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Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: Kansas City Chiefs

There weren't many sadder teams to watch between 2007 and 2009 as the Kansas City Chiefs. They were near the bottom of the NFL in offense all 3 years and the days of Trent Green airing it out, and Priest Holmes then Larry Johnson lead fantasy in scoring, we got a healthy dose of Damon Huard and Tyler Thigpen.

Larry Johnson flamed out of the league quickly (let that be a lesson to fantasy-owners about overvaluing a mega-season) and the new man in town is generating as much hype as the previous two MVP-candidates after the Chiefs led the league in rushing yards in 2010 and won as many games last season (10) as they did the previous 3 years combined.

Matt Cassel found a groove, Dwayne Bowe caught the passes he was supposed to, and the offensive line opened giant gaping holes for Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. So will they replicate that success in 2011 under Todd Haley or revert to the Chiefs of 2009? I have some scary news for Chiefs fans that they are probably already aware of: Kansas City only beat 1 playoff team last year, and that was the 7-9 Seahawks. They basically chewed up the cupcake opponents and then when playoff time arrived they lost 30-7 to the much better Baltimore Ravens.

There was a considerable drop off from the best team they played that whole season (Indianapolis, who wasn't that good at the time) and the next best opponent, which was probably Oakland, a team that was arguably better.

They won't be so lucky this year.

Four of their first six games are on the road and they aren't cupcakes: @Det, @SD, @IND, @Oak. Sharply consider any rushing team that has to face the Lions and the league's best DT in Ndamukong Suh. It doesn't get much easier, as they have a stretch of @NE, Pitt, @CHI, @NYJ, GB, OAK. That's playoff run time kids, and I would definitely not take that for granted when drafting Jamaal Charles.

Let's get deeper...

Quarterback

Matt Cassel

Consider me at the front of the line for people skeptical of Matt Cassel when the Chiefs bet on him to save the franchise. He had a good season with New England, but that was NEW ENGLAND. There would be no Randy Moss and Wes Welker for him in KC. His first season seemed to prove me right, he threw 16 TD against 16 INT and a 69.9 QB rating. That seemed about right. Then last season the rushing game got going, the defenses perhaps got a little easier, and Bowe caught a few more balls. That made Cassel much more efficient and a safe spot start in fantasy leagues; he threw just 7 picks, over 200 yards per game, and had a QB rating of 93.

Cassel provided several big games last year, twice going for 4 TDs without a pick and 3 other games with 3 TDs. He's not as exciting as some other, higher-ceiling QBs, but he's usually pretty efficient. This season will be a real test for him though considering the much tougher schedule. He also has a new weapon at WR, which might or might not be a difference maker.

Ricky Stanzi

The Chiefs have moved on from the Brody Croyle era (remember fans when you thought he was the future?) and so Stanzi is battling Tyler Palko for the role of backup. This is about the least interesting competition in sports.

Running Back

Jamaal Charles

Last season was pretty ridiculous for Charles when you consider that he DIDN'T EVEN GET THE MAJORITY OF CARRIES IN KANSAS CITY.

That is insane when you think about it as Thomas Jones was the "primary ball carrier" for the Chiefs. But Jones averaged 3.7 yards per carry and Charles averaged 6.4 yards per cary on his way to 1,467 yards, 5 TDs, 45 catches for 468 yards and 3 more TDs. Charles will no longer be coming into spell Jones, but be the primary focal point of the Chiefs offense so... is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Most people would say its a good thing, but how much higher can you get than almost 2,000 total yards? Charles won't average 6.4 yards per carry, but he could duplicate his success in terms of yardage and score a few more TDs, but I'm always a little wary of a guy going from backup to "star" now that defenses are keyed on him and the pressure is mounting. He's not going to slip past 5 in any fantasy drafts I know of, and that may be fair, but I do think its tiny bit risky. (Again, remember Larry Johnson?)

Interesting note, the Redskins refused to give up a 3rd round pick for Charles back in 2009. Oops.

Thomas Jones

I consider Jones to be like the Chauncey Billups of the NFL. He came in with a lot of hype, didn't do much early in his career, bounced around and started to live up to his hype much later in his career. Last season was his least productive year since his days in Tampa Bay. He's 33 now, and he might be a TD vulture, but that's about it.

Jackie Battle

Sort of sounds like the name of a female character in a new Street Fighter game. Jackie Battle, hyruken! But other than that, not much to see here.

La'Ron McClain

McClain isn't quite as interesting in his own right as he is for the other backs on the roster. He's a 2 time pro bowl fullback signed from Baltimore, and will be providing beef up the middle for the Chiefs other backs to try and lead the league in rushing again. He's a very good thing for KC and he did rush for 900 yards and 10 TDs in 2008.

Dexter McCluster

Wide Receiver? Kick returner? Punt returner? Running back? Astronaut?

I have no idea, I just know that he's one of the most explosive players in the game. Like Jacoby Ford or CJ Spiller, he'll just break a play and make you go "wow" making more Sportscenter highlights than fantasy teams. McCluster left some to be desired last season, but he was only a rookie and there's PLENTY of time for him to grow into perhaps one of the best playmakers in the NFL. He's a good sleeper, but hard to say when the breakout is really going to happen.

Wide Receiver

Dwayne Bowe

He was such a disappointment to fantasy owners in 2009 after he failed to build upon a successful first 2 seasons and played in only 11 games with 53 yards per game, that I completely stayed away from Bowe last year. He was a bust! A nobody! A has-been and a never-was at the same time!

Then last year he had 72 catches, 1,162 yards, and 15 (!) touchdowns. Bowe was so hot at one point that he caught 13 TDs in a 7 game stretch with 49 catches and 733 yards. That's just an example of how one player can CARRY your team at times. Also an example that he wasn't very good in his first four games, and he was inconsistent in his last 4 games. A streaky player?

Again, he'll be facing tougher defenses this season and getting more attention unless another WR steps up this season. Unbelievably, Chris Chambers was 2nd on the team in yards for a wideout with only 213. I'm not expecting a repeat performance of 15 TDs, so I would draft him like a guy that can get 8-10 TDs and not one who just had a career-performance.

Jonathan Baldwin

The Chiefs were at least aware that they were super thin at WR and drafted Baldwin out of Pittsburgh in the first round. He's not as hyped as Julio Jones or AJ Green, but he's a strong WR and ran a sub 4.50 40 at the combine but there were concerns with his character...

Those concerns were confirmed today when he got in a locker room fight with Thomas Jones and injured his wrist. It's expected that he may miss the rest of the preseason and who knows how much longer than that. Not a good start for the rookie, who caught 1 pass for 14 yards in his first (and maybe only) preseason game this year.

That's probably enough news for me to stay away from Baldwin in the draft this year, or at least drop him considerably if not entirely off of my board. He's worth looking at long-term, but come on kid... Get it together.

Steve Breaston

The Chiefs didn't just stop at Baldwin, they also added Breaston on a 5 year contract from the Cardinals. He was a solid and steady WR that managed to fill in where needed behind one of the games top receivers in Larry Fitzgerald. He'll probably slide into the #2 job easily now that Baldwin is acting like a headcase. He caught 77 passes for 1,006 yards in 2008. He's been just over 700 yards in each of the last 2 seasons and only has 7 career touchdowns, but he averaged a career high 15.3 yards per catch last season. He should fit in nicely in KC as a consistent target for Cassel, but the Chiefs aren't yet about the passing game. He's a WR4 in fantasy.

Tight End

Tony Moeaki

All the Chiefs ask of Moeaki is that he fill in for the greatest tight end of all-time. Is that so much to ask? Of course he wasn't going to do that, but he was a solid... for a rookie... tight end... on the Chiefs run-run-run-Bowe offense. 47 catches for 556 yards and 3 scores were his rookie numbers. He may build upon that and get to the 50-60 atch, 600 yards, 5 TDs mark but I would only draft him in deep leagues, that sort of thing.

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