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Kansas City Chiefs 2022 Fantasy Outlook: New Weapons for Patrick Mahomes

Chiefs replace Tyreek Hill with a trio of receivers, including JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The undefined extended their streak of AFC West titles to six seasons while continuing to have a top-tier offense in football. However, their offensive structure takes a different turn in 2022, with wide receiver Tyreek Hill shipped to Miami for a boatload of draft picks. At some point, 32-year-old tight end Travis Kelce will have regression in his game, requiring the Chiefs to rebuild their passing attack. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains a beast throwing the ball, and Kansas City added receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore to fill some of the void created by the loss of Hill.

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Offense
The Chiefs want to pass the ball and attack the whole field with their offense. They threw the ball 61% of the time last season while averaging 39.7 passes per game. However, for the first time in the Mahomes era, Kansas City gained fewer than 8.0 yards per pass attempt (7.4). The most important question for this offseason, after trading Hill, is whether the Chiefs can regain their big-play ability in the passing game.

Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes – click here for fantasy projections

Other Options: Chad Henne, Shane Buechele, Dustin Crum

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Running Backs
Over the past three seasons, the Chiefs’ running backs had almost the same opportunity in the passing game (111, 112 and 112 targets) while averaging four scores per year. In 2021, they did make more significant plays (9.2 yards per catch). The extra game added to last season’s schedule accounted for the bump of 23 carries (357). In the end, Kansas City’s backs gained 2,398 combined yards with 19 touchdowns and 90 catches, or 443.80 fantasy points in PPR leagues (26.10 per game).

Clyde Edwards-Helaire – click here for fantasy projections

Ronald Jones
The Chiefs signed Jones to a minimal contract ($1.5 million for one season) over the winter. Last year, he failed to make an impact on early downs (101/428/4) for Tampa while only catching 10 passes for 64 yards. The Bucs gave him six or fewer touches in nine of his 16 games. His only game of value came in Week 16 (81 combined yards with one touchdown and two catches). Jones saw his season end in Week 18 with an ankle injury.

Jones gained 2,176 combined yards over the previous two seasons with 14 touchdowns and 59 catches on 423 touches.

Fantasy outlook: Kansas City should give Jones close to 10 touches per game. He’ll get chances at the goal line and see short-yardage carries while chipping in with a catch or two a game. Jones provides an insurance card on early downs, and he may develop into their closing back in the fourth quarter. I’ll set his bar at 800 combined yards with eight touchdowns and 25 catches. Jones has an ADP of 117 in the NFFC in early June.

Other Options: Derrick Gore, Isaih Pacheco, Jerrion Ealy

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Wide Receivers
The Chiefs’ wideouts set a three-year high in catches (244) and targets (362), but they saw their yards per catch (11.6) regress for the second straight season. Hill accounted for 44.7% of their scoring at wide receiver last season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster
Over his first two seasons, Smith-Schuster had a stud WR1 feel, highlighted by his success in 2018 (111/1,426/7) while receiving 166 targets. Unfortunately, he struggled with an injury this following year (42/552/3) and Pittsburgh lost Ben Roethlisberger for most of the season.

The plusses were his catches (97), his high catch rate (75.8) and touchdowns (9) in 2020, but Smith-Schuster gained only 8.6 yards per catch. Despite playing every game, Pittsburgh listed him on the injury report many times with multiple issues (toe, foot, knee). Over his final 12 games (including the playoffs), Smith-Schuster had a floor of six catches in 10 matchups while scoring seven touchdowns. His best two games (9/96/1 and 13/157/1) came in Week 16 and the postseason.

In 2021, Smith-Schuster had a sluggish start to the year over four games (4/52, 6/41, 3/25, 2/11) before seeing his season end in Week 5 with a right shoulder injury that required surgery in mid-October.

Fantasy outlook: Over his last 112 catches, Smith-Schuster gained 20 yards or more on 14 plays while averaging only 8.6 yards per catch. His output in this area was closer to a running back than a wideout. Fantasy drafters must decide if his failure was a Pittsburgh Steelers issue or Smith-Schuster’s demise. His ADP (71) in the early draft season in the NFFC ranks him as the 31st wide receiver. A change of scenery should treat him well, and working with Mahomes points to another 100-catch season with improved receiving yards. I view Smith-Schuster as a value, but I also lost money on him in 2020. With positive camp news, he should move up draft boards in August. With any sign of injury news, Smith-Schuster becomes undraftable.

Mecole Hardman and his new Chiefs teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Mecole Hardman and his new Chiefs teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Mecole Hardman
Hardman has made positive strides in his three seasons with the Chiefs. He improved each season (26/538/6, 41/560/4, 59/693/2) with a progression of 21 targets each year (41, 62, 83). His catch rate was an impressive 71.1% last season (66.1 in 2020), but Hardman saw his yards per catch (11.7) fall to a three-year low. The Chiefs gave him more than seven targets in only two games (12 and 11). He finished last year as the 60th wide receiver in PPR leagues (130.6 fantasy points) with three games with more than 15 fantasy points (9/8, 8/113, and 3/70/1).

Fantasy outlook: Hardman hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career while being slightly undersized (5’10” and 185 pounds). His next step should be 100-plus targets, giving him a chance at 70 catches for 900 yards with 5-7 touchdowns. There hasn’t been much fight for him in drafts based on his ADP (150) in the NFFC in the early draft season. On the positive side, Hardman has the most experience with Mahomes of all the wideouts currently on the Chiefs roster, and his game continues to improve. Keep an open mind, as the bet is more on Kansas City, hoping Hardman makes a significant step forward in 2022.

Skyy Moore
Over his first 18 games at Western Michigan, Moore caught 76 of his 123 targets for 1,190 yards and six touchdowns. Last year, his game reached a higher ceiling over 12 starts (95/1,292/10), leading to the Chiefs investing their second-round pick in the 2022 draft.

He fills the speed void created by the loss of Hill based on his time in the 40-yard dash (4.41) at the 2022 NFL combine. His hands project well, and Moore will test a defense over the top, on fades in the end zone and on slants. However, he needs more work on his route running while offering the footwork and wiggle to create space off the line or in tight coverage downfield. Moore’s next step is finding better separation and quickness out of his breaks when moving back to the quarterback.

Fantasy outlook: When watching Moore’s highlights, I see a better version of Hardman while expecting him to fill about 60% of Hill’s role in his rookie season. He plays with plenty of fight in his game, helping him win in tight coverage. His ADP (115) ranks him as the 48th wide receiver drafted in the NFFC in early June. My conservative view would be 60 catches for 750 yards with a handful of scores.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling
The move from Green Bay to Kansas City won’t be an upgrade at quarterback, but Valdes-Scantling may see usage change in the Chiefs’ offense. Over his first 59 games with the Packers, he caught 123 passes for 2,153 yards and 13 touchdowns on 247 targets. However, his catch rate (49.8) is a significant obstacle to his upside, offset slightly by his yards per catch (17.5).

Valdes-Scantling missed eight games last season with hamstring, back, hip and Covid-19 issues. His best output came in two games (4/123/1 and 5/98/1).

Fantasy outlook: Kansas City signed Valdes-Scantling to a three-year contract in March, meaning they like what he brings to the deep passing game. His size (6’4”, 205 pounds) and speed will keep defenses honest, but his playable value will be spotty. I would consider a 40/600/5 season a move in a positive direction.

Other Options: Josh Gordon, Daurice Fountain, Justyn Ross

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Tight End
As long as Travis Kelce is playing well and in the Chiefs’ starting lineup, Kanas City will have some of the best tight end production in the league. Over the past three years, their tight ends averaged 113 catches for 1,385 yards and nine touchdowns on 161 targets.

Travis Kelce – click here for fantasy projections

Other Options: Blake Bell, Noah Gray, Jody Fortson, Jordan Franks

Kicker

Harrison Butker
The Chiefs created only 55 field goals over the past two seasons, leading to Butker sliding down the kicker rankings. His accuracy (90.1% in his career) has been in a tight range in his five seasons with Kansas City. He is 11-for-13 from 50 yards or more over the past two years, with most of the damage coming last year (7-for-9). Butker averaged 55 extra-point tries from 2018-21 (15 misses). The Chiefs produce plenty of scoring chances, giving Butker top five kicking upside if K.C. creates more field goals in 2022.

Coaching
Andy Reid has been exceptional over his nine years with the Chiefs (103-42 with eight trips to the postseason). He’s had 10 wins or more in each of his last seven seasons, and Reid has double-digit victories 16 times in his career with Kansas City and Philadelphia over 23 seasons. He won his only Super Bowl in 2019.

His next step is improving his playoff record (19-16 in his career and 9-7 with the Chiefs). Reid improved to fifth in the NFL in career wins (233) and 21st in winning percentage (.633).

After working as the running backs coach in the Chiefs' system, Eric Bieniemy has five years of experience as the offensive coordinator with a Super Bowl win. Bieniemy is a former NFL player with 13 years of coaching experience in the pros. In 2011 and ‘12, he held the offensive coordinator job for the Colorado Buffalos. Kansas City’s success on offense should lead to Bieniemy pushing his way to a head coaching opportunity.

The Chiefs ranked in the top six of the league in offensive yards and points over the past six seasons. They scored 480 points in 2021 (fourth) while finishing third in yards gained.

In his third season as the defensive coordinator for the Chiefs, Steve Spagnuolo has a Super Bowl win and loss, but his defense regressed in 2021. He’s been in the NFL since 1999, with nine years of experience running the defensive side of the ball and three failed seasons as a head coach (11-41).

The Chiefs bumped to eighth in points allowed (364) despite a sharp decline in yards allowed (27th – 16th in 2020).

Free Agency
Kansas City’s top signings came on offense – WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They lost Ts Mike Remmers and Austin Blythe from their offensive line while adding C Austin Reiter to compete for a bench role. S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Charvarius Ward and CB Mike Hughes defected to other teams. The Chiefs added S Justin Reid to their secondary. RB Darrel Williams remains unsigned.

Draft
This year’s draft had a premium focus on improving the Chiefs’ defense and secondary – CB Trent McDuffie (1.21), George Karlaftis (1.30), S Bryan Cook (2.30), LB Leo Chenal (3.39), CB Joshua Williams (4.30), CB Jaylen Watson (7.22), and CB Nazeeh Johnson (7.38). Their three selections on offense came in the second (WR Skyy Moore), fifth (G Darian Kinnard, and seventh (RB Isiah Pacheco) rounds.

Offensive Line
Kansas City finished 16th in rushing yards (1,955) with 16 touchdowns. Their ball carriers gained 4.5 yards per rush with only nine runs over 20 yards while averaging 25.4 carries per game.

They slipped to fourth in passing yards (4,937) with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. K.C. gained 7.3 yards per pass attempt, and their offensive line allowed 28 sacks.

The Chiefs’ offensive line has strength at three positions (LT Orlando Brown, RG Joe Thuney, C Creed Humphrey). All three players ranked better in pass protection. G Trey Smith gained plenty of experience over 20 games (1,404 snaps) while having the best success in run blocking. The right tackle position has a chance to be an asset if Lucas Niang seizes the starting job and reaches his potential. Kansas City has the talent to finish with a top 10 offensive line in 2022.

Defense
The Chiefs ranked 21st against the run (1,999 yards) for the second season. They allowed 4.8 yards per carry with 15 rushing touchdowns and 11 rushes over 20 yards.

Kansas City fell to 27th in passing yards allowed (4,273) with 27 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Their defense managed only 31 sacks while allowing 13 catches of 40 yards or more.

DT Chris Jones remains the Chiefs' top pass rusher (nine sacks over 14 games and 41 over his last 58 starts), but he missed a few tackles in 2021. Their defensive line hinges on the development of rookie DE George Karlaftis and a rebound in play by DE Frank Clark. Kansas City’s secondary is in rebuild mode with a range of darts thrown in this year’s draft class. LB Nick Bolton played well against the run with a productive rookie season in tackles (112).

This defense must put more pressure on the quarterback to protect its young secondary. In addition, they tend to allow damage in the run game, putting Kansas City on its heels in a division with improving offenses. I need to see growth on the field before adding the Chiefs’ defense to my fantasy roster. 

2022 FANTASY OUTLOOKS
AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Patriots | Jets
AFC North: Ravens | Bengals | Browns | Steelers
AFC South: Texans | Colts | Jaguars | Titans
AFC West: Broncos | Chiefs | Raiders | Chargers
NFC East: Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Commanders
NFC North: Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South: Falcons | Panthers | Saints | Buccaneers
NFC West: Cardinals | Rams | 49ers | Seahawks