One Big Fantasy Question – AFC West Edition
Fantasy drafts are just around the corner so let’s answer the most concerning questions for each team!
Oakland Raiders – Is This A Make-Or-Break Year For Derek Carr?
While Jon Gruden is stuck with Carr in 2018 and going into 2019, there is no guarantee that Gruden eyes him as his franchise quarterback. Carr enjoyed some success early in his career, but injuries and inconsistent play led to him being possibly run out of town. The hope is that the new additions to the Raiders offense can lead to Carr becoming the quarterback we thought he could be when Oakland drafted him with a high second-round pick.
Amari Cooper was sent off to Dallas last season and he was one of Carr’s favorite targets. Also gone is Jared Cook who enjoyed a bit of a renaissance season with the Raiders. The replacements are pretty good, however, with Antonio Brown coming over via trade and Tyrell Williams via free agency. Add in Hunter Renfrow from the draft and this receiving group is going to be able to move the ball down the field.
Gruden also invested in protecting Carr’s blindside by signing Trent Brown in free agency. The rest of the offensive line is also impressive with the like of Rodney Hudson and second-year man, Kolton Miller. They should all give Carr plenty of time to get the ball down the field.
Lastly, as awesome as it was to see Marshawn Lynch in an Oakland uniform, he was more of a publicity piece than a serious playmaker. His best days were in the past and you saw it when he ran the ball. Replacing him is the rookie Josh Jacobs, who will look to establish a formidable running attack. Also, his ability to catch the ball out of the field should be an asset as well.
All of these players are great to have, but can Carr now put it all together and become a top quarterback in the league? He has shown it at times and if there was any time to finally get it back, it’s now. The move to Las Vegas is just over the horizon and Gruden won’t be shy to get rid of Carr if he can’t make things work with this offense.
This is arguably the most talent that Carr has played with and this becomes a situation where his play will either keep him in silver and black or make him a casualty in the off-season. As long as he stays healthy, Carr should be able to hang on to his job for the future and be a big reason why the Raiders will begin to turn it around. This is great news for the Raiders organization, but maybe not for Bay Area fans of the team. Carr may not be a draft pick during your fantasy draft, but he does have strong value come the BYE weeks and if there are any injury replacements as the season goes on.
Projected Draft Round:
Denver Broncos – Can Noah Fant Finish As The Best Rookie Fantasy Tight End?
It’s no secret that Joe Flacco likes to throw to his tight ends. Over the course of his career in Baltimore, Flacco has found his tight ends to both move the ball down the field and also score points. 23% of Flacco’s career passes were targeted at tight ends and 29% of his career touchdown passes went to tight ends. The Broncos have some good receivers, but no one is a clear-cut option for Flacco to rely on. This is where the selection of Fant in this past draft will become a serious target for Flacco and the passing offense.
Fant came out of the University of Iowa which has produced a lot of other great tight ends such as Dallas Clark, George Kittle, and fellow rookie T.J. Hockensen. Compared to Hockensen, specifically, Fant is the stronger receiver. This is perfectly fine as the Broncos have been lacking a solid producer from the tight end position since Julius Thomas. While this tight end group boasts some good prospects, none of them are as highly regarded as Fant. Jake Butt has struggled to stay healthy since coming into the NFL and Troy Fumagalli lost his rookie year to an injury as well. If both of these players struggle to get on the field, this means that Fant will have no competition when it comes to taking the starting role in the Broncos offense.
Looking at the other rookie tight ends in the league, Fant has the strongest chance of finishing first among them. His former teammate, Hockensen, is a better overall tight end but the run-first aspect that will be utilized in Detroit will limit his production in his first year.
Irv Smith Jr. was looking like the best option for Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. The re-signing of Kyle Rudolph changed things and Smith Jr. will have to prove himself to earn more targets in an offense featuring Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs as well.
Josh Oliver is going to get a lot of looks in the Jaguars offense, but his skills may not translate right away in the NFL and he may start slow and finish fast.
Lastly, Caleb Wilson may surprise some people this season in the potentially high-octane Arizona offense. The problem is that he is in an offense with a lot of other options and he may not get enough looks to be relevant early in his career.
Jeff Heuerman is currently slated to be the week one starter at tight end, but Fant has the skills to usurp that role fast. For this reason, and pairing him with Flacco, can lead Fant to become the best rookie fantasy tight end. Draft him to your bench for sure, but depending how the offense does he could enter your starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Projected Draft Round:
Noah Fant – 14th, Jake Butt – Undrafted, Troy Fumagalli – Undrafted, Jeff Heuerman – Undrafted, T.J. Hockensen – 14th, Irv Smith Jr. – Undrafted, Josh Oliver – 14th, Caleb Wilson – Undrafted, Joe Flacco – Undrafted
Los Angeles Chargers – Is Mike Williams Being Under-Valued?
The rumors surrounding Melvin Gordon can lead to the Chargers relying more on their passing offense. With his holdout, this could mean good things for Philip Rivers and the air attack. We all know that Keenan Allen is a beast with or without Gordon in the offense. The thing to think about is who will be supporting him in the passing offense.
While Tyrell Williams left for the Oakland Raiders, Mike Williams is looking like he can continue his emergence in the offense. He scored 10 touchdowns last year after scoring none in his rookie season. This season, with the hole left by Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams will be first in line to grab the targets left over. Tyrell Williams accounted for 41 receptions, 653 yards, and five touchdowns. These stats will be filled by Mike Williams and tight end Hunter Henry. Now Henry has not been able to stay on the field due to injuries, including one that kept him out the entire 2018 season. There is hope that Henry can regain his rookie form, but so far his track record has not been solid. This is where the stock is going to continue to rise for Mike Williams.
This is a pretty open and shut case. Mike Williams is going to be a sleeper in many drafts, but his low-risk, high-reward potential is going to be too good to pass up. While Allen may draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses, Mike Williams should be able to supplement him and become a real threat in the Chargers passing attack. Henry should have a bit of a bounce-back season, but Mike Williams will be the main guy to target after Allen comes off your board.
Projected Draft Round:
Kansas City Chiefs – Who Will Lead The Backfield In Touches?
The reigning MVP, Patrick Mahomes, will be without his lead running back last year, Kareem Hunt. Hunt was released by the team and then signed with the Browns in the offseason. The running back situation is going to be a lot different this year with lots of players vying for the most amount of touches. Damien Williams is slated to open the season as the starter, but Carlos Hyde has starting experience as well. Rookie Darwin Thompson may be a factor too, but this is most likely a two-horse race between Williams and Hyde.
Williams has a leg up on the backfield because he has been in the system for one year already. When the Chiefs released Hunt in December of last year, Williams was inserted as the starter and he excelled in that role. He racked up 397 total yards and six total touchdowns. Williams is a dual-threat running back in that he can be a rusher or a receiver.
So far, all the points are going in his favor, but it was a small sample size. He started only three games down the stretch and was involved heavily in the last five. Also, he is on the smaller size so can he hold up starting all 16 games in the season? He will share time with Hyde, but it will be interesting to see if he can handle the majority of the load.
Hyde has a leg up on Williams in that he is a former starter in the league. Drafted by the 49ers, Hyde was tasked with replacing the legendary Frank Gore. Hyde quickly showed he was a power runner and could be a dangerous threat in the open field. The only knock on him was that he suffered various injuries and was off the field more often than on it. So while healthy, he is a feared back to gameplan for. Another problem for Hyde is that he is not a great receiver out of the backfield. He did start to develop those skills when he played under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, but it’s not enough to classify him as a dual-threat running back. Hyde does have experience working out of the shotgun as he played his college ball at Ohio State. So transitioning to this offense should not be so foreign for him.
So who is the back that you should be targeting? While Hyde has some strong value, Williams’ ability to be a threat in the running and passing game gives him the edge. Both running backs are worth owning because Kansas City does like to rotate their running backs in a game. Williams, though, will be the better producer and Hyde will be a very valued handcuff.
Projected Draft Round: