2010 AFC West Training Camp Preview

Denver Broncos

Kyle Orton is the starter, but will be on a very short leash in the regular season if Brady Quinn or Tim Tebow shows well in preseason. Quinn is expected to be the top backup with Tebow the #3. Knowshon Moreno is expected to pull away from Correll Buckhalter as the feature RB but needs to show it in training camp. Otherwise it will be a RBBC between the two of them again. J.J. Arrington will try to hold off Kolby Smith for the 3rd RB spot, but if Arrington were to get injured, it’s speculated that the Broncos would then make a move towards free agent Brian Westbrook. The other RB’s on the roster (Bruce Hall, Lance Ball, and Toney Baker) are really just camp bodies with little chance of making the team barring injuries. Eddie Royal is expected to be a starter with rookie first round draft pick Demaryius Thomas the other, but there’s also Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Stokley, fellow rookie Eric Decker, and veteran Brandon Lloyd who could work themselves into the mix. Both rookies are expected to be fully recovered from foot injuries in time for training camp while Stokley has been troubled by a shoulder injury in OTA’s and his status is unknown. Royal was a big disappointment lining up outside all of 2009, but is expected to move into the slot in 3 WR sets. The TE position will be of no value fantasy wise with Dan Graham as the unexciting starter. Graham is a great blocker and okay receiver. The backup is another blocking TE in Richard Quinn, and the wildcard to be a pass catching TE would be #3 TE Marquez Branson. Matt Prater has a firm grip on the kicking job and shouldn’t be really pushed by any camp body brought in to give him a breather during preseason.

Kansas City Chiefs

Despite a poor showing by Matt Cassel in 2009 and some surprisingly good ones from Brodie Croyle, there is no QB controversy in KC. Cassel is the starter and Croyle the backup. Tyler Palko is an intriguing #3. RB is where a lot of attention will be focused as the Chiefs saw smallish Jamaal Charles run wild the second half of 2009, but still opted to bring in veteran Thomas Jones. Jones has been one of the top RB’s in the NFL over the last several seasons. How the carries get split up between the two will be of utmost interest to the fantasy community. Charles found himself in the doghouse early last season with a fumbling problem and needs to show he can protect the ball to keep Jones as just a complimentary RB. Jackie Battle and Javarris Williams will battle to be the 3rd RB. Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers are the definite starting WR’s. Jerheme Urban and rookie Dexter McCluster will battle it out to be the #3 WR leaving Terrence Copper, Lance Long, and Quinten Lawrence to fight it out for the remaining 1-2 spots. The winner of the Urban/McCluster battle could be worth keeping an eye on in deeper fantasy leagues where you have many bench WR’s. Leonard Pope is the starting TE, but will be pushed hard by rookie Tony Moeaki. Moeaki is already a better blocker than Pope and if he shows consistent hands in training camp he could end up starting. #3 TE Brad Cottam offers little upside. Ryan Succop is the kicker and is in no danger of being replaced after just one season (his rookie season in 2009) in which he showed growth in maturity and accuracy as the season went along.

Oakland Raiders

With Jason Campbell at QB the Raiders are no longer an offensive joke as a passing team. However, the joke has to be somewhere and can be found in the team saying that it will be a competition between Campbell, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, and Kyle Boller for the starting QB job. Campbell is better than the best qualities of all 3 of the others combined into one and will emerge as the starter quickly. As long as Gradkowski recovers in time from a torn pectoral muscle, it’s assumed he will be the backup leaving Frye and Boller to battle it out for the #3 job. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will both battle it out to be the “starter” but unless one of them really wows the coaches in training camp, it’s likely to be an even split RBBC between them. Rock Cartwright and Michael Bennett will battle it out to be the 3rd RB. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens are the starting WR’s, with Louis Murphy locked in as the 3rd. The only thing that could throw a wrench in there is if Schilens recovery from foot surgery suffers a setback. Rookie Jacoby Ford is expected to have a secure grip on the 4th WR spot leaving incumbent veterans Johnnie Lee Higgins and Todd Watkins to battle it out with a cast of misfits to be the 5th WR. TE Zach Miller has to be the happiest man in Oakland. Not only does he have a firm grip as the starting TE, he now gets a legitimate QB (with a history of throwing a lot to his TE’s) throwing him the ball. Miller is a great fantasy football sleeper TE in 2010. Tony Stewart is his backup and is more of a blocking TE. Sebastian Janikowski finally showed some accuracy in addition to his strong leg in 2009 and will be the Raiders kicker again in 2010.

San Diego Chargers

While Phillip Rivers is the unquestioned starter, the trade of Charlie Whitehurst leaves Billy Volek as the unquestioned backup QB. Rookie Jonathan Crompton is the 3rd QB. Rookie Ryan Mathews will be the feature RB and if he shows good hands in training camp he may even get a chance to split 3rd down duties with backup Darren Sproles. Undrafted rookie Shawnbrey McNeal will compete with well traveled Marcus Mason for the #3 RB role. The Chargers are one of the few teams that sometimes does get their FB’s involved and between Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert, they have two solid candidates for goal line carries if necessary. But it would take an injury to Mathews for either of the FB’s to get more than a token carry or catch. Disgruntled WR Vincent Jackson is fully expected to hold out of training camp entirely and since he has a 3 game suspension to start the season, his value is going in the tank. This opens up a tremendous opportunity for fellow starter Malcom Floyd to show he can be capable of being a top WR, while also allowing #3 WR Legedu Naanee to show that he is starter capable. If both show well, it will make the team more open to trading away Jackson. Former first round bust Craig “Buster” Davis and former Buffalo Bill Josh Reed round out the top WR’s. TE Antonio Gates is one of the best and usually only comes out in obvious rushing situations. Randy McMichael, Kris Wilson, and rookie Dedrick Epps will battle for the backup and #3 TE spots. Despite some horrible post-season kicking, Nate Kaeding is one of the best in the regular season and while Nick Novak has some experience, Novak is just there to give Kaeding a breather at times during camp and preseason.