend for some snaps as the #1 quarterback. Fat chance. Simms will be what he always has been and that is a backup quarterback. He has very little value, unless something happens to Kyle Orton.
Currently, first round draft pick Knowshon Moreno remains unsigned as training camp has begun. The former Georgia star should get the deal done shortly, as many other picks are recently locking up their deals. Once he is inked, there is no question that Moreno will be the starting running back.
Itís no secret that Denver has proven they can run the ball, regardless of who is put in the backfield. That trend of great runners may have taken a hit when new coach Josh McDaniels took over. The passing game may be more of the focal point this fall in Denver, which is the polar opposite of the culture in Denver for several years.
Knowshon may be this years Matt Forte though, as he has the great speed and vision to get in and out of the holes quickly. He will also add depth to his game if he can improve on his pass catching out of the backfield. You can expect to see Moreno available around the forth round of most drafts. He is viewed as the 22nd available back, so the fourth or fifth round is good value, especially considering he is only a rookie.
Correll Buckhalter and Lamont Jordan are currently sharing reps as the first backup in Denver camp. This will obviously change in the near future, but both have great league experience and bring something different to the table.
Buckhalter has been haunted by injuries his entire career, but still has great speed and is a great screen back, which should sit well with the new head coach. Jordan is past his prime, but his bruising style of running will serve him well in goal line and short yardage situations. If you are interested in either, Buckhalter is a possible end of the draft option.
As long as Brandon Marshallís hamstring injury is not too serious, the Broncos should feel pretty good at the receiver position this fall. Now that Marshall has accepted the fact that Denver is not going to trade him away, he should have another solid season. The only setback will be the previously stated change at quarterback. Orton does not have the big time arm like Cutler did, so the intermediate routes will be critical for all receivers in this offense.
It didnít take long for Eddie Royal to burst onto the scene last year, dominating then Raiders corner DeAngelo Hall. Expect the same in numbers for Royal, who already had 91 receptions as a rookie last year. In fact, he may even see an increase in touches as many expect Eddie to work out of the slot, much like Wes Welker did in McDanielís offense in New England.
With Royal spending more time in the slot, Jabar Gaffney will have increased duties on the outside with Marshall. Gaffney joins the Broncos with a couple of years under his belt in this new offense as he was with the Patriots for a couple of seasons.
Marshall is viewed as the 15th best receiver available, quite the drop off from a year ago when he was on top of many fantasy leagues. He should go around the second or third round. Royal is not far behind him, ranking as the 24th best option as pass catcher. In fact, I would suggest going another route if Marshall is on the board, and grabbing Royal later on.
The spread offense will severely cut into the touches of Tony Scheffler. This uncertainty of touches has leagues drafting him anywhere from the eighth round to the fourteenth round. If you can go with another option that is more guaranteed, then I would do it.
Kansas City Chiefs
This was a position of headache for the Chiefs for the past few seasons. Many donned Brodie Croyle as the franchise quarterback when he was drafted out of Alabama. Several dismal starts and a torn MCL later, Croyle will be battling for the third string position on the team.
Damon Huard and Tyler Thigpin did their best to hold down the fort, but lacked any real talent to put the team in a position to win every Sunday.
Out with Herm Edwards and in with Todd Haley and an entire new attitude on offensive strategy. Along with Haley came the trade for upstart Matt Cassel. Cassel had not found himself under center as a starting quarterback in several years, dating all the way back before his time with the USC Trojans.
Cassel will have a chance to post even greater numbers this fall then he did last year (63.4%, 3693 yds, 21 TDs), thanks in large part to the spread style offense that Haley has brought with him from the Arizona Cardinals. Keep in mind, Haley was responsible for all of the play calling during that Super Bowl run. Cassel will have some solid options at receiver and running back to protect him as well.
Currently, Matt Casselís ADP is around 105, and he is viewed as the 14th best fantasy quarterback. This is a fair assessment considering we can only work off of one season with him being the starter (not to mention the season being in New England). Getting Cassel in those middle rounds would prove to be great value for your selection. The upside is great and the risk at that time during the draft will be minimal.
Thigpen will serve as the number two quarterback for the Chiefs this fall. Thigpen quickly became a popular free agent pickup in many fantasy leagues last year, as he took over for an injured Huard and impressed.
Thigpen has the talent as a scrambler and an average passer, but will not have value unless the obvious occurs. Keep him in the back of your mind in case the Cassel experiment implodes, but with the money Matt signed to, the hope may be small for playing time.
The spread style offense has proven to be great for quarterback and receivers alike, but if there is a position that takes a hit from throwing the ball all over the field, itís the running back. Take a look at the Arizona Cardinals last year. Absolutely dominant throwing the ball, and that usually means you donít have to put the ball on the ground much. James and Hightower suffered greatly, finding them nearly invisible at times.
Larry Johnson may start to see that same type of dip in his production as well. This may be from a combination of something else besides the change in the playbook. Since Johnsonís great 2005 and 2006 when he rushed for 1,700 plus yards in each of those seasons, Larry has failed to stay healthy in either of the last two years. He has combined for just over 1,400 yards in í07 and í08.
This will be a make or break year for Johnson who has lost somewhat according to those at Chiefs camp. As of now, Coach Haley has not named a starter, saying that both Johnson and Jamaal Charles will battle one another for the starting spot. Larry should have the leg up for now, but both are draft worthy.
Johnson is rated as the 26th best available back, slotting him around the fifth round. Jamaal Charles has remained somewhat of a sleeper thus far, going off the board as the 52nd best back. Pretty low for a guy who I see fits Todd Haleyís style of offense much better. Keep an eye on both of them entering the season. Either way, Charles has earned playing time.
It has taken a few years, but the highly talented Dwayne Bowe will finally have a quarterback that can get him the ball. Even with subpar quarterbacks slinging him the ball over the past two seasons, Bowe has managed to haul in 70 receptions in í07 and 86 receptions last year. His touchdown totals as well as his yards have also improved during that time. Things can only be looking up for Bowe. The third year receiver may end up playing a similar role as Larry Fitzgerald did in the same offense the last two seasons.
Mark Bradley entered camp as the number two receiver, but apparently has not done enough to sell the coaching staff on his abilities as they have now signed Amani Toomer to the same position. This should be an interesting battle to watch during camp.
The slot receiver will be manned by Bobby Engram, the veteran at playing the position to near perfection. He will handle the same duties as Breaston did. Engram may not be as explosive, but I wouldnít be surprised if he hauled in 50 or more passes. Overall, the receivers in Kansas City have all upped their value since the offense went through a major overhaul.
I would have mentioned the value of the tight end but the offense cancels that out, not to mention the fact that Tony Gonzalez has moved on to greener pastures in Atlanta.
Look for Bowe in the 2nd to 4th round range, as he is around the top ten in receivers this year. Any of the other receivers should be steals very late, if not in free agency. PPR leagues have a place for Bobby Engram, so he could be a fine bench WR.
Previous number one overall selection JaMarcus Russell has yet to play up to the billing as the top quarterback of his draft class, and certainly is not worth the money as of now. With that in the back of the Oaklandís mind, they went out and brought in free agent Jeff Garcia. Garcia has proven throughout his career that he has the intangibles to lead a football team and win games.
Many saw the signing of Garcia as a possible replacement for Russell, at least until the young quarterback understood and grasped the game better. The Raiders look to be standing by their first round investment though entering camp.
Russell does have a big arm but seems to really struggle with decision making as well as some of the easier throws. The numbers usually do not lie as the quarterback completed less then 55 percent, and a less then average 2,400 yards passing. The supporting cast is very unproven, which doesnít help Russellís situation.
As it stands now in nearly every fantasy league, neither of these quarterbacks have any value in the draft, and are better suited to be selected in free agency. In fact, according to some ADP lists, free agent Michael Vick serves as a more frequently drafted player then either of the quarterbacks from Oakland. Vick may not even be on a roster come this fall.
Without question this will be the position that will carry the Oakland Raider offense this season. Keep that in mind when the likes of Darren McFadden appear on your draft board around the fourth round. McFadden did not really get the opportunity to dazzle as a rookie last year, due in large part to the carousel at the coaching position. A few pieces to take from his first year were that he is explosive, and he has great hands out of the backfield, making him a must in PPR leagues.
In training camp, Darren has been sharing some of his first team carries with both Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. This should have no bearing on the season, as Oakland has already openly said they are a better team with him on the field. However, McFadden did miss three games last year because of injuries, making those reps for Bush and Fargas that much more important.
Fargas is a hard worker but in the talent department he falls short to both Bush and McFadden. Expect him to be the third back or possibly the third down option. Bush will get some carries to spell Darren, but as stated earlier the offense will go through the former Razorback.
McFadden is a great choice around the fourth round or later. Both Bush and Fargas will serve as very late draft picks, possibly free agents depending on the depth of your league.
I think itís fair to say that the Raiders shocked the entire football world when they selected Darrius Heyward-Bey instead of Michael Crabtree in the draft. But then again, it is the Raiders and Al Davis, little they do these days should surprise us.
There is no question that Heyward-Bey has world class speed as a receiver, but his route running is very raw, and speed does not beat out many defensive backs like it does in college. Also, camp has been somewhat unkind to Darrius as he has had a case of the drops in the early going. He will be the number one guy once the season starts, but there will be a lot to learn by then.
Johnnie Lee Higgins is currently starting in Beyís spot since he has been coming off of a hamstring injury, but that should change as Darrius returns to full health. Expect Higgins to move down to the slot position. Higgins does have some value as a return man though. On the outside with Bey will be Chaz Schilens. Schilens has been the most consistent through the off-season and in camp, but with only 15 career receptions I find it hard to place him any higher then a rookie.
If you are going to roll the dice and select a Raiders receiver in a fantasy draft, at least make it Darrius Heyward-Bey. With that in mind, Bey has been ranked as the 56th best receiver. That should put him at the bottom of most drafts. Donít let the speed fool you, select this guy very late if you want him.
San Diego Chargers
Of all four teams in the AFC West, the Chargers are by far the strongest at the quarterback position. Phillis Rivers, through both toughness and his play, showed why he is one of the premier quarterbacks in the game today. Since starting for the Chargers in 2006, Rivers has posted at least 3,000 yards through the air and 20 touchdowns. Last season was his breakout year, amassing over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also completed 65 percent of his passes, while only throwing 11 interceptions.
Phillisís ADP currently sits around 45th overall, which would put him somewhere around the early fourth round in 12 team leagues. The Chargers quarterback is easily a top five choice at the position once again this season, behind only the obvious.
Behind Rivers is Billy Volek who has become a solid second string quarterback throughout his career. Volek has great starting experience with both the Titans and the Chargers, with both teams rarely missing a beat once he comes in. It doesnít hurt to keep an eye on him if the ACL injury of Rivers lingers this fall.
This position will be LaDainian Tomlinsonís to lose during his time as an NFL player. Not that Tomlinson isnít the starter for the Chargers, but we now have recently seen chinks in the armor of a player that used to be untouchable, and unstoppable.
If you look at his rushing totals over the past three years for LT, each year he has dropped at least 300 yards from the season before, with his touchdown total down 17 from his 28 touchdowns in 2006. Throw a torn groin on top of that and it makes me, and many others wonder if he will hold up this season. He certainly is not the same player he used to be.
If injury does occur the fortunate thing for the Chargers is they now have a reliable backup who could probably start for several different teams. Darren Sproles more then made a name for himself last season and in the playoffs as a speedy back who not only can turn screens into big gains, but who can also run between the tackles.
Tomlinsonís ADP is around 7, which is acceptable for now, but the better value may be taking Sproles in the later rounds, if you can get him. Sproles is a worry free choice around the 8th or 9th round, but many will probably reach for him a few rounds earlier then that. Keep in mind he will not be the starter there, he will only be cutting into LTís touches.
The Chargers may have the most depth at the receiver spot in the division with all three starters seeing significant playing time over the past few seasons, not to mention the stud they have at tight end. Vincent Jackson will be the number one guy this fall, and if the numbers are correct, he should have a great year. In each of the past three seasons, Jackson has seen his receptions and yards jump dramatically. With the DUI behind him, many have said he has looked great through the off season. His ADP has been around 43, so look for him some time between the third and fourth rounds.
Across from Jackson will be Chris Chambers. Chambers was the man two years ago, but his numbers took a big hit once Jackson got a better grasp of things on offense. Chambers should be a very late round selection because of this. Expect about 40 or so receptions from him.
Malcolm Floyd will handle the duties at slot. His numbers will be pretty limited as well thanks to Antonio Gates. Gates was hampered by an injury all of last season, but entered camp at full strength. Gates has been a constant to this offense almost as much as LT has been over the last several years. Expect Gates to be available around the same time that Vincent is. If that is the case, I would have to lean towards Gates, strictly because of his body of work.