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2016 Team Report: Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterbacks

Starter: Alex Smith Alex Smith
Backup(s): Nick Foles, Tyler Bray

Starting QB: Alex Smith returns for his fourth year behind center for the Kansas City Chiefs. Two hallmarks of his tenure in Kansas City have been consistency and durability. Smith will not light up the scoreboard, but you can rely on him to stay healthy and provide consistent output. He's an efficient passer that offers upside with his legs, and he developed a nice rapport with top target Jeremy Maclin in 2015. As the duo enters their second season together, chemistry will continue to improve and may slightly boost Smith's overall output. The remainder of the receiving corps does not inspire as much confidence, but talented second year pro Chris Conley could take a leap forward this year and seize the WR2 role. Tight end Travis Kelce will receive the bulk of the targets that are not intended for Maclin, while the returning Jamaal Charles will remain a threat out of the backfield. The typically short passing game of the Chiefs does not offer a ton of upside on a weekly basis for fantasy purposes, but Smith produces enough throughout the course of the season to make for a solid QB2.

Backup QB: The Chiefs signed Nick Foles as training camp got underway, and he'll slot into the backup role behind Alex Smith. The move reunites Foles with Andy Reid, who drafted him during his tenure with the Eagles. There is absolutely zero chance that Foles will bypass Smith on the depth chart, but if disaster strikes with Smith, a quarterback that's familiar with the Reid style of offense will be at the ready. Tyler Bray rounds out the quarterback depth chart.

Running Backs

Starter: Jamaal Charles
Backup(s): Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Knile Davis
Fullback(s): Anthony Sherman

Starting RB: A torn ACL injury brought an abrupt end to the 2015 season for Jamaal Charles, who was on pace for another season as one of the league's more productive running backs. Charles will turn 30 at the end of the 2016 season, and with his second season-ending injury in the past five years, there are concerns that his explosiveness will take a hit. At full health and speed, Charles remains one of the biggest threats in the league out of the backfield, but concerns about lingering effects have caused him to fall in this year's fantasy drafts. Those rolling the dice on Charles could be in line for a nice return on investment, but would also be wise to draft a handcuff in later rounds. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware formed a formidable dynamic duo in the absence of Charles last year, but Ware has emerged as the more valuable backup. Charles is behind in his ACL recovery as the Chiefs head into the season, so he could get off to a slow start. Signs point to Ware having a big role in the early part of the season.

Backup RBs: Entering the 2015 season, the disaster scenario for Jamaal Charles owners revolved around securing the services of Knile Davis. While disaster did strike in 2015, the scenario played out a lot differently. Davis was bypassed by both Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware on the depth chart, and both backs filled in admirably once Charles went down. West started off as the primary ball carrier after the injury to Charles. Injuries slowed him down as well, which lead to more responsibility for Ware. Both backs had some big games on their 2015 resumes, with West's highlight coming in Week 7 - 22/110/1 - and Ware's signature game coming in Week 11 - 11/96/2. The Chiefs extended the contracts of both backs in the offseason. Ware has emerged as the primary backup coming out of the preseason, and he is expected to have a large role in the offense until Charles gets up to speed.

Fullback: Anthony Sherman returns to assume his role as lead blocker for the Chiefs. While he doesn't necessarily contribute in the stat columns, he's a vital cog in the Chiefs offense and regarded as one of the top fullbacks in the NFL. Spencer Ware could potentially fulfill his role if Sherman were to lose time to injury.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley
Backups: Albert Wilson, Tyreek Hill [R], De'Anthony Thomas, Demarcus Robinson [R] Chris Conley, Rod Streater, De'Anthony Thomas, Tyreek Hill [R], Demarcus Robinson [R], Frankie Hammond

Starting WRs: Jeremy Maclin joined the Chiefs for the 2015 season and quickly established himself as the bona fide WR1 the team has been looking for. He was targeted 124 times last season, more than double the amount of targets for Albert Wilson, the team's WR2 who saw 57 passes travel in his direction in 2015. Maclin was bottled up pretty well in both of the Chiefs postseason games, which points us to one of the overall problems for the Chiefs offense. Beyond Maclin, there's simply not much production to be offered at the wide receiver position. One solution could be the continued emergence of Chris Conley. The Chiefs are pretty high on the second-year pro out of Georgia, and regardless of how the formations ultimately shake out, Conley will continue to see plenty of work in three receiver sets in 2016.

Backup WRs: Albert Wilson has been bypassed by Chris Conley on the depth chart, but he'll see plenty of time in three receiver sets. He's a name to keep in mind in the event of injury to Maclin, but offers up no relevant fantasy value at the moment. The team picked up Demarcus Robinson and Tyreek Hill in this year's draft. Both players have had their share of off-the-field concerns, but have also shown some positive flashes at camp. We'll take a wait and see approach for now, but both players have secured roster spots. The multi-talented De'Anthony Thomas remains on board as the intriguing Swiss army knife that the team can't seem to find a use for.

Tight Ends

Starters: Travis Kelce
Backups: Demetrius Harris, James O'Shaughnessy, Ross Travis [R]

Travis Kelce is the unquestioned number two target in the Chiefs passing attack, and offers up top five overall tight end upside to boot. He was targeted 100 times last season, and ripped off 10 plays of 20 yards or more. Kelce brings exceptional size and physical gifts to the table, but curiously only accounted for five of Alex Smith's 20 touchdown tosses in 2015. Perhaps the Chiefs will find a way to make better use of Kelce in the red zone in 2016. Behind Kelce on the depth chart is Demetrius Harris, who didn't see much action in 2015, but was inked to an extension in the offseason. The intriguing James O'Shaughnessy, who saw his 2015 season come to a premature close with a foot injury, also wasn't involved in the offense too much in 2015, but he would be a name to keep in mind if the Chiefs started implementing more two tight end sets in their passing game repertoire. Either player would make for an intriguing waiver wire addition in the event of injury to Kelce. Ross Travis was a pleasant surprise at camp, and he has secured himself a roster spot for the time being.

Place Kicker

Cairo Santos: Santos was sixth in the league in scoring, but mostly on the strength of his 37 attempts and the conservative bent of the Chiefs offense. He only made 30 of them, putting his accuracy among the worst in the league, but four of those misses were from beyond 50 yards. The Chiefs haven't brought in any meaningful competition for Santos, so he is still a draftable kicker, but more because of the size of his opportunity than his ability to maximize.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Knile Davis, Tyreek Hill [R], Frankie Hammond

Kansas City's kick returner depth chart is loaded with potential, but also with questions. Knile Davis handled most of the duties in 2015, and kickoff returns might be his best shot to make the team in a crowded RB position group. Fifth round pick Tyreek Hill has looked great in camps, though, and will push the veteran.

Punt Returners: Tyreek Hill, De'Anthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond

De'Anthony Thomas spent the first 10 games of the 2015 season as the Chiefs' only punt returner of note. He spent the final 6 as a game-day inactive, with no team explanation beyond "personal reasons". Now he's facing tough competition from rookie Tyreek Hill to handle return duties in 2016.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Eric Fisher, LG Zach Fulton, C Mitch Morse, RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, RT Mitchell Schwartz
Key Backups: Jah Reid, Jarrod Pughsley, Parker Ehinger [R], Jordan Devey, Reid Fragel

The Chiefs' line will be one of the youngest in all of football this season. That can be a positive in the case of their tackles, former one overall left tackle Eric Fisher and big money free agent addition right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Their center Mitch Morse is another young player, performing well, with upside. But their guard situations are completely unstable. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is an interesting prospect but he does not have much job security. There's a very good chance both projected starters are incorrect. Jah Reid, Jordan Devey, Jarrod Pughsley and fourth round rookie Parker Ehinger will have real chances to win a guard spot. That level of instability, combined with youth can be exciting but it can also be an adventure. It's entirely possible the Chiefs continue to play with the formula, as veterans shake loose from deeper lines. Tier Ranking: Low Tier.

Team Defense

The Chiefs were the elite D/ST in 2013, but dropped off significantly in 2014. 2015 brought a return to fantasy D/ST prominence. They finished fourth in sacks, second in interceptions, and tied for the league lead in defensive touchdowns. The most important element of the defense, OLB Justin Houston, had ACL surgery in mid-February, which puts his status for the beginning of the season, if not longer, into question. The team will be breaking in a new starting corner opposite 2015 rookie revelation Marcus Peters, but if Houston can somehow be ready for the start of the season, the Chiefs D/ST can justify the top 6-8 ADP they have in early drafts. They are still a "risky" pick if you are taking a D/ST to be an every week option.

Defensive Line

Starters: Jaye Howard, Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey
Backups: Chris Jones [R], Nick Williams, Rakeem Nunez-Roches

Starting DL: Howard, a former fourth-round pick of the Seahawks, has carved out a niche as a versatile piece of this dominant front seven. The overachiever played a career-high 801 snaps last year, and his numbers responded in kind - his 57 tackles and 6.0 sacks made him a solid DL2 on the year. It's hard to expect a repeat, but with the unit mostly still in place, he's a fair DL3 bet in your draft. All of the upside, however, resides in Poe, who's proven a true force on the nose. Poe is a valuable space-eater in the middle, and he's chipped in solid tackle and sack numbers amidst increased offensive attention. He took a dip in sacks in 2015, but his 15 hurries indicate he didn't lose his pass-rush mojo. Poe isn't the fantasy contributor he is in reality, but his upside - think 50-55 tackles and 6-8 sacks - makes him a solid DL3 dice roll. Bailey fits the theme of "better on the field than on the stat sheet." He's a fine DE, but has likely topped out in terms of production, averaging 3.2 tackles with 10 sacks over his last 34 games.

Backup DL: Jones is a blue-chip pass-rush prospect, a former five-star recruit to Mississippi State who should make his presence felt right away. It's not impossible that he carves out an early role, rotating in with the starters on passing downs. A clear first-round talent, Jones could match Howard's and Bailey's sack production on half the snaps. Williams and Nunez-Roches are reserve talents who will compete for situational snaps.

Linebackers

Starters: Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Derrick Johnson, Justin March-Lillard
Backups: Justin Houston, Sam Barrington, D.J. Alexander [R], Frank Zombo

Starting LBs: Johnson will be 34 this season, but continues to thump from the inside as well as anyone. His last two full seasons have been eerily similar, averaging 112 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 7 pass breakups. He still projects to a major role against both the run and pass and played 1,063 snaps last year, so he remains a strong, dependable LB2 with a great floor. March-Lillard is a non-descript IDP prospect, a second-year UDFA with only a modest chance of keeping the job long-term. Late acquisition Barrington and core special-teamer Alexander will vie for snaps inside, and either could take the job and likely outperform March-Lillard. On the outside, with Houston (knee surgery) a question mark, Kansas City will lean on great pass-rushing depth to cover its bases in hopes of a 2016 return. Entering his 11th season, Hali re-signed for three years in March and looks to have plenty left in the tank. He's notched just 12.5 sacks over the last two years, but finished 16th and 8th league-wide in hurries, so an uptick could be on the way. Still, Hali isn't a tackle or big-play specialist, so he's not worthy of a fantasy pick. The same holds true for third-year man Ford, who's been up-and-down as a pro but holds real pass-rush chops. With 11 hurries and four sacks across limited 2015 snaps, Ford hinted at major contributions going forward, but also lacks the tackle-producing chops to warrant fantasy attention.

Backup LBs: Houston underwent major knee surgery this offseason, and while the team is speaking optimistically about his 2016 chances, it looks murky. He was given a 6-12 month timetable for return, but the intensive nature of the surgery is notable, and he may not be a major contributor if/when he plays this year. The likely best-case scenario would be a return to partial snaps after his PUP stint, which wouldn't bring much fantasy value; he'd need a full year of heavy play to reach even LB3 value. Zombo will be Ford's primary backup while Houston recovers. He's quality depth, but hasn't played more than 9 games since 2010 as a mere rotational cog. Barrington was a moderate 2014 starter in Green Bay, then lost his 2015 to injury before being waived after the preseason. Alexander, a fifth-round rookie, is an athletic and productive prospect who likely fell due to a past neck surgery; he could conceivably leapfrog both Barrington and March-Lillard.

Defensive Backs

Starters: Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson, Ron Parker, Eric Berry
Backups: Phillip Gaines, KeiVarae Russell [R], Eric Murray [R], Jamell Fleming

Starting DBs: Peters was a rookie revelation, providing top-shelf ball skills and gradually boosting the unit from one of the league's worst to one of the best by midseason. His 8 INTs and 23 pass breakups weren't fluky - he was a ballhawk in school as well, so it's safe to expect a similar upside going forward. Peters' improvement as a cover man, however, could certainly drop his opportunity to compile stats. Treat him as a relatively safe DB2/3 option. The same is true for Berry, an outstanding safety but not quite the fantasy asset many think he is. His coverage skills, legendary in college and translating beautifully into the NFL, actually prevent heavy production. If he's not thrown at more, he's unlikely to top 70 tackles and a handful of splash plays. Still, Berry is the type of gamebreaking talent who could easily turn in a season of 6-7 INTs and 10+ pass breakups, so he's worth a speculative DB2 pick. Parker is highly valued for his versatility - he's a safety but plays plenty of cornerback - and looks poised for another solid DB2/3 season. He'll likely play less CB as Kansas City looks to work in its influx of young talent, which only boosts his stock. Parker has averaged 85 tackles and 11.5 breakups over the last two years, and last season's 5 sacks were a big plus. Nelson was a third-round pick last year, but played just 53 defensive snaps across eight games, and the team's additions of Russell and Murray don't bode well. Still, he enjoyed a great offseason and could easily start Week 1.

Backup DBs: Cooper will serve as the team's No. 3 safety, but he's a low-upside target even on the waiver wire. Kansas City's cornerback reserve spots are up for grabs. Gaines seems likely to retain the No. 3 job, but he's not an enticing fantasy option. Russell, a third-rounder this year boasts a strong college resume (three starting seasons), but likely won't push Gaines in 2016. Murray's switch to strong safety means he'll stick on roster.

Last modified: 2016-09-05 13:56:59