Kansas City Chiefs
|By Shawn Childs, Wednesday, August 30, 2023|
2023 Kansas City Chiefs Outlook
Reid has been exceptional over his 10 years with the Chiefs (117-45 with nine trips to the postseason). He had 10 wins or more in each of his last eight seasons, and Reid has double-digit victories 17 times in his career with Kansas City and Philadelphia over 24 seasons. He won the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2022. His next step is improving his playoff record (22-16 in his career and12-7 with the Chiefs).
Don Shula sits in the clubhouse with the most all-time wins (328-156-6 record) while trailing George Halas (318-148-31) in winning percentage (.677 to .682). Bill Belichick (298-152) needs 31 wins to pass Don Shula, but the Patriots don't have an elite quarterback leading them to 10 wins a season anymore. Belichick turned 71 in April, meaning he'll need three to four more seasons of coaching to pass Shula if New England can win at least half of their games.
Andy Reid (247-138-1), who turned 65 in March, might be the favorite to take over the NFL coaching lead in career wins. He has six more years to catch Belichick in wins at the same age, plus a stud Patrick Mahomes behind center. The Chiefs seem like a lock to average 10 wins or more over the next few years (64-18 over the past five seasons), putting Reid on a better pace to become the winningest coach in NFL history.
Matt Nagy takes over as their offensive coordinator, a position he held for Kansas City in 2016 and 2017. His success earned him a head coaching job with the Bears from 2018 to 2021, where he went 34-31 with two playoff appearances. Nagy worked as a senior assistant and quarterbacks coach for the Chiefs in 2022. He has 15 years of coaching experience in the NFL while working under Andy Reid for 12 seasons.
The Chiefs ranked first in the league in offensive yards and points scored (496) in 2022. Since 2017, their offense led the NFL in offensive yards twice and scored the most points (565) in 2018. Kansas City has had a top-six offense since Patrick Mahomes took over as quarterback in 2018.
Steve Spagnuolo has two Super Bowl wins and a loss in his four seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Chiefs. His defense with Kansas City has yet to rank inside the top 10 in yards allowed. He's been in the NFL since 1999, with 10 years of experience running the defensive side of the ball and three failed seasons as a head coach (11-41).
The Chiefs slipped to 16th in points allowed (369) while ranking 11th in yards allowed. Kansas City outscored their opponents by 741 points over the past five seasons (9.0 per game).
Kansas City lost LT Orlando Brown to the Cincinnati Bengals. They quickly replace him with LT Donovan Smith, who has eight seasons of experience protecting the blindside in Tampa. In addition, the Chiefs signed T Jawaan Taylor to replace the loss of T Andrew Wylie (WAS).
Their defense added DE Charles Omenihu, LB Drue Tranquill, and S Mike Edwards while failing to resign S Juan Thornhill (CLE), DE Carlos Dunlop (FA), and DT Khalen Saunders (NO).
The Chiefs moved on from WR Juju Smith-Schuster (NE) and WR Mecole Hardman (NYJ).
In the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, Kansas City invested in DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah. He projects as a beast in the pass rush with room to improve. His first instinct is to attack the line of scrimmage with an eye on the quarterback. Anudike-Uzomah needs to add patience to his plan to improve his wins vs. the run and avoid offenses washing him out with misdirection plays.
The only offensive skill player added was WR Rashee Rice in the second round. He comes to the NFL with questions about his desire to show up on every down and work hard enough to be the best he can be. Rice flashes winning quickness with the talent to make challenging catches under duress. His release vs. the press looks to be trailing while needing to finish off his route to create more wins. When at his best, Rice has the tools to create separation all over the field, with the hands to win more than his share of contested catches.
T Wanya Morris was the choice in the third round. He looks the part of a winning player in pass protection while needing to work on his strength. Power rushers are an issue, and Morris has to work to do in his run-blocking. He should develop a winning player on the Chiefs' offensive line with coaching and improved technique.
The final four additions in this year's draft class came from the defensive side of the ball – CB Chamarri Conner, DE BJ Thompson, DT Keondre Coburn, and CB Nic Jones.
Conner wants to make impact plays that often lead to wins for the opposing team. He brings strength to the table, but his speed (4.51 40-yard dash) isn't elite. Top wideouts beat him with speed and quickness while struggling to finish off ball carries in space. His future and game style may play better in centerfield.
Thompson has yet to fill out his frame, making him a project for the Chiefs' defense. Adding strength and bulk are the first steps to more playing time. In addition, he needs to incorporate a pass-rushing plan that works at a higher rate while developing a better understanding of what offenses want to do with the ball. His speed plays well in space.
Coburn has the foundation skill set to be an early down run clogger in the middle of the Chiefs' defensive line. He'll control his one-on-one battles to help linebackers swoop in to make the tackles up the middle. Coburn doesn't get off his block quick enough to seal a running lane when he has the first chance to stuff a ball carrier. If given a window to attack in the pass rush, Coburn can push his blocker back to the quarterback.
Jones wants to control wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, but he can't make up for his mistakes over the long field. His style of play works better as the field shortens. His vision puts him in a position to create turnovers, but Jones does lose value in coverage off the ball. His tackling technique will be addressed in training camp. Kansas City may use him on kick coverage early in his career.
Kansas City dripped 20th in rushing yards (1,970) with 18 touchdowns. Their ball carriers gained 4.7 yards per rush with only 10 runs over 20 yards while averaging 24.5 carries per game.
They led the NFL in passing yards (5,250) with 41 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. KC gained 8.1 yards per pass attempt (2nd), thanks to leading the league in completions of 20 yards or more (73). Their offensive line allowed 26 sacks.
LT Donovan Smith will allow pressure on the quarterback, but Tampa threw the ball on 1,482 plays over the past two seasons. Tom Brady helped his offensive line game the ball out quickly. A mobile Patrick Mahomes will cover some of Smith's losses in pass blocking. His run blocking came up short in 2022 while trending higher over the previous two seasons.
LG Joe Thuney allowed only two sacks over the past two years with minimal pressure on Patrick Mahomes. He continues to be an above-average player in the run game.
C Creed Humphrey has been sensational as a run blocker over his first two seasons in the NFL after getting drafted in the second round in 2021. He didn't give up a sack in 2022 while rarely getting beat by his man in the pass rush.
RG Trey Smith had weakness in pass protection over the past two seasons, but fewer of his missed reached Patrick Mahomes in 2022. His run blocking remains better than the league average.
RT Jawaan Taylor allowed a ton of pressure in the pass rush in his first three years with the Jaguars. A better quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) with mobility led to improvement last season. His run blocking ranked at the bottom of the league in 2021 and 2022.
Great offensive play and a top quarterback can cover up some deficiencies on the offensive line. The left side of the Chiefs' line is well above the league average. Taylor should play better in an improved system, and Kansas City did back up the Brinks truck to his house ($60 million guaranteed).
QB Patrick Mahomes - 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), 4th (427.25), and 1st (482.30) in fantasy scoring in four-point scoring formats. He has a 64-16 career record in the regular season, with five post-season trips (11-3 – two Super Bowl wins and a 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).
His high floor continued last season, leading to almost identical value in completions (435) and pass attempts (648). Mahomes set a career-high in passing yards (5,250) and passing touchdowns (41), along with a high floor in the run game (61/358/4). He gained 20 yards or more on 73 pass plays, with 13 of those passes hitting the 40-yard mark.
Over his first 10 starts, Mahomes scored more than 30.00 fantasy points in six starts (38.50, 33.40, 32.15, 39.60, 35.45, and 30.75) but only once (36.10) over his final 10 matchups. He had three touchdowns or more in 11 of his 20 contests (including the postseason).
Fantasy Outlook: Mahomes is the first quarterback off the board in 2023 after his impactful year. His success relies on Travis Kelce being a beast and Kansas City developing their young wideouts. Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore, and Rashee Rice have plenty of talent while lacking proven resumes in the NFL. Mahomes will find a way to average 300 combined yards with a floor of 35 touchdowns.
Other Options: Blaine Gabbert, Shane Buechele, Chris Oladokun
RB Isiah Pacheco - Sleeper (undervalued)
Pacheco flew up draft boards last August after flashing his speed (4.37 40-yard dash) in training camp. He has an aggressive running style, but his lack of patience and vision sometimes leads to dead ends. His first instinct is to run outside while his pass protection skills need work. Pacheco will have low value in the passing game early in his career.
Kansas City added him with the 30th selection in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Over four seasons at Rutgers, he rushed for 2,442 yards on 563 carries with 18 touchdowns. He caught 47 of his 68 targets for 249 yards and one score. Pacheco gained only 4.3 yards per carry and 5.3 yards per catch.
Over the first half of his rookie season, the Chiefs gave him a minimal opportunity, leading to 210 combined yards with one touchdown and 13 catches on 47 touches. His best outcome came in Week 1 (12/62/1). Kansas City featured him on early downs (163/830/5) over their final 12 matchups with only 16 catches for 182 yards. He gained 5.1 yards per rush while averaging 12.27 fantasy points in PPR formats down the stretch. Pacheco failed to score more than 16.50 fantasy points in any game.
Fantasy Outlook: Kansas City will give him 15 touches a game this year, but he'll have short value in the passing game in most weeks. I expect about 1,300 yards with eight to 10 touchdowns and about 30 catches. In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, Pacheco is the 22nd running back selected.
RB Jerick McKinnon - Bye Week Fill-in
After gaining momentum in 2017 with the Vikings (991 combined yards with five touchdowns and 51 catches), injuries cost McKinnon all of the following two seasons with the 49ers. San Francisco gave him 47 touches over their first four games in 2020, leading to 295 combined yards with four touchdowns and 13 catches. They phased him out of the running back rotation in most weeks over their final 12 games (277 combined yards with two touchdowns and 20 catches).
The Chiefs only gave McKinnon 25 touches in 2021, leading to 169 combined yards with one touchdown and 13 catches. He missed four games late in the season with a hamstring injury. Kansas City bumped up his opportunity in the postseason (315 combined yards with one score and 14 catches) over three matchups.
Last season, McKinnon had a limited role over the first seven games (235 combined yards with one touchdown and 13 catches). Game score led to an uptick in catches in Week 9 (6/40) and Week 10 (6/56). Kansas City featured him in two more matchups (134 combined yards with two touchdowns and seven catches and 122 combined yards with two touchdowns and eight catches). McKinnon scored eight of his nine scores from Week 13 to Week 18. His season ended with low stats over the last four contests (98 combined yards with one touchdown and seven catches).
Fantasy Outlook: Kansas City will give McKinnon pass-catching chances when play flow dictates. He'll only work as a change of pace back in the run game, giving many weeks with empty scores. McKinnon has RB4 status in the high-stakes market in early June. In 2022, he ranked 20th in fantasy points (197.40) in PPR leagues. He is a viable bench player if his price point makes sense.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Three seasons into his NFL career, Edwards-Helaire has already missed 17 of his 50 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).
Last year, Edwards-Helaire delivered RB1 status over his first four games (325 combined yards with two touchdowns and 13 catches – 22.40, 15.80, 14.90, and 22.40 fantasy points). His role progressively decreased over the next six weeks before landing on the injury list with an ankle injury.
Over the 33 games played in his career, Edwards-Helaire gained 2,199 combined yards with 17 touchdowns and 72 catches on 443 touches (13.4 per game). These stats converted to fantasy points (202.91 – 11.94 per week) in PPR leagues give him RB2 status.
Fantasy Outlook: At age 24, Edwards-Helaire has looked the part of a talented back in the NFL, but injuries have curtailed his production. He'll be the third running back selected on the Chiefs roster while being snubbed by most fantasy drafters. Kansas City didn't pick up his fifth-year option, forcing Edwards-Helaire to prove his worth on the field. I view him as a dart, and he may very well earn RB2 snaps in 2023. My suggestion is to keep an open mind.
Other Options: La'Mical Perine, Deneric Prince
WR Skyy Moore - Sleeper (undervalued)
Over his first 18 games at Western Michigan, Moore caught 76 of his 123 targets for 1,190 yards and six touchdowns. In 2021, his game reached a higher ceiling over 12 starts (95/1,292/10), leading to the Chiefs investing their second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
He was expected to fill the speed void created by the loss of Tyreek Hill based on his time in the 40-yard dash (4.41) at the NFL combine. His hand project well, and Moore will test a defense over the top, on fades in the end zone, and on slants. However, he needs more work on his route running while offering the footwork and wiggle to create space off the line or in tight coverage downfield. Moore's next step is finding better separations and quickness out of his brakes when moving back to the quarterback.
Kansas City gave Moore WR4 snaps in his rookie season, leading to 22 catches for 250 yards on 33 targets while adding three rushes for 24 yards.
Fantasy Outlook: A second year in the Chiefs' system should lead to a more prominent role. Their wide receiver rotation has multiple similar players, making it difficult to project who will finish with the most targets in 2023. In the early draft season, Moore ranks as Kansas City's WR2 as the 53rd wideout selected. His next step should be about 50 catches for 600 yards with a handful of touchdowns.
UPDATE: Moore is the leading candidate to start as KC's slot receiver. That gives him significant sleeper appeal.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling - Bye Week Fill-in
Over his first 59 games with the Packers, he caught 123 passes for 2,153 yards and 13 touchdowns on 247 targets. However, his catch rate (49.8) was a significant obstacle to his upside, offset slightly by his yards per catch (17.5).
Valdes-Scantling missed eight games in 2021 (26/430/3) with hamstring, back, hip, and Covid-19 issues. His best output came in two games (4/123/1 and 5/98/1).
The Chiefs gave him the best opportunity (81 targets) of his five-year career, but Valdes-Scantling continued to have weakness in his catch rate (51.9). He finished with a career-high in catches (42) with 687 yards and two touchdowns. His best output came in Week 5 (6/90), Week 7 (3/111), and Week 10 (3/60/1) while coming up big vs. the Bengals (6/116/1) in the postseason. Valdes-Scantling gained fewer than 30 yards in nine of his last 13 games (27/440/4 on 54 targets).
Fantasy Outlook: At this point in his career, he's played with two of the best quarterbacks in the game. Valdes-Scantling will stretch the field but doesn't make enough plays to be a fantasy starting player. At best, he is a short-term injury cover who is challenging to time.
WR Rashee Rice - Sleeper (undervalued)
Over four seasons at SMU, Rice caught 233 of his 358 targets (65.1), leading to 3,111 yards and 25 touchdowns. Last year he set career-highs in catches (96), receiving yards (1,355), touchdowns (10), and targets (157). Rice had a floor of eight catches in seven of his 12 starts, highlighted by six games (8/166/1, 9/132/2, 11/193, 12/122, 9/180/2, and 13/147/1).
Fantasy Outlook: When watching the highlights from Rice's 2022, I can see the attraction by the Chiefs and his potential with Patrick Mahomes throwing him the ball. In early June, he ranked 56th at wide receiver in the high-stakes market. Kansas City will get him the ball over the short areas of the field to move the chains. Rice will be a threat working the middle of the defense at the goal line while winning jump balls out the outside. He is the Chiefs' wide receiver to fight for in 2023. I expect him to lead their wideouts in catches, receiver yards, and touchdowns.
WR Kadarius Toney - Gamble (high risk)
After working in a split role between running back and wide receiver over his first three seasons in college (1,025 combined yards with three touchdowns and 50 catches), Toney had a starting opportunity for Florida in 2020. He finished 70 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns with some damage on the ground (19/161/1). His star rose over his final three games (8/108/1, 9/182/1, and 8/153/1) in his college career.
Toney needs to improve his route running to make an impact in the NFL. However, his lower half paves his way to success, and he does catch the ball well when given a chance.
Over his first season with the Giants, Toney caught 39 passes for 410 yards and no touchdowns on 57 targets. A good portion of his output came in two starts in Week 4 (6/79) and Week 5 (10/196). Unfortunately, an ankle issue followed by hand, quad, oblique, and shoulder issues led to seven missed games and empty stats (16/103 on 27 targets) over the final 11 weeks.
Early in 2022, Toney fell out of favor with the Giants' coaching staff, leading to a midseason trade to the Chiefs. He finished the year with 23 catches for 221 yards and three touchdowns on 30 targets, plus eight rushes for 96 yards and one score. Kansas City never had him on the field for more than 28 plays. Toney missed time with hamstring issues, followed by an ankle issue in late January.
Fantasy Outlook: Toney already has a diva feel and needed minor knee surgery in May of 2022. Undoubtedly, he has an attractive ceiling, but he can't reach his potential without staying on the field. A complete training camp in Kansas City bodes well for his opportunity this year, giving him WR1 status on the Chiefs' wide receiver depth chart. Toney is the 36th ranked wideout in early June. Coach-speak and training camp news should drive his value up draft boards over the summer. Toney is a risk/reward player who is reasonably priced based on his potential. He is off my cheat sheet at the first sign of another injury.
WR Richie James - Low Potential
After an uptick in production (23/394/1 on 35 targets) with the 49ers in 2020, James missed the following season with a knee injury. The New York Giants saw enough in his game to sign him to a million dollars contract last year. He rewarded their investment with career-highs in catches (57), receiving yards (569), touchdowns (4), and targets (70). James had a floor of five catches in seven games while helping fantasy teams in six games (3/48/1, 5/41/1, 7/61/1, 8/90, 7/76/1, and 7/51) over his final 10 matchups (including the postseason).
Fantasy Outlook: Despite his success, James battled two concussions last year and a late-season knee issue. His growth gives the Chiefs experience to work close to the line of scrimmage if Skyy Moore or Kadarius Toney don't reach their potential in 2023. James will be in the free-agent pool in all formats.
Other Options: Justin Watson, Justyn Ross, Ihmir Smith-Marsette
TE Travis Kelce - Stud (low risk)
After setting a three-year low in catches (92), receiving yards (1,125), and targets (134), Kelce had the best opportunity (152 targets) of his career. He set new tops in catches (110) and touchdowns (12) with the second-most receiving yards (1,338) in his 10 years with the Chiefs. Kelce gained more than 100 yards in six contests (8/121/1, 8/108, 10/106, 6/115/3, 10/105, and 6/113) with seven catches or more in nine of his 20 starts (including the postseason.
Kelce finished first in tight end scoring (317.30) in PPR formats while outscoring the second-best tight end by 100.90 fantasy points in PPR formats. Over the past nine seasons, he sat out in only two matchups.
In his career, he ranks 47th all-time in receiving yards (10,344) and 34th in catches (814). Kelce needs 257 catches and 4,002 yards to rank 10th all-time.
Fantasy Outlook: Despite starting the season at age 33, Kelce remains an elite player. Only three running backs (Austin Ekeler, Christian McCaffrey, and Josh Jacobs) and three wide receivers (Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams) scored more than him in 2022. In the early draft season, Kelce is a top-five player drafted, the highest of his career. Tony Gonzalez had 409 catches for 4,187 yards and 35 touchdowns over his final five seasons, starting at age 33. Kelce continues to have a floor of 90+ catches for 1,100+ yards and an excellent chance at double-digit touchdowns.
Other Options: Noah Gray, Jody Fortson, Blake Bell, Matt Bushman
PK Harrison Butker - Solid/Safe Pick
The Chiefs created only 83 field goals over the past three seasons, leading to Butker sliding down the kicker rankings. His accuracy (90.1%) was in a tight range over his first five seasons, but last year he missed six of his 24 field goals (four from 50 yards or more) while sitting four games with an ankle injury. Butker is 23-for-35 from 50 yards or more in his career, with his best success coming in 2021 (7-for-9). He is 271-for-289 (93.8%) in extra points.
Fantasy Outlook: Butker ranks as a borderline top-12 kicker in 2023 despite playing for the highest-scoring team in the NFL. He'll get plenty of chances from long-range, but Butker hasn't had more than five kicks from 40-to-49 yards over the past three seasons.
Kansas City - Solid/Safe Pick
The Chiefs jumped to 8th against the run (1,823 yards). They allowed 4.4 yards per carry with 10 rushing touchdowns. Ball carriers averaged 24.6 rushes per game.
Kansas City improved to 19th in passing yards allowed (3,756), but they allowed 33 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. Their defense gained an edge by closing the passing window on more plays (55 sacks).
DT Chris Jones was a beast in the pass rush (15.5 sacks) while setting a career-best in tackles. Over the past six seasons, he forced 12 fumbles, with three landing in the hands of the Chiefs. Jones remains a plus run defender despite some missed tackles. The other tackle position lacks a top-tier option, requiring a rebuild in 2023, with multiple players expected to be rotated in. DE George Karlaftis added six sacks and seven defended passes in his rookie season after getting drafted in the first round in 2022. His run defense and tackling fell short of expectations, but he should be much better this year. Incoming rookie DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah gives Kansas City another upside pass rusher. They picked him up with the 31st overall selection in this year's draft.
LB Nick Bolton delivered 180 tackles in his second season with the Chiefs. He tends to hold receivers to short yards per catch with minimal damage in touchdowns. Bolton had two sacks and two interceptions in 2022. He was the Chiefs' best-run defender, thanks to his sure tackling. LB Will Gay rated better in pass coverage with minimal pressure on the quarterback. His value in run support is moving in the wrong direction. Last season LB Drue Tranquill had his best year in the NFL with the Chargers (146 tackles, five sacks, and one interception).
Kansas City added CB Trent McDuffie in the first round in 2022. He failed to create a turnover in his rookie campaign while holding his own in coverage. When asked to blitz, McDuffie did show the ability to put pressure on the quarterback. His run defense and tackling were below-par. CB L'Jarius Sneed was challenged on many passes, leading to a high catch rate and short yards per catch. He did allow some touchdowns (4), but Sneed improved his tackles (108) for the second consecutive season with 3.5 sacks, three interceptions, and 11 defended passes.
After signing last season, S Justin Reid gave the Chiefs a steady across-the-board season. He has five years of experience in the NFL, with seven interceptions and 29 defended passes. Reid had 83 sacks and one sack in 2022. S Bryan Cook had a limited role in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round. When on the field, he helped in run support while adding some pressure on the quarterback when given the green light to rush. Cook allowed some big catches and too many touchdowns for his time on the field.
The fantasy focus will be on the mighty Chiefs' offense, but they have done an excellent job rebuilding their defense over the past two seasons. Kansas City will play from the lead in almost every game, giving their pass rush a chance to attack on many plays. They will let offenses ground out yards on the ground when game score favors a faster-moving clock. Their defense will create more turnover in 2023 while allowing fewer points. In early June, the Chiefs' defense ranks 11th, which I view as a buying opportunity.