2022 AFC West Fantasy Preview
2022 Fantasy Prev – AFC West
Noah Fant, TE – Trade
Russell Wilson, QB - Trade
Greg Dulcich, TE – Draft
The Denver Broncos are a team that had every piece in place for a playoff run last season, with only one major questions mark at the most important spot – quarterback. They went all in this off-season to fix that issue by sending away a massive haul to acquire former Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson. Wilson takes the Broncos from a fringe playoff team to a group that should make a deep playoff run, if not a Superbowl appearance. The only thing standing in Denver’s way this season is the brutal division they are up against. As we will see in the rest of this article, every team in the AFC West seemingly improved on paper and consists of four teams that all have playoff caliber teams.
The Broncos’ wide receiving corp. looks identical to last season, returning their top 3 pass-catchers in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick, plus adding KJ Hamler who missed most of last season with a torn ACL. While Patrick and Hamler are firmly late round picks, there has been a ton of debate so far this off-season around the Broncos’ #1 WR – should it be Jeudy or Sutton? This is a case of proven vs. potential in my opinion. Courtland Sutton has been in the NFL for a few years now and has at least put a productive season on the field. Jerry Jeudy on the other hand was a high draft pick 2 years ago with loads of potential but has not really put together a top-notch season yet.
Both players have dealt with injuries in their short careers – Sutton tore his ACL in 2020 and Jeudy missed half of 2021 with a high ankle sprain. The injuries make it tough to gauge exactly how to project these 2 players this season because Sutton had a very solid year before the ACL tear and Jeudy was having a monster game in Week 1 before the ankle sprain. If I had to choose, I would personally take Sutton ahead of Jeudy since we have seen him to it before and he seems to be the deep field target where we know Russ likes to play. I imagine come drafts both players will be going very close to each other in ADP. Both profile as WR2’s with immense upside and I would give the slight edge to Sutton.
Tim Patrick will certainly go much later than Jeudy or Sutton but will certainly be the next Broncos’ WR taken. I do notimagine KJ Hamler gets drafted in most leagues and would probably be better left on the waiver wire. Tim Patrick is an interesting prospect who has been quietly consistent the last few seasons when he has gotten an opportunity from Jeudy or Sutton’s injuries. He looks like a decent WR4 who could provide some nice upside if Jeudy or Sutton miss time.
The Denver backfield is one of the most interesting for 2022 given the promise of young sophomore RB Javonte Williams. He profiled as an elite bell-cow coming out of college but did not get a true chance to showcase his potential as the backfield was split almost exactly 50/50 between Williams and Melvin Gordon last season. The only game Williams was the lone runner, he absolutely went off against the Chiefs to the tune of 178 total yards, 6 catches, and a TD. There was a small glimmer of hope early in the off-season Javonte would get to carry the load, but Denver brought back running mate Melvin Gordon, making this backfield most likely again a frustrating timeshare. I have seen reports from camp so far of Javonte possibly getting a larger share of the split this year, but I do not imagine Melvin Gordon sees anything less than 40%. I will take a shot on Williams as a lower RB2 this season with Top 5 potential if Gordon misses time. Gordon probably goes late in drafts this year and could serve as an unexciting but solid FLEX or bye-week fill in if your RB depth is a bit weaker.
Looking at Denver’s QB position there is a ton of excitement around this offense given the new addition of Russell Wilson. Seemingly held back during his time in Seattle, a lot of analysts expect the Broncos to “let Russ cook” which fans have been clamoring for. Seattle coach Pete Carroll is notorious for his old-school, establish the run philosophy which has capped Wilson’s ceiling the last several years. If Russ still has magic left in the tank, under new coach Nathaniel Hackett who came over from Green Bay, we could see a Top 5 season from Wilson in 2022. Currently early ADP has Wilson at QB11 which seems like a steal to me at that price. I would take Wilson over Burrow, Prescott, Murray, and Rodgers, QBs all going ahead of him currently.
The Tight End position in Denver is unexciting. They lost Noah Fant in the Russell Wilson trade and spent their first draft choice on Greg Dulcich. I do not expect Dulcich to make much of an impact as it typically takes rookie Tight Ends a few years to break through. This should lead to some nice opportunity for Albert O. I do not think you see a monster season from Albert O, but a typically solid 500-600 yards and 5-6 TDs, which will put him anywhere from TE8 to TE20. The lower range of Tight End is always so close, typically separated by a TD or 2. I would not bother drafting Albert O but makes a nice streaming option against favorable matchups.
Vegas Insider has Denver with a 10.5 game win total which seems a tad high to me. They’ve got a great team no doubt butplay in a brutal division. For reference, the Chiefs and Chargers also have a 10.5 game win total, and the Raiders are at a respectable 8.5. If I had to bet, I would go with the under, expecting Denver to finish right under there at 9-10 wins.
Los Angeles Chargers
Isaiah Spiller, RB – Draft
After a heartbreaking loss to the Raiders in Week 18, the Chargers barely missed the playoffs again in 2022. One could argue this was the most underachieving team in 2022 relative to their talent level. A team littered with talent at all levels, missing the playoffs last season seemed like a major disappointment. The Chargers made some big splashes in free agency signing WR Mike Williams to a long-term deal and bringing over veteran pass-rusher Khalil Mack to help the defense. I must imagine there is a lot of pressure to make the playoffs this season in Las Angeles.
The WR room in LA is a bit top heavy pegging veterans Mike Williams and Keenan Allen as the top 2 pass-catching options for the Chargers, with not much behind them. Guys like Josh Palmer and Jaylen Guyton showed some flashes last season, but I do not see either of them unseating Allen or Williams unless an injury pops up. The ADPs of both Allen and Williams are highthis season, with Allen at WR10 and Williams around WR20, which seems like a big gap to me given I expect both guys to produce similar this year. Allen is certainly the more consistent option who will thrive in PPR leagues but lacks the explosive plays to put up monster touchdown numbers. Williams will benefit more in half or non-PPR leagues but has the explosion for big gains and is a favorite target in the redzone. I would notmind taking either guy at their current ADP, and especially prefer Williams at WR20 for the upside he presents.
A monster season in 2022, I think we have seen the peak of Austin Ekeler. Many draft analysts and experts have Ekeler pegged as a Top 3 RB this season, which seems a bit rich to me. He had a monster number of TDs which tend to be extremely variable from season to season, and spent a draft pick on RB Isaiah Spiller, who many had pegged as the RB3 in the NFL draft. I think the heavy workload for Ekeler was a product of being the only viable player in the backfield. The Chargers have seemingly been trying to find Ekeler a running mate, spending draft capital on players such as Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree, Justin Jackson, etc. None of those guys has demonstrated anything, so Ekeler carried the bulk of the load in 2022 and managed to stay healthy for almost the entire season. If Isaiah Spiller can be productive, I imagine they dial back Ekeler’s work load a bit. Add in the touchdown variance expected each year, and I think Top 3 is crazy high for Ekeler. I probably will not own him anywhere at that cost, but I would feel more comfortable around RB7-8.
Isaiah Spiller is one of my favorite late round darts throws this year given the ideas laid out above. I truly believe the Chargers want to run Ekeler less, and if Spiller can be relied on, I think he is going to get double digit opportunities each game. In an offense as dynamic as LA’s, those could be extremely high value touches, even on a limited basis. Plus, he provides the immense upside if Ekeler misses time, which he has done consistently, to provide weekly must-start capability in that situation. He iscurrently going as RB46 in ADP, which is a low-end RB4, and I am all in at that price.
Not much to say about the QB position in LA. Justin Herbert put together another monster season in Year 2 and should continue to put be one of the elite fantasy QBs in 2022. I do not think he challenges Josh Allen as the overall QB1 given Allen’s rushing prowess but should be a locked in Top 3 option this year barring something wildly unforeseen. I am not a manager who typically drafts QBs early, so I most likely will not own Herbert on my teams, but I cannot argue with him being the second QB off the board.
Another unexciting tight end room, I would not bother drafting anyone from LA. Gerald Everett showed some ability last season in Seattle, but the Tight End position in the last 2 years during Herbert’s tenure has not really provided much. I do notthink that changes much this year, and you most likely get a typical 500-600 yards and 5-6 TDs from Everett, like you get from most middling Tight Ends.
The Chargers also have a team win total of 10.5, which I would also take the Under if forced to bet. The brutal division is going to take its toll and until they prove they can get over the hump, I cannot buy in to LA becoming a dominant force that wins 11-12 games. Like Denver, I imagine a 9–10-win season and a possible wild-card birth this year for the Chargers.
Kansas City Chiefs
Tyreek Hill, WR – Trade
Darrell Williams, RB – FA
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – FA
Ronald Jones, RB – FA
Marquez Valdes Scantling, WR – FA
Skyy Moore, WR – Draft
The Chiefs are a team who seemingly reloads every off-season, regardless of what they lose. One of the biggest stories this off-season, the Chiefs traded away WR Tyreek Hill for a litany of draft picks from the Miami Dolphins. Many people expecting the Chiefs’ offense to take a step back, I believe they willemploy a “sum of parts” approach this year, given the signings they made. While they lost Hill, they brought in Juju Smith-Schuster and MVS via free agency and spent a high pick on rookie WR Skyy Moore. So, while none of these players brings the same ability to the table that Hill provided, I feel the WR corp. is deeper than it has ever been with Mahomes, and you can bank on Andy Reid and Pat Mahomes to figure how to make this offense click.
Figuring out the #1 WR for Kansas City will be a highly debated task this off-season leading up to drafts. Plenty of people out there will be allured by the upside potential of a dynamic rookiewith high draft capital in Skyy Moore. Others will be attracted to the upside of a big-play veteran in MVS who had some explosive games in Green Bay but now might get the chance to be the lead guy. And there will be others that want to invest in the projected safety and consistency of a veteran slot WR who has been a star before in Juju Smith-Schuster. Throw in the electric Mecole Hardman, plus explosive undrafted FA Justyn Ross, and it becomes hard to predict who is going to lead this team in targets and stats this year.
My simple answer is to just take the one being drafted the latest. Until we start to see this offense on the field, no one can confidently say who the #1 will be. Like the approach I used to take with New England RBs, I think it makes sense to just take the latest one. You certainly want a piece of an offense led by Andy Reid and Pat Mahomes, but it could cripple your team spending a high pick on the wrong WR. Take a shot or two in the later rounds and see if something hits. If I were forced to rank them, I would take MVS, Juju, Skyy Moore and Justyn Ross in that order. They gave MVS the largest contract of the free agent acquisitions, and he profiles as more of the deep threat, big play WR where Mahomes and Hill made a living for so long.
One of the biggest fantasy disappointments in recent years is Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was selected in the first round by the Chiefs, and many people thought would be an instant Top 5 RB given his ability, draft capital, and the history of Andy Reid RBs. Not sure if it is CEH himself, or a philosophy shift by Andy Reid, but we have not seen Clyde live up to expectations his first few years in the league. While the Chiefs’ lost Darrell Williams, they brought in Ronald Jones who has been a somewhat productive player in the NFL. The one positive about this swap, is that Ron Jones has been a horrible pass catcher in the NFL, while that’s where Williams exceeded. We could see a ton more passing game work for CEH in 2022, added with all the vacated targets from Hill’s departure, I could see a solid receiving season from Clyde with a handful of rushing touches each game. I probably will not spend a draft pick on Clyde – I can see a frustrating time share where Jones gets most early down rushing work and Clyde is strictly a passing down back, which plays to his ability, but does not give him every down opportunity.
While it is probably a fool’s errand to bet against Patrick Mahomes, it is tough to draft him as a Top 2 QB in fantasy this year. Again, I am not an early QB guy, so I will not have him on any teams, but his current ADP of QB2 seems extremely rich for a guy who just lost one of the best WRs in the NFL. And while I do not think there is a huge team drop off for the Chiefs, I can see a decent regression in the passing game. They improved their defense a ton in FA and the draft, which could see less passing from the Chiefs’ offense. I think QB2 is the absolute ceiling for Mahomes, and I always hate drafting players at their ceiling. I still think a solid, even Top 5 season is most likely for Mahomes, but QB2 ADP is way too high.
Travis Kelce has been one of the most reliable fantasy players overall the last several years and I think he might even have his best season yet this year. Trying to play roulette each week and figure out which WR will emerge, we know Kelce is going to be a focal point of the offense, and with Hill gone, there is no one Mahomes trusts more than Kelce. It always feels weird taking a tight end extremely high, but I would have no problem taking Kelce at the end of the first round. Even though Kelce was the TE2 overall last year, I expect Mark Andrews to dip down a bit as the Ravens get back to a run-heavy offense and expect Kelce’s targets to increase over last season.
The third team in the AFC West with a 10.5 team win total, I would take the Over here given the experience they bring in. They have won the division several years in a row and have made frequent appearances in the AFC Championship and Superbowl games. While this will certainly be a brutal division, until someone dethrones the Chiefs, it is hard to bet against them.
Las Vegas Raiders
Davante Adams, WR – Trade
Zamir White, RB – Draft
While the rest of the AFC West loaded up, the Raiders did notsit back and wait themselves. They made a huge splash this off-season, reuniting QB Derek Carr with his former college teammate Davante Adams, coming over from Green Bay. The Raiders should produce one of the best offenses in the NFL with Adams, Renfrow, Waller and Jacobs at their skill positions, a tough group to beat on paper. One thing that will hold the Raiders back is their defense which looks average on paper, but as we know, that makes for an attractive fantasy offense, as the Raiders most likely find themselves in plenty of shootouts, especially in this division.
Davante Adams showed last season he has still got plenty left in the tank, and while I expect him to take a step back from his Green Bay days, he should still be at minimum at Top 10 WR for fantasy this year. He is a plyer I will have to see where ADP settles. Currently as the WR4, it seems a bit high at first glance, but when I look at the ADP list, Stefon Diggs is the only other one I would take ahead of Adams. So, if you can snag him at WR5 or lower, seems like a great deal to me. Hunter Renfrow is someone I am extremely worried about regressing given a large chunk of his production last season came while Darren Waller was sidelined, and obviously without Davante Adams in the lineup. Renfrow is currently being selected as the WR27 which I think is too high given the large target share Adams will command and the return of Waller occupying the short and middle parts of the field. I would probably slot Renfrow in around WR40 this year, taking Sutton, Jeudy, Moore, Robinson, Davis, Hopkins, Bateman, and a handful of others ahead of him, who are currently behind in ADP.
In a somewhat surprising move this off-season, the Raiders did not pick up the 5th year option for Josh Jacobs, most likely making him a free agent at the end of this season. I never think RBs should get drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, but a late first round pick at the time, Jacobs has at least proven to be one of the better RBs in the NFL over the last few seasons. His current ADP of RB20 seems way too low and if that stays, I willgladly take Jacobs as my RB2 or even RB3 depending on how my draft goes. He has been extremely consistent finishing in the Top 15 each of the last 3 seasons, and the only question mark around his game is the passing game usage. Last season we saw a huge uptick in passing game work which was a nice bonus, so we will have to see if that sticks this year in a new offense.
Josh McDaniels has also been notorious for using multiple RBs in New England, and now we will see if that was his philosophy, or Bill Belichicks. The Raiders did spend one of their few draft picks on Zamir White, a big, power runner who might steal some early down work from Jacobs. Kenyan Drake is still around and when healthy, poses a threat to the passing game, but has not shown a knack for making it through a season healthy thus far. I understand the RB20 ADP of Jacobs given the possibility of multiple RBs stealing both early and passing downs work, but I firmly believe Jacobs is a notch better than the rest of the RBs on the team and might force the coaching staff to keep him on the field. At RB20, I think it is well worth the risk to find out.
Derek Carr has seemingly provided the same patten for fantasy owners the last few seasons – come out hot with a string of elite games, and then slowly fade off back to average as the season goes on. He has always been a stat compiler, ranking near the top in yards each season, but has not had as much luck finding the end zone. Hopefully, the addition of Adams and the return of Waller can provide a few extra TDs for Carr, which could potentially put him in the Top 10 for QB this season. I do notthink he has Top 5 upside given his lack of rushing but a low-end QB1, somewhere in the 9-12 range by season’s end will not surprise me in the slightest if he has a career high in TDs this season. His current ADP is QB14, and Carr is one of my favorite late round QB prospects.
I was one of the fantasy managers personally burned by Waller last season, expecting a major season, and getting less than stellar production for half a season, and then nothing for the rest as he was sidelined. It is tough to position Waller this year as there are now more mouths to feed in the offense with the addition of Adams, who will certainly lead the team in targets. Add in the fact Waller has not ever had huge TD numbers, it ishard to justify taking Waller in the Top 3 rounds of drafts this season. The TE position is extremely weak so I have no problem calling him the 3rd or 4th best TE in fantasy, but I would not take him anywhere before Round 4, and even then, I would have to see how the board falls.
The only team in the West with a win total under 10.5, the Raiders are expected to finish last with a team win total of 8.5. Unfortunately, I would take the under here as they have a brutal schedule and while the offense looks dynamic, I am not sure the defense got much better this off-season and it’s tough to count on Derek Carr going toe to toe in a shootout with guys like Russell Wilson, Pat Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray, and Matt Stafford, who he’ll have to face this year.