Kansas City Chiefs Fantasy Outlook: High Risk, High Upside in Jamaal Charles
Kansas City begins year two of its rebuilding phase under general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley. Last year, the Chiefs managed to win four games, doubling their win total from 2008. While that isn’t exactly a major accomplishment, Pioli gutted the team’s roster of its dead weight and added important pieces, such as quarterback Matt Cassel.
While Cassel’s results weren’t overly impressive, his struggles were amplified by playing behind perhaps the worst offensive line in the league and a wide receiver depth chart lacking talent and unable to make up for the loss of Dwayne Bowe’s four-game suspension.
The Chiefs are hoping for more from Cassel this year, and he figures to improve as Pioli bolstered the offensive line with the free agent additions of guard Ryan Lilja and center Casey Wiegmann. The team is hoping for major improvements at left tackle from Brandon Albert and at right tackle from Ryan O’Callaghan in his first full season with the team.
Jamaal Charles excelled after being handed the starting running back duties when Larry Johnson was released. The team added Thomas Jones in the offseason to spell Charles, which gives the Chiefs solid depth in the backfield. Jones is coming off a career year, rushing for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns, finishing as a top-10 fantasy back in 2009.
At wide receiver, Dexter McCluster was added in the second round of the draft to provide some playmaking ability. The college running back will shift to a slot receiver role, getting the occasional carry as a running back and potentially be the quarterback in the Wildcat formation. The Chiefs are also banking on a return to form from Bowe, whose maturity and dedication remain major question marks.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was added to reduce Haley’s workload. Weis was known as a creative play-caller in New England and figures to run multiple formations to create mismatches for speedsters Charles and McCluster.
The Chiefs finished 2009 ranked 25th in passing offense and 11th in rushing, although their rushing mark was aided by 317 yards in week 17 against the Broncos. Given the offseason moves in coaching staff and player personnel, look for the Chiefs to improve, but middle of the pack is likely their high-water mark for 2010.
Cassel put up solid numbers starting 15 games for the Patriots in 2008, and there were some concerns that his production was more of a product of the talent around him than what he brought to the table.
His first year in Kansas City more or less confirmed those suspicions, as Cassel struggled behind a shoddy offensive line.
There is some hope for 2010 with improvements along the front, and a new offensive coordinator in Charlie Weis. In addition, Cassel should have Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers for an entire season, and the Chiefs are hoping that dynamic scatback/slot receiver Dexter McCluster, drafted in the second round, provides a major shot in the arm to the offense.
Cassell will need his receivers to avoid injury and McCluster to be a reliable weapon out of the slot or else he is destined for fantasy irrelevance in 2010.
Charles was a monster over the final eight games of last season with 968 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He also displayed solid receiving ability and looked like a potential top-10 fantasy back when 2009 ended. However, the Chiefs signed Thomas Jones this offseason, and he figures to eat into the goal line work of Charles and likely get 10-12 carries a game.
Don’t be concerned about the addition of Dexter McCluster. He’s going to be used in the slot with Charles the main threat out of the backfield on first and second down.
Charles has big-play ability and is one of the more intriguing players in fantasy, given his huge upside, which is accompanied by the risk of having perhaps the top backup running back in the league pushing for playing time.
The Chiefs showed their concern for over-working Jamaal Charles with the signing of Jones, who is coming off two top-10 fantasy seasons. He had a career year in 2009 with 1,402 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Jones is a solid inside runner with an ability to get outside, although he did seem to lose a step in 2009. His presence is going to reduce Charles’ workload, and he’s a must-have handcuff for Charles owners. The Chiefs offense isn’t a powerhouse, but it's good enough to give Jones consideration in leagues that employ the flex position.
Bowe enters 2010 in need of a solid season to secure a long-term contract in Kansas City.
He has been an enigma due to off-field issues, poor practice habits, and questionable comments to the press—not to mention a suspension that cost him four games in 2009.
Basically, he is a talented player who needs to get his **** together and stay out of Todd Haley’s doghouse. It’s worth noting his next misadventure could result in a 16-game suspension. Bowe’s fantasy status is that of a WR3 but he carries some significant risks and will likely be drafted before he should in most leagues due to his solid production during in the first two years of his career (2,017 yards and 12 touchdowns).
Chambers became the default No. 1 wideout in Kansas City last season, given the troubles of Dwayne Bowe, and became a nice fill-in for fantasy owners, but he’s always struggled with consistency and that isn’t likely to change now that he has a shiny new contract.
Fantasy owners won’t forget his disappearing act in San Diego for a year and a half despite playing in one of the league’s top offenses.
The Chiefs figure to be behind plenty in 2010, so that will allow Chambers to pad his stats, but his inconsistency will give you fits. Consider him a solid backup or a low-end WR3 with little upside.
Looking to add some playmaking ability to the offense, the Chiefs used their second-round pick in the 2010 draft on McCluster.
He will shift to the slot back position after playing running back in college. However, the Chiefs will use him in a variety of roles with offseason reports indicating he is running the Wildcat in OTAs.
At 5’9” and 172 pounds, McCluster has good short-area quickness and the ability to make tacklers miss in space, but he timed out at 4.58 in the 40-yard-dash at the combine, and there was some surprise when the Chiefs took him with the 36th pick overall. He figures to get plenty of touches during his rookie season, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the workload given his size.
While the Chiefs would love for him to develop into a Wes Welker clone, that is unlikely to happen in 2010. He is a decent prospect in dynasty league, but is waiver-wire material in re-draft formats.
Cottam, who is coming off a neck injury, will battle Leonard Pope for the starting tight end spot for the Chiefs, but there isn’t much upside here. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis doesn’t throw to the tight end much, making Cottam waiver-wire material at best.
The Chiefs have to throw to some tight end. Maybe Pope’s the guy, or maybe not. And even if he is, he shouldn’t be on your fantasy roster.
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