Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Molina, Chris Tyler, & Joe Zollo
Getting Frank Clark from the Seahawks in exchange for their first round pick proved savvy, as all the great pass rushers from this class went in the top 20. After the drama that surrounded star wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the offseason, Kansas City made the decision to draft a potential successor in Georgia standout Mecole Hardman. Outside of Hardman, the only real player with fantasy potential is sixth round pick Darwin Thompson. After the release of Kareem Hunt last year in light of his martial arts demonstration on his girlfriend, the lead back in the Chiefs offense is hardly set in stone. Thompson could play a role, so stay tuned. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm in 2018, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. He’s back, so we know he’ll just do the same thing in 2019, right? With no Kareem Hunt, Damien Williams slides into the lead back role he showed he could (presumably) handle. The team brought in Carlos Hyde, last seen in Jacksonville doing nothing in place of an injured Leonard Fournette, and spent a sixth round pick on Darwin Thompson. Lots of intrigue, but who rises to the top? Tyreek Hill avoided suspension (I’ll keep my opinion to myself) and returns as the Alpha Dog among Chiefs pass catchers. Sammy Watkins couldn’t stay healthy (shocker) and played in only 10 games. Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, and rookie Mecole Hardman will rotate throughout as injuries (inevitably) derail Watkins’ season. And Travis Kelce, arguably the best tight end in the league now that Rob Gronkowski has ridden into the sunset with a couple of 40s (and probably a few Instagram models), goes for a record-setting fourth straight 1,000 yard season. What isn’t there to love on this offense? – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
When you think about picking players in the first few rounds of your fantasy drafts, you should be looking for players that do two things: maximize opportunity and minimize risk. You’re not always going to win your league based on who you pick in the first few rounds, but you certainly can lose it. There are several players that certainly meet both of these points, but then there are some that only meet one or the other. I’ve written a ton about the volatility of Damien Williams, new starting running back of the Kansas City Chiefs. We all saw what he did (or really, didn’t do) in Miami before landing in Kansas City in 2018, then we saw what he did to close out the 2018 season. Which Damien Williams do we see in 2019? Despite his high draft price, currently RB13 in the second round, let me explain why there’s upside, or maximum opportunity, by rolling with Williams.
Andy Reid has the pedigree of one of the most prolific offensive minds in NFL history. Since he took over as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, he’s only had three losing seasons and had a top 10 offense in 12 of his 20 years as a HC. His running backs, in terms of fantasy, have been prolific as well- and it’s not because he’s been blessed with some great ones like Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, and Jamaal Charles, either. Duce Staley, the first full-time back he had, had a top 10 finish in 1999 (233.7 fantasy points, per Pro Football Reference). Staley had two additional top 15 seasons (2001 & 2002) before yielding to Brian Westbrook. Westbrook had a run from 2006 to 2008 where had over 300 touches every year and finishes off RB4, RB1, and RB8 before yielding to LeSean McCoy. 2010 and 2011 saw McCoy finish as RB3 and RB2. After Reid was fired in 2012 (McCoy played only 12 games and finished as RB17), Reid landed in Kansas City and inherited Jamaal Charles. Charles finished as RB1 and RB7 before succumbing to injury in 2015. After he drafted Kareem Hunt in 2017, Hunt finished as RB4 and, before getting cut in 2018, was on pace for another top five finish (20.93 FPPG). Of the years I didn’t highlight, people will say it’s because Reid didn’t have a true bell cow running back that carried the ball more than 200 times. They would be correct, but it’s hardly the true story.
In 2000, the Eagles player with the most carries was Darnell Autry (remember him? Me neither.) with 112. Staley played on five games. In 2003 (Westbrook’s second year), three players had over 96 carries, the only true timeshare Reid has employed. In 2004 and 2005, Westbrook missed three and four games, respectively, with injuries. In 2009 (McCoy’s rookie year), Westbrook played in only eight games, paving the way for McCoy to take over. In 2012, the year Reid was fired in Philly, McCoy played in only 12 games, but still had 200 carries. Reid’s RB1 during healthy seasons (at least 13 games played) has averaged 301.2 fantasy points per season. (Nope, not a typo.) 300 fantasy points in 2018 would’ve been RB6 last year.
Say what you want about Williams, the player. There are plenty of metrics that suggest he can’t be a feature back with over 200 carries in a season. The good news is that Reid doesn’t need to give a player 200 carries for them to be a top 10 running back. His feature backs are notorious for heavy inclusion in the passing game (Westbrook averaged 4 receptions per game with Reid; McCoy 3.3 R/G ; and Charles 3.74) so they can approach 270 touches with ease. At Williams’ pace from Week 14 through their ousting in the playoffs, Williams averaged 17.5 touches per game (five receptions/game). Over 15 games (a full fantasy season through Week 16) at those numbers would give Williams 187.5 rushes (we’ll round up to 188) with 75 receptions. Ten touchdowns in six games isn’t exactly a sustainable pace, but 10 in 15 games certainly is. 135 points in just receptions and touchdowns means that Williams only needs 1,000 total yards to hit 235 fantasy points. That’s borderline top 10. Even if Williams does the bare minimum of his career averages, he can hit that given the opportunity that awaits him. Fitting him into an Andy Reid offense that makes running backs look good is called maximizing opportunity. Is he volatile? Sure. But let’s be real — do you really see a true threat behind him? – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
After throwing for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, it’s only natural to think Patrick Mahomes will regress, even if just a little. Mahomes was a rock star in 2018 and because it was his first full season, plenty of us believe he’ll just trot out in 2019 and do the same damn thing again. I mean, in Club Fantasy scoring, Mahomes topped 500 fantasy points. With normal scoring (4 points per passing touchdown), Mahomes still crossed the 400 point threshold. Since 2000, only two quarterbacks have topped 400 fantasy points at QB — Peyton Manning in 2013 and Mahomes. Only six other times has a QB topped 380 points — Dante Culpepper (2004), Tom Brady (2007), Aaron Rodgers (2011 and 2016), Drew Brees (2011), and Cam Newton (2015). Guess how many of them had top five seasons after those spectacular seasons? Two. Rodgers and Brees in 2011 finished 1-2 in 2012, but scored over 50 points fewer the following season. So do you think Mahomes is the exception or the rule?
Aside from historical precedent working against Mahomes, his numbers after the bye week following the release of Kareem Hunt show a different offense. And a different Mahomes. Mahomes throws arguably the best deep ball in the game and has one of the best deep ball receivers in the league (Tyreek Hill) at his disposal. From Weeks 1-12, Mahomes went deep 16.6% of the time, had a completion percentage of 50.7%, and had a QB rating 110.4. From Week 13 through the playoffs, Mahomes went deep 15.7% of the time, had a completion percentage of 36.6%, and a QB rating of 88.7. Hmm. How about play action passing? A strong run game makes those types of plays easier to execute, right? With Hunt behind him, Mahomes averaged 10 yards per attempt and had a QB rating of 111.1. Without Hunt — and yes, that includes Damien Williams — Mahomes averaged 6.9 yards per attempt and had a QB rating of 101.9. Woof. How about in the red zone? Without Hunt, Mahomes threw 12 of his 16 touchdowns in the red zone. Seven of those 12 were in the 10-zone, an area that Hunt excelled in. Last year, all seven of Hunt’s rushing touchdowns were in the 10-zone. Six of them were inside the five.
Look, I have no doubt Mahomes is going to be great in 2019. His ADP has him going with the first pick in the third round of a 12-team draft. If Mahomes doesn’t throw for 5,000 yards and 40 TDs, he scores less than 360 fantasy points (with no additional points for rushing stats). What if he only throws for 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns? Great numbers, but only 300 fantasy points. Is that worth a third round pick? You’re paying for the ceiling when the floor is, say, QB7. Don’t be a goof. Pass on Mahomes. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The Kansas City Chiefs were the #1 offense in football last year. They scored a whopping 35.3 points per game (The Rams were second at 32.9), and the passing offense, in particular, was third in total passing yards. Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy are still constructing the offense going into 2019 (Bienemy was drawing interest elsewhere). The passing offense returns Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Damien Williams. It also adds highly touted speedster Mecole Hardman to the mix. Look out! They are essentially the Olympians in Greek folklore. And if they are the Olympians, there is only candidate for Zeus- tight end Travis Kelce. Let me explain why you can trust Travis Kelce (“Zeus”) to hold your fantasy life in his hand like a tiny bird.
Despite the high draft price, draft Travis Kelce. Kelce was targeted 150 times in 2018, leading to 103 receptions for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns. This translated to Kelce finishing as the TE1 from weeks 1-16, edging out the challenger, Zach Ertz. Right now, Zeus (Kelce) is going at 2.05 as the TE1. That’s a steep price to pay for a tight end, but it is not a steep price to pay for Zeus. Zeus is going in the same group of players that include Juju Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown, Todd Gurley, and Dalvin Cook. Last year, Travis Kelce outscored Juju and would have finished above Smith-Schuster in the final WR ranking as WR8. Juju also finished 37.5% of his games last year as the WR3 or worse (I will explain why this is important in a moment), and now he doesn’t have Antonio Brown across from him for defenses to focus on anymore. Speaking of Antonio Brown, he also finished 25% of his games (26.67%) as a WR3 or worse, and was shipped across the country to a team that should cut Brown’s touchdowns in half from last year. Dalvin Cook only played in 11 games in 2018. In those 11 games, he was a RB3 — or worse — in four of them. Todd Gurley was the #1 fantasy RB the last two years, but there is a reason you can get him in the middle of the second round right now. Injury concerns with Gurley’s arthritic knee has forced the Rams to spend early draft capital on a highly touted backup. The Rams will plan on reducing his snap count by 20%, and they have also committed to sporadically giving Todd Gurley practice days off throughout the year. So, what does this all mean? Take each week and look at the top scorers at each position. Who finished the week in the top 12 at the position? Who finished the week lower than twenty-fourth at their position? What percentage of weeks is the player in the top 12 compared to twenty-fourth or worse? That’s what these numbers mean. Now what do they mean for Zeus? Let’s look to see just how consistent he is.
Kelce has finished as the overall TE1 the last three years. Last year, in 12 of his 16 games, he finished as a top-12 TE. Nine of those 12 games he finished the week in the top three at the position. He only had one week of the season as a TE3 or worse (6.5%). Remember, Juju, Brown, and Dalvin spent 25-36% of their weeks at WR3/RB3 or worse at their respective positions. Let’s take this further. Kelce’s two-year average has him spending 77.42% of his games as a top-12 TE- first among TEs. His TE3 or worse percentage has only been one game per season (Ertz was a TE-3 or worse for 16.67% of the time). Finally, Kelce was also first among TEs in weekly finishes as top six or better TE (58%). That’s a lot of numbers I just threw at you. Let me see if I can sum it up. Travis Kelce wins more weeks for you at the TE position (% of time as a top 6 TE) than weeks where he hurts your team (% of the time as a TE3 or worse). He is also the most consistent TE in football at top-6 and top-12 finishes at the position. This is true even if you include 2016 in his consistency percentages.
Therefore, you should not be afraid to draft a tight end in the second round. Travis Kelce is more than just a TE. He is Zeus. You do not have to worry about Zeus coming back down to earth anytime soon. In fact, the sky is the limit for him, so you shouldn’t be concerned about what you might miss out on in the middle of the second round (unless you absolutely love someone I mentioned). Instead, draft Travis Kelce with as much confidence as you would have drafting Zeus in your fantasy Greek God league. – Chris Molina
This dude is going to light up NFL defenses in this upcoming season. With just shy of a thousand yards receiving in his career at Georgia, Mecole Hardman might not be a name you’re familiar with in the offseason, but trust me, you’re going to want to keep your eyes on him. His career receiving yards were 961 yards, but he also averaged sixteen yards a catch, and that shows me he can create plays. Mecole Hardman is also really fast running a 4.33 forty at the combine. Now, as a route runner, he’s fast and crisp causing easy separation from defenders. Combine that with his impressive catching, and he’ll gain the upper hand on defenders every time. But what a place to land in Kansas City who has one of the most explosive offensives in the league to help him out. Besides his ability as a receiver, he can also return kicks- returning the ball 74 times for 1,467 yards. Talking about a jack of all trades, am I right? So when you’re debating on who you should draft this year, take a chance on Mecole Hardman. – Chris Tyler
Is it possible for everyone on the Chiefs to be overhyped? I say yes. I would put Tyreek Hill as a sleeper due to his ADP12 status, but I refuse to talk about him. I think Sammy Watkins is being drafted too high at WR30, and I am not sold on Mecole Hardman just yet. Damien Williams is being taken very high, and Carlos Hyde is not a good fantasy option as his backup. But a receiver buried on their depth chart, one I am honestly choosing based solely off of his name, is Byron Pringle. The good news about Pringle, besides his badass name, is that he is a willing and solid run blocker, which could help him see the field more often. He is a crisp route runner, but is a developmental prospect due to him being an older rookie. There is absolutely no reason to even draft or look at this guy besides his name. Keep moving, nothing to see here. – Joe Zollo
There are two scary products on defense for the Chiefs who can produce in fantasy football. On the defensive line, Chris Jones proved he is a disruptive and stat stuffing player who will continue to be dominant in future years, and former Cardinal and Texan, Tyrann Mathieu, joins the squad this season and will continue his dominance in the AFC West.
Chris Jones finished DE9 in 2018 with 133 points, finishing the second half of the season with no lower than nine points in a game. Tyrann Mathieu on the other hand has a bit more competition at his position to contend with. Mathieu finished DB13 with 177 points, and had just three games where he scored under eight points. Mathieu tends to be very consistent when it comes to fantasy football, and he showed last season that it doesn’t taken him long to adjust to a new team. Either one of these players is a good fit for any team, and the only thing to be leery of between the two is Mathieu’s injury history. There is a reason Arizona let him go, and it was not because of talent. – Joe Zollo