AFC West Notes: Is Keenan Allen Worth the Price?

San Diego

What’s next for Keenan Allen? After a tremendous 2013 rookie season where the WR out of Cal had 1,046 receiving yards, just the 8th time in NFL history where a rookie WR had more than 1,000 receiving yards in their rookie season, Allen is looking to be even better. While he’s not busy doing sprints on the hill near the Charger’s practice facility, he’s pushing tires around or doing wind sprints to improve his speed, and he’s showing up hours before the start of practice to practice his footwork.

ESPN SPORTS

ESPN SPORTS

Allen, who scored the 17th most points among WRs last season, is no longer going to be flying under the radar in 2014. Allen caught more than 67% of passes thrown his way, and had a staggering 10.0 yards per target, which was behind only Josh Gordon (10.4) and Jordy Nelson (10.3) among the top 30 WRs. Perhaps the most comforting thing drafters know about Allen’s impressive rookie season was how consistent he was. After a rough start to the season (he missed Week 1), Allen played very well the rest of the way. Between games 5 and 8, Allen was the 4th highest scoring WR. In games 9 to 12, he was the 25th best, and then in games 13-16, he was 10th best. He finished the season strong, finishing as the 10th best scoring WR in the playoffs. Allen posted starter worthy stats for nearly the entire season, and was even better in PPR formats.

Allen is currently the 13th ranked WR on fantasypros.com, and 31st overall. While his numbers in his rookie year indicate that he’s got staying power in the league, I don’t feel comfortable paying that kind of price (late 2nd/early 3rd round) in a position that is so deep and proven. He’s currently ranked around guys like Randall Cobb, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, all whom I would take ahead of Allen. Allen is in the WR2 conversation, and maybe his cost will come down as we get closer to the start of the season, but at this current price, I’m not going to have very many shares of him this year.

 

Denver

Wes Welker turned 33 on May 1st, and is now the ninth-oldest receiver in the league. He suffered two concussions last year within 21 days of each other, and his contract is set to expire at the end of this year. This may very well be Welker’s last season in Denver, and perhaps his career. Denver has already gone ahead and signed his replacement – Emmanuel Sanders – and drafted a receiver for the future in Cody Latimer, but Welker is still focused on being productive in 2014.

Welker hauled in 8 TDs to start the NFL season last year, leading the NFL through 6 games. Unfortunately, he caught just three TDs the rest of the way, including playoffs, with said concussions keeping him from being effective. He missed multiple games for the first time in his career since 2008. He also didn’t have a single game with over 100 receiving yards. The question is, what will 2014 look like for the speedy wideout?

Wes Welker may be done after 2014, but does he have a productive year left? Rich Kane/ICON SMI

Wes Welker may be done after 2014, but does he have a productive year left? (Rich Kane/ICON SMI)

Welker’s fantasy value won’t be tied to his yardage. Competing against the other Denver options in Peyton Manning‘s offense means Welker won’t blow you away with high receiving totals, but he should still be able to produce in the red zone. He was clearly Manning’s favorite option to start the year last season, and with Eric Decker off to Gotham City, there’s going to be even more work for Welker to do inside the 20. Welker’s age and injury plagued 2013 may cause some drafters to be wary, but I’d still take him as a the 12th-15th WR off the board.

Oakland

Despite Matt Schaub having one of his worst seasons of his career in 2013, after getting traded to the Oakland Raiders, he immediately became the best QB option for the Silver and Black. When you take a totality of what happened in Texas last year, and yes that includes throwing a pick-six in four straight games, I believe Schaub still has some good football left. According to ProFootballFocus’ QB rating, which takes into account dropped passes, throw aways, spikes and yards in the air, Schaub finished between 6th and 11th overall for four straight years between 2008 and 2012. Schaub’s 2013 season was clearly an outlier, perhaps due to a combination of his ankle injury and poor offensive line play. With his injury behind him, let’s take a look at the offensive line he’ll be playing behind.

Was Matt Schaub's 2013 season an outlier, or the start of a trend? (D. Ross Cameron)

Was Matt Schaub’s 2013 season an outlier, or the start of a trend? (D. Ross Cameron)

Oakland ranked 14th in pass blocking efficiency (PBE) in the past two seasons, and despite losing LT Jared Veldheer, they brought in Austin Howard from the Jets, who ranked 31st in PBE compared to Veldheer’s 37th. Schaub was clearly bothered by getting hit so many times as well as his ankle, which caused him to make poor decisions and led a miserable season. While the receiving core of James Jones, Denarius Moore and Rod Streater doesn’t compare to Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and Owen Daniels, it isn’t a bad group of guys to be throwing to either.

Schaub definitely deserves the benefit of the doubt after last year, and should be a stabilizing QB to a franchise that has seen 9 different starters since 2007.

 

 

Kansas City

The biggest news out of Kansas City thus far is the contract situation of Alex Smith. Smith, who was traded for from the 49ers two seasons ago for what turned out to be two 2nd round picks, helped stabilize the Chiefs and led them to their second playoff appearance since 2010. Smith is fresh off a season where he threw for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns, and is looking for a contract similar to the one Jay Cutler signed in January (seven years, 126.7 million dollars). The question is whether or not he deserves that type of money.

Smith, who has thrown for more than 3,000 yards just twice and threw for 20 or more touchdowns just once in his nine-year career, seems to be asking for quite a bit. Though the adversity which he faced early in his career can likely explain why he struggled so much before meeting Jim Harbaugh, Smith has not shown that he succeed outside of his comfort zone. Both Harbaugh and current head coach Andy Reid have placed offensive systems that play to Smiths strengths: quick decisions and protecting the football. While fantasy and real life football are different, here are just a few things a top tier QB must be able to provide. 

Alex Smith made his first Pro Bowl in 2013 (USATSI)

Alex Smith made his first Pro Bowl in 2013 (USATSI)

 

Heading into 2014, the Chiefs will figure out a lot about themselves. They had a relatively easy schedule in 2013, but in 2014 they have the 7th toughest schedule based on last seasons winning percentages. Factor in the potential holdouts of key defensive players Justin Houston and Brandon Flowers, and a lot more pressure may be placed on Smith. I don’t blame the Chiefs for being hesitant about paying big money to a guy who has succeeded under good circumstances, but at the same time, the amount of adversity Smith had to go through to make it to this point makes him someone dear to me. Unfortunately, sentiment in the NFL doesn’t win you football games.

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