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2012 Team Report: Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterbacks

Starter: Matt Cassel
Backup(s): Brady Quinn, Ricky Stanzi

Starting QB: Matt Cassel returns for a fourth season in Kansas City. After the Chiefs' interest in Peyton Manning went unrequited, Cassel's grip on the starting job solidified. Surrounded with strong offensive talent, Cassel will be under some pressure to manage the offense efficiently. General Manager Scott Pioli brought Cassel with him from New England in 2009. After a shaky first year as the Chiefs' starter, Cassel came on strong down the stretch in 2010 and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. His 2011 season, however, was forgettable. In just nine games, he threw nine interceptions, fumbled five times, and averaged more than two sacks per game. His season was cut short when he broke his throwing hand just after the midway point in the season. The stage is set for Cassel to bounce back this season: running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki return from injury; running back Peyton Hillis, tight end Kevin Boss, and offensive tackle Eric Winston signed as free agents; and last year's first-round pick, wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, will have a full offseason to become familiar with the offense.

Backup QB: Brady Quinn was a first-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in 2007, but has not lived up to expectations as a pro. After fizzling out in Cleveland, he was a backup with the Broncos last season and now joins the Chiefs. While he may be considered a bust as a first-round pick, he is a significant upgrade over Tyler Palko, the Chiefs' backup last season. Quinn also has some experience working with head coach Romeo Crennel from their time together in Cleveland. Ricky Stanzi may lack the experience to challenge Quinn for the number two job this season, but the Chiefs like his long-term potential.

Running Backs

Starter: Jamaal Charles
Backup(s): Peyton Hillis, Dexter McCluster, Cyrus Gray [R], Shaun Draughn
Fullback(s): Shane Bannon

Starting RB: Jamaal Charles tore his left ACL in Week 2 last season, but after eight months of rehab, he is on schedule to be in this season's Week 1 lineup. Charles shared time with Thomas Jones in 2009 and 2010, but likely would have gotten more of a featured role last season if it weren't for his injury. With the signing of Peyton Hillis, Charles will go back to splitting time in the backfield; but if that helps keep his legs fresh, he is capable of doing a lot of damage even on limited touches. The question is whether the ACL injury will rob him of his explosiveness. In 2010, Charles' running style was reminiscent of Chris Johnson at his best. If he can regain that form in 2012, he can be a fantasy RB1 again.

Backup RBs: Peyton Hillis spent the last the last couple seasons in Cleveland, where he established a reputation as a tough, versatile runner with terrific power and balance. Like Jamaal Charles, Hillis had a fantastic 2010 season followed by a disappointing 2011, when he publicly squabbled with the Browns over his contract situation, and also endured a bout with strep throat. Hillis is a definite upgrade over Thomas Jones and will be called on to get the tough yards inside, including, most likely, the bulk of the goal-line carries. He is also a very good receiver out of the backfield. The Chiefs may have a personnel package that will include both Charles and Hillis in the backfield together. With Jamaal Charles out last season, Dexter McCluster got four starts and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. At just 5'8" and 170 pounds, McCluster is not built for a heavy workload, but he has the quickness to be effective when he gets the ball in space. He'll have to hold off rookie Cyrus Gray, however, who has many of the same skills as McCluster. Gray was extremely productive in college as a runner, receiver, and kick returner, and he could displace McCluster as a third-down back. The presence of Gray could also allow McCluster to move to wide receiver.

Fullback: Shane Bannon spent the 2011 season on the practice squad, but with last year's fullback Le'Ron McClain having departed via free agency, Bannon could get some playing time this season. As strictly a blocker, however, he has no fantasy value.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston
Backups: Jonathan Baldwin, Devon Wylie [R], Junior Hemingway [R], Terrance Copper, Zeke Markshausen, Jamar Newsome

Starting WRs: Dwayne Bowe is a big, strong receiver who can come down with the ball in traffic and get tough yards after the catch. When he is at his best, he is among the most dominant receivers in the league. But he has been inconsistent throughout his NFL career, and has finished the season as a top-15 fantasy receiver only once (in 2010). Bowe is an especially strong force in the red zone, which gives him a very high ceiling; but his propensity to disappear from games makes him a risky early-round fantasy pick. Steve Breaston spent several years in Arizona before joining the Chiefs last year. He is a solid complementary receiver who can take advantage of single coverage when defenses focus on Bowe. It is unknown, however, how long Breaston will be able to hold off Jonathan Baldwin for the number two spot.

Backup WRs: Jonathan Baldwin was the Chiefs' first-round pick last season, but he received little playing time after a broken thumb caused him to miss the entire preseason and the first five games of the regular season. He'll get a full offseason to learn the offense this year, however, and the team likes his athleticism and his attitude. He can be a downfield threat to complement Bowe and is expected to develop into a starter eventually, but he'll enter training camp as the third wide receiver behind Breaston. Rookie fourth-round pick Devon Wylie is the fastest receiver on the team, and he may get some work out of the slot. As the projected fourth receiver on the team, however, he has essentially no fantasy value in redraft leagues. Seventh-round pick Junior Hemingway lacks speed for an NFL receiver and will likely find himself on the bubble to make the final roster. Terrance Copper is mostly a special-teams player.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kevin Boss
Backups: Tony Moeaki, Jake O'Connell, Steve Maneri

Kevin Boss had a couple of 500-yard, 5-touchdown seasons with the Giants before a disappointing 2011 season with the Raiders. He will compete with Tony Moeaki for the top tight end spot, but whoever wins that battle will have limited fantasy potential due to the presence of the other. Tony Moeaki played well as a rookie in 2010 and has more promise as a receiver than Boss, but missed all of 2011 with a torn ACL. He may not be at full strength when training camp opens, giving Boss a leg up in their competition. Jake O'Connell is mostly a blocking tight end, as is converted offensive tackle Steve Maneri.

Place Kicker

Ryan Succop : The Chiefs do not have any competition at the specialist spots. Long snapper Thomas Gafford is back for his fifth. The veteran of the trio, punter and holder Dustin Colquitt is entering his eighth year. Kicker Ryan Succop enters his fourth year -- having signed a five-year extension in December. Last year he made 24 of 30 (80.0%) field goals and was perfect on his three long range attempts from 50+ yards. In a slow decline, the Chiefs ranked 25th, 22nd and 19th in attempted kicking points the last three years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas, Devon Wylie [R]

The Chiefs sport a pair of capable return men in running back Dexter McCluster and cornerback Javier Arenas. Both are likely to see time returning punts and kickoffs in 2012.

Punt Returners: Javier Arenas, Devon Wylie [R], Dexter McCluster

Javier Arenas will likely start the season as the team's primary punt returner. Added to the mix, however, is Black Eyed Joe All-Nickname Team member and rookie wide receiver Devon "Wiggles" Wylie. Wyle has sub-4.4 speed in the 40 yard dash, and his nickname Wiggles speaks to how elusive he can be. Don't be surprised if he wrests the punt return job from Arenas by the start of the season.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Branden Albert, LG Ryan Lilja, C Rodney Hudson, RG Jon Asamoah, RT Eric Winston
Key Backups: T Donald Stephenson [R], LG Jeff Allen [R]

UPDATE: The new-look line appears to be coming together and should be an improvement over last year. Small bump in the rankings, the Chiefs are now the 23rd ranked offensive line and overall trending upward. PRESEASON OUTLOOK: On first glance, the Chiefs line looks pretty decent. But dig deeper, there's a ton of uncertainty in this unit. For example, left tackle Branden Albert does a good job on the blind side, but he would probably be an ideal guard. Albert is entering the final year of his deal and is unlikely to be resigned. Next to Albert, left guard Ryan Lilja is a replaceable veteran. The Chiefs drafted left guard Jeff Allen out of Illinois in round two and left tackle Donald Stephenson from Oklahoma in round three, and those two could be the left side of the future. Allen is more likely than Stephenson to get immediate playing time, but the Chiefs will want to develop these players while they change out other positions on the line. Center Rodney Hudson was a backup last season, and while he should be an upgrade over Casey Weigmann, there is going to be a transition period at center. Right guard Jon Asamoah was a stalwart last year and is a player on the cusp of Pro Bowl honors if he keeps improving. Right tackle Eric Winston was a free agent pickup from the Houston Texans. Winston had ankle surgery in the offseason, and there were rumors that his health was the reason why Houston let him walk. Obviously, Winston is a player worth watching in the preseason. Should he falter, David Mims could take his place. To summarize, the Chiefs have replaced their center and right tackle this year and will likely replace their entire left side next year. That's change at every position besides right guard over the course of two seasons. In the future, this could be a top unit, but there is going to be a lot of transition in the near term.

Team Defense

It all seemed to finally come together defensively in 2011. Justin Houston had a tremendous rookie season with 5.5 sacks, helped in part by the great season Tamba Halie was having across from him. The secondary already contained Eric Berry at safety and Brandon Flowers at cornerback, but adding Stanford Routt makes it very formidable. Romeo Crennel has guys on both sides of the ball believing and they are fired up to play for him. If there is one thing which could be improved, it's the pressure generated by the defensive line--neither tyson Jackson nor Derrick Johnson get too much pressure on the opposing quarterback. Adding Dontari Poe has the potential to amp this defense up, but he needs to prove everyone wrong first. If they can increase that pressure and take advantage of the play-makers across the front seven, the Chiefs could do a lot of damage.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Glenn Dorsey, DE Tyson Jackson, NT Dontari Poe
Backups: NT Jerrell Powe, DE Allen Bailey, DE Brandon Bair, NT Amon Gordon

Starting DL: The Chiefs have the potential to be a very dangerous and underrated defensive unit in 2012 and that starts with their defensive front. The team drafted NT Dontari Poe from Memphis to be their starting NT on base downs, although he is likely to play as a 1-technique on third down as well. Poe plays like a 300lb man, although he is 346lbs. If he can solidify a three-down role, he is a startable option at DT for fantasy purposes. Poe is joined on the defensive line two fellow former first round choices, Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey. Jackson racked up 46 solo tackles in 2011 although he did not play every snap. He should be a reliable DL3 with upside. Glenn Dorsey can be relied upon as a depth guy on your bench, but he, like Jackson, is more valuable in leagues that attribute more points to tackles than big plays.

Backup DL: Allen Bailey is a player with a great deal of promise, especially as a pass rushing presence when the Chiefs go to a four-man front on third down. Bailey could steal some snaps from Jackson or Dorsey at 3-4 end to keep them fresh, thus spreading out the tackles more. Bailey is a player to keep a close eye on as the season approaches; if coaches wax lyrical about him, he is definitely worth stashing in deeper leagues.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Derrick Johnson, ILB Jovan Belcher, OLB Tamba Hali, OLB Justin Houston
Backups: ILB Brandon Siler, OLB Andy Studebaker, OLB Cameron Sheffield

Starting LBs: Derrick Johnson is one of the premiere players at LB in the NFL, although he rarely gets the publicity he deserves. Johnson is a plug and play option for fantasy purposes and produced his best statistical season as a pro last year with 104-27. At 30 years of age, he still has plenty left in the tank and he should benefit from the added protection that NT Dontari Poe will give him. Johnson should produce nothing less than a 95 solo tackle season. Running mate at ILB Jovan Belcher comes off the field on third down, although he had a very solid statistical output despite playing fewer snaps than Johnson, producing a 74/14 year. Belcher is a decent depth option and has no real competition for the strongside ILB job. On the outside, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston make a tantalising pass rushing duo. Hali is like a man possessed coming off the edge to rush the passer. He has only missed one game in his six year NFL career, so he is reliable. In this improved defense, Hali could outdo his 2011 12-sack output easily. He is an every-down player and should be a very good LB3 in tackle-heavy formats, and an LB2+ in sack-heavy scoring. Justin Houston is entering his sophomore season and has received praise from head coach Romeo Crennel this offseason. Houston had a quietly brilliant rookie year despite missing the entire offseason, producing 6 sacks to go along with 46 tackles. His natural growth as a player from year one to year two should mean bigger and better things for him in 2012, and he is a sneaky player to add to your rosters late in your drafts.

Backup LBs: The Chiefs are fortunate to have very good starters but lack depth at LB, an area that they may address before the season begins. Studebaker and Sheffield are players that can only contribute on a limited number of snaps.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Brandon Flowers, CB Stanford Routt, SS Eric Berry, FS Kendrick Lewis
Backups: S Donald Washington, CB Javier Arenas

Starting DBs: The Chiefs decided to let Brandon Carr walk in free agency and opted to sign veteran CB Stanford Routt to a short-term deal. Brandon Flowers is a reliable, solid, starting cornerback and should reach his plateau of 45-50 solo tackles. Routt, who projects to be the starter opposite Flowers, could find that quarterbacks pepper passes in his direction, so his tackle opportunity will be above average. The return of dynamic safety Eric Berry will be a veritable shot in the arm for the Chiefs secondary. Berry, who had a phenomenal rookie year after being picked 5th overall, suffered a knee injury in last year's season opener. He is on track to return for the beginning of 2012 and although expectations have to be tempered slightly due to his return from injury, a few games in he should be back to his usual self. Berry has an 80+ tackle upside if things fall into place for him. Kendrick Lewis, another player with great promise, will have less tackle opportunity at FS but can be a decent DB3 for your roster if you need it.

Backup DBs: Javier Arenas is an exciting return man and nickel cornerback for the Chiefs, but in fantasy terms he is not worth rostering unless he is thrust into a starting role.

Last modified: 2012-09-03 12:08:39

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