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IDP Pre-Season Preview: AFC West
Steve Gallo
August 21, 2012
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Every year there are new faces in new places – not just players, but coaches too.  With those changes come scheme changes, and value changes with regards to fantasy football.  In addition, many teams have new defensive coordinators – you can read about them in the 2012 Coaching Changes article.  When you add up all of the player acquisitions, losses, and scheme changes, you will find that they can combine to have a profound effect on a player’s fantasy value.  The following information should help you understand what to expect in 2012.  If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at gallo@thehuddle.com or find me on twitter @IDPSteve.

Denver Broncos

HC: John Fox
DC: Jack Del Rio
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: DL Derek Wolfe, DB Tracy Porter

Defensive Line

When it comes to the fantasy side of things the only name you need to know on the Broncos DL is Elvis Dumervil.  Dumervil, when healthy can be a monster on the field.  Last year during the first half of the season good health was not his friend.  However, over the final 8 games of the season Dumervil racked up 9.5 sacks – logging at least a half sack or more in each game.  I think that Dumervil is being way underrated as DL12.  Quite honestly, I think he is closer to DL3 than Mario Williams is.  Therefore, if you either miss out on Jared Allen or Jason Pierre-Paul, your next target, in my eyes should be Dumervil.  Now I am not saying to draft him as high as you would those two, but you can focus on other positions knowing you can land “Doom” later in your draft. 

There was another player on the Broncos DL that I liked, note that I said liked, as in past tense.  That player was rookie Derek Wolfe.  Broncos fans may not have been happy with their trading down and down and then landing Wolfe, but from a fantasy football perspective I loved the move – that is for those in DT mandatory leagues.  That is the rub – Wolfe isn’t listed as a DT on the Broncos depth chart.  He has had his position changed to DE and I don’t think he will have the same fantasy value as a DE.  At best, he is a stash and hold in dynasty leagues – on the off chance that next year he gets relisted as a DT again.  One of the things that I liked was that the Broncos were talking about how versatile Wolfe was and that they had planned to utilize him both inside and outside on the defensive line.  That is where I saw the added value for him as a DT.  As a 6’5”, 305 lb, situational 5-technique end, not so much.

Linebacker

D.J. Williams has been the big name among the Broncos linebackers for quite some time, but times they are a changing.  Williams failed a drug test – a test that didn’t include human urine – and also was found guilty of DWAI (driving while ability impaired).  A 6-game suspension for the failed drug test was upheld and at this point, there is no telling if Roger Goodell will tack on any additional time due to the DWAI conviction.  I have actually seen Williams go undrafted in redraft leagues and that is understandable, but if you have a deep bench, he could be worth a stash and hold for later in the year.  Wesley Woodyard is slated to replace Williams in the starting lineup, but fantasy wise I don’t think you will see the consistent production you would need to roster him in a 12-team league.

The intriguing prospect among the Broncos linebackers is Von Miller.  Miller thru the first twelve weeks last year was on a tear – ranking 18th in linebacker scoring over that span of time.  Impressive when you consider he plays the very fantasy unfriendly SLB (SAM) position.  A late season injury to his thumb, which required surgery caused him to miss week 13 and rendered him ineffective him two other games.  A healthy Miller in 2012 should pick up where he left off prior to his injury – racking up fantasy stats and wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.  In big play leagues, Miller should be a solid LB1, and in tackle heavy leagues, I think he ends up a LB2 that presents some LB1 upside, especially if you can guess right on particular matchups to take advantage of his sacks.

If you are in a dynasty league, I am sure that you still are holding out hope that Nate Irving can give you solid return on your investment, but sadly I am not sure that is going to happen.  At best, Irving is a 2-down MLB, and at worst he is splitting time with Joe Mays.  Mays isn’t a pro-bowler by any stretch of the imagination but the Broncos saw enough in him to give him a 3 year deal worth $12 million with $4 million guaranteed.  With that much money invested in Mays you can bet he will be on the field enough to depress any fantasy value that Irving could have had.

From the “I don’t get it” department the Broncos signed Keith Brooking.  Brooking used to be a very productive linebacker, both NFL and fantasy wise.  That time as they say has come and gone so I’m not going to even try to make sense of the signing, all I know is that Brooking will not be fantasy relevant in 2012 or beyond.

Secondary

Brian Dawkins, one of my favorite players of all-time has finally decided to hang up his cleats and retire.  Dawkins value to the Broncos was clearly worth more for his veteran presence last year than his actual on field performance. 

With Dawkins out of the picture the Broncos safety spots are muddied a bit.  Quinton Carter is dealing with a knee injury and that leaves Mike Adams and Raheem Moore as their starters.  The Broncos also signed former Jet, Jim Leonhard.  Whoever enters the season as the starting SS will have DB3 value, but it looks like we probably won’t know exactly how this situation will shake out until preseason is over. 

At the CB position, the Broncos brought in Tracy Porter, the same Tracy Porter that intercepted then Colt QB, now Broncos QB, Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV for a touchdown.  Playing across from Champ Bailey will garner Porter a bit of fantasy value, but not enough that I would trust him as much more than a bye week fill-in. 

The CB that I really like this year is Chris Harris.  From week 8 thru 16 last year, Harris scored more fantasy points than any other CB in the league.  Just remember you can’t just look at last year’s numbers and expect a player to pick right up where they left off.  For Harris to payoff for fantasy owners he has to get on the field in nickel packages, and for that to happen he has to contend with veteran Drayton Florence.  So it isn’t like Harris is a sure fire stud waiting for you to draft him, but if he can push ahead of Florence don’t be surprised at the end of the year if you see his name among the top-12 in scoring at the position.

Kansas City Chiefs

HC: Romeo Crennel
DC:  Romeo Crennel
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: DB Eric Berry, DL Dontari Poe

Defensive Line

Short and sweet, there isn’t really any fantasy value on the Chiefs defensive line.

If you were holding out hope that rookie Dontari Poe could present some value in DT leagues, well you are going to need to keep holding on.  As it currently sits, Poe is listed behind former UDFA Anthony Toribio,  not a good place for such a high draft pick to be.

Linebacker

Simply put, I love Derrick Johnson this year.  Chances are if you owned him last year you loved him then too.  Johnson finished the season with the 4th most points scored by a LB, and from week 8 thru 16, only London Fletcher scored more points than Johnson did. 

After a season like that last year, especially factoring in how he closed out the season, you would suspect that Johnson would be getting drafted higher than LB6.  Granted that isn’t anything to sneeze at, but I think he is a value at that level.  Why?  Because I think he can actually challenge for the top overall LB this year.  Yes, Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis should help the offense, but I still think that Matt Cassel is the Achilles Heel, and with that, the KC offense will sputter, and give the defense plenty of opportunities this year. 

In big play leagues, you can’t neglect Tamba Hali.  In 2011, Hali ranked 46th among LBs in fantasy points scored – good for LB4 value.  If you are weaker at LB, Hali can make a nice rotational supplement.  The only trick is going to be playing him when he has the best pass rush matchups.  Last year he logged 12.5 sacks, with 7 of them coming in three games.  If you feel safe trying to pinpoint those types of games, then Hali is a perfect LB4/5 to target in a draft.

Secondary

After basically missing all of 2011 due to an injury, you might expect to see Eric Berry as a value in drafts this year.  However, no such luck, as Berry is the DB1 according to ADP at MFL.  Turnover is huge at DB, and with Berry returning from injury you can most assuredly bet he is going to unseat someone in the top-20.  For my money, I am buying him as the DB1, and as long as he stays healthy, I think that is where he ends up at season’s end. 

While Berry is a big plus for the secondary, losing Brandon Carr is a blow.  Carr signed with the Cowboys during free agency.  Replacing Carr in the Chiefs starting lineup is Stanford Routt.  Fantasy wise it isn’t a situation worth looking at.

Oakland Raiders

HC: Dennis Allen
DC:  Jason Tarver
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: LB Phillip Wheeler

Defensive Line

The biggest question with regards to the Raiders defensive line doesn’t have anything to do with any of the player’s ability, but rather with the rumors of a scheme change from a 4-3 to a 3-4.  As it stands now it doesn’t look like that switch is going to happen on a full-time basis.  At best the Raiders will show some 3-4 looks, but luckily for fantasy reasons their players are keeping their 4-3 positional designations. 

Matt Shaughnessy is a player that has been on the fantasy radar for a couple of years but last year a season ending injury thwarted what was shaping up to be a solid fantasy season.  If the Raiders had converted fully to a 3-4 he very well could have been re-designated as an OLB – basically killing his fantasy value. 

I think that Shaughnessy is being slightly undervalued at this point and he very well could be a solid DL2 for a team that decides to wait on the position or simply misses out on what they would think are the top options at the position. 

Last year I liked Lamar Houston to have a breakout season, which really didn’t happen.  This year I am not looking for a breakout per say, but I think he is a decent DL3 in deeper leagues. 

In DT mandatory leagues both Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelley can put up viable fantasy production, but it is Kelly that has top-10 upside.  

Linebacker

At linebacker, it looks like Rolando McClain is finally “getting it”.  From week 10 thru 16 McClain ranked 13th in fantasy scoring among linebackers, putting him just on the cusp of being a LB1.  Another positive regarding McClain is what head coach Dennis Allen recently said about him, “He’s been a guy that has done everything we have asked him to do. He’s smart. He understands the defense and the concepts we are trying to run, and if he continues to improve the way he has been improving and continues to fit within the scheme the way he has done so far, I would expect him to have a good year.” 

Just realize that everything isn’t all roses with McClain – mainly because he has appealed a conviction of 180 days in prison stemming from an incident in Alabama.  Unless you have been living under a rock since Roger Goodell took over as commissioner you know that McClain could be looking at a suspension due to his off field actions.  The threat of some sort of suspension is probably a big reason why McClain’s ADP is only LB32 – making him a solid value for fantasy purposes, even if he were to be suspended for four games.

I would like to say that I see more fantasy value outside of McClain on the Raiders, but unfortunately, I can’t.  The Raiders traded for Aaron Curry in October last year and according to a tweet by Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times thinks that due to issues with Curry’s knee that he may not even make the team’s final 53 man roster.  If Curry does indeed get cut it could lead to rookie Miles Burris being the starter at WLB.

Phillip Wheeler, formerly of the Colts is slated to play SAM for the Raiders.  Fantasy wise only in the deepest of deep leagues does he have any value.

Secondary

Tyvon Branch is one of the most integral parts of the Raiders defense, not just their secondary, and earlier this year the Raiders showed just how much they valued him – giving him a four-year contract extension worth over $26 million. 

Branch isn’t just valued by the Raiders, but also by IDP owners.  It is no secret that there is a ton of turnover in the top-20 among DBs, but Branch has finished 1st (2009), 8th (2010), & 11th (2011) each of the past three years – no small feat.  This year Branch has an ADP of DB4.  I think that is probably a bi to high, especially when you consider turnover, but his history does show relative consistency so I can understand why he is being drafted so early at the position. 

Outside of Branch, it would be wise to avoid the rest of the Raiders secondary.  If you are in a deep league – 16 teams or larger then and only then, would I consider giving Michael Huff a look.

San Diego Chargers

HC: Norv Turner
DC:  John Pagano
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: LB Jarret Johnson, LB Melvin Ingram, DB Atari Bigby, DB Brandon Taylor

Defensive Line

The Chargers play a 3-4 base scheme, rendering their DL insignificant for fantasy purposes.  That is outside of Antonio Garay in DT mandatory leagues.  Even then Garay is dealing with an ankle injury that is considered day-to-day.

Linebacker

The acquisition of OLB Melvin Ingram in this year’s draft is causing the most buzz about the Chargers linebackers.  However, from a fantasy perspective Ingram only presents value in big play leagues.

For fantasy owners the buzz is and should be about Donald Butler.  Butler looks like he could have top-10 upside this year.  In 2011, according to Pro Football Focus, Butler played in just 63.8% of the Chargers defensive snaps.  This year it looks like Butler is in line for 3-down duty.  Adding those additional snaps are exactly why Butler possesses top-10 potential.  On 652 snaps played he scored 178 fantasy points (.27 points/snap played), to get  into the top-10, all that Butler would have to do is see the field for approximately 60 more plays than last year.  To put that into perspective, Nick Barnett ranked 10th in scoring among LBs last year and he played in 974 snaps for the Bills.

Secondary

When it comes to the fantasy side of things regarding the Chargers secondary, Eric Weddle is still the apple of many a fantasy owner’s eye – as evidenced by his ADP of DB9.  I don’t get it, and all I can figure out is that Weddle is being over-drafted on the strength of his 2011 season, where he ranked 11th among DBs in fantasy scoring.  A ranking that was bolstered by seven interceptions – one more than his career total going into to 2011.  With seven interceptions to his name Weddle still couldn’t crack the top-10 – something he has done just once (2008) in his career) – yet on average he is being drafted as the ninth DB off the board. 

At best, I am not looking to select Weddle until 25-30 DBs are off the board, and quite honestly, even then I am probably passing on him for someone that I think has more upside.

While Weddle locks the Chargers FS spot down, there is a bit of a competition for the starting SS spot.  Rookie third round draft pick out of LSU, Brandon Taylor is in the mix, but currently it looks as if former Packer, Atari Bigby is going to enter the season as the Chargers starting SS.  I think the Chargers SS position could generate DB3 numbers with some upside.  Nevertheless, as you can see, there is a chance that two players could be vying for those numbers.  Bigby is the type of later round pick with upside that I would rather gamble on instead of the much earlier pick it would take to land his teammate, Eric Weddle. 

From a dynasty standpoint, I still really like the prospects of Taylor.  Unfortunately, you may have to wait a year to see him pay off. 

AFC North AFC South AFC East AFC West
NFC North NFC South NFC East NFC West

Note:  Huddle IDPScoring system: solo tackle (2 pts), assisted tackle (1 pt), sack (3 pts), forced or recovered fumble (3 pts), interception (3 pts) and pass defended (1 pt).


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