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Early AFC depth charts provide fantasy insight


After sifting through the NFC depth charts yesterday, it's time to take a peek at the "unofficial" depth charts over in the AFC. Again, keep in mind, these are far from the end all be all, and could very well have changed by the time you actually read this article. Still, these are early indications of how the coaches are thinking, as well as what they are seeing after a week or so of training camp. Here's what we've gathered from the AFC depth charts.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

I was surprised when I saw on Twitter recently that a veteran Broncos beat reporter was predicting C.J. Anderson wouldn't make the final roster. Now, the Broncos running back depth chart reads Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. Hmm. Again, this could change as training camp progresses, but if you're considering making a first- or second-round investment on Ball, be sure to watch this camp battle closely to know whom to draft as his handcuff.

Kansas City Chiefs

Despite a growing amount of offseason hype surrounding Travis Kelce, the second-year tight end is slotted in as the No. 2 option behind Anthony Fasano. This isn't too surprising, as Fasano is an eight-year veteran (who caught 23 passes for the Chiefs last season) and Kelce is still on his way back from knee surgery last October. Kelce has deep-sleeper potential, so monitor his usage in the offense during the preseason.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders haven't exactly been a fantasy gold mine of late, but there are at least players worth considering in 2014. The two-headed backfield of Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden was slated in that order on the depth chart. Both are going to get the ball, so don't take too much stock in their ranking. The more interesting note is that free agent acquisition James Jones is listed as the third wide receiver behind Rod Streater and Andre Holmes. Evidently, Holmes has been Matt Schaub's most consistent downfield target in the passing attack during camp, and his 17.2 yards per reception last season indicates he can make big plays. With a moderately improved quarterback situation, the Raiders' pass-catchers could make for interesting fourth or fifth options in fantasy this fall.

San Diego Chargers

Any worries about Donald Brown seriously cutting into the workload of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead have been assuaged momentarily, as he came in behind both on the depth chart. Hopefully Brown simply assumes the Ronnie Brown role from a year ago and nets somewhere around 50 carries, leaving plenty of work for Mathews and Woodhead, who, don't forget, were both top-20 fantasy backs last season. This is still a committee to keep an eye on as the preseason progresses.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

No real surprises on the Texans' depth chart. However, I am interested to see how Bill O'Brien deploys his tight ends Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin in the preseason. Graham has said he could be used more in an H-back role, which would be similar to how Aaron Hernandez was used when O'Brien was with the Patriots. By the process of elimination, that'd put Griffin in the Rob Gronkowski role. Now, that comparison is very surface level, as O'Brien could have many new wrinkles up his sleeve, and Graham and Griffin are not Hernandez and Gronk. However, depending on their production and usage in the preseason, both could be worthy of a late-round flier in fantasy drafts as a TE2.

Indianapolis Colts

Speaking of tight ends to target later in drafts, Dwayne Allen earned top honors at tight end for the Colts. Allen and Luck had a good rapport in their rookie season, and things seemed to be improving even more in 2013 until a hip injury cost Allen most of his sophomore campaign. Now, a fully healthy Allen could be in for a breakout year as Luck's security blanket over the middle. Unless the preseason shows something else, Allen has draft-day steal written all over him. His current ADP is the 15th round. Put him on your sleepers list and hope the rest of your league remains oblivious.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Despite an offseason ankle injury, rookie Marqise Lee is the No. 2 option for Chad Henne in the Jaguars' passing attack. Fellow rookie Allen Robinson is the No. 3 wide receiver behind Lee and Cecil Shorts III. I feel like we're beating a dead horse here, but rookie receivers are risky fantasy investments. However, half the battle is opportunity, and if Lee is going to be getting a ton of snaps as a rookie, he could be worth a super-late flier. As with most of the players we've discussed so far, it's a wait-and-see game during the preseason.

Tennessee Titans

Perhaps it's posturing to keep the rookie modest, or perhaps he hasn't shown quite enough yet in camp, but whatever the reason Bishop Sankey is currently third at the running back position behind Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster. Something tells me this will not be the case in a week or two. On the wide receiver front, fantasy sleeper and "Making the Leap" candidate Justin Hunter is listed as a second-string wideout behind Kendall Wright on one side of the field, with Nate Washington starting on the opposite side. Hunter is definitely one to watch during the preseason.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are both listed as the starting running backs, further frustrating fantasy ownes. The Ravens' rushing game was abysmal last season, but a big culprit was the offensive line. The biggest switch up front is the departure of former first-round pick Michael Oher at right tackle. Oher's replacement is the team's 2013 fifth-round draft pick Ricky Wagner out of Wisconsin. We don't know yet if Wagner will be the savior of the offensive line, but things really can't get much worse than they were last year. Stay tuned.

Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham are both listed as starting tight ends, making their value low-end TE2s at best. Jeremy Hill is currently behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but that figures to change as the preseason progresses. He's a top-notch dynasty target, and an excellent high-upside running back to stash later in drafts. Meanwhile, Marvin Jones is slated as the No. 2 wide receiver opposite A.J. Green. I'm high on Jones for 2014, as he finished 21st in fantasy scoring among wideouts last season while only playing 48 percent of the team's snaps. He could be poised for a breakout campaign, and can be drafted easily as a fourth or fifth wide out in fantasy drafts.

Cleveland Browns

Even though Josh Gordon's fate for 2014 has yet to be decided, the Browns have him listed as the top receiver on their depth chart. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer learned that the team is preparing for at least an eight-game suspension by the league, hoping that a settlement is reached rather than Gordon being banned for a full season. Elsewhere on the depth chart, veterans were placed ahead of rookies, as Brian Hoyer and Ben Tate got the No. 1 nods over rookies Johnny Manziel and Terrance West. Both of these positional battles are far from over. *Editor's note: Josh Gordon has been suspended for the entire 2014 season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Offseason darling Markus Wheaton figures to get yet another boost in his draft stock as he's listed as the starting wide receiver opposite Antonio Brown. Wheaton has game-breaking speed, and flashed his potential last preseason before injuries cost him a big portion of his season. The second-year wideout is a breakout candidate, and worth targeting later in fantasy drafts.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

C.J. Spiller is currently listed as the starting running back for the Bills, yet earlier this week expressed concerns that he might not be with the team in 2014. Spiller's worries are probably overblown, but it'll be worth tracking during the rest of the preseason. Meanwhile, Mike Williams is listed as the starting wide receiver with Sammy Watkins, and not Robert Woods. I was at the Hall of Fame Game last weekend, and during warmups watched Williams drop a number of passes. Woods, on the other hand, caught everything, including four of his five targets during the actual game for 49 yards and a touchdown. This seems like the Bills are giving starting reps to Williams to take full stock of what they're getting out of him, as they should already know Woods is a playmaker. Nevertheless, if Williams remains ahead of Woods on the depth chart as the regular season rolls around, Woods' sleeper status takes a hit.

Miami Dolphins

Knowshon Moreno was activated from the PUP list this morning, but when the Dolphins released their depth chart earlier this week, Moreno was listed as "other" at running back, with Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee ahead of him (and in that order). Moreno could be facing an uphill battle to even make the team. Miller is the back to be drafted here, but even then, be careful not to reach too far for him. We all know how that panned out last season, and the offensive line has only gotten a little better on paper with the addition of Branden Albert.

New England Patriots

As expected, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are both listed as starting running backs, indicating that this committee is not going away (not that anyone thought it would). It's encouraging that Gronk is listed as the No. 1 tight end, which could be an indication that the team is pleased with his recovery thus far. His stock will continue to rise as the regular season approaches, and if you want Gronk odds are you might have to cough up a second or third-round pick to get him come draft day.

New York Jets

Blergh. It appears Rex Ryan wasn't kidding around when he said he foresaw a "committee approach" in the backfield. Chris Johnson, Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory are all listed as the starting running back. Sigh. In other news, Jeremy Kerley gets the starting nod alongside Eric Decker instead of Stephen Hill or David Nelson, who are the second stringers. Decker is really the only option here worth targeting in fantasy this fall, unless someone else makes a serious splash in the preseason.

-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer and editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar. He promises to leave any and all slightly politically-oriented jokes out of future posts, as apparently his readership is very sensitive to these sort of things. He also hopes that he hasn't offended anyone just now by calling them sensitive. He has also just now come to the realization that this is the internet and as a content creator he automatically loses. But he thanks you all for reading and hopes you'll be back again for more fantasy football and jokes. Cheers.

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