Now that the NFL draft is over and the high-impact free agents have found their homes, we can starting doing some early 2016 fantasy football projections. Today: the Kansas City Chiefs, including a possible career year for Travis Kelce.
First things first, using our staff projection machine I set some baseline team-wide assumptions:
I set average scoring margin to the league-wide 75th percentile mark. The Chiefs have a 30-16 record over the last three regular seasons with Alex Smith. For pass tendency (how often they pass relative to expectations) and pace tendency (how many total plays they execute relative to expectations) I went with averages of their 2013 to 2015 numbers, the entirety of the Alex Smith/Andy Reid era.
Speaking of Smith:
Smith’s sack rate, interception rate, yards per carry, and percentage of team rushing attempts are all also based on the mean of the 2013-2015 seasons. His projection is also informed by the projections of his receivers, which I will go into in more depth below. This projection is considerably better for real life than fantasy purposes. I have him projected for just a few fewer points than Tyrod Taylor, which I had never considered as a comparison before but makes some sense. Both are slated for low passing volume, high passing efficiency, and significant rushing yardage.
Onto the wide receivers:
Surprise, surprise, Jeremy Maclin is the only WR with a useful projection. I set his yards per target, catch rate, and touchdown rate to their 2015 levels. I bumped his percentage of team targets up to the 75th percentile league-wide, as it was already close and the team has relatively little receiving competition. This works out to 17.2 PPR fantasy points per game, which would have tied him with A.J. Green for the WR13 on a per game basis last season. It is slightly less than the 17.4 PPG he had in 2014, but more than the 16.3 PPG he had last season. Maclin is currently being drafted as the WR16; you’re not getting a huge discount, but he’s still an incredibly safe pick.
For Albert Wilson, I went with the mean of his 2014 and 2015 numbers. I then bumped up his target share to the 25th percentile mark for a WR2. I went with Chris Conley’s 2015 numbers and also bumped up his target share to the 25th percentile mark for a WR3.
Next up, the tight ends:
For Kelce, I again just went with the mean of his 2014 and 2015 numbers. What’s remarkable about that is simply doing that, along with the team-wide parameters set earlier, gives Kelce a projection for a career year. He is projected to score 12.5 PPG, more than the 11.8 and 11.5 he had in 2015 and 2014, respectively. Despite being a projection for a career year, it’s also still fairly conservative. He’s only projected to score five TDs, and it’s not that uncommon for top TEs to have double digit TDs. I think a lot of people may just assume he’ll post another a nearly identical stat line for a third straight year, but there’s room for meaningful improvement here.
I didn’t specify a TE2, but I did set all of the inputs to the league median for a TE2.
Finally, the running backs:
I just set all of Jamaal Charles’ inputs to the mean of his 2013-2015 numbers. That includes percentage of team rushing attempts, yards per carry, TD rate, percentage of team targets, catch rate, and yards per target. Unsurprisingly, Charles’ projection is excellent as a result. The 19.8 PPG would have made him the RB3 last season on a per-game basis, behind his actual performance of 21.0 PPG. Injuries aside, he’s about as safe as it gets at the RB position.
Now I know some people have qualms about Charles, and those qualms aren’t reflected in this projection, so let me go through why. In regards to health, I always just project full health. View all of my projections as baseline healthy projections. In regards to age, it is certainly possible that Charles will experience some age-related decline this season, but I don’t see much specific cause to believe it will happen this season. It certainly could, but I don’t see a compelling reason to specifically project it. There’s also an argument to be made that Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware are tougher competition than Knile Davis was in seasons past. But in terms of rushing usage, Charles is already below the 75th percentile mark league-wide despite being the most efficient rusher on a per-carry basis in modern NFL history. So I don’t know how realistic it is for his rushing workload to significantly decrease. I could see West stealing some targets, but probably not Ware, who is unproven as a receiver. Either way, I don’t see enough cause for concern to actively project Charles to receive less targets.
I started Charcandrick West out with his 2015 stats, and then tweaked a few. His rushing share was inflated because Charles missed so much time, so I went with what he had over the first five weeks of the season when Charles was playing, which was 18.2 percent. His target percentage was similarly inflated, so I set it to the league median for a RB2. As you can see, he’s not shaping up to be fantasy relevant unless Charles gets hurt again.
I gave Spencer Ware the remaining shares of the team rushing attempts. Is it likely these three RBs and Alex Smith actually account for all of the team’s rushing attempts? No. But they will dominate them and this keeps things relatively simple. I set his yards per carry to the 75th percentile mark league-wide for a RB3, as he averaged 5.6 yards per carry last season. I set his TD rate to one percent, a number which is both insignificant but also above the league median for a RB3. His 2015 target share was coincidentally already at the 25th percentile mark for a RB3, so I just left it there. I set his catch rate to the league median and his yards per target to the 25th percentile mark, as he had less than a single yard per target last season.