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AP Photo/Joe Mahoney

2018 Fantasy Football Preview: Kansas City Chiefs


Kansas City has sky-high potential with weapons all over on offense, but can they reach it with an unproven signal-caller at the controls?

 

Quarterback 

 

The Chiefs think highly enough of second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes that they moved on from MVP candidate Alex Smith following a career year in which he threw for 4,042 yards with a 26:5 touchdown-interception ratio; but it wasn’t a surprise, as Kansas City traded way up in the 2017 NFL Draft (from No. 27 to No. 10) to select the former Texas Tech gunslinger, who threw for 5,052 yards with a 41:10 touchdown-interception ratio for the Red Raiders in 2016. Plus, Mahomes got a chance to start in the regular season finale last year, completing 22-of-35 passes (62.9%) for 284 yards and one interception, giving fantasy owners a small glimpse of what we can expect in 2018.

 

The soon-to-be 23-year-old (in September) has a powerful arm with the ability to escape pressure and make throws from all over the field with different releases, but there could be growing pains—particularly when it comes to turnovers—in a competitive AFC West. Fortunately, the Chiefs are loaded with basically a track team of skill-position players that compliment Mahomes’ game, most notably his willingness to push the ball down the field. I have Kansas City’s new franchise quarterback as a QB2 with top-five QB1 upside, but we’ll have to wait until next month to see where he lands in my draft rankings.

 

Running back

 

In 2017, Kareem Hunt looked to be on his way to earning the starting job anyway, but a preseason injury to Spencer Ware swung the door wide open for the rookie starter, who rushed 272 times for 1,327 yards (4.9 YPC) and eight touchdowns, also catching 53 passes for 455 yards and three more scores. Hunt was a consensus top-30 pick in fantasy drafts last summer for those that waited until after the exhibition action was over (as everyone should do every year), but he’s obviously not going to be undervalued in 2018. I wouldn’t be concerned about a possible lighter workload for the second-year back, as he should have plenty of running lanes with Sammy Watkins added to the offense, which will really open up the attack. My current ranking for Hunt matches his current ADP of No. 9 overall in standard leagues.

 

Spencer Ware provided high-floor RB1/RB2 value for fantasy owners in 2016 when he averaged over 100 total yards per game in 13 healthy appearances, including at least 52 yards in every game. However, a torn PCL suffered in last year’s regular season dress rehearsal forced him to miss the entire 2017 season, and now, he is going to be splitting time as a change-of-pace option behind Kareem Hunt. Ware has little standalone value, but his history of success in Andy Reid’s offense makes him one of the better handcuffs around and worth considering at the end of fantasy drafts.

 

2014 undrafted free agent Damien Williams has flashed some potential as both a runner and receiver over the past four years with Miami, and he gives the Chiefs nice depth at the position. Entering his age-26 campaign, Williams has at least 20 receptions every year in the league, and I think he could provide low-end RB2/FLEX value if forced into a lead role for Kansas City.

 

Wide receiver

 

I was skeptical about him turning into a full-time, polished target at wide receiver, but Tyreek Hill followed up his memorable rookie year with a breakout receiving line of 75/1,183/7 in 2017, which was good for an overall WR4 finish behind DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, and Keenan Allen. Now, “Cheetah” is being drafted as a low-end WR1, but I am still not 100% convinced that he will have a repeat performance. Last season, the 24-year-old did most of his damage on deep passes (nine receptions of 40+ yards led the NFL) and short, simple routes; so, while Hill is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous players in the game, I think defenses should do a better job against him in 2018 if his intermediate game still is undeveloped.

 

Another reason that I’m lower on Hill than most is that Sammy Watkins could come right in and takeover as the team’s No. 1 receiver because of his all-around game. “Cheetah” can take the top off and run after the catch, but Watkins can do both while also dominating with complex routes at all three levels of the field (and last year, he also proved to be a great target in the red zone). Plus, Patrick Mahomes doesn’t have a ton of built-in chemistry with either guy, so Watkins—who is just turned 25 less than a month ago and reportedly had been lining up all over the place in minicamp—could easily wind up as his new quarterback’s favorite target. I’d much rather take Sammy at his Round 8 ADP over Hill at his Round 3 ADP.

 

The competition for the No. 3 receiver job in Kansas City will be settled in training camp, and I think Chris Conley will come out on top, which would make for perhaps the fastest trio of wideouts in NFL history. Conley, a 4.35 runner at six-foot-three, is coming off a torn Achilles that ended his 2017 season, but he made a significant jump from Year 1 (17 receptions for 199 yards and one touchdown) to Year 2 (44 receptions for 530 yards) and could breakout if he’s healthy with defenses paying attention to Hill and Watkins. However, he won’t be any higher than the fifth option on the offense, so fantasy value could be difficult to come by this season.

 

Demarcus Robinson caught four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in the Chiefs’ playoff loss to the Titans, and he will look to carry that momentum into a role in three-wide sets. However, I don’t think he would have the weekly upside that Conley does, and in 16 regular season games (eight starts) last year, Robinson caught just 21 passes for 212 yards. He shouldn’t be drafted in 10-team leagues.

 

Tight end

 

Coming off an 83/1,038/8 line and his third-straight Pro Bowl appearance, Travis Kelce should remain a huge factor in Kansas City with a young quarterback taking over the offense. The 28-year-old was joined by Zach Ertz in the “non-Gronk elite tier” last season, but as usual, I think Kelce should be the second tight end off the board behind New England’s all-time great option. The position actually has some solid late-round targets this year, though, so Kelce’s current late Round 3 ADP is too steep for me.

 

Demetrius HarrisTim Wright, and Jace Amaro are all looking to fill out of the depth chart, but they are only worth keeping tabs on in the case of a Kelce injury. Harris had an 18/224/1 line with the Chiefs last year and should be locked in as the No. 2, while Wright and Amaro were both promising prospects at one point of their respective careers, but neither appeared in a game last season.

 

 

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