Last season we predicted the Chiefs would turn into an offensive juggernaut. They had a favorable schedule, added a proven offensive coordinator in Charlie Weis and brought in quality talent in running back Thomas Jones, tight end Tony Moeaki and offensive linemen Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann.
The schedule is definitely tougher, especially with road games at Indianapolis, New England, Chicago and the Jets and home games against Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Weis is gone, returning to college to run the offense at the University of Florida. And Kansas City has to hope Cassel, Charles and Bowe continue to play at a high level.
We're not worried about Charles. While the schedule will make it difficult for him to dramatically increase last season's performance – he had 230 carries for 1,467 yards and five touchdowns and 45 catches for 468 yards and three touchdowns – he should take on more work from Jones, who had 245 carries for 896 yards and six touchdowns and 14 catches for 122 yards.
The additional touches should allow Charles to finish with elite numbers. He should be considered a No. 1 Fantasy running back and is worth drafting in the Top 4 overall picks. As for Jones, he is only worth drafting with a late-round pick in standard leagues since his best days are behind him at 32.
Bowe also remains a standout Fantasy wide receiver, and he has become a No. 1 option. He led all wide receivers in touchdowns last year with 15 while adding 72 catches for 1,162 yards.
His touchdowns will go down, but he will still produce enough to be worth drafting as early as Round 3. Cassel will continue to rely on Bowe as his No. 1 target even though the Chiefs spent a first-round pick on receiver Jonathan Baldwin.
Speaking of Cassel, he's the one player of this trio who should suffer a decline. He had 3,116 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year with 125 rushing yards to finish as the No. 12 quarterback in standard leagues. He is not going to be that productive this season.
Bust … Matt Cassel, QB
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Cassel is coming off a career-best season in 2010, and Fantasy owners want to know if he can build off those stats in 2011. Last year, Cassel took advantage of playing in Weis' offense and utilized all of the weapons, especially Bowe, who also had a career year. The good thing for Cassel in 2011 is Bowe is back, he has a strong running game with Charles and Jones and a young tight end in Moeaki. The bad news is Weis is gone, and there's really no quality No. 2 receiver opposite Bowe even with the addition of Baldwin. Coach Todd Haley should still be able to get enough out of Cassel to make him successful, but keep in mind prior to Weis joining the Chiefs, Cassel was mediocre in 2009. We consider Cassel a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in all leagues. He's good enough to be a bye-week replacement or start in an injury situation, but he's not someone you want to trust in your lineup on a weekly basis even in 14- or 16-team leagues. Consider drafting him with a late-round pick.
Late-round flier ... Tony Moeaki, TE
Moeaki was a surprise rookie in 2010, and he will look to play even better in his second-year in 2011. He got off to a hot start with two touchdowns in his first three games and became a hot commodity off the waiver wire, but he scored just once more for the rest of the year as he dealt with injuries. He finished the season with 47 catches for 556 yards, which was good enough for second in catches and yards in Kansas City behind Bowe, but that says more about the lack of receivers for the Chiefs than Moeaki's talent. Still, if you're looking for a No. 2 Fantasy tight end in deeper leagues, Moeaki is worth drafting. He has the potential for 50-plus catches, 600-plus yards and about six touchdowns, and he should be considered a good bye-week replacement during the year.
Keeper-league candidate ... Jonathan Baldwin, WR
The Chiefs spent their first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on Baldwin, who played at Pitt. Baldwin started 27 games for Pittsburgh the past three seasons, at both flanker and split end, and totaled 128 catches for 2,337 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Chiefs hope he will pair nicely with Bowe and give them a pass-catching tandem to be feared. Baldwin needs some work adjusting to the next level after leaving college earlier than desired. Expectations are small for Baldwin in 2011, so keep him limited to a late-round pick in keeper leagues. His only benefit in 2011 could be as a red-zone threat, which is an area where Kansas City struggled last season.
The Chiefs had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL last year, but this season things get a little tougher. The season starts out easy with matchups against Buffalo and Indianapolis in the first five weeks, but it progressively gets difficult as the year goes on, including a five-game stretch at New England, Chicago and the Jets and home against Pittsburgh and Green Bay. You're not going to bench Charles during those matchups, but you can't expect him to dominate like he will against most other opponents.
Training camp topics
The Chiefs know who their go-to guys are on offense in Cassel, Charles and Bowe. Jones will be a significant contributor, Moeaki has plenty of potential at tight end and Baldwin will be worked into the mix heavily.
But one player in Kansas City needs to make a dramatic improvement this season, and that's second-year receiver Dexter McCluster. He was terrible as a rookie in 2010 with fewer than 300 total yards and one touchdown. He had just 18 carries and 21 receptions.
McCluster could see more time at running back this year to help give him extra touches, but he needs to be more productive with the ball in his hands. Fantasy owners should avoid him in the majority of leagues on Draft Day, but if he plays well early in the season then he is worth adding off the waiver wire.
Brad Cottam (neck; questionable for the start of training camp)
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