2011 Team Outlook: Kansas City

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2011 Team Outlook: Kansas City

A fantasy football preview of the Chiefs this year. Profiled players include Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle, and Thomas Jones.

Over the past few years the Chiefs front office has done an exceptional job drafting solid players and putting together a strong foundation for years to come. All that hard work paid off last year as the Chiefs finished the season 10-6 winning the AFC West -- finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2006 and reaching the post season for the first time since 2006. The Chiefs have a tough schedule this yea,r which will make a return to the post season hard, but they have the talent to get it done.
If the Chiefs can shore up a couple of positions there is no doubt in my mind they will make a return trip to the post season. First, they must strengthen up the offensive line and second they could use a shutdown corner. Both of these needs can be address with free agents once the labor dispute ends.

From a fantasy perspective there is a lot to like in Kansas City. Cassel, Charles, Bowe and Moeaki should all be starters in most fantasy leagues. Even though Thomas Jones is over 30, his production last year gives hope that he can again be a viable bye week fill-in and fantasy handcuff to Charles. At receiver McCluster and Baldwin have the potential to be sleeper picks in your draft.

When Cassel became a Chief back in 2009, I warned fantasy owners to stay away and only draft Matt if he would be your backup. As we prepared for the 2010 season, I was a little more optimistic that Matt would have a good year, but still felt he should be considered for a backup role. In terms of yards, Cassel threw for just 200 more in 2010 than 2009, so I wasn't far off there. However, when you look at the number of touchdowns and interceptions in 2010 vs 2009, they tell a different story. In 2009 Matt threw 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. In 2010 these numbers were dramatically better as Matt threw for 27 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. It is numbers like these that fantasy owners want to see from their starting quarterback. Matt had just two 300-yard games in 2010 (which is not much better than 2009), however he threw for 3+ touchdown five times vs twice two years ago. This being Cassel's third season in Kansas City should only help his on the field performance. In addition, an improved offensive line and receiving corps would do wonders for the Chiefs' offense. Once the lockout ends, look for Kansas City to pick up a quality veteran receiver and right tackle. If these two things happen, Cassel could finish this season as one of the league's top 8 quarterbacks.


Cassel's 2010 performance was much improved compared to his 2009 numbers. The biggest improvement can be seen in his touchdown to interception ration in which he had 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in '09 improving to 27 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions in '10. If Cassel can produce like this again this year and improve his total yardage by 60 yards a game then he could be a top 10 quarterback this season. The thing is, Kansas City was the number one rushing team in the league last year and if it's working for you there's no need to change the game plan. It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs can continue to successfully run the ball or will they need to rely on Cassel's arm a little more this season?

Jamaal Charles finished the 2010 season as the league's second leading rusher, carrying the ball 230 times for 1,467 yards. For those who may be interested: that is an average of 6.4 yards per attempt; simply amazing. The only drawback in Charles' numbers comes in the number of touchdowns (5) he scored. The Chiefs' use of a running back by committee hurt Charles' number last season. From a fantasy perspective, this is a drawback because Charles averaged 90 fewer carries when compared to the other top 5 backs. However, fewer carries means less of a chance of injury which may in turn mean a longer more productive NFL career. This season we'll likely see much the same as we saw last year. Jamaal will get his carries and once again finish the 2011 season as one of the league's top 5 backs. If Charles can get the ball a little more than last season it's possible he could lead the league in rushing.


The addition of Le'Ron McClain does not bode well for Charles' fantasy owners. If you thought Jamaal's 5 touchdowns last year were bad, it could be even worse this season. McClain is a big back and it's likely he will get the ball once Kansas City get inside the 10 yard line. That means Charles will rack up the yards once again, but finding the end zone may be difficult. Jamaal is still a top 5 back, so don't let the McClain acquisition scare you off -- just be prepared for less than average touchdown numbers from Charles.

The speedster out of Mississippi left fantasy owners wanting last year. Many believed McCluster would be the Chiefs' second leading receiver last year. Unfortunately a mid season injury left Dexter on the sideline for 5 weeks and he ended the season with just 21 receptions for 209 yards with just a single touchdown. Rookie receivers are hit or miss in the NFL and hopefully last year was a wake-up call for McCluster. With the rookie Jonathan Baldwin nipping at his heals, Dexter will have to bring his 'A' game or he may find himself watching from the sideline. Until I see McCluster prove he can perform at a high level in the NFL, I'm going to stay away from Dexter. Should McCluster start the season on a high note then I'll likely make an attempt to acquire him from the free agent wire. Until that time, I believe Dexter is a risky selection. With Charles, Bowe, Moeaki and Jones on the field McCluster likely won't see enough touches to be fantasy relevant.

With the Charles-Jones monster in the backfield, there are few opportunities for other backs to show what they can do. For this reason alone fantasy owners should stay far far away from Battle. The only chance Battle has to get on the field and post fantasy worthy numbers would be if both Charles and Jones are out of the lineup. Even then I'm not sure Battle would get the starting job. Battle has been in the league for 4 years and has just 41 carries for 118 yards with a pair of touchdowns. I see no reason for fantasy owners to draft Battle even in the deepest of leagues.

The Chiefs had a two headed monster in the backfield last season and it looks like the same monster may be lurking. It would be difficult to argue any other team having a better one-two punch than the Chiefs. Charles carrying the ball 230 times for 1,467 yards and Jones with 245 carries for 896 yards is just an outstanding tandem. From a fan perspective, what the Chiefs' coaching staff did with their backfield last year was great. From a fantasy owners perspective it was somewhat of a nightmare. Charles' owners were unhappy because they wanted more touches and Jones' owners were happy to see him with so many carries. With 245 carries, Jones was a viable second back in many leagues and a definite bye week filler. This year Jones will be 33 and I have to believe his numbers will be on the decline. It would not surprise me to see the Chiefs start the season with an even number of carries for both backs and at some point pull back Jones' carries as his yard per carry drops. I'd like to say I'm comfortable with another 900 yard season from Jones, but that is not the case. I believe this year Jones' age will start to show.


Jones will likely be affected the most by the free agent signing of Le'Ron McClain. I don't believe the Chiefs will give the call to Jones 200+ times again this season. Instead, McClain will get 50-70 carries, with most of those being touches Jones would have had last season. Jones is still a quality back and if the coaching staff can limit his touches (keeping his 33 year old legs fresh) then Thomas can be productive this season...just not as productive as last year.

After four quality seasons with the Ravens, McClain is currently a free agent. After a monster 2009 season with 902 rush yards and 11 touchdowns, the burly back had only eight carries all of last season. Should McClain return to Baltimore, his fantasy value could receive a bump up if Willis McGahee heads elsewhere (which would open some goal line opportunities and the need for a power runner to pair with Ray Rice).


The addition of McClain to the Chiefs backfield complicates things a bit for fantasy owners. Last season Charles only had 5 rushing touchdowns and fantasy owners were hoping to see him score a few more times this season. With McClain in the backfield, I don't know if Charles will see the ball inside the 10 yard line this season. As far as Jones is concerned, we all know he's 33 this year and wonder how much longer can he play at a high level. With McClain in the backfield, it is possible Jones will be able to produce all season. I believe McClain will get enough touches to lessen the value of Jones, but not affect Charles' numbers too much. From a fantasy perspective this means he'll produces from time to time, but not consistently enough to warrant a spot on your roster.