Vacated targets are an important thing to look at year over year in fantasy football. This is the fourth in a series of articles reviewing each team’s vacated targets and the general narrative around what that might mean for 2019 fantasy football production. Some teams lost a lot, some teams lost a little, but no matter what there’s something to learn from looking at the numbers.
2019 Fantasy Football AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs – Vacated Targets: 117 / 21%
The Kansas City Chiefs finished atop the AFC West behind phenom quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Late in the season, they cut star running back Kareem Hunt for off-field issues, but that change didn’t seem to impact their production as a team very much. During the offseason, they lost Chris Conley, Demetrius Harris, and team-hopping veteran Kelvin Benjamin, none of whom are all that fantasy football relevant. While the target share being lost may seem high, odds are good that the Chiefs offensive production will look very similar to last year.
They did add a couple of pieces this off-season, namely RB Carlos Hyde, who will play backup to late-season standout Damien Williams. In addition, Kansas City added WR Mecole Hardman in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The real question for 2019 is what will happen to Hill given his latest off-field issues? If he is suspended, how will it affect the fantasy football production for the rest of the team? Should he avoid a suspension look for him to see 125+ targets again.
If he is forced to ride the bench for multiple weeks, however, it’s highly probable that both Hardman and Sammy Watkins will see an uptick in targets coming their way. It also wouldn’t be a shock to see Hyde see more targets out of the backfield than Williams saw last year, giving Hyde a little more value than he had last year.
Los Angeles Chargers – Vacated Targets: 110 / 22%
The 2018 Los Angeles Chargers started the season by losing their young TE Hunter Henry to an ACL tear, thus forcing the veteran Antonio Gates to come out of retirement to help his old team. I wouldn’t expect that to happen again. Gates and his 45 targets should stay retired this time around. They also lost WR Tyrell Williams to their division rival Oakland Raiders, who saw the remaining 65 targets from Philip Rivers.
Aside from getting a healthy Henry back, who should see 50+ targets at least, all signs point to WR Mike Williams stepping up to see an increase of targets this year as well. Williams’ current ADP projects him to be a solid WR3 with WR2 potential. He is receiving a significant boost for the 2019 fantasy football season after scoring 10 touchdowns in 2018.
Don’t sleep on Travis Benjamin though. It’s been proven that Rivers likes to spread the ball around to WR3s quite a bit. Add in Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, and Austin Ekeler coming back and the lost targets should have plenty of places to call home in 2019.
Denver Broncos – Vacated Targets: 105 / 19%
Halfway through the 2018 season, the Denver Broncos traded away WR Demaryius Thomas before he tore his Achilles in Houston, thereby losing his 56 targets of record. Thomas’ new teammate in New England, TE Matt LaCosse, is also leaving his 37 targets up for grabs. Add in the fact that QB Case Keenum is gone, replaced by veteran QB Joe Flacco, and this offense will look very different in specific areas than last year, at least from a fantasy football standpoint.
The biggest difference is that Flacco is said to favor his tight ends more than Keenum ever did. Lucky for him, the Broncos drafted Noah Fant in the first round to fill that void. Emmanuel Sanders should return from his own Achilles tear and rejoin an improving young WR corps in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. Throw in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman also returning and it shouldn’t be hard to see where the targets will go.
Expect them all to get a small bump but nothing crazy. This is not an overall favorable group to target for solid 2019 fantasy football production.
Oakland Raiders – Vacated Targets: 358 / 68%
Ah, the Oakland Raiders. Easily the team with the most upheaval from 2018 to 2019. For starters, they lost two of their starters: WR Jordy Nelson to retirement and TE Jared Cook to the New Orleans Saints in free agency. Add in the retirement of RB Marshawn Lynch, the trade of WR Amari Cooper, and the suspension of WR Martavis Bryant, and you get the picture. This offense is going to look very different than last year, which isn’t a bad thing.
The biggest addition to the team is obviously the acquisition of stud WR Antonio Brown. Expect him to demand 150 targets right out of the gate. Add rookie RB Josh Jacobs, new WR Tyrell Williams, and sleeper candidate TE Darren Waller, and those lost targets are almost gone already.
Derek Carr now has plenty of weapons at his disposal and therefore not many excuses for losing. Then there are the fireworks that a player like Brown brings to a team already helmed by Jon Gruden. It’s no wonder that HBO picked the Raiders for Hard Knocks this year. Win or lose, this should be a fun team to watch in 2019.
Hit us up on twitter @PFN365 with your thoughts on who will get the lions share of vacated targets for each team in the 2019 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit the Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also visiting our new Fantasy Football section.
Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him @AndrewHallFF on Twitter.