The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. Having covered all of 2017’s non-playoff NFL teams, it’s time to review the rest, with the next squad being:
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Alex Smith smashed his career highs in passing yards (previously 3,502) and total touchdowns (previously 24), as many speculated the former 2005 first overall draft pick was playing with a chip on his shoulder after the Chiefs trade up to take Patrick Mahomes 10th overall last April. With Smith’s value likely as high as it was going to get for a 34-year old (in May) quarterback, the Chiefs took the opportunity to avoid a future quarterback controversy and traded him to the Redskins last March — so the Patrick Mahomes era begins. After playing well in the 2017 preseason (34-of-54 passing for 390 yards and four touchdown passes, along with 44 rushing yards) Mahomes was given a start in Week 17 of the regular season as the Chiefs were resting most of their starters in advance of the playoffs. Mahomes responded by leading the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory over the Denver Broncos while completing 62.9 percent of his passes for 284 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. While the sample size is obviously very small, Mahomes has the look of an NFL-ready quarterback, and brings to the table a significant arm strength upgrade over his predecessor. The Chiefs also boast a stable of offensive threats (Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Kareem Hunt) that set Mahomes up for success in his first year as an NFL starter. Mahomes is an ideal candidate for those who prefer to draft their quarterbacks late, though it’s recommended to pair him with a veteran in case there are some growing pains.
The fantasy football realm experienced a huge shake-up last August when projected Chiefs starting running back Spencer Ware suffered a season-ending knee injury during the preseason, as Kareem Hunt catapulted from a late-round sleeper to being chose as high as the second-round in Summer drafts. Wherever Hunt was drafted in your league last year, it was probably too low, as the sensational rookie led the NFL in rushing yards, and finished third behind Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell with 1,782 all-purpose scrimmage yards (good for 10th all-time among NFL rookies). Hunt’s sensational campaign was not without flaws, however, as he went nearly incognito between Weeks 6 and 13, averaging just 64 total yards during that span while being held out of the end zone. Additionally, Chiefs’ head coach often took Hunt off the field in favor of Charcandrick West in obvious passing situations and when the offense went into hurry-up mode (which makes Hunt’s 53 receptions all the more impressive). Despite missing all of last season, Spencer Ware recorded 1,368 total yards as the Chiefs’ lead back in 2016, leading to some speculation that when fully healthy he could force some sort of running back timeshare. However, until we actually see Ware get back onto the practice field and perform well, the Chiefs’ backfield belongs to Hunt alone.
Coming off an impressive 2016 rookie season that saw Tyreek Hill amass 1,836 all-purpose yards and 12 total touchdowns, the second year wideout still faced some scrutiny entering year two. Was Hill capable of becoming the Chiefs no. 1 wideout after the release of Jeremy Maclin? Or was he simply a gadget player that relied on manufactured touches? Hill was able to quell the doubters by putting up at least 68 receiving yards and/or a touchdown in 10 of 15 games played, while leading the team in receiving yardage. Hill was initially looking like a WR1 candidate heading in to next season, though the Chiefs’ signing of Sammy Watkins suddenly makes their pass-catching corps appear a bit crowded. Regardless, Hill is still a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball, and makes for a solid WR2 choice with plenty of upside. Former undrafted free agent Albert Wilson posted career-highs across the board and was able to parlay those numbers into a shiny new contract with the Miami Dolphins. The Watkins signing also ensures Demarcus Robinson and Chris Conley (coming off a season-ending Achilles injury) remain in reserve roles for the foreseeable future.
We finally saw some positive touchdown regression for Travis Kelce, as the Chiefs wised up and started using him in the red zone more often (Kelce saw 21 targets inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, which tied him with Larry Fitzgerald for fifth in that regard). Additionally, Kelce has proven himself as quite durable since missing all of his 2013 rookie season with a knee injury, as the only thing that stopped him from achieving a fourth straight 16-game campaign was getting held out of the Chiefs’ meaningless Week 17 season finale for rest purposes. While Kelce may not possess the same ceiling as fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski does, the former’s ability to stay on the field makes him a much safer investment. Having topped 1,000 receiving yards in two straight seasons, risk averse fantasy owners can’t be faulted for making Kelce their top ranked tight on 2018 fantasy draft boards. Former undrafted free agent Demetrius Harris will return in 2018 as the Chiefs’ no. 2 tight end, and poses no threat to Kelce’s workload.