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Roster Roundup – Round Eight: AFC West

Roster Roundup – Round Eight: AFC West

Taking A Dive Into The Rosters From Around The League

Author: Chris Wolf

This time of year is typically the time when teams, trainers and agents hype up their players. We know how the world has changed in recent months and the NFL is no different in its approach to returning to “normalcy”. With the news of NFL staff and players testing positive for the Coronavirus, fantasy news is taking a backseat. As a result, fantasy players are missing out on the typical hyperbole surrounding pre-season roster news and notes.

In this series we will look at who’s who on rosters and how that may help in your drafts and early waivers.

Each week we will examine a division’s skill position current roster and predictive depth chart heading into training camp to see how that relates to their fantasy outlook.

Denver Broncos

HC: Vic Fangio

OC: Pat Shurmur

QB: Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel

RB: Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Andrew Beck

WR: Cortland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler, Tyrie Cleveland

TE: Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Albert Okwuegbunam, Jake Butt

This offense is very young. This defense is very experienced. If the two can come together, the Denver Broncos can make some noise in this division. Drew Lock flashed promise in his inaugural season as the Bronco’s signal-caller and brings excitement to this extremely young group. In his 5 career games, Lock posted 204 ypg in an offense that didn’t appear to be quite ready for him. His yards per attempt are sure to increase from 6.5 a clip and his 1.4 TD to 0.6 INT would extrapolate to 22.4/9.6 over a full season. That was without an improved offensive line and new weapons at RB, WR, and TE. Even though John Elway didn’t exactly give his then rookie a boost of confidence after going 4-1 to end the season, Lock is back as the starter and is in a fantastic position to prove that he was worth Denver’s no.42 overall pick in last year’s draft.

The running back position is deep and returns a good amount of game experience. Melvin Gordon is the new toy in Lock’s toy chest, and he should receive the bulk of the snaps. He is the best receiver in the backfield and after his notorious zero TD rookie season, he has scored at least eight rushing touchdowns over the last 4 years. If you listen to coach speak, Fangio designates both Gordon and Lindsay as equal starters, but reason would tell you the splits would favor the more productive Gordon. Lindsay is no slouch and he has flashed in his first two years in the league. In both years he ran for over 1,000 yards and recorded exactly 35 receptions in both years. The receptions may come down, but the yards don’t necessarily have to. This team wants to run the ball, but it has enough talent in the passing game to keep the defenses honest. It is within the realm of possibility that the team could support two 1,000-yard rushers in Gordon and Lindsay. The odd man out appears to be Royce Freeman. Freeman has seen more stacked boxes in the last two years than anyone else in football. He is a solid talent and a superior pass blocker to Lindsay so he may still have some value on your bench.

The 2020 draft was kind to Lock by granting him two dynamic receivers. Jerry Jeudy “fell” to pick number 15 where the Denver Broncos pounced and selected the best route runner to come out of college in years. Jeudy was running NFL caliber routes in Alabama embarrassing most of the competition along the way. He slots into the starting line up across from 2019 breakout Courtland Sutton. Sutton was near QB proof posting a 72/1112/6-line catching passes from the likes of Brandon Allen, Joe Flacco, and Drew Lock. After grading out as PFF’s #16 wide receiver, Sutton is a safe bet to lead this team once again in most receiving categories with a much-improved supporting cast around him.  DaeSean Hamilton (28rec/297yds/1TD) and Tim Patrick (16rec/218yds/0TD’s) return as rotational players in the group but the other rising rookie is KJ Hamler. Hamler’s second-round selection was overshadowed by Jeudy’s but do not let that dull the fact that he will be an important part of this offense. The Penn State product is a smaller statured player, but he is the definition of dynamic. He is a slippery route runner that can turn a defender around and then run past his teammates. Sutton and Jeudy will be the volume play but Hamler will take the lid off defenses. Noah Fant was a pre-draft darling this fantasy season. He will get the snaps to keep him on the field due to his above-average blocking and route running. He is not the most polished route runner where he takes some time getting out of his breaks, but he can run past 90% of the linebackers on any given Thursday, Sunday, or Monday. His upper-level speed for a TE will make him an intriguing fantasy TE play in 2020. His rookie line mate Albert Okwuegbunam is a sure-handed possession type receiving TE who has been used to get the sure completions instead of big explosive plays. His big frame will be a welcome addition for Lock when he needs to find his chain moving target.

Kansas City Chiefs

HC: Andy Reid

OC: Eric Bienemy

QB: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne

RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson, Anthony Sherman

WR: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Marcus Kemp

TE: Travis Kelce, Nick Keizer, Ricky Seals-Jones, Deon Yelder

The Super Bowl champs return for another run at the title and still have a lot of kept cogs in place. On offense that specifically means all-world QB Patrick Mahomes, the elite TE Travis Kelce, and the self-proclaimed fastest man in the NFL-Tyreek Hill. Sprinkle in one of the best running backs in the 2020 draft and you have the makings of yet another elite Kansas City offense.

Mahomes struck gold in 2020 with his 10yr $450million salary to pave the way for many championship runs to come. Still only 24 years old and only 2 full years of experience under his belt, Mahomes is already in the conversation of greatness. Go back and look at his stats and you will see that he never really had a bad game. Sure, there were “okay” games in there but never a bad one. In his 31 career starts, he has amassed 9412 yards, 76 TD’s to just 19 INT’s. His adjusted completion percentage was good enough for 6th in 2019 and 5th in 2018 among QB’s that started at least 10 games. His overall passing grade (PFF) was 6th in 2019 and 2nd in 2018. To sum it up, 2018 was clearly his better statistical season (he also played 2.5 more games) but his 2019 efficiency rate was higher, and he just happened to lead his team to the championship podium.

The nearly Super Bowl MVP Damien Williams has decided to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. In comes 1st round pick, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the dynamic pass-catching running back out of national champion LSU. CEH garnered first-team All-ACC accolades after rushing for 1,414 yards and 16 TD’s during his breakout junior year. He will not kill you with straight-line speed evidenced by his 4.60 40 yd time, but he may make you miss in space thanks to his fantastic balance and footwork. His backfield mate, Darrel Williams is the better pass-blocking back and the more experienced of the two. He figures to work alongside CEH in the early parts of the season to allow the rookie time to acclimate to the NFL. Last year’s sleeper darling, Darwin Thompson was good enough to be active over LeSean McCoy in the Super Bowl as well as being kept as the third man in this backfield.

The freak himself, Tyreek Hill will enter this season a more rounded NFL receiver. Opposing teams now must defend more than just a straight-line burner, reportedly he spent the offseason with a receiving coach to work on the intricacies of the position. He seemed to adjust during the playoffs and gained steam as the final tournament wore on. The Texans did everything legal in football to Michael Jordan him out of the game plan with him coming away with 3 catches for 41 yards on four targets in the Divisional round. He followed that up next week with a

 7-67-2 TD’s performance against the Titans and then 9-105 in the Super Bowl. He suffered through multiple injuries in 2019 but did not have any off-field issues which was positive for the 26-year-old. He will give you more non-WR1 weeks than live up to his draft capital, but he is an elite weapon that can score as much as two WR’s in any given week.

Sammy Watkins is the number 2 WR and the 27-year-old former 1st rounder has had an interesting career. Entering his 7th season, he has flashed brilliance at times while playing for three different teams, but consistency has always eluded him. Not being “the no.1 guy” has assuredly helped but he works more into a receiving rotation in the WR corps and that may just be what suits him best. Mecole Hardman is the young dynamo speedster that was used as a situational mismatch in his rookie year. Like Hill early in his career, his game is built on speed and not volume. He is a true weapon in the return game as well as downfield evidenced by his 26-538-6 td stat line in 2019. Demarcus Robinson rounds out the top four receivers of this exciting group. Robinson had two solid games filling in for Hill last season and returns to the team on a 1 year $2.3million contract as a coaching staff’s favorite.

The actual number 1 receiving option in this offense is TE Travis Kelce. Out of the top four receivers mentioned, Kelce had 49% of the team’s target share when comparing the five of them. That is high volume for the tight end position. Kelce is a unicorn and his game changing ability has been demonstrated time and again as he always appears to come up big just when the chiefs need him. He is a sure-fire top 2 TE in the league and is not going anywhere with his 4 yr $57 million salary. There isn’t much behind him on the depth chart nor does there have to be for the way this offense operates. If Kelce is viewed as a number one receiver and not a $14 million TE, his Dynasty Owner salary becomes that much more palatable.

Las Vegas Raiders

HC: Jon Gruden

OC: Greg Olson

QB: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman

RB: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Devontae Booker, Alec Ingold

WR: Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Nelson Agholor, Zay Jones, Rico Gaffer

TE: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Jason Witten, Derek Carrier

Chucky is back and the black and silver have a different look to their passing game this year. Gruden is exceptional at scripting his plays and allowing the offensive momentum to stack series by series. The knock on him is in-game adjustments if something was to go completely awry. He and GM Mike Mayock went out and fortified their back-up QB position with former no.2 overall pick Marcus Mariota (currently on IR) and kept the great Nathan Peterman on the roster who is now serving as the direct back-up to Carr. Carr is not as conservative as he is efficient, especially since Gruden came to town. He is the epitome of a “Steady Eddie” QB that will not lose you many fantasy matchups, but he also won’t win you many either. He rarely misses any games (2 out of 96) he always hovers around 4,000 yards a season and recently right around 20 TD’s. He is a much better real-life QB rather than a fantasy one. Hopefully, you will not be relying on him for any other reason than a bye week.

For many, Josh Jacobs ($2.98m) was the number one back in the NFL draft last year. He did not have a bad year by any stretch, in his 13 games played he totaled 1150 yards and 7 TD’s. The mini let down was his use in the passing games tallying only 20 receptions. The Raiders claimed to want to get him more involved but the consistent addition of pass-catching backs to the roster makes you take pause. He is a clear bet to receive over 275 touches in both the run and pass game and is a locked-in solid starter for your team. His range of outcomes could place him anywhere in the RB5-RB14 range this year. Jalen Richard returns to his same expected role of a breather back that is used in the hurry-up as well and won’t add any stand-alone value as long as Jacobs is upright. Booker is the third back that is also in the third-down-back-mold that totaled 9 rushing yards in 16 games last year. Jacobs offers elite volume for your team and he should eat this year.

The Receiving corps got some upgrades this year and it’s something to be excited about. Ruggs was taken at #12 overall and Gruden’s selection of him would make Al Davis smile from ear to ear. Gruden covets speed at the Z position and Ruggs has speed to burn. He only logged 98 career catches in the crowded Alabama passing attack, but he did a lot with a little. His 4.27 speed will bring even more heat to the desert when Las Vegas opens Allegiant Stadium.  Lining up across from him will be fellow rookie Bryan Edwards ($1.17m) who is quickly becoming “Carr’s guy”. Edwards had a stellar four-year career at South Carolina while logging the third-most receptions in SEC history with 324. He is a sure-handed receiver with nice hands that do not allow the ball to come to his body. He impressed so much with his after the catch ability that he was also utilized in the screen game as well as getting backfield snaps in college.

Renfrow ($708k) had put together a nice rookie season with 49 grabs on 71 targets for 605yds and 4 TD’s. He is an ideal complement to the two rookies who will be starting outside and the three of them will make for an interesting trio to watch develop over the years. At TE, Darren Waller returns and looks to follow up on his 2019 Cinderella season. Waller hung 90 catches on 1145 yards on the season but with just 3 TD’s. He is an athletic freak out of GA Tech that took a few years to come around, but he finally popped in his age 26 season as the team’s number one target in the passing game. Joining him is the one-foot-in-the-broadcasting-booth veteran Jason Witten. Witten missed playing the game so much in 2018, he traded his toupee for a helmet and vacated his position calling games. He was knowingly brought in for his locker room leadership and we should all be spared of watching the once stud TE lumber around the field.

Los Angeles Chargers

HC:  Anthony Lynn

OC: Shane Steichen

QB: Tyrod Taylor, Justin Herbert, Easton Stick

RB: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley

WR: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jaylen Guyton, KJ Hill, Joe Reed, Jason Moore

TE: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Stephen Anderson, Donald Parham

This team was built for defense and it shows on offense. Head Coach Anthony Lynn wants to run the ball in the worst way to set up the intermediate passing attack. They did make some changes on the offensive line, but the issue is these are a lot of “name guys” along the offensive front and their grades do not exactly spell production. Tyrod Taylor is a well-respected player that is a bargain as a QB2-3 at just $5.5million.  Although he is just a 2020 placeholder for Justin Herbert, Taylor offers solid rushing ability and an underrated deep ball touch. Herbert is the future leader of this franchise and it would probably do him best to learn for the entire season ala Mahomes and Alex Smith in 2017. Herbert is a big-armed guy that can also move when needed as evidenced by his 4.68 speed at 6’6” 236lbs. Herbert has elite arm talent but will need to clean up his fumbling issue that plagued him in his four years at Oregon.

This backfield timeshare will be interesting to watch unfold. As a fantasy community we view Austin Ekeler as the clear-cut starter, and he is being drafted as the workhorse back. But those closer to the situation, especially the beat writers are alluding to a much more three headed attack approach as opposed to a bellcow and two backups. Ekeler should absolutely be the more valuable back to have rostered especially for his ability to vacuum up almost any incoming pass. But I would not dismiss Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley from having a bigger role than what we are sensing. Jackson is one of those do-it-all guys that coaching staffs love and Kelley has been labeled as a “violent runner” by his defensive teammates. All three can play on passing downs but that’s where Ekeler shines. Hovering around 550 yards rushing for each of the last two years, he took a massive leap forward in 2019 going from 53 targets to 108 resulting in 92 catches for 993 yards and 8 TD’s. Those are WR1 numbers that you are getting from a running back.

Keenan Allen ($20m) returns with a chip on his shoulder in that he feels he is not viewed as elite by the public and media. He picked Twitter fights with more than one wide receiver striving to prove his point. Whether he is elite, or not Allen has put together a strong resume especially since returning from back to back injury plagued seasons. He has worn the “injury” tag for the last few years because he had two freak injuries in consecutive years (2015 lacerated kidney, 2016 torn ACL). Since then he has put together 3 straight campaigns averaging 6 touchdowns, 1263 yards, and 101 receptions while playing in every game. Those numbers are solid if not elite. Mike Williams ($4.9m) is the big bodied down field receiver just starting to come into his own. He has been dinged up, often carrying the questionable tag but he is a beast when he’s healthy. He hasn’t quite been a volume receiver as of yet and that doesn’t appear to change in 2020 but hopefully, he can return to his TD scoring ways of 2018 where he cashed in 43 receptions for 10 touchdowns. That success rate was surely due for regression, but it appears the regression gods went a bit too far by only granting him 2 touchdowns on 49 receptions. When going three wide, Allen will find his home in the slot opening the outside for second year player Jalen Guyton. Guyton ($540k) brings another dimension to the receiving trio by offering his 4.37 forty speed on the outside. Guyton was a former 4-star recruit that had two total targets and zero receptions in his rookie year. Joe Reed and KJ Hill are promising young talents with little fantasy value in this run first team.

Hunter Henry ($10.6m) will be playing under the franchise tag for the 2020 season and both sides have shown real interest in continuing their relationship after this year. The 25-year-old Henry is a fine tight end that has seen volume targets that have increased every year, but he has a hard time staying healthy. He has yet to play a complete season, but he claims this year is the best he’s felt so far.  His reception totals have gone from 36 to 45 to 55 in the last few seasons so there’s hope for a 50-60 catch season if the trend were to continue. Behind him is Virgil Green who is a fine #2 TE in real life football but offers zero fantasy appeal.

That wraps up our 8-part Roster Roundup series. We hope you enjoyed it! Now to enjoy some football!

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