In their first season under Andy Reid, Kansas City went 11-5 and appeared in the postseason for the first time in three seasons. They had a tale of two seasons in a sense, starting 9-0 and then finishing 2-5. Which Chiefs team will show up in 2014 and which offensive players can we count on for fantasy purposes this season?
2014 Chiefs Schedule
|4||New England Patriots|
|5||@||San Francisco 49ers|
|7||@||San Diego Chargers|
|8||St. Louis Rams|
|9||New York Jets|
|17||San Diego Chargers|
Here’s the part where I tell you to use caution when looking at the schedule big picture. Kansas City unfortunately will not see the NFC East and AFC South like a season ago, drawing the much tougher NFC West and AFC East. Their schedule really fluctuates back and forth between good and poor matchups on paper for fantasy points, never really getting a great string of paper pushovers for any stretch.
No matter whom the opponent was, this offense played well as a collective group despite relying on one main contributor to move the football. A far cry from the way they performed in 2012, here’s where Kansas City ranked in a few efficiency areas in their first year under Reid.
|Points Per Game||26.9||7|
|Avg. Scoring Margin||7.3||4|
|Yards Per Point||12.5||2|
|Points Per Play||.428||4|
|RZ Att. Per Game||3.6||6|
|RZ TD Per Game||2.2||6|
Their defense does deserve some credit for all of the favorable game script they played in during the first half of the season, but Reid along with Doug Pederson and Chris Ault were able to make an impact in year one. Looking back at 15 years of teams led by Reid here are the play calling splits from those teams.
[table id=165 /]
Reid is no stranger to skewing towards the pass on ball clubs, and if the Chiefs didn’t close so many games away, we would’ve certainly gotten more from this club through the air. As mentioned, there’s not a major spread of ball distribution in this offense, so let’s touch on a few of the players that will be relevant in fantasy circles this season.
Charles in Charge
We can put this one to bed right out of the gate. Jamaal Charles is this offense and will be again in 2014. He’s coming off of a career year in which he totaled 1,980 yards from scrimmage and scored 19 touchdowns. For fantasy purposes, he scored on 5.8 percent of his touches, second most out of all backs behind Donald Brown, but was still third in non-touchdown points per touch. He also finished second in rushing points per attempt and for good measure he added 181.3 PPR receiving points, which would’ve made him the WR33 in PPR scoring, equal to Emmanuel Sanders.
Prior to 2013, he never got a true shot at short yardage work through five seasons of time shares and poor offenses, but was solid in converting seven of 15 carries inside of the five-yard line for his career. In 2013, Charles scored on eight of his 15 carries inside of the five-yard line, which was the sixth best conversion rate in the league.
He did have some pretty bizarre splits last season. He was heavily targeted when the Chiefs led in games. That was in part a makeup of his ability, Reid’s offense and Alex Smith’s conservative nature. Of his 104 targets, 70 came with the lead or tied. When the Chiefs were behind on the scoreboard, Kansas City was forced to attempt to throw the ball vertically, but oddly enough, that’s when Charles did his best work rushing the football. Check out his splits in wins and losses using the Games Splits App available at RotoViz.
There’s really no way we can expect Charles to have seven touchdowns receiving again -only Marshall Faulk and Darren Sproles have accomplished that feat twice since 1983- but his overall touchdown production should still reach the nine to 12 area. Though you can anticipate his receiving to come back down slightly, there’s no threat to him losing a massive amount of volume in that regard. This is an offense that always catered to using backs in space, as Charles’ 2013 falls right in line with the high end production of previous backs in this system.
[table id=166 /]
While it will be hard to repeat to his unprecedented 2013, Charles strolls right into 2014 as a top three selection overall in fantasy if not number one. The changes at offensive line aren’t as much of a concern as some natural regression and a tougher schedule, but investing a high pick in Charles is as easy as it gets as this offense will once again be forced through his abilities.
Knile Davis should be a target as a handcuff to Charles, but don’t anticipate him coming on the field for a great deal of work as long as Charles is upright. Not as skilled as Charles in space and more of a long speed player, Davis likely wouldn’t carry as much of a role in the passing game should Charles suffer an injury. In that event, you may see De’Anthony Thomas used as more of a hybrid running back and receiver. Thomas should fill the vacated role of Dexter McCluster. Shawn Siegele sees Thomas as a possible arbitrage play on Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin, so monitor his usage in the preseason and throughout camp.
Football Charlie Brown
Alex Smith gets no love from either the real football or the fantasy community. The latter is a mistake because this is still a point driven game and no matter how you feel about Smith as a real quarterback, he was a reliable fantasy one in 2013.
Smith finished tied with Andrew Luck for sixth in quality start percentage, which was above Cam Newton, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson and others. He ran more than ever in his career under the guidance of Ault, notching ten games of at least 20 rushing yards, and five with 40 or more. No one seems to care that for fantasy purposes Smith is a similar player to several quarterbacks on a per game basis going in the mid rounds while he goes undrafted.
[table id=167 /]
Just looking at pure passing stats, Smith is comparable to four quarterbacks currently being selected in the first 10 rounds. His passing volume elevates him there, because on a per throw basis, he’s not nearly as efficient as Wilson or even Kaepernick. But that volume isn’t going anywhere as quarterbacks in this system average 34.6 passing attempts per game with a 15 season sample. Most of these guys all run, so let’s look at the same group from a rushing perspective.
[table id=170 /]
Under the tutelage of Ault, there’s no reason to anticipate his rushing viability evaporating in 2014 either. It may actually increase given the regression expected from this defense. As far as fantasy points per game, he was in line with everyone besides Newton, and just as volatile as he and Kaepernick. Wilson and Cutler separate themselves in this regard because they are far more consistent scorers, even when they are outside of the top scorers each week.
Would I select Smith over any of these players while they all were still available? Of course not. I’m simply illustrating the difference this position carries in fantasy football as opposed to real football. Smith is a perfect example of how the quarterback position can create a natural floor for you to exploit if playing a streaming committee or by placing him on your roster as a QB2 as an arbitrage play on the low passing volume mobile quarterbacks.
Just Say Bowe
After inking a new five-year, $56 million contract last offseason, Dwayne Bowe proceeded to post career lows in receptions (3.8) and yardage (44.9) per game on a lowly 11.8 yards per reception. The last time that Bowe topped 70 yards receiving in a regular season game was week nine of 2012. Per Pro Football Focus, Bowe had a 9.6 average depth of target (aDOT), the only time in his career that he’s been in single digits.
Those lowly numbers can definitely be attributed to Smith’s conservative ways and the game scripts that Kansas City was frequently in. When the Chiefs were tied or held a lead, Bowe accounted for only 14.4 percent of the total targets in the passing game. That number ranked 53rd in the league, behind receivers such as Ace Sanders and Greg Little. When Kansas City was trailing however, Bowe’s target share jumped all the way up to 26.9 percent, which was the eighth highest and the largest differential from neutral to negative game script for any receiver. When the Chiefs really had to throw, he was involved.
The other issue is that this system just hasn’t produced a ton of great fantasy production from the receiver position. No receiver has 80 receptions in a season and only three have ever reached the combination of 50 receptions and 1,000 yards.
[table id=171 /]
It’s unlikely that Bowe will ever be a top fantasy receiver again, but with the Chiefs expected to regress overall in terms of expected game scripts, he’s a player that could trump his ADP and be solid WR4 on your roster. With Bowe suspended for week one, he likely becomes even more of a target for depth. He has been dealing with a finger issue as well, so monitor any information on that front as camp expires.
Outside of Bowe and Charles, this offense will mostly be hallow for fantasy production. Donnie Avery is the early leader to hold the second receiver spot, but he’s not even a replacement level fantasy option. I’ve opined my affection for undrafted rookie free agent Albert Wilson a time or two, but he’s no threat for 2014 production. We’re still waiting on A.J. Jenkins and Mark Harrison and Junior Hemingway is still hovering around, but again, this is a group that will provide little fantasy juice cumulatively let alone as individuals.
One name to monitor that could have relevance is sophomore tight end Travis Kelce. He lost his rookie season to micro fracture surgery but is back in camp and reportedly showing no ill effects. His college resume is glowing and he was an athletic monster before the surgery. Davis Mattek wants you to know that he’s your late round lottery ticket at the tight end position and the opportunity is prime. Anthony Fasano did little outside of the red zone a season ago and we already covered that Charles is the defacto WR2 in this offense. In a division with exploitable linebackers, Kelce could be a nice find late in drafts.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@KCChiefs) July 23, 2014
2014 Fantasy Relevant Projections
Best Option to Crash through their projection without injury: Bowe – By default, there’s only two Chiefs skill players likely to be drafted in the majority of leagues, so Bowe makes the list. If he carries his target shares from negative game scripts over into this season, he should bounce back to at least a level relevancy.
Biggest Risk to fall through their projection: Charles – again, a default choice given the fantasy landscape surrounding this offense. How much touchdown regression can we expect from a back that scored 19 times a season ago after scoring 24 career times through his first five years?
Best Waiver Wire Option: Kelce – 2014 is basically his rookie season and rookie tight ends have done very little throughout league history. With an opening due to lack of talent and a quarterback who favors intermediate targets, he’s the guy to monitor.