A Look Inside: 2021 Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs find themselves lacking the hardware they desired after a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. Future GOAT Patrick Mahomes was upstaged by the actual GOAT, Tom Brady. I imagine that left a sour taste in the young quarterback’s mouth.

So what did Andy Reid and the Chiefs do in response to that lackluster Super Bowl performance? To start, they went and brought in new offensive linemen. Yes, plural. Then, they parted ways with WR Sammy Watkins because a big Week 1 doesn’t help you win during the final week of the season, the Super Bowl.

How will the changes translate for the reigning AFC champions? Let’s take A Look Inside and find out.

Note: You can read our Look Inside for all 32 teams at this link and you can watch the last episode, covering the Bucs and Chiefs with special guest Jeff Bell of FantasyPros and Footballguys!

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Quarterbacks

Look, I don’t know what you want me to say about Patrick Mahomes that people don’t already know. In his first full season as a starting quarterback, he tossed 50 touchdowns passes and won the MVP award. In his second year starting, he won the Super Bowl. We know how last year ended. Nevertheless, Mahomes is on a trajectory that every young quarterback dreams of.

He averages 307.7 passing yards a game for his career and a 6.8% TD rate on what would average out to 623 attempts over a 17-game season. If you can’t do fast math, that’s 42.98 TDs a season. So his average 17-game season output would net him 467.12 fantasy points on just passing yards and passing TDs. (6 points/passing TD scoring.) Of course, he’s not a running QB in the way that Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson are, but over his three years as a starter, he averages 266 rushing yards and two TDs per season. That adds another 38.6 fantasy points, which puts Mahomes at 505.72 fantasy points before turnovers.

I understand it’s not sexy to have Mahomes as the QB1 in your rankings. “Rushing QBs are the Konami Code,” blah blah blah. However, if you believe that Mahomes doesn’t have the highest likelihood of finishing as the QB1 based on his history of production, you’re just looking to argue for the sake of arguing. If you are someone that wants to lock down solid production at QB by drafting one early in the second or third round, Mahomes is the safest bet and will be worth the price at year’s end.

Running Backs

After Kansas City spent the 32nd pick of the 2020 NFL draft on LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the fantasy community instantly vaulted him in their rankings. People had flashbacks to Andy Reid’s usage of Brian Westbrook back in his Eagles coaching days, and many of us salivated.

Fast forward to Week 2, and many began to question Edwards-Helaire’s effectiveness in the red zone after being given six attempts inside the 5 and totaling -2 rushing yards and 0 touchdowns. He would be given only three additional carries inside the 5 for the remainder of the season. He did score a touchdown on one of those three carries for what it’s worth. Midseason, the team brought Le’Veon Bell after New York jettisoned him, and Edwards-Helaire’s production became spotty thereafter.

Let’s look at the positives heading into 2021. Bell is gone, and Edwards-Helaire has only Darrell Williams, Darwin Thompson, and newly-signed Jerick McKinnon to fend off, which shouldn’t be a problem. Edwards-Helaire’s 54 targets were tied for 14th among RBs last year. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry and forced 35 missed tackles, also tied for 14th among RBs, per Pro Football Focus.

Based on where Clyde Edwards-Helaire is going in drafts, he’s more of a value in 2021 than he ever was in 2020, but I still don’t love it. FantasyPros has his ADP currently at RB14 after finishing last year as RB22. He’s currently my RB18 simply because I don’t love his touchdown upside. He scored only five last year — one receiving — and I’ve already mentioned his deficiencies inside the 5. Without the breakaway speed necessary to break off longer TD runs, he has to be able to push the pile in short-yardage situations.

A new and improved offensive line should help, but you’re going to need Edwards-Helaire to put up a 1,500+ total yard season with 60+ receptions to offset his paltry TD outlook and return value as RB14. So, I’m out at that price.

As Reid isn’t known to give his lead RB a 70% snap share, the previously mentioned Williams and Thompson will get plenty of work in rotation. They’ve combined for four TDs inside the 5 over the last two years, with Thompson a perfect 2 for 2 on attempts to TD conversion. McKinnon is better as a receiving threat and could cut into Edwards-Helaire’s receiving work if he made little to no improvements as a pass blocker. Just something to monitor heading into 2021.

Wide Receivers

When Tyreek Hill is healthy, it’s his show, and everyone else is playing second fiddle. In 2018, Hill averaged 8.6 targets per game. In 2020, he averaged 9.0 targets per game. Finishing second in WR targets last year was Mecole Hardman. He averaged 3.9 targets per game.

Hill’s game-breaking speed is lethal, and Andy Reid has looked for new ways to scheme him open as well. That includes running him from the slot more often. Beginning in 2018, Hill has run 43.4%, 52.9%, and 57.9% of his routes from the slot, respectively. Teams aren’t known to have their best corners operating from there, which is an easy way to get Hill in space and let him do his thing.

Over his last four seasons as the starter, he has three seasons over 1,100 yards. He averages 82.7 yards per game in that span and has scored 10+ TDs in two of his last three seasons. He’s the top wide receiver on arguably the most prolific passing attack in the NFL, so don’t be shy about making Hill your WR1 this season.

With Sammy Watkins now in Baltimore, the previously mentioned Hardman will battle with the likes of Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle for the scraps. Because Reid loves throwing to his RBs and has the best receiving TE in the game on his roster, scrap is an appropriate description. Hardman offers a similar skill set to Hill with his game-breaking speed. His 20.7 yards/reception in 2019 was the highest in the NFL with at least 40 targets. He has a 65% career catch percentage; solid considering Hardman was a QB for a period of time in college. Expect his role to increase, but expecting north of 80 targets might be a pipe dream unless one of Hill/Kelce/CEH suffers a significant injury.

Despite Mahomes’ career aDOT sitting at 8.9, he needs some underneath targets that can gain chunk yards from time to time. This is where Robinson comes into play. He averaged 10.4 yards/reception a year ago with a 76% catch percentage. Pringle is still raw but has carved out a role as a solid run-blocking WR. So really, not much to see here.

Tight Ends

I know offseason minicamp led to a lot of chatter about rookie Noah Gray, but let’s all pump the brakes. Travis Kelce has been the number one TE in fantasy football for five straight years. Five. There is little reason to believe he won’t make that six in 2021. So if you want to suggest anyone else will topple King Kelce, I won’t even dignify you with a stats-based rebuttal. He’s the TE1, end of discussion.

For people trying to talk themselves into Andy Reid running more 12-personnel, thus making Gray a thing, they may be onto something.

According to Sharp Football Stats, KC ranked 4th and 5th in percentage of 12-personnel run in 2018 and 2019, respectively. That number dipped to 18th in 2020. If you look at who the running backs were in 2018 and 2019, it makes sense. Kareem Hunt began the season as the starter, but we know how that ended, and Damien Williams ended up taking on a bigger role. In 2019, the backfield was led by Williams and LeSean McCoy. Given Williams’ career performance to date (average) and McCoy being on his last legs, extra blockers were needed.

Or were they decoys? Here’s the problem with Gray — he’s an abysmal blocker. His highest run-blocking grade in a season while at Duke was 62.5, per Pro Football Focus. And he got worse as his career went on. Read into that what you will, but I’ll choose to believe this position group is Kelce and no one else. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.