2018 Projections: AFC West

This series focuses on projecting players that are expected to be fantasy relevant for all 32 NFL teams. The included projections were built using the Excel Projection Machine which is included in the FFDRAFTPREP package.

Though projections are more meaningful when used to explore player’s ranges of outcomes, those presented represent “best guesses.” Please note that the RB3 and WR4 included for each team have been allocated a percentage of rushing or passing attempts that brings the team’s total to 100 percent. As a result, the stat lines and point totals included for these players may be somewhat inflated. Projected point totals are based on PPR scoring. In an effort to cover all teams as expediently as possible, we will be reviewing the projections on a divisional basis. Key assumptions and notes have been included in bulleted lists.

How many elite fantasy options can the Chiefs support? Is Melvin Gordon an RB1? With Case Keenum under center, can Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders finish in the top 20? Let’s take a look at the AFC West and see if we can answer these questions.

Kansas City Chiefs

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

KC Alloc

  • The Chiefs have recorded below average play totals for five seasons running.
    • In the last two seasons, the team has passed at a rate of 57 percent, averaging 545 attempts.
    • Various personnel changes suggest the team will operate at an increased pace this season and increase attempts in both phases of the game
  • Patrick Mahomes will rush with a frequency similar to Alex Smith.
  • Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins will compliment each other and see a nearly even distribution of targets.
  • Travis Kelce will remain the most heavily targeted Chief.
  • While Spencer Ware will see some utilization, the backfield is Kareem Hunt’s until he loses it.

FANTASY PROJECTIONS

KC Proj

  • When I started working on this projection, I did not have the intentions of making Mahomes a stud. Things just played out this way.
    • In fact, I made sure that I was somewhat conservative when building out the team’s pass catchers in order to account for any kinks that he’d need to work out as an inexperienced NFL starter.
    • However, the talent of the players around him will help him tremendously.
    • The team’s projection includes a reduction of eight touchdowns from the prior season.
      • The Chiefs won 10 games in 2017 but I’ve seen Vegas over/under win totals set at 7.5 wins.
  • Hunt is expected to operate at average to above-average levels, and his significant workload will make him a top-10 RB.
  • Historically, Hill and Watkins have produced very high points-per-target totals. When removing his production as a rusher, Hill’s projection places him at above average levels but well below his totals from prior seasons. Watkins line places him at league average.
    • I have been down on Watkins for a number of seasons, but given his realistic range of outcomes, I will be buying him in 2018.
  • Kelce could pick up a slight bump in targets, but I doubt that his share would fall significantly.
    • As a result, he has a high floor.

Los Angeles Chargers

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

LAC Alloc

  • Los Angeles skewed toward the pass in its first season under Head Coach Anthony Lynn.
    • A similar ratio of rushing to passing plays is expected in 2018 and the team will remain competitive
    • Nine or more wins is a very realistic possibility
  • Melvin Gordon can expect a healthy workload and will be one of the most utilized backs in the league.
  • Keenan Allen will shoulder the work in the passing game.
    • Given his significant target allocation and Gordon’s strong share for an RB, the rest of the work will be distributed fairly evenly across the offense.
  • Virgil Green is projected as the Charger’s TE1 as there is no official word that Antonio Gates is coming out of retirement to join the team.

  FANTASY PROJECTIONS

LAC Proj

  • This projection forecasts 38 touchdowns.
  • Despite passing for over 4,000 yards and 27 TDs, Philip Rivers projects as an average fantasy QB.
  • Gordon’s workload gives him strong odds of finishing as an RB1 and his projection assumes modest efficiency.
  • Allen, who could pick up another 10 to 20 targets, will be one of the most heavily targeted WRs in the league.
  • Tyrell Williams is the only other player projected for fantasy relevance.
    • Having said that, there is room for Green, Mike Williams, or Travis Benjamin, to become contributors.

Oakland Raiders

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

  • Oakland is one the most difficult teams to project for 2018 as Jon Gruden hasn’t coached an NFL game since 2008.
  • The team passed 60 percent of the time in 2017 but I expect that rate to decrease toward the mid to low 50s, while operating at an average pace.
  • Marshawn Lynch will handle the majority of rushing work but Doug Martin will see more than 30 percent of rushing attempts.
    • Lynch handled 56 percent of attempts last season.
  • Amari Cooper will be Derek Carr’s main target.
  • Despite reports, Martavis Bryant has yet to be suspended. As a result, he is projected with the expectation of playing a full season.
  • Jordy Nelson is forecasted as the WR2. If Bryant does miss time, Nelson will go over the 100-target mark.

  FANTASY PROJECTIONS

OAK PRoj

  • Carr’s projection is pretty awful but stems from a lack of rushing production of his own and limited passing volume.
    • Even when raising his TD rate to career highs, his projection fails to eclipse 250 points.
  • Lynch forecasts as a usable back and could increase his projection with an additional TD or two.
  • Cooper could find himself in WR2 range, however, he’d need to gain another 4 to five percent of targets or substantially outpace historical TD rates to have any chance of finishing as a WR1.
  • Nelson will remain fantasy relevant but will not be anywhere near the option he was in Green Bay.
  • Cook could return to TE2 territory if Bryant misses substantial time.

Denver Broncos

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

DEN Proj

  • The Broncos won just five games in Vance Joseph’s first season as Head Coach.
    • Despite a losing record, the team ran 46 more offensive plays than league average.
  • The team’s projection assumes above average play volume and a rushing to passing split similar to last season’s.
  • Royce Freeman is the superior back and will control the overwhelming majority of rushing attempts.
  • There is room for Devontae Booker to carve out a role in the passing game.
    • That’s not to say that Freeman won’t be utilized as a receiver but rather that the team will attempt to get both players involved.
  • Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders should each see a minimum of 20 percent of targets
  • Courtland Sutton is a talented rookie who will rise to third on the Broncos’ WR Depth chart.

FANTASY PROJECTIONS

DEN Pts

  • The projection forecasts a minor increase in year-over-year TDs to a total of 32.
  • I was expecting to project Keenum with a better outcome, but the passing yardage and TDs just aren’t there.
  • Despite Freeman’s impressive share of carries and targets, an RB2 finish would be an excellent outcome for the rookie.
  • Booker’s role in the passing game makes him an intriguing option for the later rounds of drafts, particularly in best ball leagues.
  • With a competent QB, Thomas and Sanders will be reliable weekly contributors and can be counted on as parts of fantasy WR stables. While certainly not a lock, a top-20 finish is within Thomas’ range of outcomes.
  • Outside of the aforementioned players, it will be best to look for fantasy production elsewhere.