AFC West fantasy football preview: Player outlooks, breakouts and sleepers

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) and tight end Travis Kelce (87) stretch during NFL football training camp Saturday, July 29, 2023, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The AFC West was the most hyped division heading into 2022, and while there’s not as much excitement heading into this season, there’s still plenty of talent led by the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes.

While Mahomes and the Chiefs offense are the gold standard, there are several valuable players for fantasy football on the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders, and we’ve broken down all four teams along with breakout candidates and sleepers.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs offense didn’t miss a beat in 2022 despite being without Tyreek Hill, as Mahomes was stronger than ever and should once again be the top scoring fantasy quarterback in 2023. The running game was solidified with Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon forming a solid duo, and they return as the primary options with Clyde Edwards-Helaire appearing to have fallen out of favor. The receiving corps is still a work in progress, but Skyy Moore appears in line for a breakout with Kadarius Toney likely out to start the season with a knee injury, so rookie Rashee Rice could see more targets than expected early on along with veterans Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Richie James. Tight end Travis Kelce will be the primary receiving option once again and has shown no signs of slowing down, forcing backups Noah Gray and Jody Fortson to be left fighting for scraps.

Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert took a step statistically last season, but he should return to form in 2023 thanks to new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore opening up the playbook. Austin Ekeler was the top running back in fantasy football last season, and while his numbers could dip somewhat with more downfield passing likely, he’s got a stranglehold on the backfield with backups Isaiah Spiller and Joshua Kelley struggling to see the field. Keenan Allen will once again be Herbert’s primary receiving threat if healthy, and he’ll be complemented by a pair of big targets in Mike Williams and Quentin Johnston, with Joshua Palmer still around in case injuries creep up on Allen or Williams again. Gerald Everett had a solid season as the primary receiving tight end, but he likely won’t be fantasy relevant most weeks with the addition of Johnston.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos offense should be much improved in 2023 with Sean Payton in the building and help Russell Wilson return to being relevant. The offense projects to be run heavy with talented runner Javonte Williams leading the backfield, but he’s coming off a serious knee injury to where veteran Samaje Perine should see more of the early season work. Jerry Jeudy should lead the way in the receiving department, with Courtland Sutton and rookie Marvin Mims also set to play important roles with Tim Patrick out for the season. Payton’s offenses tend to feature the tight end position, so incumbent Greg Dulcich should have a solid season as the primary receiving threat unless newcomer Adam Trautman takes an unexpected step forward.

Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders offense is a mystery heading into 2023 with Jimmy Garoppolo, but he should perform well enough if healthy to prevent things from turning into a train wreck. The biggest issue is Josh Jacobs’ situation, as the star running back is holding out after failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension to where Zamir White could take over the backfield if Jacobs ends up sitting out or playing elsewhere. Davante Adams is still a trustworthy receiver despite the question marks surrounding him, with Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow battling it out for reps behind him. Rookie tight end Michael Mayer should also be involved as a receiver, but his upside is somewhat capped due to the presence of veteran Austin Hooper.

TOP DRAFT DAY TARGETS

Travis Kelce, Chiefs TE: Kelce is an obvious target, but there are still drafts where he slips into the back half of the first round despite offering the largest positional advantage in all of fantasy football. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge in round one.

Keenan Allen, Chargers WR: The Chargers passing game should be more efficient in 2023, and Allen is still Justin Herbert’s primary target and is a bargain in drafts since he’s still among the most reliable receivers in fantasy when healthy.

Justin Herbert, Chargers QB: Herbert is coming off a down season after setting the bar extremely high in his first two seasons, but he should return to form thanks to a new offensive coordinator and an improved supporting cast.

Jerry Jeudy, Broncos WR: Jeudy is the undisputed No. 1 receiving option in the new-look Broncos offense that should be much more efficient in 2023, so he appears to be in line for career-high numbers across the board assuming he can stay healthy.

TOP DRAFT DAY SLEEPERS

Samaje Perine, Broncos RB: Perine should have a significant role all season even if Javonte Williams rebounds quicker than expected, as Sean Payton’s offenses typically use multiple running backs.

Skyy Moore, Chiefs WR: The Chiefs lost JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency, and Moore profiles as an ideal replacement in the slot, which is a role that garners consistent targets from Patrick Mahomes and should lead to quality fantasy production most weeks.

Zamir White, Raiders RB: Josh Jacobs’ uncertain status is great news for White’s fantasy prospects, as the Raiders doesn’t have much in the way of competition to where White will be in line for a large workload if Jacobs doesn’t end up on the field for the Raiders.

Marvin Mims, Broncos WR: Veteran Tim Patrick is out for the season, so the rookie Mims will be asked to start in three-wide receiver sets right away and could carve out a significant role as someone that was drafted by Sean Payton.

OTHER FANTASY FOOTBALL DIVISIONAL PREVIEWS

AFC North

AFC East

AFC South

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