By Ryan Weisse
As August comes to an end, so do a few things here at Club Fantasy. On Wednesday, we close out our Women of Fantasy Football shows…and give away the last of our raffle items. Today, I finish up our trip around the league in our What To Watch For series. If you missed any of the other seven divisions, I encourage you to click that link and read up.
So here we are, finishing up with the AFC West. Star running backs galore out West but there are plenty of questions at quarterback (outside of Kansas City) and wide receiver. It just so happens that I aim to answer a few of those questions today. The season starts in fewer than ten days and here are the last things I’m watching in the AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs
Can the WR2 be a fantasy WR2?
We all want a piece of this offense when it comes to fantasy football. Unfortunately, there is only one Patrick Mahomes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce to go around, and you have to pay a premium to get them. So with all of those guys gone by the third round of your fantasy draft, is there anyone else worth considering? With such a prolific quarterback, shouldn’t the WR2 matter in fantasy? Yes, it should, but it’s complicated.
Mahomes has been a star for two seasons and his WR2 has never finished better than the WR49. There are a number of factors that have played into this but the most important is that the WR2 — Sammy Watkins in both years — hasn’t played a full 16 games. Watkins missed three games last year after missing six in 2018. His pace last year would have made him the WR36 and in 2018, the WR25. The hope in the Chiefs WR2 this year lies in the fact that it (hopefully) won’t be the oft-injured Watkins. Second-year receiver Mecole Hardman should assume the role and he was very productive on limited snaps last year. Hardman saw half the targets that Watkins did and scored just 11 fewer fantasy points. If he can double his targets and maintain his production, he would easily be a top-20 WR using his 2019 averages.
Las Vegas Raiders
WR1BC – A WR1-by-committee
The term Running Back By Committee is well recognized, and hated, among the fantasy community. The Raiders are heading into uncharted territory in 2020 and may give us one of the first WR1BC we’ve seen. Since the departure of Amari Cooper, Derek Carr has lacked an alpha-WR and has spread the ball around. Last year, a tight end led the team in targets. The team added two receivers in the draft and basically held onto everything they had last year. Who will lead this team in targets?
The answer: Probably Darren Waller. Again. But who will the best wide receiver be? In 2019, it was the unheralded rookie Hunter Renfrow with just 71 targets and a WR54 finish. Renfrow returns but may lose his coveted slot-WR role to rookie 1st Round pick Henry Ruggs. Ruggs feels like the best bet to take the target lead, especially with the injury to fellow speedster Tyrell Williams likely to impede him early in the season. But another rookie, Bryan Edwards, has been a camp darling and will likely begin the year as a starting outside receiver in this offense. In other words, it’s a mess. The good news is that all of these players have very low draft capital, so you can pick your favorite and hope for the best when the games finally start.
Jerry Jeudy vs Courtland Sutton
Before the NFL Draft, it was a common thought that Courtland Sutton was a clear-cut WR1 for the Broncos and that he had a very real chance at being a fantasy WR1. Before the NFL Draft, most people viewed Jerry Jeudy as the rookie WR1 and were excited to see where he would land. After the NFL Draft, when the Broncs drafted Jeudy, nobody is particularly high on either one and for good reason.
Sutton was the WR19 last year but he pulled a 25% team target share. He had 125 targets and the next wide receiver on the team had just 52. (It should be noted that Emmanuel Sanders had another 49 before he was traded in Week 9.) To make matters worse, Sutton was the WR26 after Drew Lock took over at quarterback in Week 13. It is fair to say that Jeudy will cut into that market share, while Drew Lock will be the starting quarterback going into 2020. Neither situation bodes well for a top-20 season from Sutton. Jeudy, on the other hand, has history working against him. Rookie receivers tend to struggle and he will fight to see over 100 targets as the team’s WR2. His draft price is far more manageable but he still comes with risk. If he outright steals the #1 job — a real possibility — he could finish in the top-30, far ahead of his ADP. If he’s stuck as the number two, you will cut him before he does anything for your fantasy team.
Los Angeles Chargers
Fantasy Managers should be pulling for Justin Herbert.
The exit of Philip Rivers after 13 seasons as the starting QB for the Chargers has created some real questions for fantasy owners. It appears the initial job of replacing Rivers will fall to Tyrod Taylor. Much like his brief time in Cleveland, Taylor is already looking over his shoulder at a rookie ready to take his job. If you’re a fantasy owner longing for the days of Rivers with the Chargers, you should be hoping this happens sooner than later.
For his own fantasy purposes, Taylor isn’t half bad. He possesses the fantasy QB cheat code with his ability to run the ball. As the starter in Buffalo, Taylor averaged a fantasy finish of QB13 for three seasons. For two of those three seasons, Anthony Lynn was the assistant head coach in Buffalo and is now the head coach in Los Angeles. The most concerning thing about their time together is that they averaged just 470 pass attempts per season, which would have been 3rd fewest in the NFL last year and 127 fewer times than the Chargers threw the ball with Rivers. Guys like Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler have made their living off of volume and Mike Williams certainly needs a big arm to match his skill-set. While we don’t know a lot about Justin Herbert yet, it’s safe to say he fits the Rivers mold far more than Taylor. His big arm would be a perfect match for Williams, and his lack of major mobility would lead to more targets for Allen and Ekeler. All in all, most fantasy situations are better when a team is throwing the ball, and that will happen more with Herbert at the helm.