AFC West 2015 Off-Season Changes

Denver Broncos:

The Broncos caught a piece of bad luck, ala Jacksonville, already by losing 3rd round pick TE Jeff Hauerman for the year with a torn ACL. He was inked in as a replace for TE Julius Thomas. The Broncos are deep at WR but Peyton Manning loves throwing to his tight ends. They did sign TE Owen Daniels after he spent a year in Baltimore, which surprised no one since it must be a separate contract that has him permanently tethered to coach Gary Kubiak. He has been a bit injury-prone as he ages but he is the best that Peyton will have for now.

The Broncos did pull a shocker with their 1st round pick by selecting marijuana fan DE Shane Ray from Missouri. If his lack of intelligence during the days leading up to the draft was temporary insanity, this was a huge steal and will bolster the Broncos solid pass rush this year. The Broncos focused much more on the run last year than they did in any year with Peyton and it proved successful. So, to help that aspect and to help keep Peyton off his aged back, they added OT Ty Sambrailo from Colorado St and C Max Garcia from Florida.

Fantasy starters: QB Peyton Manning, RB C.J. Anderson, WR Demarius Thomas, WR Emmanual Sanders

Fantasy bench: RB Montee Ball, TE Owen Daniels, Denver D

Fantasy Sleeper: WR Cody Latimer

San Diego Chargers:

I liked the Chargers choice of RB Ryan Mathews in 2010 but I didn’t expect him to have the issues he has had staying healthy. As a Big Ten guy, I really like their choice this year of RB Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin. They may not have needed to trade up to get him, but there was no reason to take any chances when you know that he will be The Man in their backfield. He doesn’t catch a lot of passes so Danny Woodhead will see his normal workload. I don’t understand the Chargers management’s interest in moving to LA, but these guys don’t become billionaires by caring about more than how they can squeeze the most dollars from the lil’ guy.

While the talk of moving prompted QB Philip Rivers to voice his displeasure, ownership made the right decision to not trade him. I expect a lot of improvement on that side of the ball this year with Gordon toting the rock. On defense, they still have some work to do, but adding LB Denzel Perryman from Miami was a solid step in the right direction. Additions of CB Craig Mager and LB Kyle Emanuel with the next 2 picks were decent and showed that San Diego is not so into itself that it couldn’t find San Marcos, TX and Fargo ND on a map.

Fantasy starters: QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen, TE Antonio Gates

Fantasy bench: WR Malcolm Floyd

Fantasy Sleeper: TE Ladarius Green

Kansas City Chiefs:

The Chiefs had the most laughable group of WRs outside of Cleveland in the league last year. Yes, they had zero TD receptions but they still had more talent than Cleveland did. However, it was time to start anew there. They started by adding WR Jeremy Maclin in free agency. That is an infinite improvement over their flaccid group from last year but they also added WR Chris Conley from Georgia in the 3rd round. I like his chances to make a major contribution in 2015 due to his size. At 6’2″ 213, he is the anti-Maclin. With those pieces in place and a solid running game, they turned to defense and nicely plugged holes. Getting CB Marcus Peters from Washington was a top-notch selection. He is aggressive, but if that can be reined in and aligned with the NFL’s garbage rules to allow WRs have free roam, he has great upside. That aggressiveness may have played a big part in his early dismissal from Washington but I think he grows up and into his role this season.

Fantasy starters: RB Jamaal Charles, WR Jeremy Maclin

Fantasy bench: QB Alex Smith, RB Knile Davis, TE Travis Kelce

Fantasy Sleeper: WR Chris Conley

Oakland Raiders:

After looking like they may end up winless last season, the Raiders put together a nice ending stretch that gave them a bit of spark heading into 2015. Landing stud WR Amari Cooper with their first pick only fanned that spark into a nice fire. QB Derek Carr seemed to “get it” late last season and having Cooper to throw to will accelerate his progression into a true NFL QB. After years of laughable 1st round picks on wide receivers, the Raiders struck gold with this one. After that, the Raiders used their remaining nine picks on positions across the board. There are no real standouts in the group, but they sure did favor the three major Florida universities as five of those nine picks came from those schools.

If RB Latavius Murray proves that he can carry the load for a full season, the offense will be greatly improved. In addition to Cooper, the Raiders picked up WR Michael Crabtree. On defense, the Raiders spent some money on LBs Malcolm Smith and Curtis Lofton as well as DT Dan Williams. The Raiders are definitely a team on the rise and will not be the laughingstock that they have been for a number of years.

Fantasy starters: RB Latavius Murray, WR Amari Cooper

Fantasy bench: QB Derek Carr

Fantasy Sleeper: WR Chris Conley

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