The Fantasy Trenches - AFC West Edition

By Elliott Anderson

As a fantasy community we love to debate our rankings. Zeke vs Bell. Brady vs Luck. Moncrief vs Crowder. We project the numbers and speak to the idea of opportunity vs talent. We’ve all done it and we all take pride in this process, but we don’t often spend our time researching the offensive lines that will be protecting our fantasy assets. The success of a team and the production of its skill players are directly predicated on that given team's offensive line play. From QBs to TEs, all things football, and more importantly, all things fantasy are dictated by a dominant or struggling O-line. We will be looking at one division per week so that we can better develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each team’s offensive line unit. Our journey through the fantasy trenches will begin in the AFC West. Grab your Skittles and enjoy the ride.

Oakland Raiders

Rush YPG: 120.1(6th)

Pass YPG: 253(13th)

Sacks Allowed: 18(1st)

Key Losses: Menelik Watson (T)

Key Additions: David Sharp (T) Florida 4th round, Marshall Newhouse (T) FA

The Raiders are one of the more solid offensive line units in the league and it shows through their ability to keep Carr’s jersey clean game after game. This is a unit that had health issues at right tackle all season and continued to put up great numbers in the run game despite the lack of explosive commodities at the RB position. Murray averaged 4 yards per carry but plunged into the end zone for 12 TDs on the year. Needless to say, if Lynch can return to his pre 2015 form, his powerful running style could yield impressive numbers behind this extremely talented group. Also, Richard, Washington and Hood could prove their worth if Father Time wins his battle with Beast Mode. Keep a close eye on who spells Lynch during games because that should be a great indicator of who could own that backfield given an unfortunate injury. Carr was sacked less than any QB in the NFL before his season was cut short by a terrible and unfortunate broken leg. The ability for this line to give him time to make his reads and deliver the ball down field to Cooper and Crabtree makes them both desirable options at the wide receiver position and makes Carr a steal at his current ADP. The hogs in Oaktown should be an obvious tie breaker when deciding who to choose come draft day.

Denver Broncos

Rush YPG: 92.8(27th)

Pass YPG: 230(Tied for 21st)

Sacks Allowed: 40(24th)

Key Losses: Russell Okung (T)

Key Additions: Garett Boles (T) Utah 1st round, Ronald Leary (G) FA, Menelik Watson (T) FA

Despite being anchored by Matt Paradis (considered by most to be one of the best centers in the league) the Denver offensive line struggled to protect Siemian and open holes in the run game. The Broncos were well aware of how these struggles hurt their team’s offensive production in ’16 and addressed this unit in the draft and free agency. Snagging Garett Boles with the 20th pick of the draft will pay immediate dividends for all the skills players. The addition of Ronald Leary was also a huge move for improving this group as a whole.  Denver ranked 29th in QB sacks and pressures last season which obviously hindered Demaryius Thomas’ fantasy value. He took a substantial hit in both receptions and yards due to the O-line’s inability to keep Siemian on his feet. Denver also struggled to create running lanes for their banged up RB core. They ranked middle of the pack in stuffed rate with their backs being hit for a loss or no gain on 21% of their carries. While there are numerous question marks for this offensive unit as a whole, it looks like Denver has addressed the hogs upfront, which should help them to be more productive this season. The jury is still out but there are definitely reasons to be optimistic in the Rockies.

Kansas City Chiefs

Rush YPG: 109.3(15th)

Pass YPG: 234(19th)

Sacks Allowed: 32(11th)

Key Losses: None

Key Additions: None 

The O-line group in KC is middle of the road much like the rest of its offense. With no major changes for this unit they should be trending in a positive direction considering that training camp and in season are the only opportunities the offensive line can work together to improve chemistry. O-line production is based on trust and cohesion, so that bodes well for the Kansas City skills since the hogs will have another year together with no major changes.  Their pressure rate is just inside the top ten amongst NFL teams, but this could also be attributed to the fact that Smith is not a risk taker and the ball is often out of his hand quickly. He prefers to throw to the shorter routes which benefit the likes of Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Spencer Ware’s ineffectiveness could be a result of Kansas City’s stuff rate of 18%; this metric should improve with another year together working Andy Reid’s run schemes. Ware has shown the ability to make explosive plays and with the addition Kareem Hunt, the run game is in line to improve.

Los Angeles Chargers

Rush YPG: 94.4(26th)

Pass YPG: 262(8th)

Sacks Allowed: 36(tied for 19th)

Key Losses: D.J. Fluker (T)

Key Additions: Forrest Lamp (G) Western Kentucky 2nd Round, Dan Feeney (G) Indiana 3rd Round Russel Okung (T) FA

There is a ton of optimism in this group moving into the 2017 season. The skills were not the only group dealing with injuries last year in LA, but with the overall health of the Chargers improving, the sky is the limit for the offense this season.  Melvin Gordon’s efficiency numbers were subpar, but he did see the ball early and often when it came to the goal line touches. The Charges spent high draft capital on the offensive line by taking Lamp in the 2nd and Feeney in the 3rd   round of the draft. Addressing the interior offensive line should directly affect Gordon’s numbers in ’17, giving him room to run and improve his YPC numbers from last season. Philip Rivers loves to sling the rock and even with a banged up line last year the passing game was in the top third of the league. Rivers will continue to throw to his stacked receiving core which includes the seventh overall pick Mike Williams. With Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry at TE this passing game is poised to shine, but be weary that with so many fantasy options in this offense that choosing that right one could be extremely challenging.