The 4th Down Decision: AFC West

Written by Zach Lyons, co-host of Football & Other F Words and The Flex, “The 4th Down Decision” will look at various fantasy topics from whether you should “Punt” or “Go For It”. When reading the advice please keep in mind: 12-team league, PPR, 6-pt passing TDs. All ADPs based on FantasyPros.com‘s web site.

The AFC West is filled with top-notch fantasy options. The Chiefs are gonna Chief. Drew Lock looks to build upon the end of last year. The Raiders have many weapons. And the Chargers… are kind of all over the place.

Today, I am going to wade through what is real and what is not to help you make sense of these AFC West situations…

Go For It: Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the top-5

  • Current ADP: 16 (2nd Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB11

On July 1st, I wrote about how much I love the fantasy upside of CEH. At the time he was going in the 3rd round. Since that writing, the Kansas City Chiefs have seen Damien Williams opt-out of the 2020 season. It has only bumped CEH up one round in ADP.

I am planting my flag, barring injury, that CEH will end up as a Top-5 RB, and in fact I am so confident in that claim that you shouldn’t wait to draft him in the 2nd round. Draft him in the first round over any of the top flight wide receivers.

It should go: CMC, Ezekiel, Saquon, Henry, then CEH (CEH gets the bump here because I am talking in PPR formats). He looks like he is made of teflon. So far, in camp, he is living up the hype. There are also those “outside factors” that help bump him up for me.

The game script will favor him. While the Chiefs have an explosive offense, they will always have a need to run because when they’re ahead they will want to kill some clock. 

There is also a lack of competition behind him. The second man on the depth chart is Darwin Thompson, and he is not anything to be worried about.

This system is also perfect for someone like CEH, because pretty much anyone can be successful. Look at Damien Williams, the guy is really not a great running back, but this system “made” him. CEH is actually already a really great running back, and so this system could make him elite.

There is one concern, as we saw last year with Josh Jacobs, and that’s hitting the proverbial “rookie wall” as a runner. I think there is concern about that, but I just don’t see why anyone would risk missing on a young running back with such a high floor and even higher ceiling for someone like Joe Mixon or the aforementioned Jacobs, both of whom are being drafted ahead of CEH according to current ADP.

Punt: Melvin Gordon buzz

  • Current ADP: 41 (4th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB20

Everyone falls for training camp buzz. It is hard not to get fooled because everyone loves the excitement and good news after months of no football. However, do not believe any of the Melvin Gordon hype.

For example, in a span of a few days Melvin Gordon went from being a bell cow back, and looking comfortable catching passes, to a guy who admitted he is struggling with the altitude in Denver with Vic Fangio coming out and saying they won’t have a “designated starter”.

Don’t fall for those Rotoworld blurbs; actually click on the articles they come from and read the whole update. When people were praising Melvin Gordon for catching a ton of passes, the same article said he was splitting time with the first team offense 50/50.

Phillip Lindsay is not going to fade away willingly, and by all accounts Lindsay is the better back. I’ve argued repeatedly over the last two years, and I will stand strong on this: Melvin Gordon is not that good.

He is not an efficient running back in the slightest. He requires volume to be relevant, and the volume he got with the Chargers will far surpass to the volume he’ll have in Denver.

I’ve seen this story, I’ve drafted Denver running backs before. It’s maddening. Melvin Gordon is going at least two rounds too high, in my opinion. So I am punting on him.

Punt: Austin Ekeler in the 2nd round

  • Current ADP: 16 (2nd Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB12

This is a take I wavered on. Ultimately it deals with my confidence in him living up to his value, and I do not see it happening. He is going right after CEH in PPR leagues, and really that is too high.

I understand the hype, but this is going to be his first season as a true bellcow back, and sometimes that comes with growing pains as your body adjusts to the new role over the course of a season.

Much like his predecessor, Melvin Gordon, I think he is going two rounds too high. I love Ekeler’s ceiling, but I think there is too much of a risk when it comes to his floor. Are teams going to be scared of Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert? That is key.

If teams are loading up the box, how effective will Ekeler be? There’s just a lot of unknown and uncertainty for me to personally draft him that high. Now, if you go 4th round, I think you’re getting the perfect risk/reward in Ekeler.

There is also Justin Jackson who, while he may not be much of a threat to take the job outright, he is going to steal snaps. He currently has been splitting time with Ekeler at training camp. And while he’s been wholly unremarkable in his chances, it is cause for concern as far as snap distribution goes.

While Jackson may not do much with snaps he is given, we’ve seen this Chargers offense want to split carries enough for it to eat into the RB1’s workload. To me, Ekeler is being drafted as if he is THE workhorse running back, however, he won’t be given the load of a workhorse running back.

That is where my concern has me punting on Austin Ekeler.

Go For It: The value that is the Raiders offense

I’ve had to change my mind about this Raiders offense. As we get closer to fantasy football drafts, I find myself gravitating to certain members of this offense.

Derek Carr is going as the QB27, which makes sense to a degree. I have always viewed Carr as the guy I want to stream when my main QB goes on bye. Really, this will probably remain true, but the weapons around Carr have gotten better.

Gruden believes in Carr. Carr believes in Carr. Reports are right now that the Marcus Mariota hype is dying down, because his only real “dazzling” plays come on the ground. He is still throwing passes in the dirt, missing receivers, etc etc. So to me, the “competition” is currently overblown.

I had a few shares of Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs, and even Carr last year, so I watched a lot more Raiders football than I ever care to, but Carr was not the problem. In fact, he is coming off his second 4,000-yard season in a row. He’s finished way above his ADP each of the last two years, too.

That’s my point: he has been a top-20 QB each of the last two seasons, and yet he is currently going QB27. I’m not saying to draft Carr super high, but keep an eye on him when the season starts. The weapons on that offense are healthier and better than last year. I really think we could see 2016 Carr.

Speaking of weapons, I have totally flipped the script on Bryan Edwards. In a rookie review article, I punted on all the Raiders rookie WRs. I thought the position group was too crowded for anyone of importance to emerge.

Recently, Ian Rapoport reported that Tyrell Williams was going to play the 2020 season with a torn labrum. So with that news you’ll need to start writing this name down repeatedly: Bryan Edwards.

I am here to tell you now that Bryan Edwards is a guy you should target in those later rounds when you’re filling up your bench. He has a low floor that could completely bottom out, but his ceiling is limitless in this offense. He could easily turn into their WR1, and if that happens you got yourself a huge bargain.

I am very close to calling Bryan Edwards one of those rookies that could prove to be a late-season league-winner. 

Have questions? You can reach Zach at zach@broadwaysportsmedia.com.

Love my opinions? Hate my opinions? Leave comments below, and let’s discuss!

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