Friday, August 3, 2012

Important AFC West Position Battles

It has been a while since the last post in this series, so there are actually some depth chart certainties (for example, Weeden is the undisputed starter in Cleveland), but there are still plenty of interesting battles going on in training camp.

AFC North Position Battles
AFC East Position Battles
AFC South Position Battles


Kansas City Chiefs:

I would love to see Jon Baldwin beat out Steve Breaston for the WR2 position. Breaston has been decent, but not impressive from a fantasy perspective, since his 1,000-yard season in 2008. Breaston just doesn't find the end zone, with only 9 touchdown passes in 3,200+ yards over the last four seasons. Baldwin was a rookie last year, but he is someone that you can get excited about despite only having 21 receptions in 2011. He is a really big, strong receiver who should be able to compliment Dwayne Bowe nicely. He would have benefited from Todd Haley as the head coach (if you don't know, Haley stresses clean, crisp routes), but I still think Baldwin should be able to beat out Breaston for one of the outside positions. I have a feeling that a healthy Matt Cassel will be able to give Bowe another great season, but we will just have to see what this offense looks like at the beginning of the season. Odds are that this will be a ball control team, meaning that I wouldn't draft Breaston or Baldwin expecting them to play a major part on my team.


Oakland Raiders:

I am really curious about who is going to be labelled as the primary wide receiver for this team. I am nearly certain that it will be Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Denarius Moore would get a huge boost in my book. I personally prefer drafting DHB at this point, because I trust his experience and he did quite well with Carson Palmer during the last few weeks of the season. Denarius Moore is too much of a straight-line runner for me. In games where the Raiders are leading, they aren't going to be throwing the deep ball. DHB can do both, and I don't think Moore will get the nod over him. Both players are draftable, but I personally don't see why so many people have Moore ranked over DHB. Palmer was the first real quarterback he had throwing to him, and he nearly had 1,000 yards last season. 2012 should be better for him.

We also want to make sure that we know who the RB2 is for this team, given Darren McFadden's uncanny propensity for season-ending injuries. At this point the competition is between Mike Goodson, the leader, and Taiwan Jones. There are also talks about the possibility of the Raiders picking up Cedric Benson, who is running without a team after 3 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Rest assured, a preseason injury will bring him out of free agency, but I don't see the Raiders grabbing him unless an injury occurs. It doesn't matter who wins this competition, as the RB2 is a necessary handcuff for McFadden.


San Diego Chargers:

Anyone drafting a Chargers receiver is playing a huge risk/reward game right now. I don't think there's anyone who can really point to one of the four best receivers on that team and say that they will be the primary receiver. I think people would generally lean towards suggesting either Malcom Floyd or Robert Meachem, but neither one of those players have been dominant in their careers. Eddie Royal actually has more yards in a single season than any of the other major receivers on this roster and excels when he gets to play in the slot. On the other hand, Vincent Brown played well last season when he caught the ball. I can't even begin to pretend to know who will win this battle, but all fantasy owners should be cautioned about drafting these guys as more than a backup WR. There is no reason that every team in the NFL has to have a primary receiver worthy of fantasy consideration. On the other hand, every receiver mentioned here has the potential to have a big season, so draft them liberally once you have a good core of receivers.


Denver Broncos:

I am going to skip over the whole Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker situation. I don't think there is any real way to make a decision about who will be better before the season, regardless of who wins the WR1 position. I would consider drafting and starting them both, to be honest. Anyways, let's focus on who will be backing up Willis McGahee. McGahee is entering his 10th NFL season...not typically a great one for most running backs, so we have to be interested in who is going to be backing him up. Knowshon Moreno is pretty much out in Denver. He is talented, but he just refuses to stay healthy. I would love to see him get one last chance in his 4th NFL season, but I doubt he will. Lance Ball is a small, strong back who did pretty well last season but didn't really show anything special. I don't see him being listed as the RB2, but anything can happen in this league. The last possibility would be rookie Ronnie Hillman, who seems to be everyone's sleeper candidate. He is a shifty back of Darren Sproles' ilk. I have trouble believing that a small, rookie running back can have a serious impact on offense, but I believe in John Fox so I would grab Hillman if he gets the RB2 slot on the depth chart.

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