Editor’s Note: This is part of the Sports Feel Good Stories, Red Zone Rick series in which the gridiron guru evaluates fantasy football player potential broken out by team within each of the eight NFL divisions. In this case, he’ll be examining the exciting AFC West.
AFC West Fantasy Football Player Rankings 2019
In the real AFC West, Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs have dominated the decade. Now, with rising star QB, Patrick Mahomes, The Chiefs have their eyes on advancing further in the playoffs to the Super Bowl.
With off-field problems affecting key offensive standouts, is this as powerful as a team as it was just last year? We’ll soon find out as the Chargers and the Broncos will put them to the test. And, well, what about those Raiders. Is Gruden putting together the pieces he needs to get the Raiders back on track? Well, the addition of Antonio Brown is a step in the right direction.
With Tyreek Hill and Antonio Brown, the AFC West features the two best receivers in the NFL.
Let’s take a look at how each AFC team breaks down fantasy player-wise.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes (QB)
Reigning MVP. Need I say more?
(Learn more about Patrick Mahomes.)
Travis Kelce (TE)
The best tight end in the NFL, even if Gronk wasn’t retiring. His value might take a hit though if Tyreek Hill doesn’t return this season (double-teams all day). I would still feel comfortable drafting him early because he is really just that good.
Tyreek Hill (WR)
Regardless of how you feel about his off the field issues, this guy is a phenomenal football player. Make no mistake, a very big part of why Mahomes is MVP is due to (the relatively not-so-big) Hill.
The guy is so fast that defenses often need to triple-team him. His speed is just the first thing to watch out for. His route-running prowlace, his ability to win contested balls, his reliable hands, and his competitive nature all boost him into being quite possibly the most well-rounded and dangerous WR in recent memory. Oh, and he can return punts too… And kicks.
Video: How Fast is Tyreek Hill?
Damien Williams (RB)
Williams was an absolute lifesaver for the Chiefs last season after they released Kareem Hunt. And he is clearly the man that Andy Reid is expecting to be the brunt of his ground attack in 2019 as well. We didn’t get to see an entire season out of him, so there is a little cause for concern, but with what we did see he sure looked good.
Carlos Hyde (RB)
The often overlooked Hyde is on another new team, but that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked this year. Andy Reid has a way with running backs (and offenses in general) and I would bet my bottom dollar that Hyde is going to have more than just a backup role.
Hyde is great at catching the ball, so if you play in PPR he is graded Silver, but if you play standard he gets a bit of a downgrade.
Sammy Watkins (WR)
Are you a believer? Judging by the size of his contract it is pretty clear the Chiefs believe in him. But I can’t say I believe he’s the answer. If Tyreek Hill is gone, his grade gets a boost but I still wouldn’t spend heavily on him.
Demarcus Robinson (WR)
Patrick Mahomes is the QB. Robinson goes hard on game day. (Again) if Hill is gone, there is some real potential here.
Diamond in the Rough
Mecole Hardman (WR)
The Tyreek Hill insurance policy. He’s good, he’s fast, but is he ready? Even if he is everything that the Chiefs hope he is, replacing Hill is just not a realistic ceiling for Hardman. But that being said, he certainly is a promising young player and has a shot at becoming the number 1 WR on the most dangerous offense in the NFL.
Hardman College Video Highlights
San Diego Chargers
Melvin Gordon (RB)
The motor that keeps the most balanced team in football churning. The Chargers’ defense is stacked; the offense is stacked. And controlling the game literally runs through Gordon. He has turned into a perennial top-5 RB since entering the league 5 years ago.
Keenan Allen (WR)
He started 2018 slow, but picked up speed as the year went on. When Rivers needs to get rid of the ball, Allen is the guy. Historically, this has resulted in heaping amounts of targets for Allen at times. He’s a reasonable bet to blow-up in almost every game when Rivers is slinging. You can draft him with confidence.
Philip Rivers (QB)
Philip Rivers is good – he’s real good. Which is why it can be confusing why he makes so many bone-headed throws at times. But then he reminds you why he is so good again. He’s never out of a fight and he has the weapons to remain dangerous at any time. Keep him rolling when he’s hot.
Hunter Henry (TE)
2019 looks like the year we might finally get to see Henry unleashed. He missed the regular season last year but came back for a stint in the playoffs, so he’s healthy and had all offseason to get his mojo back. Don’t be surprised if Rivers finds Henry in the red zone (a lot).
The San Diego Chargers Defense
The Charger D is stacked. Their offense can possess the ball reliably. This is a great unit.
Austin Eckler (RB)
Some games he disappears behind Gordon, other games he thrives as a backfield receiver. He isn’t a big guy, he isn’t a big name, but he plays bigtime. PPR formats he is a decent bench stash for a rainy day.
Travis Benjamin (WR)
He’s never really turned into the Wide Receiver that he looked like he could be back when he was with the Browns, but Benjamin is a deep-ball hawk so he can turn a small number of targets into big fantasy points.
Diamond in the Rough
Mike Williams (WR)
If you watched Mike Williams at the end of the season, you began to witness what could be the next great WR in the AFC. He is still young and developing, but down the stretch he really looked like a gem. Don’t feel hesitant about grabbing him in the draft, there’s a great chance that he is a big name come February 2020.
Phillip Lindsay (RB)
If you started the 2018 season thinking that Phillip Lindsay would be your RB1, good for you, but I’d bet you’re lying. For most of the season he was Denver’s quintessential running back and finished the season as one of two top rookie backs – the other being Saquon Barkley. That’s good company. He’s that good. He’s your RB1 if you want him (you want him).
Emmanuel Sanders (WR)
Denver’s receiving corps was all over the place last season. And their (previously new) 2018 quarterback is already gone so any chemistry that was developing is already out the window.
But we do know that Joe Flacco is a veteran QB with a superbowl ring and there’s a good chance that he’ll find some common ground with his veteran receiver who also has one of those rings.
Courtland Sutton (WR)
He started showing some real promise in flashes last season. Denver clearly expects a lot out of him, so it is safe to assume they will get their 2018 second-round selection well involved this year. Probably sooner rather than later.
Joe Flacco (QB)
We know Joe Flacco is pretty good, but will he be good enough? Case Keenum is an extremely mobile QB – Flacco is the exact opposite.
How much can Denver’s O-line adjust in one year, and will they really be able to protect the man who needs to stand in the pocket (arguably more than any other quarterback) just one year removed from being one of the most questionable O-lines in the AFC?
The Denver Broncos Defense
This defense is good enough to be ranked silver, but in this division (two games against the Chiefs, two games against the Chargers), there are going to be some tough outings. They’ll be great some weeks, but won’t be a lock for the whole season.
Diamond in the Rough
DaeSean Hamilton (WR)
Not a whole lot is known about rookie Hamilton’s viability as an NFL starter, but then again not a whole lot is known about what Denver’s offense will look like. He’s as good a bet as any to be a good bargain selection, but I wouldn’t necessarily hold your breath.
The Oakland Raiders
Antonio Brown (WR)
Was Big Ben holding AB back? Was their chemistry the secret to AB’s success? Is Carr good enough to maximize AB? I don’t know. What I do know, is that Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the NFL.
The only man that has anything on him is Tyreek Hill, and that’s if he even plays this season. But if he does play, their teams will meet twice, which spells F-I-R-E-W-O-R-K-S. Maybe he slides a little in the draft, that’s just better news for you if he drops to where you can scoop him up.
Josh Jacobs (RB)
He could be Gold. Or if Oakland struggles he could fail to deliver his full potential. Oakland is rebuilding so any Raider you draft comes with a bit of a risk. But relatively speaking, you can feel pretty good about Jacobs.
Derek Carr (QB)
Carr did not look great last year. Or the year before that. But before that he look really, really good. Gruden has set his mind on delivering results with Carr, so it isn’t crazy to think Carr starts to light it up this year with the new offensive weapons at his disposal. It also isn’t crazy to think he struggles again.
Ryan Grant (WR)
This probably has more to do with how good the new Raiders will look than Grant’s skills specifically. But he is a decent bargain pickup if you believe in Oakland.
Diamond in the Rough
Tyrell Williams (WR)
Gruden sees something in Williams. And if you watched him with the Chargers, there’s clearly “something” there. At times he was a fantasy stud. At times he was a fantasy dud. But he gets a fresh start with a team that has a lot of potential but is still working on defining itself offensively. I’m leaning toward fantasy stud in 2019.
The Year Ahead
— Red Zone Rick
Red Zone Rick, a long time fantasy football player, commissioner, and writer, knows how to draft a team. When not on the lookout the next great sleeper pick, he can be sometimes be found foraging for the best morel mushrooms in his native Minnesota.
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