After an 0-3 start that included blowout losses to the Bills and Lions, the Chiefs looked like perhaps the worst team in the NFL. Then they won four games in a row to actually get to 4-3 and nearly put themselves in position to win the division, finishing at 7-9 behind a three-way tie at 8-8 in the AFC West.
They were not as bad as the 0-3 start, but they apparently weren't as good as their four game winning streak either. Those were their only four games of the year in which they scored 20+ points and the Chiefs finished 31st in offense in 2011. A lot of this can be blamed on injury to Matt Cassel and Jamaal Charles, but they are back so how good could the Chiefs be this year? More importantly for fantasy football, can they score more than 13 points per game and have any valuable players outside of Dwayne Bowe?
Here is a preview of the fantasy players on the Kansas City Chiefs.
2011 Record: 7-9
Drafted Skill Players: Devon Wylie, WR (4th round), Cyrus Gray, RB (6th), Junior Hemingway, WR (7th)
Dearly Departed: Kyle Orton, Tyler Palko, Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle
He's never going to be a superstar or an elite quarterback, but Cassel is a fine choice for a backup quarterback on your fantasy team if you want to wait to grab insurance in the late rounds. Or don't draft him at all because likely similar production can be had on the waiver wire without using a draft pick.
With a healthy Bowe and Charles, Cassel can put up medium-level production with a low amount of mistakes, but not with a lot of yards or touchdowns. Over his last seven games (missed seven games overall) Cassel had 9 TD, 5 INT and 1,461 yards. Medium-level production.
2012 Projection: 59%, 3,100 yards, 24 TD, 10 INT
Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi
Last season showed how bad the Chiefs can look without Cassel but even then Stanzi, then a fifth round rookie, couldn't get a look. It wouldn't be unprecedented to see a rookie get some action when the starter goes down, but not Stanzi. He's still in Kansas City though and fighting with Quinn to win the backup job. Quinn, the quarterback that couldn't beat out Tim Tebow.
Quinn has a few good games under his belt after being drafted in the first round in 2007, but even all these years later he still has only thrown a pass in fourteen games. That's how big of a disappointment he's been overall in the last five years, and he hasn't even got into a game since 2009.
Stanzi or Quinn? Right now the answer is "who cares?" but if Cassel misses any time again, it's going to be a huge issue for the Chiefs. I wouldn't worry about adding them to your fantasy team any time soon though.
I thought the schedule would be too tough in 2011 and the schedule was too easy in 2010 which had overrated Charles as a top three pick. So I stayed away from him and got lucky even as he broke himself and got incredibly unlucky. But now he's back and many fantasy owners are ready to put that first round tag on him again.
I think that's still a little too rich for my blood, but as my second pick I do see why Charles could produce again on a top 5 level. In the very little time that he got in 2011, Charles looked every bit of elite. I'm still just a little worried about injury and I think we're giving him a little bit too much credit while the Chiefs could start to give some third down and goal line carries to Peyton Hillis.
It's not that I don't think that Charles is elite, I just think that the situation around him is different than it was in 2010.
2012 Projection: 220 carries, 1,250 yards, 12 TD, 30 catches, 350 yards, 4 TD
I think that because he's white, Hillis sort of has this reputation as a tough runner that busts through defensive players to gain more yards, but he was actually one of the worst players at breaking tackles last year after only breaking four of them on 183 touches with the Browns.
Right after getting the Madden cover for his breakout 2010 season, Hillis quickly fell out of favor in Cleveland and here he is on a low-profile contract with the Chiefs as Charles insurance. Hillis went from 4.4 yards per carry to 3.6 last year but I think that the change of scenery and change of role will be good for him. I would rate him as like a RB4 though, not even a necessary handcuff on Charles because I'm not sure that he could ever be a RB1 again or even a decent RB2.
2012 Projection: 120 carries, 500 yards, 6 TD
The sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M was projected to go as high as the third but fell to the Chiefs and could prove to be valuable late round pick. Probably not this year but if Charles goes down, take a closer look at Cyrus the Virus.
The once-inconsistent Bowe has been pretty valuable over the last two years, working at his best when he's working with Cassel but didn't drop entirely in value without him. The real question is how Cassel would look without Bowe, who is still unsigned and a possible trade candidate.
I hate to do projections without a contract, but if he signs with KC, he should be good for 80 catches and 1000 yards as a solid WR2.
At 6'4", Baldwin still has the potential to turn from a first round pick into a number one wide receiver, but outside of a week seven games against the Chargers, he didn't top 30 yards once during his rookie season. He'd work better with Bowe in the game drawing the defense, but with a full year of Cassel, Charles and Bowe, Baldwin could potentially break out for a good season. Everything changes a little bit depending on the absence or presence of Bowe.
2012 Projection: 45 catches, 800 yards, 6 TD
I don't know exactly how to describe his skills other than "explosive" or "exciting" but he hasn't been able to put it together as a running back or a receiver in total, but the whole package could be valuable just like it is for Darren Sproles or Percy Harvin. He's working even more in the slot and more time at receiver could make him an interesting RB/WR option in fantasy.
He had 516 yards rushing (4.5 YPC) and 46 catches for 238 yards while also returning kicks. I think he leans more towards receiving this year, liking more towards Harvin than C.J. Spiller.
2012 Projection: 75 carries for 400 yards, 60 catches for 650 yards, 7 TD
There's little more consistent in the NFL than Steve Breaston, who has had between 700 and 800 yards in each of the last 3 years but I expect he might get a little less work this year. Again, all depending on Bowe's situation.
2012 Projection: 50 catches for 700 yards and 2 TD
Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki
One of the more underrated losses for the Chiefs last season was Moeaki, who missed the entire year after a preseason injury. His return and the addition of Boss will make the position phenomenally better, but neither should be considered a fantasy pick. They share the job and the Chiefs have a bevy of options at receiver and running back, so I wouldn't expect either to top 500 yards.