Some people like to stick with what they know, drafting a bunch of guys from their team or division. Others, like me, often avoid drafting guys who my favorite team will play against. Sometimes, however, you are left no choice and gotta take the best guy available, even if it is Philip Rivers.
With that said, here are my AFC West Fantasy Rankings for 2012:
1. Philip Rivers-One of the most hated quarterbacks in the league, owners love his production. Death, taxes and Philip Rivers having a top ten fantasy year are things you can count on. 2012 should be no different, as I expect him to play from behind frequently, airing in out every Sunday.
2. Carson Palmer-He’ll have an arsenal of speedy receivers to throw to along with a tight end that is poised for a breakout year. A full offseason should work wonders for Palmer. A healthy McFadden will only open the field more for the passing game.
3. Matt Cassel-This is more about the pieces around him than Cassel himself. He’ll have a solid #1 in Dwayne Bowe, hopefully a healthy tight end and running back to help him out, and for the first time since he left New England, a true slot receiver in Devon Wylie to hit over the middle.
4. Peyton Manning-With the lack of a true threat out of the backfield combined with young receivers who are learning a new offense, I expect the Broncos to struggle a bit, especially out of the gate. Then you have to take into consideration the brutal schedule dumped on the entire AFC West, which could hit Denver harder than any of the other three teams.
1. Darren McFadden-When healthy, he is one of the top 5 fantasy backs in the league. All signs point to him being back to 100% this year, which will be good news for DMC owners.
2. Jamaal Charles-Like McFadden, Charles is a solid #1 RB when healthy. He seems to be driven to have a strong season this year after missing most of 2011. Peyton Hillis looms a touchdown vulture, but Charles should still post decent numbers.
3. Ryan Mathews-San Diego doesn’t have a whole lot of options running the ball, so expect Mathews to pile up a lot of carries, which should yield respectable numbers.
4. Peyton Hillis-I’m blaming the Madden curse for Hillis’ 2011 debacle. I think he will play an integral part in Kansas City’s offense and will be a decent flex option.
1. Dwayne Bowe-The addition of Devon Wylie and the return of a healthy Tony Moeaki will make it difficult for opponents to cover Bowe with multiple defenders. The end result should be something close to a 1200 yard season for the division’s only legit #1 receiver.
2. Demaryius Thomas-He is the closest thing Manning will have to Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison in terms of a speedy route runner and dependable target. He should get the bulk of Manning’s looks.
3. Malcolm Floyd-He’ll step in to fill the role vacated by Vincent Jackson’s departure and will be Phillip Rivers’ main guy. His size should be a plus in the red zone, allowing him to improve on his 5 TD 2011 season.
4. Denarius Moore-My hunch is that Moore is going to develop into Carson Palmer’s favorite target this season, making him a solid #2 WR in most leagues. His lack of size might cause him to be overlooked in the red zone, but he’s the type of guy who can turn a 7 yard catch in a 60 yard touchdown strike with ease.
1. Antonio Gates-This may be his last truly productive season, as San Diego has begun stocking the tight end position in anticipation of Gates’ departure. That said, he’ll still be a favorite target for Rivers in a pass happy offense.
2. David Ausberry-I think Ausberry (pictured above)is going to win the starting job in Oakland. When he does, the rest of the league is going to see he has Vernon Davis-like potential. He should be a late round steal in most leagues.
3. Tony Moeaki-If healthy, he should play an integral role in what appears on paper to be the most talented offense in the division. Cassel will be happy to have his safety valve back.
4. Jacob Tamme-His familiarity with Manning should allow him to be the top tight end on the roster and one of the few people who can actually follow and understand everything Manning does at the line.
1. Chiefs-Romeo Crennel has a loaded defense who really only lost Brandon Carr to free agency. Stanford Routt is penciled in as the replacement right now, but I expect rookie DeQuan Menzie to make a strong push for the job. It is worth noting that Peyton Manning has struggled historically with Crennel defenses.
2. Chargers-The addition of Melvin Ingram to a roster full of veterans will provide a spark. The truth is, the Chargers will probably give up as many points as the rest of the division, but their experience may save them in crunch time.
3. Raiders-Oakland added needed depth during free agency and the draft this offseason, however, this unit will live and die with Michael Huff roaming centerfield.
4. Broncos-The team was 20th in the league in overall yards allowed. With no significant personnel improvements, I’m not sure how they’ll improve on that number with even less rest thanks to the new offensive scheme.
For the most part, kickers go as the offense goes with a few exceptions. Here is how I rank the four AFC West kickers in terms of projected fantasy production:
1. Sebastian Janikowski
2. Ryan Succop
3. Matt Prater
4. Nate Kaeding