We’ll give one away: White likes the value on the Kansas City Chiefs at 20-1. He likes the fact that Andy Reid has led the Chiefs to at least nine wins and four playoff appearances in his five seasons as head coach.
Tier 2: Travis Kelce
If you’re hunting for a TE early and miss out on Gronk, you won’t be able to wait long if you want a suitable replacement. Kelce doesn’t have Gronk’s ceiling, but he’s one of the biggest matchup nightmares in the league and arguably has higher floor with fewer injury concerns.
Kelce’s target numbers have grown in each of his four NFL seasons, from 87 all the way up to 123 last year. Each of the last two seasons, he’s topped 80 catches and 1,000 yards. Last season his fantasy value peaked with a career-high eight touchdowns. Part of what makes him special is his run after the catch ability, which makes him just as devastating down the field as he is in the slot or catching screens.
Expect Kansas City’s defense to take a big step back this year, which means more opportunities for Kelce to cash in.
Our models project Kelce for 82.7 catches, 988.3 yards, and 6.9 touchdowns in 2018.
Wide receivers / tight ends — Chiefs: In terms of pure depth, the Eagles have a strong case (Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers and rookie Dallas Goedert). But when it comes to a top-end trio, perhaps no team has a better chance of producing three 1,000-yard pass catchers than the Chiefs’ combo of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. Aside from Rob Gronkowski, Kelce is the league’s best tight end, and Hill blossomed into a top-tier receiver in 2017, capable of striking fear into the heart of any cornerback or free safety with his blazing speed. Now on his third team in two years, but with a fat contract in hand, Watkins could fulfill his estimable potential in Kansas City, though he and his wingmen may need to be patient with new QB Patrick Mahomes.
The crew spent the time needed talking about “The Catch,” between quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but later touched on the remarkable transformation of Hill from a player that had “character concerns” to a player that’s front and center for the team in its community outreach.
3. This might be the best the NFC North has ever been during the Rodgers era. The Vikings are, obviously, stacked. The Lions have a chance to be one of the surprise teams of 2018—after failing to assemble anything close to a running game so far in Matthew Stafford’s career, they now have one that could be a top-10 attack in the NFL, not to mention a sneaky good defense and a ton of depth. The Bears are if nothing else interesting, with former Andy Reid assistant Matt Nagy and long-time Oregon coach Mark Helfrich revamping the offense, one that figures to use a lot of college concepts. The Packers host Chicago in the Sunday night opener, and the Bears didn’t do themselves any favors by failing to get first-round rookie linebacker Roquan Smith into camp. But remember what Nagy’s Chiefs offense did to the Patriots in last year’s season-opener? Similarly, you might see the Bears roll out a lot of never-before-seen, misdirection-heavy designs in Week 1. You used to be able to pencil in the Packers for four or five division wins every year. That’s no longer the case.
QB EPA: plus-103.6 (third)
Team EPA: minus-55.4 (21st)
QB-added value: plus-158.9
When the Chiefs were 5-0 with the No. 1 offense in the league, Smith was arguably the MVP of the league. Had the defense not blown late leads to Oakland and the Jets in games in which Smith was excellent, he might have gotten a stronger push for the award. Despite the offense’s brutal November, Smith finished 2017 with the highest passer rating (104.7) in the NFL to go with his first 4,000-yard season. He finished third in QB EPA behind only Brady and Carson Wentz, but is first here mainly because of how far the defense (ranked 25th) fell after losing Eric Berry in Week 1. If the Chiefs continue to play defense like they did last year, then success won’t be tied to switching from Smith to Patrick Mahomes. Things have to get better on defense first.
Kendall Fuller, Cornerback, Kansas City Chiefs
Washington threw Fuller into the trade for quarterback Alex Smith like he was an afterthought. But Fuller, a former third-round pick who would have been drafted much higher if he hadn’t gone down with a knee injury in college, was so good in his second NFL season that Kansas City felt comfortable trading All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Rams a day after acquiring the Virginia Tech product. Fuller played primarily from the slot in 2017, and by the end of the year he graded out as the best slot cornerback in the NFL by Bleacher Report’s NFL 1000 scouting grades. He was third among all corners in Pro Football Focus’s grading system. Fuller has excellent footwork and closing speed that allows him to break on balls quickly. Here’s Fuller beating Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin to the ball on a third-and-4 slant that will give Seahawks fans flashbacks to Super Bowl XLIX.
WCG - What are some Andy Reid tendencies that we might see Matt Nagy bring with him to Chicago
Football Outsiders - “Matt Nagy has spent a decade with Andy Reid, so it is interesting to predict just how much of Reid’s work he’ll try to emulate. Will he go pass-happy as Reid often did? That would be a huge departure from John Fox’s Bears, the offense with the fewest throws in 2017. The 2017 Chiefs were the offense that Nagy had his most control over in his career, getting play-calling duties late in the season. The Chiefs actually ranked dead last in run ratio in the first half of games (32 percent). As you may have guessed, the Bears were the run-heaviest offense in the first half at 46 percent. The Chiefs were second in using shotgun/pistol, so that could be a big change for the Bears, who only ranked 22nd.”
By 2015, I had been with Andy in Kansas City for three seasons. We had a successful year and we were getting ready to play the Texans in the playoffs. That’s when the Eagles sent a permission slip for an interview. I suspected it was coming. Andy was still close to the Eagles organization and spoke on my behalf to Howie and Jeffrey and the people who were making the decision. I give a lot of credit to Andy for helping me.
Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos
The Broncos selected Freeman No. 71 in the 2018 NFL draft as the eighth back off the board. In 2017, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt was the sixth RB selected at No. 86 overall. And much like Hunt last season, Freeman doesn’t have the stiffest competition to get to the top of the depth chart.
Hunt became much more important to the Chiefs when Spencer Ware tore knee ligaments and was lost for the campaign August 25. The rookie turned in one of the better first-year performances in recent memory. While expectations shouldn’t be at that level for Freeman, his opportunities could be similar—at least in that he could also be the lead back when the season begins.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Is this rendition of Andy Reid’s team a contender? I certainly think so, and might even be picking them to win their division (at the very least I like the value of Reid being an underdog to win his division). But if something happens to Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne and Matt McGloin would be the backup options. That’s sub-optimal. I don’t see them making this move per se, but Bridgewater would fit the Alex Smith mold a little bit and Reid traded two picks for him not that long ago.
Around the league
Bears safety Deiondre’ Hall has been suspended for the first game of the regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
The new helmet rule is an attempt by the league to make the game safer. In theory, everyone agrees this is a good idea. In practice, it’s unclear how officials will implement the rule. And if the preseason is any indication of how the rule will be enforced in the regular season, expect the complaints and conspiracy theories to only increase.
Some NFL teams keep three quarterbacks on their roster. Most keep two, sometimes with a third option stashed on the practice squad. Pittsburgh currently has four quarterbacks, none of whom are realistic practice squad candidates. At least one of the team’s quarterbacks is getting cut.
“I heard there’s some great whites out there. I haven’t seen any great whites yet. They don’t know me yet. I only swam with tigers. So, maybe I’ll go say hi to my friends,” he said, via The Boston Globe.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
With training camp now behind us, it’s time to make our best guess.
“Iloka’s biggest strength could be that he isn’t just a free safety. He’s played as a single high safety, cover 2 safety, and an overhang and box defender. And I’d say he’s been above average in any role he’s taken on.
Social Media Information:
AP Facebook Page: Click here to like our page
AP Instagram: Follow @ArrowheadPride
AP Twitter: Follow @ArrowheadPride
AP Editor-in-Chief: Pete Sweeney: Follow @pgsween
610 Sports Twitter: Follow @610SportsKC