Romeo Crennel and the Kansas City Chiefs would like to see the running game compile 500 attempts in 2012. If Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis are healthy enough to manage the load, and the Chiefs get enough support from the passing game to sustain drives, both players have a high likelihood of providing strong fantasy production. What happens if either, or both running backs are lost for the season? The Chiefs promising young defense has the guns for the remaining healthy running back of the pair to earn RB1 production and possibly give one of the back off the bench flex-value. If both Charles and Hillis get hurt, the situation becomes murkier.
Peyton Hillis, RB or Jamaal Charles, RB – If one goes down, the other has a strong shot at reaching or exceeding 350 touches in this offense. This means for one of them, top-12 fantasy production at the running back position becomes far more likely than it was as a healthy pair.
Cyrus Gray, RB – If one of Charles or Hillis is lost for the year, Gray has the talent to thrive as a part of a committee. The rookie has a good burst, better than average pad level, and the strength to become a regular part of the rotation. He worked in a pro style rushing attack at Texas A&M and when he's at his best, he's a patient runner. At his worst, his patience can develop into a more tentative style. If Charles gets hurt, expect Hillis to be the bell cow and Gray to receive playing time when Hillis needs a blow. If Charles is the remaining back of the tandem, Gray could earn more time because Charles is only a year past his ACL tear. If Gray plays to his capability, the Chiefs could still be on track for a high carry-count if the other offensive and defensive factors work out as hoped. If both backs get hurt, Gray could become the lead back, but only if the Chiefs don't turn to Darren Sproles-like option, Dexter McCluster.
Dexter McCluster, WR/RB – Based on solely on pure talent, McCluster is the best option the Chiefs have after Charles and Hillis. The third-year utility player is not as physical as Darren Sproles, but he's just as explosive and versatile. McCluster lacks Sproles' balance, but he possesses great vision and he understands how to finish plays to maximize yardage while staying healthy despite the fact that he's a mouse weaving through a pack of elephants. The greatest drawback to McCluster is that the Chiefs seem puzzled with how to best use him. Considering how good Sproles was with the Saints, this is the ultimate compliment to New Orleans head coach Sean Payton. If Romeo Crennel and company can figure out the secret formula, McCluster could be the most valuable offensive weapon for the Chiefs. The scenario this occurs is more likely if both Hillis and Charles are eliminated from the lineup. However, if Charles gets hurt McCluster's explosiveness and versatility makes him an ideal complement and flex-play to the grind-it-out style of Hillis.
Tony Moeaki, TE – If the third-year tight end is healthy, a loss of either running back could force the Chiefs to use Dexter McCluster less often as a slot receiver and more often from the backfield. This could increase frequency of plays where Moeaki becomes a viable receiver or moveable chess piece instead of the slot receiver.
Kevin Boss, TE - If Moeaki isn't healthy enough to earn the starting role, Boss can stretch the seam as an inline tight and provide some value in the red zone as a flex play. Leagues with deep rosters should consider Boss a "hold."
Jonathan Baldwin, WR – Baldwin is a tall, physical receiver with build-up speed. Eliminate one or both components of a potentially strong ground game and Baldwin's opportunities in single coverage on play action dwindle. Matt Cassel has moments where he's decent, if not downright good, but expecting him to excel when the supporting ground game diminishes isn't wise. Play up the idea that the Chiefs will need to pass more and get value for Baldwin.
Steve Breaston, WR – A tough player with good skill in the middle of the field, Breaston is miscast in this offense because of mediocre quarterback play. If the Chiefs are forced to throw more, Breaston is best suited as a slot receiver with a hyper accurate quarterback. He'll be serviceable as a flex play, but if you can package him in a deal for something more substantial the sum of the parts dealt away, do it.
Devon Wylie, WR – Wylie has the potential to develop into a dynamic slot presence along the lines of Wes Welker. However, this article has already highlighted that Matt Cassel is not Tom Brady. If the Chiefs quarterbacking demonstrates dramatic improvement then Wylie's speed, skill after the catch, and good hands makes him a flier worth grabbing.
Shaun Draughn, RB – The former starter for the University of North Carolina is a patient runner with some strength to break arm tackles. At UNC he lacked NFL-caliber burst and agility, but he does get what the line blocks for him. If Draughn is forced into action, he was good enough for Kansas City in the preseason to warrant an add. However, we believe he's probably better to sell as a throw-in to get an upgrade to your roster.
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