Alex Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce: Buying the Entire Chiefs Offense

When Odysseus heard the thunder of Zeus, he was pleased and knew that the day of punishment had come” -Homer

Earlier this summer I wrote about how perception of the Rams offense was so negative that every player was a value at their ADP. Through Labor Day, the Chiefs offense can’t seem to shed a similar negative perception, causing all of their weapons to be cheap beyond logic. With by far the strongest group of offensive talent since head coach Andy Reid’s 2013 arrival, the cohort of Arrowhead position players look like a fantastic bet to outperform their average draft position.1

People love to slam Reid for running the fourth fewest offensive plays last season, and having the ninth fewest total yards, despite having arguably the best offensive player on the planet. You already know I think Jamaal Charles should be the first overall pick this year, and one of the reasons is his slightly skewed 2014 stats compared to 2013. That season, Reid ran the 16th most offensive plays, and had the 21st most yards; while better than 2014, it was still a long way off his historical tendencies in Philadelphia.

Following the 2004 arrival of Terrell Owens, Reid developed a rhythm, despite revolving personnel, that was consistently deadly:

YearRank in Offensive PlaysRank in Total Yards
2007 5th6th
Average (Median)12.9 (10th)8.6 (9th)

The tenth most plays last season (Jets, 1,052) was 9.4 percent more than the Chiefs had, while the ninth most yards (Seahawks, 6.012) was a staggering 17.9 percent higher. Reid’s Eagles were top nine in total yards two thirds of his time there, while the only time they weren’t top ten in plays was because of dominant efficiency. And that dominant efficiency is one attribute that the current Chiefs’ personnel all have in spades.   


CriteriaStandard Fantasy Points
2014 QB21180.2
Alex Smith 2013-2014 16 Game Pace254.0
Rotoviz Writers' Projection266.8
QB Sim Score211.2 - 288.0

In the last two seasons, Alex Smith has a 16 game pace of 3,510 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, with 356 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. That would have been QB15 last year, six spots higher than Smith’s current ADP. Two of Smith’s Sim Score comparables are Reid’s quarterback in 2008 and 2009: Donovan McNabb‘s 32 and 33 year old season (Smith turned 31 in May). In those two seasons, McNabb had 16 game paces of 253.34 and 269.85 standard fantasy points, an extremely narrow range within which Smith’s pace, and the RotoViz writers’ projection, fall.

The reason we are collectively predicting an improvement for Smith is partially predicated on an expectation that Reid now has the personnel to achieve results similar to what he did in Philadelphia. Smith’s current Chiefs stats are accumulated over 30 games, only six of which Travis Kelce played a starter’s snap count, and none of which involved Jeremy Maclin.


CriteriaPPR Fantasy Points
2014 TE4221.6
Rotoviz Writers' Projection208.8
TE Sim Score140.8 - 184.0

Kelce was recovering from a 2013 microfracture injury and on limited snap counts behind Anthony Fasano, who is no longer with the team, until the final six games last season. The reason he is being drafted with slightly higher expectations than his Sim Score suggests is because in those limited opportunities, he was scary good.

Of all tight ends with at least 40 targets, Kelce had a higher conversion rate than everyone but Jermaine Gresham, who had about half the receiving yards. From a fantasy standpoint, Kelce had more points over expectation per target than everyone except three of those tight ends, who all had highly unsustainable TD rates double or triple his.


This is not unexpected; at 6 feet, 5 inches, and 260 pounds, he has the size of a tight end, but the athletic profile of a dominant wide receiver. Kelce is like something Belichick would design in a lab in hopes he could sneak him past the refs:

PlayerHeight, Weight40 Yard DashVeritcalBroadShuttleCone
Travis Kelce6'5", 2604.6135"10'4"4.427.09
Kelvin Benjamin6'5", 2404.6133"9'11"4.397.33
Dorial Green-Beckham6'5", 2374.4933.5"10'0"4.366.89
Mike Evans6'5", 2314.5337"N/A4.267.08
Brandon Marshall6'4.5", 2304.5637"10,0"4.316.96
Marques Colston6'4.5", 2244.5437"10'3"4.436.94

The enviable college production (84th percentile Dominator Rating) and athletic profile show up in Kelce’s NFL career in another way similar to his dominant fantasy efficiency. One of the reasons C.D. Carter thinks he could be the TE1 is superb efficiency with Smith, besting the most efficient recipient of his career, another insanely athletic tight end, Vernon Davis. The AYA app shows that Kelce wasn’t only more efficient than Davis, but he blew him away.


It would appear that the only other piece Reid and Smith need is a wide receiver more efficient than Dwayne Bowe, someone like Maclin and his career AYA of 8.3.


CriteriaPPR Fantasy Points
2014 WR22210.6
Maclin 2010-2012 16 Game Pace218.3
Rotoviz Writers' Projection205.9
WR Sim Score196.8 - 275.2

Finally rid of the chronically disappointing Bowe, Reid now has a wide receiver with far more experience in his offense. After being drafted to the Eagles as a 21 year old rookie in 2009, from 2010 through 2012 Maclin had a 16 game pace of 73 receptions on 121 targets for 973 yards and  eight touchdowns. The reason that the Sim Score projects Maclin to be more productive with that kind of workload than he was earlier in his career points to the kind of improvement he showed as a player last season. In what are historically the peak years for a wide receiver’s career, Maclin looks to continue similarly dominant per target fantasy efficiency as Kelce.

Despite fluctuating between Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez in each half of the season, Maclin managed to post the ninth best fantasy points over expectation per target for all players with at least 100 targets last season:


It might be hard to stomach Alex Smith really being something resembling 2007 Tom Brady, I get it. It’s completely understandable to not expect the Chiefs to look like the Eagles’ teams with peak McNabb, Owens, DeSean Jackson, or Brian Westbrook (though not really, cause some of those teams L.J. Smith, Reggie Brown and Kevin Walter were target leaders, but whatever). If investing the first overall pick in a 29 year old running back with declining efficiency isn’t for you, it’s cool.

That’s why all these players are undervalued, and that’s why they have an easy path to outperforming their ADP. It’s easier to invest in the idea that everyone is now in a position to thrive at prices that reflect pure, absolute pessimism.

  1. All ADP data courtesy of 9/7/05  (back)