Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Chiefs Fantasy Preview

Friday, July 7, 2017


Chiefs Offensive Profile Under Andy Reid

2013-2016 Pass Attempts Rank: 20th, 28th, 29th, 25th
2013-2016 Rush Attempts Rank: 15th, 16th, 12th, 14th
2013-2016 Play Volume Rank: 16th, 29th, 31st, 27th
2013-2016 Yards Per Play Rank: 20th, 17th, 12th, 16th
Unaccounted for Targets from 2016 (Rank): 87 (20th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2016 (Rank): 32 (23rd)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Alex Smith
RB: Spencer Ware
WR: Tyreek Hill
WR: Chris Conley
WR: Albert Wilson
TE: Travis Kelce
LT: Eric Fisher
LG: Parker Ehinger
C: Mitch Morse
RG: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT: Mitchell Schwartz

Passing Game Outlook

Alex Smith version 2016 posted the worst marks of his Chiefs career in fantasy rank (QB22), touchdown passes (15), TD rate (3.1%), turnovers (12), and yards per completion (10.7). Including the playoffs, Smith topped 300 passing yards in 1-of-16 games and has topped 300 yards in only 4-of-65 games (6.2%) as a Chief. A fearful game manager, Smith avoids back-breaking mistakes enough to avoid ruining his team’s cause, but he has succeeded only when backed by an elite defense and at least above-average offensive supporting cast. Per Next Gen Stats, Smith attempted his average 2016 third-down pass 2.27 yards short of the first-down sticks, which ranked 29th among 33 qualifying quarterbacks. After the Chiefs traded up for Patrick Mahomes, 2017 amounts a contract year for Smith, who has no guaranteed money past this season and is owed $17 million in 2018, which puts Smith at great risk of being released next offseason by a cap-strapped team. As Rotoworld SOS analyst Warren Sharp identified the Chiefs with this year’s fifth-toughest pass-defense schedule and second-most difficult slate overall, Smith’s year-long job security can’t be taken for granted. While he still holds value in two-quarterback leagues, fantasy drafters have understandably pegged Smith with lowly QB25 (MFL10s) and QB26 (FF Calc) ADPs.

In their trade up for Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs surrendered their 2018 first-round pick and a 2017 third-rounder in exchange for a 17-slot first-round climb, landing this year’s most naturally gifted but arguably least pro-ready signal caller. Mahomes went 13-16 as a 29-game starter at Texas Tech, where quarterbacks simply aren’t taught to play in structured, pro-like environments. Mahomes still offers mouth-watering traits with plus size (6’2/225) and mobility, an innate propensity for attacking defenses for big plays, poise in chaotic pockets, and a cannon arm, having clocked 55 MPH ball velocity at the Combine, the second-strongest clip in this draft class. Most importantly, Mahomes landed with Andy Reid, who developed dual-threat Donovan McNabb as an accuracy-deficient running quarterback out of Syracuse, worked with gunslinger Brett Favre in Green Bay, coaxed career-best games out of Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley, and devised offenses to hide Michael Vick and Alex Smith’s weaknesses while maxing out their strengths. Even at a devalued position in fantasy, Mahomes is a highly intriguing Dynasty pick.

Tyreek Hill is this year’s most polarizing fantasy prospect after taking the NFL by storm with 12 rookie-year touchdowns despite handling just 85 offensive touches and barely seeing the field until Week 7. From that point on, Tyreek earned the nickname TyFreak as the PPR WR7 through Week 17 while averaging 8.3 touches per game in since-departed Jeremy Maclin’s four missed weeks, compared to Hill’s 5.5-touch average when Maclin played. Hill’s snap rate also elevated from 48.0% to 62.3% in Maclin’s missed month. Reception Perception WR guru Matt Harmon charted Hill as a skilled and explosive route runner who converted 80% of his contested targets, promising for a 5-foot-8, 185-pound hybrid running back. Next Gen Stats identified Hill as the fastest on-field player in the NFL last season, clocking him at over 23 miles per hour on straightaway runs. Before the Chiefs selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, Hill ran 4.29 with a stupid 6.53 three-cone time, combining freak long speed with similarly freakish short-area quicks. Considering his small NFL sample size, the strongest knocks against Hill involve his college resume. Hill managed 532 receiving yards in 2013 at community college, 281 yards at Oklahoma State in 2014, and just 444 yards as a senior at small-school West Alabama. While Hill’s track record suggests he may be a mere gadget player, the Chiefs nevertheless plan on shoehorning Hill into their lead receiver role following Maclin’s release.

Chris Conley started 11-of-16 games last season and led all Chiefs wide receivers with a 79.8% snap rate, making him the heavy favorite to open this season at X receiver to Hill’s Z. Showing almost no connection with Smith, however, Conley finished 61st among 96 qualified wide receivers in PFF’s yards-per-route-run metric and is now up to 100 career targets with one touchdown catch. Even when Maclin missed five weeks over the past two seasons, Conley actually averaged fewer receiving yards (25.8) per game. Although Conley will always present size-speed intrigue at 6-foot-2, 213 with 4.35 jets, he was simply never a schematic fit with a risk-averse passer like Smith, finishing 2016 with a tight end-like 9.5-yard average depth of target. As a talent, it’s fair to wonder if Conley could be unlocked by strong-armed and aggressive Mahomes. But it’s probably not happening with Smith at quarterback.

Candidates for sub-package receiving snaps are fourth-year UDFA Albert Wilson, 2016 fourth-rounder Demarcus Robinson, and ex-basketball player TE Demetrius Harris. Wilson is most experienced in Reid’s system, but he logged just 45.3% of Kansas City’s 2016 offensive snaps after playing 65.3% the year before. That usage dip suggests the Chiefs don’t see Wilson as an ascending player. The son of ex-Bears and Vikings WR Marcus Robinson, Demarcus was suspended four times at Florida and tested poorly at the 2016 Combine, running 4.59 with a pedestrian 34 ¼-inch vertical at 6-foot-1, 203. The Chiefs talked up Robinson’s run-after-catch potential at spring practices. Harris played 44.8% of the Chiefs’ 2016 snaps and may see an uptick after No. 3 tight end James O’Shaughnessy was traded to New England. A power forward at UW-Milwaukee, Harris ran a scintillating 4.52 forty at 6-foot-6, 237 when the Chiefs signed him in 2013. Unfortunately, Harris was popped for felony marijuana possession in March. Ultimately, I doubt any pass catchers in this offense become fantasy relevant beyond Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

As their running game sputtered and Maclin missed time down the stretch, the Chiefs were forced to unleash Travis Kelce at career-high usage rates, and the results went as expected. After Kelce averaged just 46.0 yards per game over the first six weeks, he erupted for a 93.4-yard average over the next nine before meaningless Week 17. Kelce was a fantasy league winner, topping 100 yards in six of the final nine fantasy-relevant weeks. In Maclin’s five missed games over the past two seasons, Kelce’s receiving-yard average jumped from 57.3 to 90.6, and he averaged 8.8 targets compared to 6.5 with Maclin healthy. Last year, three of Kelce’s 100-yard games occurred in the four games Maclin missed. Kelce is now being drafted as the overall TE2 behind only Rob Gronkowski, which is deserved. Especially on the off chance Tyreek Hill falters in a lead receiver role, Kelce stands to full-on dominate.

Running Game Outlook

Spencer Ware’s 2016 season was a tale of two parts much like the rest of the Chiefs’ offense. A top-ten fantasy back in the first six weeks on 18.3 touches per game at 5.18 yards per carry, Ware devolved into a borderline flex play the rest of the way, averaging just 3.61 yards per carry from Week 8 on as Kansas City’s run blocking collapsed. One possible cause was the Week 8 loss of LG Parker Ehinger (ACL); Ware averaged 5.3 YPC in Ehinger’s appearances compared to 3.8 YPC when Ehinger missed. Overall, Ware’s season was pretty mediocre. He graded out 37th among 57 running backs in Pro Football Focus’ rushing grade and 22nd of 42 backs in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. Ware electrified with averages of 13.6 yards per catch and 10.6 yards per target, but he never became a big part of Kansas City’s passing attack. On tape, Ware seemed to lose short-area burst as the season wore on. With Kareem Hunt now in the fold, Ware’s 2017 usage is uncertain. Ware is not an especially compelling floor or upside pick at his RB19 (FF Calculator) and RB24 (MFL10s) ADPs.

Ware will face competition from rookie Kareem Hunt, whom the Chiefs traded up to draft in the third round after Hunt rewrote Toledo’s rushing record books and caught 73 passes, including 41 as a senior. (Ware has 78 catches in his college and pro careers combined.) Hunt tested as a mere 28th-percentile SPARQ athlete before the draft, however, and he is making a big competition jump coming from the MAC. He stands 5-foot-11, 216 to Ware’s 5-foot-10, 228. Hunt’s 2016 tape was excellent, showing an ability to get skinny through small spaces and ranking second in the nation in missed tackles forced (PFF). While overtaking inefficient scatback Charcandrick West should not prove difficult, Hunt will also need to pass Ware to become more than a low-end flex option in fantasy leagues. July drafters have been optimistic on Hunt, selecting him as the RB37 in MFL10s and RB38 in FF Calculator mocks. Still, the likeliest scenario has power-runner Ware and more-versatile Hunt forming a near-even committee.

2017 Vegas Win Total

The Chiefs’ Vegas Win Total is 9.5 with a lean toward the under (-125), which I believe is the smart play here. Kansas City’s offseason strongly hinted at organizational dysfunction, clearing out several front-office members including respected GM John Dorsey and cutting their 29-year-old No. 1 receiver for salary-cap reasons. Last year’s Chiefs were among the NFL’s biggest overachievers, going 12-4 despite a 10.1-10.6 Pythagorean Win Expectation. This year’s Chiefs have the NFL’s toughest schedule in Weeks 1-11 and the NFL’s second toughest schedule overall. A slow start would greatly increase the chances Kansas City turns to promising-but-raw rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The defense is going to stay nasty, but the offense is likely to struggle. I think 2017 is a 7-9 win transition year for the Chiefs.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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