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Fantasy Opportunity Spotlight: Kansas City Chiefs

A team-by-team analysis of coaches’ tendencies and using them to help create realistic fantasy football projections. @TubaDeus takes a look at the Kansas City Chiefs.

Welcome to the new home of my yearly Fantasy Opportunity series! For those who didn’t see this series on Reddit last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill analyst. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously, individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day, players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.

As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.

Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.

Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.

Kansas City Chiefs

Last Year’s Accuracy

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Projections995385 (38.7%)610 (61.3%)25 (4.1%)295 (50.4%)110 (18.8%)160 (27.4%)
2020 Stats1057403 (38.1%)654 (61.9%)24 (3.7%)333 (52.9%)111 (17.6%)167 (26.5%)
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.

Coaching Changes

Back-to-back Super Bowl appearances tend to lead to job security. Not that Andy Reid really needs additional security at this point after his sixth straight postseason appearance as head coach of the Chiefs. After leading Kansas City’s defense to a second consecutive top-half finish, Steve Spagnuolo will also remain as the defensive coordinator. Surprisingly, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will remain despite spending a second straight year as a top head coach candidate but missing out on a position.

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid says 'heart bleeds' for girl, 5,  fighting for her life after son's horror car crash
Getty Images

Coaching History

Well, I thought we had Reid pinned down. Ever since arriving in Kansas City, Reid’s offenses have been the absolute model of consistency. Doubly so since Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm. And, to be fair, we still just about nailed most of the relevant team-level stats. The run-pass ratio remained within 0.5% of a 38.5/61.5 ratio. Positional target shares were still split low-50s/upper-10s/upper-20s for wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends, respectively. Even the total sacks were still within one of 25, and the sack rate remained within 0.5% of 4% despite a plethora of injuries along the offensive line.

There is one change that sticks out like a sore thumb, though. The Chiefs had not posted over 1000 plays in a season since 2013. In fact, Reid had only reached 1057 plays in a single season two other times in his entire career, both with the Eagles. So what changed? It wasn’t the pace of the offense as the Chiefs continued their trend of being middle of the pack in speed. At a glance, it would appear as though there isn’t much worth noting in terms of plays per drive either, as Kansas City has consistently been among the top teams in the league. However, a closer inspection reveals that their total plays per drive skyrocketed while their rank hasn’t changed much since 2019 and 2018. This can primarily be attributed to a decrease in explosive plays. In 2018 and 2019, Kansas City’s offense posted at least 9 yards per pass attempt with 10+ yards to go, easily accounting for the majority of Mahomes’ passing yards. In 2020, that number dropped to a scant 7.6 yards per attempt. With fewer explosive plays, the Chiefs strung together longer drives, which resulted in an increased play total.

Looking Ahead

The most likely culprit for this drastic change was the offensive line. The numbers may not entirely show it thanks to Reid’s scheming and Mahomes’s magic, but their deficiencies were certainly exposed during their Super Bowl meltdown. At the very least, the front office certainly tipped their hand when they almost completely overhauled the offensive line this offseason. Between new acquisitions, improved health, and even a rookie or two thrown in the mix, the offensive line should be back to being a strength for Kansas City in 2021. Hopefully, that means a return to the explosive plays we’ve come to expect, which should push the play volume back down a bit.

Super Bowl 55: Patrick Mahomes incompletion photos are stunning
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Other than that one particular issue, the Chiefs return the core of their team from the last three years. This core has produced almost identical team-level numbers for three straight years, so there’s little reason to believe that any significant change is coming. The Chiefs should continue to be a slightly pass-happy team that heavily features tight ends (read: Travis Kelce) in the passing game.

2021 Projections

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Stats1057403 (38.1%)654 (61.9%)24 (3.7%)333 (52.9%)111 (17.6%)167 (26.5%)
2021 Projections (17 Games)1055406 (38.5%)649 (61.5%)27 (4.2%)324 (52.1%)111 (17.8%)168 (27.0%)

Previous Entry: Jacksonville Jaguars

Next Entry: Las Vegas Raiders

Find this article helpful? You can follow me on Twitter and Reddit as @TubaDeus, though I spend most of my time on Discord.

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