Cody Pagels
Should You Draft Him?: AFC West WRs and TEs

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You know what? I’m still battling the residual effects of an early-morning migraine as I write this, so I’m going to dispense with the standard long-winded proclamations about the general state of skill position players in the division I’m covering and cut this real short, so here we go.

AFC West. These guys catch passes. Should you draft them?

(ADP, or average draft position, is taken from current data for 12-team standard mock drafts)

Denver Broncos

Demaryius Thomas (ADP: 10th Overall): A few years back, it was unusual to draft a wide receiver in the first round of a fantasy draft. Now, we’ve got three. When good running backs are as scarce as ever and decently productive wide receivers run all the way into Round 8, you may find yourself wondering if it’s ever a good idea to take a receiver with your first pick. Well, when he’s coming off 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns and it’s altogether reasonable to expect even more, the answer is an unequivocal, yes. Eric Decker and his 190 fantasy points following the money to New York can only mean good things for Thomas. Sometimes when a teammate leaves, more targets also signals more defensive attention, but in this particular case, we’re talking about an offense that also has Wes Welker , Julius Thomas , Emmanuel Sanders and Montee Ball. If defenses sell out to focus squarely on Thomas, Peyton Manning will simply move the chains at will with his gazillion other weapons. As long as Manning and Thomas both stay healthy for 16 games, there’s just no way he doesn’t hit 1,400 yards for a third straight season.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Wes Welker (ADP: Mid-Round 4): And here is another beneficiary of Decker’s departure. His yardage last year left a bit to be desired, but his 10 touchdowns in 13 games certainly didn’t. Last year’s fantasy numbers extrapolated to a full 16 games would have made him the 13th-highest scoring wide receiver. As a trusted target, he should also get a decent piece of the Decker pie. In case you have never played fantasy football, or you stopped in 2006 and took it up again this year, Welker is significantly more valuable in points per reception leagues. He’s a stud in that format, and a very safe pick in standard leagues. The upside isn’t massive, but as the 16th wide receiver off the board, he’s a safe, solid snag.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Emmanuel Sanders (ADP: Mid-Round 6): That Super Bowl showing soured our memory to a good extent, but it should never be lost on us how insane the regular season was for the Broncos. I mean, Sanders is going to be the fourth receiver on this team behind Wes Welker and the Thomases (Demaryius and Julius), and he’s going in Round 6. Here’s a fun fact: Out of 31 No. 1 receivers on other teams, Sanders is going ahead of 13 of them. Denver’s fourth pass catcher is more valuable than almost half of the league’s primary receivers. Oh my gosh. To be fair, Sanders isn’t a sure thing. Peyton Manning should experience some degree of regression from 55 touchdowns, and it’s easy to be wary of Sanders seeing as how he has never topped 750 yards or six touchdowns in any of his seasons in Pittsburgh. But still, as the 27th wide receiver off the board who has a serious shot at 1,000 yards and 8-10 touchdowns, I have no problem with a sixth-round investment.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Julius Thomas (ADP: 29th Overall): I owned Julius Thomas for most of the season in my main money league last year, and let me tell you the one thing that I absolutely hated about owning him: sometimes I had to work at my day job during Broncos games. I would periodically check a football app on my phone and see that Denver scored a touchdown. I open the game feed and the message says, “Thomas 8-yard pass from Manning.” I wouldn’t know which Thomas it was, making the anticipation even more agonizing. Then if it ends up being Demaryius Thomas who scored, I’m angry the rest of the day for being teased like that. But for the most part, having my tight end score 12 touchdowns was pretty awesome. He hauled in 12 scores and had nearly 800 yards in only his first season as a starter. He should only get better, and as the team’s biggest receiving target, he should get the majority of red zone looks that Eric Decker got. Vernon Davis in Round 5 is a better value, but that doesn’t mean that Thomas in Round 3 is bad by any stretch.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.


San Diego Chargers

Keenan Allen (ADP: 35th Overall): Last year, Allen put up 1,046 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie. I know the thousand yard mark is very arbitrary and using it as the sole determinant of a quality receiving season is foolish, but I still can’t get past how rare it is to top the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie. Since 2003, this feat has been matched by only Anquan Boldin , Marques Colston and A.J. Green. Out of those three guys, Boldin topped 1,000 yards in five of his first seven seasons, Colston did it in six out of seven, and A.J. Green has scored 11 touchdowns and topped 1,300 yards in both his second and third seasons. Allen is among some pretty fantastic company. For his second season, I’m expecting an improvement, but I don’t think he’ll quite be on the level that Green was in his second season, because Allen isn’t quite the complete physical package that Green is. Drafting Allen this early as the 12th receiver off the board is risky, because sophomore slumps can be a very real thing, but fellow top 15 drafted wide receiver Victor Cruz is just as risky, and Larry Fitzgerald has significantly lesser upside. Maybe my headache has lessened my standards, but I’m throwing out another yes.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Antonio Gates (ADP: Round 13): At 34 years old, the perpetually injured Antonio Gates is facing a serious threat for a starting job for the first time in his career in Ladarius Green. The odds are against Gates, but producing above a level that should be biologically possible has been a common narrative throughout his career. For the last three seasons, Gates has hung around and produced low-end TE1 numbers, but he hasn’t truly been a stud since 2010. At this time, there isn’t really any way to predict how the snaps will be divided between Gates and Green, but even if Gates ends up with the majority of the work, I don’t see him producing more than low-end starter numbers. Other late round choices like Martellus Bennett can be counted on for that kind of production and don’t have to fend off anyone for their jobs. I hate to say it, but with another year of age and feet that are never going to be completely healed, I’m voting against him.

Should You Draft Him: No.

Ladarius Green (ADP: Round 11): Physically, he is absolutely insane. Last year, he showed flashes of what he can do, but it only resulted in 376 yards and three touchdowns. He’s far too risky to depend on as your starter since he's not yet fully developed and Antonio Gates is still the nominal starter. But still, he was clearly created in the same lab where they made Jimmy Graham, and he has the potential to be just as good. Green is going as the 13th tight end off the board, so as long as you also use a mid-round pick on a safe player like Jason Witten or Dennis Pitta , Ladarius Green is worth the gamble. If you’re asking whether he should be drafted as your only tight end, the answer is an emphatic no, but if you draft properly, he becomes a very strong yes.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.


Kansas City Chiefs

Dwayne Bowe (ADP: Mid-Round 9): He has three 1,000-yard seasons to his name, and that absolutely beastly 1,162-yard, 15-touchdown year he had in 2010 shows the absolute peak of what he’s capable of. Bowe seems to be personally committed to better conditioning, seeing as how he’s hired a nutritionist and shed some weight, and he has empirically proven to be capable of outperforming his draft position, but there are other high-upside players with similar draft position that I would rather grab. Hakeem Nicks also has great fantasy seasons to his name and has a much better quarterback, while Tavon Austin and Marvin Jones are younger and have higher ceilings.

Should You Draft Him: No.

Travis Kelce/Anthony Fasano (ADP: Undrafted): In eight seasons in the NFL, Fasano has averaged a hair better than 300 yards and three touchdowns a year. The only thing I know about Travis Kelce is that he’s coming back from microfracture surgery. So, uh, yeah.

Should You Draft Them: No.

Oakland Raiders

James Jones (ADP: Round 12): With the exception of a 2012 season where he came out of nowhere to lead the league in touchdown receptions,  Jones has never done anything exceptional in fantasy. After seven years of being overshadowed by so many fantastic teammates, Oakland presents him with the best opportunity of his career. Distinguishing oneself among the likes of Denarius Moore and Rod Streater is a substantially easier task than beating out Greg Jennings , Randall Cobb , Jordy Nelson and vintage Donald Driver. Can  Jones develop enough chemistry with the husk of Matt Schaub to be an effective fantasy contributor? I’m extremely pessimistic, but Jones has proven to be capable of double-digit touchdowns, and Schaub is only one year removed from eking out a 4,000-yard season, so I’ll throw out a no-risk 12th-round pick to find out.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Rod Streater/Denarius Moore (ADP: Undrafted): Blech. If you’re going to hold a gun to my head and make me pick one of them I would lean toward Streater, but under normal circumstances I don’t want to draft either. Moore flashed quality physical talent as a rookie but hasn’t improved statistically in the two years since. Streater, on the other hand, did improve substantially last year in his second season. Watch Streater more closely for early season waiver purposes, but don’t burn a draft pick on either.

Should You Draft Them: No.

Mychal Rivera/David Ausberry (ADP: Undrafted): Neither of these players have generated any kind of buzz in regards to their talent, and they don’t have the benefit of an advantageous situation seeing as how Oakland’s offense is likely to be bad. But on the plus side, I looked up their profile photos on espn.com and they both look like very nice young men.

Should You Draft Them: No.


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