AFC West Breakdown: Plenty to pick from

August 7, 2021

This season might be the most competitive AFC West we’ll see in a long time. With the Chiefs wielding its “big three” on offense and a heavy favorite to win the division again, the Chargers, Broncos, and Raiders are looked upon as dark horses. All four teams have competitive rosters, with the “dark horses” gearing up to take down the mighty Kansas City. This division oozes top tight ends and receivers and boasts two outstanding quarterbacks who will dice you up with the blink of an eye. With that being said, take a gander at some must-haves, must nots, sleepers, and a few busts.

LA Chargers

Must Draft: Justin Herbert, QB: I jumped on the Justin Herbert hype train during his college career. Obviously, he wasn’t QB1 coming out of the preseason, but once Herbert was given the chance, he sprinted with it. After finishing with Top-10 fantasy QB production, keeping all same offensive threats and now adding very good offensive linemen in free agency (Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, and Matt Feiler) as well as using the No. 13-overall pick in the draft on Rashawn Slater, expect Herbet to excel and significantly increase both passing and touchdown production.

Avoid: Mike Williams, WR: I had high expectations for Williams going into 2020. After having his first 1,000 receiving yard season with severely limited touchdown receptions, I thought last season he’d break out. I was wrong. While his touchdown numbers went up, his receiving yards dipped astronomically despite only catching one less pass than the previous season. His catch percentage rate is the red flag for me and now entering his age 27 season, I don’t know how much he has left in his ceiling. 

Value: Keenan Allen, WR: As much as I wanted to put Austin Ekeler here, seeing Allen’s average draft position (ADP) be right around pick No.30, he deserves the value position. After having back-to-back top-five reception seasons and finishing eight yards short of four straight 1,000 yard seasons, if you see Allen lingering around in the third round, you steal him. If Allen stays healthy, he’s WR1 worthy. Expect him to miss a game or two, but slot him as a high WR2 at minimum.

Bust: Jared Cook, TE: I like that Cook went to the Chargers because he adds a veteran presence and experience to a very young depth position. But in terms of fantasy, he’s not going to put up TE2 stats. The Chargers have two young tight ends, one of which they drafted in the third round this past draft (Tre’ McKitty) on top of Herbert having better options to use on any given down.  

Kansas City Chiefs

Must Draft: Travis Kelce, TE: He’s the best tight end in the game. He’ll get selected somewhere between 10-13 overall in most draft boards and expect him to produce no less than 1,000+ receiving yards accompanied by 6+ touchdowns. His target share is consistently in the top-three for tight ends and ranked amongst receivers he hovers around the Top 10-15 mark which is still absurd. 

Avoid: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB: Now this isn’t a “don’t waste an early pick” type of avoidance. CEH missed three games last season and put up RB20ish numbers, which leaves a lot to be desired for sure, but his share will certainly increase from the previous season. He’s a solid RB2 or high RB3 that should get picked somewhere between the late third and mid-fourth round. 

Value: Patrick Mahomes, QB: The only reason I selected Mahomes for the value spot is that he has a lower ADP than Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Mahomes had an outstanding 2020 season, finishing Top-five in almost every single category for QBs. Going into his fourth full season, expect another 4,000+ passing yards, 30+ passing touchdowns, and 66 percent completion percentage season for Mahomes, who is probably getting selected anywhere in the second round. 

Bust: Mecole Hardman, WR: Hardman is a deep threat that can go for a big play maybe once a game. Despite seeing an increase in targets and receptions, Hardman’s receiving yards barely increased and his TD production was lackluster. With CEH expected to take an even bigger step with the Chiefs this season, I don’t see how Hardman is going to produce more than his first two seasons. 

Denver Broncos

Must Draft: Noah Fant, TE: If Denver receives consistent quarterback play, which at this point is still a question mark, Noah Fant can have a Top-five TE season. Entering his third season, I have high expectations for Fant. He saw significantly more targets, caught more passes, and brought some stability to the Denver offense. With Courtland Sutton returning and Jerry Jeudy expected to have a huge sophomore season, I anticipate defenses to focus less on Fant allowing him more room to produce.

Avoid: Melvin Gordon III, RB: Fant, Jeudy, and Sutton are going to produce most of the offense this upcoming season. And with the addition of Javonte Williams at RB during the draft, I’m not sure how long Gordon will hold the RB1 position with Denver. If you can get him anywhere from the seventh to eighth round then he’s a solid RB3. Anything before that, avoid picking him at all costs. 

Value: Jerry Jeudy, WR: With the expectations high on the rookie wideout, the results were not quite what fantasy owners were expecting. Jeudy had a stretch of low production games from weeks 11-15. But outside of that, Jeudy was alright with a couple of high production games. With Sutton returning to the lineup, Jeudy is not going to receive the same defensive coverage as last year. I expect this to be a huge breakout season for the sophomore. His ADP is right around pick No.80 so if you can snag him in the seventh round, do it.  

Bust: Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater, QB: With uncertainty looming around who the starter will be come Week 1, or even on a week-to-week basis, whomever you draft it’s probably not a good pick. Either one can deliver with the weapons available around them, but until a clear-cut starter is named, I have no faith in drafting either one. There are better QB’s available to draft, so you’re better off waiting for waivers to select either one.

Las Vegas Raiders

Must Draft: Darren Waller, TE: Waller is the No. 1 target on his team. With the loss of Nelson Agholor and Tyrell Williams, the target share should increase significantly for the Top-five TE. He’s had consecutive 1,000+ receiving yard seasons and his TD rate skyrocketed this past season. Waller is good for another standout season and will be the key player in the Raiders passing game this season. 

Avoid: Josh Jacobs, RB: This one feels odd to do because I’m very high on Jacobs and his production. But, with the Raiders adding Kenyan Drake to the roster, Jacobs is going to lose a decent portion of his receiving game and will lose some rushing attempts. His stats are not going to resemble the last two seasons enough to warrant a late second or early third-round selection on him. 

Value: Derek Carr, QB: Carr is one of the more slept on QB’s in the league. He brings Top-10 caliber passing stats. His only weakness is his TD rate isn’t the strongest. Hopefully, with the additions of Willie Snead and John Brown, Henry Ruggs and Waller can produce more touchdowns. Adding Drake in the backfield gives Carr more flexibility to use his RBs as receivers on any snap. And with the running game moving towards a very good one-two punch, the passing game might open up downfield. Carr is a good QB2 to have and can provide off the bench in a pinch which is why I like his value. He has QB1 upside given Ruggs bounces back. 

Bust: Henry Ruggs, WR: Ruggs’ rookie campaign was quite poor. Yes, he is a deep threat that can make a big play as he proved in college. But 2020 was a much different story. He left a lot to be desired. He only received 43 targets in 13 games, hauling in 26 of those passes for 452 yards. Until he proves that he can be more effective as a deep threat or create better separation to receive more targets and receptions, I’m cautious about selecting him.