Team Previews

Kansas City Chiefs 2021 Fantasy Football Preview

by John Daigle
Updated On: July 14, 2021, 10:14 am ET

2019 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 6,067 (6th)

Offensive Touchdowns: 30 (6th)

Offensive Plays: 976 (25th) 

Pass Attempts + Sacks: 601 (17th) 

Rush Attempts: 375 (27th)

Unaccounted for Targets: 58 (30th)

Unaccounted for Carries: 119 (9th)


Coaching Staff

Kansas City remains undaunted in the AFC West and its conference as a whole due to continuity. Not only did GM Brett Veach somehow mold the books to fit Patrick Mahomes' monstrous 10-year, $500 million extension, he also managed to re-up perennial All-Pro Chris Jones to a four-year, $85 million contract. In fact, the only ‘significant’ shuffle would be coach Andy Reid, who has averaged 11 wins across seven seasons with the Chiefs, promoting Mike Kafka from quarterbacks coach to the team’s passing game coordinator. Reid has always been one step ahead, most recently catering to his own personnel in averaging 8.3 yards per attempt behind the league’s highest pass play rate (66%) in neutral game script, and this year should be no different.



Passing Game 

QB: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore

WR: Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle

WR: Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson

WR: Sammy Watkins

TE: Travis Kelce, Ricky Seals-Jones

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The only quarterback with double-digit touchdown passes (11) of 50-plus yards since ‘18, Mahomes nestles into his third full year commanding Reid’s offense knowing he’s paid into his age-36 season. The Chiefs have a median slate of opposing pass defenses on deck, facing the seventh-toughest helping of secondaries in their first month in particular, but none of that matters when discussing the 24-year-old’s budding outlook. The only question fantasy players need ask is if Mahomes can topple Lamar Jackson as the cream of the crop, and the maneuverability the former showed in averaging 7.7 scrambles, tacking on an additional 6.9 fantasy points per game via his legs over Kansas City’s last four contests suggests a punchers chance. Mahomes' floor is finishing as the No. 2 quarterback in fantasy, while his ceiling entails becoming the 46th President of the United States.

Avoiding suspension only to break his collarbone in Kansas City’s season opener, Tyreek Hill averaged 16.2 fantasy points in the 11 games he stayed healthy with Mahomes, spiking 23.8 in four week-winning performances. The 26-year-old did underwhelm with 13 points or fewer in six of his 14 (42.8%) full games, but that’s nothing new for Hill, who failed to exceed that mark in 7-of-16 outings (despite averaging the fourth-most fantasy points among wideouts) from Mahomes the year prior. It’s not brain surgery: sometimes it’s as simple rostering the league’s most explosive player who happens to be playing with the league’s most explosive quarterback. Thus there’s no fault in prioritizing Hill’s field-flipping ceiling behind Michael Thomas and Davante Adams as this year’s overall WR3.

Sammy Watkins exploded for 11/198/3 and 46.8 fantasy points in the team’s first contest but only averaged 7.0 points (not a mistype) over his next 13 games. Initially expected to be released in order to create space for both Mahomes' and Jones' lucrative deals, Watkins instead agreed to restructure his position-high $21 million cap hit in order to return on a team-friendly one-year contract. Having now gone four consecutive seasons with fewer than 700 receiving yards, he’s a barely-there matchup-based FLEX for re-draft leagues. His reemergence with 14/288/1 on a 16% target share across three postseason games is best reserved for Best-Ball structures (no pun intended) to avoid the weekly start/sit headaches.

Mecole Hardman figured to develop slowly after having learned to play receiver over his last two seasons at Georgia but was thrust into the fire the moment Hill came crashing down onto his own clavicle in Week 1. The rookie then leveraged his blinding 4.33 jets into touchdown bursts of 21, 30, 42, 48, 63, 83, and 104 yards, averaging a silky (and position-high) 11.2 yards after the catch per reception. In short, it’s egregious the team only fed him 41 targets all year. Having said that, there are reasons to believe in an expanded role for Hardman, beginning with how he was used in January:


PlayerSnapsRoutes RunTargetsTarget Share
Tyreek Hill90%1342724.1%
Sammy Watkins85%1311816%
Demarcus Robinson48%6665.3%
Mecole Hardman28%4565.3%


Demarcus Robinson ran 21 more routes than Hardman (66 to 45) during the postseason (as shown above) but mirrored the latter in targets. Having only re-joined the team in late March after failing to find an interested suitor on the open market, Robinson is fully expected to have his reps scaled back at Mecole’s expense. RotoViz’s Blair Andrews has also harped on the importance of rookie-year efficiency in order to earn increased opportunity the following year and Hardman, who merely turned 22 in March, inarguably checks every box. His playoff box scores aside, Hardman is a bet-on-talent WR4/FLEX option who’s worth reaching for if only to ‘hide’ on your bench for a few games while his talent forces a role.

Most tight ends dream of piecing together Travis Kelce’s consistency as the overall TE1 for four years running, and that shouldn’t change with a similar surrounding cast. The 30-year-old averaged 8.3 targets in 16 full games with Mahomes last year, leading his position in targets (136) for the second time in the last three years. As Sharp Football’s Rich Hribar noted, expectations for Kelce’s production should remain high after he converted just 2-of-10 targets inside the 10-yard line (and 1-of-8 in the end zone) into touchdowns. He’s the only tight end with a reasonable case to be drafted fifth-overall in TE Premium (1.5 PPR) leagues and remains a strong option at the end of the first round in re-draft formats if only to avoid shuffling through late-round options with eggs as floors.  


Running Game 

RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Damien Williams, DeAndre Washington, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson

OL (L-R): Eric Fisher, Andrew Wylie, Austin Reiter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz

Reid’s Week 1 starter during his tenure with the Chiefs has recorded at least 16.4 touches per game in 6-of-7 seasons, the lone exception being Damien Williams’ 12.8 across 11 injury-riddled appearances last year. Furthermore, Reid’s starting runner has averaged at least 16.7 fantasy points in five of the past seven years, Spencer Ware (13.8 in 2016) and, again, Williams (12.8) being the outliers. With that in mind, it’s not a stretch to pencil in rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5’7/207), who Reid thought “was better than Brian Westbrook” before Veach rushed to the board at the end of Day One, as the pick to click among this bunch. 

Both Veach and RBs coach Deland McCullough have suggested a “shared load” out the gates for this contentious duo, but Helaire’s status as an unconventional three-down prospect with elite route-running chops cements him in the driver’s seat. And while he was previously debated as this offseason’s unanimous fade among high-stakes’ brightest minds, the Fresh Prince of Helaire’s ADP has since suppressed, shifting from an early second-round pick in April to 2.9 as the overall RB14 in July. The tried-and-true Kelce-Hill-Mahomes stack in Best-Ball leagues has already come and gone, but the CEH-Mahomes-Hardman alternative route remains an applicable pivot with as much (if not more) upside than the Lamar Jackson-Mark Andrews-Marquise Brown combo. Williams, entering the final year of his contract, will likely have a role (and remains valuable in his own right as a Zero-RB dart at his current 6.7 FFPC ADP) but it’s Edwards-Helaire who has the potential to be discussed among the top-five overall players in 2021.


Win Total

Chiefs lost a combined 13 games from Mahomes, Hill, Watkins, and Williams last year and yet finished with 12 wins for the third time in the last four seasons. With 20-of-22 starters from February set to return and square off against the league’s 10th-softest schedule based on Vegas’ projected Win Totals, there’s no reason to think this team falls short of notching its second consecutive first-round bye. Although I fully expect them to topple their 11.5 Season Win Total, there’s no value in betting it at -121.

John Daigle

John Daigle is an Emmy and FSWA award winner who has been covering the NFL and fantasy football for over a decade, working with NBC Sports EDGE for almost four years. He enjoys watching golf and Jon Moxley, not necessarily in that order. You can follow him on Twitter @notJDaigle.