Training Camp Preview: AFC West

Mon Jul 20 9:39pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Williams still hopes to play role


This is the fourth preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.

Raiders

The Raiders made strides last year and will look to take another step forward this year. Much of the season might depend on Derek Carr, who has not been super consistent since joining the league. Carr will need to take his game up a level if the Raiders hope to compete in the very tough AFC West. Carr and his teammates will attend training camp at Raiders Headquarters in Henderson, Nevada.

Position battle: The Raiders were a mess at receiver last year and looked to correct that this offseason with moves in the draft and free agency. There is a lot yet to be sorted, though. Henry Ruggs is the only likely starter out of the group. After Ruggs, the Raiders have Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones, Nelson Agholor, Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden looking for playing time at the position. All these players have their positives and negatives, so it should be an interesting battle this camp for playing time at the receiver spot.

Injury watch: Running back Isaiah Crowell tore his Achilles’ before the start of last year and missed the entire season. He is trying to return from the injury and win a roster spot with the Raiders. He has 850-plus rushing yards two of the last three seasons he has played. Crowell can be a solid backup if healthy. He will need to prove he is all the way back from this injury if he hopes to win a role with the Raiders. 

Broncos

Denver is hoping to take a step forward this year, hoping many of their young players continue to get better. The Broncos have a lot of young, offensive talent, so much of their season might depend on the development of those talented youngsters. Denver will need these guys to improve if they hope to make the playoffs, especially second-year quarterback Drew Lock. Denver holds training camp at Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Center in Dove Valley, Colorado.

Position battle: The Broncos signed Melvin Gordon this offseason, pairing him with Phillip Lindsay at the running back spot. Lindsay has been a 1,000-yard rusher each of the past two season for the Broncos, so don’t discount him for a big role again this year. He won’t just sit back and let Gordon take over as the lead back for the Broncos. Remember, Gordon did not look like himself last year, so he has a lot to prove in camp and preseason action if he hopes to start and get a ton of work in the Broncos offense this year.

Injury watch: Phillip Lindsay is expected to be just fine for training camp but is recovering from offseason wrist surgery. It is something to at least watch a little, especially since Lindsay has a lot to prove with Gordon now on the roster. Lindsay can’t afford any setbacks if he hopes to have a decent role with the team this year.    

Chargers

The Chargers have a new quarterback for the first time in a long, long time, so the quarterback position should be the focus of this training camp. Tyrod Taylor is expected to start this year with Justin Herbert getting groomed to take over at some point in the near future. The two quarterbacks will battle it out in training camp at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, California.

Position battle: Melvin Gordon is gone, leaving Austin Ekeler as the starting back for the Chargers. The Charges like to rotate backs, though, so the backup has good fantasy value. And that backup job is up for grabs between Justin Jackson and rookie Joshua Kelley. Jackson impressed with his limited work last year but isn’t going to be handed the backup job. Kelley is a talented rookie that could unseat Jackson as the No. 2 back.

Injury watch: Hunter Henry missed four games last year because of injury and is yet to play a full season since entering the NFL in 2016. He is not recovering from any injury at this point but his injury history makes him a player to keep an eye on in camp. Henry can play a big role in this offense as long as he is healthy and on the field.

Chiefs

The Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champs, so expectations will be high for this team. Every team in the NFL will be gunning for the Chiefs. Kansas City will need to try to play with the same intensity of last year and maybe even up their game even more if they hope to repeat. The Chiefs quest for back-to-back championships begins at the Kansas City Chiefs Practice Facility in Kansas City, Missouri.

Position battle: The Chiefs took the first running back in the draft, selecting Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round. Edwards-Helaire is a capable three-down back that seems a great fit for the Chiefs offense. Damien Williams is still around, though, and done well with his chances in past seasons for the Chiefs. He is not going to just roll over and let Edwards-Helaire start. This two should have a legit battle for the right to be No. 1 back for the Chiefs.

Injury watch: The Chiefs really don’t have any injuries of note, which is kind of surprising since they won the Super Bowl last year. The team played more games than nearly every team in the NFL but did a good job of staying healthy. Patrick Mahomes missed some time last year because of a knee injury, so he might be a player to watch in camp to make sure he is back to normal after that scare last year. Obviously, the health of Mahomes is key to the Chiefs having any chance at a repeat.

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
James Washington Aug 7 11:13am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Aug. 7.

Fantasy Spin: Washington could start opposite of Juju Smith-Schuster, but he'll need to step it up to stave off Chase Claypool. Washington figures to be a WR4 or WR5 in fantasy.

From TheHuddle

Corey Davis Aug 6 7:03pm ET

Updating a previous story, Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis (toe) is on the Physically Unable to Perform list as a result of offseason toe surgery. He's not expected to miss any games.

Fantasy Spin: This would be a greater concern if Davis was actually missing meaningful practices while on the PUP list. There shouldn't be any major concern, and he'll still enter the season as the No. 2 option behind A.J. Brown.

From TheHuddle

M.J. Stewart Aug 6 5:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB M.J. Stewart was released Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rod Smith Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders RB Rod Smith was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Josh Doctson Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Updating a previous story, New York Jets WR Josh Doctson was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rashaan Melvin Aug 6 5:23pm ET

Updating a previous story, Jacksonville Jaguars DB Rashaan Melvin was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Ricardo Louis Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent WRs Ricardo Louis (Dolphins) and Chester Rogers (Colts) have been contacted and put through physicals by the Miami Dolphins, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

J.J. Wilcox Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent S J.J. Wilcox (Falcons) is expected to re-sign with the Atlanta Falcons pending COVID-19 testing and a physical, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Shaq Lawson Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon Davis, DT Benito Jones, S Brandon Jones, OG Solomon Kindley, DE Shaq Lawson and WR Kirk Merritt were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Zach Sieler Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins RB Malcolm Perry and DT Zach Sieler were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Robert Woods Aug 6 4:03pm ET

Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods said he has had preliminary contract extension talks with the Rams and wants to finish his career with Los Angeles.

Fantasy Spin: Woods has played very well since joining the Rams and has posted at least 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons. He will be one of the main options in the passing game this season and should be a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Leighton Vander Esch Aug 6 1:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch said he will be playing middle linebacker this season with LB Jaylon Smith moving to weakside linebacker.

From TheHuddle

Clay Matthews Aug 6 12:43pm ET

Free-agent LB Clay Matthews (Rams) and LB Everson Griffen (Vikings) have received interest from the Seattle Seahawks.

From TheHuddle

Tee Higgins Aug 5 8:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft and has a high ceiling without a doubt, especially since he will be catching passes from No. 1 overall selection Joe Burrow. Both rookies have built a rapport already as the duo conducted workouts together during the offseason. Higgins finished his final season at Clemson with 59 catches and 13 touchdowns off of 1,167 yards. While he is a risky selection in redraft leagues this season due to his potential limited playing time, he is surely worth a first-round pick in dynasty formats as he will likely rack up plenty of receptions from Burrow for years to come.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Aug 5 8:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has begun catching passes from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow as the team kicks off training camp. The 25-year-old has plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season after racking up over 1,000 yards in his previous two seasons. With A.J. Green seemingly healthy along with the addition of Clemson wideout Tee Higgins, Boyd could see things open up more on the offensive end, while also remaining the team's top pass-catcher.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Aug 5 8:00pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green went through his first walkthrough under second-year head coach Zac Taylor on Tuesday. The veteran, who recently signed a one-year tender a few weeks ago, missed all of 2019 after injuring his ankle during training camp. While consistent ailments have been the theme for the 32-year-old over the past seasons, there is no denying his ability when healthy. He is no longer considered an elite wideout, however, he is worth a mid-round pick for those looking for an option with an enormous upside.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Aug 5 7:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is still without a new deal as the team heads toward the 2020 season. However, according to director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, the organization views the 24-year-old as a "cornerstone piece of the franchise." Mixon is looking for a contract that would pay him north of $8 million per year, a significant increase from the $1.2 million that he is expected to earn in the final year of his rookie deal. The former Sooner is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is projected by many to be a fantasy breakout by year's end.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Elliott Aug 5 7:10pm ET

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was quick to respond to Ed Werder's Twitter post regarding a potentially reduced role for the former rushing champ, quipping "we all gonna eat." Though Elliott is a shoo-in, first-round pick in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, many still wonder how he will co-exist on an offense that has plenty of mouths to feed, notably Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and 17th overall pick, CeeDee Lamb. Elliott finished 2019 as a top-five back in the majority of formats. Under new head coach Mike McCarthy, who has overseen some productive runners throughout his career, the 25-year-old could be in store for another productive year.

From RotoBaller

Michael Thomas Aug 5 6:50pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas broke the single-season receptions record last year by racking up 149 catches, surpassing Marvin Harrison's 2002 mark of 143. While that accomplishment would be good enough for most throughout the league, the 27-year-old is aiming to exceed his 2019 total heading into the 2020 campaign. Thomas convincingly dominated the fantasy picture last season, and in addition to his catch total, he also accumulated over 1,700 yards while finishing fifth in yards after the catch. He is expected to finish as the top fantasy wideout this season, and will likely get snagged off the draft board within the top three picks, especially in PPR formats.

From RotoBaller