As part of the O’Zone’s launch, I’m putting together an eight-part ‘Studs and Duds’ series. These won’t be obvious picks. Anyone can say Adrian Peterson is poised for a big season. I’m here to list players that might not come to mind when thinking of a particular team. I will list one stud and one dud for each NFL team, listing players from one division per article. In this column, I’ll take on the AFC West. Let’s get to it.
Stud: CJ Anderson, running back
Like many running backs, the amount of touches Anderson gets determines his fantasy value. In games where Anderson carried the ball at least 14 times, he averaged nearly 19 fantasy points per game. The Broncos named Trevor Siemian their starting quarterback, who hasn’t attempted a pass in the NFL. The Broncos will likely try to win games with the help of their defense and a heavy dose of CJ Anderson.
Dud: Emmanuel Sanders, running back
Trevor Siemian. That’s the guy who will be throwing the ball to Bronco receivers this season. Who knows, he could shock the world and put up big fantasy performances, but we won’t know until the season starts because his talents are more or less unknown. This makes it incredibly difficult to trust Sanders, considering he’ll be behind Demaryius Thomas on the depth chart.
Kansas City Chiefs
Stud: Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver
Maclin shined in his first season with the Chiefs. He racked up 1,088 receiving yards, the most for a Chiefs player since Dwayne Bowe in 2011. Don’t expect Maclin to finish in the top 10. Maclin finished 16th among receivers last season and ninth the year before that. However, it’s a safe bet that he’ll finish inside the top 20 once again.
Dud: Alex Smith, quarterback
“Game manager” has been a cliché used to describe quarterbacks like Smith. He rarely turns the ball over, attempts mostly short to intermediate passes and lets the running game and defense take care of the rest. Smith is a solid player who is respected throughout the league, but he’s not going to put up huge fantasy numbers on a week-to-week basis.
Stud: Amari Cooper, wide receiver
Cooper outshined the other four receivers who were picked in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft last season, catching 72 passes for over 1,000 yards. Cooper has to get better at holding on to the ball. He dropped a league-high 18 passes last season. Second-year receivers have had a lot of success in the past couple of seasons, including Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and Jarvis Landry. I expect Cooper to do the same with the help of quarterback Derrick Carr, who is coming off the best season of his short career.
Dud: Latavius Murray, running back
DeMarco Murray was expected to have a productive season after signing with the Eagles, but it was the Murray on the west coast who impressed. Murray toted the ball 266 times last season, trailing only two other backs in that category. Unfortunately for Murray, he placed 40th in yards per carry and recorded more than 100 yards in only two games, plus newly drafted DeAndre Washington will cut into Murray’s carries this season. I think Murray is a solid No. 2 running back for your team, but shouldn’t be the first one you select.
San Diego Chargers
Stud: Keenan Allen, wide receiver
In eight games last season, Allen racked up 67 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns. His season was cut short because of a lacerated kidney. Nobody knows if those numbers are sustainable for Allen, but over a 16-game season he would have hauled in 134 catches for 1450 yards and eight touchdowns. Allen will resume duties as Phillip Rivers’ No. 1 option this year so we’ll get a chance to see what Allen can do for a full season if he stays healthy.
Dud: Danny Woodhead, running back
The Chargers’ offensive line was decimated by injuries last season, severely hindering Melvin Gordon’s success in his rookie year. The line simply couldn’t open up enough holes to run through, which resulted in an offensive attack that included a lot of dump-offs to Woodhead. He racked up 81 receptions last year but that figure should decline with the improvement of San Diego’s line. I expect Gordon to have a breakout season, leaving fewer touches for Woodhead.