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Fantasy projections say Chiefs will again field one of the league’s top offenses

ESPN fantasy analyst Mike Clay published some fascinating statistical nuggets about the Chiefs’ 2018 season.

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

ESPN writer Mike Clay — who specializes in NFL fantasy football projections for the network — has now completed his offseason statistical analyses to prepare for the 2019 season. On Thursday, he shared some thoughts about what he noticed along the way — and many of them centered on the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here is something we already knew: the Chiefs scored a lot of offensive touchdowns in 2018. Clay expects the Chiefs to regress a bit in 2019, but still be among the top offenses.

Over the past 10 seasons, only four offenses have averaged at least 3.75 offensive touchdowns per game in a season: the 2018 Chiefs (4.11), 2013 Broncos (4.05), 2011 Saints (4.00) and 2011 Packers (3.82). Interestingly, the Broncos (3.29), Saints (3.31) and Packers (3.06) all averaged more than 3.0 scores per game the following season. As we head into 2019, the question is not if the Kansas City offense will fall off but rather the extent to which it will. History suggests that the Patrick Mahomes- and Andy Reid-led offense will score roughly one fewer touchdown per game but will still rank near the top of the league.

Clay’s belief that the Chiefs will remain a top offense isn’t just a guess; it’s based on historical trends.

Expanding on that a bit, 36 offenses averaged at least 3.0 touchdowns per game during the nine seasons spanning 2009-17. The average output the next season for those 36 units was 2.7, which is still well above the 2.30 league average in the span. Only six of the 36 offenses were below that average, and 13 repeated at or above the 3.0 mark. In 2018, the Chiefs (4.1), Saints (3.5), Steelers (3.2), Rams (3.2), Colts (3.1), Seahawks (3.1) and Patriots (3.1) each cleared 3.0 offensive scores per game, and history suggests we can again count on good-to-great production from these teams.

If you wake up a drunk NFL fan sleeping in the corner at a party and ask him what Andy Reid teams do best, they’ll probably mumble something about the West Coast Offense. But Clay has noticed something else, too.

Over the past 12 regular seasons, Andy Reid-led running back units are averaging 17.3 offensive touchdowns per season. That includes at least 11 rushing scores five of the past seasons and at least three receiving scores all but one of the past 12 seasons. Although he certainly benefited from home run talent via Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Kareem Hunt during the span, Reid has tended to feature a lead back, as opposed to utilizing a committee. It’s probable that Damien Williams, Carlos Hyde or a rookie will emerge as the team’s feature back in 2019, but it’s tough to determine who it will be. All will be high-risk, high-reward fantasy picks.

It’s not big news to Chiefs fans that the team’s offense was noticeably better when Watkins was on the field in 2018, but Clay has quantified it.

Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins averaged a 21 percent target share (6.9 per game) during the 10 games he played in full last season. In fact, Tyreek Hill’s 73 targets were only four more than what Watkins saw in those weeks. Eight of the 10 games came during the regular season, and Watkins was fantasy’s No. 16 scoring wideout those weeks. Watkins’ durability is an obvious concern -- he has missed at least three games in three of the past four seasons -- but he plays a big role in arguably the league’s best offense, which puts him in the WR2 discussion.

Clay’s article — which include nuggets of information like these for teams across the league — is a fascinating read for stats nerds like me, and is probably a must-read if you intend to field a fantasy team in the coming season.