2014 Fantasy Draft Values: Kansas City Chiefs
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s too early to be talking fantasy football, my girlfriend already has the next 12 weekends of my life booked with apple picking and craft shows.” Fair enough. I’m sure you’re either still glowing in your championship glory, disappointed in your underachievement, or trying to forget that you passed up Jamaal Charles for C.J. Spiller with the No. 3 overall pick in your work league. That last statement is certainly nothing I did in 2013. I have also been known to fib on occasion. But, now is as good a time as any to get the wheels turning for 2014.
For the serious fantasy player, it’s never too early to think about next season, and part of the fun in fantasy football is getting a leg up on your opponents by researching early and often. Every fantasy season is filled with surprises, and the 2013 season was no different. Last summer it would have been nice to have guys on your draft board like that second-year player who played on one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL yet still led the league in receiving after a two-game suspension; or Mike Vick’s backup, who not only led the league in passer rating, but also had one of the best runs at the position in NFL history; or LaDainian Tomlinson’s replacement, who not only finally looked like a reliable fantasy starter, but would also be a top-five back during the playoffs.
All three did so because of opportunities that came for various reasons – mainly coaching changes – but their paths were set before that in the talent they flashed when given chances. I’m going to put together a series of pieces on players from current rosters that could be drafted at a value in next year’s fantasy drafts. These guys may not be available in all dynasty leagues, but they should be available late in almost all redraft leagues.
In late February it’s impossible to predict whether these players will get a bigger role or be downgraded because of rookies, a new scheme, guys coming off injuries, or free agent signings, but there are plenty of players who showed flashes of potential in 2013 that could carry over to 2014 success.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were what everyone thought they’d be in 2013: improved on both sides of the ball, excellent in certain offensive phases, and a wildcard playoff team. Anyone who watched Andy Reid with the Eagles knew that things were going to be good for Jamaal Charles, but I don’t know that anyone expected it to be “almost 2,000 total yards, 70 receptions, and 19 touchdowns” good. Several other players benefited from Big Red’s offense – albeit none as much as Charles – and several others look to be breakout candidates for 2014. Let’s take a look at a couple of those possibilities.
Back in September, I wrote an article after Week 1 endorsing Anthony Fasano as a waiver wire player to keep an eye on. There were myriad reasons to do so, including Reid’s use of the tight end, Alex Smith’s propensity to favor the position, and Fasano’s sure hands. Unfortunately, injuries hampered the possibility of Fasano being a top 10 player at his position. He played in just nine games, Charles took a lot of the shorter pass targets, and Smith built up a decent chemistry with third-stringer Sean McGrath.
The good news for 2014 is Reid and Smith aren’t going to just drastically change in 2014, so the tight end position will still be an important part of the Chiefs’ offense. Even with injuries to Fasano and rookie Travis Kelce, the Chiefs still targeted the position a fair amount considering half of the season a third-stringer with a -1.2 overall grade was the No. 1 tight end on the field.
|2013 Chiefs Tight Ends||Targets||Receptions||Drops||Yards||TDs|
There are a few things to keep in mind that the stats above don’t show. First, Doug Pederson is Smith’s eighth offensive coordinator, and Reid’s system the seventh in Smith’s career. The veteran quarterback obviously had a learning curve coming in, not to mention a whole new cast of players around him to build chemistry with. With Smith’s love for the tight end, had Fasano been healthy all year while also building chemistry with his signal caller, I’m sure the numbers above would be much better.
Also, Fasano came back from injury in Week 7. In the two weeks following, he was tackled inside the 5-yard line twice – three times total on the year – and Smith missed him wide open in the end zone another time. These are just the results of bad luck and poor chemistry between players who haven’t had enough time together. If the numbers above said eight or nine touchdowns, he’d look even more intriguing.
I don’t want to regurgitate all of the reasons why the Chiefs’ offense is built to be tight end friendly, you can catch that in the first article I wrote linked above. But, trust me, the history is there, and if Smith continues to build on his Pro Bowl season – more on that in a minute – Fasano, and/or possibly the unproven Kelce, could be a late round pick/waiver wire value at one of the most shallow positions in all of fantasy sports.
After an up and down career with the 49ers that would rival the likes of any roller coaster, Smith got what every quarterback whose career has been filled with controversy needs: a change of scenery. Reid, who had been coveting the Utah grad for years, finally got his wish when the Chiefs sent two second-round picks to the Niners in exchange for 2005’s No. 1 overall choice.
Reid liked Smith for some obvious reasons: He is mobile, doesn’t turn the ball over, and loves targeting running backs and tight ends. All things that a successful quarterback running a West Coast system must have. Smith isn’t made for an offense like the Air Coryell that requires a big arm and speedy receivers; he’s best suited playing close to the line of scrimmage, using his accuracy and brain to move the chains.
Smith is also very smart, he scored in the low 40s on the Wonderlic test prior to the draft, while also graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Economics by the time he was 20. Reid’s offense, based on the quarterback knowing exactly where a receiver is to be while timing his throws with footwork, is perfect for Smith’s abilities. It’s no wonder Reid wanted him so bad.
To illustrate how good Reid’s offense suited Smith, take a look at his stats through the 16 games he played (15 regular season games, one playoff game): 3,691 yards, 27 touchdowns, and seven interceptions to go along with 488 yards rushing and another touchdown on the ground. All career marks, sans interceptions.
The best thing about Smith’s 2013 season was how he got much better as the year went along. The first half of the season the defense and Charles were – rightly so – given the bulk of the credit for the fast start, but the second half of the season Smith put the team on his back and led the offense to an average of 32 points per game:
|Alex Smith||First 8 Games||Next 8 Games|
|Yards Per Attempt||6.3||7.1|
|Points Per Game||24||32|
As you can see, everything improved in the second half of Smith’s season, and as I mentioned earlier he had a lot of close calls on touchdowns or his numbers would be even better.
So, how did Smith’s splits look for fantasy purposes (obviously not including the playoff game versus the Colts)?
|Alex Smith||First 7 Games||Next 8 Games|
|Aimed Passes PG||33||30|
|Points Per Drop Back||0.39||0.51|
Again, he improved in every area, and some of them dramatically. The most interesting stat is that of Aimed Passes Per Game. Even though the Chiefs suffered several costly injuries on defense that led to much more pressure on the offense, Smith’s aimed passes per game dropped while touchdowns increased. He became a much more efficient player as the year went on and he was more and more comfortable in Reid’s West Coast system. He was top-10 in not only total points, but also in points per drop back – no doubt aided by his legs.
Smith is never going to be an Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning who will win your league’s championship for you, but as PFF’s Josh Collacchi told us, a late round quarterback can still win you a championship.
Smith could be had at a value in the late rounds of most drafts, and he showed enough progression throughout the 2013 season to warrant pseudo-breakout consideration in 2014. With Reid’s offense, he could flirt with 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. If you can get him late, he may be the quarterback steal of your draft.