Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of Fantasy Football Overdose. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+Page, and for more NFL Fantasy Football Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose – a fantasy football blog.
The AFC West was where it was at for fantasy football success in 2013. Obviously Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos broke records while kicking butt and taking names en route to a Super Bowl appearance, but they weren’t the only players making fantasy owners happy last year.
Ryan Mathews somehow managed to stay alive for 16 games while putting up his second career 1,000+ yard rushing season, Jamaal Charles was the most consistent running back in the game and Philip Rivers reminded us all that he’s not done being a factor in the fantasy realm just yet.
Terrelle Pryor even hung around for a while as a guy you considered playing from week to week thanks to his legs, while rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen made a heck of a splash despite sliding in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Things have changed a bit since the end of 2013, though. Some of Denver’s best fantasy weapons left in free agency and Pryor probably won’t be under center much in 2014 if the Raiders can help it. With transactions and new roles in mind, let’s start prepping for the 2014 fantasy football season by ranking the top-10 fantasy options in the AFC West:
1. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Scoffing at Peyton Manning not being the top fantasy dog? True, Manning is the boss of quarterbacks and the top overall fantasy player in most regards, but when it comes to true value, running back is where it’s at. Charles came alive in 2013 under Andy Reid’s guidance, putting up over 1,900 total yards and 19 total touchdowns. There is some talk about lightening Charles’ load for 2014, but it won’t make much of a negative impact. He’s still very much in his prime at just 27 years old and this offense caters to his strengths. Straight up, Manning is the better fantasy player, but in terms of value (quarterback is deeper than running back), Jamaal Charles takes the cake going into 2014.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
While Manning might lose slightly to Charles in these rankings, he still tops everyone else in the AFC West. It’s not all that likely Manning will put up NFL records for passing yardage and touchdowns again in 2014. Heck, he might not even come close. But even a reasonable drop-off should still have him putting up 4,500+ passing yards and 35-40 touchdowns. Those kind of numbers could still easily have him as the top fantasy quarterback in 2014.
3. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Easily the top fantasy wide receiver in the AFC West, Thomas comes in third in these rankings thanks to back to back 1,400+ yard and 10+ touchdown seasons. Eric Decker stole touchdown targets from Thomas the past few seasons, but with him in New York, Thomas could set a new career high in that department. Regardless, he’s still Peyton Manning’s top weapon in the passing game and there are too many other options for defenses to worry about. He remains an elite WR1 going into the 2014 fantasy season.
4. Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
Welker is aging and had issues with concussions in 2013, yet he still put up 73 receptions for 778 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Factor in that he missed three games and played on a loaded offense, and his first year in Denver is even more impressive. Welker should see an increase in targets in 2014, as the reliable Eric Decker is gone and the newly added Emmanuel Sanders has a sketchy injury history. Should he be able to stay healthy, it’s not crazy to think Welker could chase down 100 reception in 2014.
5. Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos
Ball is slightly unproven, so there is a bit of hesitance sliding him inside the top-five for the AFC West division. However, Knowshon Moreno is a Dolphin now and there’s little reason to believe Ball won’t take over his complete role in 2014. If we look at what Moreno did in Denver’s prolific offense a year ago, that could easily mean 1,600+ total yards and 10+ touchdowns. If Ball comes even close to that he’ll return value with ease as a solid RB1.
6. Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos
Thomas has an argument to be in the top-five after a 12-touchdown 2013 season, especially since he did that insane damage off of just 65 catches. With Eric Decker gone, Thomas should get even more involved, remaining a legit threat for 800+ receiving yards and another 10+ touchdown season. Like everyone else in Denver, Thomas has competition within his own offense to consider, but he’s an elite talent in an elite system. Those are the kinds of fantasy options you make sure you land early in drafts.
7. Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
Allen slipped out of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft due to poor timed speed and injury concerns, yet ended up being a major gem for the Chargers. Thanks to multiple injuries to receivers ahead of him, Allen was vaulted up the depth chart by week four and went on to reel in over 70 catches for over 1,000 and eight touchdowns in the regular season. If Allen can be that productive and consistent as a rookie, just imagine what he could do with more experience in 2014.
8. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
Rivers experienced a career revival in 2013 thanks to new head coach Mike McCoy, as the Chargers went away from their deep passing attack and finally starting using shorter passes to properly utilize Rivers’ accuracy. That equated to over 4,400+ passing yards and 32 touchdowns, while also helping Rivers cut his interceptions down from 20 and 15 the past two seasons to just 11 in 2013. The new Rivers is the real deal and can be leaned on as a lower-end QB1 in fantasy football once again this season.
9. Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
Normally Mathews would be a fantasy option you wouldn’t want to touch with a 20-foot pole, but he actually shed his injury-prone label in 2013 by playing in all 16 games and rushing for a career high 1,255 yards on the ground. There’s no guarantee Mathews stays healthy again in 2014, but with the running back position the thinnest across the board, he’s going to remain a guy worth taking a look at after the few couple of rounds.
10. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Last, but not least, is Kansas City top receiving option, Dwayne Bowe. Based on his talent, he should at least be able to field WR2 numbers in fantasy football. The only problem is, he really hasn’t been one for two straight years now. Bowe really couldn’t shoulder all the blame when the Chiefs were awful in 2012, but in 15 games he mustered just 57 receptions and under 700 yards in 2013. It’s especially troubling considering Alex Smith established career highs in passing yardage (3,313) and touchdowns (23). For now, Bowe should merely be considered a WR3 with high upside if he and Smith can hammer out a consistent rapport.