2019 First Fantasy Football Thoughts: AFC/NFC West

by Michael Nazarek - 7/23/2019

As we march towards the release of Version II of our Pre-Season Draft Guide later this week, I look to the teams out west to finish my sweep…


AFC WEST


Denver Broncos:
The Broncos missed the playoffs last year again, mostly due to more poor QB play. QB Case Keenum is gone, and the team acquired veteran QB Joe Flacco from the Ravens in the off-season. Flacco is a better QB than Keenum, but for fantasy, he's never been anything more than a risky backup. That will not change in Denver. QB Kevin Hogan and rookie QB Drew Lock will battle for the backup job. In the running game, second-year RB Phillip Lindsay had a breakout season as an undrafted rookie. He returns to start, but will share significant action alongside second-year RB Royce Freeman, who is more of a bigger back. Let's just say that Lindsay is the lightning to Freeman's thunder. Veteran RB Devontae Booker returns as the #3 RB. Rookie RB Devontae Jackson was drafted for depth. In the passing game, WR Demaryius Thomas is long gone, and WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) is still rehabbing a torn Achilles. The team expects Sanders to be ready by week #1, but second-year WR Courtland Sutton appears on track to become the new #1 WR for the team, giving him more fantasy value than Sanders. Second-year WR DaeSean Hamilton is set to play in the slot, while WR Tim Patrick returns for depth. At tight end, TE Jeff Heuerman returns to battle rookie TE Noah Fant to start. Odds are good that Fant will eventually win that job, making him an interesting late-round fantasy sleeper this summer. PK Brandon McManus returns as the kicker, but the likelihood of a fairly inconsistent offense, is no better than a middle-of-the-road fantasy prospect.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs once again made the playoffs, but lost to the eventual Super Bowl winning Patriots. New star QB Patrick Mahomes took off like a shining comet last year and nearly got the team into the big game. He returns as the consensus #1 fantasy QB now that WR Tyreek Hill won't be suspended for domestic violence. QB Chad Henne will back up Mahome in 2019. In the running game, RB Kareem Hunt is long gone, as RB Damien Williams took over as the lead back late last year. The team signed veteran free-agent RB Carlos Hyde to share time with Williams in the backfield, but the coaches are standing behind Williams as their clear lead back. Williams is a solid #2 fantasy RB. Second-year RB Darrel Williams returns for depth. In the passing game, third-year WR Tyreek Hill blew up as a clear #1 WR, and that should continue in 2019 (as long as he stays out of trouble). Veteran WR Sammy Watkins returns as the #2 WR (when healthy). WR Chris Conley is gone, as WR Demarcus Robinson will be asked to fill his role. Rookie WR Mecole Hardman was drafted to eventually replace Hill if he was suspended, but now has very little fantasy sleeper value as long as Hill stays clean. This team is banking that a remorseful Hill keeps his act together in 2019. At tight end, TE Travis Kelce returns as an elite fantasy TE, no change here. TE Blake Bell is his backup in 2019. Third-year PK Harrison Butker returns as the kicker, and should see enough scoring chances to be a top 5 fantasy kicker.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders struggled again last year and failed to make the playoffs. QB Derek Carr returns as the starter, but remains not much more than a weak fantasy backup. Much like QB Andy Dalton, if you try to reply upon him for every-week production, you will be sorry you did. QB Mike Glennon will back up Carr. In the running game, veteran RB Marshawn Lynch retired, as the team drafted RB Josh Jacobs to start and carry a full load. That means less pass-catching chances for RB Jalen Richard. Jacobs is a decent #2 fantasy RB with nice upside. RB Doug Martin was re-signed after RB Isaiah Crowell tore his ACL after he was signed for depth. RB DeAndre Washington and RB Chris Warren return for depth, but one (or both) could be released before final cuts. In the passing game, WR Amari Cooper is long gone, as the team traded to acquire star WR Antonio Brown from the Steelers. Brown may not be elite anymore, but he remains a top 10 fantasy WR as a Raider. WR Jordy Nelson was released, and retired. Meanwhile, WR Tyrell Williams was signed to start opposite Brown, giving him nice fantasy sleeper status. Speedster WR J.J. Nelson will man the slot, while WR Marcell Ateman and WR Dwayne Harris will provide depth. At tight end, TE Jared Cook flew the coop to New Orleans, as TE Darren Waller steps into a starting role. He's a very interesting deep sleeper. TE Luke Willson will back him up. PK Giorgio Tavecchio is gone, as PK Daniel Carlson returns after a solid second half of 2018. Unfortunately, Carlson is unlikely to see enough scoring chances to make much of a fantasy impact.


Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers made the playoffs in 2018, but failed to make it to the big game. Veteran QB Philip Rivers returns in 2019, and although he's getting older, still maintains some decent fantasy value, although I'd prefer to own him as my backup than starter. QB Tyrod Taylor is the new backup to Rivers. In the running game, fourth-year RB Melvin Gordon returns as the starter and a solid fantasy #1 RB for 2019. That said, Gordon wants a new deal, and the team refuses to give it to him, so there may be a holdout here. If there is, watch carefully, and if it drags too long, I'd avoid him altogether in my draft. RB Austin Ekeler returns as the change-of-pace backup, while RB Justin Jackson would likely start if Gordon sits or gets injured. In other words, if you draft Gordon and can't draft Ekeler, then Jackson is worth a latter round pick. In the passing game, veteran WR Keenan Allen returns after a solid season, making him a top 12 WR for fantasy, while WR Mike Williams is set to start opposite Allen with WR Tyrell Williams now in Oakland. Williams is a top 25 fantasy WR. WR Travis Benjamin returns as a deep threart to fill the #3 WR role. At tight end, TE Hunter Henry returns after missing nearly all of 2018 with a torn ACL. He is a top 5 fantasy TE. The team chose to move on from TE Antonio Gates, as TE Virgil Green returns as the backup. PK Mike Badgley settled in as the kicker late last year. He returns with a solid fantasy sleeper status. Since he plays for the high-powered Chargers offense, he is a top 10 fantasy kicker.

NFC WEST


Arizona Cardinals:
The Cardinals were the worst team in the league in 2018. As a result, they traded second-year disappointment QB Josh Rosen and drafted QB Kyler Murray in April to start. Some think Murray will produce immediately, but I'm a bit more reserved and cautious. As a result, I'm not touching him in drafts this summer as anything more than a #3 fantasy QB. QB Brett Hundley will be the backup to Murray in 2019. In the running game, RB David Johnson returns after being misused for most of last year. That will change with new coaches that will work to keep him involved heavily in the passing game. As a result, he climbs back into the top 5 fantasy RBs for 2019. Second-year RB Chase Edmonds returns to backup Johnson. In the passing game, WR Larry Fitzgerald returns as the star receiver he's been in year's past, although this may actually be his final season. He's barely in my top 40 fantasy WRs due to the QB situation. Second-year WR Christian Kirk will start opposite Fitzgerald, while rookie WR Andy Isabella could be the #3 WR if the team chooses to move on from disappointing WR Chad Williams. WR Kevin White was signed to try to rejuvinate his career, but don't expect much of that to happen here. At tight end, TE Ricky Seals-Jones returns as the starter with veteran TE Jermaine Gresham gone. The Cardinals do not target their TEs much, giving Seals-Jones minimal fantasy value. Veteran TE Charles Clay was signed to back up Seals-Jones. PK Zane Gonzalez is the kicker, but an inconsistent offense is unlikely to make him a good fantasy option.

Los Angeles Rams: The Rams lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl last season. Fourth-year QB Jared Goff continued to improve, becoming a solid top 10 fantasy QB, even though he tailed off late in the season. I still rank him as a top 10 fantasy QB for 2019, but am not actively targeting him in my drafts. Veteran QB Blake Bortles is the new backup to Goff. In the running game, RB Todd Gurley continued to blow up for the Rams in 2018 until knee issues slowed him to a crawl during fantasy playoffs. Gurley says he's good, but he limped his way through the off-season, and questions still surrouind his ability to rebound with an arthritic knee. As a result, he slides outside of my top 5 fantasy RBs for 2019. RB Malcolm Brown returns to back up Gurley, but the team also drafted RB Darrell Henderson to boost the RB corps. With RB C.J. Anderson gone, good luck to the Rams if Gurley goes down for any length of time. In the passing game, WR Brandin Cooks, WR Robert Woods, and WR Cooper Kupp return to fill the top 3 slots at wideout. Kupp is coming off a torn ACL, so second-year WR Josh Reynolds could make an impact again if Kupp is slowed. As for the top three, they all rank in my top 30 fantasy WRs. At tight end, TE Gerald Everett and TE Tyler Higbee return, but neither are consistent producers, as the Rams do not target their TEs enough in the passing game for quality fantasy production. PK Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein returns as the kicker, after another big season. He's accurate, and the team should continue to give him plenty of scoring chances, keeping him an elite fantasy producer as long as he's healthy.


San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers failed to make the playoffs again in 2018. A big reson for that was the torn ACL injury suffered by QB Jimmy Garoppolo, knocking him out for the season in September. Garoppolo is healthy, and expected to start come week #1, but excitement around him has waned a bit in fantasy terms. In other words, he's no longer considered a sure-shot fantasy STUD, but more of a solid fantasy backup, albeit one with potential. QB Nick Mullens returns to back up Garoppolo. In the running game, RB Matt Breida led the team in rushing last year, but the 49ers signed free-agent RB Tevin Coleman this off-season. Most expect Coleman to start, and then there's RB Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon is coming off a torn ACL, so the RBs corps is obviously crowded. The 49ers also re-signed RB Raheem Mostert, whom looked solid last year in limited action before breaking his arm. Bottom Line: This is a RBBC, meaning no one is a top 25 fantasy RB, as most will see action here and there. Perhaps the preseason will determine the roles of these player in more detail. In the passing game, veteran WR Pierre Garcon is gone. WR Marquis Goodwin returns after a dreadfully inconsistent season, while second-year WR Dante Pettis broke out in limited fashion late in the season. Rookie WR Deebo Samuel was drafted to play the slot, while veteran WR Jordan Matthews was signed for depth. WR Kendrick Bourne also returns for depth. As you can see, the wideout corps is unsettled too. I believe Pettis is worthy of a #3 fantasy WR pick, but don't overpay for him. At tight end, third-year TE George Kittle has quickly developed into an elite player, and is a solid top 3 fantasy TE for 2019. Veteran TE Garrett Celek returns as the backup. Veteran PK Robbie Gould was solid last year, and should see enough scoring chances in 2019 to be a top 10 fantasy kicker.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks made the playoffs in 2018, but failed to make the big game. Veteran QB Russell Wilson returns as the starter once again, and remains a top 10 fantasy QB. QB Paxton Lynch is slotted as the primary backup to Wilson. In the running game, RB Chris Carson surprised by winning and keeping the starting job for the entire season. He returns, and is likely to keep that job, making him a top 25 fantasy RB. Meanwhile, second-year RB Rashaad Penny struggled to gain any traction in 2018. He returns, in an effort to make more of an impact. I'm not convinced he will do so. RB Mike Davis is gone, leaving injury prone RB C.J. Prosise as a pass-catching option, along side RB J.D. McKissic. In the passing game, WR Doug Baldwin was released and retired due to various injuries. As a result, the team drafted WR D.K. Metcalf to eventually start opposite WR Tyler Lockett. That said, he will have to beat out WR David Moore and WR Jaron Brown for that job. At tight end, TE Will Dissly got off to a big start last year, only to suffer a season-ending injury before October. He returns, but will have to beat out TE Nick Vannett for the starting job. Dissly has a bit of late-round fantasy sleeper in him if he starts. Veteran TE Ed Dickson returns for depth. The team signed PK Jason Myers to kick. He's a top 10 fantasy option with this offense likely to provide him with solid scoring chances.


That's a wrap on my "First Thoughts" for 2019! Be sure to keep an eye on FFMastermind.com in the coming weeks as we'll continue to bring you the very latest NFL news and informative "Eye in the Sky" training camp reports from our NFL team correspondents, as well as continue to release new updates to our Pre-Season Draft Guide. All comments, complimentary or otherwise, are always welcome via the contact page. Let's talk fantasy football!

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