The Chiefs enter 2021 with the #1 QB, WR, and TE by ADP, and all three picks are justified given the history of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce.
The big question for the Super Bowl favorites is if someone else will emerge as a high-end fantasy asset. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a solid, if underwhelming, rookie season out of the backfield, but now Le’Veon Bell is gone. The Chiefs don’t really have a lot of depth at wide receiver without Sammy Watkins (who is now in Baltimore), but could someone else step up here and be a fantasy asset?
All in all, this is one of the most stable offenses in the NFL, but a rebuilt offensive line could push this team to the next level.
Kansas City Chiefs Franchise Focus Companion Podcast
|Season Win Total (O/U)
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 12 (-110) in late March to 12.5 (+120)
Super Bowl: +550 in early February to +500
Premium 2021 Betting Preview from Tom Brolley found here.
Key Offseason Moves:
|Joe Thuney (OG)
|Nick Bolton (LB)
|Damien Williams (RB, Chi)
|Kyle Long (OG)
|Creed Humphrey (C)
|Anthony Sherman (FB, retired)
|Austin Blythe (C)
|Joshua Kaindoh (DE)
|Sammy Watkins (WR, Bal)
|Jarran Reed (DT)
|Noah Grey (TE)
|Eric Fisher (OT, Ind)
|Jerick McKinnon (RB)
|Cornell Powell (WR)
|Mitchell Schwartz (OT)
|Will Parks (S)
|Trey Smith (OG)
|Kelechi Osemele (OG)
|Mike Hughes (CB)
|Austin Reiter (C)
|Orlando Brown (OT)
|Tanoh Kpassagnon (DE, NO)
|Elijah McGuire (RB)
|Bashaud Breeland (CB, Min)
|Daurice Fountain (WR)
|Damien Wilson (OLB, Jax)
|Blake Bell (TE)
|Jordan Ta’amu (QB)
|Darrius Shepherd (WR)
|Martinas Rankin (OT)
|Shane Buechele (QB)
Scott Barrett’s Fantasy Strength of Schedule
Quarterback: 12th-easiest (+0.16)
Running Back: 11th-easiest (+0.56)
Wide Receivers: 10th-toughest (-0.54)
Tight Ends: 13th-toughest (-0.05)
Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.7 (9th)
Plays per game: 65.7 (8th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 62% (5th) | Run: 38% (28th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 56.6% (6th) | Run: 43.4% (27th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 71.3% (3rd) | Run: 28.7% (30th)
HC Andy Reid cranked up the pace and went incredibly pass-heavy last year and Patrick Mahomes might have something to do with that. Not only was Kansas City top-6 in pass rate in all three key situations, they went 60% pass-heavy on all early downs (1st and 2nd) which was tied for the third-highest rate. They went 60% pass inside of the red-zone — that was also the third-highest rate — and that fueled Tyreek Hill’s 15 score season and Travis Kelce’s 11 TDs. In fact, both Kelce (13) and Hill (12) were top-6 among all players in targets inside of the 10-yard line. It’s a perfect set up for fantasy.
Patrick Mahomes now has two of the seven-best seasons all-time in fantasy points per game by a QB. His 2018 season ranks fourth-best (26.1) and 2020 ranks seventh-best (24.9).
Mahomes is first all-time in career passer rating by a mile (108.7). Deshaun Watson is second (104.5).
Per SIS, Mahomes is head and shoulders above the rest of the league in EPA per attempt (0.263) over the last three years. Drew Brees (0.188), Aaron Rodgers (0.154), Deshaun Watson (0.153), and Lamar Jackson (0.144) round out the top-5.
Dating back to 2018, Mahomes has finished as a QB1 (top-12) by weekly scoring in a ridiculous 71% of his starts. For reference, Deshaun Watson has finished top-12 in 65% of his career starts while Josh Allen is at 50%.
Tyreek Hill’s rank in fantasy points per game over the last four years: WR7 > WR4 > WR12 > WR2.
Since the start of 2018, Tyreek Hill leads all players in receptions (45), yards (1,718), and TDs (19) on targets of 20 or more yards downfield.
The next closest receiver in this span to Hill in receptions and yards on deep targets is Mike Evans (35/1,315/12).
Travis Kelce’s rank in PPR points per game over the last five years: TE2 > TE2 > TE1 > TE1 > TE1.
Kelce reached an unmatched level of consistency last year, finishing top-5 at the position in weekly scoring in an unreal 13-of-15 games.
His 20.9 fantasy points per game are most all-time by a tight end, breaking Rob Gronkowski’s previous record from the 2011 season (20.7 FPG).
Kelce closed out his season by catching at least seven passes in 11-straight games (including the playoffs).
In this 11-game stretch, Kelce went off for a nuclear 96/1,275/9 receiving line. In 11 games!
Kelce’s 25.2 fantasy points per game over his final 11 games would not only easily rank No. 1 ever by a tight end, it would also be the 29th-best season by any player at any position all-time.
Kelce led all TEs in fantasy points per snap (0.35). George Kittle (0.28) was second.
Since Mahomes became the starter in 2018, Kelce has 28 games over 75 yards which leads all players.
There is no doubt Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s rookie season was a disappointment. For all of the hype, CEH was only a measly 25th in fantasy points per game at the position. However, he did give you a high floor, finishing as the RB32 or better in weekly scoring in 11-of-13 games. He finished as an RB2 or better (top-24) eight times.
CEH averaged 84.6 scrimmage yards per game, which was still third-best in the rookie class behind James Robinson (100.0) and Jonathan Taylor (97.9).
Still, it was disappointing to see Edwards-Helaire only get an 11% target share. That ranked tied for 19th among RBs.
CEH also didn’t run a very diverse route tree for some reason. Per SIS, 44% of his targets during the regular season were simple flat or screen routes.
Huber’s Scheme Notes
The Chiefs lost out on collecting back-to-back championships at Super Bowl LV. But the situation in Kansas City, Missouri simply could not be any better for the 61-year-old franchise. That’s a statement that extends to the state of the roster in its entirety, with a coaching staff that has remained intact heading into a third-straight season. And enough simply cannot be said about its leader, Patrick Mahomes, to fully explain his impact on the team. One only needs to look at the fact that Mahomes still led his team to the title game despite his O-line permitting an average of 13.1 pressures/game following their Week 10 bye. His performance against Buffalo in the conference championship (29/38, 325, 3/0) after clearing the concussion protocol and while dealing with a significant turf toe injury during the divisional round only highlights his extraordinary toughness.
Now that GM Brett Veach has had the opportunity to retool the O-line, their offense's extremely positive outlook should only improve. The game-changing moves were the acquisitions of Joe Thuney (free agent) and Orlando Brown Jr. (trade with Baltimore). Still short of his 29th birthday, Thuney has evolved into one of the top run blocking guards in the league over the last four seasons. His pass blocking took a hit dealing with the unique playstyle of Cam Newton last season, but his pass protection reputation was considered among the very elite prior to 2020. As for Brown, adding him to the fold was a masterful move to the benefit of this offense. Brown appears set to become the present and future at LT for the Chiefs.
While he may not have built a reputation of excellence to that of Thuney or Brown, Veach also signed Austin Blythe to man the center of the line. Blythe broke out in 2018 during Todd Gurley’s monster All-Pro season when he assisted him in rushing for over 1,400 yards and 19 TDs. Blythe took a significant step backward in 2019, but managed to return to form for the Rams’ run game last season. The lingering concern in his game is in pass protection. Blythe should see significant pressure from second-rounder Creed Humphrey in camp. The right side of the O-line will also be decided during training camp. At RG, ‘20 opt-out Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will battle Kyle Long after he made the decision to come out of retirement. Mike Remmers is likely to lock down the starting role at RT, but ‘20 third-rounder Lucas Niang will attempt to push him. No matter who ends up starting along the O-line for Kansas City, they’ll enter the year with the valuable depth they sorely lacked last season.
The way fantasy owners have approached drafting the Chiefs’ RBs, confidence is extremely high in favor of sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire. If OC Eric Bieniemy gets his way, that faith will be rightly rewarded. However, we just can’t forget that Darrel Williams was clearly capable enough to hold down the role while CEH battled through injury during the playoffs. Edwards-Helaire will have every opportunity to show he’s returned to full health, but one has to wonder how long the leash will be until Williams is handed an opportunity to prove last season’s success was no fluke. The Chiefs ranked among the top-five teams in zone run concepts last season, with a particularly high rate of Inside Zone blocking. Should CEH become a frequent training table occupant, it may come to light that Williams is simply better suited to their scheme requiring the ability to work between the tackles.
One of the new names we’ve heard called out several times this offseason is 2021 fifth-rounder Noah Grey out of Duke. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Bienemy may roll out a good amount of two-TE sets. His offense utilized four detached receivers a grand total of two plays last season. And we all know Travis Kelce will continue to be the most frequently targeted receiver in the offense. But a lack of four-wide sets does not indicate Bienemy has failed to incorporate Air Raid components into his offense. The Chiefs actually ranked seventh last season in three-wide detached usage rate. The question we need answered: which receivers can we expect to see when the offense goes three-wide?
We know the every-down staple will continue to be superstar Tyreek Hill. With Sammy Watkins now cutting his teeth in Baltimore, the remainder of the rotation is somewhat unknown. Recent chatter suggests that, understandably, Mecole Hardman will have the first opportunity to fill Watkins’ old WR2 role. So, we’ll assume those rumors are true. Byron Pringle has had his name tossed around recently, as well. If Pringle fails to emerge, nobody wants to see Demarcus Robinson taking away valuable opportunities with his lackluster game. The true wildcard of the group is their other fifth-round selection: Cornell Powell out of Clemson. Mahomes has gushed over Powell’s abilities, placing him squarely on the radar for an early-season role. One thing we can all bank on is that this Kansas City offense is going to continue to be one of the most dangerous in the game, likely on a direct path to a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
What makes the Chiefs so good? Do they field an offense so dominant that the expectations for their defense is of secondary importance? That answer is a resounding NO. When Kansas City lost to the Buccaneers, the Chiefs’ O-line permitted 30 QB pressures! That number is not a typo. Nothing the defense could have done in response would have made any difference. And it’s extremely rare for the KC offense to leave the defense in such an impossible position. As the offense developed with Mahomes leading the charge, the defense followed closely behind, and helped transform Kansas City into a Super Bowl champion.
While many of the defensive components were already in place when Steve Spagnuolo took over as the DC in 2019, it’s no coincidence that they steamrolled a path to a title that season. The secondary schemes he’s employed with the Chiefs are some of the most complex in the game. Attempting to read some of these coverages are entirely impossible for the vast majority of the earth’s population. So, it should come as little surprise to learn of the monumental difficulty facing opposing QBs attempting to do so on the fly. But the freedom to carry out such an intricate scheme rotation is a direct benefit of their ability to get after the QB.
His name trails only Aaron Donald among the best-of-the-best of all NFL D-linemen. Considering Donald is one of the very best players in NFL history, that distinction is a massive compliment in the direction of Chris Jones. He has developed into one of the most dominant pass rushing threats in the game. His presence forces constant double-teaming, yet he still manages to muscle his 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame directly into the nightmares of opposing QBs. And his habitation only transforms his fellow D-linemen into far more significant threats. EDGE Frank Clark has always been a candidate to accumulate double-digit sacks, but Jones’ presence makes containing his pass rush all-the-more difficult.
As much of a surprise as it might be to learn, even with Jones and Clark on the field, the true strength of the Kansas City defense is not its pass rush. The Chiefs’ secondary certainly benefits from its strong pass rush, but Spagnuolo is gifted with truly special groups at LB, CB, and safety! It’s due to the presence of these units that allowed him to play competitive rates of Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 4, Cover 6, Cover 0, Cover 3-Seam, and, as if those weren’t enough, three additional coverages so exotic that we only see around five other teams even attempt to implement them.
The Chiefs have the ability to move any of its defensive backs on the field right up into the faces of receivers on the line. That includes safeties Daniel Sorenson, particularly, Tyrann Mathieu, and Juan Thornhill. Most defenses are lucky to field a single safety with the ability of any of these three. Now, the CB room did lose the talents of Bashaud Breeland to Minnesota this offseason. The loss of his top-10 metrics will be felt. They were able to lure Mike Hughes over from the same Vikings, but they’ll need him to take a massive step forward to replace the play of Breeland. Be that as it may, as long as they can keep Charvarius Ward, Rashad Fenton, and L’Jarius Sneed healthy, on the field, they’ll continue to field one of the top-five secondaries in all of football.
GM Brett Veach opened the ‘21 draft by selecting Nick Bolton out of Missouri. Bolton is set to play an immediate role at SAM, taking on the snaps vacated when Damien Wilson signed with Jacksonville. And the LB group will continue to be anchored by MIKE Anthony Hitchens who emerged as a top-10 performer in every important coverage metric. Ben Niemann will hope to continue to fill his role at WILL, but he is easily coming off his worst season as a pro. Of all of its starters on defense, Niemann is the one they’ll need to see the most significant improvement. If not, we could see ‘20 second-rounder Willie Gay Jr. step into a more prominent role. But, looking at this defense as a whole, average play at WILL ‘backer will simply not be enough to prevent this team from returning to America’s biggest game.
Projected Fantasy Contributors
Patrick Mahomes (Proj: QB1 | ADP: 27 | Pos ADP: QB1)
I mean, there’s not much to say here, is there? Just keep your eyes glued to the TV and watch Mahomes. He’s the best QB in football and is being drafted as such. Mahomes now has two of the seven-best seasons all-time in fantasy points per game by a QB. His 2018 season ranks fourth-best (26.1) and 2020 ranks seventh-best (24.9). Mahomes is first all-time in career passer rating by a mile (108.7). Deshaun Watson is second (104.5). Per SIS, Mahomes is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league in EPA per attempt (0.263) over the last three years. Drew Brees (0.188), Aaron Rodgers (0.154), Watson (0.153), and Lamar Jackson (0.144) round out the top-5. In other words, the average Mahomes pass attempt is worth 41.4% more than an average Rodgers pass attempt. Just think about how ridiculous that is. Oh, and for fantasy, dating back to 2018, Mahomes has finished as a QB1 (top-12) by weekly scoring in a ridiculous 71% of his starts. For reference, Watson has finished top-12 in 65% of his career starts while Josh Allen is at 50%. Drafting Mahomes is just all about preference. Stacking him with a first-round receiver in Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill is appealing, but it’s expensive to do so, almost certainly two of your first three picks. It hasn’t been something we’ve done often this year, as we’ve generally waited a few rounds to get our “cheat code” QBs this year (Jackson included). But there’s something icky about saying we’re “fading” Mahomes. He’s an expensive investment coming off toe surgery (he’s fine, per Andy Reid), but over the last three seasons, you’ve gotten what you’ve paid for.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Proj: RB17 | ADP: 19 | Pos ADP: RB14)
Look, we’ll admit we pushed CEH hard last year, especially after Damien Williams opted out, and it didn’t exactly work as planned — he finished with 181/803/4 rushing (4.4 YPC) and what we would consider a very disappointing 36/297/1 receiving on 54 targets (8.3 YPR, 66.7%). He finished 25th in fantasy points per game at the position, as he just didn’t seem to hold onto the bell cow role we hoped for — he played just 59.4% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps when active, rotating with Darrel Williams and Le’Veon Bell (the latter of whom was an unexpected landmine). It was all the more disappointing after he crushed it in his first career game, torching the Texans for 25/138/1 on the ground. Hip and ankle injuries late in the season cost CEH some playoff action, though he did return to be the Chiefs’ lead back in the Super Bowl. So what we’re looking for now are reasons to think CEH might be a good post-hype option in 2021. Fortunately, there are plenty. First of all, the Chiefs’ offensive line, the weakest part of the team last year, is rebuilt and should be an upgrade, helping CEH where he struggled last year — between the tackles. From a fantasy standpoint, while CEH’s overall performance was disappointing, he did give you a high floor, finishing as the RB32 or better in weekly scoring in 11-of-13 games. He finished as an RB2 or better (top-24) eight times. CEH averaged 84.6 scrimmage yards per game, which was still third-best in the rookie class behind James Robinson (100.0) and Jonathan Taylor (97.9). So, with that production … why didn’t CEH produce more for fantasy? The easy answer is “touchdowns.” From Weeks 1-6, CEH found the end zone only once on his 12 rushes inside the 10-yard line, even though he was expected to score 5.3 TDs on those attempts. Had he scored as expected, he would have gone from RB17 (15.9 FPG) over that time period to RB7 (20.2). After Week 6, Edwards-Helaire saw 20+ touches only once, but it’s important to note that Bell joined the roster just in time for Week 7, explaining the volume dip for CEH (CEH averaged a massive 21.3 touches per game over the first six games). More disappointing from our perspective was his lack of creative usage in the passing game — one of the best receiving backs to come out in years, we expected the passing-game work to carry CEH for fantasy. He saw just an 11% target share, which ranked tied for 19th among RBs. CEH also didn’t run a very diverse route tree for some reason. Per SIS, 44% of his targets during the regular season were simple flat or screen routes. So for CEH to pay off a mid second-round ADP, he needs a little better touchdown luck, and, hopefully, more use as a receiver. Williams is still here, but Bell is gone, and the oft-injured Jerick McKinnon is in town. Don’t be scared to draft this player in an elite situation because he burned you last year.
Darrel Williams (Proj: RB50 | ADP: 184 | Pos ADP: RB60)
Williams, with snap shares constantly above 20% on the season, was much more of a wrench in the value of Clyde Edwards-Helaire than he was a useful fantasy player in his own right. Williams posted 39/169/1 rushing and 18/116/0 receiving on 26 targets, totaling a whopping 57 touches in 16 games. Interestingly, his two best rushing performances of the season came during the playoffs, when CEH was out in the Divisional Round against Cleveland (13/78) and limited in the Championship Round against Buffalo (13/52/1). So it stands to reason he will function as a rotational piece and handcuff in 2021, as Le’Veon Bell is now gone and Jerick McKinnon is in town. Williams is valued for his leadership, blocking, and special-teams contributions, and he can catch the ball well enough, but his standalone fantasy value is basically non-existent if CEH is healthy — Williams finished as a top-36 fantasy RB just twice in 16 games in 2021. He’s an interesting depth option given the chance of a bell-cow role if CEH were to go down, but the guess here is he’s left on the Waiver Wire in most redraft leagues because the standalone value just isn’t there.
Jerick McKinnon (Proj: RB68 | ADP: 239 | Pos ADP: RB67)
McKinnon making it back to play a 16-game season in 2020 was the most remarkable statistic he posted — he missed each of his first two seasons on his three-year deal with the 49ers with knee injuries. However, all the hard work he put in really wore him down, as he averaged 5.7 YPC over his first four games (including a 22.7 FP outburst on a 92% snap share in Week 4) but only 2.7 YPC over his final 12 games. That led to coach Kyle Shanahan pulling back on his usage and giving more work to Jeff Wilson and, when healthy, Raheem Mostert. Still, McKinnon had two top-12 RB finishes and four more top-24, and with his balanced skill set, he can produce fantasy numbers when called upon. Though the rushing production fell off for McKinnon, he’s still dangerous in the passing game, catching 33 of 46 targets for 253 yards and a TD last year. He’ll compete with Darrel Williams to be the top backup to Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Tyreek Hill (Proj: WR1 | ADP: 10 | Pos ADP: WR1)
At this point, like with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, there just isn’t much else to say about Hill. He’s the most explosive vertical threat in football, but he also does enough as a technician to be one of the most well-rounded receivers in football. And he’s far more consistent than you might think based on his skill set. He finished as the overall WR2 in fantasy points and fantasy points per game in 2020, behind only Davante Adams in both categories (well behind, it turns out — 25.7 for Adams to 21.9 for Hill). Still, Hill’s campaign was massive, with 87/1276/15 on 135 targets (64.4%, 14.7 YPR), and an added 13/123/2 rushing. He did this all in 15 games, as Andy Reid is an aggressive starter-rester when his team has a playoff spot locked in. Hill’s rank in fantasy points per game over the last four years: WR7 > WR4 > WR12 > WR2. Since the start of 2018, Hill leads all players in receptions (45), yards (1,718), and TDs (19) on targets of 20 or more yards downfield. The next closest receiver in this span to Hill in receptions and yards on deep targets is Mike Evans (35/1,315/12). What’s more for Hill in addition to the obvious deep chemistry with Mahomes, he had a huge weekly floor and ceiling. His five weekly top-5 finishes and seven weekly top-12 finishes ranked behind only Adams (six and eight, respectively). His 11 top-24 weekly finishes actually ranked ahead of Adams and behind only Stefon Diggs (12). With the Aaron Rodgers situation in Green Bay still unknown, Hill has been almost universally going off the board as the overall WR1. It’s justified.
Mecole Hardman (Proj: WR48 | ADP: 124 | Pos ADP: WR51)
While Hardman’s explosiveness has been on display multiple times in his first two NFL seasons, he’s been more of a “splash play” kind of receiver than a consistent factor. That’s actually borne out in his snap shares — the 78% share he played in the first game of his career back in 2019 is still the highest percentage he’s registered in any game. In fact, he’s topped 70% snaps in just three games in his career. All three came in his rookie campaign, and two of the three were in the first two games (when Tyreek Hill was injured). So, through two years, Hardman has had more of a gameplan-specific kind of role, and it’s led to inconsistency for fantasy. In all, he posted 41/560/4 receiving on 62 targets in 2020 (13.7 YPR, 66.1%). His 7.8 FPG ranked him as the overall WR82, and he finished as a top-36 weekly WR just three times in 16 games (one of them was a top-12 finish). So his inconsistency was barely bankable in best ball, let alone redraft. So the question is how much better Hardman can be. Sammy Watkins is not in town any more, and the Chiefs didn’t make a significant move to replace him. While Hardman has clearly been viewed as a direct Tyreek backup through two seasons, he has earned praise from beat writers and teammates for his spring practices, in which he reportedly showed a new focus on both on-field skills and demeanor. Clearly, the Chiefs had bigger plans for him than have come to materialize so far, but his main competition for #2 WR roles are just Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, and fifth-round rookie Cornell Powell. That role is, at best, #3 on the pecking order for targets in Kansas City, and it’s concerning too that Hardman was never the major beneficiary of snaps whenever Watkins was inactive the last two seasons (he’s averaged just 8.6 FPG without Watkins, compared to 7.6 with him, a negligible difference). But he’s the most explosive of the Chiefs’ secondary receivers, and his affordable 11th-round ADP makes it easy to invest in someone who might be figuring it out in the NFL’s best passing game.
Demarcus Robinson (Proj: WR88 | ADP: 305 | Pos ADP: WR103)
The Chiefs brought Robinson back on a one-year deal for 2021, which they likely saw as a priority because of their somewhat surprisingly poor WR depth, on a corps that is now without Sammy Watkins. So Robinson will enter training camp battling Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, and maybe rookie Cornell Powell for the Chiefs’ #2 WR gig. Over the last three seasons, it’s been Robinson, and not Hardman, who has served more directly as Watkins’ backup. That said, Robinson hasn’t exactly set the world on fire when Watkins has been out the last three years — while he averages just 5.3 FPG with Watkins in the lineup, it’s been a barely usable 8.7 FPG without him. And last year, Robinson’s 6.8 FPG barely ranked him inside the top 100 at WR. He’s free in best-ball drafts, but like Hardman, didn’t even pay off in that format last year, totaling just one weekly top-24 finish. The only reason he’s worthy of a dart throw is because of the potential for opportunity in this explosive offense.
Byron Pringle (Proj: WR98 | ADP: 372 | Pos ADP: WR129)
The least known of what looks to be a three-man battle for the Chiefs’ #2 WR job, Pringle has a shot to absolutely vault up draft boards during training camp and the preseason. Though the fourth-year player has just 25/330/2 receiving in two NFL seasons, he’s a player the Chiefs have made a point to keep around, extending a second-round RFA tender to him this off-season. GM Brett Veach singled him out with positive praise this off-season, while The Athletic’s Nate Taylor noticed a budding chemistry between Pringle and Patrick Mahomes during spring minicamps. At 6’1”, over 200 pounds, and with sub-4.5 speed, Pringle has both size and wheels, which could make him the favorite to replace Sammy Watkins. After all, he started all three of the Chiefs’ playoff games after returning from an ankle injury, commanding 10 targets overall. What he does not have is draft capital or a long-term contract, so this is a prove-it summer for Pringle. He’s someone whose best-ball and redraft capital could explode with a positive summer.
Travis Kelce (Proj: TE1 | ADP: 9 | Pos ADP: TE1)
Kelce is one of three Chiefs — QB Patrick Mahomes and WR Tyreek Hill being the others — who is being drafted as the overall top player at his position this summer. And he’s going the earliest of the three… for good reason. In 2020, Kelce posted 105/1416/11 receiving on 145 targets, breaking the NFL’s single-season TE yardage record in just 15 games. And it’s his run of overwhelming, dominant consistency that makes him such an appealing pick. His 20.9 fantasy points per game are most all-time by a tight end, breaking Rob Gronkowski’s previous record from the 2011 season (20.7 FPG). Here are Kelce’s ranks in PPR points per game over the last five years: TE2 > TE2 > TE1 > TE1 > TE1. Kelce reached an unmatched level of consistency last year, finishing top-5 at the TE position in weekly scoring in an unreal 13-of-15 games. But going deeper is even more impressive. Kelce closed out his season by catching at least seven passes in 11 straight games (including the playoffs). In this 11-game stretch, Kelce went off for a nuclear 96/1275/9 receiving line. In 11 games! Kelce’s 25.2 fantasy points per game over his final 11 games would not only easily rank No. 1 ever by a tight end, it would also be the 29th-best season by any player at any position all-time (including QBs). And since Mahomes became the starter in 2018, Kelce has 28 games over 75 receiving yards, which leads all players. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to pull the trigger on a TE in Round 1. But it’s beyond obvious that Kelce, who was arguably the most valuable player in fantasy last year, is worth it. He’ll just continue adding to his Hall of Fame resume in 2021.
Hansen’s Final Points
Breaking down Patrick Mahomes right now is a little weird in that he had a top-7 season all-time for a fantasy QB in 2020, yet he kind of underwhelmed. They also have issues, such as a thinned receiving corps and a revamped OL. If, God forbid, Mahomes lost either Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill, he’d have a tough time delivering on his expensive ADP of 25-30 overall and as the QB1 off the board. The easy answer to the Mahomes question this year is to just let him go, which is what I planned to do. But if he slips to the fourth round, and you’re not loving the non-QBs on the board, it’s hard to argue with taking this stud, especially if you already took Kelce or Tyreek and are looking to stack.
We were all underwhelmed by Clyde Edwards-Helaire last year, and I do have concerns about him as a short-yardage runner now that we’ve seen him play out a season. But he did also flash tantalizing potential and I love his chances to come through for fantasy this year — ideally as a third-round pick. Getting CEH in the third may be a pipe dream, though, since his ADP has actually been on the rise in the spring/early Summer and he’s now squarely in the top-24 by ADP. But even if he’s drafted in the second, as long as he’s the 16th-17th RB off the board, I’m okay with it because there’s a big drop-off in RB talent and fantasy potential soon after Edwards-Helaire is off the board. His lack of TDs is a problem, but volume should not be, since CEH averaged a healthy 21 touches per game over the first six games before they added Le’Veon Bell. Bell is gone, so unless Jerrick McKinnon has a resurgence, CEH should be in line for 20 opportunities a game in a great offense while being spelled by Darrell Williams here and there. If he’s used more creatively in the passing game, Edwards-Helaire is a good bet to come through. Bottom line, I’d advise to keep in mind that there was a reason CEH was a top-10 overall pick in 2020 despite the pandemic and zero snaps in the pros.
He’s actually a pretty good handcuff for Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and if you’re looking for a back-of-the-roster RB stash, you could do worse than Darrel Williams, who was consistently above 20% of the snaps last year, even with Le’Veon Bell in the mix. Williams is appropriately priced as the RB50 off the board (we had him at RB49 as of 7/21/21) around 180 overall. Williams is not sexy at all, but he’s a veteran with a ton of experience in the offense, and he can catch the ball well. He may also be a better goal line back than CEH. He’s not a priority even if you draft CEH, but there’s no question he would be the top WW add for the week if CEH got hurt and was set to miss time. The one thing to watch with him is Jerick McKinnon, who could make the team and factor into the mix. If that’s the case, then Williams probably won’t be drafting in the top-200.
He’s been a shell of his former self, but veteran Jerick McKinnon does look like a classic Andy Reid back with explosiveness and versatility. He did post 5.7 YPC his first four games last season, but the 49ers pulled back from his usage, which isn’t the best sign. If he makes the team, the biggest threat he poses is in the passing game, so we might be inclined then to knock CEH down to about 25 overall and out of the second round. But first let’s see if McKinnon will be in their 2021 plans.
Considering his incredible consistency and durability, not to mention the thinned out receiving corps on the roster and his star QB, Tyreek Hill has done more than enough to merit our WR1 ranking (pending the GB Packers situation, of course). I don’t love taking a WR that early, but if I feel like I can get a good back in round three (like Miles Sanders), taking Tyreek in the 10-15 overall spot should work out beautifully and give your team nice balance with an elite wideout, which there are fewer of this season.
When I asked HC Andy Reid about Mecole Hardman in February of 2020, Reid seemed really optimistic (even seeing through the coachspeak), so I thought the second-year man was poised to have a mini breakout in his second season. It didn’t happen, and Hardman took a step back. But the Chiefs really, really need him to take a large step forward in 2021, and the offseason vibes are positive on that front. He may always be an individual play guy, but given his elite speed and offense, he could also easily make one big play every week this season and deliver. He will log a ton of snaps, and his target share will obviously increase with Sammy Watkins gone and the light bulb seemingly coming on for Hardman this spring. It’s fair to be skeptical based on his weak showing in 2020, but it’s also fair to view him as a small value with an ADP of WR51 off the board around 135-140 picks into a draft. If the vibes remain good throughout August, I’ll probably actively target Hardman in the 125-135 overall range.
You have to give him credit for hanging on this roster now for five seasons, and he’ll make it six seasons if he’s on the team this year, but if Demarcus Robinson was going to break out, he’d have done it by now. KC did look for other options at WR in free agency, but they couldn’t get anything done, so they opted to bring Robinson back on a one-year deal. He’s not even a lock to produce if Tyreek Hill missed time, since he’d compete with guys like Byron Pringle, who they like, and rookie Cornell Powell, who is a good prospect. But if something did happen to Tyreek or Mecole Hardman, Robinson would be the immediate pickup, given his vast experience in this offense, and he’s certainly had his moments with 11 TDs his last three seasons.
The Chiefs do love having Byron Pringle around, and he could easily be a solid WW pickup this year if something happened to one or both of their top two guys at WR. He also does click with Patrick Mahomes, and he’s got enough size and speed to be impactful. He could certainly play over Demarcus Robinson as the #3, but he’d still probably need an injury to Tyreek or Travis Kelce to stand out as a good WW pickup.
In the biggest no-brainer at the tight end position in the history of fantasy football, Travis Kelce may just go off the board as the first TE drafted in literally every single fantasy draft on the planet this summer. If that’s the case, he’d be totally deserving. Kelce’s volume and consistency was absolutely bananas last year, and there’s no end in sight with a thinned out receiving corps in KC this year. At some point, he will have to slow down, but there was zero slippage from Kelce in 2020 in terms of his movement and availability. The real question with Kelce is whether or not he’s worth a top-12 pick, or even a top-8 pick, and the answer is yes. Our Fantasy Points Generator crunches all the numbers, and it adores Kelce as a top-5 overall pick.