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IDP Pre-Season Preview: AFC West
Steve Gallo
August 19, 2013
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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 regard to fantasy football.  Which is why drafting off stats from the previous year isn’t a wise thing to do. However, reading each divisional preseason update would be a wise thing to do. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at gallo@thehuddle.com or find me on twitter @SteveGalloNFL.

Denver Broncos

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

Defensive Line
Between faxgate and a possible four game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy the Chargers pass rush isn’t what it was a year ago. Gone is Elvis Dumervil – he of faxgate fame – and his per year average of 10.6 sacks. The loss of Dumervil should open up opportunities for others, but fantasy wise none of Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers or Shaun Phillips really do much for me. NFL wise I think that Phillips was a solid signing and he’ll help to easy the load with Doom gone, but he won’t fill those shoes. A player to keep an eye on – mainly in dynasty leagues – is rookie 5th round pick, Quanterus Smith. It’s unlikely Smith makes any noise this year, but if you see him starting to get on the field be ready to nab him off waivers. In dynasty leagues with rookie taxi squads he shouldn’t be available on the waiver wire.

Linebacker
I mentioned the possibility of a four game suspension above in the defensive line write-up because the player I was referring to – Von Miller – is a huge part of  the Broncos pass rush, even if he is a SLB. Fantasy wise, Miller has much more value in big play leagues, but the other format I like him in is best-ball formats. Of course he is appealing his suspension and at this time it is unknown how that will go. Linebacker is a deep position so even if he misses the first four weeks I wouldn’t let that impact where I’d draft him at. So, Miller could be gone for four games, DJ Williams is gone for good – taking his talents to Chicago. That leaves Wesley Woodyard at WLB and at MLB, Nate Irving. Dynasty owners surely know who Irving is and it looks like he could finally pay off for those owners that showed patience with him. Irving doesn’t have the top-25 upside like Woodyard does, but he makes a nice solid LB4/5 to fill out your roster.

Secondary
Believe it or not, Rahim Moore is still a starting safety for the Broncos.  After his playoff gaff you might have expected him to get run out of town, but no, he’s still a Bronco. Fantasy wise I’m sure Moore will have some OK games, but between him and Mike Adams I just don’t see enough upside to warrant rostering either.

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Kansas City Chiefs

HC: Andy Reid
DC:  Bob Sutton
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
I saw someone on twitter say that Dontari Poe will lead the league in sacks this year. I do expect Poe to show improvement over last year, but let’s make this abundantly clear, Poe will not lead the league in sacks. I’d actually be surprised if he notched 5 or more this year. As for the rest of the Chiefs defensive line there isn’t any fantasy value to be had.

Linebacker
Andy Reid’s arrival in KC is a good thing for the offense, and that means the defense is likely to see fewer snaps this year. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not still on board with Derrick Johnson as a LB1 for fantasy purposes. It does mean I don’t see him having top-5 upside, but I’ll gladly take him as my LB1. In big play leagues, Tamba Hali is worth owning, but it’s fellow OLB, Justin Houston that is getting love in fantasy circles – his ADP is LB50. If Houston can push his sack total from 10 to the 12-15 range he even becomes a viable LB4 in tackle heavy leagues.

Secondary
Last year, coming back from injury in 2011, Eric Berry had an ADB of DB1. I was one of those people that contributed to that ADP, I believed in Berry, and was expecting big things. An end of season ranking of DB39 was not big things. The good news is that Berry had a great finish to the 2012 season – from week 9 thru week 16 he was the number seven scoring fantasy DB. This year his ADP isn’t as high as it was last year, but and ADP of DB5 is still up there. I wouldn’t’ be shocked at all to see Berry lead all DBs in fantasy scoring this year, just realize that the position is a volatile one, and there also isn’t much value associated with where you have to draft him. Outside of Berry, I’m taking a pass on the rest of the Chiefs secondary.

Oakland Raiders

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

Defensive Line
I don’t like much about the Raiders defensive line this year, but I do like Lamar Houston some. Unfortunately, I like him more NFL wise than I do for fantasy purposes. At best I see Houston as a DL3 that has a bit of upside. The reason I like or dislike a player is largely tied to value, and even though Houston only has an ADP of DL30, I just don’t see enough upside to make him a value pick. I’d rather swing for the fences on a player like Adrian Clayborn who I think has much more upside and as DL32 is a much better value in my eyes.

Linebacker
The Raiders offense absolutely terrifies me – not like the Patriots offense terrified people when they had Tom Brady and Randy Moss – no, it terrifies me in the complete opposite way. That means there should be plenty of opportunity for the defense to be on the field, and that should equate to plenty of fantasy points. Figuring out who will lead them in fantasy points scored is the hard part. So when in doubt look at it from a value standpoint. Out of Nick Roach (MLB), Kevin Burnett (WLB), and Sio Moore (SLB) the only one with an ADP is Roach (LB49) – Roach, looks to be a relative bargain as a high ADP LB5. Upside wise, I won’t be surprised to see him sneak into the top-24 this year – that is if he can lock down a 3-down role. However, even if he ends up just as a 2-down LB I still feel he is a solid selection at his current ADP.

Secondary
After seven seasons in Green Bay, Charles Woodson is returning to the black-hole. Fantasy wise, I’m taking a pass, but I’m sure that Raiders fans are glad to see him back in the black and silver. His running mate at SS, Tyvon Branch, is the one that holds fantasy value. He currently has an ADP of DB10 he actually is a bit of a value. In 2012, Branch finished with 25th in fantasy scoring among DBs. The Raiders defense only faced 995 plays in 2012. If the Raiders face just 55 more plays in 2013, it is feasible to think that Branch would also increase his production some. By my count, a top-15 finish is very possible if the Raiders face 1050 or more snaps.

San Diego Chargers

HC: Mike McCoy
DC:  John Pagano
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
Corey Liuget seems to be a bit of a fantasy darling, even if he does only have an ADP of DL33. I for one don’t get it. I like Liuget as an NFL player, but fantasy wise, I’ll take a pass and opt for a guy with much more upside. Outside of Liuget there isn’t any fantasy value worth looking for in the Chargers 3-4 defense.

Linebacker
Donald Butler, I can’t quit you. Butler was a popular IDP “sleeper” (he was the 15th LB drafted in SOFA IDP last year), but he didn’t quite live up to the hype, finishing 52nd in LB scoring. Of course he did miss three games, but even then, his 12.875 PPG average only ranked 36th among LBs. This year he is sporting an ADP of LB20, and you can call me a sucker, but I’m buying Butler at that value. The other LB that is sure to have some buzz is the catfished one – Manti Te’o. Reports out of training camp have been positive, but I don’t see Te’o living up to his ADP of LB38. If you can get him later in your draft, say as a LB5 or LB6, then and only then do I really think he is worth rostering. He’s likely to be a two-down LB and that will severely limit his fantasy upside.

Secondary
It’s hard not to like a player like Eric Weddle – all he does is produce, both fantasy and NFL wise. Over the past three years Weddle has finished as high as DB8 and never lower than DB26. From a DB, that is great consistency, and when you realize he has climbed the ranks each year, it’s even more impressive. He doesn’t give you much value with an ADP of DB8, but his consistency does make him an intriguing fantasy player. With that said, I probably won’t own him on any of my teams – again, I like to maximize value – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a viable top-10 DB pick – he is. After Weddle, the other player that carries a bit of sleeper value is Marcus Gilchrist.  Gilchrist doesn’t even make the MFL ADP cutoff among the top 36 DBs being drafted…that makes Gilchrist and his upside very appealing to me. If you have a deeper roster he is someone that is easily worth taking a flier on in the final rounds of you draft.

Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).


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