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From The Gut: AFC - Footballguys

A collection of observations and gut feelings about every team in the AFC

AFC East

New England

Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels will still make this one of the better offenses in the AFC, but there’s fragility in offensive tackle depth and health, the overwhelming importance of Rob Gronkowski, an underwhelming wide receiver group, and Brady’s age. It’s still a good place to invest and should yield multiple players that outproduce ADP, but it doesn’t feel as certain as years past. Sony Michel’s drain bothers me more than Rex Burkhead’s minor tear because Michel also missed camp and the preseason and won’t be up to speed. Jeremy Hill and Cordarrelle Patterson are fascinated because we’ve seen the talent in the past and the Patriots can often get something out of a player that previous teams can’t. This could be the year the Patriots use the James White offense more primarily in games. He could be a solid weekly RB2 if he can just get 40-50% of the snaps, including the red zone. I worry about Hogan potentially facing #1 corners a la 2017 Week 1 vs. Marcus Peters, but he still should be a solid WR2 any time he is on the field. Edelman might be a 7-10 catch weekly play when he returns and it’s easy to forget he was showing up big in the red zone before Martellus Bennett joined the team. Jacob Hollister is a natural receiving tight end, has gotten good reviews and might play the non-trivial TE2 role. We’ll get a good idea whether he’s a possible waiver wire priority if Gronkowski goes down or just Studfeld the sequel. New England’s defense is still middling at best and might have some holes, even though the pass rush should be better. They’ll keep them on more high scoring game scripts.

Schedule Note: Opener against Houston could be a track meet like last year’s matchup. The rematch against Jacksonville Week 2 should give us a picture of just how much Brady can conjure up in his 41-year-old season, which is something like the upper reaches of Mt. Everest in quarterback longevity terms. Weeks 14-16 include three cold weather games (MIA, @PIT, BUF)

Buffalo

I’m on the record saying I understand why a team would spend a Top 5 pick on Josh Allen and want to see him succeed as much as anybody, but he will have some rough days, including a season-opening run against Baltimore, the Chargers, and Minnesota. If there is fantasy value to be had here, it is LeSean McCoy on the sheer volume of touches and perhaps Allen with his gunslinging style and potential for points as a runner. Jeremy Kerley is a name to keep in mind in very deep PPR leagues as a potential slot machine. Kelvin Benjamin’s knee and likely week-to-week uncertainty color his outlook for me. He might finish the season with decent numbers, but I’ll get queasy any time I would have to start him. LeSean McCoy could provide second round return on a third-round investment. He’s 30 with a new offensive line and quarterback, and there are lots of other third rounders with at least second-round production ceilings that have a much smaller risk of ending up on the exempt list. In a best-case scenario for the team, they play a lot of low-scoring defensive battles, Allen plays safe, sound football, and they are competitive, but very limited offensively. Their defense will probably keep them out of a lot of garbage time.

Schedule Note: Baltimore, the Chargers, and Minnesota to open is quite the meat grinder for Josh Allen. It creates some risk of a start that stunts his growth.

New York Jets

The Jets offense isn’t going to be in the top half of the league this year. All signs point to Sam Darnold starting Week 1. It will be great to watch his development in real time and there will be some high points, but he won’t create as much fantasy value as Josh McCown did last year. Isaiah Crowell is still in a similar situation as last year at worst, but costing 3-4 rounds cheaper than 2017 ADAP. Bilal Powell is going in the double-digit rounds, but the team has seemed to not want to rely on him, and Isaiah Crowell isn’t on his last leg a la Matt Forte 2016-2017. Still, the injury to Elijah McGuire could restore Powell to 2016 level passing game usage and the team has seemed inclined to play him over Crowell in the preseason. I’m as confused as ever about his value, but at least it’s a cheaper riddle this year. Robby Anderson is hurt the most by the transition away from McCown as they riffed in the deep game last year, but Anderson also looked like a rising star and might still deliver on modest ADP. If he was being drafted on last year’s production, Anderson would merit a fourth or fifth-round pick. This is not the offense to go fishing for a second relevant pass catcher with Darnold at the help and no clarity at the WR2 or No. 1 tight end spots. The defense has the makings of an excellent secondary with their young safety duo and the addition of Trumaine Johnson, but the edge rush is non-existent and linebacker play could be an issue. This franchise should be in rebuilding evaluation mode this year.

Schedule Note: The Detroit, Miami, and Cleveland defenses are not that imposing for Darnold in his first three NFL starts, but a brick wall in Jacksonville looms in Week 4.

Miami

Something about this organization makes me always want to project underachievement. There’s nothing too impressive about Ryan Tannehill, the offensive line, the wide receiver corps, or the management of the offense by Adam Gase. Kenny Stills should by default have the highest target share of the wide receivers, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a reliable start week-to-week. DeVante Parker is borderline undraftable with his injury and lack of momentum. Mike Gesicki could be a touchdown specialist, but the situation and his momentum aren’t as strong as Dallas Goedert if you want to go the rookie tight end route late. Kenyan Drake’s play was the truth last year, but Adam Gase overmanages his backfields and hasn’t proven he is a good judge of talent. He did install Jay Ajayi after Ajayi pulled away from the competition in 2016, but promptly dealt him in 2017. The vibe Gase is giving off about Drake doesn’t make me rule out more backfield mind games and mismanagement in 2018. Drake in the fourth could end up being a great pick, but I can’t do it. Danny Amendola is a darkhorse to get cheap, solid weekly numbers in PPR leagues, but we all know his injury history. Albert Wilson doesn’t seem to have a lot of fans on the coaching staff, but if Parker falters, he could have an opportunity - also note that Kenny Stills is coming into the season having already hurt an ankle. Linebacker and CB2 are huge weaknesses for this team that also voluntarily let Ndamukong Suh walk and made their most expensive defensive acquisition (Robert Quinn) at the position that was already a strength. Running backs, tight ends and WR2s could have field days against the Dolphins.

Schedule Note: They open with Tennessee, the Jets, Oakland, and New England, which could help build momentum. There’s not a scary defense in the bunch, and they might dodge Khalil Mack. The schedule looks manageable in general from a preseason perspective with the AFC South and NFC North, plus a bonus game against the Colts. The Vikings in Week 16 stands out as a big negative championship matchup.

AFC South

Houston

What if Deshaun Watson’s 2017 wasn’t an illusion? Game scripts might not be quite as a fantasy-friendly with a better defense, but the playbook and deployment of Watson and the offense could be improved with an offseason of actual commitment to Watson as the starter. Lamar Miller also looks more like Miami-era Miller playing at a lower weight. His ceiling is high with no back on the Texans roster demanding a larger role. DeAndre Hopkins is an unimpeachable talent, whether to take him in the first is simply a question of position scarcity strategy - ie wide receivers in the second are closer to Hopkins than the running backs you’ll see in the second are to the running back you pass on to take Hopkins. If Watson wasn’t an illusion, then Will Fuller V wasn’t an illusion either, although injury risk looms over him and could turn the slot receiver or even one of the tight ends into a worthy waiver wire pickup. Bruce Ellington is a good bet to be the slot receiver in Week 1, possibly against a Patriots rookie slot corner. He might be a prominent Week 2 waiver wire name. I haven’t given up on Keke Coutee being relevant at some point this year, but his preseason hamstring injury means he’s not worth a draft pick except in the deepest of leagues. Rookie Jordan Akins, starter Ryan Griffin and move tight end Stephen Anderson give the Texans an overabundance of tight ends who can contribute in the passing game, but we won’t care unless injuries thin the ranks to one. This could be a fun fantasy defense if J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney are all at their best, but the secondary has weaknesses, especially after they lost Andre Hal to a Hodgkin Lymphoma diagnosis.

Schedule Note: The Patriots, Titans, Giants, and Colts open their schedule and could get the Texans off to a hot start offensively. The Colts, Jets, and Philadelphia in Weeks 14-16 could make Texans high ceiling playoff performers.

Indianapolis

I’ve seen enough to say that there’s a good chance Andrew Luck should get to 80-90% of his old self in short order and generally get better as the year goes on. He can easily outproduce an ADP that reflects reluctance after last year’s debacle, and the cost of fixing draft mistakes at quarterback is cheaper than ever. That also means he can support value a huge value rebound for T.Y. Hilton. The last time they played together, Hilton led the league in receiving yards. He is set up similarly to 2016 A.J. Green, who had no strong competition for targets on the wide receiver depth chart and played with a quarterback that was used to relying on him. Green was going in the Top 5 at times and delivered on ADP until his injury. Hilton is lasting until the third round. I’m beginning to wonder this offense can support two 100-target tight ends with the lack of wide receiver depth and running back experience. It’s possible both Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron post TE1 numbers, surpassing the peak of the Dwayne Allen/Coby Fleener era. The Colts backfield has been a multi-car pileup with injuries to Marlon Mack and Robert Turbin (who will be suspended the first four games), four Nyheim Hines fumbles, and another Christine Michael sighting. Jordan Wilkins has a “last man standing” look about him right now and Mack could pop if he avoids re-injury. I’m inclined to not dabble in this backfield at this point, which points towards the cheapest back (Wilkins) if you want to buy a ticket for this ride. Ryan Grant is merely competent and the least compelling piece of the offense in drafts.

Schedule Note: Cincinnati, Washington, Philadelphia, and Houston isn’t exactly a creampuff start, especially for this offensive line. It might be wise to draft a strong backup to Luck like Alex Smith or try to combine him Blake Bortles potentially soft early schedule.

Jacksonville

It’s not a stretch to see this offense improving (especially with the addition of Andrew Norwell) from a very pleasantly surprising 2017 campaign. Blake Bortles delivered in easy playoff matchups last year and was as good as any fantasy quarterback over that stretch. He could pick up where he left off and at least be a matchup QB1. What’s good for Bortles is frustrating for fantasy players as he has five viable wide receivers of varied talents, his best receiving tight end in years (Austin Seferian-Jenkins), and a speedy satellite back (Corey Grant) to divide up targets in an offense that often relies on the run. If you are going to take a Jaguars wide receiver, it should be Keelan Cole, who was a fantasy WR1 for a stretch last year and has been treated like a starter this summer. Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark Jr are also lurking and creating buzz. Leonard Fournette could be even better in year two, but will he be healthier? He’s a likely first-round target if you’re at the turn and Melvin Gordon III doesn’t fall to you. The quality of this offense and running game, recent injury history of Fournette and talent of T.J. Yeldon make Yeldon a priority late-round pick in leagues with thin waiver wires, and don’t forget Grant if Fournette goes down.

Schedule Note: Bortles has a dream set of matchups to open the season against the Giants, Patriots, Jets, and Titans, and he draws the Titans, Washington, and Miami in Weeks 14-16. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the streaming tight end leadoff hitter with that opening trio.

Tennessee

How much better will this offense be with Matt LaFleur calling the shots coming off of stints under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan? Marcus Mariota was outstanding in year one of exotic smashmouth, so be inclined to bet the over (fingers crossed Jack Conklin is ready to go soon). Mariota has a high ceiling, and he might support higher-end outcomes for his targets. Dion Lewis should be high up in that target pecking order and should be used enough to make every-week PPR starter status be within reach. Derrick Henry has the huge Lewis injury upside and could deliver on his value even if Lewis plays 16 games if this offense clicks and the Titans return to the playoffs. While Tennessee won’t create two RB1s a la 2017 New Orleans, they can create two strong RB2s with RB1 weekly upside. Both can be part of successful draft plans, but I lean Alex Collins, Mark Ingram II, and Lamar Miller over Henry, making me more likely to draft Lewis than Henry. Corey Davis is still in that exciting unknown-upside category, but we want him to get into the known-durability column. With Rishard Matthews mystery injury denying him the chance to be part of the install, Davis’s target share potential gets a boost. Davis’s reward justifies his risk and cost, but Taywan Taylor could be an equal beneficiary of Matthews’ potential lost season, and he has flashed in usage that appeared to be designed for him this preseason. Delanie Walker has a toe issue that is probably minor, but it does remind us that between the wide receiver corps questions and youth and the new blood on the coaching staff, Jonnu Smith could have a lot larger role in his second year.

Schedule Note: The Titans open with the green Dolphins linebacker group, making Walker a great Week 1 play if healthy and Smith a good speculative play if Walker is limited in practices or out. The Dolphins CB2 will be a weekly target, so with Matthews still seemingly remote from being able to play, Taylor is a Week 1 DFS special and someone to err on the side of drafting because he might be a Week 2 waiver wire wonder. Houston, Jacksonville, and Philadelphia up in Weeks 2-4 should give us a good idea where this offense at an early juncture.

AFC North

Baltimore

This should be a better offense than the previous two versions. Joe Flacco is healthier and motivated and the line is healthier. Flacco remains desperation play material, although he could support a John Brown re-break out after the two have had a great camp together. Brown’s deep game prowess meshes well with Flacco’s arm strength. If injuries torpedo his season again, we can move on quickly, and monitor Chris Moore’s acclimation to the starting lineup. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Flacco doesn’t routinely produce big seasons for his wide receivers, so Michael Crabtree’s ceiling isn’t high enough to target him at ADP. Alex Collins is moving into the third round and that's where he belongs. His play last year speaks for itself, the running game will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Marshal Yanda’s return, and the Ravens did nothing to address the running back position in the offseason - ie an endorsement of Collins as the lead back. They were a productive backfield last year, productive enough to make Collins a low RB1 like he was in the second half of the year and make Javorius Allen a matchup flex and high ceiling handcuff. I’m not ready to give up on Kenneth Dixon, but I can’t say the same for the Ravens. Don’t spend a late round dart on him, but be open to adding him if he makes the team and earns a role. There’s nothing to see at the tight end position here. Nick Boyle may lead the group in fantasy production, which should tell you how likely it is that you’ll want a Ravens tight end this year.

Schedule Note: Buffalo, at Cincinnati, and Denver to open isn’t exactly rolling out the red carpet for this offense, but Buffalo’s lack of pass rush could allow John Brown to get free deep once and be a hot waiver wire name. Spend the late round pick to get to the front of the line if he’s really back. Baltimore travels to Los Angeles to play the Chargers in Week 16, but also gets the Chiefs and Bucs in Weeks 14 and 15.

Cincinnati

This is an offense that makes you want to believe in it. The offensive line has been addressed with the addition of Billy Price and Cordy Glenn, and John Ross is ready to contribute. Tyler Boyd appears to be progressing and Tyler Eifert hasn’t gotten hurt yet. Giovani Bernard is among the best No. 2 backs in the league, and Joe Mixon is situated to have more of his talent and ability come to the surface. On the other hand, Price is a rookie, Glenn is coming off of foot surgery, Ross has been inconsistent in preseason games, and Mixon might be at least partially responsible for his inefficiency last year. The risk/reward cocktails represented by Bengals players are almost all palatable. Dalton was once a low QB1 not that long ago and he opens with the Colts, a streamer’s delight. Mixon is creeping into the second, and I understand why. He’ll have the opportunity to join the RB1 ranks this year. Bernard may be worthless without a Mixon injury, but he outplayed Mixon last year. We can wish for rational coaching to create something more like a 60-40 split, but the team showed little inclination to do that last year. I would never knock taking a talent in his prime like Bernard at running back in the second half of your draft no matter the situation around him. A.J. Green was on his way to the highest echelon of fantasy receiver in 2016 before getting hurt. He can outproduce his second round ADP and is the kind of player that gives you warm fuzzies when you take him. Ross is probably going to be frustrating this year - having good enough plays and weeks to merit a roster spot and tempt you to play him in your lineup, but coming up empty or getting hurt just when you’ve begun to rely on him. He’s still very cheap and could get behind the defense in that matchup against the Colts. Tyler Eifert is healthy for now and limited snaps won’t dilute his fantasy impact, that approach just increases the chances that he stays off of the injury report. Even Tyler Boyd is potentially interesting if Eifert and Ross get hurt. One player I’m not taking from this offense is Tyler Kroft. His ceiling is low and there are better late-round gambles at tight end that don’t require an indefinite hold to get value. There’s a reasonable chance that the Bengals offense will still be closer to the banana in the tailpipe than the vehicle for fantasy value, but there’s a lot proven ability there and that’s difficult to completely pass on in your draft. I usually end up with at least one Bengal on my roster from the second half of my draft.

Schedule Note: Besides the Colts, the Bengals opening quartet has a potentially darker turn with Baltimore and road games at Carolina and Atlanta, so there’s a possibility of a false all clear signal after Week 1.

Cleveland

Tyrod Taylor with Josh Gordon, Duke Johnson Jr, and Jarvis Landry, along with a good offensive line and backfield duo and Todd Haley pulling the strings just might create something that can support fantasy football lifeforms this year. Taylor was usually in the vicinity of fantasy relevance in Buffalo. He might provide great spot-start value this year. If Baker Mayfield gets on the field, he might too. Carlos Hyde is being treated as the starter, his ADP looks like a great value if he can stay on the field and play at his previous levels. I don’t doubt that Nick Chubb could be relevant for fantasy and better than Hyde if he gets the chance, but running backs with as much or more injury upside are available later, and that’s the basis of Chubb’s value. Duke Johnson Jr feels like the most likely to lose out on targets if Josh Gordon is a full-time part of this offense and probably will only be flex fodder a la Theo Riddick if Gordon plays most of the season. Jarvis Landry should at least sustain his 2017 value and could flirt with WR1 numbers again with or without Gordon on the field. David Njoku put himself on our radar early in the preseason with a two touchdown game against the Giants (Austin Seferian-Jenkins Week 1!) and his role can only grow. His size/speed/ball skills combination looks like a difference maker, but I’m usually going in a different direction at tight end. Gordon can induce analysis paralysis. He still has it and a merely competent quarterback can unlock the value of it, as Gordon showed numerous times early in his career, when he was by his account guilty of PWI, or playing while intoxicated. He also somehow triggered the league putting the brakes on his participation with the team since last year or otherwise appears to have had dark clouds gather over him earlier this summer. His ADP is right for the risk/reward balance and I generally don’t find myself taking the plunge, but he’s falling into the range where I have to consider it for a longer time before going in another direction.

Schedule Note: Going to the Superdome in Week 2 could be an ambush, but the Steelers defense is beatable Week 1 (Kizer actually looked competent at times in the season opener last year), and the Jets and Raiders in Weeks 3 and 4 are promising matchups. Cleveland’s playoff schedule includes Carolina and Cincinnati at home in Weeks 14 and 16 and a trip to Denver in Week 15. Not exactly the kind of matchup and setting that creates fantasy fireworks displays.

Pittsburgh

We know the Steelers offense will be one of the most productive in the league, and generally, the ADP of Steelers offensive pieces reflects that. The only core piece of the offense that represents value is Ben Roethlisberger, sometimes going outside of the Top 10 after being the QB1 from Weeks 10-16 last year. Taking Antonio Brown in the Top 5 can work, but I’d rather concede ground at WR1 than RB1 in my lineup. JuJu Smith-Schuster was extremely efficient last year, but could see a jump in targets in year two. I tend to like Demaryius Thomas and Brandin Cooks more in that fourth-round wide receiver tier, but don’t think Smith-Schuster is being overdrafted there. Bell hasn’t had the huge seasons Gurley posted in 2017 and Johnson posted in 2016, so he’s third for me. James Conner is also as good a running mate as he had since DeAngelo Williams. There was a time that Le'Veon Bell’s backup won leagues for us and Conner looks up to the task if he’s called on. Vance McDonald’s summer was erased by a foot injury. He’s off of the late round flier list, but there’s no Steelers tight end to pivot to if he’s a non-factor. Jesse James is more boring than Tyler Kroft. James Washington’s 50/50 ball skills are breathtaking and that won’t be lost on Roethlisberger. He could be just as relevant in fantasy leagues Martavis Bryant was last year at a tiny fraction of Bryant’s 2016 draft cost. Investing in this offense has generally yielded good fantasy results in recent years.

Schedule Note: Cleveland, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay to open is very promising, with the Chiefs coming to Pittsburgh. Weeks 14-16 are just as enticing with a trip to Oakland, New England coming to Pittsburgh, and a game in the Superdome in Week 16.

AFC West

Denver

The offense will be improved with Case Keenum, better health from Emmanuel Sanders, and the addition of Courtland Sutton as the No. 3 receiver. Sutton might be the eventual Thomas replacement and add something on the outside that Sanders can’t, but Thomas still represents an ultra-safe high floor play in the fourth and Sanders the same in the seventh. Royce Freeman has gained more value than any rookie running back this year. He has made a compelling case to be the lead back, but so did C.J. Anderson last year, and the team’s fascination with Devontae Booker made it difficult to trust Anderson and harvest the value of his high points (almost always in wins). Freeman could be a zonk if that happens again, but if the assumption of rational coaching prevails, he’ll make anyone who takes him in the fourth or fifth happy. I just prefer Miller, Lewis, or Ingram in that range. Booker looks like just a guy and it’s difficult to see him producing value in any scenario. Phillip Lindsay should be playing over him. The Broncos tight end is the fantasy basement this year, highly unlikely to produce value, especially with Sutton turning three-wide sets into potential big winners for the Broncos.

Schedule Note: Other than a trip to Baltimore in Week 3, the Broncos opening schedule is positive, with Seattle, Oakland, and Kansas City coming to town. The Broncos defense could be a nice September play and potential D/ST1 in Week 1 against Russell Wilson and the Seattle offensive line.

Kansas City

Patrick Mahomes II is going have some learning moments, but the league is going to be taught some lessons about what someone with his mentality and capabilities can do. I won’t be surprised if he’s the breakout quarterback of 2017 a la Carson Wentz, but unlike Wentz in an offense where all of the fantasy value is concentrated in four players. I feel some remorse for focusing more on Alex Smith and fading Hill in my best ball drafts. Mahomes throwing a ball farther than any pass in any game last year and Tyreek Hill having to slow down to catch it opened my eyes. There might be some defenses that frustrate Mahomes and company and make you regret playing your Chiefs that week, but I’m not sure we’ve a hand and glove combination like Mahomes arm and approach and Hill’s speed before. Those are the kinds of intersections that create league-winning numbers. Sammy Watkins has more than enough ability to deliver on his ADP and he could face much better matchups than last year. It feels like Alex Smith was an ideal quarterback for Kelce, although the Mahomes to Hill connection could open up the field for him. It’s still hard to swallow paying for Kelce within 5-10 picks of when Gronkowski goes off of the board. I feel like I’m on an island about Kareem Hunt. He dominated carries in the backfield last year, but Spencer Ware was out. Ware is good; in fact, he was as productive as Hunt before his concussion in 2016 (remember this if there’s a waiver wire bidding war for Ware after a Hunt injury later this year). We forget Andy Reid’s usage made us wary of starting Hunt for a stretch last year, and if the improvement from West to Ware decreases the margin of error on Reid’s arbitrary running back usage risk factor, how will that translate to Hunt’s week-to-week value? Of course, the rising tide could lift all ships and make Hunt a good pick even with Ware playing a bigger role than the now free agent West. I just don’t want to invest a premium pick when I have these kinds of questions.

Schedule Note: Opening at the Chargers could be rough, although it also could be a boon for Hill if Casey Hayward’s hamstring isn’t 100%. The next two weeks bring potential shootouts at Pittsburgh and home against the 49ers before Mahomes has another stiff test at Denver. Baltimore and the Chargers come to town in the fantasy playoffs before a trip to Seattle in Week 16 that might end up being a matchup to target.

Los Angeles Chargers

And so begins another story with so much hope that ends in disappointment, starring Philip Rivers. It doesn’t have to be disappointing for fantasy. The whole unit and especially the running game could get a lift from the 2017 second day guard draft pick duo of Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney and addition of Mike Pouncey. Rivers will be his usual safe self, I just prefer going for top five ceiling or waiting at quarterback. Melvin Gordon III very well could join the Big 4 running backs in workload and fantasy value this year, and he’s a preferred target if you draw a second half of the first round slot. Austin Ekeler has established himself as the clear backup and we already know he fits in on an NFL field. Like Buck Allen, he might provide some flex help in good matchups in addition to representing big injury upside. Justin Jackson is exciting long term, but his hamstring issue may turn this into a redshirt year. Allen is part of a seemingly never-ending list of second round picks that can return first-round value, who might make you wonder if a Gordon/Allen start is viable even though they play for the same team (it is). Leading the league in targets and catches is within his range of outcomes. Mike Williams might not outsnap Tyrell Williams, but he should catch more touchdowns and might get his number called in the red zone on plays that would have went to Hunter Henry before he tore his ACL. Tyrell Williams is lasting too long for a potential #2 receiver in Rivers offense. Tight end is a wasteland without Henry, and that includes if Antonio Gates returns, although that reality increases the ceiling of everyone else in the offense.

Schedule Note: A potential fantasy bonanza against the Chiefs opens the schedule, but trips to Buffalo and across town to face the Rams in Weeks 2 and 3 could be rough. The Chiefs pop up again, this time in Kansas City in Week 15, and the Bengals and Ravens come to Los Angeles in Weeks 14 and 16 in less than optimal matchups.

Oakland

Jon Gruden probably won’t be a laughingstock, but he might not stand out as one of the league’s better offensive minds any more either. The range of outcomes for this team and offense is wide, but there are still players that might end up being worth the investment. Derek Carr isn’t one of them, not because he can’t bounce back, but because there are better choices at his position. He could elevate the offense in general and help Amari Cooper finally deliver on his lofty draft slot and sustain his occasional outbursts. I can’t figure out Cooper, but the opportunity should definitely be there to post WR1 numbers. He just has never played at a level for an entire year that would cash in that opportunity and he wasn’t even startable at times last year. That’s hard to shake out of your memory only a year later when you have to spend a third to get him. Jordy Nelson’s renaissance summer is a nice story, but he’s going higher on name recognition than I would take him. Martavis Bryant isn’t even draftable any more and his trajectory is only pointing downward. I just can’t quit Marshawn Lynch, and he looked like vintage Lynch or dare I say even faster than vintage Lynch in his long preseason run. His coach seems ready to use him copiously behind a mauling trio on the interior offensive line. The murmurs of a Doug Martin fascination are waning. Lynch in the sixth is a must if you are going with a running back lite draft plan in the early rounds.

Schedule Note: Starting out against the Rams and at Denver could be bleak after two weeks. Don’t despair, Miami and Cleveland are up next. Denver does come back up in a Week 16 matchup, so we’ll watch the Week 2 game closely for a championship week preview.