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2023 Player Outlooks: Kansas City Chiefs

By HC Green | 7/5/23 |

QB Patrick Mahomes
(2022 QB Rank: No.2, 28.6 FPts/G)

Remember that six-game stretch in 2021 when the league had figured out how to stop Mahomes and the Chiefs offense? Ah, good times, good times. Whatever led to that brief lull in production, itís safe to say it wasnít sustainable for defenses after Mahomes comfortably led the NFL in passing yards (5,250) and touchdowns (41) last year en route to a second MVP award and second Super Bowl triumph. All this despite the team trading away star wideout Tyreek Hill before the season.

Entering his age-28 season, Mahomes should be at the height of his powers, and given that head coach Andy Reid calls the plays, the departure of longtime offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy should have limited impact. Heíll also lose his No. 1 receiver for a second straight year, as JuJu Smith-Schuster signed in New England, but if he can excel minus Hill, thereís no reason think he canít do it here.

While Mahomes isnít an elite runner, heís topped 300 yards each of the last three seasons, so itís not a hindrance the way it could be with some of the other top throwers that prefer not to take off (e.g., Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, and Justin Herbert). You could maybe convince yourself that Jalen Hurts deserves to be the first quarterback selected, but Mahomes is a much safer choice given his track record and sustainable style of play. For our money, Mahomes is the overall QB1.

Isiah Pacheco

RB Isiah Pacheco
(2022 RB Rank: No.37, 8.2 FPts/G)

At this time last year, Pacheco was an afterthought, an unheralded seventh-round pick seemingly buried on the depth chart. The then-rookie ran hard every time he was given the chance, however, and he eventually took over as the primary back on early downs. Despite entering the month of November with just 39 carries, Pacheco would end up leading the club in rushing attempts (170), yards (830), and touchdowns (5). He added another 197 yards in the playoffs and heads into 2023 with a strong grip on the top job.

Where things unravel a bit for Pacheco in terms of fantasy value is his lack of involvement in the passing game on a team that finished fifth in the NFL in attempts (651) last year. He had one encouraging effort in the playoffs (five catches for 59 yards in the AFC Championship Game) but otherwise managed just 14 receptions in his other 19 games. As long as he remains primarily an early-down back, his upside will be capped. Consider Pacheco a strong RB3 with the possibility for more.

RB Jerick McKinnon
(2022 RB Rank: No.20, 11.5 FPts/G)

After missing two entire seasons due to injury, McKinnon has played in all but four games over the past three years combined. His usage remained low in 2021 when he logged a combined 25 touches, but last season it jumped to 128: that broke down to 72 carries for 291 yards, and 56 receptions for 512 yards. While the 803 total yards were nice, it was the 10 touchdowns that was a real eye opener with nine of them coming as a receiver -- that was good enough to tie for sixth in the NFL, and it was nearly double the next-highest running back (Aaron Jones, Christian McCaffrey, and Austin Ekeler each had five).

At 31, McKinnon is long in the tooth for the position, but Reid values his veteran savvy, and Mahomes clearly trusts him as a valuable piece of the passing game. Expect McKinnon to reprise his role as the primary receiving back, which should afford him fringe top-50 value. If he was your No. 5 back, youíd have assembled good depth for your squad.

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
(2022 RB Rank: No.46, 9.8 FPts/G)

Kansas City used a first-round pick on Edwards-Helaire in 2020. In three years with the club, the LSU product has averaged 541 yards rushing, 193 yards receiving, and 5.7 combined TDs. Heís also missed 17 of 50 games, including back-to-back years of appearing in just 10. Given his struggles to stay healthy and declining production, it should come as no surprise that the Chiefs elected not to pick up his fifth-year option, setting up CEH for free agency after the season.
The days of drafting Edwards-Helaire outside the deepest of leagues are over. While thereís always some degree of upside for a player of CEHís talent, his uncertain role and durability concerns make him no more than a watch-list candidate.

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
(2022 WR Rank: No.54, 7.2 FPts/G)

Kansas City gave Valdes-Scanting a three-year, $30 million deal to leave Green Bay before last season, but if they were hoping to unlock heretofore unseen production, they had to be disappointed. After averaging 31 receptions, 538 yards, and 3.3 TDs with the Packers, MVS posted a marginally better 42-687-2 line during his first season catching balls from Mahomes.

With his blend of size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) and speed, thereís always a chance Valdes-Scantling will breakthrough -- his 17.2 yards-per-catch average is no fluke. With each passing season it seems less and less likely, though, as MVS will turn 29 in October and has yet to top 700 yards in any of his five seasons to date. Maybe you can talk yourself into Valdes-Scantling as a final-round flier, but thatís about it.

WR Skyy Moore
(2022 WR Rank: No.118, 3.3 FPts/G)

The departure of Smith-Schuster should open a larger role for Moore, who finished fourth in snaps among the wideouts as a rookie, logging 313, which trailed MVS (777), Smith-Schuster (765), and Justin Watson (494), who was re-signed but seems more like an insurance policy. Moore was selected in the second-round last year on the strength of his deep speed and route running. It didnít translate into much as a rookie with just 250 yards and 22 receptions, but he was the receiver the Chiefs targeted immediately after Hill was moved, and you can bet they expect more in 2023.

There are a lot of unknowns at the position now that Smith-Schuster and, to a lesser extent, Mecole Hardman are gone. Still, of the current group, you could make a strong case that Moore has the most potential to make a leap. He has high-end talent, has spent a full year in the system, and doesnít carry the durability red flags that Kadarius Toney does. Consider Moore for a spot as your WR5 that could ascend to WR3 status, if not more.

WR Kadarius Toney
(2022 WR Rank: No.105, 6.6 FPts/G)

A first-round pick of the Giants in 2021, Toney wore out his welcome in the Big Apple midway through his second season, and the G-Men dealt him to KC for third- and sixth-round picks. Toney flashed in seven games with the Chiefs, but as has been the case in his brief NFL career, he battled injuries and missed time. In two seasons, the former Gator has played in 19 of 34 possible games. To realize his considerable potential, heíll need to find a way to stay on the field.

If youíve listened to the front office and coaching staff during the offseason, itís clear they think highly of Toneyís talent and fit in the offense; specifically, they believe his ability to work downfield will be a great fit for Mahomes. Thereís obviously a ton of opportunity in Kansas City this season, and Reid has identified Moore and Toney as being ticketed for increased roles. Again, though, Toney needs to prove he can handle the rigors of a full season. Until then, heíll be a low-floor, high-ceiling lottery ticket best drafted in the final rounds.

TE Travis Kelce
(2022 TE Rank: No.1, 18.6 FPts/G)

If anyone thought the loss of Hill would allow defenses to key on Kelce and slow him down, they were grievously mistaken. Kelce set career highs in receptions (110), targets (152), and touchdowns (12) while extending his streak of 1,000-plus-yard seasons to seven with a 1,338-yard effort. It was elite stuff from the NFL’s preeminent tight end, though incredibly it’s what we’ve come to expect even as the veteran enters his age-34 season.

A year ago, it felt like Mark Andrews and maybe even Kyle Pitts was poised to challenge Kelce for TE1 honors. Now, it’s hard to make a compelling case for another tight end to be drafted within a round or two of Kelce, who is the gold standard until proven otherwise.

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