Fantasy News  

 

NFL Fantasy Exit Interviews: AFC West

Print


AFC West


Denver Broncos (7-9)

2019 Team Offensive Ranks Total offense: 28th Passing: 28th Rushing: 20th

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Joe Flacco -- 1,822 yards, 6 TD, 5 INT (QB35)
Rushing: Phillip Lindsay -- 1,011 rush yards, 7 TD (RB19)
Receiving: Courtland Sutton -- 72 rec., 1,112 yards, 6 TD (WR35)

What went right: This won't take very long. Courtland Sutton. That's pretty much the list. The former SMU star was a breakout in his second season as Denver's only true receiving threat. His role only grew after an under-used and disgruntled Emmanuel Sanders was traded to San Francisco midway through the season.

If we're being kind, we can throw Phillip Lindsay into this box as well. After a surprising rookie campaign, Lindsay's numbers didn't have a dramatic fall-off. He still rushed for more than 1,000 yards with just two fewer rushing touchdowns. On the surface, that wouldn't seem to be cause for frustration. But anyone who rostered Lindsay and watched him post a string of anemic performances in the back half of the season would beg to differ. Lindsay's running mate, Royce Freeman, did see a larger role in the passing game this season, more than tripling his receptions from the previous season. Unfortunately, Freeman's weekly ceiling wasn't high enough to earn him a spot in many lineups.

What went wrong: Another year, another disaster at quarterback. After stumbling through 2018 with Case Keenum under center, the Broncos pivoted to veteran free agent Joe Flacco. The results were arguably worse. Flacco struggled through eight games before going on injured reserve with a neck injury. From there, Denver turned to first-year quarterback Brandon Allen, who merely kept the seat lukewarm until rookie Drew Lock (the team's second-round pick in 2019) was healthy enough to take over. If Lock is indeed the club's future at quarterback, that future is still some time away.

While Sutton had a second-year breakout, the same can't be said of DaeSean Hamilton. Denver's other second-year wideout saw nearly identical production from 2018, which is to say still fewer than 300 total receiving yards and just one touchdown. Even the once-vaunted Broncos defense appeared to be a shell of its former self. The unit was middle-of-the-pack in nearly every way, posting just three weeks with double-digit fantasy points and finishing a lackluster 18th at the position.

What needs to improve: So much of the success and failure of the Broncos offense in the years ahead will center on whether or not they can get the quarterback position right. Five starts isn't enough to definitively say if Drew Lock is or isn't "the guy" -- the team was 4-1 in those starts, but it's hard to credit most of those wins to Lock's play. Hopefully what was saw from Sutton was the start of something great but unless there's better production under center, it might be tough for the rest of his teammates to come along.

Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

2019 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 5th
Passing: 5th
Rushing: 23rd

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Patrick Mahomes -- 4.031 yards, 26 TD, 5 INT (QB7)
Rushing: Damien Williams -- 498 yards, 5 TD (RB38)
Receiving: Travis Kelce -- 97 rec., 1,229 yards, 5 TD (TE1)

What went right: Once again, fantasy managers were clamoring to get a piece of the Kansas City passing game. Travis Kelce remained the top tight end in fantasy football (though George Kittle is hot on his heels) and Tyreek Hill again had WR1 upside, although missing nearly the entirety of the first five games due to injury kept his overall numbers down from previous seasons.

That, of course, brings us to Patrick Mahomes. Over the summer, you couldn't have a conversation about the Chiefs quarterback without someone admonishing you to beware of regression. That seemed obvious after he tossed 50 touchdowns during an MVP campaign in 2018. As expected, Mahomes didn't post video game numbers and finished with a very mortal total of 4,000 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. In reality, the disappointment over Mahomes' performance was a product of his outsized 2018. Maybe a QB7 finish wasn't what you envisioned when you spent a second or third-round draft pick on him but he wasn't exactly a bust. Also, let this be a lesson about drafting a QB early.

What went wrong: In today's NFL, the run game isn't as important as it once was. But that doesn't mean you can punt on it totally. In fairness, the Chiefs didn't exactly punt on the running game but they certainly didn't scare anyone with it. Andy Reid's backfield was a hydra of fantasy sadness, led by the oft-injured Damien Williams and a declining LeSean McCoy. Throw in occasional appearances by Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson and this group caused more heartburn than that late night run to the barbecue joint that you thought was such a good idea at the time. Also, Sammy Watkins.

What needs to improve: Despite once again being one of the more productive offenses in the NFL, it was apparent that this team missed Kareem Hunt -- or just anyone who could give them consistency in the backfield. Everything else appears to be rolling along just fine. If Mecole Hardman continues his development after an intriguing rookie season, that would add one more weapon to an already potent aerial attack.

Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)

2019 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 21st
Passing: 6th
Rushing: 28th

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Philip Rivers -- 4,615 yards, 23 TD, 20 INT (QB18)
Rushing: Melvin Gordon -- 612 yards, 8 TD (RB23)
Receiving: Keenan Allen -- 104 rec., 1,199 yards, 6 TD (WR6)

What went right: You didn't see Austin Ekeler's name listed above but don't let that fool you. The Chargers figured out how to fully unlock their diminutive Swiss Army Knife of a back to the tune of 1,550 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns. Ekeler got off to a flying start thanks to Melvin Gordon's extended holdout while in search of a new contract (spoiler alert: he didn't get it) but continued to be a playmaker even after Gordon returned to the club. Considering there's a good chance that Gordon will make his bones elsewhere next season, Ekeler projects to be a first-round pick in most 202 drafts.

Very quietly, Keenan Allen was again a top 10 fantasy receiver. On the one hand, that doesn't feel like it should be a shocking statement. On the other hand, it's hard to envision a player that had just two 100-yard receiving games and went seven straight weeks without scoring a touchdown landing as a solid WR1 at the end of the season. He should be one of the top 50 players off the board again in 2020. Let's also not overlook Mike Williams, who took a big step forward in 2019. The third-year wideout might have only scored two touchdowns but he was a bona fide deep threat in the offense and posted his first career 1,000-yard season.

What went wrong: Philip Rivers had spent many a season as the patron saint of the Church of Waiting on a Quarterback. That might be over now. Rivers threw his fewest touchdown passes since 2006 (his first season as a full-time starter) and nearly matched a career-high in interceptions. After Week 7, he was a downright anchor on most fantasy rosters, scoring more than 17 points just once. With rumors of Tom Brady possibly making a move to Southern California, we may have seen the last of Rivers in a lightning bolt and can likely say goodbye to any fantasy relevance he once had.

What needs to improve: You'll probably hear this with a lot of teams, but getting better quarterback play is going to be key. Whether that's from Rivers, Brady or someone else, whoever is leading the Chargers offense in 2020 will have to be much better than their signal-caller in 2019.

Oakland Raiders (7-9)

2019 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 24th
Passing: 9th
Rushing: 13th

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Derek Carr -- 4,054 yards, 21 TD, 8 INT (QB16)
Rushing: Josh Jacobs -- 1,150 yards, 7 TD (RB21)
Receiving: Darren Waller -- 90 rec., 1,145 yards, 3 TD (WR13)

What went right: The Raiders were a punchline for bringing Jon Gruden out of the broadcast booth and paying him a king's ransom to coach the team, but he reminded us in 2019 that he can be a very good offensive coach. Case in point: Gruden's offense made journeyman tight end Darren Waller arguably the biggest draft bargain in fantasy football this season. The one-time sixth round pick of the Ravens, who had posted a combined 178 receiving yards in three seasons, was an undeniable star with more than 1,100 receiving yards as the focal point of Oakland's passing game.

Right behind Waller on the Raiders' Production-O-Meter was rookie running back Josh Jacobs. From the beginning of the season, it was obvious that Gruden had faith in the young player, giving him 23 carries in the season-opening win over the Broncos. Jacobs proved to be a workhorse -- even if he strangely wasn't used in the Oakland passing game -- and was far and away the top rookie running back in fantasy in 2019.

What went wrong: It seems like a lifetime ago, but it really was this past summer in which the Raiders acquired Antonio Brown in a trade. There's no need to rehash what happened. If you need a memory refresher, I'm sure your local internet search engine can help you out. However, it blew a huge hole in Oakland's pass-catching group. Tyrell Williams tried valiantly to fill the void but faded after a quick start to the season. Even though Hunter Renfrow had some nice moments in his rookie season, it's painfully obvious that the Raiders need some playmakers at the wide receiver position. Questions also remain about whether Derek Carr is the quarterback to lead this franchise. If we're still asking that after six seasons, the answer is probably no. Carr won't lose games (either on the field or in fantasy) but he's not likely to single-handedly win them for you, either (both on the field and in fantasy).

What needs to improve: It's very likely that there will be a change at quarterback as this franchise relocates to Las Vegas beginning next season. They will also need to find some talent at wide receiver to supplement Waller's production. It might also be nice if they started truly integrating Josh Jacobs into the passing game. But what do I know? I'm just a dude who writes about fake football.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who is ready to do a little binge-watching. Send him your aspirations to apathy via Twitter @MarcasG. If you read all of that, congrats. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Print