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Eyes of the Guru Preseason, Part 1: AFC West

An overview of defenses in the AFC West with an emphasis on individual defensive players and their fantasy value.

Welcome back for year 23 of the Eyes of the Guru column. Last year's preseason work was cut a little short due to a surgical procedure landing me on IR designated to return. I never made it to the Western conferences before the season started so this year I will open with the AFC West. For reference, when I mention where players finished in the rankings last season, my model will be the standard Footballguys scoring system. This is the basic stuff:

Tackles = 1.5
Assists = .75
Sacks = 4
Forced fumbles = 3
Fumble recoveries = 3
Interceptions = 4
Passes defended = 1.5
Touchdowns = 6

Keep in mind that based on scoring systems, rankings will vary (sometimes greatly) from league to league. From time to time I will reference the "rookie corner rule". For those who are new to IDP or the EOTG, the rookie corner rule is basically the fact that in the NFL, starting a rookie at corner is like throwing chum to the sharks. Offensive coordinators will target young and inexperienced players as weaknesses, thus these guys have an accelerated number of opportunities. Most often these guys are the cream of the crop at the position (which is why they are starting so soon) and their numbers will begin to drop after their rookie seasons. When I mention tackle numbers, I do not lump assists and solo tackles together. Unless I make a reference one way or the other, I am talking about solo tackles. When I talk about a total number of takeaways for a player, I am counting interceptions, fumble recoveries and fumbles forced since all of these score very similarly in most leagues.

Denver Broncos

Defensive Linemen

The Broncos have no super stars up front but they do have a strong group of blue collar guys that fit their scheme well. They also have one of the fantasy game's more underrated linemen in Derek Wolfe. It took the 2012 second round pick a while to get things going. When he was drafted, Denver was using mostly four man fronts. Wolfe saw time at both tackle and end over his first three seasons. He had 6 sacks as a rookie before struggling with injuries in his second year. Wolfe played well in 2014 when he contributed as part of a rotation. His career and production took an upturn in 2015 when the Broncos shifted to a 3-4 base scheme. Wolfe has proven to be an excellent fit as a 3-4 end and his numbers have shown it. He finished the 2015 seasons at 34-13-5. Those are not great numbers at a glance but they look much better when we consider he missed four games. Last season Wolfe was 38-13-5 with 4 batted passes in fourteen games. He is not going to become an elite fantasy option or contend for the sack crown, but 40 tackles and half a dozen sacks would make for a quality second starter in most leagues. If Wolfe can stay on the field all season he should be right there with a little upside even.

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