Juggernaut Index, No. 8: Patrick Mahomes at the controls in KC

Kansas City was an offensive machine last season, ranking fifth in the NFL in scoring (25.9 PPG) and second in yards per play (6.1). Incredibly enough, an Alex Smith-led offense finished seventh in the league in passing. Smith himself was phenomenal, topping 4000 yards for the first time in his career while posting a passer-rating of 104.7. KC’s offense kinda/sorta carried its defense to the postseason last year, in fact.

But Smith is now gone, dealt away to Washington. The move was a full, ringing endorsement of second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is now the unrivaled starter for the Chiefs. Just in case you aren’t acquainted with the Kryptonian arm strength possessed by Mahomes, check the tape on his preseason TD pass to Tyreek Hill last weekend…

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That’s obscene — roughly 70 yards in the air. Mahomes is as physically talented as any young QB in the game, a gifted runner with a weapons-grade arm. Interceptions have been a small issue in camp and preseason, but head coach Andy Reid has smartly swatted away those concerns:

“I want [Mahomes] to test the offense. … If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to go test it you’re going to be one of those quarterbacks who checks it down every time. That’s not what it’s all about. The great thing about Pat is that he never makes the same mistake twice. It doesn’t happen. … When he does make a mistake he comes back and he can talk to you about it. He’s done nothing but get better and better as we go and he’s got a load on him here.”

Love it. That’s pretty awesome, honestly. Kids, do not grow up to be one of those QBs who checks it down every time.

Mahomes definitely looked the part of a competent, hyper-talented quarterback in his one start last year. He passed for 284 yards in a win against Denver, averaging 8.1 Y/A. He has a pair of blindingly fast receivers at his disposal this season, along with a matchup nightmare at tight end and an elite runner in the backfield. This team’s offense can be scary-good. Early drafters have been somewhat aggressive with Mahomes, but not ridiculously so: QB16, ADP 124.5. He can still deliver a profit on that price. On talent and team context, it’s tough not to like Mahomes in our game. He’s on the approved list.

Before we review KC’s excellent receiving corps, let’s acknowledge the phenomenal season-long performance delivered by reigning rushing champ…

Kareem Hunt, fantasy cornerstone

Hunt opened his NFL career by topping 100 scrimmage yards in seven straight games, which is both remarkable and unprecedented. He went through a brief period in November when the coaching staff seemed to forget he was on the roster, but then finished his season with a binge. When you needed Hunt most, in Weeks 14-16, he gained 450 scrimmage yards on 92 touches and crossed the goal-line four times. Hunt was simply outstanding as a rookie, leading the league in rushing (1327) while averaging 4.9 YPC and catching 53 balls. In fantasy, he was a league-winner.

Reid’s teams have a history of leaning on workhorse runners, and there’s no reason to expect Hunt to share backfield touches with anyone. The Chiefs have assembled a group of respectable handcuff candidates — Spencer Ware, Damien Williams, Kerwynn Williams — but none are serious threats to Hunt. He’s a no-doubt upper-tier back. A case can be made that we’re selling him short in the ranks by not including him in the overall top-five.

KC’s receiving corps is uncoverable

If you’ll scroll back up to the tweet embedded above, you’ll notice Tyreek Hill speeding away from a collection of helpless DBs. He’s one of perhaps three NFL receivers with serious track-star speed. Hill and Mahomes are a terrifying combo. Last year, he confirmed his status as one of the league’s more dangerous big-play threats, hauling in 75 passes on 105 targets (71.4 catch%) for 1183 yards and seven scores. He produced nine plays that gained 40-plus yards. Hill saw only four red-zone targets, which isn’t ideal, but his 4.24-speed makes him a threat to score on any touch. He’s reasonably priced at his third-round ADP (31.4, WR12)

Sammy Watkins joined the Chiefs following a season spent largely as a supporting receiver in Los Angeles. He doesn’t quite have Hill’s blistering speed, but he’s a fast dude in his own right. Reid hyped Watkins at various points over the summer, making it clear he’d be a versatile piece in this offense, lining up at multiple spots. It helps that Watkins joined a new team in early spring this year, unlike 2017 when he went to the Rams in mid-August. He’s had a quiet preseason, not yet connecting with Mahomes in exhibition play, but no one was fretting about their chemistry during minicamp. Watkins is a good bet to improve on last season’s reception and yardage totals (39-593); it’s not unreasonable to think he finally match the sort of production he delivered in his first two years in Buffalo (think 60-900-5).

Travis Kelce led this team in targets (123), receptions (83) and receiving TDs (8) last season, ranking second at his position in fantasy scoring and receiving yards (1038). A case can be made for ranking him above Gronk heading into 2018, considering the recent injury history of both players. Kelce is a three-time Pro Bowl player who’s topped 80 catches and 1000 yards in each of the past two seasons. Only ten wide receivers outscored him last year in standard fantasy formats. He’s a gift in the third round of a fantasy draft (ADP 33.8). You want him. Tight end is a deep spot, of course, but Kelce is a near-lock to finish among the position’s top-three.

Kansas City’s receiving corps is a top-heavy group, leaving few scraps for Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson or De’Anthony Thomas. No need to stash any of this team’s ancillary receivers.

This team’s defense wasn’t anything special last season, ranking No. 28 in the league in yards allowed (365.1 YPG) and No. 24 in sacks (31). The Chiefs could really use a healthy version of Eric Berry, but he wouldn’t necessarily be enough to make KC’s D/ST a roster-worthy fantasy commodity. The early season schedule is a minefield — at LAC, at PIT, SF, at DEN, JAC, at NE — so this isn’t a unit to target in drafts.

2017 Offensive Stats & Ranks

Points per game – 25.9 (sixth in NFL)
Pass YPG – 256.5 (7)
Rush YPG – 118.9 (9)
Yards per play – 6.1 (2)
Plays per game – 61.1 (28)

Previous Juggernaut Index entries: 32) Buffalo, 31) Miami, 30) NY Jets, 29) Baltimore, 28) Oakland, 27) Cleveland, 26) Indianapolis, 25) Washington, 24) Chicago, 23) Tennessee, 22) Jacksonville, 21) Dallas, 20) Tampa Bay, 19) Cincinnati, 18) Denver, 17) San Francisco, 16) Arizona, 15) Seattle, 14) Detroit, 13) Carolina, 12) Houston, 11) Philadelphia, 10) Green Bay, 9) Atlanta, 8) Kansas City

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