QB Matt Cassel
The Chiefs offensive production went south when Cassel was lost for the season in Week 10 due to a broken hand but Kansas City was hardly an offensive powerhouse with Cassel in the lineup. Even with the team’s most dynamic offensive player Jamaal Charles lost for the season in Week 2, former head coach Todd Haley still leaned heavily on the run game with Cassel failing to top 200 passing yards in five of his nine starts and also failing to top 300 passing yards once. With Haley gone and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll running the show, the team’s production in the passing game isn’t likely to see a huge increase. Daboll’s preference is to run the ball heavily and utilize plenty of short passes. While that may play to Cassel’s strengths (although that is half-hearted praise given his completion percentage of 57.2% as a Chief), it isn’t going to turn him into a useful option as your fantasy quarterback. Cassel rates as a lower tier QB2 in 12-team leagues.
RB Jamaal Charles
Considered a top five-fantasy running back prior to last season, Charles suffered a torn ACL in Week 2, ending his season and leaving his fantasy owners with a massive hole in their starting lineups. Heading into 2012, the issue with Charles is clearly going to be how well his recovery has gone and when he will be back, close to 100%. On that front, having suffered the injury early in the 2011 season is a benefit. Charles’ game is all about speed and agility so any lingering effects of the knee injury will be amplified. The Chiefs signed Peyton Hillis in the offseason as a change of pace back and to handle the short yardage work with the expectation that he will likely see plenty of touches early in the season. Provided Charles returns to full health, Hillis’ presence doesn’t really impact his fantasy value given the 1,935 yards and eight touchdowns that he put up in 2010, splitting time with Thomas Jones. Consider Charles a lower tier RB1 with some risk in 2012.
RB Peyton Hillis
After a disastrous 2011 season in Cleveland, Hillis was signed by Kansas City in the offseason to provide insurance in the event Jamaal Charles is slow from ACL recovery. Hillis brings plenty of baggage with him, having sulked his way through most of 2011 in a contract dispute and having seen a huge drop in his production due to injuries and ineffectiveness. There are two questions to ask yourself when assessing his fantasy value for the upcoming season: One, is he the player we saw last season or the one who put together a monstrous 2010 campaign with 1,177 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards and a combined 13 touchdowns? Second, how are the Chiefs going to use him? Having signed a one-year deal, Hillis figures to be plenty motivated and at 26 years of age, he has plenty of gas in the tank so another solid performance seems likely. However, Charles was one of the most dynamic running backs in the league prior to his injury so Hillis is likely to serve as a change of pace and short yardage back. Helping matters somewhat is that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is familiar with him from their time together in Cleveland. Consider Hillis an upper tier RB4 likely to see more work early in the season than later on.
WR Dwayne Bowe
Coming off a monstrous 2010 season that saw him finish the year with 81 receptions for 1,159 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns, much was expected of Bowe in 2011… likely too much. Receivers don’t often put up 15 touchdowns so a drop in that number seemed likely and sure enough, Bowe’s touchdown receptions dropped to five as he struggled to find the end zone when Matt Cassel was lost for the season in Week 10. Prior to Cassel going down, Bowe had scored four touchdowns in nine games but he found the end zone just once in his final seven games. Bowe has refused to sign his franchise tender but the expectation is that he will do so in time to open the season. Expect him to join the team once the Chiefs break camp and for Bowe to once again fulfill his role as the team’s leading wide receiver and produce his third consecutive 1000-yard season. Clearly the most talented of the Chiefs wide receivers, Bowe will be looking to impress in 2012 and earn the long-term contract that Kansas City failed to reward him with at the conclusion of the 2011. Bowe’s fantasy prospects are held back by Matt Cassel’s mediocre quarterback play and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s run first philosophy, making him a low end WR2 with solid upside and little risk in 2012.
WR Jonathan Baldwin
The Chiefs 2010 1st round pick got off to a rousing start as a Chief, suffering a thumb injury in a fight with teammate Thomas Jones that caused him to miss the first six games of the season. At that point, he was stuck behind Steve Breaston on the depth chart and by Week 10 starting quarterback Matt Cassel was lost for the season to be replaced by noodle-armed Tyler Palko. While Baldwin didn’t show much as a rookie, off-season reports out of Kansas City indicate that he has taken a step forward, both on the field and off of it. Baldwin possesses better than average speed and he is a physical player with good leaping ability but a breakout season in 2012 with Cassel leading a run heavy offense isn’t likely in the cards unless Dwayne Bowe does the unexpected and refuses to sign his franchise tender well into the season. Baldwin has upside but consider him a low end WR4 or high end WR5 in 2012. He is a solid dynasty league prospect.
WR Steve Breaston
Breaston joined the Chiefs prior to the 2011 season and ending up playing in all 16 games for the first time in three years, starting 13 of those games. While he stayed healthy, he wasn’t exactly overly productive, catching 61 passes for 785 yards and just two touchdowns. At 28 years of age (29 on opening day), having been in the league for five seasons and never having topped three touchdowns in a single season, there is no reason to expect a breakout year from Breaston in 2012. In fact, there is a decent chance that 2010 1st round pick Jonathan Baldwin will relegate him to the slot receiving role, which is a role that he is better suited to. He is waiver wire material other than in deep leagues.
WR Dexter McCluster
After a largely unproductive rookie season in 2010, McCluster saw his role increase in 2011 due to a season-ending injury to Jamaal Charles in Week 2. McCluster rolled up 844 total yards and a pair of touchdowns working mostly out of the backfield… decent production but hardly awe-inspiring. With Charles returning from injury and the team having signed Peyton Hillis to supplement him in the backfield, it appears that McCluster will move back to his slot receiving role in 2012, effectively torpedoing what little fantasy value he had. Basically, McCluster hasn’t shown much, if any, playmaking ability in that role and he will serve as the team’s fourth wide receiver behind Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. It appears that McCluster’s fantasy value hinges on an injury to a player ahead of him on the depth chart. He should be waiver wire material in all but the deepest of leagues.
TE Tony Moeaki
Moeaki had a solid rookie season in 2010, showing plenty of promise on his way to a 47-reception, 556-yard, three-touchdown performance. However, Moeaki’s 2011 season was ended in the preseason courtesy of a torn ACL and he will enter the 2012 season fighting with former Raider and Giant Kevin Boss for playing time. While Moeaki has far more upside as a receiver, Boss is the better blocker and will likely see significant playing time in the Chiefs offense, which is expected to feature plenty of runs under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. That limits Moeaki’s upside as does the presence of three solid wide receivers in Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. Moeaki shapes up as a low-end fantasy backup with some upside in 2012.
TE Kevin Boss
Having signed with the Raiders prior to the 2011 season to replace the departed Zach Miller, Boss was such a complete bust that the team’s new management parted ways with him after just one season. Boss moves to a Chiefs team that will rely on the run plenty in 2012 and his role is likely to be more of a blocker than a receiver. Boss will split time with 3rd year player Tony Moeaki and the expectation is that Moeaki will get more looks in the passing game. Avoid drafting Boss in every format.