2015 Fantasy Football Team Preview: Kansas City Chiefs
There is no doubt that Andy Reid has changed the Kansas City Chiefs. Prior to Reid’s appearance, the Chiefs had a 29-67 record and made only one playoff game in which they lost. The two season’s Reid has been there, they have two winning seasons and a 20-12 record. Their offense has been hurting though. Last season, they were ranked 25th with only 318.8 yards per game. It doesn’t help when your rushing game that finished 10th in yards (119.9) nearly matches the passing yards (198.9) and ranked 29th in the NFL. Even with this challenge, they finished on average (16th) with the rest of the teams in points (22.1), and their third down conversion rate shows why (40%) which finished tied for 15th in the league. Their offensive line allowed 26 sacks on the season to finish 26th among all teams. They will need to get a lot better.
I was very tempted to leave this section blank. Not only because they have a non-productive fantasy quarterback in Alex Smith, but their backup is an unknown. With Alex Smith, owners will get a quarterback with no ceiling and has his feet planted firmly on the floor. He would be the dude that fits perfectly on the 7 ½ floor in the movie “Being John Malkovich”. He has some worth in the fact he won’t throw interceptions. He has only 23 in his last 53 games, which is the best four-year span in NFL history. The reason he is a bad bet is that he just doesn’t take chances. He is not going to push downfield passes or force the ball into tight windows. Smith is going to complete a lot of passes, he completed 65% last season, but that percentage wasn’t demonstrated in the red zone, as he only completed 7 of 29 inside the 10-yard line. Smith probably won’t get injured, but he also won’t throw for more than 20 touchdowns, which he did just once (23 touchdowns) in 2013.
There is one reason the Chiefs do well in the running game and that is Jamaal Charles. In 2013, he did it all for the Chiefs. Catching a career-high 70 passes for 693 yards and seven touchdowns, he also rushed for 1287 yards and 12 touchdowns. After these kind of numbers, a drop-off was to be expected in 2014. First, the Chiefs only threw the ball to Charles 59 times last year, which led to only 40 catches for 291 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 1033 yards and nine touchdowns. Between the two seasons, he lost 254 yards and five total touchdowns. His production dropped for one reason, injuries. He was bothered by ankle, back and knee problems most of the season.
Coming into 2015, I would put more emphasis on the 2014 season than 2013. Things have changed for Charles, opposing defenses have keyed on him due to the lack of offensive firepower Kansas City possess. They have one of the worst offensive lines in football and according to PFF they have the 30th ranked unit coming into this season.
In drafting Charles, you will need to handcuff him to Knile Davis. He could be the best handcuff in all of fantasy, and trusting Charles alone could be a risky proposition. According to Sports Injury Predictor, Jamaal Charles has a 45% chance of getting hurt putting him at medium risk. Davis is the type of back that gets better with each carry. When he is limited, so are his yards per game average. When he gets his carries/touches, he delivers. In four games, he had a combination of 442 yards and five touchdowns, but he also had 26.5 touches per game. When he doesn’t get those touches, such as in the last 12 games of 2013 he only averaged 2.6 yards per carry. Also, look for DeAnthony Thomas to get involved as well. He is fast and can catch out of the backfield. As a rookie, Thomas had 23 receptions last season, rushed for 113-yards and a touchdown..
After Alex Smith and the wide receivers could not agree on where the end zone was the entire year, the Chiefs decided a change was necessary. Dwayne Bowe is now off to Cleveland, and Jeremy Maclin will take his place. Maclin had his career year in 2014 as he hit new highs in catches (85), receiving yards (1,318) and targets (141). Maclin had four 100-yard receiving games and seven games with five or more catches. He also caught 10 touchdown passes coming off a torn ACL. Before targeting him, don’t forget he did this in an Eagles offense that is far superior compared to the one in Kansas City. The last time Jeremy Maclin teamed up with Andy Reid he caught 58 passes for 961 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games. I expect the same kind of numbers in Kansas City with Alex Smith at the helm.
Albert Wilson will be entering his second pro season. In his rookie year, he was basically a nonfactor as he caught just 18 passes for 260 yards and no touchdowns. He is more of a slot wide receiver as he lacks height (5’9”), but he is built like a running back and can handle himself in the open field. Wilson still needs to work on his technique and being in the Chiefs offense restricts him right from the gate. He has very little value if any in redraft leagues.
In the third round of the draft, the Chiefs selected wide receiver Chris Conley. He ran a 4.35 forty at the combine and had a vertical of 45 inches. He has all the tools to be a number one receiver, but again, dynasty value leagues only. Jason Avant will make his return to the lineup. Kansas City picked him off waivers last season, and he knows the Andy Reid system well as he played under Reid for three seasons in Philadelphia. He will most likely get the start over Albert Wilson in the slot.
It is the Travis Kelce show now. Kelce has good hands and is one of the fastest players at his position. The question though is can he improve on the 67 receptions and six touchdowns playing in Kansas City? Defenses will target him, and with a gun-shy Alex Smith it may be even more difficult to get the offense moving. Even with this hurdle in front of him, I expect Kelce to lead the team in receptions this year. He has no competition as Anthony Fasano is gone and Kelce has the ability to beat linebackers on speed and outmuscle defensive backs. He should finish in the top five of all tight ends regardless of format.
When it comes down to overall defense, allowing teams to score and against the pass; the Chiefs are one of the best in the NFL. They allowed just 330.5 yards per game which was good for 7th and against the pass they finished 2nd among all teams by allowing just 203.2 yards. Opposing teams also found it difficult to score against them. Kansas City only allowed 17.6 points per average contest. However, they struggled mightily against the run. They finished 28th by allowing 127.3 yards per game on average. Interestingly, they finished tied for 30th in interceptions (6), but were 5th in sacks (46). If they are putting pressure on the quarterback, why isn’t the defense taking advantage of errant passes? This caused them to finish 21st in turnover differential with a negative three. The Chiefs will need to improve this if they want to finish better than the 9-7 record of last year.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson is the primary Chief you want to target in IDP leagues. Johnson is coming off a torn ACL, but in 2013, he had 95 tackles with 4.5 sacks and two interceptions. Also, don’t forget about linebacker Justin Houston. He can be a top10 IDP player with leagues that reward heavily for sacks and are light on points in tackles. Houston is going to hover around the 20-sack mark, and get around 50 tackles. At the defensive back position, look no further than Tyvon Branch. He played in only five games over the last two seasons, but has the ability to make 80+ tackles as he did with the Raiders in 2010 and 2011.
Player to Watch
Jeremy Maclin. Alex Smith said he’s been impressed with Jeremy Maclin’s football IQ and his knowledge of the team’s playbook.
“[Maclin] knows it, hasn’t skipped a beat as far as stepping in,” said Smith. “And really, we’ve been able to do a lot more this offseason than you normally would with a new guy because of that. It’s really kind of a credit to him for getting in mentally and being ready.” Source: Kansas City Star
Chiefs Coach Andy Reid confirmed Jeremy Maclin will play the “Z” position in his offense. It’s the position DeSean Jackson played when Reid, Jackson, and Maclin were all together in Philly.
Six. That’s how many interceptions the Kansas City Chiefs defense took advantage of last season. This is more than pathetic. A team wins through a solid turnover differential. The reason they finished only 21st is because Jamaal Charles doesn’t fumble, and Alex Smith doesn’t throw interceptions. There is no doubt that improvement is needed immediately. They did bring in Tyvon Branch, but he hasn’t played healthy in the last two seasons. They did draft Marcus Peters with in the first round, who is a ball-hawk. He had 11 interceptions in 34 games at the University of Washington. The downside is that Kurt Coleman left for Carolina and he had three of the six interceptions on the team.