Fantasy Football Questions We Need Answered: AFC West

Photo: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Entering any new NFL season, so much is unknown. As the infamous quote from former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora Sr. goes: “You think you know, but you don't know, and you never will.” The best fantasy managers need to know what they don’t know and be able to research and ask questions before investing draft capital in a player. Sometimes it’s simply finding out about a player’s health. Other times it’s more complicated and one is forced to project how a player may be used differently in a new offense because of a trade, free agent signing, or a new head coach. 

This division-by-division series will look at each of the NFL’s 32 teams and ask one fantasy-relevant question that needs to be answered this season. Some will be answered by or before Week 1, others may take 17 weeks to flesh out. Let’s look at the AFC West.

Kansas City Chiefs

Will A Non-Tyreek Hill WR Emerge?

Anyone expecting a massive regression from the Kansas City offense is either severely misinformed or a troll. We all know how good quarterback Patrick Mahomes is and will be. The same can be said for tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill (when healthy). The question marks come after those three players. Removing the running backs from the equation, will another Chiefs player step up and become a weekly fantasy producer in 2020?

There are high hopes for Mecole Hardman in his second NFL season. He has game-breaking speed but needs a lot more polish to be a complete wide receiver. However, he’s young, making progress, and has an elite quarterback and coaching staff working with him. He averaged only 2.56 targets per game last season, but could prove to be a weekly flex option if he can double that in 2020. Sammy Watkins is a bit of an afterthought and it’s hard to see him improving on his 52/673/3 line from last season. But if there is going to be another viable wide receiver option, it’s going to come from one of those two players—it’s hard to imagine Demarcus Robinson or Byron Pringle breaking out. 

Denver Broncos

Is Drew Lock The Answer?

Sometimes the biggest real-life question is also the biggest fantasy question. Is Lock the Broncos’ quarterback of the present and future or just the present? He went 4-1 to close out the 2019 season in the first five starts of his career, an incredibly promising start to what could be a very successful run. However, let’s not pretend that five games at the end of a season where the team was out of contention is a worthy sample size. He’ll need to prove it over 16 games in 2020.

The other factor is that Lock wasn’t exactly a fantasy savior for the Broncos offense. After a big first game together, Lock and No. 1 wide receiver Courtland Sutton weren’t all that productive over the final four weeks of the season. Sutton ranked as the WR50 in PPR, even behind teammate DaeSean Hamilton in that time frame. Tight end Noah Fant had a big 4/133/1 game in Lock’s second start, but combined for 6/55/0 in the other four contests. The Broncos have since bolstered their backfield with the addition of Melvin Gordon and added Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler to the wide receiver room via the 2020 NFL Draft. Beware of overvaluing Denver’s passing game in fantasy drafts until we have more answers. 

Las Vegas Raiders

Will Josh Jacobs Be Used More In The Receiving Game?

Jacobs’ ticket to guaranteed RB1 territory in 2020 is staying healthy and catching more passes. As far as we know, the shoulder injury that hampered him for most of the latter half of the 2019 season is healed, so we can check that box in pencil for now. As for catching more passes… that’s still very much to be determined. 

Jacobs finished as the RB19 in total points and the RB15 on a per-game basis last season in PPR formats. That’s fine, but not worthy of his current second-round ADP. Jacobs got plenty of work on the ground, but had just 20 receptions on 27 targets in his 13 games played last season. Given the fact Las Vegas re-signed pass-catching back Jalen Richard and drafted Lynn Bowden Jr., it doesn’t look like Jacobs is going to see a huge uptick in receptions this season. He’ll still be a very good fantasy back without it, but his ceiling is much lower than most of the top-12 backs. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Will Austin Ekeler Hold Up With Higher Workload?

I have two thoughts here that instantly come to mind. First, Ekeler is going to get more work and should increase his fantasy point total because he’s no longer sharing carries with Melvin Gordon. The second is that I fear Ekeler is more likely to wear down without someone to share the workload with.

Ekeler finished as the RB4 last season in both total and average weekly points in 2019 and was a top-10 fantasy running back even when Gordon returned from his holdout. He did that while finishing 24th among all running backs with 224 touches. Will Ekeler excel with more work, or wear down because of it? Will someone else (Justin Jackson or Joshua Kelley) get a significant workload increase to replace what Gordon did last season? The answers to those questions—along with how the new quarterbacks perform—are the key to Ekeler’s 2020 fantasy value.

Written By:

Jaime Eisner

COO of The Draft Network

COO of The Draft Network. He’s a former editor for Sports Illustrated, FanRag Sports and Arizona Sports. He’s the co-host of the TDN Fantasy Podcast and has an extensive background covering fantasy sports and sports betting.

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