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2017 Fantasy Football: Kansas City Chiefs Team Outlook

Shawn Childs provides an in-depth preview of the new-look Kansas City Chiefs heading into the 2017 Fantasy Football season. How will this team perform with Jamaal Charles gone and some new talented youngsters on offense?

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have ranked in the top seven in the league in points allowed in each of the last four seasons, which is the key for them making the playoffs in three of those years. Just like 2013, Kansas City did rank low in yards allowed (24th). Andy Reid returns for his fifth season as head coach. He has a career 173-114-1 record over 18 years in the NFL with 12 playoff berths and a Super Bowl appearance. In his four seasons with the Chiefs, Reid is 43-21 with a 1-3 record in the playoffs. Matt Nagy will lose his caddy this season and become the official offensive coordinator for Kansas City in 2017. Last year he shared the duties with now assistant head coach Brad Childress. Nagy was the quarterback’s coach for the Chiefs from 2013 to 2015. Last season he led this offense to a 13th place finish in points scored (389), which was 16 points fewer than 2015 (405). They did move up seven spots to 20th in offensive yards gained. Bob Sutton returns for his fifth year as the defensive coordinator. He has 17 seasons of experience as an NFL coach with six coming as a defensive coordinator.

Free Agency

The Chiefs parted ways with long time star running back Jamaal Charles in the offseason. His knee issues invited too much risk. They released RB Knile Davis and QB Nick Foles. RB C.J. Spiller will try one more time to find playing time in the NFL for Kansas City. In a surprise move in early June, the Chiefs released WR Jeremy Maclin, which looks like a salary dump.

DT Dontari Poe and DT Jaye Howard struggled to make an impact in 2016 leading to a ticket to the Falcons and the Bears.

TE Gavin Escobar was added to compete for a backup job. G Andy Tiller left the 49ers to battle for a starting job on the offensive line.

The two players added to the defense were DT Bennie Logan and Marqueston Huff. Both players had losing value last year.

Draft

With 10th overall pick, Kansas City made a play to improve the quarterback position long term with Patrick Mahomes. He has a big arm with an attacking style to defeat a defense in the deep passing game. The rookie needs to control his gun in the heat of the moment to increase his accuracy. His game has play-action ability with the eyes to look off defenders. Mahomes can run the ball while offering touch when ask to throw on the move. His next step is throwing the ball away on losing plays and improving his reads in the passing game.

DE Tanoh Kpassagnon will be a stud when he comes up with a plan off the line of scrimmage. His short area quickness isn’t great so he may lack follow through if beaten to the punch off the snap. Tanoh is athletic with developing power. The scouting reports suggest he’s a year away from making an impact.

In the third and fourth rounds, the Chiefs added two players to their offense – RB Kareem Hunt and WR Jehu Chesson. Hunt has the talent to make an impact at the next level. He has plus vision with ability to make a player miss at the point of contact and in the open field. His speed isn’t great and Hunt needs to use power to finish runs. I’m not sure I trust his pass protection skills even with some upside as an option in the passing game.

Chesson will offer an edge with his hands and his fight in jump balls, but his route running needs work. He may struggle against press coverage and lack the needed gear to create an edge in the deep passing game. Only time will tell.

Kansas City drafted LB Ukeme Eligwe in the fifth round. There are plenty of holes in Eligwe’s game at this point of his career. He projects as an attacking style linebacker with slow reads and reaction skills. He has enough power to beat his blocks, but his lack of technique leads to mediocre results. It’s almost like he just needs to be firing in the right direction to be in the battle.

With their last pick in the sixth round, the Chiefs selected S Leon McQuay. His game doesn’t look ready to make an impact in the NFL, but he does have talent. McQuay needs to get stronger and improve his vision in play development. His first step and change of direction quickness can lead to mistakes if trapped going forward. Leon looks to be a playmaker with another gear once he gets rolling.

Offensive Line

Kansas City slipped to 15th in rushing yards (1,748) with 15 rushing TDs. They gained 4.2 yards per rush with 12 runs over 20 yards. The Chiefs had 44 negative runs and 42 rushes over 10 yards.

They finished 19th in passing yards (3,740) with 19 passing TDs and eight Ints. Their offensive line allowed 32 sacks and 68 QB hits.

LT Eric Fisher had his best season in the NFL in 2016, but his game still ranks below expected value after Kansas City drafted him first overall in 2013. That being said, he did show growth as a run blocker last year.

LG Parker Ehinger looks to be a tweener on the offensive line. He lacks the desired quickness to be an asset in pass protection in the NFL at tackle, while his strength is below winning value at this point of his career as an interior lineman. His best production will come in pass protection with questionable upside as run blocker no matter where he lines up on the offensive line. In his rookie season, he only played in five games due to a torn ACL that required surgery in November. Parker may not be ready for the start of the season.

C Mitch Morse played well in pass protection leading to an edge at his position. Morse was drafted in the second round in the 2015 NFL Draft. He has plus strength with some quickness and a solid feel for the game. He’ll offer upside in both run and pass blocking with more experience. Mitch was a league-average run blocker in 2015 with risk in pass protection. He should show more improvement in his third year in the league.

RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif did an excellent job in pass protection leading to the Chiefs signing him to a five-year $41.25 contract in February. Kansas City picked him up in the sixth round in the 2014 draft.

RT Mitchell Schwartz played well in both run and pass blocking after signing a nice contract in the offseason of 2016. The Browns drafted him in the second round in 2012.

This line continues to improve with four players whom grade as league average or better. The left guard spot has a chance to be neutral if Ehinger returns to his 2016 form where he earned a starting job. The low sack total is helped by Alex Smith’s willingness to get the ball out quickly to the short areas of the field.

Offensive Schedule

The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).

This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.

2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.

2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.

Kansas City has about a league average schedule for their rushing offense. They have four favorable games (DEN X 2, MIA, and BUF) based on last year’s stats. I expect the Broncos to be better against the run in 2017. Their toughest three matchups in the running game will come against New England, Dallas, and the New York Giants.

The two games against Denver alone lead to a tough schedule for Kansas City's passing attack. They have another poor matchup against Houston. The Chiefs only have two games against teams with some risk defending the pass (DAL and WAS).

Offense

The Chiefs had league average pass attempts in 2016 while running the ball 42.8 percent of the time. I’m sure they would like to be more balance on offense, but Andy Reid isn’t afraid to air it out if needed due to game score.

Quarterbacks

QB Alex Smith 

http://www.scout.com/player/32018-alex-smith?s=532

Over four seasons with the Chiefs, Smith has a 41-20 record pushing his career record to 79-56-1. His completion rate (64.5) has been strong with Kansas City and has shown improvement in yards per pass attempt in 2015 (7.4) and 2016 (7.2). Over his last 2,594 throws, Smith has only been picked off 38 times (1.46 percent). In every season in the NFL, he’s fallen well below the league average in pass attempts per game (29.1 in his career and 31.7 with the Chiefs). In 2016, Smith set a career high in passing yards (3,502) and completions (328) while his passing TDs (15) were well below the league average. Only once in his career has Smith thrown for over 20 TDs. In 2015, he added value on the ground (84/498/2) which raised his floor. Even with five rushing TDs last season, Alex had a sharp decline in his rushing opportunity (48/134). This year, he may have his last swing as the starting QB now that Kansas City drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round. Smith's a very good game manager who minimizes mistakes. He has a developing TE with questionable talent at wide receiver. A Fantasy owner can expect fewer than 4,000 combined yards with below league average TDs. His ticket will come in a couple of times per year, but he’s tough to time.

Note: the release of Jeremy Maclin does lower his potential upside.

QB Patrick Mahomes

http://www.scout.com/player/173599-patrick-mahomes?s=532

After playing in seven games (1,547 passing yard and 16 TDs) in his freshman year at Texas Tech, Mahomes passed for 9,705 yards with 77 passing TDs and 25 Ints over the last two seasons. He attempted 131 rushes per year in his sophomore and junior seasons with high value in rushing TDs (22), but Mahomes had less room to run in 2016 (285 yards) compared to his success in 2015 (456). He has a good feel for the pocket while offering upside moving forward to break free from pressure where his legs will give him a second opportunity to make a play. He made plenty of deep throws with success in college, but he had a bigger passing window. He needs to improve his pre-snap reads while firing quickly when reaching his last step in his back pedal. His all-around game looks exciting and his style will bring the deep passing game back into fashion in Kansas City. Bright future, but he needs to limit his mistakes to unseat the crafty veteran.

Other options: Tyler Bray, Joel Stave

Running Backs

RB Spencer Ware

http://www.scout.com/player/106325-spencer-ware?s=532

Ware ended up being a nice value pick for Fantasy owners who had a better than expected opportunity with the injury to Jamaal Charles. Ware finished with 1,368 combined yards with five TDs and 33 catches. After an explosive game in Week 1 (199 combined yards with a TD and seven catches), he only shined in two other games (Week 5 – 163 combined yards with a TD and two catches and Week 6 – 131 combined yards and two catches). Over his last seven games of the season, Ware never rushed for more than 70 yards in any game. He scored only two TDs in his eight contests in the regular season. The Chiefs gave him 15 touches or more in 11 of his 14 games played. His year ended after Week 15 with a rib injury leading to minimal value in his only playoff game (36 combined yards on 10 touches with a TD and two catches). Overall, he played well enough to command a share of touches in 2017. The question for his upside falls on the ability of rookie Kareem Hunt. I expect between 200 and 250 touches with Spencer being the better option in the passing game and at the goal line at least early in the season. Possible 1,200 combined yards with 35+ catches and mid-level TDs.

RB Kareem Hunt 

http://www.scout.com/player/162821-kareem-hunt?s=532

Over four seasons at Toledo, Hunt rushed for 4,945 yards with 44 rushing TDs plus 73 catches for 555 yards and another TD. He flashed his upside in his sophomore year (205/1631/16) when he gained 8.0 yards per rush. Hunt played through a hamstring and an ankle injury in 2015 while being suspended for a couple of games leading to a step back in production (178/973/12). His yards per rush (5.6) last year fell in line with 2015 (5.5). Hunt finished with 1,878 combined yards in 2016 with 11 TDs and a breakthrough season in the passing game (41/403/1). He has deceiving power with a good feel for finding the end zone from close to the goal line. His vision allows him to find openings in the run game, but Kareem lacks the gear to make big plays in tight space. Hunt won’t offer an edge in speed deep but he'll do a nice job gaining ground in the open field. This season, I expect him to split touches with Ware. Spencer has more size so goal line carries could be a coin flip. Hunt will get some chances in the passing game, but he needs to prove he can handle his pass blocking responsibilities. In 2016, the Chiefs’ RBs had 365 rushes for 1,622 yards and nine rushing TDs plus 74 catches for 722 yards and four TDs on 94 targets. There will be plenty of chances for Kareem in this offense while being expected to be at his best late in the year. Something in the range of 200 touches for 900+ yards with a handful of TDs and limited receptions seems like a solid starting point for his value headed into training camp. The summer news may lead to a bump in his outlook.

RB Charcandrick West

http://www.scout.com/player/132720-charcandrick-west?s=532

After having value at times in 2015 (848 combined yards with five TDs and 20 catches), West never got rolling last year. The Chiefs gave him four games with 15 touches or more, which led to only one playable game (Week 17 – 116 combined yards with five catches and two TDs). Charcandrick battled an ankle issue in late September and a concussion in November. On the year, West gained only 3.3 yards per rush and 6.7 yards per catch. These numbers won’t earn more playing time in the pros. He tried to come into 2017 with less weight after sensing his role in this offense fading with Hunt now on the roster.

Other options: C.J. Spiller, Devine Redding

Wide Receivers

WR Tyreek Hill

http://www.scout.com/player/145478-tyreek-hill?s=532

About the time Maclin ended up on the DL, Hill started to shine. From Week 7 to Week 14 over six games, he caught 32 passes for 333 yards and three TDs on 38 targets. Hill even added value in the run game over this span (8/70/1). The Titans and Broncos shut him out in the passing game in Week 15 and Week 16 on eight combined targets, but Tyreek held value thanks to his ability to run the ball (1/68/1 and 6/95/1). Over the last the last 10 games of the season, he had 718 combined yards with 47 catches and eight TDs (includes two combined TDs in the return game in Week 14 and Week 17). This translate to 16.7 Fantasy points per game, which is really a top 10 overall opportunity in PPR leagues at WR. Hill is a gadget player (a much better version than Tavon Austin) with big play and scoring ability. He’ll do most of his damage close to the line of scrimmage while taking an occasional play to the house when breaking free in the secondary. Even with short touches over the first six games (14/125 with five rushes for 17 yards), Hill scored three TDs. This season the Chiefs should get him the ball over 110 times in a similar role as Austin in 2015 for the Rams, but Hill plays in a better offense. Possible 75+ catches with 1,100+ yards and close to double TDs. I view him as an upside WR3 while trying to roster him as a WR4 in PPR leagues.

Update: Hill moves to the WR1 position in this offense with Maclin gone, but the youngster will now draw more attention from opposing defenses. He needs another WR on this roster to take a step forward in 2017 to help ease some of the pressure.

Note: in Week 16 in the Fantasy Football World Championship, the team that finished second overall played Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs played the Broncos in the Sunday night game and it looked like a tough matchup for Tyreek with Denver having the top pass defense in the league. Unfortunately for Kimra Schleicher, Hill broke free for a 70-yard TD in the first quarter, which came after a 28-yard run that set up the first TD by Kansas City. In the second quarter, Tyreek had four rushes for 102 yards and a TD. On his last two runs, Hill lost seven yards or -0.7 Fantasy points. In addition, the second-place team had the Chiefs’ kicker who missed the extra point on Kansas City’s last TD. The combination of these two outcomes allowed Kimra to mount her comeback on Monday night football capped by a six-yard catch by Golden Tate with less than a minute left in the Lions/Cowboy game to win $150,000 by a margin of 0.77 Fantasy points. Click here to check out the story by Scout Managing Editor Matt Brandon.

WR Chris Conley

http://www.scout.com/player/127980-chris-conley?s=532

In his four years at Georgia, Conley caught 117 catches for 1938 yards with 20 TDs. His best year was his senior season when he caught 36 passes for 657 yards with eight TDs. Chris has excellent size (6’2” and 213 lbs.) with plus speed (4.35 in the 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL combine), but his release and hands have some risk at the next level. After catching 17 passes for 199 yards and a TD on 31 targets in his rookie season, Chris push those total to 44/530 on 69 targets in 2016. Showing growth, but he’s yet to show big play ability (12.0 yards per catch). The Chiefs should start him on the outside. At best, he’ll be the third option in the passing game. Next step: 50+ catches for 600+ yards and an occasional TD.

WR Jehu Chesson

http://www.scout.com/player/144984-jehu-chesson?s=532

Over four seasons at Michigan, Chesson caught 114 passes for 1,639 yards and 12 TDs. He also chipped in with 20 rushes for 218 yards and three TDs in his junior and senior seasons. His best success came in his junior year (50/764/9). The release of Maclin creates a better window of success than expected in his rookie season. His short resume suggests he’ll have a learning curve leading to a short opportunity in 2017. Someone may emerge at WR in this offense so I’ll follow Chesson’s progress closely.

Other options: Albert Wilson, De’Anthony ThomasDemarcus Robinson, Seantavius Jones

Tight Ends

TE Travis Kelce

http://www.scout.com/player/101569-travis-kelce?s=532

After two strong seasons (67/862/5 and 72/875/5), Kelce broke through with his first impact season. He caught 85 of his 117 targets for 1,125 yards and four TDs. Kelce posted his first 100-yard game of the season in Week 7 (7/101/1). His game took a step forward starting in Week 11 when he posted four straight games with over 100 yards receiving (7/108, 8/101, 8/140, and 5/101) followed up with his sixth game of value in Week 16 (11/160/1). There is no disputing that Kelce is now the number one option in this offense in a similar way as Tony Gonzalez was, but Kelce needs to be more productive in TDs. This may come when the gunslinger takes over at quarterback. High floor (80/1000/5) with potential impact value in the championship rounds of the playoffs.

Other options: Demetrius Harris, Gavin Escobar, Ross Travis

Kicker

Cairo Santos

http://www.scout.com/player/127011-cairo-santos?s=532

The Chiefs have given Santos an average of 36 field goal attempts over the last two years. In 2016, Santos made a career high 88.6 percent of his kicks. He did miss three of his 39 extra point chances while having a much shorter opportunity in kicks from 50 yards or more (2-for-2 compared to 4-of-8 in 2015). Borderline top 12 kicker with matchup value. Kansas City will stall in the red zone, which works in his favor in multiple games.

Defensive Schedule

The Chiefs’ run defense plays two games (DAL and BUF) vs. teams with success running the ball. Last year the Chargers (2), the Giants, and the Broncos (2) graded as below the league average opponents rushing the ball.

Kansas City faces eight teams with weakness passing the ball. The Titans, the Jets, and the Bills should be the best matchups. Washington has the best offense via the air on the schedule. The Patriots, the Chargers (2), and the Steelers will be the second group off opponents with success throwing the ball.

Defense

Despite allowing only five runs over 20 yards in 2016, the Chiefs still ranked 26th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,938). Rushers gained 4.4 yards per carry with 10 rushing TDs.

They finished 18th in the NFL vs. the pass (3,958 yards) with minimal sacks (28). Kansas City allowed 23 passing TDs while securing 18 Ints.

DT Chris Jones played in 16 games in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round. He offers strength and quickness at the point of contact while lacking a finishing motor and the ability to counter when stymied after the snap. In a rotation role, Jones has two sacks and 28 tackles. DT Bennie Logan will try to reinvent his career after fading in 2016. He finished as losing option with the Eagles last year. DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches played in 11 games as a rotational player in his second year in the league after getting drafted in the sixth round in 2015. The line doesn’t have one option that offers impact upside.

LB Justin Houston only played in five games due to an early and late issue with his right knee that had surgery prior to the 2016 season. Justin played great against the Broncos in Week 12 (10 tackles and three sacks). Houston is an elite player when healthy with value in all areas. LB Tamba Hali looks to be fading after posting his shortest season since his rookie year in 2008. His replacement (Dee Ford) had a career high 10 sacks last year, which was a huge improvement, but expected after getting drafted in the first round in 2014. LB Derrick Johnson is at the end of his career as well at age 34. He suffered an Achilles injury in December leading to three missed games. Johnson has over 100 tackles five of the last seven seasons. Kansas City re-signed LB Ramik Wilson in October after being cut before the start of the season. He ended up with 76 tackles and an Int in 11 games to earn more playing time headed into 2017.

S Eric Berry was exceptional again last season. He returned two of his four Ints for TDs plus chipped in with 77 tackles and nine defended passes. Berry is one of the better safeties in the league. CB Marcus Peters had a drop down in chances in his second year in the league, but it was partly due to him improving and teams looking away from him on more plays. Peters made the Pro Bowl, which he ended up missing due to a minor foot injury. He had 20 defended passes and six Ints compared to 26 DPs and 8 Ints in 2015 with two picks returned for TDs. S Ron Parker has solid cover skills due to playing cornerback earlier in his career. His tackles (61) came in less than 2014 (94) and 2015 (78) while failing to post a sack. Parker had five sacks in 2015, which was impressive for his position. Steven Nelson should be the top option for the other starting cornerback position after starting 15 games in 2016. He failed to intercept a pass but broke up 16 attempts.

The strength of this defense comes at linebacker and in the secondary with Kansas City having three stud options at the second and third levels of the defense. The Chiefs have two aging veterans at linebacker with one upside option ready to make an impact as replacement. The defensive line isn’t great and they need to do a much better job in run support while chipping in with some sacks. Kansas City should be a top 10 Fantasy defense with scoring ability plus Tyreek Hill will add value in the return game.

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