Podcast: The Fantasy Football Value of the 2020 Kansas City Chiefs

From Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce, taking a look at what you should expect from members of the Kansas City Chiefs in fantasy football in 2020.
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Football season is right around the corner, and as a result, so is the fantasy football season. The dedicated players are busying themselves with mock drafts, projections, and hand-wringing over which players they'll be selecting at the top of the draft. As we cover many times on It's Always Sunny in Chiefs Kingdom podcast, Austin and I count ourselves among their ranks. I have spreadsheets and websites open daily where I'm giving my best shot at predicting what direction my league members will go in the upcoming draft.

As a big-time Chiefs fan, I'm always paying special attention to Kansas City's fantasy studs. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire will all be drafted at the top or very near the top of their respective positions this season. The Chiefs should also be expected to be very close to the top of the league in total points scored, as they have been each of the last three seasons.

This got me wondering about how close the relationship is between a high-scoring offense and that offense having high-scoring fantasy football players. Obviously, just by the nature of the question, everyone understands that there's some close relationship there. Fantasy football scoring is about production on the field, and high production will lead to a high-scoring offense, nothing mind-blowing about that. But I wanted to visualize this relationship because it speaks volumes about the Chiefs and their stud players in particular.

The first thing I did was to pull the top 400 fantasy scorers since 2000, and look at where their teams ranked in NFL scoring that year. As expected, teams with the highest-scoring offense account for the most players in the list, as shown here:

scoring offenses and fantasy players

So everyone's on the same page here and agrees with the easy hypothesis that if the team's offense is good, the individual players within that offense are very likely to be good too. This leads us back to the Chiefs, who have scored the third-most points in the NFL since Andy Reid took over in 2013 (behind New England and New Orleans) and have scored the most points in the league since Patrick Mahomes became the full-time starter in 2018 (1016 points, 54 points ahead of second-place New Orleans). 

"But Taylor," my fantasy football readers may say, "high-scoring offenses are not the real target, game script is the goal in fantasy. You want teams that are giving up points as fast as they're scoring them, and the Chiefs have improved on defense enough that their players are not as valuable any more. You want shootouts, not executions."

But that, my friends, is a misconception. It's a narrative as false as Derek Carr's 4th quarter comeback reputation, or John Elway's elite QB status. Take a look at this chart which shows teams sorted by the number of top-scoring players they had that season, and what their average point differentials were on the season:

fantasy NFL point differential

The four teams in the past 20 seasons that had four of the top-scoring fantasy players averaged a point differential of +110 per season. The other 20 teams that had three top-scoring players averaged a very similar +114 point differential on the season. As the number of good fantasy players dropped, so too did the team's point differential. The idea that a better defense makes for a worse fantasy ceiling is just not true.

Finally, some quick thoughts about the four fantasy-relevant Chiefs individually.

Patrick Mahomes is as sure of a fantasy stud as there exists in the sport, racking up 50 more points than any other QB since he became the starter in 2018. As the focal point of the most dynamic offense in the league, he should be the first QB taken in every draft, even with the electric Lamar Jackson on the board. Mahomes is that much of a sure thing.

Tyreek Hill has the sixth-most fantasy points among wide receivers since entering the league in 2016, ahead of players like Adam Thielen, Jarvis Landry, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper and Keenan Allen. Hill has shown that he is as good of a home run threat that football has, leading all wide receivers in total touchdowns since 2016 with 41. He will once again be a major cog in the Chiefs machine, and I would consider him as high as the second WR off the board after Michael Thomas.

Travis Kelce, owner of a brand new contract, is almost universally renowned as the game's best fantasy tight end, even with George Kittle hot on his trail. Owner of by far the most gaudy fantasy numbers among tight ends since emerging in 2014, Kelce is the gold-standard for production at the position after his record fourth-straight 1,000-yard season. His yearly fantasy ranks among TEs since 2016 are: first, first, first, and (take a wild guess...) first. Here's betting he keeps that streak going at least one more year. He should be the first TE off the board in all formats.

Finally, the hardest and also most exciting player of the four Chiefs to project, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. With the opt-out of Damien Williams, Edwards-Helaire will be thrust into the starting RB role right away. While rushing opportunities will be mixed - nobody will mistake this Chiefs offense for the Baltimore Ravens - the prospect of owning the starting RB on the league's best offense will be enticing for many fantasy players. Edwards-Helaire was very productive in his time at LSU, ranking 17th in the country in yards from scrimmage and 22nd in touchdowns from 2018 to 2019. He played against the best competition that college football has to offer in the SEC, and should be in prime position to make an immediate and elite fantasy impact. As soon as Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, and Saquon Barkley are off the board, consider Clyde Edwards-Helaire worthy of selection. His ceiling is that high.

There's plenty of talent on the Chiefs' offense for 2020, and fantasy players will be sorry if they don't own at least a piece of the action in KC.