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2022 Fantasy Forecast: Kansas City Chiefs

@_jasonstein continues coverage in our Dynasty Nerds 32 in 32 series. Today the focus will be on the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the best teams in the AFC ever since Andy Reid took over as head coach in 2013. Reid is regarded as one of the best head coaches currently in the NFL. And he may end up being one of the top NFL head coaches of all time. The Chiefs found their franchise QB with the tenth pick in the 2017 NFL draft in Patrick Mahomes. After sitting a year, Mahomes took over and quickly became one of the best QBs in the league, winning an NFL MVP in 2018 and a Super Bowl the following year. With Mahomes at QB and Reid at head coach, the Chiefs are always Super Bowl contenders.

There were a few changes to the Chiefs squad in 2022. The Chiefs traded their WR1, Tyreek Hill, to the Miami Dolphins for five draft picks this offseason. They added WRs through free agency and the draft to make up for Hill’s production. It will be fascinating to see how all the parts and pieces fit with this new look Chiefs offense. Let’s look at all the Chiefs’ offensive fantasy-relevant players as we prepare for the NFL season to start in just a few days!

QUARTERBACK

Patrick Mahomes

Sleeper QB3 | DynastyNerds QB1 | 2021 PPG – 21.3 | 2022 Proj. PPG – 21.9

‘Future Hall of Fame-er’ Mahomes is probably the first name you think of when you think about the Chiefs. QBs are usually the face of NFL franchises, but after Mahomes led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win in 2020, Mahomes has become the face of the NFL. From his endearing personality to his playful ‘trick’ throws, he won over many NFL fans as a likable, young, dominant NFL superstar.

Mahomes continues in 2022 under the tutelage of Head Coach/Play Caller Reid. As discussed above, there are some new pass catchers for Mahomes this year. But between Reid and Mahomes, the Chiefs offense shouldn’t skip a beat. Reid always seems to craft/call plays that best fit the players playing for him.

From a fantasy perspective, Mahomes is in tier one of QBs and tier one of players overall. His current Sleeper ADP is QB3, surpassed by only Josh Allen of the Bills and Justin Herbert of the Chargers. I think most would agree the three of those QBs all belong in tier one of NFL fantasy QBs. And you can make a case for anyone of those three guys at QB1. There’s not much to talk about here. If he is healthy, Mahomes will be one of the most valuable dynasty assets for a long time. I guess the difference this year is how quickly he gels with his new WR core. Although, as far as who is Mahomes’ favorite target? That isn’t changing; that’s perennial TE1 Travis Kelce.

TIGHT END

Travis Kelce

Sleeper TE1 | DynastyNerds TE3 | 2021 PPG – 16.4 | 2022 Proj. PPG – 14.2

Kelce has been TE1 for so long now it’s silly. As Alex Caruso of The Fresh Fantasy Podcast and the Footballguys points out, Kelce was the TE1 from 2016 through 2020 and finished as the TE2 in 2021. It’s absurd that Kelce has been at the top of his position in fantasy for seven years.

The knock is, when will father time catch up to him? And you know what they always say: “Father time is undefeated.” Kelce is 32 this year and turns 33 this October. Between his past performance and his relationship with Mahomes, you must keep expecting a TE1 performance from him until he shows you otherwise. A hold and ride off into the sunset type of guy. Thus in most re-draft formats, you should expect Kelce to be TE1 now and into the future until he isn’t.

However, looking at the TE position from a dynasty perspective, there is a case to be made to put one of a few guys ahead of him (Pitts, Andrews, others). This perspective is based solely on the fact that, at some point, age will catch up to Kelce, and he won’t be able to perform up to the standards we now expect from him. However, you can expect another TE1 (top 12) performance this year, with him most likely being the overall TE1 again.

RUNNING BACKS

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Oh, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH). I think just hearing his name, people get a little turned off. CEH burst onto the scene as the RB in the Joe Burrow-led LSU national championship team in 2019. He then went on to be a first-round draft pick by the Chiefs. Before he even suited up for his first game as a Chief, the fantasy community pushed him to be a first-round fantasy selection.

CEH didn’t live up to those absurd expectations of his rookie season. And the fantasy community has punished him for it. To that point, he now looks like a pretty decent value if you think he can break out this year.

CEH looks to be listed as RB1 on the Chiefs’ depth chart to start the season. And he is being drafted as the Chiefs RB1 in Sleeper ADP. However, given CEH’s performance as a Chief to date, Kansas City brought in some competition or compliments at the position in free agent Ronald Jones, re-signing Jerrick McKinnon, and drafted Isiah Pacheco. The latter seems to be garnering a ton of attention this offseason as a player that could be pretty goodโ€”more on that below.

Ronald Jones

Sleeper RB46 | DynastyNerds RB42 | 2021 PPG – 5 | 2022 Proj. PPG – 1.8

There are a few new faces in Kansas City this year, and Jones or “RoJo” is one of them. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Jones in the early second round in 2018. What started as a guy with tremendous promise to be a big playmaker for the Bucs became an early career of inconsistency. Jones is a two-down back who led the Bucs in rush yards in 2019 and 2020 but was replaced as the starter by Leonard Fournette late in 2020. Jones played through his rookie contract with the Bucs, and then this offseason decided to sign with the Chiefs on a one-year deal. The offseason and preseason haven’t shown much evidence that he will be a large part of this Chiefs offense. There is still hope among fantasy players that Rojo could provide one or two weeks of fantasy-relevant production at some point this year.

Isiah Pacheco

Sleeper RB55 | DynastyNerds RB87 | 2021 PPG – N/A | 2022 Proj. PPG – 5.2

Pacheco, the 2022 seventh-rounder out of Rutgers, has been a fantasy darling this offseason. He has been rising quite a bit in ADP and making many analyst top sleeper picks. The hype keeps building as we read/see more and more reports from the Chiefs of how well Pacheco is doing. The things that stand out the most about Pacheco are that he is big and fast. Through the draft evaluation process, he measured in at 216 lbs. and posted a 4.37 40-time, giving him a 98th percentile speed score (according to playerprofiler.com). That stands out.

However, for whatever reason, Pacheco’s production during his four years at Rutgers didn’t stand out (see chart below). For that reason, along with the fact that he didn’t get third-round or above draft capital, I’d be skeptical about how valuable a fantasy asset Pacheco is. Even if he does play well and takes over more of the starting role, pushing CEH out, I’d always be worried someone would replace him with a more superior profile. Caution is warranted here, and if Pacheco does have a few good weeks and his price skyrockets, I’d be a seller from a dynasty perspective. Even knowing he could add tremendous value for the 2022 season.

Jerick McKinnon

Sleeper RB65 | DynastyNerds RB95 | 2021 PPG – 2.8 | 2022 Proj. PPG – 6.7

McKinnon re-signed with the Chiefs on a one-year deal this offseason. McKinnon is primarily a third-down, pass-catching back. He filled in very well for an injured CEH toward the later part of the season in 2021 and into the playoffs. From a fantasy perspective, McKinnon seems like a late-round deep sleeper in PPR formats and could be a decent waiver wire add if there are any injuries in the RB depth chart, but be ready to flip as soon as you can.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Juju Smith-Schuster

Sleeper WR29 | DynastyNerds WR39 | 2021 PPG – 7 | 2022 Proj. PPG – 12.4

Smith-Schuster put up a couple of great fantasy seasons early in his career with the Steelers, opposite Antionio Brown and catching the ball from Ben Roethlisberger. After that, he became one of the game’s most sought-after young dynasty WRs. Then between things blowing up with Brown, Rothelisberger’s declining performance, injuries, and motivational questions, it’s been a long fall from grace for Smith-Schuster.

He signed a one-year deal with the chiefs this offseason for $10.75m. Now Smith-Schuster gets a second shot with a new team and one of the best QBs in the league. With Hill moving on, Kansas City has no clear-cut WR1 apparent. And it looks like Smith-Schuster might be the guy to step up and fill that role. Historically, he has played his best football from the slot position, but he can play both inside and outside. Given the completely revamped WR core, it should be interesting to see what kind of target share Smith-Schuster earns in this offense.

Skyy Moore

Sleeper WR49 | DynastyNerds WR37 | 2021 PPG – N/A | 2022 Proj. PPG – 8.5

Moore was the Chiefs’ 2022 second-round pick. He was an early declare out of Western Michigan with robust production in college. At 5’10” and 191lbs., Moore projects to be a slot WR, but given what we’ve seen this offseason, he could be all over the field, including possibly taking carriers out of the backfield. Moore has a chance to make a real difference for the Chiefs this season. I’d imagine he is one of those rookies that start slow out of the gate but finishes strong. He should be a mid-round target for dynasty players. Moore is my favorite WR of the group. And I’d be looking to add him to your squads at current prices.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Sleeper WR52 | DynastyNerds WR82 | 2021 PPG – 7.9 | 2022 Proj. PPG – 10.8

Valdes-Scantling, affectionately known as MVS in the dynasty community, is a big-bodied (6’4โ€ณ 206 lbs.) WR from the Green Bay Packers this offseason. MVS has been one of the secondary options in Green Bay but never really catapulted into fantasy relevance, even while playing with Aaron Rodgers at QB. Now he gets the opportunity to change that while playing with Mahomes as an outside field stretcher.

Mecole Hardman

Sleeper WR66 | DynastyNerds WR74 | 2021 PPG – 8.3 | 2022 Proj. PPG – 8.8

Hardman was the Chiefs’ second-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Georgia. Hardman is a burner (i.e., he’s really, really fast), but it hasn’t translated to much fantasy success yet. With the Chiefs signing MVS this year and both of them playing similar roles as field stretchers, it’s tough to see how Hardman carves out enough of the target share to make a massive difference from a fantasy perspective. He’s worth a shot because he’s playing with Mahomes, and there are always injuries. I’d be looking to sell if you have Harding on your squad and he gains value.ย ย ย 

Other WRs

I won’t spend much time on the rest of the guys, but here are some other WRs to keep an eye on. If there are any injuries to the top four wideouts above, look for Justin Watson as a guy to pick up off waivers and potentially make a difference.

Also, keep an eye on UDFA Justyn Ross from a dynasty perspective. Ross went on injured reserve and will be out the entire 2022 season. He was a standout Clemson WR that dominated, then he found out he had a congenital spine condition, which required surgery, and his career was in jeopardy. Ross had surgery, sat out a year, and is trying to make a comeback. He played last year for Clemson but suffered a stress fracture in his foot, even battling back to play at the end of the season. Ross has all the tools to be a dominant NFL receiver, and if it’s safe for him to come back and play, I hope he does. Ross will be a low-cost taxi squad stash if he returns to his dominant form.

Chiefs Offensive Line

And finally, let’s look at the Chiefs’ offensive line.

2022 Chiefs offensive line: LT Orlando Brown; LG Joe Thuney; C Creed Humphrey; RG Trey Smith; & RT Andrew Wylie.

Ryan McCrystal of Sharp Football Analysis ranks the Chiefs’ offensive line as the third best in the NFL. He says, “Kansas City’s rebuilt offensive line lived up to expectations last season, and the entire unit returns. This line provided at least three yards before contact for chiefs running backs on 30% of their carries, the league’s highest rate.” 2021 rookie second-round pick Creed Humphrey looks like a superstar at center in his first season, grading out with one of the highest center PFF grades in the NFL. And 2021 rookie sixth-round pick Trey Smith was super effective in the run game. Since the entire OL is returning in 2022, look for the OL to get even better this year and help Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense.

Conclusion

Expect the Kansas City Chiefs to be one of the best teams in the AFC. And have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Mahomes will be in contention for the QB1 overall finish this year and probably for the next ten years, making him one of the most valuable dynasty players. Mahomes’ connection with Kelce should continue this year to the tune of probably another TE1 finish for Kelce. The question is, when does father time catch up to Kelce? I’d say probably not this year.

CEH looks to be the RB1 for the Chiefs and may be in store for a breakout if he can put it all together. And keep an eye on newcomer Pacheco, an RB gaining a lot of hype this offseason. Finally, the Chiefs WR room has been revamped this year, so it’s hard to know who will be the most fantasy relevant of the bunch. My bet is on Moore to eventually become a dynamic weapon and take over as the WR1 of the Chiefs at some point down the line. However, Smith-Schuster will likely start as the Chief’s WR1. He has a lot to play for this season, as he is getting his second chance with a new team, trying to return to the former fantasy heights he achieved early in his career. That’s it!

If you are interested in learning more about Dynasty/Devy fantasy football, please follow along on Twitter @_jasonstein and let me know what questions you have and how I can help.

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