Targeting Players on Good Offenses: Chiefs (2022 Fantasy Football)
Recently, Andrew Erickson looked at the benefits of targeting players on good offenses. This can help your fantasy draft strategy. Let’s take a look at the Chiefs and profiles for the players in their offense.
Targeting Players on Good Offenses: Chiefs
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – MEAN ADP (72)
The Chiefs were the No. 1-ranked offense last season in positive EPA per play, so there’s no surprise to see them atop the rankings. But with so much ambiguity about the pecking order of targets behind the most expensive Chief — Travis Kelce — I’d opt for Marquez Valdes-Scantling at cost as WR47 in Round 8/9. He’s going even later on other non-Underdog best ball formats and regular redraft leagues.
The ex-Packers field stretcher has ranked inside the top five in yards per reception over the last two seasons, so he will feel right at home catching bombs from Patrick Mahomes. He is sure to experience spiked weeks of production attached to the Chiefs’ big-armed quarterback but valuing him more than a weekly boom-or-bust fantasy WR3/4 would be malpractice.
But considering that’s his current price he’s my favorite KC wide receiver to draft. He will have an advantage fighting for reps as a starting perimeter receiver with most Chiefs receivers vying for snaps from the slot between JuJu Smith-Schuster, Skyy Moore and Mecole Hardman.
It’s possible that those guys along with Kelce and the running backs cannibalize the majority of short-to-intermediate targets, leaving MVS as the team’s primary downfield weapon.
Although if Valdes-Scantling’s ADP continues to rise based on offseason buzz, I’ll be the first to hop off the wagon for a player that has yet to ever command more than 75 targets in a single season. I’ll happily ride the Skyy Moore train. His impressive yards after catch (YAC) ability — tied for first with 26 forced missed tackles in 2021 — and ability to play both inside/outside help him stand out from the other Kansas City Chiefs WRs.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is too expensive as the RB26 after the team added Ronald Jones II in free agency and re-signed Jerick McKinnon. Jones is a candidate to eat into CEH’s workload on early downs and in the red zone.
McKinnon already showed the capability of being “the guy” in this backfield during KC’s playoff run in 2021. In fact, from Week 18 through the first three rounds of the playoffs, McKinnon averaged 14.3 fantasy points (PPR) and over four receptions per game. When CEH returned from injury in the Divisional Round, McKinnon doubled his touches (30 vs 15).
With an established pass-catching background and obvious trust from the coaching staff to let him loose during the postseason, McKinnon should be considered a late-round pick across all fantasy formats to get exposure to the Chiefs’ offense.
He could easily emerge as the team’s No. 1 pass-catching back. This casts doubt on the Edwards-Helaire’s receiving upside after his 0.73 yards per route run ranked 64th out of 68 qualifying running backs in 2021. The mark was significantly worse than his teammates Darrel Williams (1.28) and McKinnon (1.15).
Derrick Gore‘s sleeper appeal as a receiver gets nuked with McKinnon’s return, but he still has potential as the team’s goal-line back. He flashed red-zone usage last season in Week 8 with six red-zone touches. Many will point to Gore’s undrafted status as a reason to believe he won’t be a factor in 2022. But the team’s belief in fellow UDFA Williams suggests that the team won’t shy away from Gore if he is indeed the best option for the job.
He was superior to Edwards-Helaire and Ronald Jones last season in PFF rushing grade and yards after contact per attempt.
Chiefs Player Profiles
Patrick Mahomes (QB)
Despite the ups-and-downs of the KC Chiefs offense as a response to the Cover 2 defense, Patrick Mahomes was as a star as ever from a fantasy perspective. The former MVP ranked fourth in fantasy points per game (22.0) tying Justin Herbert with 12 weekly top-12 QB finishes. Still, Mahomes averaged fewer fantasy points per game than in 2020 (25.2).
Additionally, the loss of Tyreek Hill cannot be ignored heading into 2022. The duo ranks second in combined passing touchdowns (41) since 2016 – despite Mahomes not becoming the starter until 2018. Mahomes can’t totally be written off as a top-five fantasy option – QB4 without Hill through the first five weeks of 2019 averaging 25 fantasy points per game – but there’s real concern about his top-tier weekly ceiling without Hill.
Especially coming off a season where he posted a career-low PFF passing grade (77.5) and a career-high in interceptions (16). He’s likely being overvalued as the QB2 in early best ball drafts on name recognition alone.
CEH finished 59th out of 64 qualifying running backs in yards after contact per attempt (2.4) and third-to-last in target rate per route run at the running back position (13%). The poor rushing efficiency is bearable, but the poor receiving usage is hard to ignore. Especially considering his calling card out of LSU was catching balls out of the backfield.
Some may also feel that the Ronald Jones addition is the final nail in the coffin for CEH, but it’s not that black and white. Don’t get me wrong though – Jones is a significant threat to earn more carries than Edwards-Helaire after the former first-rounder posted worse rushing efficiency numbers than his rookie season. But full transparency – Jones was not much better ranking 51st in the same category (2.5).
It’s actually a positive sign for Edwards-Helaire that the team brought in Jones instead of re-signing McKinnon or Williams. Those ex-Chiefs backs were proven pass-catchers and limited CEH’s role as a receiver.
I’d presume that Edwards-Helaire will fully take over the primary pass-catching role – which was the reason why the Chiefs drafted him in the 1st round in any way – while also working in tandem with Jones as a rusher on early downs.
Jones splitting work might also help keep CEH healthy after his 10 missed games the past two seasons.
The former Buccaneer took a major step backward in 2021, being regulated to strict backup duties after losing out on the starting gig in Tampa Bay to Leonard Fournette. And even when loaded to take on the bell-cow role with Fournette sidelined during the end of the season, RoJo failed to fire.
He earned 20 carries in Week 16 versus the Panthers but totaled just 65 yards. The plodding runner also finished 51st out of 64 qualifying running backs in yards after contact per attempt (2.5).
Jones is a one-dimensional grinder back, whose fantasy value will be super reliant on carry-volume, offensive line play, and overall offensive efficiency.
That in itself means he will have fantasy appeal as a late-round running back in redraft if he can carve out a role on early-down and/or at the goal-line in a high-powered Chiefs offense.
It’d be easy to brush off the McKinnon signing based on the mid-June timing, had he not fully taken over the backfield during KC’s playoff run in 2021. In fact, from Week 18 through the first 3 rounds of the playoffs, McKinnon averaged 14.3 fantasy points (PPR) and over four receptions per game. When CEH returned from injury in the Divisonal Round, McKinnon doubled his touches (30 vs 15).
With an established pass-catching background and obvious trust from the coaching staff to let him loose during the postseason, McKinnon should be considered with a late-round pick across all fantasy formats.
As for Edwards-Helaire, it further creates doubt about his pass-catching role in the Chiefs offense. His 0.73 yards per route run ranked 64th out of 68 qualifying running backs in 2021. The mark was also significantly worse than his teammates Darrel Williams (1.28) and McKinnon (1.15).
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR)
It always seemed more probable than not that JuJu Smith-Schuster would find his way to Kansas City in free agency. The Chiefs were interested in him last season, and the landing spot is perfect to revive Smith-Schuster’s fantasy football value. He’s just one year removed from a WR17 finish in PPR between two injury-plagued seasons.
Let’s not forget JuJu had an elite sophomore campaign – 1,400-plus receiving yards – and he is still just 25 years old. With the most vacated targets available in Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes his new quarterback, 2022 will be a return to form for Smith-Schuster.
He can operate from his natural position in the slot and benefit from the playmakers around him. After all, Smith-Schuster was at his best as a Pittsburgh Steeler during his first two seasons playing opposite of Antonio Brown.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR)
Just less than a day after trading Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, the Chiefs have signed his replacement Marquez Valdes-Scantling. It’s a three-year deal worth up to $36 million. Essentially the same money that Russell Gage got from the Buccaneers and what Zay Jones got from Jacksonville.
The ex-Packers field stretcher has ranked inside the top-5 in yards per reception over the last two seasons, so he will feel right at home catching bombs from Patrick Mahomes.
He is sure to experience spiked weeks of production attached to the Chiefs’ big-armed quarterback, but valuing him more than a weekly boom-or-bust fantasy WR3/4 would be malpractice.
MVS does get a bump up in the WR rankings with a slight upgrade at QB and the opportunity to see a larger target share, but I wouldn’t view him too dissimilarly to how he was perceived in Green Bay for the past four seasons. He has never commanded 75 targets in a season.
Skyy Moore (WR)
Western Michigan WR Skyy Moore is being undervalued versus other Round 1 rookie WRs because he was a second-round pick as the 13th wide receiver selected in the draft. But Moore has a chance to hit the ground running in the post-Tyreek Hill era, competing for targets with fellow newcomers Juju Smith Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. His impressive YAC ability – tied for first with 26 forced missed tackles in 2021 – and ability to play both inside/outside helps him stand out from the other Chiefs’ WRs. With Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback, Moore could smash his current ECR into the stratosphere. It’s not that outlandish to think a second-rounder can make an immediate impact considering six of the 12 highest-scoring Round 1 & 2 rookie WRs selected since 2017 were second-rounders.
The Chiefs adding a plethora of WRs in free agency along with second-rounder Skyy Moore in the NFL Draft hints they aren’t expecting a massive leap for Hardman.
My advice is to not get overly aggressive drafting a player that has yet to rid the role of a gadget player since entering the league. Because although the thought of a speedy wide receiver attached to Patrick Mahomes is enticing the on-field production really has not been there for Hardman even from a spiked-week perspective.
Case in point, he has finished a top-18 weekly WR in PPR once in three years to go along with a handful of 18-20th overall finishes.
Travis Kelce (TE)
After finishing as the fantasy TE1 for three straight seasons, Travis Kelce was finally de-throned by Mark Andrews in 2021. The Kansas City Chiefs tight end posted his worst points per game average (16.6) dating back to 2017 while also posting a career-low in yards per route run (1.84) and PFF grade (81.8).
It seems logical that Kelce’s reign as the perennial consensus TE1 has come to a conclusion as he enters his age-33 season in 2022.
However, it’s impossible to ignore the high-end target share that Kelce will command in the Chiefs offense after they traded Tyreek Hill. His 20% target share ranked second-best at the position in 2021. Although it was a slight fall-off from his 23% average target share from 2019 and 2020.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Trade Analyzer – which allows you to instantly find out if a trade offer benefits you or your opponent – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.