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The AFC West has only one blue chip fantasy QB this season, another potential starter, and two more who should only be thought of only as last alternatives.
1. Phillip Rivers
The decline of LaDainian Tomlinson’s health and numbers, coupled with the fact that the Chargers were often playing from behind and forced to pass, allowed Rivers to enjoy his finest fantasy football season to date, finishing with over 4,000 yards and 34 TDs.
This year, his stock will be high once again. He has a very strong supporting cast, including a receiver on the rise, Vincent Jackson, favorable weather in his home park, and an incredibly easy division.
Expect another 3,500 yard plus season with 27-30 TDs.
2. Matt Cassel
The jury is still very much out on Matt Cassel. Although he did an admirable job filling in for Tom Brady, leading the Pats to 11 wins and throwing for over 3,500 yards and 21 TDs, he did have Bill Belichick masterminding the game plan, and receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker to throw to.
Things are different in KC. Future Hall Of Famer Tony Gonzalez is no longer there, but rising star Dwayne Bowe is. Add in a savvy offensive-minded coach in Todd Haley and it gives you reason to believe he’ll reach 3,000 yards with 17-20 TDs.
3. Kyle Orton
In 2008 as Bear, Orton put together a respectable season and threw for more than 2,900 yards and 18 TDs. And he did it without much help from the receiver position. This year, he finds himself being called upon to run Josh McDaniels’ system, which calls for short, safe passes, and long, methodical drives.
In theory this is good for a team; it’s just not a strategy you want from your fantasy QB. There are other issues that need to be resolved with WR Brandon Marshall and TE Tony Scheffler, both who have asked for off season trades.
Overall, expect between 2,600-2,900 yards and 16-19 TDs as McDaniels will rely heavily on Moreno.
4. JaMarcus Russell
It’s coming pretty close to sink or swim time for Russell. The top overall draft pick in 2007, who Lane Kiffin was against drafting, saw his rookie campaign go to waste after a holdout and year two fare slightly better. He ended with 2,400 yards and 13TDs.
The Raiders went out and grabbed speedy receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey in this year’s draft with the hope of providing more weapons for the strong armed QB to throw to. Look for just between 2,500-2,700 yards and an increase to 16 TDs.
Rivers has firmly entrenched himself as a top fantasy QB in 2009 and will be selected most likely between round’s three through five. Cassel still has to prove himself, and will probably go after round ten as someone’s number two QB, but could prove an excellent sleeper pick. Same goes for Orton who can be had towards the end of the draft and it’s probably a prudent decision to leave Russell off your roster.