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Player Outlooks – San Francisco 49ers

By: — July 5, 2010 @ 10:17 am

The 49ers had a respectable season under Mike Singletary’s first full year as head coach. While the record wasn’t spectacular at 8-8, few predicted that San Francisco would reach the .500 mark in 2009.

Expectations are higher this year as the 49ers enter the season as the favorite to win the NFC West. In order for that to happen, quarterback Alex Smith is going to have to continue the strong play that he had in 2009; and the pass defense, their weak link, will need to improve.

The 49ers entered last season with the goal of running the ball heavily and utilizing play action in the passing game. However, after Smith replaced an ineffective Shaun Hill, the team switched to more a spread-based offensive attack with less reliance on the running game. In 2010, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye hopes to find the proper balance that will maximize the strengths of Smith and running back Frank Gore.

After Smith took over at quarterback, Gore became less of a featured player on offense, with 16 or fewer carries in seven of the team’s final ten games. He remains one of the league’s few remaining workhorse backs, however, excelling as a runner, receiver, and pass blocker.

Tight end Vernon Davis finally fulfilled his promise, having a Pro Bowl season in 2009 with 965 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite a holdout that lasted five weeks into the season, wide receiver Michael Crabtree performed well in his rookie season and figures to be a Pro Bowl performer either this season or next.

QB Alex Smith
Smith rebounded from missing all of 2008 and played well last season once he moved into the starting lineup. With Smith starting, the 49ers moved away from the heavily ground-based offense they used early in the season in favor of a spread attack that was better suited to Smith’s ability. Smith was up to the task, putting up 2,350 passing yards with 18 touchdowns over 11 games after replacing Hill—production that, on a points-per-game basis, equals that of a solid fantasy backup. The 49ers spent a pair of first round draft picks on offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, and the team features one of the most talented groups of young skill position players in the league in Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree. The 49ers offense should surprise in 2010, given the young talent on the roster. The ingredients are there for Smith to have a solid fantasy season as well. Draft him as a backup for your squad, but as one with the potential to sneak into starter status.

RB Frank Gore
Once again, Gore shapes up as a top ten running back in all fantasy formats for 2010 because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Since his breakout campaign of 2006, when he accumulated 1,695 rushing yards, 485 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, Gore has been solid. While his talent is undeniable, he hasn’t approached his 2006 production because of either injuries (2008 and 2009), inconsistent use (2009), or a lack of talent around him (2007). While this may be the year he finally regains his 2006 fantasy form, the better bet based on his history is that Gore will tantalize his owners again, giving them solid but unspectacular production. With Alex Smith under center, the 49ers will employ the spread offense more in 2010 than last year, which figures to reduce Gore’s touches. While Gore has upside given the upgrades to the offensive line and the talent surrounding him, he doesn’t rate with the consensus top four backs for fantasy purposes. Put it this way: He’s closer to Steven Jackson than he is to the big four.

RB Glen Coffee
Coffee is a coming off what can only be described as a perplexing rookie year. In the preseason he appeared to be a third round steal for the 49ers; but when the regular season started he looked more like a deer caught in the headlights. With Frank Gore out for two games and most of another, Coffee managed just 173 yards on 61 carries, including a paltry 74 yards on 24 carries against a pathetic Rams run defense. For the year, he ran for 226 yards, averaging only 2.7 yards per carry. The 49ers spent a sixth round pick on Anthony Dixon to challenge Coffee, but offseason reports indicate that Coffee is holding down the backup spot, at least partially because of Dixon’s hamstring issues. Monitor the situation, but look for Coffee to be a must-have handcuff for Gore owners.

WR Michael Crabtree
Crabtree is coming off of a very solid rookie season and he figures to approach the 1000-yard mark in 2010. With Crabtree, the sky is the limit given his production during a rookie season in which he missed all of training camp and the first five games of the year before stepping right into the starting lineup in week six. Despite the lack of preparation, he still managed to catch 48 passes for 625 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With a full training camp to gain rapport with quarterback Alex Smith, Crabtree is a breakout candidate in 2010. However, keep expectations in check since tight end Vernon Davis gobbles up both targets and touchdowns, which limits Crabtree’s fantasy upside.

WR Josh Morgan
Morgan looks the part but seems to lack big play ability. After a great training camp during his rookie season in 2008, Morgan seemed to be a solid prospect for keeper leagues; but he has done little since to suggest that he’s ready to approach fantasy starter status. Maybe the light goes on in 2010, but with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis hogging targets, and running back Frank Gore an excellent checkdown option, Morgan will not likely get enough looks in 2010 to be relevant for fantasy purposes. Basically, there’s no chance of him surpassing Crabtree or Davis, so why bother? He’s not worth drafting in all but the deepest leagues.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Ah, Ted Ginn. He runs fast—but too often right out of bounds. He gets open—but too often drops the ball. He makes people miss—but too often makes moves before he has the ball. Potential is nothing without productivity. After three years, the Dolphins gave up on Ginn; and, after three years, you should too. While there is the possibility that Ginn will develop into a solid backup wide receiver in San Francisco, he’s equally as likely to be surpassed on the depth chart by Jason Hill or Brandon Jones. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

TE Vernon Davis
Davis had a huge, unforeseen breakout campaign in 2009 that included 13 touchdowns and helped make him the top fantasy tight end. While Davis has always had exceptional speed, too often he was running the wrong route, missing blocking assignments, and blaming anybody but himself for his mistakes. However, he put it all together last year, showing a maturity and dedication that didn’t exist previously. While it is difficult to imagine that he can repeat his 2009 campaign, it’s just as difficult to view him as a one-year wonder. The question is, Do you believe? Here’s the answer: You should. Expect a repeat of his 2009 breakout campaign, but without the 13 touchdowns he had last year.

Player Outlooks – St. Louis Rams

By: — July 4, 2010 @ 10:34 am

The Rams enter the second year of head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s tenure with the team coming off a 1-15 season and a horrendous three-year stretch with a record of 6-42. It goes without saying that the Rams have their work cut out for them in 2010.

The team has struggled on both sides of the ball in recent years, with the defense unable to stop the run in astonishing fashion. They have also struggled to make big plays or generate turnovers.

The Rams used Marc Bulger (eight starts), Kyle Boller (four), and Keith Null (four) at quarterback last year, but the team will turn to Sam Bradford this year after using the first overall pick in the draft on the Oklahoma signal caller. A.J. Feeley may open the season as the team’s starter, but Bradford will take over early in the season.

On offense, Steven Jackson is the centerpiece of the Rams. Despite regularly facing eight- and nine-man fronts and playing several games with back issues, he amassed 1,424 yards on the ground and 314 receiving yards.

The Rams lack proven playmakers at wide receiver, but the roster includes some intriguing young players. Donnie Avery enters his third season, and the Rams hope he can use his speed to make plays more consistently while avoiding the injury issues that have set him back. Laurent Robinson looked like a potential number one receiver before getting injured in the third game of last season. Brandon Gibson has potential as a possession receiver, while Danny Amendola had a solid rookie season as the team’s slot receiver. Amendola will have to fight off rookie fourth round pick Mardy Gilyard for playing time.

The situation at tight end isn’t as promising, with veteran Daniels Fells and blocking specialist Billy Bajema joined by the pair of rookies, Michael Hoomanawanui (fifth round) and Fendi Onobun (sixth round). Onobun is a raw talent with little experience but excellent athletic ability.

QB Sam Bradford
The Rams used the first overall pick in the draft to get Bradford, and the expectation is that he will start early in the season, if not on opening day. While Bradford figures to get extensive playing time in his rookie season, there are loads of question marks at wide receiver and tight end. Although there are some talented young receivers on the roster, none appear ready to assume a lead role. It’s also worth noting that the Rams will likely use a rookie and a second year player at the starting offensive tackle positions. Bradford is clearly a talented player with a strong and accurate arm. However, his 2010 fantasy prospects are extremely dim given the Rams lack of playmakers on offense. He’s a great dynasty league prospect—otherwise, there’s not much good to say about him fantasy-wise. He’s likely not worth drafting in re-draft leagues.

RB Steven Jackson
Jackson is coming off another solid yet injury-plagued season. A back injury kept him out of one game and forced him to miss several weeks worth of practices. Despite the injury, Jackson racked up some impressive numbers (1424 rushing, 314 receiving) considering the Rams anemic offense was without starting quarterback Marc Bulger for much of the year. Opposing defenses used nine men in the box against Jackson on a regular basis, even on third-and-long. His mere four touchdowns marred an otherwise solid season. One of the league’s most talented backs, Jackson figures to match his 2009 production if he remains healthy in 2010. However, he had to undergo back surgery in April, which is a worrisome sign given his injury history. Nonetheless, he should be in consideration as the fifth running back off the board in most fantasy formats.

WR Donnie Avery
Avery has been a bit of an enigma for the Rams since being the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft. He is a burner with exceptional speed, but his route running needs improvement and he isn’t adept at catching passes over the middle. As he enters his third year, the odds are against him having a breakout campaign in 2010. At this point, his role appears to be that of a complimentary receiver whose main tasks will include running deep patterns and end-arounds. While Avery has upside and his production should improve, he is a marginal fantasy starter in all but the deepest leagues.

WR Laurent Robinson
After acquiring Robinson from the Falcons for a swap of their fifth and sixth picks prior to last year’s draft, the Rams thought they had a steal on their hands early in the 2009 season. After two games, Robinson had emerged as the team’s top wide receiver with 141 yards and a touchdown. However, a leg fracture during Week 3 ended his 2009 season. Robinson has enough size and speed to be effective running any pattern and should win the starting job opposite Donnie Avery. With rookie Sam Bradford likely starting at quarterback in a Rams offense that lacks talent, Robinson’s potential is limited. However, he could surprise and will likely be drafted lower than Donnie Avery—and he may have just as much upside.

WR Brandon Gibson
Gibson came over in a mid-season trade with the Eagles and was thrust into a significant role immediately. At 6’0” and 210 pounds, he is a decent prospect as a possession receiver but seemed to lack deep speed as a rookie. Despite being targeted mostly on short and intermediate routes, he caught just 49% of his targets. However, a good portion of that ineffectiveness can be chalked up to the Rams poor quarterback play in 2009. Gibson has some potential, especially in PPR leagues, provided he can supplant Donnie Avery or Laurent Robinson in the starting lineup.

WR Mardy Gilyard
The Rams felt they got a steal when Gilyard was available at the first pick in the forth round of the draft. Although he doesn’t possess blazing speed, Gilyard is a shifty receiver who displayed good playmaking ability in college. Reports indicate the Rams have been very impressed with his progress during OTAs, and he figures to supplant Danny Amendola as the team’s slot receiver, perhaps by opening day. He will work as a returner as well since he may not have the requisite size to play outside in the Rams West Coast offense. However, the Rams have plenty of question marks at receiver, so Gilyard could earn a significant role as a rookie.

WR Keenan Burton
Burton has been injury-prone since entering the league two years ago. A knee injury suffered during Week 10 derailed his 2009 season; and he will be fighting for playing time, as well as his roster spot, this preseason. He is a decent prospect with enough size and speed to succeed, but he has failed to show much during his limited playing time. Though the Rams depth chart at wide receiver is unsettled, don’t expect Burton to earn a starting position, and certainly don’t waste a draft pick on him in your fantasy league.

TE Daniel Fells
The talentless Rams didn’t bother to offer him a tender, but they re-signed him when the Patriots showed some interest. Luckily for Fells, the Rams had so many needs that they didn’t draft any tight ends until the fifth and sixth rounds in 2010. If his own team doesn’t like Fells, why should you? There’s no reason to take him in your fantasy draft.

Player Outlooks – San Diego Chargers

By: — July 3, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

The Chargers once again had a solid regular season in 2009, finishing 13-3, only to suffer another heart-wrenching defeat early in the playoffs. Despite having a playoff bye, they lost to the Jets 17-14 in their first playoff game, courtesy of two missed field goals by Nate Kaeding.

Head coach Norv Turner returns for his fourth season at the helm of the Chargers, and there has been significant movement on the roster during the offseason. Gone are LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Williams, Antonio Cromartie, and Brandon Manumaleuna.

On offense, the Chargers aired it out more regularly than in years past, finishing fifth in passing yards. With Tomlinson struggling behind an injury-plagued offensive line and Darren Sproles better suited for spot duty, Turner was forced to pass more. The result was quarterback Philip Rivers having a career year.

While the Chargers were clearly successful last year despite the heavy pass-run ratio, look for the team to have a more balanced attack in 2010 with rookie first round pick Ryan Mathews getting a healthy dose of carries in the running game.

As training camp approaches, there is concern the team will be without two stalwart performers in left tackle Marcus McNeill and wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Both players have refused to sign their restricted free agent tenders and have threatened to hold out until the tenth game of the season. If both players refuse to report, it will seriously jeopardize the Chargers’ ability to win a fifth consecutive AFC West division title.

QB Philip Rivers
Rivers has been fantasy gold over the last two seasons, topping 4,000 yards passing each year while tossing 62 touchdown passes. While Rivers is clearly not in decline at age 28, his fantasy prospects for 2010 aren’t as promising as his 2008 and 2009 success would suggest. The drafting of Ryan Mathews causes Rivers’ projected points to drop since the Chargers rushing attack figures to gain prominence this season. More worrisome is the status of Vincent Jackson. The Chargers top wide receiver has threatened to boycott the first ten games of the season unless he receives a lucrative long-term contract. Without Jackson, Rivers’ fantasy stats would take a serious hit, perhaps even dropping him to marginal starter status. Monitor Jackson’s contract situation and adjust Rivers’ fantasy ranking accordingly.

RB Ryan Mathews
Mathews lucks out in going to the high-powered Chargers offense. The rookie first round pick figures to get plenty of touches and touchdown opportunities in his first year with the team. Mathews will start on opening day, with Darren Sproles serving as the pass-catching, change-of-pace option. Look for Mathews to get 15-20 touches a game, including goal line work. At close to 220 pounds, Mathews has the stature to be a feature back, and with the Chargers expected to dominate the AFC West in 2010, he should see plenty of fourth quarter, closing-time work. It’s hard to imagine a better fantasy situation for a rookie rusher. Pencil him in as an RB1, but monitor how he is used in the preseason and how much work he gets as the season progresses. As with all rookie runners, there is a risk of him hitting the wall late in the season.

RB Darren Sproles
Sproles is coming off a career year in which he benefited from LaDanian Tomlinson’s injuries and declining level of play. He finished 2009 with 840 total yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately for Sproles, the Chargers traded up in the first round to take Ryan Mathews after jettisoning Tomlinson in the offseason. He will enter 2010 as a change-of-pace, pass-catching option. Sproles’ 2009 production is pretty much his upside, save for a few more yards. He is a must-have handcuff for Mathews owners and remains a useful flex play in leagues that employ the position.

WR Vincent Jackson
The good news with Jackson is that he has gotten better every year during his four-year career, finishing last season with career highs in yardage (1,167) and touchdowns (nine). The bad news is that he feels that he’s outplayed his contract status and is threatening to not report until Week 11 of the coming season. If healthy and motivated, he’s pretty much guaranteed production. Although he had a career year in 2009, it was somewhat marred by a four-game slump between weeks 10-13. Jackson will be suspended for three games due to his off-the-field troubles. Monitor his contract and suspension status in the preseason. If he’s in the lineup for 16 games, Jackson is clearly a low-end WR1 with upside for fantasy purposes.

WR Malcom Floyd
Floyd is going to be one of the most intriguing players in 2010 fantasy drafts. Not only did he show some solid ability after taking over for Chris Chambers as a starter partway through the 2009 season, but he may also benefit from Vincent Jackson’s absence. Jackson is in the midst of a contract dispute and has threatened to boycott the team until its eleventh game of the season. If that transpires, Floyd will move into the lead receiver role for the better part of 2010. He is a tall, physical receiver who has the ability to go up and get jump balls on deep passes, in addition to possessing better–than-average speed. He has solid upside playing in the Chargers potent passing game and could be a breakout candidate if Jackson stays away.

WR Legedu Naanee
Naanee started getting some opportunities in 2009 following the release of Chris Chambers. The Chargers love big receivers, and Naanee fits the mold at 6’2” and 220 pounds. Despite his size, Naanee isn’t an overly physical player and seems to be best suited to playing in the slot. However, if Vincent Jackson doesn’t resolve his contract issues, Naanee will compete for a starting spot with former Buffalo receiver Josh Reed. Give Naanee the leg up in that competition since Reed has been a slot receiver his entire career. Naanee is likely waiver wire material in most leagues if Jackson is back, but he could be a useful option if Jackson holds out.

TE Antonio Gates
After a subpar year in 2008, Gates bounced back last year to lead all tight ends in receiving yards. The Chargers offense figures to be dominant once again in 2010, and it’s worth noting that Gates finished 2009 with six touchdowns in the final six games of the season. Gates is clearly the best receiving tight end in the league, able to beat defenders with his agility and use his size to shield them from defending passes. Vincent Jackson’s potential absence only figures to increase Gates’ looks in the red zone. Look for Gates to reclaim the title of fantasy football’s premier tight end in 2010. Injuries have been a concern over the last few years and this offseason has been no different, with reports indicating that he is battling plantar fasciitis. Monitor that situation.

Player Outlooks – Oakland Raiders

By: — July 2, 2010 @ 11:29 am

In Oakland, the more things change, the more they stay the same, as the Raiders have failed to record more than five wins in seven consecutive seasons. Hope springs eternal, and in 2010 the optimism comes in the form of recently acquired quarterback Jason Campbell.

While Campbell didn’t light the league on fire with the Redskins, he is a capable signal caller who suffered from the constant coaching changes in Washington. In Oakland, he represents a significant upgrade over JaMarcus Russell. Russell flamed out in extravagant fashion with the Raiders despite being forced into the starting lineup over head coach Tom Cable’s objections.

New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson takes over the play calling duties, and there is little doubt owner Al Davis’s instructions are to employ a deep passing attack. At receiver, the Raiders feature talented but largely unproven youngsters Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy to go along with Chaz Schilens and tight end Zach Miller. Look for Schilens and Murphy to handle most of the intermediate and underneath patterns.

Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will share time at running back, with the hope that Bush’s inside running compliments McFadden’s ability to get to the edge of the defense.

Along the offensive line, the Raiders are hoping for improvement from within, given that the only change will be Khalif Barnes taking over for the departed Cornell Green at right tackle. This unit’s poor performance has hurt the team over the past couple of years, and it’s not a stretch to suggest it could happen again in 2010.

QB Jason Campbell
After suffering through the JaMarcus Russell era, the Raiders moved on with the acquisition of Campbell from the Redskins. While Campbell failed to achieve much success in Washington, he has plenty of excuses to fall back on. The Redskins regularly changed offensive coordinators, failed to develop a wide receiver opposite Santana Moss, and watched the offensive line fall apart in 2009 due to age and injuries. Before dismissing Campbell’s prospects in Oakland, it is worth noting that the Raiders passing offense was significantly better last year when Russell was on the bench in favor of Bruce Gradkowski or Charlie Frye. Campbell is much better than Gradkowski and Frye. Also, Zach Miller is perhaps the most underrated tight end in the league. Unfortunately, the Raiders have a young group of wide receivers that have yet to develop. While Campbell isn’t a fantasy starter, he could be a decent backup with some upside if the Raiders can get some big plays from their wide receivers.

RB Michael Bush
Bush has been Oakland’s healthiest and most effective back running the football over the past two seasons, but you would never know that based on his playing time. Presumably the Raiders will eventually figure that out. Bush is a solid inside runner with an ability to make tacklers miss on the second level. He is expected to split time with McFadden but figures to get the goal line work. When it comes down to backs splitting time, the best fantasy option is usually the one who gets the goal line work. While others overspend on Darren McFadden, you can wait and get the value pick in Bush.

RB Darren McFadden
McFadden has been a major disappointment over his first two years in the league. He has not displayed the big play ability he showed in college and has not been effective running the ball, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry (3.4 in 2009). While he has the talent to bust out, the odds seem remote given his lack of production and the Raiders offensive prospects in 2010. Basically, the Raiders offense is in shambles, and McFadden has done nothing in his two years to prove that he’s a feature back.

WR Chaz Schilens
On the plus side, the Raiders figure to be better at quarterback with Jason Campbell, and Schilens is Oakland’s best receiver, at least on entering training camp. On the down side, he recently had follow-up surgery on his left foot, which he broke last August. Even if the Raiders passing offense is much improved, Schilens may be too injury-prone to be on the field to reap the benefits. If healthy, he shapes up as bye week filler. Given his injury history, there are other backup wide receivers with more upside and less risk.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Heyward-Bey is coming off a rookie season in which he looked completely lost. With Michael Crabtree looking like a future stud across the bay in San Francisco, the Raiders are looking mighty foolish in selecting Heyward-Bey based on his superior speed over the more talented Crabtree. Offseason reports indicate that Heyward-Bey has stepped up his game, but most teams put out glowing offseason reports, particularly for young players who have been disappointments. The validity of his progress is debatable, and improvement should be expected given how bad he was last year. But how much improvement can you expect from a player who had two multiple-reception games in 2009 and finished the year with nine receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown? Let others reach for Heyward-Bey.

WR Louis Murphy
Darrius Heyward-Bey was the Raiders rookie wide receiver getting all of the attention in 2009, but Murphy was the Raiders rookie wide receiver getting all of the production. The fourth round pick had a surprisingly solid rookie season with 521 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He displayed big play ability, averaging 15.3 yards per reception. With Jason Campbell under center in 2010, Murphy’s prospects for improvement are solid. One notable hiccup to his 2009 season is that he managed to catch just 34 of 96 targets, although that can be at least partially explained by the team’s poor quarterback play. Nonetheless, of the Raiders wide receivers, Murphy has the best potential for a solid season in 2010. While fantasy owners are reaching for Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens, scoop up Murphy as the best value of the three.

TE Zach Miller
Miller doesn’t get the credit he deserves, mostly because he has never had the chance to play with a decent quarterback. However, he gets a decent quarterback for the first time in his career in Jason Campbell. That is, unless the Raiders do the unthinkable and hand the job to Bruce Gradkowski. Miller is the most underrated tight end in the league, so he could surprise with Campbell under center. If there’s one Raider to own in the passing game, Miller is that player. Consider him a solid sleeper prospect at tight end.

Player Outlooks – Kansas City Chiefs

By: — July 1, 2010 @ 11:38 am

Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City begins year two of its rebuilding phase under general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley. Last year, the Chiefs managed to win four games, doubling their win total from 2008. While that isn’t exactly a major accomplishment, Pioli gutted the team’s roster of its dead weight and added important pieces such as quarterback Matt Cassel.

While Cassel’s results weren’t overly impressive, his struggles were amplified by playing behind perhaps the worst offensive line in the league and a wide receiver depth chart lacking talent and unable to make up for the loss of Dwayne Bowe’s four game suspension. The Chiefs are hoping for more from Cassel this year and he figures to improve as Pioli bolstered the offensive line with the free agent additions of guard Ryan Lilja and center Casey Wiegmann. The team is hoping for major improvements at left tackle from Brandon Albert and at right tackle from Ryan O’Callaghan in his first full season with the team.

Jamaal Charles excelled after being handed the starting running back duties when Larry Johnson was released. The team added Thomas Jones in the off-season to spell Charles, which gives the Chiefs solid depth in the backfield. Jones is coming off a career year rushing for 1402 yards and 14 touchdowns, finishing as a top-ten fantasy back in 2009.

At wide receiver, Dexter McCluster was added in the 2nd-round of the draft to provide some playmaking ability. The college running back will shift to a slot receiver role, getting the occasional carry as a running back and potentially be the quarterback in the Wildcat formation. The Chiefs are also banking on a return to form from Bowe, whose maturity and dedication remain major question marks.

Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was added to reduce Haley’s workload. Weis was known as a creative play caller in New England and figures to run multiple formations to create mismatches for speedsters Charles and McCluster.

The Chiefs finished 2009 ranked 25th in passing offense and 11th in rushing, although their rushing mark was aided by 317 yards in week 17 against the Broncos. Given the off-season moves in coaching staff and player personnel look for the Chiefs to improve, but middle of the pack is likely their high-water mark for 2010.

QB Matt Cassel
Cassel put up solid numbers starting 15 games for the Patriots in 2008 and there were some concerns that his production was more of a product of the talent around him than what he brought to the table. His first year in Kansas City more or less confirmed those suspicions as Cassel struggled behind a shoddy offensive line. There is some hope for 2010 with improvements along the front and a new offensive coordinator in Charlie Weiss. In addition, Cassel should have Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers for an entire season and the Chiefs are hoping that dynamic scatback/slot receiver Dexter McCluster, drafted in the 2nd-round, provides a major shot in the arm to the offense. Cassell will need his receivers to avoid injury and McCluster to be a reliable weapon out of the slot or else he is destined for fantasy irrelevance in 2010.

RB Jamaal Charles
Charles was a monster over the final eight games of last season with 968 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He also displayed solid receiving ability and looked like a potential top-10 fantasy back when 2009 ended. However, the Chiefs signed Thomas Jones this off-season and he figures to eat into the goal line work of Charles and likely get 10-12 carries a game. Don’t be concerned about the addition of Dexter McCluster. He’s going to be used in the slot with Charles the main threat out of the backfield on first and second down. Charles has big play ability and is one of the more intriguing players in fantasy given his huge upside, which is accompanied by the risk of having perhaps the top backup running back in the league pushing for playing time.

RB Thomas Jones
The Chiefs showed their concern for over-working Jamaal Charles with the signing of Jones, who is coming off two top-10 fantasy seasons. He had a career year in 2009 with 1,402 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Jones is a solid inside runner with an ability to get outside, although he did seem to lose a step in 2009. His presence is going to reduce Charles’ workload and he’s a must-have handcuff for Charles owners. The Chiefs offense isn’t a powerhouse but is good enough to give Jones consideration in leagues that employ the flex position.

WR Dwayne Bowe
Bowe enters 2010 in need of a solid season to secure a long-term contract in Kansas City. He has been an enigma due to off-field issues, poor practice habits, and questionable comments to the press – not to mention a suspension that cost him four games in 2009. Basically, he is a talented player who needs to get his **** together and stay out of Todd Haley’s doghouse. It’s worth noting his next misadventure could result in a 16-game suspension. Bowe’s fantasy status is that of a WR3 but he carries some significant risks and will likely be drafted before he should in most leagues due to his solid production during in the first two years of his career (2,017 yards and 12 touchdowns).

WR Chris Chambers
Chambers became the default number one wideout in Kansas City last season given the troubles of Dwayne Bowe and became a nice fill-in for fantasy owners, but he’s always struggled with consistency and that isn’t likely to change now that he has a shiny, new contract. Fantasy owners won’t forget his disappearing act in San Diego for a year and a half despite playing in one of the league’s top offenses. The Chiefs figure to be behind plenty in 2010 so that will allow Chambers to pad his stats but his inconsistency will give you fits. Consider him a solid backup or a low end WR3 with little upside.

WR Dexter McCluster
Looking to add some playmaking ability to the offense, the Chiefs used their second-round pick in the 2010 draft on McCluster. He will shift to the slotback position after playing running back in college. However, the Chiefs will use him in a variety of roles with off-season reports indicating he is running the Wildcat in OTA’s. At 5’9” and 172 pounds, McCluster has good short area quickness and the ability to make tacklers miss in space but he timed out at 4.58 in the 40 at the combine and there was some surprise when the Chiefs took him with the 36th pick overall. He figures to get plenty of touches during his rookie season and it will be interesting to see how he handles the workload given his size. While the Chiefs would love for him to develop into a Wes Welker clone, that is unlikely to happen in 2010. He is a decent prospect in dynasty league but is waiver wire material in re-draft formats.

TE Brad Cottam
Cottam, who is coming off a neck injury, will battle Leonard Pope for the starting tight end spot for the Chiefs but there isn’t much upside here. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss doesn’t throw to the tight end much making Cottam waiver wire material at best.

TE Leonard Pope
Chiefs have to throw to some tight end. Maybe Pope’s the guy, or maybe not. And even if he is, he shouldn’t be on your fantasy roster.

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