Each divisional preview will have a consistent structure—highlighting two each of the following: (1) undervalued players compared to average draft position (ADP), (2) overvalued players compared to ADP, (3) sleepers, (4) breakout candidates and (5) bold predictions.
With that said, let's get to the AFC West divisional preview.
Tyrell Williams, WR, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 140, WR53)
A few seasons removed from a 1,059-yard breakout season, Williams has had a couple of solid seasons—43/728/4 in 2017 and 41/653/5 in 2018. As Oakland's clear No. 2 receiver behind Antonio Brown, Williams is unlikely to reach the 1,000-yard mark, but he could exceed the production he's had with the Chargers over the past couple of seasons.
Projected for a stat line of 50/775/5 in my current projections, Williams is the WR43—10 spots better than his current positional ADP. Especially given the drama with Brown this summer, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if Williams finds himself outperforming my current projections.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos (ADP: 111, WR43)
Before sustaining his Achilles injury last season, Sanders had 71 catches on 98 targets for 868 yards (72.3/G) and four touchdowns and was the WR19 through Week 13 last season. Nothing short of remarkable, Sanders didn’t show any ill effects of the injury when he returned to the field for Denver’s third preseason game.
Sanders had just one catch for five yards and a 19-yard run, but he also had a 45-yard catch that was negated by a holding penalty. I’ll move Sanders up in my next rankings update and believe there is plenty of upside from his current WR43 ADP.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 20, QB1)
Not only did he win league MVP in his first full season as a starter, but Mahomes became the second player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season. With Tyreek Hill avoiding league discipline and adding Mecole Hardman in the draft, Kansas City's skill-position group has arguably more firepower than it did last year.
Despite all of that good news, Mahomes may still be overvalued in 2019. Yes, he's my top-ranked quarterback, but the opportunity cost of passing on a high-level RB or WR at his current price (mid-Round 2) is too rich for my blood given the tremendous depth at quarterback. Drafting Mahomes with a top-20 pick means passing on a player such as Dalvin Cook (ADP: 19) or Mike Evans (ADP: 21).
Harrison Butker, K, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 129, K3)
I have nothing against Butker or taking him as a top-three kicker. In fact, he’s my second-ranked kicker in 2019. The problem I have is taking him in the 11th round of a fantasy draft. There are plenty of upside options at running back and wide receiver that will have a much bigger impact on your fantasy team than a top-tier kicker will at this juncture of the draft.
Fantasy Football Sleepers
Note: For our purposes, a sleeper is defined as a player with a current ADP of Round 10 or later.
Darwin Thompson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 166, RB57)
A sixth-round rookie out of Utah State, Thompson has sleeper appeal with Damien Williams lacking a workhorse track record and Carlos Hyde possessing an inefficiency track record. In fact, Hyde isn’t a lock to make the 53-man roster as The Athletic’s Nate Taylor left him off his latest projection. So far this preseason, Thompson has nine carries for 52 yards (5.78 YPC) and one reception for a 29-yard touchdown.
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 160, RB55)
Durability has eluded Melvin Gordon, as he has missed multiple games in three of four seasons, but there is a decent chance that his current holdout extends into the regular season. If so, that should lead to a significant jump in workload for Jackson. While I would expect Austin Ekeler to get the larger share of the workload split, ESPN’s Eric Williams, for one, speculates that duo’s workload could be closer to a 50-50 split.
Darren Waller, TE, Oakland Raiders
Sitting atop Oakland's depth chart at tight end, Waller has a chance for a breakout with Jared Cook now in New Orleans and Jon Gruden called him “one of our most impressive players” earlier this offseason. Cook led last year’s receiver-deficient Raiders team in receiving (68/896/6). With the offseason additions of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, the Raiders won’t need as much production from their tight end, but Waller has intriguing upside from his virtually-free TE30 ADP.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
In terms of fantasy football, running back is the easiest position for a rookie to make a significant impact and Jacobs, this year’s only first-round rookie running back, is poised to do so. Jon Gruden may make Jacobs earn his role as a three-down back, but the rookie from Alabama has the versatile skill set to stay on the field for all three downs.
Note: Perhaps it will take a best-case scenario for these predictions to become reality, but if that weren't the case, they wouldn't be bold.
Austin Ekeler will finish as a top-20 fantasy running back in 2019.
Nearly doubling his workload (74 to 145 touches), Ekeler once again averaged more than 5.0 YPC and 10.0 Y/R. Ekeler missed a couple of games himself, but he ended 2018 as fantasy's RB24 and saw the bulk of work in three of the four games that Gordon missed. While Ekeler has stand-alone value either way, there is increased upside with Gordon currently holding out.
Emmanuel Sanders will finish as a top-24 fantasy wide receiver in 2019.
As noted earlier, Sanders looked impressive in his return from a December Achilles tear. The 32-year-old receiver performed as a top-20 wide receiver before sustaining the injury last season. As long as he doesn’t aggravate the injury, Sanders could vastly outperform his current ADP and a WR2 (top-24) performance isn’t out of the question.
Good luck in your league(s)!
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