Every NFL off-season there’s always a few teams that go through a complete offensive overhaul. Every time a team does, major fantasy implications follow closely behind. This off-season, one of those teams was the Kansas City Chiefs. In this article, I will break down the fantasy outlook in Kansas City and how it can impact your team.
They shocked the world by trading away Alex Smith in late Januar. Thus giving Patrick Mahomes a very coveted seat at the NFL starting quarterback table. Along with trading away Smith, Kansas City also made a huge move, acquiring wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency. The Chiefs made their intentions clear by dropping a $48 million money bag into his lap. However, the addition of Smith and Watkins are not the only moves that could have a fantasy impact this season.
As great as Kareem Hunt was in his rookie season, the Chiefs will be getting Spencer Ware back from a torn MCL and PCL injury. Ware was sidelined for all of 2017 and was a heavy favorite to lead the Chiefs backfield last season before going down. The speculation in training camp is that Ware may come back to eat into Hunt’s production.
Add these roster moves and factor them all together. Now we have an entirely different Chiefs offense than we did last season. The question now becomes who are the guys to own in this new Chiefs offense? Can Patrick Mahomes handle the starting job and deliver consistency at the QB position? Will the addition of Sammy Watkins push Tyreek hill out of the top-12 in fantasy receivers? Will the resurrection of Spencer Ware bring a potential Running Back By Committee (RBBC)?
There’s plenty of questions to be asked. now lets dive into some of FFStatistic.com data to get some answers.
Quarterback- Patrick Mahomes
After the Alex Smith trade, the fantasy world lit up with both positivity and hesitance. It’s easy to get excited about a guy with Mahomes skillset but its natural to wonder if a guy with little starting time in the NFL can be a valuable asset at such a streamable position in fantasy football. Unfortunately, the lack of playing time gives us very little tape to help evaluate his outlook for the season. However, we can use other data to get a better idea of the fantasy impact Mahomes may have.
Above is a chart that shows the yearly finishes of all the quarterbacks throughout Andy Reid’s career. The chart shows that since the start of Reid’s tenure as the head coach with the Chiefs in 2013, Alex Smith (his only QB in that timeframe) finished outside the top 12 fantasy QBs all but one year (2017) and had an average finish as the fantasy QB14. Although Reid’s quarterbacks finish outside the top 12 in fantasy, Mahomes’ style of play gives him the potential to finish at or near the mean of Reid’s QB1 finishes.
Another chart we can use to help us predict Mahomes outcome is the number of pass attempts by QBs under Andy Reid. The above chart shows that since becoming the head coach of the Chiefs in 2013, pass attempts have been well above the league average. This particular statistic is great news for a guy like Mahomes fantasy outlook.
Mahomes came into the NFL is known as a gunslinger who likes to move outside the pocket and loves to stretch the field and the high pass attempts in Reid’s offense can potentially cater to Mahomes strengths. More passing, more opportunity, more potential for fantasy points.
Patrick Mahomes fantasy outcome is wildly unpredictable for the 2018 season. Limited game tape causes us to make mostly assumptions and guesses when trying to evaluate him. However, the statistics and data show that under Andy Reid’s guidance, Mahomes will have the opportunity to post valuable fantasy QB numbers. With the additions on the offensive side of the ball, Mahomes value will mostly come in two QB and Superflex leagues as a high upside QB2.
Running Backs- Kareem Hunt & Spencer Ware
Last season Spencer Ware was all but locked and loaded to be the workhorse back for the Chiefs. Unfortunately, fate had other plans for the third year back when he suffered a season-ending knee injury right before the 2017 season. Insert Kareem Hunt. The rookie out of Toledo burst onto the scene and stole the hearts of fantasy owners across the globe with a ridiculous week one performance. He totaled a whopping 46.6 fantasy points on 246 total yards and three touchdowns against the Patriots and the fantasy community never looked back.
Hunt followed up his week one performance with six more double-digit fantasy performances through week seven and solidified his keep as a solid RB1. Although Hunt started the season strong, his fantasy production did taper off after week seven as shown in the weekly point chart shown above. From weeks eight through 13 Hunt averaged around or below the average finish of an RB2 in Points Per Reception formats (PPR) but managed to pick his production back up from week 14 on.
Hunt finished the season with 12 double digit fantasy performances but only seven RB1 performances. With one more off-season in the NFL and First-year starting QB Patrick Mahomes likely to lean on the run game to help him get acclimated, it’s reasonable to assume that Hunt will be the recipient of a ton of that work.
Many fantasy owners have speculated that the return of Spencer Ware is likely to put a damper on at least some of Hunt’s fantasy production. In 2016 Ware had his best career year in the absence of Jamaal Charles. He totaled 1,368 yards from scrimmage and 3 total touchdowns. Ware possesses a similar skill set to Hunt as both are effective as runners and pass catchers. However, one daunting fact remains, Ware has never come close to producing the type of statistics that Kareem Hunt did in his rookie season.
It’s worth noting that Ware’s availability has been in question due to injury in his past. This is what left the door open for Hunt in the first place. Ware will undoubtedly get work in the Chiefs offense, but likely to spell Hunt as a change of pace back. Despite inconsistencies last season, Hunt has high RB1 expectations in 2018. Ware should be looked at as a viable handcuff for precautionary measures.
Wide Receivers- Sammy Watkins & Tyreek Hill
2017 was the year of the cheetah. Tyreek Hill had a coming out party in Kansas City after the departure of Jeremy Maclin. In his second year, Hill saw a considerable uptick in targets, receptions, and yards. The increase in responsibility led to Hill being the WR9 in PPR formats.
The big question is, does adding a guy like Watkins hurt or help Hill? Sammy Watkins is coming off a less than stellar fantasy season after being abruptly traded from the Buffalo to Los Angeles weeks before the start of the 2017 season. Despite the change of scenery, Watkins did have a few bright spots in 2017. He now looks to compliment Hill in a predicted pass-happy offense. Watkins ended the season with 39 receptions for 597 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The above chart is a heat map that we at FFStatistics.com use to help track pass-catching target opportunities for specific positions. The targets are represented by colors. Green is where the receiver saw the most targets and red being where he saw the least. The numbers inside each zone represent the receptions percentage of the receiver being evaluated.
The exact specifics of this tool can be found on our site under Data Analysis. In the above heat map, we use Tyreek Hills target opportunities to see where he was targeted most and to what efficiency level. The chart indicates that Hill was targeted mostly on the right and left sides of the field at short distances where he had his best reception percentages.
The heat map also indicates he had a fair reception percentage deep down the field on the right side. The data from the chart lines up with Hills top 10 finishes in both air yards and Yards After Catch (YAC). Hills heat map indicates he was well used all over the field and was very efficient in doing so.
In the Sammy Watkins heat map above, we see a different story being told than Hills. Watkins map shows he was not overly targeted anywhere except for at short distances. Primarily on the left side of the field. The map also indicates that 397 of Watkins 593 total yards were air yards. However, he was often not targeted or efficient on deep throws down the field. That’s alarming for a man of his physical metrics.
Some of these statistics can be attributed to LA’s offensive system not being a great fit for Watkins. Another factor could be Jared Goff’s lack of throwing the ball deep in 2017 (see Goff’s QB opportunity heat map). The heat maps are great tools to evaluate the efficiency and opportunity of both Hill and Watkins from last season.
It’s very clear that Hill will be the WR1 in this offense and be used all over the field. Hill will act as the X, Z, and Y receiver while Watkins will likely fill a complementary role opposite Hill. It’s also worth noting that both receivers are projected starters in a very pass-heavy offense. Tyreek Hill is being taken in the third round as the WR14. Sammy Watkins is being drafted near the sixth round as the WR29.
Tight End- Travis Kelce
I won’t spend too much time here because well, its Travis Kelce. Coming off a career-best season, Kelce finished 2017 as the number one tight end in fantasy. Kelce finished the year with 1038 yards. This puts Kelce next to Rob Gronkowski as the only two TEs to ever top 1000 yards. Kelce also scored eight touchdowns last season. He was one of the most consistent fantasy TEs, averaging 15 fantasy PPG and was a top-12 fantasy TE in 11 of 15 games.
The new personnel around Kelce makes you wonder if he can continue his consistency and maintain his target share. The loss of Smith makes it uncertain if the Chiefs will lean on Kelce the same way in 2018.
There is no definitive way to tell how Mahomes and Kelce will connect on the field. However, using the TE1 target share chart above, you can see the percentage Kelce traditionally hold in Reid’s offense. The chart shows that Kelce averaged an 18.13% target share since 2015 and a 21.89% target share over the past three years. All under Andy Reid.
The addition of some key pieces on offense could eat into Kelce’s target share. But, his consistency factor is too good to ignore. Even if Kelce loses work, his ability warrants strong consideration to continue as a top TE in fantasy. Kelce’s current ADP is currently around the end of the third round as the TE2 (behind Gronkowski).