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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Kansas City Chiefs

Senior Fantasy Writer
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After Romeo Crennel took over the Chiefs on an interim basis and led them to a 2-1 finish last year -- including the only regular-season win a team had against the Packers -- he became the head coach. He brought in Brian Daboll to run the offense and took control of the defense himself. With his new gig came a roster full of intrigue -- and headache.

No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe has been absent from offseason programs and workouts after getting hit with the franchise tag in the spring. Signs point to him signing his one-year deal in time for training camp, but some concern over his commitment to the team tempers his expectations even though he's potentially in a contract year for the second straight season ... not that it did him any good last season when he scored five touchdowns after catching 15 the year prior. His return to not only the Chiefs' camp but to statistical prowess is paramount if there's success to be had in Kansas City.

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ACL injuries crippled three prominent Chiefs last fall, none larger than running back Jamaal Charles. He, tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry are expected to be ready for camp following offseason surgeries and rehab, but all eyes will be on Charles. He's talked a big game this offseason saying that missing all of last year made him hungry to beat expectations. Assuming he doesn't miss much time in training camp, he should be ready to be an effective contributor for the Chiefs right away. The Chiefs sorely missed him last season, scoring a second-worst five rushing touchdowns and averaging a paltry 3.9 yards per carry (only four teams averaged fewer yards per rush). The additions of running back Peyton Hillis and right tackle Eric Winston should help the Chiefs run game improve.

Charles wasn't the only key offensive member to get hurt as Matt Cassel broke his hand in Week 10 and missed the rest of the season. He's healed and ready for camp but the pressure is on him to perform. Over 39 starts in Kansas City, Cassel has completed 693 of 1,212 passes (57.1 pct.) for 7,753 yards (6.4 yards per attempt) with 53 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. That isn't great, especially after posting better numbers in New England replacing Tom Brady in 2008 (63.4 completion percentage, 7.2 yards per attempt). Cassel must improve his accuracy and get the most out of all of his receivers in a year where everyone's learning a new offense. It won't be easy.

Things are better on the defensive side of the ball. Crennel's crew not only gets Berry back to patrol the backfield but also added cornerback Stanford Routt to replace Brandon Carr and drafted big nose tackle Dontari Poe. Pass rusher Tamba Hali has 26.5 of the team's 68 sacks over the last two seasons -- someone else has to emerge to disrupt opposing passers or else the Chiefs will become doormats in a division that includes Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and now Peyton Manning.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Matt Cassel ND
Running Backs
Jamaal Charles 4
Peyton Hillis 8
Wide Receivers
Dwayne Bowe 6
Jon Baldwin 12
Steve Breaston ND
Tight Ends
Kevin Boss ND
Tony Moeaki ND
Kickers/Defense
Ryan Succop ND
Chiefs DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Bust ... Jamaal Charles, running back
Unless you've been living under a rock you've known that Charles tore his ACL last September and will have rehabbed for 10 months when camp opens. It's already tough enough expecting a running back who tore his ACL to play to his pre-injury level, but Charles will additionally split reps with Hillis, who Charles said will work in the offense like Thomas Jones used to. To refresh your memory, Jones had more carries and more rushing touchdowns than Charles did in his breakout 2010 season. That's not to say Charles won't have plenty of opportunities throughout the year, but between Hillis' arrival, a new offense and the knee potentially limiting his speed (we'll have to see how fast he is in camp), Charles isn't quite the Fantasy darling he was a season ago. The later you can find him in drafts, the better off you are if you decide to take a shot on him.

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Sleeper ... Peyton Hillis, running back
If you don't like the risk of taking Charles in the early portion of your draft, you might like the idea of going with Hillis several rounds later. Hillis reunites with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in Kansas City just two years after Daboll helped Hillis total over 1,600 total yards and 13 touchdowns in Cleveland. The playbook familiarity there is a big plus for Hillis, who should see at the very least 10 touches per game, including short-yardage and goal-line work. And after last year's meltdown in Cleveland he's probably learned a thing or two about how to handle himself in a contract year. Perhaps this time he'll spend more time putting up numbers and less time venting. Hillis is far from the game-breaking speedster Charles is hoped to be, but he should be a good Draft Day bargain. Look for him starting in Round 8.

Late-round flier ... Jon Baldwin, wide receiver
Fantasy owners are hoping for Baldwin to have more games like he had versus the Chargers last season (five catches, 82 yards, one touchdown) and less games like he had against everyone else in the league (an average of 1.6 catches and 17.2 yards in his other 10 games). Crennel said the key to Baldwin is maturing as a player and as a person, and according to offseason reports he's done exactly that. Baldwin has reportedly starred at workouts, getting extra attention with Bowe absent, and has stepped up his work ethic in anticipation of a starting spot. Receivers with 6-foot-4 frames and excellent ability to jump high for a pass aren't easy to come by late in drafts, but Baldwin will be there. He's a decent low-risk gamble in case he can get off to a good start this season against the Falcons, Bills and Saints in Weeks 1 through 3.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
ATL @BUF @NO SD BAL @TB bye OAK @SD @PIT CIN DEN CAR @CLE @OAK IND @DEN

Let's start at the end, where the Chiefs have the best late-season schedule of anyone in the NFL. Their final five games: Carolina at home, Cleveland and Oakland on the road, Indy at home and Denver on the road in Week 17. Even better, that Carolina game is the last of a three-game homestand to set up that finish, so there's a lot to like about Chiefs star players long-term. It's a little rough before then with matchups at New Orleans, vs. Baltimore and back-to-back road tilts at San Diego and Pittsburgh, but those are small prices to pay for what amounts to a promising schedule.

Training camp topics

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Dexter McCluster 114 carries, 46 catches
Thomas Jones 153 carries, 5 catches
Jackie Battle 149 carries, 9 catches
Dwayne Bowe 81 catches, 1 carry
Steve Breaston 61 catches, 1 carry

The hotter topics in Chiefs camp -- Charles' return from injury, Hillis' impact on the run game, the attendance of Dwayne Bowe -- have already been brought up. There isn't a white-hot camp battle for a starting job that will have massive Fantasy implications. Even the defense's starters are pretty much set.

But that's not to say there aren't battles going on. Second-year passer Ricky Stanzi and veteran Brady Quinn will compete to back up Matt Cassel. Newcomer Kevin Boss, a Raider in 2011, will provide depth at the tight end spot and push Tony Moeaki for the starting job. And Steve Breaston will fight for playing time with Jon Baldwin, Dexter McCluster (who is on the verge of moving back to receiver) and rookie Devon Wylie.

The biggest topic in Kansas City: Will the Chiefs have enough to run with their division opponents. The Chargers averaged 25.4 points per game and the Raiders averaged 22.4 points per game. The Broncos averaged 19.3 points per game and that wasn't with Peyton Manning at quarterback. The Chiefs averaged a paltry 13.2 points per game in 2011 while their defense allowed an AFC West-best 21.1 points per game. The defense should have its act together -- it's up to the offense to do the same.

Injury update

Jamaal Charles (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Matt Cassel (hand; probable for the start of training camp) ... Eric Berry (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Tony Moeaki (knee; probable for the start of training camp).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Panthers hope A.J. Klein will be 'ready to roll' Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:24 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters Monday he hopes linebacker A.J. Klein will be "ready to roll" come Week 17 against Atlanta, per the team's official website. Klein missed Sunday's game against the Browns with a knee injury. He has 39 combined tackles and two forced fumbles on the year.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera: De'Andre Presley has a concussion
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters Monday that wide receiver De'Andre Presley suffered a concussion in Week 16 against Cleveland. He will be in the league-mandated protocol leading up to Week 17 against Atlanta. He was targeted just once before departing on Sunday. He has yet to catch a pass this season.

Seahawks unsure if Jermaine Kearse will play regular season finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:17 pm ET) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters he's unsure if wide receiver Jermaine Kearse will play Week 17 against St. Louis, according to the Everett Herald.

Kearse left Week 16 against Arizona with a hamstring injury. He caught one pass for 8 yards before leaving the contest. Through 15 games, Kearse has 38 catches for 537 yards and one touchdown. Paul Richardson should see an increase in playing time if Kearse can't play.

The Seahawks are a 12-point home favorite against St. Louis.


Report: Bills part ways with WR Mike Williams on Monday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:10 pm ET) The Bills have released wide receiver Mike Williams on Monday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Williams landed on injured reserve on Dec. 8 with a calf injury but appears to be fully recovered. He had only eight catches for 142 yards and one touchdown with Buffalo this season.

Eagles QB Nick Foles will not play season finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:06 pm ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said during his Monday news conference that quarterback Nick Foles will not play Sunday's season finale against the Giants, per the Delaware News Journal. Foles left Week 9 with the injury and has not been able to return. With the Eagles out of playoff contention, his season ends with 2,163 passing yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Panthers will make final decision on Frank Alexander on Monday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:00 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters he will make a decision on adding defensive end Frank Alexander to the 53-man active roster on Monday, per the Associated Press. Alexander has been reinstated from his 10-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Monday is the Alexander's deadline to be added to an active roster.

Alexander had 15 total tackles in 2013 with one sack.


Panthers to stick with RB Jonathan Stewart vs. Falcons
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:56 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters during his Monday news conference that he'll stick with running back Jonathan Stewart moving forward, per the Associated Press. Stewart's running mate, DeAngelo Williams, has sat out three straight games with a hands injury. Over the last four weeks, Stewart has rushed for 437 yards, which is the most by any running back in the NFL.

The Panthers will travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons for the NFC South title. Carolina is currently a 3 1/2-point underdog in Week 17.


Panthers' Rivera: Cam Newton came out of game in good health
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:47 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters Monday that early indications are that quarterback Cam Newton came out of Sunday's game against the Browns in good health, per the team's official website.

Newton, who came off two small fractures in his back sustained in a car accident, completed 18 of 31 for 201 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for 63 yards and another score on 12 attempts.

Newton and the Panthers will travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons for the NFC South title. Carolina is currently a 3 1/2-point underdog in Week 17.


Cardinals RB situation a complete mess now
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:38 pm ET) Whether it was because he was limited in practice by a knee injury leading up to the game or because the Cardinals fell behind early and needed more of a pass blocker in the backfield, running back Kerwynn Williams, who had performed admirably the previous two weeks, totaling 175 yards on the ground, was hardly a factor Week 16 against Seattle, getting two carries for 4 yards.

Instead, Stepfan Taylor was the lead ball carrier. Of course, he wasn't so effective in the role, picking up 19 yards on 11 carries, but that's bound to happen for any running back going against the Seahawks. He did at least have 25 yards on two catches. Marion Grice and Robert Hughes also each got a carry, but they haven't been as much of a factor with Andre Ellington out.

Williams seems to be the best rusher of the group and the one you'd prefer to see get the carries in Fantasy, but if the Cardinals are that willing to abandon him when the score isn't in their favor, you can never feel confident playing him in Fantasy. Especially now that the Cardinals are down to their third quarterback, the score isn't going to be in their favor so often.

Week 17 at San Francisco should be a more competitive game, but given that the 49ers are tough against the run as well, you should probably pass on Williams for the season's final week.


Lions DT Nick Fairley (knee) ditches crutches
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:38 pm ET) Lions coach Jim Caldwell told reporters defensive tackle Nick Fairley is "making good progress" in his recovering from knee injury, per the team's official website. Fairley is no longer in crutches and is not a candidate to land on injured reserve "at this precise moment."

Fairley was stretchered off in Week 8 against the Falcons with the injury. He totaled 14 tackles and one forced fumble.


 
 
 
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