There is no bigger name in football than reigning NFL MVP and quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs' signal caller not only led the NFL in passing yards in 2022 (5,250 yards), but his 45 total touchdowns were also the most scored by any player in 2022. According to FantasyPros, Mahomes was the top-scoring fantasy player in all major formats, accumulating over 428 points in both standard and PPR (points per reception) leagues.
It was Mahomes’ highest fantasy output since 2018 when he scored 417 points and won the first of his two NFL MVP awards. That being said, Mahomes followed up his 2018 campaign with his worst season from a fantasy perspective in 2019, sliding all the way down to ninth place with 292 points.
So the question is, as we head into 2023, which Mahomes is more likely to show up on the stat sheet: the statistically regressed 2019 Mahomes, or the Michael Jordan-esque superhero of mythical proportions we witnessed in 2022?
Reasons for optimism
2019 was also only Mahomes’ second year as a starter in the league, and by his own admission, he did not know how to read coverages when he first entered the league in 2017.
Appearing on HBO’s The Shop in 2020, Mahomes said that he didn’t learn how to read defenses until halfway through the 2019 season. Well, it’s not 2019 anymore — it’s 2023, and Mahomes is the unquestioned leader and the engine behind the most potent and creative offense in the NFL.
In 2022 Mahomes proved that it doesn’t matter who he’s throwing to— he has the rare ability to elevate his supporting cast and will them to levels beyond what they would normally achieve on their own.
To quote Mahomes’ own father, Patrick Mahomes Sr., in the moments after the Chiefs' Super Bowl LVII victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like you — you different man.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s pass-first offense ensures that Mahomes should have around 650 pass attempts to play around with for the third straight year, which means QB1 should be competing for the top-scoring spot again this season.
Reasons for concern
The only real concern for Mahomes is his durability. While he has managed to avoid missing long periods of time due to injury, there have been a number of small injuries and even some larger ones that he has gritted his teeth and played through. It’s not encouraging that at only 27 years of age, he has already suffered two concussions and four injuries to his right foot and leg.
The 2022 Chiefs playoff run showed that Mahomes doesn’t necessarily need healthy legs to be effective, but let's not kid ourselves and act like we want that level of heroics out of the star QB on a weekly basis. Mahomes has dodged landing on injured reserve thus far in his career, but with the way he extends plays with his legs and takes hits at the goal line, one has to wonder if he isn’t living on borrowed time.
Aside from injury, there is also a small concern that at some point, Mahomes’ number one target and partner in crime Travis Kelce’s production will drop off. At 33 years old, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Kelce’s aging legs are not able to reproduce the 1,300 yards receiving he accumulated in 2022, especially since 658 of those yards came after the catch.
Aside from Kelce, at wide receiver, the Chiefs have an inconsistent Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a pair of unproven prospects in Rashee Rice and Skyy Moore, and a collection of castoffs from the Island of Misfit Toys. Without Kelce’s production, you’d have to really squint your eyes to find 30 passing TDs in there, let alone the 41 Mahomes had last year.
Other Chiefs players to consider
There is no handcuff for Mahomes. If he goes down, the Chiefs' season and most likely your title hopes go down with him. In real life, the Chiefs' backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert can come in and pinch-hit for a game or two and keep the season afloat, but Gabbert has zero fantasy value. Your best bet is to draft a solid second quarterback from another team.
But if you’re looking for a Chiefs player, then I’d honestly look at starting a guy like Jerick McKinnon at running back in Mahomes’ absence.
McKinnon is the Chiefs’ lead receiving back, so he is sure to get plenty of targets in the screen game and on short-yardage routes— especially if Mahomes goes down and Reid is playing things close to the vest. McKinnon also played quarterback in high school and college, throwing for 805 yards and 14 touchdowns in his three seasons at Georgia Southern, so a few snaps in the Wildcat are not out of the question either.
Expect Mahomes to continue where he left off in 2023. If we have learned anything about Mahomes over the last 12 months, it’s that there is not another player in the NFL with his ceiling and the potential to score 25-plus points on a weekly basis— a feat he achieved 11 times in 2022.
I would expect Mahomes to once again be pushing for the top-scoring spot in all formats.
Final projection: 5,150 passing yards, 42 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 330 yards rushing, and 3 rushing touchdowns.