AFC West review

AFC WEST

DENVER BRONCOS

Head Coach:Mike Shanahan (139-86 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 4th hardest; Run -- 15th hardest

The most important move the Broncos made from a fantasy football perspective was the addition of Travis Henry, who should be next in a long line of backs to thrive in head coach Mike Shanahan's offense. Henry should be considered a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy runner and worth a first- or second-round choice. Mike Bell, who was the projected starter for a short time after the trade of Tatum Bell to Detroit, is now no more than a late-round insurance selection for those owners who land Henry. Jay Cutler will enter his first full season as a starter at the pro level and is a terrific middle-round sleeper candidate. With Jake Plummer (Buccaneers) now out of the mix, Patrick Ramsey will fill the second spot on the depth chart behind the former Vanderbilt standout.

BRONCOS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Travis Henry
  2. Javon Walker
  3. Jay Cutler
  4. Mike Bell
  5. Denver defense

One-time stud wideout Rod Smith had a surgical procedure on his hip and should be set for the start of training camp, but low-end sleeper candidate Brandon Marshall is expected to replace him as a starter alongside Javon Walker. Smith and veteran Brandon Stokley will remain in the offensive attack, but neither will warrant much more than a late-round flier in larger leagues. Daniel Graham was signed to a monster contract but will be used as a blocker in some sets and lose opportunities in the pass attack to Tony Scheffler, who should return from a broken foot in time for training camp. Neither tight end will be worth much more than a late-round choice.

Where the Broncos might have improved the most is on defense, where CB Dré Bly will join CB Champ Bailey to form the NFL's best set of cornerbacks. The team also added LBs D.D. Lewis and Warrick Holdman, DT Sam Adams and stud rookie DEs Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, so look for the Broncos defense to be one of the more attractive units in all fantasy football drafts.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Head Coach: Herman Edwards (50-52 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 16th hardest; Run -- 9th hardest

The trade of Trent Green (Dolphins) means that Brodie Croyle will be allowed every chance to become the Chiefs' new No. 1 quarterback. Damon Huard was impressive last season in Green's absence and is also in the mix, but neither will be more than a No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy quarterback. The departure of G Will Shields (retirement) and the loss of OT Jordan Black (Texans) will hurt the offensive line, but the Chiefs hope the addition of OTs Damion McIntosh and Herbert Taylor will be positive moves. Still, questions on the line could cause Larry Johnson to lose some value, but he won't slide out of the top three unless he has a contraction holdout during training camp.

CHIEFS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Larry Johnson
  2. Tony Gonzalez
  3. Eddie Kennison
  4. Dwayne Bowe
  5. Kansas City defense

There's still an outside chance former stud back Priest Holmes will return next season, but at this time, its Michael Bennett and rookie Kolby Smith who are stationed behind Johnson on the depth chart. The Chiefs haven't had a true superstar at the wide receiver position in what seems like forever, but the team hopes Dwayne Bowe can develop into that sort of athlete. He should be allowed a chance to start ahead of Samie Parker, but Bowe will still have limited late-round value as a rookie receiver. Fifth-round rookie Justin Medlock has some potential and is now the favorite to start after the trade that sent Lawrence Tynes to New York. The UCLA product won't be selected in most drafts, but he is one to watch at the kicker position.

The Chiefs made some real improvements on the defensive side of the ball with the addition of LBs Napoleon Harris and Donnie Edwards, who will start his second tour of duty with the team. Also added to the mix are veteran DT Alfonso Boone, SS Jon McGraw and rookie DTs Turk McBride and DeMarcus "Tank" Tyler, so look for the K.C. defense to be a nice sleeper choice.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Head Coach: Lane Kiffin (0-0 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 13th hardest; Run -- 7th hardest

Whether the state of Raider Nation can improve under the guidance of 32-year-old head coach Lane Kiffin remains to be seen, but the team did make some significant offseason moves. The most notable was the trade of Randy Moss (Patriots), which opens up a more prominent role for sleeper Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter, who are the favorites to start at wide receiver. The team added Mike Williams with the hope he could turn his career around under Kiffin, but the former Southern California standout has much to prove before he will warrant consideration. He will also face competition from veteran Travis Taylor, who is the most recent roster addition.

RAIDERS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. LaMont Jordan
  2. Jerry Porter
  3. Ronald Curry
  4. Dominic Rhodes
  5. Zach Miller

The Raiders also landed their quarterback of the future in the NFL draft in JaMarcus Russell, but it should be veteran Josh McCown who opens the regular season atop the depth chart. He won't be worth more than a late-round flier, but Russell will be one to watch when and if he does take over the reins.

LaMont Jordan must now share time in the backfield with Dominic Rhodes and rookie Michael Bush (when he returns to 100 percent), so his value took a hard hit. Kiffin likes to use multiple backs in his offense, however, so none of this trio will be more than a No. 3 fantasy runner or flex starter. Second-round selection Zach Miller is a talented athlete and could pass Randal Williams and Courtney Anderson as the team's top tight end, but he still won't have much value in drafts.

The Silver & Black fielded an underrated defense last season, and the team hopes the addition of veteran SS Donovin Darius, rookie DEs Quentin Moses and Jay Richardson and CB John Bowie will improve it further. Still, the Raiders defense isn't better than a No. 2 fantasy unit and will have minimal stock in drafts.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Head Coach:Norv Turner (59-83-1 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 6th hardest; Run -- 8th hardest

The Chargers and Marty Schottenheimer parted ways in the offseason, which opened the door for Norv Turner to take over one of the NFL's best teams. His presence will no doubt have a positive impact on the development of Philip Rivers, who should now be considered a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback. There has been some talk that Michael Turner will shoulder more of the backfield load and put a dent into LaDainian Tomlinson's carries, but it won't be enough to keep L.T. from being the No. 1 overall choice in 99.9 percent of drafts.

CHARGERS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. LaDainian Tomlinson
  2. Antonio Gates
  3. Philip Rivers
  4. Vincent Jackson
  5. San Diego defense

The release of Keenan McCardell means that Vincent Jackson will become the top wide receiver in the pass attack, and that makes him a terrific sleeper candidate. He'll start with Eric Parker while Malcolm Floyd, Kassim Osgood and Craig Davis will compete for the third, fourth and fifth spots on the depth chart. Davis has impressed his coaches in offseason workouts and has an outside chance to start ahead of Parker, but at this time his draft stock is minimal at best.

The Chargers did lose LB Donnie Edwards (Chiefs) as a free agent, but the presence of All-Pro LB Shawne Merriman, sack master LB Shaun Phillips, DT Luis Castillo and rookies such as SS Eric Weddle and LB Anthony Waters will keep the Bolts in the top five among fantasy defenses.

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