2019 Fantasy Football Preview: AFC West

Friday, Jul 5, 2019 at 12:00 pm ET

Training camps will be here before you know it followed quickly by the preseason. That means that fantasy drafts are right around the corner as is your fantasy research. Let's start that research with the AFC West.

Aggregated team reviews are below.

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers Los Angeles Chargers

There's a lot of fantasy points to be had with the Chargers. Anchored by veteran QB Philip Rivers, the run game is dominated by Melvin Gordon who will be surrounded by a trio of receiving threats in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry. The Chargers Defense is also one of those fantasy stalwarts that will contribute to your fantasy success.

Top Fantasy Player

Melvin Gordon

Melvin Gordon - RB

Once names like Barkley, Elliott, Kamara and McCaffrey are off the board, Fantasy managers will consider Melvin Gordon with an early Round 1 pick. They should -- he's finished no worse than eighth-best in Fantasy points and sixth-best in consistency among his rushing peers, including a No. 8 finish in 2018 despite missing four games. If there's a knock on Gordon it's that he'll miss some time during the season, something he's done in three of four seasons. But that's something you'll risk given the incredibly stable nature of his game.

Best Fantasy Players By Position

PositionPlayerPosition RankAuction Price
QBPhilip Rivers15th$7
RBMelvin Gordon5th$58
WRMike Williams31st$22
TEHunter Henry5th$15

Sleeper: Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers remains one of the safest Fantasy quarterbacks you can find on Draft Day, and he's worth taking with a late-round pick in all leagues. In 2018, he was the No. 10 quarterback in leagues with six points for passing touchdowns, and he scored at least 20 Fantasy points in 11 of 16 games. He also had fewer than 18 points just three times. Now, he does lose Tyrell Williams this season as a free agent to Oakland, and he'll be 38 in December. But he also gets Hunter Henry back from last year's torn ACL, and Mike Williams should continue to improve in his third season as the No. 2 receiver opposite Keenan Allen. Rivers should again give you quality production at an amazing value, which makes him someone to covet in all leagues.

Breakout: Hunter Henry

Hunter Henry has the chance to be a breakout Fantasy tight end this season now that he's healthy, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 5 in most leagues. Henry played just 14 snaps last season in the NFL playoffs after suffering a torn ACL last May. He was considered a breakout candidate last year prior to getting hurt, and hopefully he can stay at 100 percent this season. We'll see if the Chargers bring back Antonio Gates, who is a free agent, and the team lost Tyrell Williams (Raiders) this offseason. With those two gone, there are 110 targets for 69 catches, 987 yards and seven touchdowns to replace from last year. A good portion of that should go to Henry, who had at least 11 PPR points in seven of 14 games in 2017. Philip Rivers should lean on Henry as one of his top targets, along with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Melvin Gordon, and Henry could be a top-five Fantasy tight end this year.

Bust Alert: Mike Williams

If you're targeting Mike Williams in Round 6 or 7, hopefully you're doing it with the right expectations. Williams might be the first receiver ever to score 10 touchdowns in a season yet record just five games with 13-plus PPR Fantasy points (10-plus non-PPR). That kind of disappointing result can only be improved by a larger role in the offense. The Chargers let go of Tyrell Williams but tight end and red-zone hog Hunter Henry will be back in the fold. If you draft Williams, you're either hoping for another 10-touchdown season or an incredibly large rise in targets.

Oakland Raiders Oakland Raiders

Oakland was a bit of a revolving door in the offseason. They added stud WR Antonio Brown along with other wide receivers Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant, and J.J. Nelson. They lost Marshawn Lynch, Jordy Nelson, Jared Cook, and Martavis Bryant. That should be interesting as the Raiders had the most targets last year (361) and those need to go somewhere. Throw in rookie Josh Jacobs and the potential is definitely there for a big season.

Top Fantasy Player

Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown - WR

Even if everything goes right in Oakland, it's hard to see Antonio Brown being worth a first-round pick, and there are so many things that could go wrong. It's much safer to draft him late in the second round. Brown has to acclimate to catching passes from Derek Carr and running routes in Jon Gruden's offense. The Raiders have to try to keep him happy. Even if all that comes together, he looks more like a top-10 receiver than one of the best in the game.

Best Fantasy Players By Position

PositionPlayerPosition RankAuction Price
QBDerek Carr24th$1
RBJosh Jacobs23rd$24
WRAntonio Brown7th$40
TEDarren Waller41st$0

Sleeper: Tyrell Williams

The Raiders signed receiver Tyrell Williams to a four-year, $44 million contract this season, and he's expected to start opposite Antonio Brown. Williams should have the chance for a healthy amount of targets in Oakland, which wasn't always the case with the Chargers. In 2018, Williams only had three games with more than five targets, and he only scored double digits in PPR in four outings. We saw in 2016 when Keenan Allen was out for the Chargers with a torn ACL that Williams could be a quality Fantasy option. That season, Williams scored at least 12 PPR points in 10 games. He might not perform at that level with the Raiders, but that would be the hope since he should get more passes thrown in his direction. He's worth drafting in all leagues with a late-round pick.

Breakout: Josh Jacobs

Josh Jacobs might not be in the same class prior to the season as Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette or Saquon Barkley -- prized rookies in the NFL Draft -- but hopefully he's as productive as they were as rookies. And based on his upside in Oakland's offense, Jacobs is worth drafting as early as Round 3 in all formats. While Jalen Richard could play on passing downs, and Doug Martin will get some touches, the Raiders should make Jacobs a focal point on offense. He didn't play much at Alabama with 251 carries for 1,491 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns, as well as 48 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns in three seasons, so he should be fresh coming into the NFL. Coach Jon Gruden has a good history with his running backs, and in 2018 he was able to get Marshawn Lynch, Martin and Richard to combine for 17 games with double digits in PPR scoring. The Raiders offense should be improved this season with Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and Trent Brown coming to Oakland, and Jacobs should benefit in a big way. While his Average Draft Position will likely be in Round 4, don't be afraid to target Jacobs in Round 3 if you're excited about his prospects in 2019.

Bust Alert: Antonio Brown

Brown spent the first 9 seasons of his NFL career with the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger. It's tough to quantify exactly what his on-field rapport with Big Ben meant for his fantasy production. He'll need to create the same rapport with Derek Carr...and quickly. Given Brown's contract size, he's guaranteed to be the focal point of the passing attack which translates to increased volume. We're hoping that volume will make up for the change in environment. Carr is not Big Ben and that's going to become painfully obvious in a matter of weeks. If you're drafting him before the late 2nd/early 3rd round, you're reaching.

Denver Broncos Denver Broncos

The story of Joe Flacco continues in Denver and he'll have some decent targets to throw to including Coutland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Emmanuel Sanders, and Noah Fant. The backfield has talent as well with Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman battling for the starting gig. That's good news for the team, but perhaps not so good for fantasy owners as the timeshare will likely dilute their values.

Top Fantasy Player

Phillip Lindsay

Phillip Lindsay - RB

Fantasy managers should take caution selecting Broncos back Phillip Lindsay -- he's a fair pick in Round 4, not before. Lindsay opens the year as Denver's top back after getting 15 or more touches in 10 games last season. But rarely did he profile as a dominant workhorse, getting 20-plus touches twice all year. Denver has a new quarterback, a first-time NFL playcaller in ex-Kyle Shanahan lieutenant Rich Scangarello and a suspect offensive line. Lindsay must find success despite these drawbacks, not to mention still sharing with Royce Freeman. His best chance to match last year's numbers is if he gets more work in the passing game (3.1 targets per game last year).

Best Fantasy Players By Position

PositionPlayerPosition RankAuction Price
QBJoe Flacco29th$0
RBPhillip Lindsay20th$23
WREmmanuel Sanders49th$1
TENoah Fant24th$1

Sleeper: Noah Fant

The Broncos selected rookie tight end Noah Fant from Iowa in the first-round of the NFL Draft, and he's expected to be a key contributor on offense right away. Fant is more of a move tight end, but he will likely line up all over the field. And given Joe Flacco's tendency to lean on his tight ends, Fant could have landed in a great situation. We expect Fant to excel even when Drew Lock takes over at quarterback, and Fant is one of the rare rookie tight ends to covet in seasonal leagues. We would only draft him with a late-round pick in most formats - after his Iowa teammate, T.J. Hockenson - but he's worth a first-round pick in rookie-only drafts.

Breakout: Courtland Sutton

Courtland Sutton is the most promising wide receiver in Denver now, and that alone is enough to make him a mid-round option on Draft Day with upside. His competition is DaeSean Hamilton (8.1 yards per catch as a rookie) or Emmanuel Sanders (coming off a torn Achilles), so there's certainly an opportunity for him to emerge as Joe Flacco's top option. That may not be a star-making role, but it should be enough to make for a starting Fantasy option.

Bust Alert: Phillip Lindsay

Lindsay just turned in one of the best seasons by an undrafted rookie RB in NFL history. His 1,037 rushing yards were third-most by an undrafted rookie back, and his nine rushing scores were tied for fourth-most. His season ended in Week 16 with an injury to his wrist - an injury that we're still concerned with and will need to monitor closely in the preseason. Even if he didn't have a wrist issue, he's almost certain to see a regression in this stats. We shouldn't undersell how impressive Lindsay was as a rookie. He's at least a strong bet to stay busy in the passing game this season and brings high-end RB2 upside. But the risks involved figure to make him overvalued in most fantasy drafts this summer.

Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City Chiefs

Nobody put up more yards and points per game last year than the Chiefs, but can we expect that same level with Kareem Hunt moving on and questions surrounding Tyreek Hill's availability? Patrick Mahomes helped many fantasy owners reach the postseason with his gaudy stats, but regression is certainly a possibility here. Mahomes will still be great...just not 2018-great. Fortunately, there's always stud-TE Travis Kelce. He's as safe a pick as you can make in this year's draft.

Top Fantasy Player

Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce - TE

Travis Kelce is so good he would have finished as a top-12 wide receiver in both of the last two seasons regardless of format. Getting a player like that at tight end is worth the top-15 draft choice. It helps that he plays in one of the league's most explosive offenses, one that could be without playmaker Tyreek Hill for parts of 2019. That should keep the targets coming for Kelce. If you want to differentiate your lineup from your opponents, grab this amazing player before the likes of Nick Chubb, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans come off the board.

Best Fantasy Players By Position

PositionPlayerPosition RankAuction Price
QBPatrick Mahomes1st$25
RBDamien Williams14th$38
WRSammy Watkins24th$20
TETravis Kelce1st$45

Sleeper: Sammy Watkins

There's a good chance Sammy Watkins will be the No. 1 receiver in Kansas City this season if Tyreek Hill misses any time due to a suspension. And if that happens then Watkins could be a standout Fantasy receiver in all leagues, worth drafting as early as Round 4 or 5. If Hill doesn't face a lengthy suspension, Watkins should not be drafted before Round 6, but the biggest key for Watkins this season will be staying healthy. If Hill is out, Watkins should be the No. 1 receiver for the Chiefs and the No. 2 target for Patrick Mahomes behind Travis Kelce. Watkins showed flashes of greatness last year in his first season in Kansas City, but he only played eight healthy games because of foot and hamstring injuries. In those eight games, Watkins had 39 catches for 515 yards and three touchdowns, and if you project that over a full season, he would have finished with 78 catches for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns. Watkins has played 16 games just once, which was his rookie season in 2014, and injuries have plagued him ever since. But if Hill is out, the Chiefs will have to replace his production of 87 catches for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns on 137 targets. While rookie Mecole Hardman could see a good chunk of that, we're hopeful Watkins gets a boost in his stats as well. It could be a big year for Watkins in 2019.

Breakout: Damien Williams

When's the last time you were disappointed by a running back coached by Andy Reid? If you can't remember, you should race to draft Damien Williams before the end of Round 4 (and maybe even the end of Round 3). Williams scored eight times in the Chiefs' last five games, averaging 114.4 total yards and 18.6 touches per game. It's silly to expect those averages to continue, particularly since Williams has never been a featured back before, but with a firm grip on beginning the year as Kansas City's top running back ahead of Carlos Hyde and rookie Darwin Thompson, Williams offers plenty of intrigue for Fantasy managers looking for a running back with huge upside. Your best move could be drafting Williams and Hyde (Round 9).

Bust Alert: Patrick Mahomes

There's no way around it, Patrick Mahomes is going to regress from 2018. We just don't know how much. We also don't know if he'll have Tyreek Hill, which makes it difficult to draft him before the fourth round. Expect Mahomes' touchdown rate (8.6%) and yards per attempt (8.8) to fall significantly in 2019, but he had enough cushion that he could still be the No. 1 quarterback. Just not by a landslide. The downside for Mahomes is still one of the five or six best quarterbacks in Fantasy - just don't draft him in the first two rounds of your 1-QB leagues.

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