QB – Gone is Carson Palmer and in is Matt Flynn. Flynn will be given the job from day one but if this team goes south, and it should, the Raiders could go to one of the younger guys at this position. Compile that with the receiving core he has and you have a hands off situation. If you somehow end up starting Matt Flynn this fantasy season you are in a heap of trouble.
RB – Darren McFadden posted another disappointing season for his owners playing in only 12 games and rushing for a grand total of 707 yards on a 3.27 yards per carry clip. You want reason for hope? Here are a couple… The zone running scheme is being replaced with a “downhill” scheme which should fit McFadden better. He is in a contract year! There should be little question about his motivation this year ($). Rashad Jennings shouldn’t provide much challenge for carries so McFadden is THE guy. Being THE guy on a really bad team could pose some limitations for him. With running backs that often means a lack of goal line opportunities. You might be able to snag him a little later than usual which could make him worth it but I wouldn’t touch him in the 1st or 2nd round.
WR – This is a sad group. Denarius Moore is the #1 option. Do I need to say anything else? Ok, don’t get me wrong, Denarius Moore is a nice prospect who has wheels but I don’t believe any defensive coordinators are losing any sleep game planning for Denarius Moore. After Moore you have waiver wire fodder like Rod Streater, Juron Criner, Jacoby Ford and new addition Josh Cribbs. Yes, there is plenty of sleeper potential with Streater, Criner and Ford but for the purpose of starting the fantasy season and attacking your draft just go ahead and avoid the Oakland WR’s.
TE – Brandon Myers was a very solid fantasy TE option last year. He has moved on to greener pastures with the New York Giants. This is a situation you will want to monitor through pre-season to get an idea of how this will shake out. It’s looking like a hands-off situation. David Ausberry, Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa will battle it out in training camp to see who starts.
K – Ole Sebastian Janikowski is still kicking and kicking pretty dang good. He posted a 31 of 34 mark last year. He is obviously a worth while kicker for your fantasy team as the Raiders will probably be kicking plenty of field goals this season. Sorry Raider fans but you know its true.
San Diego Chargers
QB – Phillip Rivers still resides over this position in San Diego but you will probably find better options elsewhere as Rivers should probably be a QB2 in most leagues this year. He is surrounded by pretty average talent who will offer little assistance to his cause. However, if you have a loaded team and need a serviceable QB Rivers could work. The Chargers could find themselves down a few times this year so Rivers could find himself in the Matthew Stafford role of playing from behind and stacking up some late game stats. Although he doesn’t have Megatron to throw to.
RB – The highly frustrating highly disappointing Ryan Mathews is back!!! I fell into the hype trap and traded for him as a keeper. One year prior in another league I arrogantly drafted him early. I didn’t just buy a few shares in Ryan Mathews stock, I went ahead and bought the majority of the company. So, let me be the one to tell you: DON’T DO IT! Although his stock has never been lower he will be relocated to 1st and 2nd down only and will be replaced by Danny Woodhead on passing downs. The Chargers could be down quite a bit this season so Woodhead could get a lot of work. If there is anyone with upside in the Chargers backfield it would be Danny Woodhead. If you are in a PPR league he will have some decent upside.
WR – The projected #1 in San Diego is Danario Alerxander. Alexander has a history of knee injuries dating back to his Missouri days. He hasn’t proven to be able to play a full season yet in the NFL. Behind him is Vincent Brown who was well on his way to a breakout season in 2012 before suffering a fractured ankle. He has a lot of potential in the new west coast offense in San Diego. Malcolm Floyd will battle Brown for the 2nd receiver spot. The #3 and slot receiver is Eddie Royal who has been the picture of underachievement in his career. His number have only dwindled since his solid rookie year where he posted 91 catches for 980 yards as Jay Cutler’s slot receiver in Denver. Health has been an issue for Royal also as he has failed to play a full 16 games the last two years.
TE – Antonio Gates was once the star of the TE position, but it seems age has caught up with the once high producing pro bowler. The truth is he has been on the decline for the last several years. Last year his numbers dipped to an average of 35.9 yards a game. In 2010 he averaged 78.2 yards a game but only played 10 games. In 2011 he played in 13 games and averaged 59.8 yards per game. What is really alarming is the fact that the Chargers were playing from behind a lot last year which should’ve given Gates plenty of opportunities to rack up some mop up yardage and touchdowns. Maybe a new offensive coordinator will give him some new life but I’m betting on his best years being behind him.
K – Nick Novak is back after receiving a 4 year contract with the Chargers. Novak had a solid year making 18 out of 20 field goals in 13 games after replacing the now retired Nate Kaeding.
Kansas City Chiefs
QB – Alex Smith has been given a fresh start with the Chiefs after losing the starting job in San Francisco to upstart Colin Kaepernick ( you might have heard of him). This will be an interesting experiment. You have a game managing quarterback in Smith paired with a pass first coach in Andy Reid. If Smith wanted an opportunity to prove he is capable of thriving in a pass heavy offense he is about to get it. Smith’s fantasy outlook isn’t extremely bright. Here’s what we know about Smith - He attempted the fewest passes of any starting quarterback during the 2011 season. He is about to attempt the most passes in his career and probably by a wide margin. We don’t know how he will react to the different offense and being the guy who is responsible for “pulling the trigger”. If everything clicks for Smith you could have a great opportunity to buy really low on a high producing QB but the outlook is gloomy. He will go late to undrafted in fantasy drafts not occupied by Chief fans so you won’t be losing out too much by taking a chance on him.
RB – Jamaal Charles will be a monster in point per reception leagues this year. Due to Andy Reid’s arrival he will likely have a down tick in carries but a major up tick in receptions. Reid’s pension for screens paired with Charles’ breakaway speed have to have fantasy owners dreaming big. If you’re in a PPR league you will have to consider Charles the top back. McCoy posted 40, 78,48 and 54 receptions in his four seasons under Reid, and in my opinion Charles is more talented than McCoy. Knile Davis was drafted out of Arkansas to be his backup and offers speed and big play ability, but won’t be a threat to Charles’ work load.
WR – Dewayne Bowe has proclaimed that when he and Charles get in “full gear“, “it’s going to be a show to watch“. He might be right. Bowe has long had the tools to be an unstoppable force and at times has produced like that. He has three 1,000 yard seasons in his career and he will be playing in a new system with a new QB. Bowe seems like he is highly motivated and revived by a new regime in Kansas City. I would feel pretty safe drafting Bowe as a very solid WR2 or a low end WR1. The only reason I have him as a low end WR1 is because of the uncertainty of Alex Smith’s transition into a new offense. Donnie Avery and Jon Baldwin will fight it out for the starting spot across from Bowe but both will probably start the season on the waiver wire in fantasy leagues. Dexter McCluster offers some intrigue at the slot position but its tough to see a scenario where there will be enough opportunities to make McCluster a consistent fantasy option.
TE – Anthony Fasano was brought in from Miami to be a blocking TE while rookie Travis Kelce will compete with Tony Moeaki for the receiving spot. Early opinions have Kelce as the eventual winner. If so, Kelce will offer TE2 value.
K – Ryan Succop is back for his 5th season with the Chiefs but once again with the uncertainty of the offensive production you might want to look else where for your fantasy kicker (at least initially).
QB – Peyton Manning is entering his second season as the Denver Broncos quarterback. He played above what most analyst had pegged for him and he ended up winning Comeback Player of The Year. Many fantasy footballers are excited at the thought of him being paired with Wes Welker this season as he uses the slot receiver very efficiently. I have Manning somewhere in the second tier. Guys like Rodgers, Brees and the dual threat guys like Kaepernick, Wilson and Robert “Bob” Griffin III should probably go ahead of him, as well as Cam Newton and possibly Matt Ryan. Heck I might even gamble on Matthew Stafford before paying a premium for Peyton. I think Denver is going to lean a little more on the run this season. They also should be leading more than trailing which means a heavier emphasis on running the ball to run the clock out. NFL.com has him ranked fourth but I’m not that high on his fantasy value.
RB – The Broncos are currently having a training camp battle for the starting running back spot. Many people are waiting to see who wins the starting role and will get the majority of the carries. I think by the end of the Pre-Season Montee Ball will be the lead back. If you want more explanation you can check out my article here. Ronnie Hillman will offer big play value and will be used as a change of pace option. First and second down should go to Ball while third down and obvious passing situations should go to Hillman. Goal line duty should end up going to Ball as well. If anything and a worse case scenario for fantasy owners we could see a split carry situation where the Broncos divide the time between Hillman and Ball. Ball has been the whipping child of the early training camp period but nothing less should be expected. He’s a rookie learning a complicated system. Hillman should look better at the moment as he is in his second year. Be patient here.
WR – Wes Welker was added to an already great duo of Thomas and Decker. All are pretty set to have a great season. The number 1 guy to own here is Thomas. I think he benefits the most from Welker’s arrival. Defenses will be in a “pick your poison” situation with this group which should open things up a bit more for Thomas. I do believe Welker will see a small drop in his receptions but will probably see more red-zone opportunities without having to fight with Gronk and Hernandez for those looks. Welker is obviously very valuable in PPR leagues. If I had to put them in order of who I would want to own it would go 1) Thomas 2) Welker 3) Decker. This could be a frustrating situation for owners as defenses might choose to try take away certain guys in different weeks limiting their production and taking owners on a roller coaster. The targets will assuredly be there for all of these guys though.
TE – Julius Thomas has been the talk of camp so far and if your a fantasy owner you should be really intrigued by this development. Thomas offers much more athleticism and big play ability than Dreessen or Jacob Tamme. However he and any tight end that earns the job will be limited by the three WR look the Broncos will run this season. It’s likely that you will find better TE options elsewhere but keep an eye on Thomas and how the Broncos use him in pre-season and camp.
K – Matt Prater benefited from Peyton Manning’s arrival in Denver as well last season. He went from attempting 30 extra points in 2011 to 50 in 2012. He also went from 25 FG attempts to 32. The scoring chances will continue this season. Keep Prater on your fantasy radar as he promises to be one of the top scoring kickers in the NFL.