Traded to the Chiefs prior to the 2013 season, Smith finished his first season in Kansas City as the 15th ranked fantasy quarterback and followed that up by finishing as the 19th ranked quarterback last season due in part to a historically bad season by the team’s group of wide receivers, as they failed to catch a single touchdown pass. Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery are out, having been replaced by Jeremy Maclin and rookie 3rd round pick Chris Conley. In addition, Travis Kelce is expected to build upon a solid season in 2014 and the team is high on 2nd year player Albert Wilson. Jamaal Charles is one of the league’s elite pass catchers out of the backfield, a fact somewhat lost on head coach Andy Reid last season as Charles caught 30 fewer passes in 2014 (40) than in 2013 (70). Of course, Alex Smith is Alex Smith, a quarterback whose risk free approach results in few turnovers and few big plays and whose career highs are 3,313 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes, 432 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. And that didn’t all happen in one season. Smith is a low upside, lower tier QB2.
After topping 1,700 total yards in 2012 and 1,900 total yards in 2013, Charles had a somewhat disappointing 2014 season, gaining just 1,324 total yards, although he did find the end zone a healthy 14 times, the 2nd best total of his career. While Charles missed one game due to an injury and barely played in Week 2, injuries weren’t the reason for his decline in production. Andy Reid’s play calling was. An outstanding receiver, Charles saw his targets drop from 104 to just 59 and his receptions declined from a career-high 70 in 2013 to just 40. It’s not like Reid was saving him for the running game since his carries dropped from 259 to just 206, his lowest total when healthy for 15-16 games since the 2009 season. And just to be clear, efficiency wasn’t an issue since Charles averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per reception in a Chiefs offense that was devoid of playmakers outside of Charles and tight end Travis Kelce. Since we view Reid as a smart guy and with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin having been added to help take some of the pressure off Charles, we are banking on him returning to his 2012-2013 production this year. Look for another 1,700 yard season with double digit touchdowns, putting Charles in contention for being the 1st running back off the board in your draft.
On the one hand, Davis has proven to be a productive fill in for Jamaal Charles when Charles is injured or nicked up. On the other hand, Charles is so effective when healthy that the Chiefs rarely make Davis a big part of the game plan. The 2013 3rd round pick strung together a solid three game run from Weeks 2-4 last season, gaining 353 total yards with three touchdowns. Alas, he totaled 77 touches in those three games but just 73 touches in his 12 other games, which translates to 6.1 touches per game. And it’s hard to be a viable fantasy option with such little work. Davis rates as a must-have handcuff for Charles owners but we wouldn’t recommend him as a solid flex option in leagues that employ that position.
Taken in the 4th round of last year’s draft, ostensibly to replace the disappointing Dexter McCluster, the 5’8″, 174 pound Thomas was practically invisible during his rookie season, gaining 113 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries while catching 23 passes for 156 yards. With no future at the running back position, the Chiefs wisely moved him to wide receiver in the offseason. While the Chiefs lack a proven starting option opposite Jeremy Maclin, and Thomas could emerge as an opening day starter provided he beats out rookie 3rd round pick Chris Conley and diminutive Albert Wilson, we’re hardly going to endorse a player moving to a new position for your fantasy squad. Deep leaguers may want to monitor his progress as a potential waiver wire option.
Prior to the 2014 season, Maclin bet big on himself, choosing to accept a one-year contract from the Eagles rather than sign a more lucrative long-term deal. He won that bet as he posted a career year with 85 receptions for 1,318 yards and ten touchdowns. It paid off in the form of a five year, $55-million offer from the Chiefs. While the money is nice, don’t expect Maclin’s fantasy production to be as nice as it was in 2014 with the Eagles. Head coach Andy Reid might be a creative offensive game planner but he has rarely ever showered a wide receiver with a high number of targets, and quarterback Alex Smith refuses to throw the ball into heavy traffic. The odds of Maclin reaching the top 10 as a fantasy wide receiver in 2015 are pretty much nil, regardless of the fact the Chiefs depth chart at wide receiver is barren. Remember that both running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Travis Kelce are expected to receive a healthy dose of targets this season. It won’t surprise if Charles, Kelce and Maclin have similar reception totals. If that happens, Maclin will be hard pressed to emerge as anything more than a lower tier WR2 during his first year in Kansas City.
An undrafted rookie free agent coming out of Georgia State last season, Wilson earned a somewhat significant role in the Chiefs offense during the latter part of the year. Playing outside as well as out of the slot, the 5’9″, 200 pound Wilson caught 12 of his 24 targets during the final four games of the season for 209 yards. While we can hardly endorse Wilson as anything approaching a breakout candidate, there is a decent chance that he will earn a starting role in 2015, at least to open the season. With competition from rookie Chris Conley and converted running back De’Anthony Thomas, Wilson, who possessed outstanding speed, may get a starting nod in Week 1 but with Alex Smith at quarterback, he isn’t expected to have any fantasy appeal.
The Chiefs chose to revamp their wide receiver depth chart in the offseason, leading to the addition of Chris Conley in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. The 6’2″, 213 pound Georgia product possesses a high ceiling but, by almost all accounts, he isn’t going to be ready to contribute in a major way during his rookie season. And with conservative Alex Smith at quarterback having a solid trio of receiving options in Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles ahead of Conley in the pecking order, we aren’t expecting him to contribute much as a rookie. He rates as a mid-tier dynasty prospect.
After missing all of his rookie season in 2013 after undergoing microfracture surgery, Kelce finished as the 8th ranked fantasy tight end last season. The former 3rd round pick displayed his outstanding athletic ability in finishing the season with 67 receptions for 862 yards and five touchdowns despite being targeted just 87 times, as he lost significant playing time to Anthony Fasano due to Fasano’s superior blocking ability. In 2015, Fasano is gone and so is wide receiver Dwayne Bowe but the Chiefs added Jeremy Maclin in free agency and acquired Chris Conley in the 3rd round of the draft to supplement the wide receiver position. Even with the added talent at wide receiver, we expect Kelce to see his targets and production increase by a healthy margin, in part based on his production over the final four games of last season when he was targeted 30 times, catching 23 passes for 284 yards and a touchdown. Kelce rates as the 3rd best option at tight end this season and he has an outside chance to supplant Jimmy Graham as the 2nd best fantasy option at the position behind Rob Gronkowski.