Season-Long Fantasy Football Outlook - AFC West

Check out this post for a breakdown of my philosophy on each position

AFC West

Denver Broncos

This team won 6 games last season and Vegas has their win total set at 7 for 2019. They’re a really interesting team this year with Joe Flacco at the helm and I quite honestly don’t know what to expect.

Quarterback: If Joe Flacco is my fantasy quarterback I won’t be too upset about it.

Running Back: Phillip Lindsay came in last season and absolutely cucked the shit out of Royce Freeman. Everybody was high on Freeman and Phil of the Future just showed up and stole the show. Lindsay is the top guy here again entering the 2019 season, but the one question mark is how much of the workload will he see?

This team still likes what they have with Royce Freeman. They still believe he can be great. With so many of the successful NFL teams moving to timeshares in the backfield, should we expect the Broncos to do the same? I kind of think so. Phillip Lindsay was awesome last season, there’s no denying that. But Freeman was still getting touches throughout the season and I think he will take on a bigger role this year. I’m out on Phillip Lindsay this year.

The other side of that coin is Royce Freeman. He currently projects as a late 7th round pick this season and as the 34th overall running back. I would generally have interest in a 2nd year player with a chance to win some playing time, but I’d prefer a late round flyer. There are still really really good players with more upside available in the 7th and 8th rounds. I don’t think I want any part of either side of this backfield. Barring an injury to one of these two, I think they’ll both be inconsistent and unreliable from a fantasy perspective.

Wide Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders just keeps on trucking. He’s 32 years old and has battled injuries over the past few seasons, but he hasn’t really shown any signs of slowing down. He’s the clear number 1 receiver for the Broncos heading into the 2019 season and Flacco might be the best quarterback he’s had in years. People think he’s lost a step, so I’m not surprised to see him drafted all the way down in the 7th round. I’ll take advantage of that and snag him a little early this year. I’m expecting big things from Manny if he stays healthy.

The next guy worth mentioning here is 2nd year receiver Courtland Sutton out of SMU. Sutton is a big dude at 6’4” 215 lbs. and has the potential to be a really nice compliment across from Sanders. He showed a few signs of life last year when the volume was there, but overall had a disappointing rookie season. The Broncos used a second round pick on him last season, so there is no doubt he has upside, but the question is whether or not he’ll take a huge step forward in year 2. He’s lumped into the same part of the draft as Michael Gallup in the 8th/9th round range. I think he’s worth a shot if he lands in your lap, but I’m not going out of my way to get him.

Tight End: The Broncos top tight end this year figures to be rookie first round pick Noah Fant out of Iowa. Iowa has been a breeding ground for tight ends over the last few season and Noah Fant is no exception. People are very high on this kid and there’s no reason to believe the 6’4” 250 pound Fant can’t be a relevant fantasy tight end this season. Along with former teammate T.J. Hockenson, Fant is one of the few late-round tight ends with serious upside this year.

Kansas City Chiefs

I don’t need to say much about the Chiefs. They should have one of, if not the best offense in the NFL this season and their regular season win total of 10.5 is a reflection of that.

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes is the number one fantasy quarterback heading into the 2019 season but he’ll be drafted long before I consider taking a quarterback.

Running Back: Damien Williams figures to be the number 1 running back on this team heading into the 2019 season. I am really not sure what to expect from Williams, who has not done much over his first 5 seasons in the NFL. People seem to believe he will be a plug-and-play replacement for Kareem Hunt because of his production last season, but I’m not sold.

Williams assumed the number one role after Hunt went out last season strictly because he was the only guy there. I am not convinced he’s some sort of insane talent or that he’s even an above average player at this point in his career. As long as he’s the number one back in this backfield, he’s valuable, but the question I have is how long will he be the top dog?

It has been recently announced that the number 2 running back in Kansas City will not be Carlos Hyde, but rather rookie 6th round pick Darwin Thompson out of Utah State. I’d be lying if I said I know anything about this kid, but I do know that the Chiefs seem to like him. To name him the number 2 running back before the season even begins means that they believe in him and think he can carve himself out a role. But what will that role be?

Damien Williams will start the year as the number 1 running back in this backfield, but I am going to make the bold prediction that Darwin Thompson will steal his job. The fact that he has already beaten out Carlos Hyde makes me believe that he will eventually blow past Damien Williams as well. I am fully fading Damien Williams this season, and I will make sure to have Darwin Thompson on every team I draft. He’s projected to go in the 9th round, so I’ll likely try to use my 7th or 8th round pick on him depending on how the draft goes. I think this year’s breakout running back is a kid named Darwin Thompson.

Wide Receiver: Ethically I won’t take Tyreek Hill and I will publicly shame anybody who does. He’s a fantastic football player and an awful human being who I believe should be in prison. After Hill, this team has Sammy Watkins, rookie Mecole Hardman, and DeMarcus Robinson. It’s worth noting here that this is a unique situation in which the tight end absorbs a much higher than normal share of the targets.

Sammy Watkins cut himself out a nice role in this offense last year and figures to be a pretty consistent fantasy receiver moving forward. He’s projected to be a 5th round pick which is probably fair, but I’m still looking for a little more upside that early in the draft. I think Watkins will be good and reliable, but I don’t think he’s going to set the league on fire this year. I’m personally not drafting him unless he falls pretty far.

Mecole Hardman is the only other guy I have any interest in here. The Chiefs used a 2nd round pick on Hardman in this year’s draft so there is no doubt they really like this kid. He ran a 4.33 40 at the combine and could be a really dangerous weapon in this offense. I’d have more interest in him if I knew he was going to pass Watkins in this offense (or if Hill got a lifetime ban from the NFL like he deserves), but I think he may have value regardless.

If Mahomes is going to throw the ball 40 times per game, it’s not unreasonable to think that there could be 4 valuable pass-catchers in this offense. That means even with Kelce, Hill, and Watkins eating up 25+ targets per game, Hardman could potentially see a significant share of the love coming his way. Hardman is right in line with Marquise Brown and Tre’Quan Smith in the group of receivers I’m looking to take a late round flyer on.

Tight End: Travis Kelce remains one of the best tight ends in fantasy due to his elite combination of talent and targets. Kelce’s 9.4 targets per game puts him in the same category as some of the top receivers in the game. In fact, only 7 players had more targets than Kelce (150) in 2018.

My issue here is the difference in average draft position between Kelce and Zach Ertz. Kelce projects as the 15th overall pick, while Ertz is all the way down at number 30. Ertz had more targets (156) and more receptions (116) than Kelce (103) in 2018, and unless Dallas Goedert is expected to eat up a lot of Ertz’s production, I think I’m more inclined to just wait on a tight end until round 3 than to reach on Kelce in round 2.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers will once again be one of the top teams in the AFC and their Vegas win total of 10 confirms that. There’s no reason to believe this team will struggle in 2019.

Quarterback: Phillip Rivers is fantastic despite looking like a 10 year old girl throwing with her non-dominant hand. If he’s my fantasy quarterback I won’t be mad about it.

Running Back: This is a mess but also pretty simple to break down. Melvin Gordon has been holding out and is not afraid to hold out for the entire season. We saw what Le’Veon Bell did last year and we saw him get paid this offseason, so if I’m Gordon I’m only coming back on my own terms. This pick is all about risk management.

If Gordon is still holding out when you draft, you have to have a backup plan in case he holds out. That means you should be reaching to draft Austin Ekeler long before he’s projected to be taken in the 7th round. Gordon projects to be a 2nd or third round pick, which means you need to use a 2nd/3rd on him and then a 5th/6th on Ekeler. This is a high-powered offense and the top back in this backfield is incredibly valuable. If you think one elite running back is worth 2 of your first 5 or 6 picks, then it may be worth it.

I haven’t made up my mind on this situation, but I think I know my favorite way to approach it. I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to pick Melvin Gordon, but if by some bizarre circumstance he falls in my draft, then I might take a shot on him. Regardless of what happens with Gordon, I’m reaching on Ekeler. The upside on this guy is just too high if Gordon sits or gets hurt, and I don’t think either of those scenarios is that unlikely. I think there’s probably a 50% chance Gordon plays this entire season. I’m willing to spend a 6th round pick on a 50% chance of having an elite-level back.

Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen is one of the top receivers in fantasy year after year and tends to be disrespected, most likely because his name is Keenan Allen and he wears a hoodie under his pads. He may not look the part, but this guy is a certified stud and had the 14th most targets in the league last season. The targets are there, the talent is there, and I think Keenan Allen is absolutely worth a mid-to-late 2nd round pick this year.

After that it gets a little more difficult to figure out. I loved Mike Wiliams at Clemson and I thought he was going to tear it up last season. He showed flashes of brilliance last season, but truthfully I’m not 100% sold on the guy. He is probably being drafted right where he should be, in the group of receivers that includes Tyler Boyd, Calvin Ridley, and D.J. Moore. I think this guy has some serious upside, but I’m not going out of my way to reach on him. If he falls a little bit to me I won’t hesitate to snag him, but there are other guys in this range I just like a little bit more.

Tight End: Full disclosure: I have no idea what to do with Hunter Henry. Apparently this guy is supposed to be awesome, but he hasn’t played enough for me to really make a definitive statement on that. Given that uncertainty, I think I’d rather just take Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, or Jared Cook if I need to take a tight end in the 6th round of my draft.

Oakland Raiders

Oh boy, what to do with the Oakland Raiders in 2019. Vegas has this team’s win total set at a measly 6 games for the 2019 season and that’s not exactly an encouraging number. Only the Bengals, Cardinals, and Dolphins have lower projected win totals which is telling me we can expect the Raiders to be one of the worst teams in the league this year.

Quarterback: Meh. I’ll have interest in Derek Carr when he faces shitty teams, but I don’t want to be stuck with him as my only quarterback this year. I’d rather roster Nathan Peterman and just hope Gruden gives the future Hall-of-Famer a shot to prove himself (not actually, but as a Pitt grad I have a massive soft spot for Natey P).

Running Back: Everybody’s trendy pick for the 2019 season is rookie first round pick Josh Jacobs out of Alabama. He should be the de-facto number 1 running back for this team with absolutely no talent at the tailback position, but does that mean he’s going to be good? I don’t think so. Is the talent there? Probably. Are the touches there? Probably. Is the offense there? Ehhhh I don’t know.

That’s my issue with Jacobs – this Raiders offense. A team with the 4th-lowest projected win total should not expect to be up late in many games this season. They play in one of the toughest divisions in football and quite frankly just aren’t a very good team. If they’re losing 10+ games this season, that means there won’t be many 3rd and 4th quarter carries for Jacobs, and that means his value could be severely limited.

So there’s my answer to the Josh Jacobs question: No. Don’t do it. Yes he will be given a shot and yes he has some serious upside, but I don’t think this team will be good enough for him to flourish this season. It’s not a knock on Jacobs, I think he will have a fine career, but I am not using a 3rd round pick on this guy.

Wide receiver: The other massive question mark on this Raiders offense this season is Mr. Tony Toe Taps, Antonio Brown. There is no doubt that this guy is a tremendous receiver and one of the most talented players in the league, but what can we expect from him from a fantasy standpoint? This is an easy one for me – Don’t pick Antonio Brown.

The biggest reason is this: There are so many good options in the mid-to-late 2nd round that there is absolutely no reason to take a guy with question marks around him. Antonio Brown is projected to be the 16th pick in the draft this year. The next 5 projected picks are as follows: Joe Mixon, James Conner, Dalvin Cook, Mike Evans, and Keenan Allen. The conversation could stop right there. All of these guys are much safer and have the same upside as Antonio Brown this season.

The next reason is that Antonio Brown is an asshole. Seriously, this guy cares about Antonio Brown and that’s about it. And whatever, good for him. I’m not saying it’s such a horrible thing to be selfish, but I have no interest in drafting a guy who could decide at any moment that he doesn’t want to play football anymore because he has the wrong helmet or because he “doesn’t need” football. He has an attitude, and I think it’s more likely than not that it affects his production this season.

AB could have a fantastic season. I’m not saying he’s guaranteed to flop. I’m just saying that he’d have to fall a longgg way before I would consider taking a shot on him this year.

After AB the conversation shifts to an ugly group of guys including Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow. I don’t think the talent level is there for Tyrell Williams to be a good fantasy asset this year, so I won’t be drafting him. Hunter Renfrow is a little interesting but I’d more so just be waiting on AB to quit on the team for his value to be there. Long story short, I’m not drafting any Oakland Raiders receivers this year.

Tight End: HARD KNOCKS BIAS ALERT – I love Darren Waller. This guy was apparently addicted to drugs and completely lost but has managed to turn his life around and is tearing it up in Raiders camp. He’ll probably go undrafted in most leagues and I probably won’t end up using a pick on him, but I’m certainly interested. Keep an eye on Waller, if he starts getting a bunch of targets he could be this year’s waiver wire tight end of the year.

About the Author

  • Matt Shanahan (mshanahan)

  • Matt Shanahan is an engineer by trade and firmly believes in data-driven analytics. He grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. His betting strategy is to develop theories, create models to test those theories, and then collect data to see what works and what doesn’t.


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