There is a new reality for Kansas City Chiefs fans who enjoy fantasy football — and that’s the home team bias amongst their fellow league draftees.
The consensus QB1, Patrick Mahomes, comes at a hefty price in most fantasy leagues, but that’s especially true in leagues where Chiefs fans are the majority.
In my fantasy football experience in Kansas City, Mahomes has gone No. 1 overall in multiple leagues each year since his inaugural season as the Chiefs’ franchise player. Taking the league’s best player No. 1 overall in fantasy seems like an easy move to a fantasy novice, but as most seasoned fantasy veterans know, the quarterback position generally provides less volatility than other positions, meaning similar production can usually be found at a more reasonable price tag.
That being said, if you are a diehard Chiefs fan and insist on maximizing your fandom by taking Patrick Mahomes No. 1 in your fantasy league, then you’ll have to take some other swings to try and capitalize some spots in your lineup. This is a list of players going around that draft position that could provide maximum value to your Mahomes-led lineup.
We’ll be operating as if this is a snake draft for perspective on how the available players were viewed.
Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
At the time of writing, this Edwards-Helaire’s draft stock continues to climb, so in a Chiefs fan-heavy draft, the likelihood of him being there in the second round seems slim. He still makes the list because if Edwards-Helaire is there, you’d be wise to scoop him up. It’s getting more difficult to project which running backs across the league can actually come out with an RB1 workload. Edwards-Helaire happens to be one of the guys not going in the top 12 who could conceivably wind up with an RB1 amount of touches behind a completely rebuilt offensive line. The Chiefs haven’t had a fantasy superstar at the running back position since the 2018 season, when Kareem Hunt managed 1,202 total yards and 14 touchdowns through 11 games. Of course, Hunt was released that year but was a top-three fantasy back prior to the Chiefs cutting him. To go even deeper, Hunt still finished at a top-eight running back that year. While Edwards-Helaire may not offer the true RB1-caliber production Hunt did during his prime Kansas City years, it’s still perfectly reasonable to project him as a top-10 back who can provide somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 all-purpose yards to go with 10 plus touchdowns.
Rams RB Darrell Henderson
Third-year running back Darrell Henderson has seen a massive boost in draft stock with the season-ending injury to projected starter Cam Akers. Henderson hasn’t managed to carve out the lead role so far in his young career, but he has proven he can be a serviceable player when given the opportunity. From Week 2 to 8 last season, Henderson did manage to sneak into the top 10 fantasy running backs. That’s not exactly a large sample size to work with, but with the expected increase in touches, Henderson can provide some significant upside at the end of round No. 4.
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
Vikings’ second-year wide receiver Justin Jefferson has been a little banged up in training camp, but it’s not something that should hold him back in the regular season. It might be hard to top his rookie record of 1,400 yards (and seven touchdowns), but the gamble is sure to pay off. Jefferson is consistently lasting until the late second, early third round in fantasy drafts, making him a prime pick for your squad lead by Mahomes. There is a timeline in which Mahomes goes No. 1, Edwards-Helaire lands as your second-round pick, and then you immediately follow it up with Jefferson as the top pick in the third round. That’s the timeline we should all want to live in!
Bears WR Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson has done more than enough to prove he’s a WR1 in fantasy football, consistently putting up numbers with less than average quarterback play. Robinson is consistently disrespected and deserves to go higher than he is, but where he’s going on average means he’s generally been available at the end of the second or top of the third round. As soon as the Bears put a stop to the Andy Dalton nonsense, we can lock Robinson in as a WR1.
Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy
When evaluating young wide receivers, one of the most telling predictors of success is route-running ability. Everyone in the NFL is fast, but pure speed doesn’t always translate to on-field success, but more often than not, the special route runners can find ways to get open. Second-year wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, one of the most highly coveted receiver prospects in a loaded class, fits that bill. Jeudy was a day-one NFL route runner and, that didn’t translate to the massive success as a rookie you’d like to see, but all the signs are there for a big year two. Whether it’s Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater, Jeudy has the ability to get himself open that’s not easy to find, making him one of my favorite upside picks headed into this season. Jeudy is seeing his draft stock rise at the moment, but there’s still reason to believe he’ll be available by your fifth pick.
Jets RB Michael Carter or Broncos RB Javonte Williams
These running backs are coming off the board a little later in drafts, though Javonte Williams is consistently far ahead of Michael Carter. The former UNC products find themselves in favorable situations to still lead back duties from the veteran ahead of them. The Jets appear to finally be headed in the right direction with a young offensive line and hopeful franchise passer Zach Wilson. Carter has the most upside of any running back on the Jets roster. Ideally, we’d see him take the lead back duties from Tevin Coleman in the near future. Williams has to surpass Melvin Gordon, who has had much more success over his NFL career than Coleman, but Gordon is already dealing with a groin injury. That injury could give Williams a leg up to take the bulk of the touches in the Broncos backfield. I lumped these former teammates together because they are both high-risk players who provide plenty of upside if they find themselves in a lead-back situation (49ers rookie back Trey Sermon is another player I would keep an eye on here).
Jets WR Elijah Moore
If you miss out on Jeudy, Jets rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore has been gaining a massive amount of traction with his play in training camp. His draft value continues to rise, but the reports suggest Moore could be an impact player sooner rather than later. If available, he’s a rookie wide receiver I’d be happy to take in the middle of my draft. (The same could be said for Panthers rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall).
Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman
Yes, Mecole Hardman already dropped a pass in a preseason game, and that will inevitably lead to serious overreaction. The coaching staff and players have been extremely complimentary of Hardman during training camp, and with everything aligning for him to finally get a serious snap share, the time is now to pair him with Mahomes. Hardman likely won’t be a weekly starter, but where he’s currently being drafted, he’ll likely be the only starting pass catcher you can reasonably pair with Mahomes. Again we’re targeting upside here, so getting Hardman at a value and potentially stacking him with Mahomes in the proper matchups provides enough potential upside to roll the dice.
Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr.
Vikings’ third-year tight end Irv Smith has shown plenty of athleticism his first two years in the league. That’s not the part of his game that’s being doubted when it comes to fantasy football. With a run-first approach and Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen all ahead of Smith in the passing game, it’s hard to envision a season where he takes on an enormous amount of targets. Outside of the top three tight ends, it’s all basically a dart throw, and that means the chance for a Smith breakout is enough to target him in the later rounds as your roster’s top tight end. Later-round tight ends are heavily dependent on red-zone looks and Irv has seen plenty of those in Vikings training camp.
Bears QB Justin Fields
This one is more just a general draft strategy than a potential upside for your lineup out of the gate. Justin Fields is an exceptional football player who will be the starter for the Chicago Bears at some point this year. With exceptional athleticism and accuracy that is NFL-ready, Fields should supply significant upside when he takes the reins from Andy Dalton. With Mahomes as your starter, you’d likely never play Fields over him outside of a bye week. The luxury of having a quarterback as talented as Mahomes provides you time to sit Fields while the Bears try to figure things out. He becomes a valuable trade piece for a quarterback-needy team when he inevitably becomes the starter and has a boom fantasy performance.