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BREAKOUT PLAYERS: Part 7 – AFC WEST

In Part 7 of my 8-part series into fantasy footballs breakout stars for 2019, we are nearing the end of my indictment on the state of the NFL’s 8 diverse divisions. In this week’s edition, we turn our attention to the star-studded AFC West. With the Chiefs and the Chargers hailing as the class of this division once again. Trumpeting some of the most recognizable fantasy studs located all over the positional landscape. This is also a location that includes the Raiders and Broncos, two teams that are chomping at the bit to show fantasy players that this isn’t just a two horse race for who has the most viable fantasy options available. With new rookie and free-agent additions, the Raiders and Broncos are looking to tighten the gap that has been widened over the last few seasons by the dynamic offenses of the Chiefs and Chargers. So, without further ado, here are my predictions for potential Breakout Stars in PPR formats from the AFC West for 2019.

AFC WEST

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Mike Williams WR – Williams is just the latest product of what’s becoming increasingly known as Wide Receiver University. The former Clemson Tiger gave fantasy football owners a sneak peak of what’s to come last season when he hauled in 10 TDs for the Phillip Rivers lead offense. After what was more along the lines of a red-shirt year as a rookie in 2017, Williams burst onto the scene for the Chargers in 2018, leaving no doubt about why they made him the #7 overall selection in 2017 NFL draft. Now, entering his 3rd season, Williams value has never been higher and rightfully so. Playing opposite to one of the leagues shiftiest players WR Keenan Allen only increases the chances of Williams potential to really do some damage in 2019.

At 6’4 and 220lbs. Williams is the type of big body possession WR that QBs and offenses around the league covet, but, Williams is also so much more than that. He actually is a player that excels in high pointing the football in the redzone and is a down the field big play nightmare for defenses trying to match-up with. Williams only started 5 games in 2018 and still managed to post 43 receptions on 66 targets for 664 yards and again 10 big TDs. Just think about what he is capable of with 16 starts, especially now that Chargers former WR2 Tyrell Williams has moved onto the division rival Oakland Raiders. Mike Williams is currently slotted outside the Top-25 WRs according to most industry ADPs. Meaning his talents are still being vastly undervalued. Don’t hesitate, pick this low hanging fruit now and reap the benefits in your league all season long because of it.

Hunter Henry TE – The TE revolution continues in our 2019 series for breakout players and Henry might be the best one of them all when the dust finally settles in December. Presumably, the one thing that has stopped Henry from rising to the ranks of the best TEs in the league, hasn’t been his play; it has been his ability not play. In 2017 and 2018, Henry suffered injuries that would force him off the field and out of action. Week 15 of the 2017 season, saw Henry leave the game with an apparent knee injury, upon further review, it was determined that he had a lacerated kidney and he was shutdown for the remainder of the season. Then in 2018, his season ended before it would even begin as he tore his ACL in an OTA practice.

Until his injury in late 2017, Henry had flashed all the skills that made him the 1st TE off the board in the 2016 NFL draft. He was quickly becoming a “goto” player for QB Phillip Rivers. During his first 29 games played, Henry racked up 81 receptions on 115 targets for 1057 yards and 12 TDs. Doing it all with a highly efficient 70.4 reception rate. Given that over the course of Phillip Rivers career he has shown a willingness to favor the TE (see Antonio Gates) it stands to reason that if Henry can give Rivers that type of target Gates had for so long he could wind up being the beneficiary of some monster games and seasons in the near future. In a way, it’s now or never for the young TE, because as the old saying goes, “you can’t make the club in the tub.” That being said, I am overly confident that the John Mackey award winning TE will overcome this injury nag and establish himself with the best TEs in the game.

 

DENVER BRONCOS

Courtland Sutton WR – There’s only one way for Sutton’s fantasy value to go this season and that’s up. After coming into the league in 2018 as a highly regarded 2nd round draft pick of the Broncos, many experts had Sutton pegged as a player that could break the stigma that rookie WRs don’t often contribute immediately on a large scale for their new teams. It’s safe to say those same experts missed the boat some after Courtland’s sub-par performance last year; that doesn’t mean the trend will continue however. Especially, if his target volume continues to increase from the 84 he saw last season with a less talented QB than he has now throwing him the rock. It’s really just anyone’s guess how good Sutton might actually be in 2019. Although, I’m in the group that believes we will see the dominant player that was on display in his college years.

A standout during his time at Southern Methodist University, Sutton posted WR1 numbers his last two seasons as a Mustang. Compiling 134 receptions for 2,331 yards and 22 TDs in 25 games. The sky is indeed the limit as people like to say for Courtland entering his 2nd professional season. With expectations that he will be the WR1 when training camp finishes. Sutton’s current ADP presents a rather lucrative return on investment value for those looking to cash in big. His 2019 ranking places him near WR #40. Far behind less talented guys such as, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Marvin Jones.

Royce Freeman RB – To say that Royce’s rookie campaign was a severe disappointment would be a huge understatement. Going into last season Freeman was on the fast track to success throughout the pre-season. However, the tables turned quickly when the regular season started. That’s when little known undrafted rookie free-agent RB Phillip Lindsay dashed onto the scene and became a nightmare for Freeman fantasy owners everywhere. To make matters worse, most owners that drafted Freeman in 2018 spent high capital to acquire the former Oregon Duck. Fast forward to 2019 and the arrival of the Broncos new coaching staff. A coaching staff that brings a renewed optimism for the promising second year running back. For all the troubles and small injury lapses that occurred to Freeman in 2018, he was still a viable option in short yardage and goal-line situations.

In the 8 games he started last season, Freeman contributed 144 total touches and astonishingly managed a respectable 4 yards per carry when facing a stacked box of 8 defenders or more nearly 36 percent of the time he carried the ball. The reason why I think a resurgence is in store for Royce this season is because he really has prototypical size and speed to play the position, plus he was extremely productive as both a runner and a pass catcher at Oregon. As 4-year starter, Freeman racked up production during his time as a Duck. Posting gaudy numbers year after year. Royce finished his collegiate career as the PAC-12 all-time leader in TDs (64) and #2 all-time in yards from scrimmage (6,435). To think that a player like Freeman who possesses this type of offensive production is simply going to fall by the wayside, is just not logical. Even in a split carry situation this season with Lindsay it’s a safe bet to think that there is plenty of work still available for Freeman to take advantage of, plus the cost of doing business to acquire Freeman won’t be as radical as it was in 2018 either.

About Justin Smithey

The common man with uncommon fantasy takes. California raised, Texas approved. Avid reader, golfer, gambler, and father.