The team-by-team reports, including 2014 fantasy football rankings, projections and player commentary came to a close last week with the AFC West division. That means this is my last Second Opinion article, reviewing those reports and identifying one player per team in which I feel Dave and Mike (the DraftBuddy.com projection and ranking guys) have forecast too high or too low.
The Denver Broncos are the clear favorite to win this division and have their sites set much higher in another Super Bowl or bust season. They will be closely followed by the offense-driven San Diego Chargers and defense-strong Kansas City Chiefs. Each of these teams should be in the running for a Wild-Card spot in the conference. The Oakland Raiders seem to be far apart from these teams, but do no sleep on the Raiders as they may surprise with what could be a close-to-.500 record.
Team Report – July 29
Denver Broncos are certainly the offense every person wants a piece of on their fantasy team. Arguably the number one quarterback, a Top 10 running back, three wide receivers in the Top 32, and a Top 3 tight end. What can we disagree about? Well, for starters we know that Peyton Manning will not put up the same numbers that he put up last year, and that’s nothing against Peyton Manning, but throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons is very unlikely. However, he does still have the majority of the same weapons he had last year, outside of the loss of Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker. With these losses, the Denver Broncos plug in college standout Montee Ball and former Pittsburgh Steeler Emmanuel Sanders. Of the two additions, I think the player that has a bigger impact than projected is Sanders.
We saw Sanders put up 740 yards on 67 receptions with Ben Roethlisberger. With a future Hall of Fame quarterback, we are looking at Sanders achieving his first 1,000 yard season. We’ve seen Sanders do it all: short routes, deep routes, running across the middle of the field. He is conservatively projected close to his prior year numbers, which was admittedly a career year for him, but I think 80 receptions and 1,000 yards is a better expectation for a player hitting his prime and joining a much better offense. As a result, Sanders should climb the board and potentially land in the Top 25.
Kansas City Chiefs
Team Report – July 30
Last season was a great year for the Kansas City Chiefs. Their defense shocked most people and played phenomenal. Alex Smith exceeded expectations ending as the 16th ranked quarterback, a career best for him, and Jamaal Charles was a fantasy beast ending the season as the Number 1 ranked running back. The receiving did not perform that well, ending with only 3,561 yards and 24 touchdowns (Charles contributed 693 of those yards and 7 touchdowns). If there is any part of the Chiefs that needs improving, it’s their receiving game. However, that is not where I disagree with not only the forecasts at this website, but most of the fantasy industry’s rankings.
While I agree Charles should be projected and ranked as a Top 5 player based on his talent and being Mr. Do-It-All in Andy Reid’s system, I do not think Charles should be the number one running back in fantasy football. As was mentioned in the Jamaal Charles player commentary, the Chiefs lost three main men on their offensive line, so there will be a learning curve for the new players, which might limit the yardage for Charles. Plus, can a player who is so much the focal point of an offense continue at that torrid pace? If defenses wake up to the fact they stop one guy, they stop the Chiefs offense, then it makes things that much tougher on Charles. My point being, he’s a great player, but recognize the risk relative to other players ranked near Charles. I would at a minimum draft LeSean McCoy or Matt Forte ahead of Charles this season.
Team Report – July 31
Another offseason has come and gone, and the Oakland Raiders certainly didn’t disappoint being active participants and grabbing headlines. They added three name free agent veterans to the offense, each of which couldn’t possibly be part of any team’s long term plan, instead attempting a short term fix.
Former Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub was brought in to start with hopes rookie Derek Carr develops into their starter of the future. The Raiders needed an upgrade at wide receiver, signing James Jones from the Green Bay Packers, but Jones has rarely been a consistent player and owes a lot of his success to Aaron Rodgers. The third signing is the biggest historic performer for fantasy football players, former Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew.
Given the history of Darren McFadden and his inability to stay healthy, I think we see MJD turn out to be a nice pick up for the Raiders. By season’s end, it’s very likely we see MJD hit the 200 touch mark and accumulate close to 1,000 total yards. He is coming off his worst season (excluding the injury shortened 2012 season), and listening to his responses to critics through the media, he’s certainly out to prove them wrong. Schaub and the hodge-podge group of receivers can’t carry this team, so they will focus efforts on running the ball. Count on the veteran that’s had success playing for a bad team before, MJD.
San Diego Chargers
Team Report – August 1
In 2013, San Diego Chargers exceeded expectations, making it to the playoffs and coming up just short against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. Philip Rivers had a resurgence, Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead proved to be a great running back committee, and breakout rookie wide receiver Kennan Allen was amazing. Expectations are now much higher, but signs point towards a successful 2014. In terms of changes on the team, the backfield is more crowded with the addition of Donald Brown from the Indianapolis Colts.
The company line from the Chargers is that Brown, “is just a backup option.” However, Brown performed well on the Colts last season when Trent Richardson could not, and no one else was able, mostly due to injury. Brown can challenge Mathews for touches based on his skill as a runner and receiver. Woodhead should continue to be just as involved or more based on his pass catching ability.
To that end, I do not see Mathews repeating his career season numbers of 1,255 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. Last season was the first time Mathews ever stayed healthy all season in his four-year NFL career, and he somehow did that with 60 more carries than his previous career high. We can understand why the Chargers decided to sign Brown as an insurance on Mathews. As a result, the projections of 1,275 yards, 8 touchdowns appear to be too optimistic.