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Fantasy players to watch in training camp, 2018: AFC West

Oct 22, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) warms up prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

(As training camps draw near, Dan Schneier will spend the next few weeks highlighting some key players to monitor in each division. Whether it’s a rookie, a sleeper, a veteran, or something else, the series will identify the most important names fantasy owners need to keep an eye on in training camp for 2018. Track the whole series here.)

The AFC West was a mixed bag for fantasy football last season. While the Denver Broncos offense completely collapsed under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, the Kansas City Chiefs quickly become a fantasy powerhouse as Alex Smith enjoyed a career year at the age of 33. The Oakland Raiders offense failed to live up to preseason hype, burning Amari Cooper and Marshawn Lynch truthers in the process. The Los Angeles Chargers put together a strong second half as the team adapted to the new offensive scheme under first-year head coach Anthony Lynn.

In 2018, there are major changes on tap for the fantasy landscape of the AFC West. For starters, the Broncos have moved on from McCoy’s complicated scheme and hired NFL retread Bill Musgrave to run the offense. This means power- and gap-blocking schemes and a lot of rushing attempts inside the red zone. The Chiefs traded Smith after his breakout season to make room for gunslinger 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes. The Raiders swapped Michael Crabtree out for Jordy Nelson, but more importantly brought in Jon Gruden to hopefully introduce one of the most quarterback-friendly schemes (see: Jay Gruden in Washington). Lastly, the Chargers offense loses Hunter Henry (ACL) but gains back high-upside offensive guard Forrest Lamp, who suffered a season-ending injury before his 2017 season got underway.

We are coming to the end of our division training camp previews. You can find all the previous divisions here. The goal is to provide you with players to add to your targets list now for season-long leagues, but also with players to target or avoid in best-ball drafts that are currently underway on Draft and MFL. Today, we’re tackling the NFC South.

(Many of the stats and information here has been pulled from our Fantasy Playbook 2018 draft guide, available now for Edge subscribers.)

Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Narrowing it down to one Chief to feature was the most difficult part about tackling the AFC West — this might be the most intriguing fantasy offense in 2018. You pair the proven and dominant offensive scheme and play-calling skills of Andy Reid (yes, in the regular season) with a gunslinger quarterback who has been compared to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, a breakout 2017 rookie running back, one of the most efficient fantasy producers on a per-touch basis in Tyreek Hill, and you also throw Watkins into the mix. While we are certainly intrigued with the fantasy prospects of Mahomes and Hunt (now that Spencer Ware is back in the mix), we believe Watkins has the best chance to rewrite his narrative.

The narrative: Watkins is only a deep threat

Just because the Rams used Watkins as a deep threat to clear out underneath routes and occasionally see deep passing targets doesn’t mean the Chiefs will. Reid’s offensive scheme has West Coast principles, but it’s not all that similar to Sean McVay’s with the Rams. It’s one thing to trade for Watkins on a contract year and it’s another to sign him to a three-year, $48 million contract.

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