2022 Kansas City Chiefs Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
The Kansas Chiefs extended their streak of AFC West titles to six seasons while continuing to have a top-tier offense in football. However, their offensive structure takes a different turn in 2022, with WR Tyreek Hill shipped to Miami for a boatload of draft picks. At some point, TE Travis Kelce will have regression in his game, requiring the Chiefs to rebuild their passing attack. QB Patrick Mahomes remains a beast throwing the ball, and Kansas City added WR Juju Smith-Schuster, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and WR Skyy Moore to fill some of the void created by the loss of Hill.
The Chiefs want to pass the ball and attack the whole field with their offense. They threw the ball 61% of the time last season while averaging 39.7 passes per game. However, for the first time in the Patrick Mahomes era, Kansas City gained fewer than 8.0 yards per pass attempt (7.4). The most important question this offseason, after trading WR Tyreek Hill, is whether the Chiefs can regain their big-play ability in the passing game?
Over the past three seasons, the Chiefs' running backs had almost the same opportunity in the passing game (111, 112, and 112 targets) while averaging four scores per year. In 2021, they did make more significant plays (9.2 yards per catch). The extra game added to last season's schedule accounted for the bump of 23 carries (357). In the end, Kansas City's backs gained 2,398 combined yards with 19 touchdowns and 90 catches, or 443.80 fantasy points in PPR leagues (26.10 per game).
The Chiefs' wideouts set a three-year high in catches (244) and targets (362), but they saw their yards per catch (11.6) regress for the second straight season. Tyreek Hill accounted for 44.7% of their scoring at wide receiver last season.
As long as Travis Kelce is playing well and in the Chiefs' starting lineup, Kanas City will have one of the better tight end production in the league. Over the past three years, their tight ends averaged 113 catches for 1,385 yards and nine touchdowns on 161 targets.
Reid has been exceptional over his nine years with the Chiefs (103-42 with eight trips to the postseason). He had 10 wins or more in each of his last seven seasons, and Reid has double-digit victories 16 times in his career with Kansas City and Philadelphia over 23 seasons. He won his only Super Bowl in 2019.
His next step is improving his playoff record (19-16 in his career and 9-7 with the Chiefs). Reid improved to 5th in NFL in career wins (233) and 21st in winning percentage (.633).
After working as the running backs coach in the Chiefs' system, Eric Bieniemy has five years of experience as the offensive coordinator and a Super Bowl win for Kansas City. Bieniemy is a former NFL player with 13 years of coaching experience in the pros. In 2011 and 2012, he held the offensive coordinator job for Colorado Buffalos. Kansas City's success on offense should lead to Bieniemy pushing his way to a head coaching opportunity.
The Chiefs ranked in the top six of the league in offensive yards and points over the past six seasons. They scored 480 points in 2021 (4th) while finishing third in yards gained.
In his third season as the defensive coordinator for the Chiefs, Steve Spagnuolo has a Super Bowl win and loss, but his defense regressed in 2021. He's been in the NFL since 1999, with nine years of experience running the defensive side of the ball and three failed seasons as a head coach (11-41).
The Chiefs bumped to 8th in points allowed (364) despite a sharp decline in yards allowed (27th – 16th in 2020).
Kansas City's top signing came on offense – WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, and WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They lost T Mike Remmers and Austin Blythe from their offensive line while adding C Austin Reiter to compete for a bench role. S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Charvarius Ward, and CB Mike Hughes defected to other teams. The Chiefs added S Justin Reid to their secondary. RB Darrel Williams remains unsigned.
This year's draft had a premium focus on improving the Chiefs' defense and secondary – CB Trent McDuffie (1.21), George Karlaftis (1.30), S Bryan Cook (2.30), LB Leo Chenal (3.39), CB Joshua Williams (4.30), CB Jaylen Watson (7.22), and CB Nazeeh Johnson (7.38). Their three selections on offense came in the second (WR Skyy Moore), fifth (G Darian Kinnard, and seventh (RB Isiah Pacheco) rounds.
Kansas City finished 16th in rushing yards (1,955) with 16 touchdowns. Their ball carriers gained 4.5 yards per rush with only nine runs over 20 yards while averaging 25.4 carries per game.
They slipped to 4th passing yards (4,937) with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. KC gained 7.3 yards per pass attempt, and their offensive line allowed 28 sacks.
The Chiefs' offensive line has strength at three positions (LT Orlando Brown, RG Joe Thuney, and C Creed Humphrey). All three players ranked better in pass protection. G Trey Smith gained plenty of experience over 20 games (1,404 snaps) while having the best success in run blocking. The right tackle position has a chance to be an asset if Lucas Niang seizes the starting job and reaches his potential. Kansas City has the talent to finish with a top 10 offensive line in 2022.
The Chiefs ranked 21st against the run (1,999 yards) for the second season. They allowed 4.8 yards per carry with 15 rushing touchdowns and 11 rushes over 20 yards.
Kansas City fell to 27th in passing yards allowed (4,273) with 27 touchdowns and 165interceptions. Their defense managed only 331 sacks while allowing 13 catches of 40 yards or more.
DT Chris Jones remains the Chiefs' top pass rusher (nine sacks over 14 games and 41 over his last 58 starts), but he missed a few tackles in 2021. Their defensive line hinges on the development of rookie DE George Karlaftis and a rebound in play by DE Frank Clark. Kansas City's secondary is in rebuild mode with a range of darts thrown in this year's draft class. LB Nick Bolton played well against the run with a productive rookie season in tackles (112).
This defense must put more pressure on the quarterback to protect their young secondary. In addition, they tend to allow damage in the run game, putting Kansas City on their heels in a division with improving offenses. I need to see growth on the field before adding the Chiefs' defense to my fantasy roster.
QB Patrick Mahomes, KC - Stud (low risk)
After dominating the fantasy world in his first season as a starter for Kansas City in 2018 (5,369 combined yards with 52 touchdowns), Mahomes ranked 7th (334.55 – two missed games), 4th (429.80 – 15 starts), and 4th (427.25) in fantasy scoring in four-point scoring formats. He has a 50-13 career record in the regular season, with four post-season trips (8-3 – Super win and loss).
In 2021, Mahomes set career-highs in completions (436), pass attempts (658), rushing attempts (66), and rushing yards (381). His season started with success over four games (1,310 combined yards with 15 touchdowns). Other than Week 10 (406/5), he lost his luster from Week 5 to Week 14 (269 passing yards and 1.4 passing touchdowns over nine starts. However, Mahomes did regain his stride throwing the ball in the playoffs (404/5, 378/3, and 275/3).
Fantasy outlook: Mahomes is the second quarterback off the board in the Fantasy Football World Championship in early June. His floor has been a top-five quarterback over the past three seasons when adding back his couple of missed games. The loss of Tyreek Hill changes how defenses will defend Kansas City's passing attack, possibly making it easier to cover Travis Kelce. WR Juju Smith-Schuster once had the feel of a high-volume catch receiver with a WR1 ceiling. Mahomes must revitalize his career, which would help stabilize the Chiefs' floor in passing yards and touchdowns. I expect a minimum of 4,800 combined yards with 35 touchdowns while understanding his potential ceiling.
Other Options: Chad Henne, Shane Buechele, Dustin Crum
RB Isiah Pacheco, KC - Sleeper (undervalued)
A seventh-round rookie out of Rutgers, Pacheco has really opend eyes this summer. He also has good size (5-11, 215) and has even worked out of the slot in training camp in addition to taking kick returns. With the disappointing play of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the slumbering Ronald Jones in front of him, Pacheco could find his way onto the field right away.
SI Fantasy's Shawn Childs had this to say:
"Pacheco is the buzz guy in the Chiefs' training camp in August. Kansas City selected him in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft after a dull career at Rutgers over 43 games (2,691 combined yards with 19 touchdowns and 47 catches). He gained only 4.3 yards per rush and 5.3 yards per catch. His hands don't grade well, and pass protection skills won't earn valuable snaps in his rookie season. Pacheco projects as a change of pace runner who needs to add patience to his running style to take advantage of winning creases in run blocking."
Fantasy Outlook: Any back with that versatility and getting on the field in Andy Reid's offense is worth a look. With and ADP outsdie the top-200, there is nothing but upside here.
FULLTIME'S TAKE: High-stakes drafters in the World Championship have already catapaulted him into the RB50 territory in the 11th and 12th rounds. Keep an eye on the camp news and we'll update this profile if anything changes. For now he's on Super Sleeper status.
Other Options: Derrick Gore, Jerrion Ealy
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC - Bust (overvalued)
Two seasons into his NFL career, Edwards-Helaire has already missed 10 of his 33 potential starts while failing to make an impact in any area. His play was trending forward in Week 3 and Week 4 in 2021 (back-to-back 100-yard rushing games – 17/100 and 14/102 with a combined four catches for 21 yards and two touchdowns). Unfortunately, a left knee injury (MCL sprain) led to a short outing (7/13) and five missed games. When back on the field over five contests, Edwards-Helaire was downgraded to a split role and dull stats (281 combined yards with four touchdowns and 11 catches). In late December, a shoulder issue cost him three more starts (one in the postseason).
Over his 23 games played, Edwards-Helaire gained 1,726 combined yards with 11 touchdowns and 55 catches on 355 touches (15.4 per game). These stats converted to fantasy points (293.3 – 12.77 per week) in PPR leagues, surprisingly paint him as a top-tier WR2 over the past two seasons if he played an entire year.
Fantasy outlook: The addition of Ronald Jones to the Chiefs' running back depth chart and his injury history led to Edwards-Helaire drawing the 27th ranking at running back in the early draft season in the FFWC with an ADP of 78. Kansas City will undoubtedly rotate in at least two running backs this season. I'm not a fan of Edwards-Helaire, but he does play in a potentially high-scoring offense with a discounted price point. But he's been outplayed in training camp and has been awful in short-yardage. There's some upside here but CEH is a guy we'd rather fade.
RB Ronald Jones, KC - Low Potential
The Chiefs signed Jones to a minimal contract ($1.5 million for one season) over the winter. Last year, he failed to make an impact on early downs (101/428/4) for Tampa while only catching 10 passes for 64 yards. The Bucs gave him six touches or fewer in nine of his 16 games. His only game of value came in Week 16 (81 combined yards with one touchdown and two catches). Jones saw his season end in Week 18 with an ankle injury.
Jones gained 2,176 combined yards over the previous two seasons with 14 touchdowns and 59 catches on 423 touches.
Fantasy outlook: Kansas City should give Jones close to 10 touches per game. He'll get chances at the goal line and see short-yardage carries while chipping in with a catch or two a game. Jones provides an insurance card on early downs, and he may develop into their closing back in the fourth quarter. I'll set his bar at 800 combined yards with eight touchdowns and 25 catches. Jones has an ADP of 117 in the NFFC in early June.
Our Take: August has brought about a new direction for the Chiefs backfield and that's Isaiah Pacheco. Ronald Jones is on the verge of a cut.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, KC - Solid/Safe Pick
Over his first two seasons, Smith-Schuster had a stud WR1 feel, highlighted by his success in 2018 (111/1,426/7) while receiving 166 targets. Unfortunately, he struggled with an injury this following year (42/552/3), and Pittsburgh lost Ben Roethlisberger for most of the season.
The plusses were his catches (97), his high catch rate (75.8), and touchdowns (9) in 2020, but Smith-Schuster gained only 8.6 yards per catch. Despite playing every game, Pittsburgh listed him on the injury report many times with multiple issues (toe, foot, and knee). Over his final 12 games (including the playoffs), Smith-Schuster had a floor of six catches in 10 matchups while scoring seven touchdowns. His best two games (9/96/1 and 13/157/1) came in Week 16 and the postseason.
In 2021, Smith-Schuster had a sluggish start to the year over four games (4/52, 6/41, 3/25, and 2/11) before seeing his season end in Week 5 with a right shoulder injury that required surgery in mid-October.
Fantasy outlook: Over his last 112 catches, Smith-Schuster gained 20 yards or more on 14 plays while averaging only 8.6 yards per catch. His output in this area was closer to a running back than a wideout. Fantasy drafters must decide if his failure was a Pittsburgh Steelers issue or Smith-Schuster's demise. His ADP (71) in the early draft season in the FFWC ranks him as the 31st wide receiver. A change of scenery should treat him well, and a weekly date with Patrick Mahomes points to another 100-catch season with improved receiving yards. I view Smith-Schuster as a value, but I also lost money on him in 2020. With positive camp news, he should move up draft boards in August.
WR Mecole Hardman, KC - Bye Week Fill-in
Hardman has made positive strides in his three seasons with the Chiefs. He improved each season (26/538/6, 41/560/4, and 59/693/2) with a progression of 21 targets each year (41, 62, and 83). His catch rate was an impressive 71.1% last season (66.1 in 2020), but Hardman saw his yards per catch (11.7) fall to a three-year low. The Chiefs only gave him more than seven targets in two games (12 and 11). He finished last year as the 60th wide receiver in PPR leagues (130.60 fantasy points) with three games with more than 15.00 fantasy points (9/8, 8/113, and 3/70/1).
Fantasy outlook: Hardman hasn't missed a game in his NFL career while being slightly undersized (5'10" and 185 lbs.). His next step should be 100+ targets, giving him a chance at 70 catches for 900 yards with five to seven touchdowns. There hasn't been much fight for him in drafts based on his ADP (150) in the FFWC in the early draft season. On the positive side, Hardman has the most experience of all the wideouts on the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes, and his game continues to improve. Keep an open mind, as the bet is more on Kansas City, hoping Hardman makes a significant step forward in 2022.
Other Options: Josh Gordon, Daurice Fountain, Justyn Ross