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AFC West Preview

Denver Broncos

QB Jake Plummer
It’s been an up and down ride so far for Plummer in Mile High.  We didn’t like him his first year with the Broncos, and he was terrible.  We thought he’d be ok in 2004, and he was just that, ok.  I’m not expecting huge things from Plummer in 2005, but he’s not a guy I’d be shying away from either.  As was the case last year, there is no QB controversy, Plummer is the guy.  We’re hoping to see a more healthy year from Rod Smith, and better production from Ashley Lelie, both of which should help Plummer’s numbers.  Jake will be a middle of the pack fantasy quarterback, but a reliable starter. 

QB Other
Plummer’s backups could include Danny Kanell, Matt Mauck, and/or Bradlee Van Pelt.  Mauck and Van Pelt have one NFL season under their belt, and journeyman Kanell is no threat to take away Plummer’s playing time. 

RB Discussion
I’ve been writing about the NFC West ever since we starting this exersize (three or four years running now), and I don’t remember there ever being a clear cut starter at running back.  And every year the player that emerges as the best fantasy player comes from deeper and deeper on the depth chart.  We all remember Clinton Portis emerging and having a great year, then being shipped out.  And last year, I’m sure not too many people had heard of Rueben Droughns (also shipped out).  Not to mention, every year Denver grabs a rookie at the position fairly high in the NFL draft. 

So here we are again, Maurice Clarett will be starring in the role of the rookie (formerly played by Clinton Portis and Tatum Bell).  Tatum Bell will play the role of the veteran that should have had the job last year but got hurt and missed the entire season, burning many a fantasy owner in the process .  Quentin Griffin will be the understudy (playing himself), you know, the guy that has been hanging around, not quite a star, but possibly could be the star someday.  Mike Anderson will play the role of the fullback (also playing himself), getting the occasional carry and touchdown.  And finally, Ron Dayne will be the newcomer to the team (formerly played by Garrison Hearst), the guy that has been in the league for many years, had high hopes coming out of college, but has been a complete bust up to this point. 

So those are the players, how does it shake out??  Usually an injury crops up to help shake things out, but we can’t plan for that here, so my thoughts are this…the job is Tatum Bell’s to lose.  If he does everything asked of him in preseason and stays healthy, then I see him as being RB1 on this team.  I eventually see the rookie (Clarett) fill the role of RB2.  He’s got a lot to prove after being forced to sit out for a couple of years, so I think once the rust wears off he will see some amount of playing time.  I’m writing off Anderson as a viable fantasy option so I wouldn’t worry too much about him.  I would, however, spend a late draft pick on Griffin and even Dayne “just to be sure”.  Remind yourself where Droughns came from last year as you’re making the pick, that’s all. 

The bottom line is that someone on Denver will be an above average fantasy running back, worthy of a starting lineup spot.  The trick is to figure out who it is so keep all bases covered here.  Generally these situations work themselves out early so you shouldn’t have to wait more than 3 or 4 games to know who it will be. 

WR Rod Smith
A tremendously disappointing fantasy season for Smith in 2004 came on the heels of a bad 2003 as well.  I’m not quite ready to write off Smith, but I certainly won’t be counting on him as a starter on draft day.  Take him as a WR3/WR4 and hope that he returns to form. 

WR Ashly Lelie
Lelie seems to be on a steady track of progression, minimal time as a rookie in 2003, a little more time last year as a starter, and now this year I see him as a viable starting WR on your fantasy team.  I don’t have him ranked as highly as others, but I think if you get him in the right spot in the draft, you won’t be disappointed in his production. 

WR Other
I’d be remiss not to mention Jerry Rice in this space.  The future hall of famer hasn’t been on the fantasy radar for a number of years, and I don’t see that changing in 2005.  Darius Watts and Triandos Luke should also see some spot duty, but not on your fantasy team. 

TE Discussion
What a mess this position was last year, as four guys were brought in to replace the mouthy Shannon Sharpe.  From the pile, Jeb Putzier emerged as a decent TE, and I look for him to get the bulk of the playing time in 2005.  Stephen Alexander will also be in the mix, but he’s an injury liability so stay away. 

K Jason Elam
Elam has been a productive fantasy kicker for many years and he should continue to be near or at the top of your kicker rankings. He continues to be accurate from long distances, very valuable in those leagues that reward bonus for yardage. 

Kansas City Chiefs

QB Trent Green
Two years ago, Green quietly finished as the third best fantasy producer at his position behind Manning and Culpepper.  I didn’t think that production would continue, but I didn’t think he’d have as big a drop off as he did in 2004.  He went from a solid fantasy starter, to a spot starter, disappointing those that spent high draft picks on him.  This year, I see Green is another of those “middle of the road” guys, nothing great, nothing terrible, somewhere in the middle. 

QB Other
Todd Collins will likely move up the depth chart to be the backup to Green, with Damon Huard and James Kilian in the mix behind those two. 

RB Priest Holmes
Despite missing time due to injury (again) in 2004, Holmes should still be considered as a first round draft pick.  He’s the classic risk versus reward, when he’s healthy and playing, he is one of the best.  While the end of the road may soon be coming, I don’t see it affecting him in 2005. 

RB Other
In the brief time Larry Johnson got last year filling in for Holmes, he showed the world why Kansas City drafted him.  He is more than able to carry the load for the Chiefs, the question is, when will he get the opportunity to do so on a full time basis.  I’m not sure that will be in 2005. 

WR discussion
Just as tough as it is to write about the Denver RB situation, so goes the case of the Kansas City WR mess.  This year’s starters look to be Eddie Kennison and Samie Parker.  Whopee.  Freddie Mitchell, Marc Boerigter, Craphonso Thorpe, Chris Horn, Dante Hall, myself, Tony Holm, oh wait.  I think you see what I’m getting at here, no one really inspires me to draft a KC WR.  Kennison and Parker are probably worth owning as late (very late) round selections, otherwise, there’s not much upside to this group, what you see is what you get, and what I see isn’t that good. 

TE Tony Gonzalez
Once again, TonyG deserves to be one of, it not the top TE taken in the draft.  He is the best at the position, however TE has become deep over the years, so I’m not sure that I’d be spending that high a draft pick on him.  As discussed above, the Chiefs WR core is middling at best, and Gonzalez despite double teams, nearly always outpoints the rest of his teammates on a regular basis. 

K Lawrence Tynes
The Scotsman Tynes enjoyed fantasy success last year, his first in the NFL, which should continue in 2005.  He’s got a strong and accurate leg, and Kansas City is not afraid to use him, even from a range of 50+ yards.  And hey, if it’s not Scotch, it’s crap!

Oakland Raiders

QB Kerry Collins
Oakland brought in Collins to provide some insurance/competition for Rich Gannon last season.  Gannon ended up getting hurt, and Collins stepped in and have a very good fantasy campaign.  With Gannon’s retirement now official, Collins enters training camp as the #1 guy.  Many have bristled at the notion of Collins being a top fantasy QB, but he is one so don’t be afraid to grab him early since he probably won’t last.  The stability at WR can only help his numbers, oh yea, and the addition of some guy named Moss. 

QB Other
Marques Tuisosopo is still in the fold and last year he pretty much proved that he is not worthy of being much more than a backup QB.

RB LaMont Jordan
The times are still a changing at this position for the black and silver.  Tyrone Wheatley had his chance last year and did nothing with it.  He’s gone, Charlie Garnier is long gone…so Oakland went and acquired LaMont Jordan from the Jets.  Jordan has been riding pine for three years behind a rejuvenated Curtis Martin, and now he finally gets his chance.  I like his chances to perform well this season, unfortunately there’s been so much fantasy fanfare about his arrival in Oaktown, that I see him as being a little overvalued on draft day.  He should do well, so if you really want him, you will have to get him early. 

RB Other
I never understood why Oakland never gave Justin Fargas a chance at being the starter.  Whether he was in the doghouse or what, I don’t know.  In any case, he’ll probably be Jordan’s backup, so if you’re in a mood for prospecting (ie. picking backup RBs), Fargas wouldn’t be a bad guy to pick up.  This will be Jordan’s first season as “the guy” so we’ll have to see if he can stay healthy for the entire season. 

WR Randy Moss
Exit Jerry Rice, enter Randy Moss.  You don’t need me to tell you that Moss is the top fantasy WR, still.  That isn’t going to change with his new uniform.  If anything, his numbers could actually improve since he doesn’t have a quarterback that can scramble into the end zone, stealing away precious TDs.  Not to mention that Collins loves to throw the long ball, a Moss trademark.  I’m saying it here, Moss’ numbers go up in 2005. 

WR Jerry Porter
The addition of Moss can only help Porter.  He’s been signed long term, so in 2005, Moss and Porter will be the guys at WR.  Porter is another guy that likes to go downfield, I see Oakland being very proficient thru the air and Porter will have good fantasy value in 2005. 

WR Other
Moss and Porter will be the guys, however, Doug Gabriel might steal a few catches on third downs.  Roland Curry and Carlos Francis might also be in the mix, but these backups are probably not going to be worth even owning this year. 

TE dicussion
Oakland has gotten away from using a tight end, at least in a fantasy sense, so there’s really no one I can recommend for the Raiders right now.  Courtney Anderson, Rickey Dudley, Teyo Johnson are in the mix.  TEBC, no thanks. 

K Sebastian Janikowski
No real threat to Janilowski here. If he keeps out of bars and on the field, his strong leg and excellent scoring offense should have him right around the top 10 of kickers.

San Diego Chargers

QB Drew Brees
Many scoffed last year when I wrote in this space that Brees will be the starter for the entire year.  Turned out he had a pretty good fantasy season, no?  This for a guy that may not have even heard his name called in many fantasy drafts.  I’m sure that won’t be the case again this season, but I wouldn’t expect the same numbers as in 2004.  I’ll be ranking Brees in the lower half of the “middle of the road” QBs, you should as well. 

QB Other
Amazing what a holdout can do, eh?  Philip Rivers is still the future QB of this team, but I don’t see him on the field much once again in 2005. 

RB Ladainian Tomlinson
You don’t need me to tell you that Tomlinson should be the top player chosen in all fantasy drafts.  Nothing has changed.  He continues to do extremely well on the ground, and his pass catching ability is often better than some WRs.  Both tremendous qualities in a fantasy stud.  Those of you lucky enough to have selection 1.01, enjoy.

RB Other
A bit of a training camp battle here between second year player Michael Turner and rookie Darren Sproles.  Tomlinson owners should watch this situation, and those of you fishing the backup RBs should also consider spending a late round pick on the backup in San Diego. 

WR Keenan McCardell
The Chargers made a late move to bring in McCardell last year, and that worked out ok.  Much like in Kansas City, San Diego doesn’t seem to make much use of their WRs.  McCardell in particular should have an ok season, I just don’t see him as a fantasy starter in 2005. 

WR Reche Caldwell
The one guy I would consider here is this guy, Caldwell.  Was having a break out year until he got hurt so if you are looking for value at the WR position, look no further. 

WR Other
Eric Parker, Kassim Osgood, Vincent Jackson, Bobby Shaw….zzzzz.  

TE Antonio Gates
Those of you that were with us last year read the following in this space about Gates:  “Sleeper alert!!! I’ve seen Gates ranked as low as the 20th…don’t be afraid to hold off on your TE and grab Gates after everyone has their starter…..Gates has the potential to be a top 5 producer at the position this year, surely he’ll end up in the top 10. The days of ignoring the Charger TE are over, take Gates as your TE1 and run.”  Truer words were never spoken, were they?  Unfortunately, Gates is no longer a sleeper, and he may be challenging Gonzalez as the top fantasy TE.  Act accordingly. 

K Nate Kaeding
Kaeding had an ok 2004, held onto the job for the entire season and has been invited back to perform the same task in 2005.  Nothing spectacular so I’d look elsewhere for my starting fantasy K. 


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