Fantasy season is just around the corner, and I have put together my fantasy hits and misses for this 2009 season.
The AFC West may not be particularly good defensively, but I have compiled players from each team that will have a major impact on the fantasy market.
First, the Oakland Raiders—this team has the most speed in the AFC and probably in the NFL, but that does not always equate to talent. Let me walk you through the best in Raiders Nation.
Zach Miller, TE
This guy is a machine in gaining yards and snagging catches; he will most likely be Oakland's top receiver again this year. Last year Miller snagged 56 passes for 778 yards and one touchdown. Now, the one touchdown might not be that impressive, but he really does not have a quality quarterback to get passes from.
When it comes to underrated tight ends, Miller is in the top five. He produces on a team that really does not pass the ball much. For the 2009 season, I can easily see Miller getting around the same yardage but increase his touchdowns to the 5-7 range.
Darren McFadden, RB
This guy was drafted out of Arkansas and had probably the highest expectations out of any other non-quarterback player coming out of the draft. Although he only had 499 yards for four touchdowns last season, that still does not rule him out as an impact player.
There is a thing called the sophomore slump, but I believe it will be the exact opposite for McFadden as he will gain about 900-1,000 yards on the ground and get eight TDs.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
I personally do not think this was the best choice by the Raiders, but I do believe that Al Davis will tell the coaching staff to get this guy the ball often. He will be getting many opportunities to get the ball, Oakland does not have any quality receivers, and, next to Miller, Bey will get a great amount of balls thrown his way. I see Bey in the range of 500-600 yards with about four touchdowns.
Players to avoid for the Raiders would be their DST (defense and special teams) and pretty much all the receivers, except Bey and Miller.
Kansas City Chiefs
Moving on, the Kansas City Chiefs have much young talent waiting for that perfect coach to take them to the next level. They believe Todd Haley is that coach.
Matt Cassel, QB
Coming out of Josh McDaniels' system in New England, Cassel could have never imagined a better situation. He sure got great in a little amount of time thanks to amazing coaching and his ability to create plays with his feet.
Cassel coming into Kansas City does not have the weapons like he had in New England, but he does have stars in Dwayne Bowe and Larry Johnson. He will put up some pretty good numbers and will probably not be a starter in most leagues, but if your player is having a bye week, Cassel is a solid pick. I see Cassel throwing for 3,500 yards with 22 TDs.
Dwayne Bowe, WR
A very explosive player, Bowe is your prototypical receiver—he is strong, fast, and can catch. He also is one of the most underrated receivers coming into this year.
Last year Bowe had 86 receptions for 1,022 yards with seven touchdowns, but many people do not really talk about him.
They soon will. He has a solid quarterback to throw to him now and he will only improve on his numbers before eventually making it to the Pro Bowl. I see Bowe having another solid year, with 1,200 yards and nine TDs.
Larry Johnson, RB
He has not really been healthy over the past two seasons, but when he is he can run over almost any defense. LJ has a unique combination of speed and size, much like Christian Okoye, formerly of the Chiefs. Johnson will get back to form this season and rush for 1,300 yards with 11 TDs
Players to avoid are the Chiefs D/ST because it is too inconsistent—some weeks it does well and some weeks it looks like it couldn't stop a college team.
Next we go to the Denver Broncos. This team had the No. 1 offense in the AFC West last season. They had many solid fantasy players that put up some impressive numbers.
Kyle Orton, QB
Now before you leave me a nasty message saying how he sucks, listen to this first. Orton is entering his contract year; statistically, players do their best in their contract year. Next, Orton is entering a system in which it is not so much about how athletic you are at quarterback but how you understand the game and how accurate you are—the decision-making being a key point too.
Orton is a better decision-maker than Jay Cutler. He will not throw the ball into triple coverage, and he is a smart player. Also, he never had weapons to work with in Chicago and he still managed to throw for 18 touchdowns in 15 starts.
Coming into Denver, he has probably the top recievers in the AFC in Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley. I see Orton throwing for 3,700 yards and 24 TDs
Brandon Marshall, WR
Over the past two seasons, Marshall has been one of the top receivers in the league at catching balls and creating plays. He will continue to produce as he is entering a contract year. He wants more money, he says; well, he will sure show that on the field, as this will be Marshall's breakout year. He will have 1,400 yards and 11 TDs if his new QB produces at a good level.
Eddie Royal, WR
The surprise rookie player of last year, Royal was statistically the best rookie receiver since Anquan Boldin and he showed why. He was Denver's most consistent player, only dropping three balls. He was very exciting to watch and he had a coming-out party for the ages when he squared off against Oakland's secondary. Royal will gain around the same yardage as last season, he might even break 1,000 yards and snag eight TDs.
Knowshon Moreno RB
Drafted for one reason only (to start), Moreno was a beast coming out of Georgia—he was a human highlight reel. His production will cross over to the NFL as he becomes Denver's next great running back. He will have 1,100 yards with 10 TDs.
Players to avoid are Tony Scheffler; under Josh McDaniel's new system, tight ends do not see the ball much. They are generally used for blocking and only used primarily in the red zone. So if Scheffler does see production, it will be mostly in the red zone.
San Diego Chargers
Last but not least we have the San Diego Chargers. This team showed great heart in knocking Denver off the top spot for the AFC West championship. They also have great offensive talent to consider in fantasy leagues.
Antonio Gates, TE
Well, I do not really have to say much about this one; he is highly regarded as the second best tight end behind Tony Gonzalez. Year in and year out, he scorches defenses for yards and he always produces. He will have another solid year and gain 900 yards and 10 TDs.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB
He has something to prove as he was pretty much pushed to the side for Darren Sproles while dealing with injuries last season. LT has gained over 1,100 yards every year he has been in the league and he has a combined 126 TDs over his career.
Coming into this year's offseason, it was either take a pay cut or leave for LT. He will prove this year that he is not getting old and he will run over everybody. LT will have another year like 2006 and rush for 1,500 yards and 16 TDs.
San Diego D/ST
Whether it's Darren Sproles taking one to the house on your team or it's San Diego getting sacks like it is nothing, the Chargers special teams and defense will dominate again this year.
Philip Rivers, QB
Many people are saying that this man is the most underrated QB who was in the playoffs; as a Denver fan, I agree on that. There is no way that this guy should have missed the Pro Bowl last season. It is unbelievable to think that a man who has thrown for 4,009 yards and 34 TDs did not make the Pro Bowl.
Oh yeah, and he had the league's highest QB rating, with 105.5. This man will not slow down at all, even though he does not have the strongest arm or he may not be mobile, he still will put up huge numbers and eventually take his team to the Super Bowl. I see Rivers throwing for 3,900 yards and 35 TDs and possibly winning MVP honors this season.
Players to avoid for the Chargers are members of the pass defense in IDP leagues; they were very inconsistent last season and they were saved by the run defense.