AFC West Preseason Report: Clarifying the Chiefs RB Situation
As we are about to enter the second round of preseason games, we finish our divisional training camp Fantasy Football tour with an in-depth skill positional look at the AFC West. We focus on preseason news, and for those players who really aren’t making any, we provide their upcoming seasonal outlooks.
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AFC West Preseason Report
Kansas City Chiefs
Quarterback: The Fantasy world easily settled in and put Patrick Mahomes atop the QB ranks when it was revealed that Tyreek Hill would not be suspended. Now with a WR crew full of speedsters and the best tight end in the game, it’s not out of the question for Mahomes to play at the spectacular level he did last season. But the QB position is deep, and no passer should be taken in the first two rounds unless you play in a two-QB league.
Running Back: Fantasy players freaked out when Andy Reid hinted about a committee situation here recently. But the definition of a committee is different to coaches than to Fantasy owners. Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCoullough clarified that this week when he told the media that Damien Williams was still clearly going to be the lead RB and starter and will be “supplemented” by the rest of the crew. Other RBs will get touches, but that does not mean there will be an equal workload for all of them. Rookie Darwin Thompson is having an excellent preseason and will get his chances, and Carlos Hyde may get in the mix as well, but Williams is still the unquestioned starter and should still be drafted as a back-end RB1/high-end RB2 in Fantasy leagues.
So according to Chiefs RB coach Deland McCullough, the Damien Williams start-o-meter is back toward “full-time.” pic.twitter.com/CEIarc1Zjo
— Dave Richard (@daverichard) August 13, 2019
Wide Receiver: Hill is back in the Top 5 Fantasy WR conversation, and Sammy Watkins is healthy for now, but has disappointed before and should not be drafted as a Fantasy starter. Rookie Mecole Hardman flashed his promise in the preseason opener but may not get enough consistent touches to make a true Fantasy impact. Demarcus Robinson won’t contribute consistently enough, either. But as a group, this unit has field-stretching ability that has started to garner a “Legion of Zoom” nickname locally. Other than Hill, it’s hard to forecast who will contribute on a regular basis, but they’ll all be nifty DFS plays.
Tight End: Nothing new here. Travis Kelce is TE1 in Fantasy and should be drafted in the second round.
Quarterback: Joe Flacco is set to open the season as the No. 1 and is talking confidently, but he was never a true Fantasy starter in his prime and will be nothing more than a back-end Fantasy QB2. Drew Lock is a very good and maybe underrated dynasty prospect. He has looked raw at times and struggled with accuracy downfield, but he looked better in the second preseason game.
Running Back: The timeshare talk only ratcheted up when Royce Freeman ripped off a 50-yard run in the second preseason game. Theo Riddick was signed but will miss the next two months or so with a shoulder injury. Philip Lindsay deserves a better fate after his impressive rookie year, but he has been relegated to flex territory for now with Freeman on the come and Riddick also possibly in the picture down the line.
Wide Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders will play in the preseason as he makes a speedy recovery from an Achilles injury, but his quick return could lead to another absence or injury. Consider him with caution. Courtland Sutton is saying all the right things publicly, knowing he has to take on a WR1 role this season with Denver. But he has a lot to prove and a less than thrilling QB situation and should be drafted as a Fantasy WR4. DaeSean Hamilton has some late-round sleeper potential, especially if Sanders cannot stay healthy.
Tight End: Noah Fant has been spotty so far in the preseason, and for all his impressive skills, is battling a learning process that many first-year TEs face. Denver does want to run a lot of two-TE sets when everyone is healthy. Injuries at the position have afforded Fant some extra field time to work on his adjustment to the pro game this preseason. He’s an intriguing Fantasy TE2 prospect.
Los Angeles Chargers
Quarterback: I have said it so many times before and I will say it again. Philip Rivers is an underrated Fantasy QB. He is good for at least 4,200 yards and 28 TDs every year. I will gladly wait until late for him.
Running Back: As the Melvin Gordon holdout has no clear end date, Chargers onlookers are questioning whether Austin Ekeler can handle a heavy load. He rushed for 87 yards on 28 carries and a TD and added seven catches for 50 yards in two December starts last season, and totaled 68 yards from scrimmage in an October start. Justin Jackson had a TD run in the preseason opener and while Ekeler could lead the backfield if Gordon is not available to open the season, Jackson could get quality work too. Ekeler projects to be a higher-end flex play right now while Jackson is worth a speculative late pick.
Wide Receiver: If Keenan Allen scored more, he would be a true Fantasy WR1. Mike Williams caught 10 TD passes last year and is set to take a big jump to starting Fantasy WR status as his reception and yardage totals rise.
Tight End: Hunter Henry enjoyed an offseason where he simply prepared for the upcoming campaign and was not working his way back from an injury. Look for him to officially emerge as the Antonio Gates sequel for the Chargers this year, and he is a surefire Top 5 TE choice. Heck, I’d take him once Kelce, Kittle and Ertz are off the board.
Quarterback: This is a pivotal season for Derek Carr, and maybe his last chance to prove he can be the same QB he was in 2016. He is surrounded by his best supporting cast ever, and the urgency and improved supporting cast make him a very interesting Fantasy QB2 choice.
Running Back: Josh Jacobs has avoided the Hard Knocks cameras and controversy. He’s a prime all-around threat who should be drafted as a high-end Fantasy RB2. He’ll offer quality run support to Carr, receiving ability out of the backfield, and will get a lot of field time.
Wide Receiver: If you are passing on Antonio Brown because of the off-field controversies, you may regret it when play starts for real. He remains a durable superstar with tremendous football skills and a high work ethic. I still take him as a back-end WR1. Tyrell Williams might enjoy a breakout season and is a fine later-round pick. Hunter Renfrow is a dynasty player to watch.
Tight End: Darren Walter was generating some preseason buzz as a sleeper type, but a shoulder injury is now holding him out of action.
What storylines are you watching in the AFC West? For more great rankings, sleepers, and analysis check out the 2019 Fantrax Fantasy Football Draft Kit.
Scott Engel is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame and a four-time award winner. He was one of the driving content forces in the rise of RotoExperts.com and was the lead host on the RotoExperts in the Morning for six years on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He was also instrumental in the launch of the FNTSY Sports Network. Scott was the first-ever Senior Writer and Managing Editor at CBS SportsLine and won a company Hall of Fame Award. He was also an Associate Editor and Fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He has been the featured Fantasy Writer on Seahawks.com since 2012 and his work has been syndicated to the Associated Press, NFL.com, New York Daily News, New York Post, Yahoo Sports, Bloomberg Sports, Sports Illustrated and many others. He is a credentialed media member who won an FSWA award in 2016 for his Insider Fantasy Reporting. Known as “The King”, Scott is on Twitter @scotteTheKing
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