clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Two Chiefs projected to lead NFL in three 2020 statistical categories

A new statistical projection from NFL.com paints a rosy picture for two of the team’s offensive players this season

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

On Monday, NFL.com analytics writer Cynthia Frelund published a set of projections (she carefully noted they are projections rather than predictions) for the coming NFL season, identifying players that her mathematical modeling predict will lead the league in various statistical categories.

By her calculations, two Kansas City Chiefs will lead the league in three categories.

Passing yards: 4,790

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated in-person offseason activities and continues to present unprecedented challenges as we move toward kickoff. Consequently, we’re facing a whole bunch of new factors on the projections front. One of the changes I programmed into my models for this season: to value personnel continuity (prioritized by position and snap count) even more than in prior years. We always see chemistry and playbook learning curves — my logic is that these will be even more impactful without a normal offseason and preseason (note: the curves do vary by position). The Chiefs have the most returning high-value players by snap count, most notably at the highest-value position of quarterback and among the QB’s top passing-touchdown earners. My model projects Mahomes to earn more than 4,500 passing yards in a whopping 67 percent of simulations (think of anything over 60 percent as high). Mahomes ends up atop the league in 18.5 percent of models.

Bonus intel: Rounding out the top five, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady ends up on top in 16.5 percent of simulations (with more than 4,200 passing yards in 63 percent of simulations), and Dallas’ Dak Prescott takes the cake in 16 percent. New Orleans’ Drew Brees is fourth at 15.5 percent, while Atlanta’s Matt Ryan ranks fifth at 12 percent.

As Chiefs fans, it’s easy for us to predict that Mahomes will return to his 2018 production in any given season. But it’s important to remember that a record-breaking season is just that: a record-breaking season. By definition, it’s an outlier — something that isn’t likely to happen very often.

Still, it’s reasonable to think that in 2020, Mahomes could put up passing yards in the same neighborhood as his 2018 season. This feels about right to me.

Poll

How would you characterize this projection?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Too high
    (80 votes)
  • 28%
    Too low
    (513 votes)
  • 66%
    About right
    (1193 votes)
1786 votes total Vote Now

Passing touchdowns: 37

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes earns more than 35 passing touchdowns in 57.5 percent of 16-game simulations. Forecasting the 2018 NFL MVP and reigning Super Bowl MVP to lead the league in passing touchdowns is admittedly quite unsurprising, so let’s unload the touchdown algorithm here for three other QBs: Seattle’s Russell Wilson throws for more than 30 touchdowns in 55.5 percent of simulations, Buffalo’s Josh Allen tops 22 in 57 percent of simulations and Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill matches or exceed his 22-touchdown total from last season in 54.9 percent of simulations. One player whose projection surprised me? Bengals No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. His median projection is to throw 21 touchdowns. (I use all median projections to order players in fantasy rankings, but there is always a ceiling and a floor.) Last season, Giants rookie Daniel Jones threw 24 touchdown passes. In fact, 14 quarterbacks threw 24-plus touchdown passes. When I look to see how many times in the model Burrow reaches or exceed 24 touchdowns, it happens in 53.6 percent of the simulations. Interesting.

More of the same: as Chiefs fans, it’s easy to think Mahomes will return to 2018 form this season — but an outlier is still an outlier. Just the same, if Mahomes is healthy for the whole season, this feels a little bit low to me. I’d guess he’ll come in around 40.

Poll

How would you characterize this projection?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Too high
    (47 votes)
  • 64%
    Too low
    (1041 votes)
  • 33%
    About right
    (538 votes)
1626 votes total Vote Now

Touchdowns: 7

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Damien Williams opting out of the season has driven a HUGE surge in fantasy value for CEH. Looking at ADP (average draft position), Edwards-Helaire is currently trading at around RB5 in PPR leagues. While I am fully on board with a ton of value coming from the Chiefs’ first-round pick, let’s temper expectations a little. My model ranks him as RB10. Not top five, but still a high ranking, especially for a rookie. One way to potentially earn a fantasy edge here: looking at a few other rookies who have strong TD projections and snagging them in the later rounds of your draft. My model likes Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr. to earn five or more touchdowns (occurs in 53.9 percent of simulations). Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III hits paydirt five-plus times in 57.1 percent of simulations.

For the Chiefs, Edwards-Helaire is the great unknown of the 2020 season. On paper, he is a perfect fit for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s offense; there’s every reason to think he’ll eventually be a big contributor in it. And yet, he is still a rookie who is coming into his first NFL season — one without a real offseason program. How much is that going to matter?

Mathematical models tend to have a difficult time with unprecedented situations, so I’m not sure how much faith to put in Frelund’s projection here. So I’ll go with my gut, recalling that Kareem Hunt scored 11 touchdowns from scrimmage in 2017; seven touchdowns for Edwards-Helaire in 2020 seems a little low to me.

Poll

How would you characterize this projection?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Too high
    (122 votes)
  • 59%
    Too low
    (926 votes)
  • 33%
    About right
    (518 votes)
1566 votes total Vote Now