In a lot of ways, 2018 was a magical season for the Chiefs. After handing the reins to second-year quarterback, and first year starter, Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs went on a tear. The team ended up finishing 12–4, winning the AFC West and earning a first round bye. The Chiefs beat the Colts in the Divisional Round of the playoffs before falling to the New England Patriots 37–31 in the AFC Championship.
Along the way, Mahomes threw for 50 TDs, becoming one of only three QBs to accomplish that feat, and the Chiefs’ offense was, at times, unstoppable. Until it wasn’t. It was a season marred by scandal with Kareem Hunt, who was cut loose in November, and ended with the Chiefs unable to win at home against the vaunted Patriots.
But with Mahomes and much of the core returning, can the Chiefs get one game further in 2019?
The aforementioned Hunt signed with the Browns, but he was far from the only Chief to hit the road. Longtime safety Eric Berry was released, and is currently a free agent, while Spencer Ware and Justin Houston signed with the Colts, Dee Ford was traded to the San Francisco 49ers and center Mitch Morse signed a four-year deal in Buffalo. Those are a lot of big pieces to see change teams in the off-season, but it’s not like the Chiefs failed to bring in some replacements.
On the defensive side, the Chiefs looked to boost their pass rush by trading for Frank Clark from the Seahawks. He figures to slot in as a force on the defensive line right away. And on the back end, while Berry is gone, the Chiefs brought in a Honey Badger, signing Tyrann Mathieu to a three-year, $42 million deal. The Chiefs added defensive end Alex Okafor from New Orleans and free agent running back Carlos Hyde to add depth in the backfield.
But the Chiefs also made additions through the draft. In the second round, the Chiefs added Georgia receiver Mecole Hardman. That gives them insurance as star receiver Tyreek Hill won’t face a suspension at this time, but the NFL is keeping the investigation into an off-season incident with his son open. That could lead to an uncertain season. The Chiefs also added Utah State running back Darwin Thompson in the sixth round as they work to re-make their running back room.
You don’t get much better at the QB position than Mahomes. He was the QB1 easily in 2018, and even with some regression would likely be a safe bet at Top 5. In his first full season as a starter, he threw for 5,097 yards and 50 TDs, running for 272 more and two additional TDs. The only drawback to Mahomes is the draft capital you have to spend. The same is true of the Chiefs’ other surefire lock at the top of a position, TE Travis Kelce. Kelce was TE1 in 2018, and figures to be no worse than Top 3 in 2019. Again, the only drawback is the draft capital you have to spend to grab him.
When you get past QB and TE, it’s hard to believe there is a sure bet on the Chiefs’ roster. That seems hard to fathom with this offense, but it comes due to the off-season questions. Damien Williams will get the first shot at the bell cow role, and faces limited competition in Hyde and Thompson. But Williams hasn’t done it over the course of a season, and he’s current going as RB13 in drafts, meaning you have to spend to grab him. The possible production is there, but it doesn’t come without risk. For a more in-depth look at Williams and the Chiefs RBs, check out this Player Profile.
The same is true of the receivers. As mentioned above, Hill has serious off-field issues that remain unclear. Despite that, he’s going as WR19. That is actually something of a discount since he finished as WR3. But if you pay up to get him and he gets suspended, that could put a dent in your fantasy season. Behind him it would seem like Sammy Watkins is a possible value. But he’s currently going as WR25, a nod to the issues with Hill, meaning you’re paying a decent price to get a guy that has trouble staying healthy. And that brings us back to Hardman, the rookie, who would seem to provide some potential value and upside. He is currently WR50, and could provide upside if Hill and/or Watkins miss time. As a WR5, that feels like a safe swing to take, especially in dynasty. The point is the Chiefs’ offense will have fantasy value, and Mahomes and Kelce feel like safe pick ups, but with the RBs and WRs, it’s buyer beware.
The top-seeded Chiefs were close to the Super Bowl last season, but there was a lot of turnover this off-season. While the waiting game with Hill and the performance of Williams are the issues that will be forefront at the mind of most, the Chiefs have other questions. What will the offensive line be like with Morse in Buffalo? Will the defense be worse, better or the same? And where will that offense settle? Last year’s historic performances don’t feel sustainable, but it’s a matter of where the offense and defense settle. In the NFL, the difference between 12–4 and 10–6 isn’t huge, and the Chiefs will play a tough schedule. While they should still be regarded as one of the better teams in the AFC, they won’t catch anyone by surprise. And since the Chargers were also 12–4 last season, they’ll have plenty of competition in their own division. The Chiefs should be in the playoff hunt even if they don’t reach the heights of 2018.
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