Team Tendencies and Trends: The AFC West
Storylines for each of the teams extend past weather trends. All of the teams play in outdoor stadiums, but each offense has it’s own dilemma for fantasy owners. The quarterback controversy in Denver. A rookie QB looking to take over in Kansas City with a rookie running back thrust into the starter’s role. A bevy of pass catchers in Los Angeles. And the return of Oakland’s favorite son to the gridiron after a year off. The integration of new and old faces into each offense presents its own challenge to fantasy owners. Historical trends from the weather perspective could aide in decisions down the line.
Wide Receiver, 3rd Round
While the quarterback competition continues, Carlos Henderson competes for a spot in the receiving corp. Physically similar to Emmanuel Sanders, Henderson’s college production primarily came from the outside. He checks all the boxes as receiver. Great route running technique. High success rate versus man and zone coverage. Excellent at making contested catches. But, how does he fit in Denver? Historical trends show Demaryius Thomas and Sanders have consistently seen over 100 targets even without good Peyton Manning piloting the offense. But, Mike McCoy’s offense requires receivers to be able to work from the outside and the slot. There’s little doubt Henderson has the talent to take on the role. Expect hardships as he adjusts and learns the playbook.
Tight End, 5th Round
Positional usage trends are worrisome, but McCoy’s system offers some hope. Butt’s ability to work in zone coverage could earn him some playing time early on as a safety valve. He’ll need to improve as blocker to solidify his spot on the team.
Wide Receiver, 5th Round
Isaiah McKenzie is eyeing a spot on special teams based on his frame. The Georgia product profiles as a gadget receiver with room to work on route running and creating separation. McKenzie lacks standalone value, but he can help the offense. McCoy is known for his use of screen plays to free up receivers. Demaryius Thomas will be the primary beneficiary to this, but McKenzie’s acceleration could be useful in this system.
Running Back, 6th Round
Everyone wants C.J. Anderson to stay healthy. Everyone would like to see Jamaal Charles be healthy. If neither happen, De’Angelo Henderson has quickly become the running back to watch in Denver. He catches passes, good burst, and a capable pass protector. If Anderson struggles with the new power run scheme, Henderson will be given a chance to take the job.
When healthy, Anderson’s workload trends indicate solid RB2 appeal. Charles could eat into receptions, but expect Henderson to carry the bulk of the load should an injury occur.
Kansas City Chiefs
Quarterback, 1st Round
Alex Smith has been the poster-boy for late round quarterback value, but the Chiefs are looking to the future. Their passing game has been limited by Smith’s conservative nature. Patrick Mahomes can change that. He can make quick releases from unconventional platforms (e.g. Matt Stafford) and can be physical as a runner. With Jeremy Maclin’s departure, the dynamic of the offense is looking to change.
Of the three remaining Chiefs’ receivers, it’s no surprise Tyreek’s usage trends in the positive direction with respect to targets. His skills as a receiver indicate he’s more than just a gadget player. With Mahomes powerful arm strength and proper touch, this duo can push the team for a spot in the playoffs.
Running Back, 3rd Round
The loss of Spencer Ware leaves the door wide open for the Toledo prospect to take over a massive role his first year. What Hunt lacks in power, he makes up in agility. Shifty out of the backfield, he’s also serviceable as a pass catcher. He’s very raw and might need time to adjust to the professional game, but there’s a lot of work waiting for him in Kansas City.
In Jamaal Charles’ three full seasons under Andy Reid, his workload trends are similar to many of the workhorse backs previously studied. Where rush attempts dip, pass attempts pick up. Hunt has the skills and potential to replicate this workload. Not the easiest to start under the lights of Gillette Stadium, but take notes on his reactions and running style. Reid’s shown his confidence in the rookie with the release of C.J. Spiller. It’s up to Hunt to show fantasy owners he can live up to the task.
Wide Receiver, 4th Round
Jehu Chesson hasn’t been the same since suffering a knee injury in 2015. Big frame with good speed (4.47), Chesson has the traits of a wide receiver, but lacks the talent. His recent struggles with separation and lack of speed indicate he’s still not fully healthy. One thing working in his favor. Assuming Alex Smith starts all of 2017, Chesson can work with Mahomes while refining his technique. If he returns to form, their established connection will be a valuable asset in 2018.
San Diego (Los Angeles) Chargers
Wide Receiver, 1st Round
The Chargers appeared to be set at wide receiver assuming Keenan Allen would be at full strength at the start of the season. The addition of Mike Williams just makes them all the more formidable. His size, speed, and receiving skills make him the prototypical outside receiver. His success at Clemson speaks to this. Great at contested catches and found plenty of success at either the short or deep routes on the receiving tree. His back injury will delay his start date, but there’s still plenty to be excited about for the rookie.
Tyrell Williams’ emergence gave the Chargers a solid outside receiving option in 2016. Keenan Allen’s route running ability sets him up nicely out of the slot. Philip Rivers tends to keep things short as wind speed increases. Mike Williams can play across Tyrell lifting the offense to the next level. Mike Williams needs to improve on his separation and route running, but will provide an instant impact when he takes the field for LA.
Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders
Running Back, 7th Round
The return of Marshawn Lynch is intriguing from both a real life and fantasy perspective. The tactic of resting a year to return to football will be judged on how well Lynch does during the season. We can see from his trends the type of workload to expect.
Lynch is a workhorse back through and through. Despite Seattle’s weak offensive line, Lynch saw heavy usage without drastic shifts with respect to weather. Exactly what owners want to see. But, if age or lack of conditioning become an issue, there are a few guys behind him to pick up the slack.
DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are the two immediate beneficiaries to Marshawn’s workload. Washington has been pegged as the default lead back in Lynch’s absence. Elijah Hood can make an impact, but a lot of things need to break his way.
Hood is a banger that uses his size to barrel through defenders. Heavier than the two backs ahead of him, Hood can at least cement a role as a short yardage or goal line back. But, his upside is capped there. He’s good in pass protection, but Oakland has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. He can catch passes, but Richard profiles as that type of running back. His tape doesn’t display a ton of elusiveness or agility making cuts. So, it’s hard to see how he takes any significant role within the offense in 2017.