The Chiefs are a juggernaut.
As a result, the AFC West discussion must center around them as Patrick Maholmes and company aren’t going anywhere. What that means for the rest of the teams out west is that their offensive output needs to soar if they want to have a chance. After all, the only losses handed to the champs were when the Raiders dropped 40 on them and the Chargers scored 38.
Offense for the win!
Fortunately for the fantasy gamer, the AFC West is building a fun, offensive arsenal, offering plenty of options for us to explore.
Let’s get after it!
The Broncos have some nice pieces offensively, though you wouldn’t know it by their 20.2 Points Per Game (No. 28). Enroute to last place, the 5-11 Broncos have some work to do in the offseason — and it begins with the quarterback position.
Drew Lock just isn’t very good.
Worse. He’s extremely careless with the ball.
Despite attempting only 443 passes (No. 2), Lock was 2nd in the league with 44 Danger Plays and 6th in Interceptable Passes with 27.
And this is made even more disturbing when considering that Lock benefitted from 1.84 Receiver Target Separation (No. 4).
The one thing I’ll grant Lock is that he at least airs it out.
I can respect a guy who posted 8.6 Air Yards Per Attempt (No. 4) to go with 63 Deep Ball Attempts (No. 11). If only he was accurate on such passes. But with a 27.0 Deep Ball Completion Percentage (No. 33), most of those attempts were in vain.
It’s best for both dynasty owners and the Broncos to move on from Lock.
I deeply wanted Royce Freeman to be the guy when he was drafted, but it’s not happening for him in Denver (or probably anywhere). He’ll only be 25 next year, but looks like depth and nothing else, sadly.
Philip Lindsay struggled mightily with the injury bug this year (toe, concussion, knee, hip). Going into his age-27 season, there isn’t much to get excited about.
Melvin Gordon, meanwhile, fared relatively well in Denver this year: He ran fairly well, compiling 986 Rushing Yards (No. 9) and 10 touchdowns (No. 10). It was mostly volume-driven, though, as seen by his middling 1.28 Yards Created Per Touch (No. 28) and 4.3 True Yards Per Carry (No. 27). His lack of efficiency isn’t great considering a favorable 63.7-percent Light Front Carry Rate (No. 5).
Gordon also struggled as a receiver, though perhaps that’s as much on Lock as himself. Regardless, he mustered a measly 4.9 YPR (No. 34) on an 8.6-percent Target Share (No. 28).
Heading into his age-28 season, Gordon is anything but a long-term option. If you need running back depth, you could do worse than the volume-driven Gordon, but if you can get some value for him in the offseason, I’d do it.
I dug into the Denver receiver room earlier in the season and I stand by that assessment still.
The short version is this: Assuming Denver improves it’s quarterback, I think both Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy can perform. Both are clearly talented. Don’t hesitate to buy if there’s a dip in perceived value.
If you’re looking for the next George Kittle, why not Noah Fant?
Like Kittle, Fant is a former Iowa Hawkeye, and he won’t turn 24 until next November with two seasons under his belt already.
He also happens to be best comparable to Kittle on PlayerProfiler!
Despite suffering through Lock’s inaccuracy, as seen by his 4.6 Target Quality Rating (No. 29), Fant made a nice step forward this season: His 19.3-percent Target Share (No. 6) was encouraging and led to top-10 marks in receptions (62) and yards (673). Also of note is his 383 YAC (No. 3), demonstrating his elite athleticism to make plays in the open field.
Moving forward, we have to hope that Fant can continue to use his athleticism to make big plays and one area that we need to see a change is how Denver is using him. There is no excuse that someone with his profile should be used as a short yardage guy. Posting a paltry 6.7 aDOT (No. 34), hopefully a new passer will lead to a shift in usage. We also have to hope that Denver makes it to the red zone more often (and looks his way when there) so he can improve upon his uninspiring 12 Red Zone Targets (No. 16) and 3 touchdowns (No. 23).
Fant has youth and explosive ability in his favor. Heading into year three, this might be the last buying opportunity before he goes nuclear with a competent quarterback next year.
Recap: Sell Lock and Gordon. Buy Jeudy, Sutton and Fant.
Kansas City Chiefs
On the cusp of a repeat, the Chiefs only need to defeat the GOAT and his new pals in Tampa.
The Chiefs are a blast and all we can really do is sit back and enjoy the dynasty. Hopefuls like Cleveland, Baltimore, and Buffalo need to figure out how to take it up to the next-level or there will be a bunch of Super Bowl appearances for Kansas City.
Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the league.
What else do I need to say?
After taking Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first-round of the NFL Draft, the Chiefs ensured that fantasy gamers would lose their minds.
Okay, they probably didn’t have us in mind with their selection, but regardless the former Tiger became the hot topic.
Overnight, the product of an insane 2019 Louisiana State offense was thrust into discussions for the 1.01. Andy Reid and the unstoppable Chiefs offense would propel Edwards-Helaire to fantasy stardom. I even bought into the hype, taking him over D’Andre Swift in my rookie drafts (but not over Jonathan Taylor — are you crazy?) when I had the chance. All of this despite an average-at-best athletic profile and a modest 18.3-percent College Dominator (27th).
Again, Reid moved the needle.
And hey, look, Edwards-Helaire was fine this year. He posted a respectable 13.5 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 20) thanks to seven straight double-digit games to start his career. However, the addition of Le’Veon Bell turned the situation into an annoying timeshare. From that point on, the rookie posted a Snap Share above 60-percent just once.
As a runner, Edwards-Helaire was average despite enjoying 56.9- percent Light Front Carry Rate (No. 9). He churned out 4.3 True Yards Per Carry (No. 28) showing little elusiveness with his 22.1-percent Juke Rate (No. 26). He lacked home run-hitting ability, which we could’ve guessed thanks to his less-than-impressive Speed Score of 92.5 (35th), by tallying a meager 4.4-percent Breakaway Run Rate.
As a receiver (his crowning achievement at school), Edwards-Helaire was at least solid as seen by his 8.2 YPR. The problem was that Mahomes wasn’t checking down much and he certainly wasn’t going out of his way looking for the rookie over the GOAT Travis Kelce and speed demon Tyreek Hill.
While Edwards-Helaire’s Target Share of 11.0-percent (No. 18) was fine, he will need to improve upon his 46.1-percent Route Participation if he hopes to achieve the volume necessary to become an RB1.
His value has likely dropped over the course of the season, though perhaps there will be a narrative shift propelling him up dynasty start-up draft boards. Whatever the case, I feel mostly stuck. By all accounts, he should be fine in the coming years, but I just don’t see him in the same class as Taylor and Swift (or J.K. Dobbins and Cam Akers, for that matter) and are we sure he’s even better than James Robinson?
Can you tell I’m disheartened?
The Chiefs should give him a solid floor at least moving forward, making him a stable RB2, which has some value. For my own sake, I hope I’m wrong and Edwards-Helaire soars next year — but I’m having a hard time seeing it in the numbers.
Hill is insane.
He galavanted past defenders all season, reeling in an astounding 17 touchdowns (No. 2), notching 21.9 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 2). Impressively, he did it in a myriad of different ways: Hill could scorch the defense deep as seen by his 32 Deep Targets (No. 2) and 1746 Air Yards (No. 3) or he could beat defenders as the field shortened commanding 18 Red Zone Targets (No. 7). He also could take off in the open-field making people miss in space with his 441 YAC (No. 9).
He really can do it all.
Aside from Hill, however, the Chiefs receiving room is a little uncertain (this is of course not counting the aforementioned Kelce).
When the Chiefs overdrafted Mecole Hardman in the second round of the 2019 draft, ahead of D.K. Metcalf, the fantasy world gave Hardman the “Edwards-Helaire treatment” (okay, it wasn’t quite that bad) thrusting him up draft boards, but he has largely failed to pan out.
He’s gone over 500 yards in both seasons, but isn’t a consistent producer for fantasy purposes. With Sammy Watkins possibly heading out of town, Hardman may have his best chance next year to prove himself, but I’d bet the Chiefs third option (after Kelce and Hill) isn’t currently on the roster. Keep an eye on this situation in the offseason.
Kelce is the best tight end of all time. Period.
The only way you’re unloading Kelce is if you get a godfather offer and/or you’re rebuilding and don’t want to carry around the greatest tight end of all time who happens to turn 32 next October. That’s it.
Chiefs will find a replacement, eventually, but Kelce doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Recap: Mahomes, Hill and Kelce are incredible. I guess hold Edwards-Helaire heading into his sophomore season? Ugh, owning him stresses me out. Hardman has one more chance, but I’m not holding my breath.
Las Vegas Raiders
When the Raiders gave Jon Gruden a 10-year contract for a cool $100 million to come out of retirement, it was rightly criticized. Three seasons in the books, and it hasn’t been too much fun. Frustrating fans and gamers alike, the Raiders offense trots out Jason Witten way too often (enjoy retirement, my man) and likes using first round pick Henry Ruggs III as a decoy.
Derek Carr is fine. Really, he is about as “okay” as it gets. I’m truly interested to see what the Las Vegas brass decides to do with him as his contract winds down.
You could do worse than Carr, but you could also do much better.
His numbers this year were like the man himself: Just fine. It’s encouraging to see 29 Money Throws (No. 8) and 7.9 YPA (No. 6). It’s discouraging that he only ended up with 17.4 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 18) likely due to him being fine in a relatively low pass volume offense as seen by 36.3 Team Pass Plays Per Game (No. 22).
At this point, we know who he is. I think the Raiders do as well. And that makes for an interesting decision:
At what point do the Raiders draft their quarterback of the future? Regardless, I wouldn’t bank on Carr being there for another contract. To compete with the Chiefs, the Raiders need “better than fine” at the most important position. For that reason, Carr isn’t a great hold in superflex; if you can upgrade, I would do it.
As a quick note: Marcus Mariota is absolutely worth stashing in deep superflex leagues as he showed against the Chargers in Week 15 that he can go off when given the chance.
One of the first priorities for the new Gruden regime was getting “his guy” at running back, and Josh Jacobs evidently fit the bill, earning him a place in the first round. Now, Jacobs wasn’t a great athlete and split time fairly evenly with fellow NFL-er Damien Harris at Alabama, making it a somewhat curious decision. Volume is king though, and Jacobs has been given massive volume solidifying himself as a reliable option for fantasy owners.
This season was no different: Jacobs received 273 Carries (No. 3) and 65 Red Zone Touches (No. 2). This helped him compile 1064 Rushing Yards (No. 8) and 12 Touchdowns (No. 4). Perhaps most impressively, Jacobs achieved all of this behind a horrendous offensive line that gave him an abysmal 56.1 Run Blocking Efficiency (No. 72). Jacobs was forced to earn those yards as he posted 84 Evaded Tackles (No. 4) on his way to 446 Yards Created (No. 5).
The hole in Jacob’s game is in the receiving usage, which ultimately led to his deflated 15.4 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 12). A 42.1-percent Route Participation (No. 25) and 9.5-percent Target Share (No. 24) show us that the Raiders don’t love him out there in passing situations.
Overall, Jacobs is a solid back, but lacks elite upside due to his limited involvement in the passing game. I’m fine holding on to him as the Raiders seem committed to feeding him plenty of carries, but with good name value, an upgrade is always worth considering with a player like him.
I wrote at length about Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards here, so I’ll spare you in this article.
And as for Nelson Agholor: Good for him!
He was the guy in Vegas outside of Darren Waller this year. I certainly didn’t see that coming.
But alas, we should dig into Ruggs:
Ruggs is fast so that means the Raiders love him? Ruggs didn’t play nearly as often as the first receiver off the board (12th overall in the ’20 draft) should and was rarely targeted — so do the Raiders hate him? Gosh, I don’t even know what to think!
What I do know is that Ruggs isn’t an interesting prospect for me. I had zero interest in him in rookies drafts so mercifully have him nowhere. I’m not a film grinder, but what exactly did he have going for him? First round draft capital is nice for sure, and so is speed, but not producing because there were a bunch of other good receivers at Alabama isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. It certainly doesn’t mean he’s good, it just means he wasn’t as good as those other players.
However, my lack of understanding about the attractiveness of Ruggs’ profile aside, he had a chance to prove me wrong.
It turns out, not a great chance, since he only logged 331 Routes Run (No. 70), but a chance still. The result was a low-volume field-stretcher. Defenses certainly respected his speed by giving him a 4.48 Average Cushion (No. 3), and when he caught the ball it was usually far downfield as seen in his 17.4 YPR (No. 4) which is nice.
The problem is that he didn’t really do anything else.
So, for those who sunk a 1st or 2nd round pick on Ruggs, you’re left with the tough choice of cutting bait and getting whatever value you can or hoping that he becomes something more than a decoy. You unfortunately don’t have a good analytical profile to bank on either like Edwards. Good luck.
I’d be getting anything I could for him, though.
Waller is amazing. He burst on the scene out of nowhere, simply an athletic wonder and proceeded to go off. He has now cemented himself in the elite category of tight ends in dynasty.
He led all tight ends in Targets (146), Target Share (28.0-percent), Deep Targets (17), Red Zone Targets (24), Receptions (107), and YAC (562), as well as a few others.
Get him anywhere you can.
Recap: Sell Carr and Ruggs. Enjoy Waller. Hold Jacobs, or use him to upgrade to a truly elite back.
Los Angeles Chargers
Anthony Lynn is gone. Defensive-minded Brandon Staley is in as the new head coach. Joe Lombardi comes in as the new Offensive Coordinator, so we’ll have to see how this offense operates next year, but hopefully the Justin Herbert led fireworks continue.
This offense has great potential, and one that could propel many fantasy rosters on to glory.
After cutting his hair, Herbert experienced a Samson-esque effect, seemingly losing his strength, but fortunately he bounced back with a few monster games. He’s locked-and-loaded to wreck things next year.
As a rookie, Herbert uncorked 31 Money Throws (No. 6), posting a 105.9 True Passer Rating (No. 9). He especially excelled with his 72.5 Play Action Percentage (No. 3) and 46.8 Pressured Completion Percentage (No. 9). Add in his mobility, especially in close where it counts, as demonstrated by 20 Red Zone Carries (No. 5) and 5 Rushing Touchdowns (No. 6) and Herbert is an easy target in superflex leagues — if you can pry him from his owner.
Despite missing six games in the middle of the season, Austin Ekeler delivered for his owners when he played, logging 16.5 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 9). Injuries happen, but it was more than encouraging that Ekeler was able to be “the guy” without Gordon. Happily, the Chargers have him locked up for three more years, giving owners confidence that Ekeler can keep producing. This is especially the case with the lack of talent behind him on the depth chart.
Even if Ekeler cedes running work to grinders like Joshua Kelley, he makes a living in the passing game. His 17.4-percent Target Share (No. 4) is superb.
Even missing all that time, he still tallied 54 Receptions (No. 5) and 403 Receiving Yards (No. 5). With that type of receiving production, we really only need average rushing ability for him to be productive.
Scoop-up Ekeler with confidence, especially as gamers get fascinated with new and shiner running backs.
Keenan Allen just keeps on keeping on.
There seems to be no stopping him and his dominance in the short game. He racks up target after target, leading to a gaudy 17.8-percent Hog Rate (No. 6) and 26.8-percent Target Share (No. 5). He isn’t blazing down the field, but that’s not his game. He is steady, solid, and continually undervalued. He will be 29-years old next year, but the Chargers are committed to him for the foreseeable future. Run it back, especially in PPR leagues.
What the Chargers are lacking is a solid no. 2 option in this receiving corps (especially if Hunter Henry departs, but more on that in a minute).
Mike Williams is absolutely capable of delivering a big game from time to time, but just isn’t consistent. Trying to decide when to start him must be infuriating in fantasy; 27 points one week and 3 the next. Not fun.
With the emergence of Herbert, we hoped that Williams would solidify himself as the reliable second option, but it wasn’t meant to be. In three full seasons in the league, Williams just hasn’t reached the heights of his 1.07 draft capital.
This past season may have been his most disappointing: He played the part of a deep threat for Herbert with his 14.8 aDOT, but struggled to separate with only a 1.28 Target Separation (No. 90), and wasn’t beating the defenders for the jump balls as seen in a rough 27.3-percent Contested Catch Rate (No. 95). Surely part of his struggles was on Herbert revealed in a 5.1 Target Quality Rating (No. 77), but Williams isn’t getting it down with his +0.7-percent Target Premium (No. 54).
Williams will be around for the 2021 season, but I’m fine with the Chargers and fantasy owners moving on from another low-volume deep threat.
It’ll be interesting to watch what happens with Henry this offseason. The Chargers can slap him with the franchise tag (again), which increases the chances of another year in town if they can’t get a long-term deal done.
Regardless, Henry has emerged as a reliable “tier two” guy at the position. Once Herbert took over, Henry rose to the occasion and supplied the rookie with a good option. While he didn’t set the world on fire for fantasy owners, we can expect solid production from him at this point. He reeled in 60 Catches (No. 8) and commanded a 17.0-percent Air Yards Share (No. 9).
While he struggled to find the end zone with only four scores (No. 17), and he doesn’t exactly burn the defense deep with his 7.9 aDOT, you’ll do far worse than Henry at the position, making him a safe add in tight end premium leagues especially.
Funny enough, he’s probably the worst starting tight end in the division, but we won’t hold that against him. Feel comfortable owning him.
Recap: Get all of the Herbert, Ekeler, Allen, and Henry that you can. Unburden yourself from Williams.