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Kansas City Chiefs Writers
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Few coaches have lasted as long in the league as Andy Reid, and fewer still have consistently been considered among the brightest offensive minds for that entire tenure. While Reid has always had a preference for the pass, it wasn't until he paired up with quarterback Patrick Mahomes II that he could truly cut loose, unleashing an array of run-pass options, goal line shovel passes, and other creative concepts that left the league flat-footed. While Mahomes and Reid earned a reputation for ruthlessly attacking downfield in 2018, the offense had been shifting more toward the short passing game in recent years, a trend likely to be accelerated now that All Pro deep threat Tyreek Hill is no longer on the team.
Patrick Mahomes II returns to a new-look Kansas City offense in 2022. Mahomes had the lowest intended air yards per attempt of his career in 2021 (7.3), a product of the two high safety defenses used to limit Mahomes down the field. The trade of Tyreek Hill will change the offense but not necessarily make it worse. Hill himself saw the lowest yards per reception (11.2), aDOT (10.4), and yards per target (7.8) since his rookie season as defenses adjusted to the Mahomes-Hill connection. Mahomes adds JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the wide receiving corps, which should diversify and contrast with the Hill era. Mahomes is backed up by Chad Henne.
The Chiefs return Clyde Edwards-Helaire while adding Ronald Jones II to the backfield, while 2021 leading rushing Darrel Williams signed with Arizona. Edwards-Helaire has played a total of 23 possible 33 games through two seasons. Edwards-Helaire dropped from 54 targets (13 games) down to 23 targets (10 games) in 2021.
The addition of Ronald Jones II, who has been a limited passing catcher in his career (1.9 targets per game), could free Edwards-Helaire up to grow his passing game role. The Chiefs added Isaih Pacheco in the seventh round of the NFL Draft, who could have an opportunity to make the team with a limited depth chart behind Edwards-Helaire and Jones. The Chiefs also brought back Jerick McKinnon in free agency.
The loss of Tyreek Hill will be an adjustment for the Kansas City passing offense. Hill saw a reduction in yards per reception (11.2), yards per target (7.8), and aDOT (10.4), the worst numbers since his rookie season before he was traded to Miami. The Hill trade is a recognition that offense will change in the second phase of Patrick Mahomes II's career. Hill leaves behind a career-high 159 targets in the Kansas City offense. Kansas City was rumored to be interested in Smith-Schuster last season before he returned to Pittsburgh. Now Smith-Schuster lands in Kansas City with an open competition at the wide receiver position. Marquez Valdes-Scantling had the second-highest aDOT in the league in 2021, which could bring a more diversified aspect to the Kansas City offense. The Chiefs added Skyy Moore in the second round of the NFL Draft. Moore was a positional convert in college and has only played three seasons as a full-time receiver. He has scheme flexibility as an option on the perimeter and in the slot. The remainder of the wide receiver corps features Mecole Hardman, who had a career-high in 83 targets and 693 receiving yards in 2021. Josh Gordon is also on the roster but had only 14 targets in 2022 and is a fringe option.
In October, Travis Kelce will be 33 years old but maintains one of the most consistent year-to-year options at the tight end position. Kelce had the second-highest number of targets per game (7.9) behind only Mark Andrews (9.1), which indicates how high Kelce was at the position. Kelce regressed to the lowest yards per reception (12.2) and lowest yards per target (8.4) of his career, which may be a product of the schemes defenses used against the Chiefs. Kelce also had the best yards after the catch (6.1) in the past four seasons. Other options at the position behind Kelce include Blake Bell and last season's fifth-round pick Noah Gray. If the offense is going to change looks after the Tyreek Hill trade, a stylistic change could feature a player like Gray. Gray only saw 10 targets in 2021 despite playing 16 games.
- LT Orlando Brown
- LG Joe Thuney
- C Creed Humphrey
- RG Trey Smith
- RT Andrew Wylie
- Lucas Niang, Darian Kinnard, Nick Allegretti, Geron Christian
The left side of tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and guard Joe Thuney are among the best in football. These two players are why this line is rated so highly. Last year's rookies center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith stepped up in a big way. The only question is at right tackle, where Andrew Wylie, Lucas Niang, and rookie Darian Kinnard (fifth round, Kentucky) will compete. This is a top-five line with a ton of depth options.
Butker continues to be one of the most accurate and productive kickers in the league and one of the few worth taking before the last round. He has been at 88.9% accuracy or better in field goal attempts every year of his career, and last year the Chiefs gave him the most 50+ yard attempts of his career (9), and he made seven of them, in a development that should give him more chance to make kicks from distance. The Chiefs offense could also have fewer drives end in touchdowns since they shipped out Tyreek Hill during the offseason. Butker was outside of the top 10 scorers last year for the second straight year, but the likelihood of a return to the top tier makes him worth a pick as one of the first kickers off of the board.
While he's been a disappointment on offense, receiver Mecole Hardman has been a strong returner for Kansas City for years. He specializes more in punt returns, but with dedicated kickoff returner Byron Pringle no longer on the roster, Hardman could easily field kickoffs in 2022 as well.
While he's been a disappointment on offense, receiver Mecole Hardman has been a strong returner for Kansas City for years. Despite not scoring a touchdown, Hardman had his best season yet on punt returns in 2021 and will look to build on it in 2022.
The Chiefs defense came on in the second half of the season, recording multiple takeaways in seven straight games, and holding five straight opponents to 14 or fewer points, four of them to single-digit points. They spent two first-round picks on players who should start right away - corner Trent McDuffie (Washington) and edge rusher George Karlaftis - and although they lost Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Reid should be a suitable replacement. This could be an ascendent shutdown defense, but they have a tough early schedule, with Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Derek Carr, and Josh Allen, so leave them on the waiver wire until they get some easier opponents in the second half of the season.
- DE Carlos Dunlap, DE Mike Danna, DT Taylor Stallworth, DE Joshua Kaindoh, DT Tershawn Wharton, DE Jonathan Woodard
Jones remains the linchpin of this line, which continues to rebuild around him. He's still one of the league's most uniquely dominant players, averaging 10.3 sacks over the last four years. Fantasy leagues that require down linemen and reward them for splash plays can hardly do better. Nnadi brings value as a space-eating nose on early downs, but he doesn't wow with many big plays of his own. The team surprisingly brought Clark back, albeit on a restructured deal. He was widely considered a cut candidate due to a bloated contract but will return as the lead edge rusher. That's more an indictment of the rest of the depth chart than a compliment. It was puzzling to see the front office allow Melvin Ingram III to walk after an impactful 2021. Meanwhile, Clark's tackle and sack numbers have dropped for three straight seasons. He could lose snaps to first-rounder Karlaftis, who looks dynamic and NFL-ready right off the bat. Karlaftis is a three-down prospect who both collapses the pocket and holds contain in the run game; it would surprise no one to see 8-10 sacks as a rookie. The team also signed Carlos Dunlap during training camp. Whether he or Karlaftis starts, the third edge rusher is basically a starter and both Dunlap and Karlaftis will have a chance to be fantasy relevant in IDP leagues.
The Chiefs have the tough, versatile Danna to work in, but he's totaled just 51 tackles and 5.5 sacks over his two seasons. He'll lose most passing-down snaps to the team's various edge rushers. Stallworth joins after brief but promising stints as a reserve in New Orleans and Indianapolis. Capable of rushing from the inside at 300+ pounds, he'll take Nnadi's place on passing downs. Kaindoh, a fourth-round gamble last year, boasts elite athleticism and could fill a situational role as soon as this year. Wharton brings versatility and bounced around the line last year; he looks ticketed for a similar role.
Gay and Bolton, both second-round picks from the past three drafts, are poised to inherit the linebacking corps. Bolton impressed against the run as a rookie, and even if he's maxed out on early downs, the upgrade over plodding veteran Anthony Hitchens is huge. He's already a fantasy LB2, and there's room for growth. Gay has struggled in two years as a pro, but boasts similar tackle upside. For all of Hitchens' warts, he did average 7.4 tackles a game as the primary linebacker here from 2018-19.
The Chiefs don't use their linebacking corps extensively, but they could have a run-stuffing role in mind for third-round rookie Chenal. He's a prototypical up-down tackler in the mold of ex-starter Anthony Hitchens. However, Carter was a 17-game starter in Carolina last year, and he likely holds the upper hand for No. 3 duties. Lee and Harris will ply their trades on special teams.
Tyrann Mathieu has moved on, and the team pounced on Reid early in free agency to fill the gap. Mathieu had slipped a bit recently, while Reid has long been underappreciated as an all-around safety; this could prove a clear upgrade. Still only 25, he'll play virtually every down and has cemented himself as a playmaker on the ball. Thornhill has underwhelmed since tearing his ACL in 2020, but he still boasts real upside. He posted 5.1 tackles a game last year as a full-timer, and he's also active enough to make splash plays. The Chiefs may come to regret letting Charvarius Ward leave town. Fenton has long been an underrated top cornerback, and Sneed has flashed shutdown ability in his two seasons. But they were linked to just about every free-agent cornerback in the offseason, settling on first-rounder McDuffie as the one splash addition. McDuffie is a talented cover man, though he fits best in the slot, where he could be an immediate difference-maker.
At safety, the team has moved on from long-time contributor Daniel Sorensen, so there's at least an opening for a hard-hitting box safety on run downs. Bush could fit the bill; he brings years of experience as a reserve and special-teams standout. But second-rounder Cook offers athleticism and a wide skillset, and he'll push immediately for that No. 3 role. He could even share snaps evenly with the shaky Thornhill. Assuming McDuffie wins a starting job, Baker will bounce back to the bench, where he'll look to hold of rookie Williams as the No. 4. If nothing else, it's a much better depth position for the team to be in than at this point last year. The Chiefs find themselves in their share of shootouts, so all these guys (and a handful more) will see time and opportunity on the field.