Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Chiefs Fantasy Preview

Friday, June 29, 2018


Chiefs Offensive Profile Under Andy Reid

2014-2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 28th, 29th, 25th, 17th
2014-2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 16th, 12th, 14th, 23rd
2014-2017 Play Volume Rank: 29th, 31st, 27th, 24th
2014-2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 17th, 12th, 16th, 2nd
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017: 532 (27th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017: 66 (21st)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Pat Mahomes
RB: Kareem Hunt
WR: Tyreek Hill
WR: Sammy Watkins
WR: Demarcus Robinson
TE: Travis Kelce
LT: Eric Fisher
LG: Bryan Witzmann
C: Mitch Morse
RG: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT: Mitchell Schwartz

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Passing Game Outlook

Pat Mahomes’ lone rookie-year appearance came at Denver in Week 17, facing the Broncos’ first-string defense without Kansas City’s first-team offense. The Chiefs’ running game and defense hogged touchdowns, but Mahomes engineered a 27-24 road win with Demarcus Robinson, Albert Wilson, and Demetrius Harris as his top receivers, accounting for 299 yards and making powerful throws deep down the middle with pinpoint placement for run-after-catch opportunities. At 6-foot-2, 225, Mahomes is a cannon-armed dual threat who scored 22 rushing TDs in two seasons as Texas Tech’s starter now inheriting an offense that ranked sixth in points per game last year under the tutelage of quarterback whisperer Andy Reid. The Chiefs added Sammy Watkins, and their defense looks the worst it has on paper in at least five years, enhancing Kansas City’s shootout-game probability. Negatives include Mahomes’ inexperience and Reid’s historically ball-control style; Kansas City has never finished above 16th in offensive plays per game or 17th in pass attempts in Reid’s five years as head coach. Nevertheless, Mahomes’ mouth-watering upside makes him worth drafting anywhere in the double-digit rounds.

Tyreek Hill seamlessly transitioned from exciting 2016 gadget player into dominant 2017 “Z” receiver, finishing sixth among wideouts in PFF’s predictive Yards Per Route Run metric (2.35) and seventh in the NFL in receiving yards (1,183) despite ranking 29th in targets (105). Incredibly, each of Hill’s last 13 TDs have come from 30 or more yards out, including all eight of his 2017 scores. He drew just four red-zone targets all last year. Hill will struggle to maintain his trend of “skipping the red zone,” but he’s also more equipped to score in lower-probability ways with 4.29 jets and ever-improving route running after coming out of college raw. More concerning is Hill’s usage with Watkins commanding targets and a new quarterback whose aggressiveness theoretically suits Hill but with whom there is no in-place rapport. Hill should maintain high weekly ceilings, but his production is likely to involve more variance. I like him better as a best-ball than re-draft pick.

All in on spread offense with Texas Tech alum Mahomes at quarterback after leading the NFL in Run-Pass-Option (RPOs) percentage (18.1%) last year, the Chiefs aggressively made Sammy Watkins the league’s fourth-highest-paid receiver at $16 million per year. Watkins never meshed with Jared Goff after the 2017 Rams acquired Watkins one month before Week 1, securing just 3-of-15 targets traveling 20-plus yards downfield despite dropping zero of those throws. (Watkins, in fact, didn’t drop a pass all season.) He did score eight TDs, played 15 games for the first time since Watkins’ 2014 rookie year, and showed up as exceptionally fast in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Game Speed charts, particularly in the 10-23-yard and 35-plus-yard ranges. Whereas Watkins had to learn Sean McVay’s offense on the fly, he gets a full offseason to build timing with Mahomes in K.C. Hill remains the surer thing, but it’s not crazy to suggest Watkins could equal or beat him in targets. Watkins is one of my favorite middle-round WR3/4 picks.

 

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Lead competitors for sub-package snaps are WRs Demarcus Robinson, De’Anthony Thomas, and Chris Conley, and No. 2 TE Demetrius Harris. With Conley recovering from a torn Achilles’ and Thomas a broken leg, I penciled in Robinson at No. 3 receiver entering camp. Robinson struggled in eight 2017 starts, however, managing a lowly 53.8% catch rate with 10.1 yards per reception and just 0.58 yards per route run (PFF), the NFL’s fourth-lowest mark among receivers with at least 30 targets. Robinson’s Game Speed was barely average. The Chiefs make heavy use of two-tight end sets, so Harris played 48% of their 2017 offensive snaps. For what it’s worth, Harris gained a career-high 73 yards in Mahomes’ Week 17 start. Harris would offer streamer appeal if Travis Kelce went down.

Since redshirting his rookie season after microfracture knee surgery, Travis Kelce hasn’t missed a game due to injury in four straight years. His targets per game (5.4 > 6.4 > 7.3 > 8.1) have risen each season, and he's finished Nos. 2, 5, 1, and 3 among tight ends in PFF’s Predictive Yards Per Route Run metric. Kelce was a top-two fantasy tight end in 2016 and 2017, ranking second (85) and first (83) at his position in catches. Last year, Kelce ran a career-high 49.3% of his routes in the slot, a number that seems likely to climb with slot WR Albert Wilson’s departure. Quarterback change and added target competition keep Kelce below Rob Gronkowski in my tight end rankings, but he’s not far off. I think Kelce is worth drafting anywhere in the third round of 10- and 12-team re-draft leagues.

Running Game Outlook

Kareem Hunt ran away with rookie-year feature back duties after Spencer Ware’s preseason PCL/LCL tear, leading the NFL in rushing yards (1,327) and finishing No. 4 of 53 backs in PFF’s Elusive Rating. An elite tackle breaker, Hunt led all running backs in yards after contact (839) and missed tackles forced (61). Even after Hunt finished 11th among running backs in catches (53), the Chiefs believe he has room for receiving growth. “We probably need to expand on his role in the pass game,” Reid said at February’s Combine. One early problem was Hunt’s pass protection, but he improved as 2017 progressed. Fantasy owners also recall an unlucky Weeks 6-13 stretch where Hunt failed to score a single TD. Potentially more concerning are off-field issues involving a 19-year-old woman claiming Hunt assaulted her in February and a man saying Hunt punched him at an Ohio resort in early June. No arrests were made in the former incident, and the man declined to press charges. Much like Ezekiel Elliott’s situation last year, this is a troubling pattern worth noting. For now, Hunt is my No. 8-ranked fantasy running back behind Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, and Melvin Gordon.

Spencer Ware’s PCL/LCL tear is considered far more significant than more-common ACL/MCL injuries. Ware did participate at minicamp on a limited basis, and Reid said afterward he expects Ware to be “okay” for training camp. If Ware isn’t ready or his knee limits his effectiveness, the Chiefs could cut him and save $1.5 million under the cap. Charcandrick West returns as the Chiefs’ incumbent No. 2 back after averaging 17.1 snaps per game last year. More of a role player/breather back, West never exceeded eight touches in a game and isn’t a player the coaches try to scheme the ball. Ex-Dolphins RB Damien Williams missed most of offseason workouts recovering from shoulder surgery. Williams offers passing-game functionality, but he was a low-efficiency producer in Miami, averaging 3.59 yards per carry and catching between 20 and 23 passes all four years there. Ex-Cardinals RB Kerwynn Williams is also in the hunt for No. 2 back duties. Williams has made no NFL passing-game impact, but he was an efficient runner (4.45 YPC) in Arizona and was healthier than Ware and Damien Williams this spring.

2018 Vegas Win Total

The Chiefs’ Win Total opened at 8.5 with -120 odds to the under. Reid’s teams have won nine games or more all five years in Kansas City. Working against K.C. is a schedule Warren Sharp rated fifth toughest in football, including a brutal Weeks 1-6 opening stretch where the Chiefs visit the Chargers, Steelers, Broncos, and Patriots with home games against the Jaguars and Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers mixed in. Kansas City draws the NFL’s second-toughest schedule of opposing defenses, potentially creating a rocky road in Mahomes’ first year as starter. The defense has the most question marks of the Reid era. The Chiefs do have positive-regression factors working in their favor after going 3-6 in one-score games. I think Kansas City will be a high-variance shootout team based on their personnel construction. I’m going with the higher-payout odds on the over. If the odds dictated a better payout on the Chiefs’ under at 8.5 wins, I would have gone in that direction.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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