KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
KEY ADDITIONS: S Tyrann Mathieu, DE Frank Clark, DE Alex Okafor, RB LeSean McCoy, RB Carlos Hyde, CB Morris Claiborne, CB Bashaud Breeland
KEY DEPARTURES: S Eric Berry, C Mitch Morse, CB Steven Nelson, DE Justin Houston, RB Kareem Hunt, CB Orlando Scandrick, WR Chris Conley, RB Spencer Ware, S Ron Parker, LB Dee Ford
DRAFT: 2nd round: WR Mecole Hardman, Georgia S Juan Thornhill, Virginia 3rd round: DT Khalen Saunders, Western Illnois 6th round: CB Rashad Fenton, South Carolina RB Darwin Thompson, Utah State 7th round: Nick Allegretti, Illinois
SUMMARY: Patrick Mahomes last year was nothing short of magical. In all my years watching this sport, Mahomes’ 2018 was right up there with the best I’ve witnessed. Incredible arm talent and more importantly, the patience and methodical nature of a war room maestro, Mahomes looked not like a season vet but an all-timer.
But now is a new year, a chance to reflect and to look forward. The Chiefs offense was among the league’s best which overshadowed a disastrous defense, a weakness that eventually revealed itself (2nd-last in total yardage). Many staples of the franchise left this offseason, including franchise safety Eric Berry and pass rusher Justin Houston. In a bizarre move, the Chiefs decided to move on from Dee Ford but then send a boatload of picks to Seattle for Frank Clark. I’m sorry but the difference between Ford and Clark is not a first, second, swap of thirds and a five year, $104 million contract. Few players ever live up to trades that lopsided and Clark isn’t even on the Mount Rushmore of his position. That’s the type of package you send for Khalil Mack, not Clark.
But that’s what Kansas City is rolling with. Backs LeSean McCoy and Carlos Hyde boost a run game that will need to make up the difference in Mahomes regression. I expect Mahomes to be great once again and among the league’s most efficient passers. Average and even above average players are not capable of Mahomes’ 2018. Only the truly gifted are. This guy’s for real.
But yes, there will be regression. I find it unlikely Kansas City repeats a 35 points per game pace but a rejuvenated defense with a new coordinator should make the Chiefs a more complete team, a unit who will have a chance to demonstrate it during a soft first-half schedule where Kansas City plays their toughest games at home. They also just signed star receiver Tyreek Hill to an extension.
Now, if they can just exercise those playoff demons.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Damien Williams
I generally avoid players coming off career years because a regression to the mean often follows. It would be difficult for Mahomes or Tyreek to play better than they did last season. Kelce is a top-three tight end but also going as early as the second round and Watkins was unplayable last year. That leaves Williams. A few weeks ago, I was much more confident in this pick but in the last week, the Chiefs have added LeSean McCoy and Carlos Hyde to their running back group, likely reducing Williams workload. Still, Kansas City is full of offensive talent that’s highly sought after by fantasy players and Damien Williams is the one player that’s falling down draft boards. Williams will still get an overwhelming share of the targets in passing situations and McCoy and Hyde may play complimentary roles. Williams may not be the safest bet on the team but he offers the most bang for your buck.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 12-4
Week 1: @JAC Week 2: @OAK Week 3: vs BAL Week 4: @DET Week 5: vs. IND Week 6: vs. HOU Week 7: @DEN Week 8: vs. GB Week 9: vs. MIN Week 10: @TEN Week 11: vs. LAC Week 12: BYE Week 13: vs. OAK Week 14: @NE Week 15: vs. DEN Week 16: @CHI Week 17: vs. LAC
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
KEY ADDITIONS: QB Tyrod Taylor, LB Thomas Davis
KEY DEPARTURES: WR Tyrell Williams, CB Jason Verrett, S Jahleel Addae, DT Corey Liuget, TE Antonio Gates
DRAFT: 1st round: DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame 2nd round: S Nasir Adderley, Delaware 3rd round: OT Trey Pipkins, Sioux Falls 4th round: LB Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame 5th round: QB Easton Stick, North Dakota State 6th round: LB Emeke Egbule, Houston 7th round: Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati
SUMMARY: The Chargers were never able to put it together in San Diego but have been great since their move to L.A., going 9-7 and 12-4 since the relocation. It’s just unfortunate timing since Kansas City’s rebuild is now a full-powered racecar. The Chiefs have a ton of firepower and the defense should improve. If the Chargers wanted a shot at a division crown, it was last year.
Melvin Gordon is holding out but the Chargers are right not to make a move. Gordon has averaged a sub-4.0 ypc three of his four years and only broached 1,000 once. That’s not elite production and therefore does not command an elite salary.
Future HOFer Antonio Gates is gone for the Bolts, meaning Hunter Henry has extra responsibility this season.
Keenan Allen is one of the league’s best route runners and the Bolts are lucky to have Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in the backfield during Gordon’s absence. The Chargers return most of their starters from a top-ten defensive unit, though Derwin James’ season is up in the air.
The team will go where Rivers does. Philip is looking to improve his playoff win:children ratio and has had a renaissance the last few seasons. He’s been reliable. Does he have another year in him? And how many wins can coach Anthony Lynn steal?
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Philip Rivers
Rivers isn’t a Hall of Fame quarterback but he is an above average regular season passer. He’s thrown for minimums of 4,286 yards and 28 touchdowns each of the last six campaigns. His usage will likely go up during Gordon’s holdout. I got Rivers in the 15th round in one of my drafts following an 11th place finish last year. He’s a steal who can spot in as a starter on a regular basis.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6
Week 1: vs. IND Week 2: @DET Week 3: vs. HOU Week 4: @MIA Week 5: vs. DEN Week 6: vs. PIT Week 7: @TEN Week 8: @CHI Week 9: vs. GB Week 10: @OAK Week 11: vs. KC Week 12: BYE Week 13: @DEN WEEK 14: @JAC Week 15: vs. MIN Week 16: vs. OAK Week 17: @KC
KEY ADDITIONS: OT Ja’Wuan James, CB Kareem Jackson, CB Bryce Callahan, RB Theo Riddick
KEY DEPARTURES: C Matt Paradis, CB Bradley Roby, G Billy Turner, G Max Garcia, LB Shaquil Barrett, LB Brandon Marshall, LB Shane Ray
DRAFT: 1st round: TE Noah Fant, Iowa 2nd round: OT Dalton Risner, Kansas State QB Drew Lock, Missouri 3rd round: DT Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State 5th round: LB Justin Hollins, Oregon 6th round: WR Juwann Winfree, Colorado
SUMMARY: Things could go poorly for Denver fast, facing Chicago, Green Bay and the Chargers in their first five games but with tough games come opportunities to prove oneself. I’m very interested by new coach Vic Fangio and what he plans to do with this squad. The Bears defense last year reminded Chicago of their glory days. Can Fangio utilize Von, Chubb and company to similar standards?
And what of Joe Flacco’s retirement tour? Does he has a little fire left in him?
And is Lindsay a one-hit wonder or a true starter?
How does Emmanuel Sanders return from his Achilles?
There’s just a lot of questions for this team and the only sure thing is that Noah Fant is going to catch a lot of drags from Flacco.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Phillip Lindsay
I could have put Fant here given the quip above but Lindsay was a great get for my fantasy squads last year. Lindsay was one of nine backs over 1,000 in 2018 on a 5.4 clip. That clip is unsustainable and Lindsay seems destined to regress if only Joe Flacco weren’t his quarterback. I project Joe to be basic nourishment at most and starvation at worst. The worse Flacco plays, the more opportunity for Lindsay. Who do you got your money on? Lindsay or Joe?
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 7-9
Week 1: @OAK Week 2: vs. CHI Week 3: @GB Week 4: vs. JAC Week 5: @LAC Week 6: vs. TEN Week 7: vs. KC Week 8: @IND Week 9: vs. CLE Week 10: BYE Week 11: @MIN Week 12: @BUF Week 13: vs. LAC Week 14: @HOU Week 15: @KC Week 16: vs. DET Week 17: vs. OAK
KEY ADDITIONS: WR Antonio Brown, OT Trent Brown, WR Tyrell Williams, S LaMarcus Joyner, LB Vontaze Burfict
KEY DEPARTURES: TE Jared Cook, OT Donald Penn, RB Marshawn Lynch, S Reggie Nelson, WR Martavis Bryant, WR Seth Roberts
DRAFT: 1st round: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama S Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State 2nd round: CB Trayvon Mullen, Clemson 4th round: DE Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston TE Foster Moreau, LSU 5th round: WR Hunter Renfrow, Clemson 7th round: DE Quinton Bell, Prairie View
SUMMARY: I will have a feature upcoming about the Antonio Brown saga in Oakland so I’m not going to spend time discussing it here. Just know as of this morning, Brown is no longer a member of the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland went all in on free agency this season, splurging more than $150 million on tackle Trent Brown, receiver Tyrell Williams and safety LaMarcus Joyner. That is a ton of money to put into three players and it seems favorable that one if not all of those contracts age poorly.
As for season outlook, I can’t say I’ve seen anything to flip my stance. Three first rounders is nice but the likely misuse of those picks, especially Ferrell at four when he was projected much later, bothers me.
Carr was my 2016 MVP choice back when fourth-quarter comebacks were his daily supper but since that leg injury, he hasn’t found the same form. He’s been mediocre while soaking up a sizable portion of Oakland’s cap space. If the Raiders want to go anywhere before Vegas, he needs to get back on track. 19 touchdowns on a cap hit of $20+ the next three years isn’t going to cut it.
At the end of a bumpy road, Oakland is outmatched by better management and athletes in their own division. Improvement? Likely. Playoffs? Rather dim. A road schedule featuring Minnesota, Green Bay and Houston is just brutal.
Also, their defense was hot garbage last year and I haven’t seen enough improvements to think they’ll be a spring chicken now.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Hunter Renfrow
I do not like putting high draft stock in rookies. With the exception of Saquon Barkley last year, most rookies going in early rounds struggle to meet expectations. Josh Jacobs is not an outstanding back prospect when compared to draftees in year’s past. Jacobs wasn’t a standout at Alabama. His usage rate will be high but in this case I’m concerned about the quality of that usage. With Antonio Brown’s departure, acquisition Tyrell Williams moves to the #1 spot. That’s not great for an offense who’s already thin at receiver. However, Renfrow was a standout slot receiver at Clemson and is now in position to move into that slot in Oakland. He’s going undrafted so there’s no need to take him in your draft but keep your eye on him.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10
Week 1: vs. DEN Week 2: vs. KC Week 3: @MIN Week 4: @IND Week 5: vs. CHI Week 6: BYE Week 7: @GB Week 8: @HOU Week 9: vs. DET Week 10: vs. LAC Week 11: vs. CIN Week 12: @NYJ Week 13: @KC Week 14: vs. TEN Week 15: vs. JAC Week 16: @LAC Week 17: @DEN