QB Matt Cassel
Cassel is coming off a career year where he threw for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Those are solid numbers in the Chiefs’ ground-based attack, but their offensive scheme hasn’t been a boon for fantasy success, as Cassel has failed in each of the last two years to reach the eighth-place quarterback ranking he had in 2008 with the Patriots. He has finished 15th and 21st over the past two seasons and seems entrenched as a fantasy backup. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has left the Chiefs, so head coach Todd Haley will have a greater say in the team’s play calling this year, but Kansas City is once again expected to rely on the run heavily. In addition, Dwayne Bowe is coming off a career year and the team has added former Cardinal Steve Breaston and 2010 first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin to the receiving mix. However, the team’s reliance on the run limits Cassel’s upside. Draft him as a QB2 for 2011.
RB Jamaal Charles
How good was Jamaal Charles last year? Very good, actually. Of the top 15 fantasy running backs, only BenJarvus Green-Ellis (ranked 15th) and Darren McFadden (ranked sixth) had fewer touches than Charles’s 275, and he still managed to finish the season ranked fourth at running back. By season’s end, Charles had rushed for 1,467 yards on just 230 carries and caught 45 passes for 468 yards while accumulating eight touchdowns. Over his past 24 games, he has averaged 16.8 fantasy points per game. So, he’s ridiculously productive in a timeshare, which begs the question, How productive could he be if Thomas Jones is relegated to a backup role in 2011? Actually, that’s not the question, since we know Charles would go gangbusters if given a larger share of the workload. The question is really whether head coach Todd Haley will relegate Jones to a backup role in 2011. And it’s not sounding like that’s going to happen, although Haley has said Jones’s workload will be reduced slightly. That means we can expect more of the same from Charles in 2011, and that makes him a near cinch for the top five at running back, provided he remains healthy (and he’s missed only one game in three years).
RB Thomas Jones
While Jones might be a workout warrior, it’s pretty obvious that Father Time caught up with the 33-year-old running back in 2010. Jones seemed to slow down as the season wore on, and it became apparent that he no longer has the ability to break long runs—made even more apparent by Jamaal Charles reeling off one big play after another. Jones managed to eke out 3.7 yards per carry, but that was a far cry from the 6.4 average that Charles had. Jones was a pedestrian performer last year, topping 100 total yards just three times despite having double-digit touches in 13 games and getting 20 touches eight times. While he was a decent flex option heading into 2010, he is now strictly a handcuff.
WR Dwayne Bowe
There’s a good chance you were leading your league in 2010 as the fantasy playoffs approached if you had Bowe on your roster. There’s also a good chance you got bounced in the first or second round if you had Bowe on your roster. Bowe had a monstrous 2010 campaign, finishing the season with 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns—the most in the league and the most by a wide receiver since Randy Moss’s 23 in 2007. However, he was held in check in Weeks 14 and 15 (three receptions for 56 yards), costing his fantasy owners at the wrong time. He finished as the second-ranked fantasy wide receiver behind Brandon Lloyd, and the question is whether the talented Bowe has put his litany of issues behind him and is ready to be a consistent producer for the Chiefs. Since he stayed clear of trouble last year, he deserves the benefit of the doubt, but expecting a repeat of his 2010 season isn’t realistic. He’s not a major yards producer, so he relies on touchdowns to pad his fantasy point total, and he is unlikely to approach his 2010 touchdown total this season. It’s also worth noting that Bowe really slowed down starting in Week 14, catching just 14 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown over the next six games, including the Chiefs’ wild-card loss to the Ravens. That stretch included three games where Bowe failed to notch a single fantasy point. He’s a WR2 heading into 2011.
WR Steve Breaston
Having signed with Kansas City in the offseason, Breaston will be reunited with his former offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, in Kansas City. Breaston’s signing gives quarterback Matt Cassel another offensive weapon, and it’s worth noting that Breaston enjoyed a career year in 2008 with Haley calling the plays, as he caught 77 passes for 1,003 yards and three touchdowns. However, that was in a pass-happy Cardinals offense with Breaston as the third receiving option and defenses focused on shutting down Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. In Kansas City, Breaston figures to battle rookie first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin for a starting position, a battle he will likely win. However, it’s far more likely that he will finish the season with little more than 700 yards and 2 or 3 touchdowns—as he has done over the past two seasons—than replicate his career year of 2008. He is worth taking a flier on in larger leagues but is waiver wire material in leagues with smaller rosters.
WR Jonathan Baldwin
When the Chiefs used a first-round pick on Baldwin in April, his fantasy prospects for the upcoming season looked promising. With the inconsistent Dwayne Bowe opposite him and the team’s receiving depth chart looking mighty thin, Baldwin had a clear path to a starting spot, with the potential for plenty of targets if Bowe put up another dud season similar to 2009. That was before the team added free agent Steve Breaston to the mix. While Baldwin still has a chance to relegate Breaston to the slot receiver role, look for the rookie to finish behind both Bowe and Breaston in the target parade. Since the Chiefs like to run, Baldwin isn’t likely to produce much as a rookie. He’s worth owning in dynasty leagues but isn’t worthy of a roster spot in redraft formats.
WR Dexter McCluster
What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Chiefs drafted McCluster in an attempt to add some playmaking ability to their offense, and he was expected to contribute as a runner, a slot receiver, and a wildcard on gadget plays. However, his performance was underwhelming, as he caught just 21 passes for 209 yards and a score and rushed 18 times for 71 yards. Looks like the naysayers were right when they chided the Chiefs for using a second-round pick on a diminutive player who timed out at 4.58 in the 40 at the combine. This season, Steve Breaston figures to occupy the slot position and Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones will handle the team’s rushing chores. Unless he wins the return job, McCluster isn’t even likely to dress on game day, and the 2010 supposition that McCluster could become a Wes Welker clone can be relegated to history’s dustbins.
TE Tony Moeaki
You’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it: Moeaki’s phenomenal touchdown catch that made the NFL Network’s top five receptions of 2010. That shows his athletic side, and it seemed likely that the 2010 third-round pick would improve on his solid production as a rookie (47 receptions for 556 yards and three touchdowns). However, a mysterious knee injury kept him out of the early part of training camp and the Chiefs have not disclosed what held him back—that has to be a concern. Provided he is healthy, look for him to improve his production in all areas. He has an outside chance to become a fantasy starter in 2011. That will hinge on his ability to increase his touchdown numbers and become more of an option in the red zone. However, with the team adding another large target in Jonathan Baldwin and already having Dwayne Bowe as an option near the goal line, Moeaki will likely struggle to increase his touchdown count to the 7-8 range. He is a TE2 with upside for 2011 and a great prospect in dynasty leagues.