IDP Divisional Preview: AFC West
Dynasty Tripp from Footballguys stops by to talk about the IDPs you need to know from the most exciting division in football.
We turn our attention to perhaps the most exciting division in football: the AFC West. Yes, it’s the QBs that make this division spicy, but we’re not talking about them in this article! Instead, we’re going to focus on the IDP sleepers, breakouts, and busts for the Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers. Dynasty Tripp helped us break down this division on the podcast episode, which you can listen to at the link below.
In written form, we’re kicking things off in the Mile High City.
Breakout: Josey Jewell
Jewell re-signed on a two-year, $11 million contract and is going to wear the green dot this season. His competition is guys like Alex Singleton (gross), Joe Schobert (signed and cut a week later), and Jonas Griffith, who’s recovering from an elbow injury. Former Bronco AJ Johnson but the team hasn’t signed him back, which may say something about Johnson, but definitely says they’re confident in Jewell.
Best of all, despite a steady drumbeat all offseason, Jewell is still a free square in drafts, being taken in the LB50-60 range. That’s stealing a top 24 LB.
Sleeper: D.J. Jones
Let’s talk about another DT! Jones started his career eating blocks for DeForest Buckner, then netted a big free agent deal from Denver on the back of his improved play as an interior disruptor opposite Javon Kinlaw in the post-Buckner years.
Now he’s replacing Shelby Harris, who started his career in a similar way: eating blocks for guys, then posting 6 sacks in 2019 and 2021 (at age 30). Despite Vic Fangio being gone, this defense will still operate very similarly since Ejiro Evero is a Fangio disciple, having come from the Rams under then DC Brandon Staley. Jones has a decent tackle floor, with 56 last year, and he’s shown pass rush juice. Best of all, he’s often undrafted, so scoop him up off waivers if he’s out there.
Kansas City Chiefs
Sleeper: Frank Clark
As Jon Macri and Kyle Bellefeuil said on their most recent Big Nickel episode: “Spags hates IDP.” That might be true, but it baffles me how Frank Clark is being completely ignored by the IDP community. In multiple IDP bestballs, he was the last or the second to last 4-3 DE taken, despite being set to play roughly 800 snaps this season.
If you look at his numbers, I get it: we’ve seen a steady downward trend. Managers are feeling burned by what Clark has admitted was less than a stellar effort in recent seasons. He’s apparently rededicated himself to his craft and he’s looking to get paid, plus in preseason action, he’s clearly a starting DE for Kansas City.
This team generally plays downhill, so the pass rush opportunities will be there, and I expect the finishing rate to regress to the mean a bit after getting just 10.5 sacks in 2020 and 2021. With a price tag of DL90, I’m happy to throw a dart on Clark.
Sleeper: Justin Reid
The common narrative is the Chiefs will play a lot of 2 high safety, they’re going to have somebody else be the dime linebacker from the safety position, and that player is probably Bryan Cook, the rookie. So that’s not great for Justin Reid, right?
Well, when I looked at how they deployed Tyrann Mathieu, it wasn’t ideal for IDP, but it was decent. It wasn’t like he was sitting back all the time as the deep safety. That was Juan Thornhill’s role. So I think there’s an opportunity for Reid, who’s shown some tackle efficiency in the past and some ability to make some plays, to come in and be productive in a role that does allow him to move all over the field.
And with Cook, he’s not going to play anywhere near the number of snaps as a rookie as Daniel Sorenson has in the past couple years. I think the workload for the third safety, the Sorenson role, will be reduced. This means somebody’s going to pick that production up, and Reid is an interesting sleeper to grab some of that.
Las Vegas Raiders
Bust: Denzel Perryman
I was quite blown away a couple days ago to realize that he was projected to finish with more fantasy points than any other linebacker by PFF in their projections. I’m in a pretty different place on Denzel Perryman. He’s a player that I’ve liked for a long time. He’s a guy that plays with esteem and he has the attitude and character to go with it. He is also a guy that’s never played full-time in his career. He played 83% of the snaps last year for Gus Bradley and put up a huge tackle rate of roughly 18%.
So now he has another defensive coordinator. I can’t really imagine that if four other defensive coordinators didn’t think he was a full-time player, this new one (Patrick Graham) would. With Perryman going on 30, that strikes me as odd.
The second thing is, I really believe that tackle rates have more to do with scheme than player. So I don’t think that Denzel Perryman can carry an 18% tackle rate with him from year-over-year, so given those two things together, I really struggle to see how he’s going to get anywhere near LB1 or even top 20. In my mind, I see him as a better second linebacker for Las Vegas than for your fantasy team.
Breakout: Bilal Nichols
The way I play IDP, I don’t ever land studs because I’m always drafting offense, so I’m always looking for guys that I can get inexpensively. Bilal Nichols fits the bill.
He lands into a really interesting position on the Raiders defense with Patrick Graham. He is the only designated interior disruptor they have on their roster, and if you look at the history of Graham’s defenses, you see some huge numbers from this particular position. Most recently, of course, was Leonard Williams with the Giants, who put 18 sacks and 138 tackles over the past two seasons.
You’d be shooting for the moon to expect Nichols to put up those kinds of numbers, but even if he puts up two-thirds of that, he’s still highly relevant in DT-required leagues. He has a high chance of being a set-it-and-forget-it at that position.
Los Angeles Chargers
Sleeper: Sebastian Joseph-Day
What I like about Joseph-Day is that, in the last two years, he has had a 13-15% run stop percentage, while most players are well below 10%. Yes, he missed the second half of last year because he got hurt, but in the one and a half years that he was out there, he’s just piling up tackles for the Rams. Now he’s joining the Chargers this year with Brandon Staley and will be playing pretty much the same scheme.
He’ll line up between Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, and if you look at who they have in the middle at linebacker, I really think they want the defensive line to try to make tackles rather than rely on those linebackers (see below for more on that).
Bust: Kenneth Murray
I think Murray’s goose is cooked. The Chargers brought in Kyle Van Noy as a second-wave free agent and are excited about him, so he’ll be in a starting role. Murray got hurt, missed time, and now it’s Tranquill and Van Noy locked in as their starters. There’s hope that Murray can come in and contribute as the third guy. He played some outside linebacker snaps last year and I think they’re hoping that he can show a little inside/outside flexibility, which he’ll need to do to get on the field.
Bottom line: Murray is a holdover from a previous regime, had offseason surgery, and is possibly 4th string (hello, Troy Reeder) to begin the year. That’s a bust, folks.
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