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AFC West Pressing Fantasy Football Questions

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Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert was a revelation in 2020. With him being seventh among our fantasy QB draft rankings, what percentage chance do you give him having a top-five finish in 2021?

Liz: Coming off of a record-breaking season in which he recorded the most total scores (36) and the most 300-yard games (8) in any rookie campaign, Herbert figures to build on his electric first-year finish. Despite opening the season against a fierce WFT defense, the former Duck has a top-five strength of schedule that includes early matchups against the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Raiders. Under the tutelage of Drew Brees' former QBs coach, Joe Lombardi, Herbert’s strong arm and scrambling ability should continue to blossom. An average of 280-plus passing yards per game is entirely within his range of probable outcomes.

Matt: Frankly, I’d feel great about his chances for doing this — we’re talking like 50 percent — if the Chargers had just added one big-time pass-catcher in the offseason. Justin Herbert is that good as a passer. He’s clearly the game’s next elite guy. For pure fantasy purposes, the fact that he has some juice as a rusher — with 3.7 attempts per game and five touchdowns in 2020 — presents a real path to a ceiling. It comes back to the surrounding cast, where they’re extremely top-heavy but lack many tantalizing talents beyond Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, and Mike Williams. With the current construction of the roster, he has a five to 10 percent chance. Herbert is appropriately slotted at current ADP.

Dalton: Herbert blew away all expectations as a rookie — and to think, Anthony Lynn may very well have kept him on the bench all season long if not for Tyrod Taylor suffering an accidental punctured lung. Herbert helps in fantasy with his legs (to go along with a beautiful deep ball), and he should benefit greatly in Year 2 from more play-action and better coaching. Herbert threw the most touchdowns by a rookie in NFL history last season (15 games) and looks locked in as a perennial top-five-type fantasy QB.

Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire flashed moments of sheer greatness in his rookie season, but it was mostly underwhelming for fantasy managers. He’s our consensus 14th-ranked RB for 2021. What needs to happen for CEH to break into the top-10, maybe even the top-five finishers at his position?

Scott: A little experience goes a long way; consider how many first-year backs came on like gangbusters after their respective bye weeks last year. The Chiefs have a thin backfield and all the toys elsewhere on the offense. CEH is still set up to succeed, and perhaps smash.

Dalton: Damien Williams and Le’Veon Bell didn’t return to KC, securing CEH’s role as the team’s clear feature back. Edwards-Helaire had horrible goal-line TD luck during his rookie season and came off the field on passing downs despite a prolific receiving career at LSU (he should be better in pass pro in Year Two). The Chiefs greatly improved their offensive line during the offseason, and Andy Reid used to routinely produce elite fantasy RBs. If CEH stays healthy, it’d be a surprise if he didn’t finish as a top-10 fantasy back.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs
Let's hope Clyde Edwards-Helaire's receiving role grows in 2021. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Matt: He just needs to stay healthy. We’re all turning over every stone trying to decide who will be the No. 3 pass-catcher on a suddenly shallow Chiefs receiving corps between guys like Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman, but what if the answer is just “more passes to Clyde Edwards-Helaire?" He’s still the feature back on a Patrick Mahomes/Andy Reid offense. Theoretically, there are not many more valuable positions than that. He’s an easy Round 2 pick who catches too much grief for a middling fantasy season as a rookie.

Denver Broncos: Just when we thought Melvin Gordon was going to have the Denver backfield to himself, they went and drafted Javonte Williams. Are you still in on Gordon or is this a backfield headache waiting to happen?

Andy: Let's hope Gordon doesn't slip so far that he becomes a gift to ZeroRB drafters. He's still the presumptive head of this team's rushing committee, at least for now. Last year, he dominated Denver's backfield targets and carries near the end zone, handling 18 attempts inside the 10-yard line. We like those things. Gordon didn't have the rushing workload entirely to himself last year, yet he still delivered 1,144 scrimmage yards and 10 TDs, averaging 4.6 YPC. He can still help the fantasy community.

Williams is a serious talent ticketed for a significant future role, but, realistically, he's probably looking at 8-12 touches per week. We shouldn't assume he's a lock to be the 2021 version of 2020 Cam Akers, assuming Gordon remains healthy.

Scott: Count me out on Gordon. The Broncos prioritized Williams in the draft, the club went after Mike Boone, and the current admin is not the group that acquired Gordon in the first place. I will consider Williams if the draft price is reasonable, and Boone is worth a late-round flier in best-ball formats. Unless Gordon's ADP sinks like a stone, he won't be on my rosters.

Liz: Moving up five spots in the second round clearly indicates that Williams is the Broncos back of the future. A tackle-breaking machine with outstanding contact balance, the North Carolina product was a consensus top-three RB among NFL scouts and draftniks.

But Gordon was the RB12 overall (15 games) in fantasy last year, recording over 1,100 scrimmage yards and 10 total TDs in 2020. Entering the last year of his deal, the Broncos would be wise to lean on Gordon while easing the rookie into the pro game. Last year, in games in which he shared the backfield with Phillip Lindsay, Gordon averaged 12.3 carries per contest. In 2021, 12-14 carries per game make sense. Noting his improved efficiency (4.6 YPC) and red zone opportunities (2.0 rz touches/gm), Gordon is a solid RB3 target.

Las Vegas Raiders: Darren Waller is coming off one of the best fantasy tight end campaigns ever. Are we drafting off last year's production or does he make the TE group a Big 2, joining Kelce and booting Kittle?

Matt: Not only should Waller be comfortably ranked among a “Big Three” at tight end, but you can also easily argue he’s the TE2 overall this year, ahead of George Kittle. Neither offense will push to lead the NFL in pass attempts, however; just look at the skill position groups. The 49ers have an emerging star in Brandon Aiyuk and a strong weapon in Deebo Samuel. Those guys will command targets. The Raiders wideout crop is filled with wildcards.

Waller could even eclipse his volume totals from last year. You should have no hesitations clicking his name this year.

Liz: None of the pre-existing or recently added pass-catching options are a threat to Waller’s dominance. Not only was he the TE1 in numerous volume-based metrics (total targets, deep targets, and red-zone targets) but, more importantly, he delivered on those opportunities. Top-three in a vast number of efficiency stats (completed air yards, yards per route run, and YAC), Waller proved — for the second consecutive year — to be the team’s most reliable and electric receiving weapon. Another 100+ catches appear entirely likely.

Andy: Considering Kelce's dominance over the entire tight end field last year (including Waller) and his consistent level of production during the Patrick Mahomes era, I'd actually argue that tight end has a top-tier of one. After Kelce, Kittle and Waller obviously belong to the next group (and I can make an argument for T.J. Hockenson to join them, but that's not our mission here). Waller was targeted a whopping 145 times last season and the team's former No. 2 receiver (Nelson Agholor) relocated to New England, so there's no reason to think volume won't continue to flow his way in 2021. We can expect another 1,100-plus yards, assuming good health.

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