The AFC West featured the rare breakout performer in 2015, but more times than not, this division was a source of fantasy sorrow. For every Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree, there was a Peyton Manning, Emmanuel Sanders, C.J. Anderson, and so on and so forth, and that was just Denver’s bad sides. Injuries played a role in the Chargers’ demise. Even the one breakout offense (Raiders) came back to earth in the second half of the season.
In 2016, with the exception of the Chargers, the offensive lines have beefed up across the board. Will this lead to more consistency? Time will tell. But we know there are major expectations for running backs like C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles.
This is the seventh of eight NFL divisions in which we are pinpoint four to five players per division to track during training camp and the preseason (catch up on the divisions so far here). From now until the start of the season, the only real information we’ll need to gather is about a player’s role and chemistry within his offense. Let’s jump in.
Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders
Sure, you can make the argument that Murray’s 2015 training camp was just as important, but now he has some real competition in the form of 2016 draft pick DeAndre Washington. Last camp, Murray’s competition Roy Helu was injured and Taiwan Jones was never a threat for early-down work. Now, Murray has to prove that he’s better than his 4.0 2015 yards per carry and 42nd-best overall grade (among running backs with at least 25 percent of their teams’ carries) would suggest. Because there’s a lot to like about whoever ends up getting touches in Oakland. The Raiders added road-grader Kelechi Osemele — our fifth-best run-blocking guard in 2015. We saw what kind of effect adding a dominant run-blocking guard could have in 2015 when the Cardinals signed Mike Iupati and jumped from 25th-best to thirrd-best in run0blocking. Derek Carr’s progression and a stronger defense also play in favor of whoever ends up as Oakland’s lead back.
The narrative: Murray is the starter in a better situation than 2015