This offseason, the Chiefs went to work on their offense. They added coordinator Charlie Weis, the former Notre Dame coach and architect of New England's offense. Kansas City also signed running back Thomas Jones and offensive linemen Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann and used a second-round pick in the NFL Draft on playmaker Dexter McCluster.
Add that to Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers, and the Chiefs could be in line to move the ball at will in the weak AFC West. Fantasy owners who take a chance on the Chiefs could reap major rewards.
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We view Charles and Bowe as starting options and Jones, McCluster and Chambers should be key reserves. The key will be Cassel's development in his second year as the starter in Kansas City, and that's where Weis comes in to help him become a potential Fantasy sleeper.
Weis should make this Chiefs offense shine, and we're excited to see it all play out.
Sleeper ... Dexter McCluster, WR
McCluster said in an interview with CBSSports.com this offseason that he wants to be known as an "OW," which stands for offensive weapon. That's the best way to describe him as a rookie this year since he will line up at receiver, running back and see time at quarterback in the Wildcat.
There are two comparisons to make with McCluster that should get Fantasy owners excited. The first is Percy Harvin, who was a speedster from the Southeastern Conference that was used in various roles at Florida. Harvin, as we know, was a spectacular rookie for Minnesota last year. In his final year at Ole Miss, McCluster accumulated 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The other comparison is Wes Welker. The Chiefs coaching staff has ties to New England, and Weis, who never coached Welker, likes a speedy slot receiver. McCluster will line up most of the time between Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers and create plenty of mismatches for opposing linebackers, safeties and nickel cornerbacks.
We see McCluster as a No. 3 or 4 Fantasy wide receiver. He's worth a mid-round pick in all seasonal leagues, and his value is slightly higher in leagues where receptions count. He's a first-round pick in rookie-only drafts.
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Bust ... Thomas Jones, RB
Jones is going to be 32 when the season starts, and you have to believe his body is going to start to break down. He's averaged 308 carries the past five years. Jones, who was a dominant force last year with the Jets when he ran 331 times for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns, also isn't the primary back like he was in New York. That role belongs to Jamaal Charles, who was the best player in Kansas City last year, especially in the second half of the season. Jones also goes from an amazing offensive line with the Jets to a rebuilding one with the Chiefs. It all adds up to Jones taking a significant step back in production.
We still see Jones having some value this year since he will share carries with Charles, and Jones can be useful in short-yardage situations, especially near the goal line. But you should only draft Jones as a No. 3 Fantasy running back. Charles, who finished last season with 190 carries for 1,120 yards and seven touchdowns and 40 catches for 297 yards and a touchdown, is still viable as a No. 2 Fantasy option. He also loses value with Jones now in Kansas City, but Charles will be better than Jones this year by a wide margin.
Bounce-back ... Dwayne Bowe, WR
We always talk about receivers in their third season and how it leads to a breakout performance. Bowe was the opposite of that last year. He had a miserable 2009, which started in coach Todd Haley's doghouse, included a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and ended with the worst stats of his career: 47 catches, 589 yards and four touchdowns. We know Bowe can do more, and we expect a bounce-back season in 2010.
In his first two years, Bowe averaged 78 catches for 1,009 yards and six touchdowns. He is capable of those stats this season if not more now that Charlie Weis is running the offense, and we expect Matt Cassel to also improve in his second year as the starter in Kansas City. We like Bowe as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver. He's worth drafting with a mid-round pick, and he should finish the season as a Top 20 Fantasy option this season after he rebounds from last year's poor showing.
Fantasy owners with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones should be giddy looking at this schedule. None of the tough run defenses from 2009 are on the docket this year, and Charles and Jones should benefit. The Chiefs also get three road games indoors at Indianapolis, Houston and St. Louis, and any time you get the NFC West on the schedule that will help your offense do well.
Training camp topics
The talent is there for the Chiefs. Now they have to make it work. Cassel has to prove he's ready to take the next step at quarterback after a disappointing first year, and we think he can. Consider Cassel a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback on Draft Day and take him with a late-round pick. Charles and Jones have to function in this backfield tandem, and Jones has to show he can be a complementary option instead of a starter. Charles also has to build on last year's success and not falter. McCluster has to be ready for the NFL after starring in college, and he also has to learn the playbook since he's playing a variety of roles. And the entire offense has to figure out Charlie Weis' system in a short amount of time.
We're excited about the Chiefs this year -- at least on offense. The defense is another story, but Kansas City has a lot of offensive stars that Fantasy owners will enjoy.
Jamaal Charles (shoulder; probable for the start of training camp) ... Brad Cottam (neck; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Brodie Croyle (finger; probable for the start of training camp)
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