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AFC West Preview

Denver Broncos

QB Jake Plummer
Plummer hasn’t done much spectacular since arriving in Mile High.  He hasn’t had to snake his way to any comeback wins and he hasn’t lit the fantasy world on fire.  And yet, he has proven that he can and should be a reliable fantasy starter.  Certainly not a guy that you want to spend a high draft pick on, but worth waiting for within the pack of third or fourth tier QBs that should be available in the 7th – 9th rounds of your draft.  No one else on the Denver roster is a threat to his playing time at least in 2006. 

QB Other
The Broncos used a high draft pick on heralded Jay Cutler, but we don’t see him hitting the field unless Plummer gets hurt.  Bradlee Van Pelt continues to carry the clipboard as the third string.

RB Discussion
As is always the case in Denver (four years running now), entering the pre-season the RB situation for the Broncos has never been settled.  This year proved no different.  What has become clear is that whoever ends up being the starter in the Bronco backfield will have very good fantasy value.  As of this moment, it looks like undrafted rookie Mike Bell has been annointed as the starter.  Not much is known about Mike Bell, other than the fact that Shanahan likes his running style, and he seems to have won the starting job. 

Also in the mix this year, as with each of the last two years, is Tatum Bell.  It was thought that when he was drafted he would become the starter for years to come, but it hasn’t worked out that way.  Shanahan continues the revolving door of finding a diamond in the rough and making him a [fantasy] star, then shipping him out to another team to begin another project (see also Portis,Clinton and Droughns, Rueben).  Again this year it looks like Tatum Bell will be second string, but worth owning as Mike Bell insurance. 

The previous seasons’ flavor of the year Ron Dayne appears to very much be on the outside looking in, in fact, since this article originally appeared, he’s been released by the Broncos.  Cedric Cobbs is listed above him on the depth chart, but as has been the case in the past, use a late round draft pick to make sure all of these guys are on someone’s roster since things in Denver have a tendency to change in a hurry. 

WR Javon Walker
Well, Walker finally got his wish to get out of Green Bay.  He finds himself still in a very good situation in a passing game that mostly counts on the top 2 WRs to get most of the action.  Walker shouldn’t be associated with the elite at his position, but somewhere in the fourth round is probably a good place for him in what should be a very productive fantasy year.  

WR Rod Smith
Smith is yet another year older this season, and he can no longer be associated with the top tier of fantasy WRs.  Many of the drafts I have seen have him going around the 6th round, which seems about right for the fantasy production he can be counted on this year. 

WR Other
As mentioned above, only the top 2 WRs see the ball on a regular basis, so I would advise thinking about players like Brandon Marshall, Darius Watts, or David Kircus on draft day. 

TE Discussion
Since the departure of Shannon Sharpe, the TE position has been a bit of a mess.  Denver will bring in a ton of guys, then none of them end up being worth a stick in the fantasy world (reason #4166 for fantasy owners to hate Mike Shanahan).  Tony Scheffler sits atop the depth chart at the moment, with Stephen Alexander behind him.  Zzzzz.

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
Three years ago, Green had a breakout season and finished as the #3 fantasy QB.  Since then, the numbers have been on a steady decline.  Green will be the starter for the Chiefs, but I don’t expect that he will improve on last year’s numbers.  New coach, new system, I just don’t see a high quality fantasy season.  He’s been going in the late 8th, early 9th rounds of fantasy drafts, which is about right for what should be your fantasy QB2. 

QB Other
Damon Huard
and Brodie Coyle will be backups to Green, both should have no fantasy impact.   

RB Priest Holmes
Wow, has it ever been a great ride for fantasy owners.  Alas, all good things must come to an end and it looks like Holmes is finished. 

RB Larry Johnson
Last year in this space I wrote that Johnson was more than capable of filling in for Priest Holmes.  And was that ever true.  When Holmes went out last season, the KC running game did not miss a beat as Johnson put up the same and sometimes even better Priest Holmes numbers.  This year should be no different.  Despite the new system coming into place, Johnson should go no lower than #3 overall in your drafts. 

RB Other
Michael Bennett
and Dee Brown will serve as backups, and should something happen to Johnson they would step right in and put up very nice fantasy numbers so be sure that you try and weasle one of these guys onto your roster with a late round selection. 

WR discussion
I have really grown tired of talking about Kansas City WRs.  It just seems like none of them are worth owning, and the ones that are worth owning are merely bye week fill in type players.  Eddie Kennison has shown some flashes in the past, but he’s very inconsistent.  That said, he is worth owning and has been going in the mid to late 7th round range of most drafts.  I wouldn’t want to have to count on him as my starter every week.  Samie Parker looks poised to take the next step and become a viable fantasy entity, but is he really?  Dante Hall is worth owning in those leagues that count return yards.  And beyond that, I think I’ll pass. 

TE Tony Gonzalez
Despite the turmoil that surrounded TonyG last year, he once again proved that he belonged as one of the top 5 TEs in the fantasy world.  That should be the case again this year, since the Chiefs have little as far as WR talent goes. 

K Lawrence Tynes
The Scotsman Tynes has entrenched himself as the starter in his first couple of years in the NFL.  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 Aaron Brooks
Perhaps Brooks was the one to take the fall for the disappointment that took place on the Saints last year.  There certainly were enough distractions that team had to go thru.  New Orleans decided to move on and let him go, while Oakland decided they were done with Kerry Collins.  Brooks comes into a nice situation where there is quality at all the skill positions, and when Randy Moss lines up on the field, anything is possible. 

That said, I’m never a big fan of quarterbacks in their first year on a new team.  Like many, I’m taking a cautious approach to what Brooks will be able to do in the fantasy world.  Like Plummer and Green, Brooks is in the same range, 7th thru 9th round picks, could be QB1, a definate QB2, somewhere in the middle. 

QB Other
Andrew Walter
and Marques Tuisosopo are the backups and are no threat to Brooks’ playing time. 

RB LaMont Jordan
We wrote in this space last year that we liked Jordan a lot in his first year in the Black and Silver.  He did not disappoint.  Nothing should change this year and you should be prepared to grab him in the first round if you want him in 2006. 

RB Other
Justin Fargas
remains in Oakland as the backup.  I still contend that one day he will be a very good NFL starter.  Until that day comes, his fantasy production depends on the starter getting hurt. 

WR Randy Moss
Say what you will about Randy Moss, he can explode for 3TD and 200yds in a single game, especially if it is a prime time affair.  So lower him down your WR lists at your peril.  Is he the top fantasy WR?  Probably not, but I wouldn’t bump him out of my top 5. 

WR Jerry Porter
My original piece had Doug Gabriel in this space, but since that time Gabriel has been dealt to the New England Patriots.  That puts Jerry Porter by default back into the starting lineup.  Things didn’t quite work out for him last year, and actually for the Raiders as a whole.  With Moss, Collins, Porter, and Jordan, Oakland had all the pieces for a dominating offense.  But it just didn’t work out that way.  Guys got hurt, things went from bad to worse, and before you knew it the season was over.  So Porter is back in a position to excel, certainly worthy of taking a chance on him since many will have him very low on their cheat sheets.  Could become a viable WR3 or even WR2 as the season progresses. 

WR Other
Ronald Curry, Alvis Whittied, Johnny Morant, a few others as well are in the mix, but Oakland is mainly a 2 WR team as far as fantasy purposes are concerned.  At this point, none of this lot is worth considering on draft day. 

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, Randal Williams.  Eh. 

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 Philip Rivers
And so the future is now for the Chargers, Drew Brees has moved on after successfully playing himself into another contract.  I’m not sure the pieces are in place for Rivers to be worth considering on draft day.  Still no WRs to speak of, and despite the presence of LaDainian Tomlinson, I see limited numbers out of the QB position in San Diego this season. 

QB Other
Charlie Whitehurst
is the backup, but the job is Rivers’ to learn as he goes. 

RB Ladainian Tomlinson
You don’t need me to tell you that Tomlinson is one of the top 3 players overall that should be selected on draft day.  I would (and have) taken him #1 overall.  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
It looks like Michael Turner has won the backup job once again, a decent option to consider late in your drafts especially for those Tomlinson owners. 

WR Keenan McCardell
McCardell has been in San Diego a couple of years, nothing great was expected of him and he continues to be a fringe fantasy starter.  Worth owning and selecting in the mid to late rounds, don’t expect too much out of the Charger passing game this season. 

WR Eric Parker
If the WR1 on San Diego isn’t much of a fantasy threat, then neither is WR2 on the Chargers.  Parker will start along side McCardell, but again, I don’t see much out of the San Diego passing game so I wouldn’t consider Parker on draft day. 

WR Other
Kassim Osgood, Vincent Jackson

TE Antonio Gates
We continue to be ahead of the curve in this space regarding Gates.  Two years ago we issued a major sleeper alert, and he did not disappoint.  Last year we predicted at minimum a top 5 fantasy finish.  Those that have owned him have not been disappointed.  Gates is still the top fantasy TE, but I would lower expectations slightly.  The Chargers have little protection for him in the passing game, and with second year man Philip Rivers at the controls, the Chargers passing game could be in for a long season.  Expect very good numbers out of Gates that will keep him as one of the top 3 producing TEs in 2006. 

K Nate Kaeding
Kaeding is an adequate NFL starter and a decent backup fantasy kicker. 

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