KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
GET: DT Bennie Logan, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
LOSE: RB Jamaal Charles, WR Jeremy Maclin, DT Dontari Poe, LB D.J. Alexander
RE-SIGNS: S Eric Berry, G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
DRAFT: 1st round: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech 2nd round: DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova 3rd round: RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo 4th round: WR Jehu Chesson, Michigan 5th round: LB Ukeme Eligwe, Georgia Southern 6th round: S Leon McQuay III, USC
SUMMARY: The Kansas City Chiefs have surprised me each year for a little while now because on paper, they’re simply not explosive on the offensive side of the ball. For a few years, Jamaal Charles was their only playmaker and the offense was fully reliant on both his health and execution. Last year, Kansas City really impressed me because they showed they could function with the ball without Charles. Spencer Ware finished with 921 yards last year, good for 16th, ahead of Todd Gurley, and carried a 4.3 clip (also 16th), better than names like David Johnson, Latavius Murray, Lamar Miller and Melvin Gordon.
Spencer Ware will miss 2017 with a torn PCL, which puts added pressure on third-round selection Kareem Hunt out of Toledo to serve as a backfield cornerstone. He looked pretty good against New England on Thursday, but that type of production, as Jamaal Charles found out, is taxing on one’s body and very hard to duplicate with regularity.
Alex Smith also played perhaps the best game of his career on Thursday, showcasing he can be more than a game manager. He can actually play a part in changing momentum and making key throws. Tyreek Hill last year was a wild card, but looked like a talented receiver in Week 1. The receiving core isn’t deep, but as long as the offense can perform with some continuity, Kansas City should continue to own the rights to a playoff spot. They were 20th in passing last year and 15th in the ground game, but a 24.3 ppg rate will lead to victories when your defense gives up 19.4 per game (7th). They gave up a lot of yards last year (20th), but total yardage is not always an indicator of a defense’s true potential. Kansas City led the league in turnover differential last year with a +16. Turnover differential is a number that fluctuates year to year and is nearly impossible to repeat, but one way to keep it positive is by increasing their pressure rate. Kansas City had 28 sacks last year, ahead of only the Jets, Browns, Lions and Raiders.
The Chiefs personnel on defense is stout and will keep the team in games. Marcus Peters is likely the best young corner soon to be on the market. Eric Berry’s season-ending Achilles injury will hurt, but Kansas City looks poised for another playoff run.
Tyreek Hill could be a capable fantasy asset as could Kareem Hunt, but I’m unwilling to take on that gamble. Kansas City defense, sign me up.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 11-5
Week 1: @NE Week 2: vs. PHI Week 3: @LAC Week 4: vs. WAS Week 5: @HOU Week 6: vs. PIT Week 7: @OAK Week 8: vs. DEN Week 9: @DAL Week 10: BYE Week 11: @NYG Week 12: vs. BUF Week 13: @NYJ Week 14: vs. OAK Week 15: vs. LAC Week 16: vs. MIA Week 17: @DEN
GET: RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Jared Cook, OL Marshall Newhouse, QB EJ Manuel, LB Jelani Jenkins, LB IK Enemkpali, WR Cordarrelle Patterson
LOSE: RB Latavius Murray, DT Dan Williams, OT Austin Howard, QB Matt McGloin, CB D.J. Hayden, LB Perry Riley, LB Malcolm Smith, OT Menelik Watson
RE-SIGNS: QB Derek Carr, G Gabe Jackson, WR Seth Roberts
DRAFT: 1st round: CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State 2nd round: S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut 3rd round: DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA 4th round: G David Sharpe, Florida 5th round: LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest 7th round: S Shalom Luani, Washington State OT Jylan Ware, Alabama State RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo
SUMMARY: There were three true MVP candidates last year: Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Derek Carr. He threw for 3,937 yards, led his team to multiple comebacks over the course of the season and was by far the team’s best player. His team’s championship hopes were shot the minute his leg broke.
Carr has the chance for even better numbers this year behind one of the best offensive lines in football and with Marshawn Lynch taking additional pressure off of the young quarterback. General manager Reggie McKenzie has given his young quarterback one of the strongest supporting casts in professional football so any failings Carr encounters, in most cases, are his own doing. The team lives and dies on the shoulders of the 26-year-old, which is why he was given such an enormous contract so early in his career. I expect the Raiders passing attack (13th in 2016) to receive a nice boost with another year of experience under Carr’s belt. A sixth-ranked rushing attack will likely regress, but not enough to be a problem. If the Raiders can mimic their 26.0 points per game from last season, they will see the promise land of playoff football. They, and the Steelers, seem to be the only teams with enough talent to beat the almighty New England Patriots in a playoff game.
The defense of Oakland, on the other hand, is poor. There is only one defensive category that they were good in: turnover differential. They tied Kansas City with a +16, but as I already mentioned, it’s a sporadic number that is based on skill, luck and schedule, and not in even portions.
In more important categories, Oakland was one of seven teams to allow over 6,000 yards of offense (New Orleans, Washington, Miami, Indianapolis, Cleveland, San Francisco.) Coincidentally, none of those teams are likely to make the playoffs this year and Oakland needs to change their setup if they don’t want to join the club (24th pass, 23rd rush, 24.1 ppg (20th)). They must improve from a league-worst 18 sacks last year. They also have a strong enough corner group (David Amerson, TJ Carrie, Sean Smith, Gareon Conley) to outpace 60 passes defended, a stat from last year.
Khalil Mack is sure to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, but there needs to be more of a team impact on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders are also starting rookies Eddie Vanderdoes at defensive tackle and Marquel Lee at middle linebacker. This won’t be a strong unit. It just needs to be a better one by the end of the season.
Derek Carr is a top-five quarterback for me this year and Amari Cooper, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree are also great selections in fantasy.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD:10-6
Week 1: @TEN Week 2: vs. NYJ Week 3: @WAS Week 4: @DEN Week 5: vs. BAL Week 6: vs. LAC Week 7: vs. KC Week 8: @BUF Week 9: @MIA Week 10: BYE Week 11: vs. NE Week 12: vs. DEN Week 13: vs. NYG Week 14: @KC Week 15: vs. DAL Week 16: @PHI Week 17: @LAC
GET: RB Jamaal Charles, G Ronald Leary, OT Menelik Watson, NT Domata Peko, QB Brock Osweiler, OT Menelik Watson, G Allen Barbre
LOSE: LB DeMarcus Ware, S T.J. Ward, LB Danny Trevathan, OT Russell Okung, NT Sylvester Williams, OT Ty Sambrailo, G Michael Schofield, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Marlon Brown, OL Michael Schofield, RB Juwan Thompson
DRAFT: 1st round: OT Garett Bolles, Utah 2nd round: DE DeMarcus Walker, Florida State 3rd round: WR Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech CB Brendan Langley, Lamar 5th round: TE Jake Butt, Michigan WR Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia 6th round: RB De’Angelo Henderson, Coastal Carolina 7th round: QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
SUMMARY: The Denver Broncos have new faces at the linebacker spots including Shaquil Barrett and Todd Davis, along with second-year safety Justin Simmons taking the spot of hard hitter T.J. Ward. They also lost Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, along with coach Gary Kubiak, who called it a career. In comes Vance Joseph, former DC for the Miami Dolphins. Step one: choose a quarterback and for week one, Joseph has chosen to stick with Trevor Siemian, a short-term solution until someone better comes along. Paxton Lynch has progressed little since being drafted, leaving Siemian, who performed admirably last year (3,401 yards, 18/10 TD/INT, 84.6 passer rating) for a seventh-rounder. With receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders flanking you, Siemian needs to do his best Alex Smith impression for the entirety of 2017 if he wants his team to have a chance. Denver and Kansas City are constructed the same way and will find success in the same manner.
The Broncos offensive line needs to be better this year after allowing 42 sacks (third-worst) and dragging a 27th-ranked ground attack through the mud. Jamaal Charles may very well get one last hoorah in Denver and by mid-season, could own the starting role if C.J. Anderson can’t get the wheels turning.
Conversely, Denver got run over last year (28th, 130.3 ypg), a stat that must change in a ground-and-pound division. If they sure up up front, Denver will be nearly unstoppable. They were first against the pass with the best corner duo in football (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.) and their 18.6 points per game was fourth-best. They have the tools to contend for a second wild-card spot. I’m just not sure it happens.
The Denver defense is the top pick from this squad for fantasy football. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders should be given WR2 consideration. If Jamaal Charles is available near the end of your draft, I believe he’s worth a selection.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD:8-8
Week 1: vs. LAC Week 2: vs. DAL Week 3: @BUF Week 4: vs. OAK Week 5: BYE Week 6: vs. NYG Week 7: @LAC Week 8: @KC Week 9: @PHI Week 10: vs. NE Week 11: vs. CIN Week 12: @OAK Week 13: @MIA Week 14: vs. NYJ Week 15: @IND Week 16: @WAS Week 17: vs. KC
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
GET: OT Russell Okung, QB Cardale Jones, G Michael Schofield, LB Korey Toomer, S Tre Boston
LOSE: OT King Dunlap, G Orlando Franklin, G D.J. Fluker, LB Manti Te’o, K Josh Lambo, QB Kellen Clemens, RB Kenjon Barner, TE Jeff Cumberland
RE-SIGNS: S Jahleel Addae, RB Brandon Oliver
DRAFT: 1st round: WR Mike Williams, Clemson 2nd round: G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky 3rd round: G Dan Feeney, Indiana 4th round: S Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami 5th round: CB Desmond King, Iowa 6th round: OT Sam Tevi, Utah 7th round: DE Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame
SUMMARY: San Diego is no more. The Chargers are now onto Los Angeles and are likely the lesser of the two LA-based teams this fall. The Bolts carry a strong defensive line featuring Ohio State product Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram (combined 18.5 sacks), but they’re weak at the linebacker spot after the anchor of the unit, Manti Te’0, left for New Orleans. Kyle Toomer, fresh from Oakland, and Kyle Emmanuel are young players who’ve yet to make an impact on the field and Jatavis Brown has done only slightly more than those two. I expect San Diego to fall drastically in the run defense column (10th last year at 97.9) and their points against is unlikely to make a notable improvement from the 26.4 they allowed last year (29th). Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett are capable corners, but Verrett begins the year on the PUP list, which spells bad news for Los Angeles, San Diego edition.
Philip Rivers has top target Keenan Allen back, but for who knows how long given his injury history. Rivers has slowly become one of the better quarterbacks remaining in the league and has aged well, but at 35 is the only player keeping this team above water. He’s done much with little and it’s a shame he couldn’t have been this player about ten years ago during the LaDainian Tomlinson years. He would likely have a ring. Instead, Rivers is likely to end his career without reaching the playoffs again. When his inevitable retirement occurs, this team will find itself stranded at the bottom of the AFC.
Melvin Gordon should break the 1,000 yard mark after falling three yards short last year, but is unlikely to have double-digit touchdowns for the second straight year. All in all, the AFC West, the strongest division in the AFC, is just too strong for Los Angeles.
Rivers has the strongest fantasy upside for the Bolts and Gordon is a RB2.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD:6-10
Week 1: @DEN Week 2: vs. MIA Week 3: vs. KC Week 4: vs. PHI Week 5: @NYG Week 6: @OAK Week 7: vs. DEN Week 8: @NE Week 9: BYE Week 10: @JAC Week 11: vs. BUF Week 12: @DAL Week 13: vs. CLE Week 14: vs. WAS Week 15: @KC Week 16: @NYJ Week 17: vs. OAK