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Patrick Mahomes
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Team Previews

Chiefs Fantasy Preview

by John Daigle
Updated On: August 15, 2019, 7:04 pm ET

2018 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 6,810 yards (1st)
Offensive Touchdowns: 66 (1st)
Offensive Plays: 996 (23rd)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 609 (12th)
Rush Attempts: 387 (23rd)
Unaccounted for Targets: 148 (11th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 235 (3rd)

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Coaching Staff

The Chiefs decidedly ran it back with their play-calling staff for another year following 2018’s league-high marks in total yards (6,810), touchdowns (66) and yards per play (6.84), among other tallies. Overshadowing the team’s presumed offensive success this upcoming season is Andy Reid’s methodical grind-it-out style which, prior to last year, had never pinned the Chiefs’ O in the top half of the league in either pass attempts or plays per game during the head coach’s six-year tenure; Kansas City still merely ranked 23rd in the latter category last season. Whereas the team buoyed an on-paper shambles on the defensive side of the ball into weekly back-and-forth fireworks, GM Brett Veach brought in defensive stalwart Steve Spagnuolo and made a notable investment in acquiring former first-round ILB Darron Lee, former second-round standout DE Frank Clark, do-it-all chess-piece Tyrann Mathieu, and DE Alex Okafor over the offseason, all but ensuring worse offensive game scripts for Kansas City in ’19. Warren Sharp additionally prognosticated the Chiefs facing the league’s toughest schedule this upcoming year, theoretically placing the cherry atop their offensive regression’s cake.

Passing Game

QB: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
WR: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman
WR: Sammy Watkins, Byron Pringle
WR: Demarcus Robinson, Gehrig Dieter
TE: Travis Kelce, Neal Sterling

Sculpting only the second 50-touchdown, 5,000-yard campaign in NFL history last year, Patrick Mahomes gave the Patriots’ dynasty all it could handle in a thrilling 37-31 “arctic blast” overtime loss in the AFC Championship Game only to walk away as the unanimous Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player in just his first season engineering Reid’s explosive offense. Although his other-worldly arm strength combined with highlight-reel no-look passes suggest a gunslinger mentality, Arrowhead’s Own consistently read through his progressions in quietly attempting the fourth-lowest rate (12.2%) of throws into tight windows (defender within one yard or less of the receiver) among the 39 qualifiers with at least 128 pass attempts in Next Gen Stats’ Aggressiveness metric. Even so, no previous QB1 in fantasy has repeated as such the following year since Daunte Culpepper did so in ’03 – ’04, and Mahomes’ unsustainable 8.6% touchdown rate is one streamlined for regression — especially given the average 2.4% drop-off the previous 15 signal-callers who notched a rate 7.0 percent or higher experienced in their follow-up campaigns. Projections maven Sean Koerner forecasted the 23-year-old with a median projection of 36.5 passing touchdowns, nearly 14 fewer than last year’s league-leading total. Mahomes’ stratospheric talent could ultimately help him buck all trends and repeat as fantasy’s QB1 at season’s end, but his current mid-third average draft position is an easy value-based fade all things considered. Outside of 2-quarterback leagues, I wouldn’t touch him prior to the fifth round.

Honed-in on for a league-high 41 deep targets (20-plus yards) in his first year playing with Mahomes, Tyreek Hill added consistency to his field-flipping resume as he finished with career-highs in target share (23.6%) and Yards Per Route Run (2.54), trailing only Albert Wilson (3.03), Julio Jones (2.93), and Michael Thomas (2.66) in the latter category last season. Despite being barred from offseason activities in the wake of child abuse allegations, any argument against Kansas City’s offensive regression would have to include Hill playing all 16 games as taking him off the field to start the year would leave the Chiefs with the third-most available targets (285) and a team-high share of air yards (1,898) missing from last season’s production. My educated guess is that the 25-year-old ultimately misses four games, giving him bold cross-your-fingers value at his current 5th/6th-round ADP. I’ve been drafting him slightly earlier than that in deep-league and Best-Ball Championship formats as a high-ceiling contrarian option.

Having previously seen at least 22% of his targets 20-plus yards downfield in his four seasons with the Bills and Rams, Sammy Watkins’ 8.91 average depth of target in his first year with the Chiefs fell nearly eight yards shy of his career mark (15.2) as his 4.43 40-time was prioritized underneath and over the middle of the field, in particular within five yards of the line of scrimmage where he hauled in 32-of-40 targets for 307 yards and three scores. While any Hill blowback could force Reid’s hand in opening Watkins’ route tree, the simple solution is scaling back Mahomes’ league-high 92 pass attempts downfield and instead reverting to shorter routes and production after the catch, which Watkins already flashed for a career-high average in YAC per Reception (5.9) just last year. Having missed 18 of a possible 64 games over the last four seasons, the 26-year-old can’t be relied on stay healthy in what will be his sixth year in the league. Presuming his ceiling is dependent on shallow targets no matter Hill's status, Watkins’ rising mid-fifth ADP is not to my taste.
 
A developmental project who didn’t play receiver in high school, Georgia wideout Mecole Hardman shockingly became an early Day Two selection once the Chiefs traded up to nab him with the No. 56 overall pick. Propelling the rookie’s outlook more so than Hill’s potential suspension is the departure of slot wideout Chris Conley, who played 260 snaps (50.7%) from the middle of the field. Only Hill played more raw snaps (261) from the slot in Kansas City last year, likely shoe-horning Hardman into the very role that saw the All-American punt returner collect 31-of-49 targets for 498 yards, seven scores, and an average 2.55 YPRR on 86.7% of Georgia's slot routes in three SEC-laden campaigns, per PFF College. 2016 fourth-rounder Demarcus Robinson and 2018 UDFA Byron Pringle remain ancillary options, the former’s lone highlight occurring on an 89-yard bomb in Week 17 against the Raiders. Only Hill (3.96) eclipsed Pringle’s 3.13 YPRR last preseason for Kansas City. Longtime scouting guru Matt Waldman predicted Pringle beating out Robinson for both playing time and production. I lean Robinson for re-draft purposes while preferring Pringle in dynasty.
 
Travis Kelce put his boot to the throat of the tight end position in ’18, finishing as a top-two option (including top-two in receptions among tight ends) for the third consecutive season. The 29-year-old achieved new heights with Mahomes under center, totaling a positional-high 1,401 air yards while running at least 46 percent of his routes from the slot for the second straight year. Categorizing Kelce as a tight end is a mistake, especially given his beacon-of-health outlook since undergoing microfracture procedure on his knee in his rookie year. He’s my No. 6 overall player in season-long and should be viewed across the board as an unequivocal first-round option. I have him ranked behind only Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and David Johnson, while firmly ahead of DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams.

 

Running Game

RB: Damien Williams, Carlos Hyde, Darwin Thompson
OL (L-R): Eric Fisher, Cam Erving, Austin Reiter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz

Following the release of Kareem Hunt prior to the team’s Week 13 divisional matchup against the Raiders, fifth-year backup Damien Williams buoyed Spencer Ware’s hamstring injury into a five-week heater that saw the ex-Dolphins castoff average 13.8 carries and 5.6 targets en route to finishing the year as fantasy’s RB1 and a playoff DFS juggernaut over his final five starts (postseason included). A Day Two talent who went undrafted out of Oklahoma for off-field issues, Williams has already garnered praise from OC Eric Bieniemy and Veach this offseason as both have confirmed the 27-year-old is “the starter” with the job “his to lose.” The argument for Williams is still purely one from an opportunity standpoint as PFF charted him with just eight broken tackles and a poor yards-after-contact average (2.52) on 73 regular season touches. Williams is genuinely one of the hardest players to project for fantasy as his big-bodied (5’11”/222) frame and proven pass-catching chops offer week-winning production and are pluses for handling large workloads, but he hasn't proven capable of even competing for a No. 2 gig outside of his Cinderella Story-like run to cap the year; reminder he started as Kansas City’s third-string option. Amid those concerns, I’m bearish on his mid-second round ADP as those typically taken immediately after him (Derrick Henry, Leonard Fournette, Marlon Mack, Devonta Freeman) are, at the very least, proven long-term talents. That hedge has landed Williams as my RB17 in Best-Ball formats.

Any Williams optimist should note the utter lack of competition behind him as the Chiefs inked Carlos Hyde for merely $1.6 million guaranteed, $2.1 million less than the bonuses the former received upon signing his two-year extension with the team back in December. Reid has historically leaned on his lead running back — proven most recently by Hunt’s 70.6% snap rate through 11 games and Williams’ 77% postseason involvement last year — but Hyde whiffs on that profile given his dud 70.8% career catch rate, and thus isn’t a threat to Williams when both are healthy. Playing on his fourth team in three years, the 28-year-old veteran could lose out to sixth-rounder Darwin Thompson as the latter shined across the board with an efficient 153/1,044/14 (6.8 YPC) rushing line and 23/351/2 (15.3 YPR) receiving in his lone year at Utah State. Despite his questionable durability, Thompson (5’8/200) remains one of my favorite late-round targets in Best-Ball.

 

Win Total

Kansas City’s Projected 10.5 Season Win Total may initially seem like a bargain given that Reid’s eclipsed that number in three of his last four seasons coaching (and 4-of-6 since landing with the Chiefs), but the team’s brutal aforementioned schedule (as well as Hill’s looming suspension) remain daunting for any positive outlook. The loss of Mitch Morse — Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 overall center last year — in free agency can’t be overlooked. I confidently have Kansas City eking out a Wild Card berth in the 8-10 win range and finishing Under (+100) their Projected Vegas Win Total.