Kansas City Chiefs Late August Scouting Report
Three pre-season games in the bag, still one to go, zero regular season contests played yet and already we have dramatic lineup-altering events occurring in Kansas City.
Let’s jump right in!
The 2017 backfield will have a very different look from the unit that closed out last season’s training camp and pre-season slate. Of course we all know that Jamaal Charles now dons a Broncos jersey (still get a YIKES!). That in-itself is a tummy-turning jolt for Chiefs fans, even given Charles’ injury woes. His ticket out of town coincided with the focused targeting and 3rd-round selection of Toledo RB Kareem Hunt. Hunt, the potential feature RB of the future, became the feature RB of the present when Spencer Ware tore up his knee this past weekend versus the Seahawks. Ware’s injury is a season-ender, thrusting Hunt to the top of the RB heap at Arrowhead One. Charcandrick West, having a solid camp himself, jumps into "next man up" status and will surely see more action than initially planned by Coach Reid and his staff. Ware’s injury also may have very well breathed new NFL life into CJ Spiller’s fading pro career, or at least in Spiller’s stay in KC. In-fact, here’s a look at the Chiefs’ RB depth chart, post-Spencer Ware unfortunate event.
After West, the Chiefs have nothing but question marks. Spiller’s struggles to re-capture his game-breaking ways (or anything close to it) are well known and have been occurring in multiple stops around the NFL. Redding is a non-frills rookie rusher, a deliberate ground-pounder from Indiana. He’s not overly impressive rushing the rock and I’m not confident the undrafted back would have much of any success if pressed into extended snaps. West has proven to be capable and able to provide impactful play in spurts, but his durability comes into question. Kareem Hunt is the clear-cut lead RB now for the Chiefs. Coach Reid now must seek out a reliable quality veteran RB or a young back with some pop somewhere that fits his offense and adds insurance in numbers to this rather thin stable of backs. IN a pinch WR De’Anthony Thomas could revert to his old RB ways, but then the WR table is off-kilter a bit.
No doubt KC personnel folks will have their collective eyes and ears open as roster cuts from around the league take place, hoping to capture a RB that brings trustworthy play, and hopefully, a modicum of skill to go with the trust. A few tailbacks with multi-tasking tools that might be left off other active rosters are Jonathan Grimes (JAX), Troymaine Pope (IND), DJ Foster (NE), John Crockett (OAK), Matt Jones (WSH), Jhurell Pressley (ATL), Raheem Mostert (SF). Don’t get me wrong, Kareem Hunt is going to thrive in his lead role and Charcandrick West will perform well with the snaps and touches he sees. It’s behind those 2 fine backs where my concern lies. Anyone who follows pro football knows that you can’t have enough good RBs on a squad; the attrition at the position is brutal through the 16-game schedule.
Contemplating the curious quietness of Chris Conley. Chiefs’ fans and fantasy football folks in general are anticipating the break-out party of WR Chris Conley in this 2017 campaign. So far, he seems to be late getting to his own party; or is he? Conley has just 3 catches total in his 3 pre-season games, while Tyreek Hill, the projected KC WR1 has snared.... uh, wait a minute... oh, Hill has 3 catches also. But Hill has gained 52 yards on his 3 receptions, sporting a sharp 17.3 yards a catch. Conley, on the other hand, has... well, Conley actually has 3 MORE yards than Hill, good for 18.3 YPR. Both of the Chiefs top-2 wideouts have exactly the same number of pre-season receptions as Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Michael Crabtree and DeSean Jackson. I know so many fanballers are ON Tyreek Hill this season, but I have to warn fantasy folks, Hill is NOT that long-stemmed route-runner he might be shoe-horned into, despite his blistering speed. He’s just not advanced enough in his WR growth to expand his route tree and be as efficient catching the ball as last season. Hill has already experienced drops, which is lost opportunities for FFB points. Conley IS wired for the branchy route tree more than Hill. Let’s not forget that Coach Reid is a cagey one, and Big Red likes to keep his "real" plans under wraps for opening day unveiling. I have nothing to go on here but faith, intuition, lots of college game film of both receivers and some understanding of how Coach Reid has worked in the past. A slick war planner doesn’t announce to the enemy how he is going to attack, and what weapons he will use to defeat the opposition. Well, Coach has made it known all too publicly that Tyreek Hill is going to be running downfield more, seeing more throws deeper in his stems. Meanwhile, haven’t heard much of anything about the "other" starting WR, Chris Conley. Just Sayin’!
Exciting rookie QB Pat Mahomes has stirred up his fans, and Alex Smith’s detractors. Mahomes is big, mobile, a tad loose in his play and brings a cannon of an arm to the battle. But he has a lot of learning ahead. His reads are shallow and incomplete, he doesn’t "see" coverages yet and, to be expected, he doesn’t have the maturity to know when to give up on a play and not force the ball into closed windows. We can scream all we want about getting Mahomes on the field ASAP, but Coach Reid remembers the good that was had by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers while learning from the sidelines. And remember gang, this is a playoff caliber team. Alex Smith gets the squad there; Mahomes does not. It will be frustratingly fun if Mahomes MUST play, but the results in the won-loss columns won’t be as much fun as the play.
The offense is not the only unit that has seen a change; the defense just got a little make-over as well. The Chiefs acquired in trade Buffalo middle linebacker and 2016 second-round pick (41st overall), Reggie Ragland. In return, KC send a 4th-round pick to the Bills. Neat little rub is the pick isn’t until 2019. Buffalo’s 2nd-year MLB missed all of his rookie season with an ACL injury. Ragland just didn’t fit the new coaching staff’s ideal MLB in Buffalo. To be honest, I’m not sure how the big thumper fits here in KC, either. Ragland isn’t the swiftest of ILBs, playing more as a big-hitter with limited cover ability. He is quite the opposite of current ILB and aging star Derrick Johnson, who is more of the athletic type. But, the 3-4 D is a scheme Ragland is quite familiar with, having excelled at Alabama in that set. The Chiefs would need another athlete-type ILB ala DJ to pair with Ragland going forward. In a concurrent move, ILB Josh Mauga was released. Wonder how Ragland’s draft pedigree will come into play with current starter Ramik Wilson?
Staying in an IDP mode, fantasy GMs best keep DE Chris Jones on speed dial. Jones looks ready to breakout, playing the run stoutly and showing good penetrating moves getting to the QB. CB Phillip Gaines just isn’t the same cover-corner as before his injuries. Gaines seems to have lost the burst to close in on receivers, and gets turned around by speedy wideouts. He’s a long-strider and now when he is turned to cover deep in man, a sharp-cutting wideout can separate more easily from Gaines with change of direction, breaking off a stem. It is a concern.
For fantasy football enthusiasts, here are the Kansas City crew that I feel are most draft-worthy.
RB Kareem Hunt, and don’t be shy about how high you want to invest (ok, maybe to the 1st-round).
WR Chris Conley in the late rounds. Conley is often going undrafted. I just have that feeling Coach Reid can’t wait to spring Conley on the league come week 1.
WR Tyreek Hill is a great bet to produce, but given his style of style of play, physical stature and the conservative nature of QB Alex Smith, how much more over last season can he produce? I love watching Hill play, but if I am forced to burn a pick over round 5 on Hill, I’ll pass and let other drafters make that hefty investment.
TE Travis Kelce is still a WR hiding in plain sight. He will once again lead the Chiefs in receptions and is worthy of being chosen once Rob Gronkowski is off the board.
Please take DE Chris Jones at some point in your IDP draft. Most folks are overlooking the Chiefs’ 2nd-year DE. I’m telling you, he’s a good one; tackles, tackles-for-loss and some sacks sprinkled in.
CB Marcus Peters might see his INTs fall as QBs look away from his side of the field. But he still makes up for it with tackles in the run and rarely misses a pick-opportunity.
S Eric Berry is an all-around IDP playmaker, and is morphing into more of THAT pseudo-LB type that is now becoming vogue around the league.
The defense WILL get to the QB, forcing ill-advised throws and creating INTs. On kick returns Tyreek Hill may not be a regular in that role, but De’Anthony Thomas just reminded us he is no slouch either in that capacity. You want the Chiefs DST on your fantasy squad; you NEED the Chiefs DST on your fantasy squad.
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John Cooney is a Senior Staff Writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind
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