The AFC West is an underrated defensive division. Here I will breakdown in tiers where the top players land value wise.
The AFC West is in general an underrated conference but especially for IDP players. No team boosted their value more on the defensive side of the ball this off-season than the Oakland Raiders. With some high level edge talent in the conference and a linebacker group that has quietly became one of the strongest of any division. Lets take a look at how the IDP tiers breakdown in the AFC West.
First Level IDP Tiers
Joey Bosa Defensive End – Los Angeles Chargers
2019 Stats: 67 tackles (47 solo), 18 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 1 forced fumbles and 31 QB hits.
Joey Bosa is among the elite pass rushers in the NFL. I have him ranked as my #4 overall defensive end in my rankings for this year, you can read that here. He averages about four tackles per game from the defensive end position which is very good and has 40 sacks, 53 tackles for a loss and 82 QB hits in 51 career games. Joey Bosa is undoubtedly elite and is easily in the top IDP tier.
Derwin James Safety – Los Angeles Chargers
2019 Stats: 34 tackles (23 solo), 3 tackles for a loss and one pass defended. (5 games)
Derwin James missed all but five games with a stress fracture in his foot in 2019. Derwin James is an absolute beast of a safety when on the field. When he came back in 2019, he averaged just under seven tackles per game and plays a hybrid style safety role for the Chargers. He finished 2018 , his rookie season, with 105 tackles, 4 for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 13 passes defended and 3 interceptions. He is my #1 overall ranked defensive back.
Cory Littleton Linebacker- Las Vegas Raiders
2019 Stats: 134 tackles (78 solo), 6 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 9 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries.
Cory Littleton has been a beast since he became a full time starter with the Rams. He has averaged just under 130 tackles per season and has 7.5 sacks, 22 passes defended and 5 interceptions in his two seasons as a full time starter. This season I have Littleton slated for slight regression because he has the best supporting cast, in the middle of the field for 2020, that he has had in his entire time with the Rams. With that said Littleton is still my #7 overall ranked linebacker and belongs in the top IDP tier of fantasy football.
Maxx Crosby Defensive End – Las Vegas Raiders
2019 Stats: 47 tackles (36 solo), 16 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, 4 passes defended, 4 forced fumbles and 14 QB hits.
Maxx Crosby was not expected to be the prize rookie pass rusher that the Raiders drafted last season, that was Clelin Ferrell who the Raiders took 6th overall. Crosby quickly made his presence felt on the field and after three games led all defensive lineman on the team in snaps played. He was narrowly, and I mean narrowly, edged out by Nick Bosa for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019. Crosby currently ranks as my #10 overall defensive lineman in my rankings.
Chris Jones Defensive Tackle – Kansas City Chiefs
2019 Stats: 36 tackles (23 solo), 8 tackles for a loss, 9 sacks, 4 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 20 QB hits.
Chris Jones showed some significant regression last season but it was expected after the addition of Frank Clark, who we will talk about later. Still, Chris Jones is an elite defensive tackle in the NFL. If you watched the Super Bowl you could see how absolutely important he was to the Chiefs 4th quarter comeback. Jones has very active hands at the line and will remain in the top of IDP tiers for defensive tackles.
Tyrann Mathieu Safety – Kansas City Chiefs
2019 Stats: 75 tackles (63 solo), 3 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 12 passes defended and 4 interceptions.
Tyrann Mathieu is such a talented and versatile football player. He is the guy that players like Jamal Adams and Derwin James seem to mold their game after. He has 9 career sacks and 17 career interceptions to go with 61 passes defended while averaging over 5 tackles per game for his career. Every team he plays for, he produces. He is just a true football player.
Justin Simmons Safety – Denver Broncos
2019 Stats: 93 tackles (65 solo), 2 tackles for a loss, 15 passes defended and 4 interceptions.
After a very productive 2018 Justin Simmons dropped an even better 2019 vaulting him into the upper echelon of IDP players. Simmons’ 15 passes defended tied him for 11th, with previously mentioned Tyrann Mathieu, in the NFL. They were the only safeties inside the top 11. Tack on the fact that Simmons just barely missed 100 tackles two consecutive years and his 11 interceptions in 4 seasons proves he belongs in tier one. He comes in as my #9 overall safety.
Second Level IDP Tiers
Kenneth Murray Linebacker – Los Angeles Chargers
2019 Stats (College): 102 tackles (69 solo), 17 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks and 4 passes defended.
Kenneth Murray was the first linebacker selected in the 2020 NFL draft going to the Chargers who traded up to draft him. He is a true sideline to sideline linebacker and has a nose for the football. He even routinely makes his way into the backfield, totaling 257 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks over his final two seasons. The reason he falls to tier two is because the Chargers run so many situational lineups that no single linebacker saw more than 83% of snaps last season. This caps the upside of Murray and being a rookie, with a little unknown, I am being cautious.
Nick Kwiatkoski Linebacker – Las Vegas Raiders
2019 Stats: 76 tackles (56 solo), 8 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, 4 passes defended, 1 interception and a forced fumble.
Nick Kwiatkoski is coming off of a breakout end of 2019. He filled in for the injured Danny Trevathan and did so handsomely. He had 58 tackles, 2 sacks and an interception over his last 8 games. Kwiatkoski showed some solid play-making ability but has yet to start a full 16 game season. Plus he is playing next to Littleton, a perennial 130 tackle guy so my expectations are tempered slightly. He belongs in the middle IDP tiers for fantasy football.
Damarious Randall Safety – Las Vegas Raiders
2019 Stats: 61 tackles (45 solo), 3 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and 6 passes defended. (11 games)
Damarious Randall is a very good safety but his role this year is slightly uncertain. Both he and Jonathan Abram have similar skill sets and Randall may be relegated to free safety duties. Either way, playing this role, Randall already produced 85 plus tackles and is an interception machine. He just misses out on the top IDP tiers group.
Johnathan Abram Safety – Las Vegas Raiders
2019 Stats: 5 tackles (1 solo) and a pass defended. (1 game)
It did not take long for Abram to make his presence felt, showing out with 5 total tackles in his first game action. Unfortunately for him, his aggressiveness landed him on season ending IR. Now he is entering the 2020 season with optimism, but that is all we have at the moment. The potential is there but the sample size is far too small for him to be in the higher IDP tiers.
Frank Clark Defensive End – Kansas City Chiefs
2019 Stats: 37 tackles (27 solo), 12 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, 4 passes defended, 1 interception, 3 forced fumbles a fumble recovery and 14 QB hits.
Frank Clark can make a case for being in the top IDP tiers but he showed some regression moving to a base 3-4 defensive end. He had his second lowest tackle total of his career as a full time starter, plus his lowest sack total and QB hit total since his rookie season. Clark could easily make his way into the top IDP tier but for now he is a high end tier two player.
Bradley Chubb Linebacker – Denver Broncos
2019 Stats: 21 tackles (16 solo), 5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 pass defended and a forced fumble. (4 games)
Bradley Chubb had an unbelievable rookie season with 60 tackles, 14 for a loss and 12 sacks. He formed a remarkable duo with Von Miller and is an elite edge rusher. For leagues that use true position and have him listed as an edge or DL, Chubb is in the IDP tier 1. Unfortunately being an outside linebacker with slightly limited tackle totals has him as an elite tier 2. He is coming off of a torn ACL though he is likely to be 100% and will more than likely be back to old form.
Todd Davis Linebacker – Denver Broncos
2019 Stats: 134 tackles (78 solo), 6 tackles for a loss and a pass defended.
Todd Davis is a heavy tackle guy for the Broncos having averaged about 107 tackles per season over the past four seasons. Unfortunately for him, that is all he produces for the team. Over the same four seasons he has only produced 2 sacks, 11 passes defended and 1 interception. Needless to say he is not a big play-maker. He is also in a contract year and the fact he lacks play-making probably means that the Broncos will not re-up his contract. What he will provide is the big tackle numbers for your team.
A.J. Johnson Linebacker – Denver Broncos
2019 Stats: 93 tackles (51 solo), 5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
A.J. Johnson is along the same lines as Todd Davis. He will provide you some big tackle numbers but he lacks true play-making. Another hit to both Johnson and Todd Davis is the fact they went and drafted Justin Strnad who is already the best linebacker in coverage for the team. I am not sure if either Davis or Johnson are in the team’s long term plans but for now they can boost your tackle numbers.
Third Level IDP Tiers
Melvin Ingram Defensive End – Los Angeles Chargers
2019 Stats: 48 tackles (39 solo), 11 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks, 5 passes defended, 1 interception, a fumble recovery and 12 QB hits.
Melvin Ingram, playing across form Joey Bosa, was a legitimate DE2 and IDP tier level two player. He is entering his 9th season in the NFL and his tackle totals have dropped over the past two years as well as his sack numbers. Is he still relevant, of course, but the days of an every week starter may be behind him.
Clelin Ferrell Defensive End – Las Vegas Raiders
2019 Stats: 38 tackles (24 solo), 8 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 5 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery and 8 QB hits.
Clelin Ferrell is the most underappreciated #6 overall pick in the world. Sure he did not live up the his draft position but it was not like the guy played terrible. He has very active hands at the line and does a great job setting the edge. I expect his sack numbers to go up for 2020 and is one of my sleeper candidates this year. He can easily have a jump in IDP tiers if he can take the next step.
Anthony Hitchens Linebacker – Kansas City Chiefs
2019 Stats: 88 tackles (51 solo), 4 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass defended and a forced fumble.
Hitchens is a guy much like Todd Davis and A.J. Johnson but to a smaller degree. All he does is tackle in run defense but usually leaves the field in passing situations. Still, he holds value with his near 90 tackle seasons allowing him to be a serviceable BYE week filler.
Willie Gay Jr. Linebacker – Kansas City Chiefs
2019 Stats: 28 tackles (18 solo), 3.5 tackles for a loss, 1 pass defended, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries and a touchdown. (5 games)
Willie Gay Jr. was drafted into a linebacker corps that is completely void of any linebacker that can be reliable in coverage. Gay Jr. provides that with great athleticism and instincts. As of now, Gay is behind Damien Wilson and Anthony Hitchens on the depth chart but I fully see him overtaking one of them throughout the season to become a starter.
Rayshawn Jenkins Safety – Los Angeles Chargers
2019 Stats: 54 tackles (34 solo), 2 tackles for a loss, 4 passes defended and 3 interceptions.
Jenkins played in every game last season making three starts. He showcased some play-making ability with his three interceptions and had solid tackle numbers. With Adrian Phillips gone, Jenkins looks to benefit from a full time starter role alongside Derwin James.
Buys – Clelin Ferrell, Willie Gay Jr., Bradley Chubb and Damarious Randall
Sells – Nick Kwiatkoski, A.J. Johnson, Todd Davis, Tyrann Mathieu
That is my breakdown of IDP tiers for the AFC West. Many of the top tier guys are obvious, but I was able to break down some of the lower tier guys and sleepers who can either bring great value or can be excellent sell high candidates. Stay tuned as I will cover the AFC East coming soon.