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Offseason Primers: Kansas City Chiefs

Senior Fantasy Writer
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You've heard it before, but the NFL has become a passing league. For every team but Kansas City it appears.

Can Alex Smith solve that problem? The Chiefs traded for Smith from the 49ers this offseason, and he's expected to be the starter. But he has a lot of work to do to turn this passing game around.

The Chiefs had eight passing touchdowns in 2012. No, that's not a mistake. Eight. Matt Cassel threw six, and Brady Quinn provided the other two. To put that in some context, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdown passes in Week 6 at Houston by himself.

2012 Touches Leaders
975 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Jamaal Charles 320 (285 car., 35 rec.) 32.8%
Peyton Hillis 95 (85 car., 10 rec.) 9.7%
Shaun Draughn 83 (59 car., 24 rec.) 8.5%
Dexter McCluster 64 (12 car., 52 rec.) 6.5%
Dwayne Bowe 59 rec. 6.0%
All Others 354 36.3%

The passing game in Kansas City was obviously a mess, with Dwayne Bowe disappointing and then hurt, and no secondary receiving option stepping up. Cassel was eventually benched for Quinn, and the Chiefs closed the season without a touchdown pass in their final four games.

Now, there was one lone bright spot -- Jamaal Charles. That is, when former coach Romeo Crennel remembered he was on the team. Charles bounced back from a torn ACL in 2011 and returned as an elite Fantasy running back. But the offense as a whole struggled, which is a big reason why Crennel was fired after going 2-14.

In comes Andy Reid, who was considered an offensive guru during his 14-year run as the Eagles head coach. He has a lot of work to do, and getting Smith is a start. The Chiefs also locked up their No. 1 receiver by signing Bowe to a five-year contract in March.

Reid now has to find some other weapons for Smith, and we hope he can develop Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster into reliable playmakers along with the additions of Donnie Avery and Anthony Fasano. It's clear the Chiefs can't get by with Bowe as the only legitimate threat in this passing game.

Reid also has to lean on Charles, who is ready for a heavy workload. But he would be much better off with at least some threat of a passing game.

Jamaal Charles -- Coaching impact

2012 Target Leaders
475 pass attempts
Dwayne Bowe 114 24.0%
Dexter McCluster 77 16.2%
Tony Moeaki 56 11.7%
Jamaal Charles 49 10.3%
Jon Baldwin 47 9.8%
All Others 132 27.7%

Charles just had an amazing year in 2012. Coming off a torn ACL, he set career highs in carries (285) and rushing yards (1,509) despite having three games with fewer than 10 carries -- what was Crennel thinking those weeks? When he had 17 or more carries, which happened nine times, he finished with double digits in Fantasy points. He also showed his explosiveness with two games with at least 226 rushing yards. Now he gets Reid as his head coach, and he could turn Charles into a beast. While Reid was in Philadelphia he had three primary running backs in Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. That trio combined for six 1,000-yard rushing seasons, seven 1,500 total-yard seasons, nine seasons with at least 50 catches and five seasons with 10 total touchdowns. The last two times Charles played a full season -- which was 2010 and 2012 -- he had at least 1,700 total yards and six total touchdowns. When you add up everything in his favor it makes Charles a slam-dunk first-round pick in 2013, and he could have a career year.

Dwayne Bowe -- Bust

Bowe returned to the Chiefs as a free agent, and while the decision was good for his bank account, it will not help his Fantasy value. If he left the Chiefs it would have been the best thing for him -- even with the addition of Smith. Bowe was a star in 2010 with 72 catches for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was serviceable in 2011 with 81 catches for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns, but he was terrible last year with 59 catches for 801 yards and three touchdowns. Blame Cassel and Quinn if you want. Blame Crennel and hope the addition of Reid will help, which it should. But Bowe would have been better off with a better quarterback. Smith is not going to help him return to his 2010 form, and there are those around the NFL who questioned how Bowe would do after getting a new contract based on his attitude. He is still worth drafting as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick. And we'd love to sit here and say he's the next Vincent Jackson, who got paid last season and had a tremendous year, but we don't know if Bowe has that same ceiling.

Jon Baldwin, Dexter McCluster -- Late-round flier

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Alex Smith Undrafted
Jamaal Charles 4-10 overall
Peyton Hillis Undrafted
Dwayne Bowe 70-78 overall
Jon Baldwin Undrafted
Dexter McCluster Undrafted
Donnie Avery Undrafted
Tony Moeaki Undrafted
Anthony Fasano Undrafted

Even with Bowe back and the addition of Avery there's a chance one or both of these receivers could play at a high level now that Reid is running the team. Reid should maximize the potential for Baldwin and McCluster -- if they have any. Baldwin has been a bust so far in his career, but this is his third season, which is typically when receivers have a breakout campaign. Through two years, Baldwin has combined for 41 catches, 579 yards and two touchdowns. He failed to reach double digits in Fantasy points in any game in 2012, and he has a lot to prove. McCluster has yet to establish himself as an asset to Fantasy owners, but this might be the year he breaks out. He's entering the final year of his rookie contract, so he has the motivation of a new deal. And McCluster is coming off his best season in 2012 with 52 catches for 452 yards and one touchdown. He also added 12 carries for 70 yards. We don't recommend drafting Baldwin and McCluster in the majority of leagues, but there could be a chance for both to contribute this season, especially under Reid. Keep them on your radar coming into the year.

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

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Player News
Sammy Watkins risky in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) The Bills haven't had a bonafide No. 1 receiver since the days of Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, but rookie Sammy Watkins has the talent to be their best wide receiver since the franchise's Super Bowl era. Sure, Eric Moulds, Lee Evans and Stevie Johnson were fine, but with the right quarterback, Watkins can be special.

Unfortunately, Watkins will be catching passes from second-year signal caller EJ Manuel. The team seems to have little confidence in Manuel being the answer at quarterback just one year after drafting him in the first round. Kyle Orton was pulled out of retirement and handed a pricy one-year deal, and one can easily picture the scenario where he's starting games for the team in November and December.

Will Manuel respond to the job-security threat with elevated play? His best shot is to feed his star rookie early and often. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has made a career off shutting down No. 1 receivers, but he's not the same player at 33 as he was at 25. While he was a plus in coverage as recently as 2012, Tillman struggled on the field between injuries last year. If Watkins had a top-16 quarterback delivering the ball, I'd like him for a big game in Week 1. As it is, Fantasy owners would be best holding off on starting Watkins until the quarterback situation plays itself out for better or for worse.


Fred Jackson may have trouble finding running room in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Bills running back Fred Jackson will face a Bears team in Week 1 that did a terrible job at defending the run last season. However, his Week 1 success may not be as pre-ordained as that of running mate, C.J. Spiller.

Unlike Spiller, Jackson does much of his work without the benefit of big plays, grinding out his numbers by taking what the defense gives rather than providing a home-run threat on any down. While most of the members of the Bears back seven that was responsible for surrendering so many big plays has returned, the team has overhauled the defense line, signing three new defensive ends and drafting two rotational defensive tackles.

Two of those free-agent additions are Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, the two players that graded out as the best 4-3 defensive ends in run stop percentage last season, per Pro Football Focus. With those two players in tow and second-round draft pick Ego Ferguson taking up space in the middle, Jackson could have difficulty converting on short-yardage or goal-line situations.

It's also fair to wonder how many long scoring drives the Bills will be able to put together if Jackson and the offensive line can't stymie the line's potentially improved rush defense. EJ Manuel hasn't done enough at this point in his career to trust his ability to pick defenses apart with his arm. If the Bills have trouble finding the red zone, Jackson could wind up being a Week 1 Flex option Fantasy owners come to regret.


C.J. Spiller could ride big plays to productive Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Bills running back C.J. Spiller has feasted on big plays ever since emerging as a Fantasy weapon. In 2012, he was third in the league in breakaway percentage, a statistic tracked by Pro Football Focus that determines how much of a player's rushing yardage total is accrued on plays of at least 15 yards. Spiller topped the league in the category last season. Clearly, if he can find a seam, he has the ability to wrea havoc on a defense.

Spiller will be squaring off with the Bears on Sunday. Last season, the Bears turned in by far the worst run defense performance in the league. They surrendered 2,583 rushing yards and 5.3 yards per rush, both marks placing them last in the league. They overhauled the defensive line in the offseason as a result, drafting two rotational defensive tackles and signing three defensive ends.

But if those players can't keep Spiller bottled up at the line all game, he's a threat to break a long touchdown or two. While the Bears run defense was obviously porous as a unit, the back seven was particularly offensive, ranking last in Football Outsiders' second-level yardage and open-field yardage statistics. The Bears didn't do much to upgrade those two levels of the defense either, meaning plenty of broken tackles and long gains are there for the taking if Spiller can find a little daylight. He's a trustworthy RB2 in Week 1 and a must-use in any Flex conversations.


EJ Manuel will look to conquer road woes Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Bills quarterback EJ Manuel endured what could at best be described as an uneven rookie season last year. Going 4-6 as a starter, Manuel particularly struggled on the road, where he turned in poor performances against the Jets, Browns, Steelers and Buccaneers before turning in a quality performance against the Jaguars in Week 14, his last game of the season.

Manuel opens this season on the road as well, heading to Soldier Field to take on the Bears Sunday. He'll be facing a new-look Chicago defensive line, rebuilt after the Bears defense struggled to generate a pass rush last season. Whether that pass rush can be effective could be the key to Manuel's success; the quarterback averaged 6.9 yards per attempt when under no pressure last season, but just 5.0 yards per attempt when faced with pressure.

Is there a good reason to start Manuel in Week 1? Not really. Every Fantasy team should be looking at a healthy roster heading into the beginning of the season, and there are anywhere from 14 to 20 QBs worth using over Manuel no matter the matchup. But a good performance in an unfavorable environment against a potentially improved pass rush would go a long way towards making the second-year player Fantasy relevant in 2014.


Patriots claim Don Jones off waivers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Patriots have been awarded safety Don Jones on waivers from the Dolphins and waived offensive lineman Chris Barker in a corresponding move.

The Patriots will likely be looking for some extra insight on their Week 1 opponent after bringing the former Dolphin into the fold. The move leaves the Patriots with six safeties on the roster.


Jets release Ellis Lankster, re-sign A.J. Edds
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Jets released cornerback Ellis Lankster and re-signed inside linebacker A.J. Edds Monday.

Report: Chris Conte to start if medically cleared
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Bears safety Chris Conte will be the team's starting free safety in Sunday's season opener against the Bills, provided he's medically cleared to play, ESPN reports.

Conte has been locked in a position battle with rookie Brock Vereen, and despite suffering a concussion during the team's third preseason game, he's done enough to be named the starter. It wouldn't be surprising to see Vereen overtake Conte in the starting lineup, with the latter grading out as a below-average starter, according to ProFootballFocus.com, who particularly struggles in run support.


Report: Raiders going with Derek Carr over Matt Schaub
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Raiders players have been told the team will start rookie Derek Carr over veteran Matt Schaub at quarterback, reports Fox Sports. Carr threw three touchdown passes in last Thursday's preseason finale while Schaub has battled elbow problems.

Oakland opens the season Sunday at the Jets.


Emmanuel Sanders a strong flex option Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Assuming Wes Welker returns from his concussion and plays Week 1, teammate Emmanuel Sanders still will be a strong flex option. Colts-Broncos is a guaranteed shootout -- the over/under is a whopping 55, highest on the board -- and Peyton Manning can support three productive Fantasy receivers with ease.

Plus, Manning has taken a liking to Sanders. When Sanders debuted in the third preseason game, the duo hooked up for 67- and 29-yard touchdowns in the first half.

"You just throw it as far as you can, and it's hard to outthrow that guy," Manning told the team's website.

Sanders finished with five catches for 128 yards on eight first-half targets, doing most of that before Welker got concussed. Sanders was not 100 percent for that game; he had just come back from a quad injury.

Now Sanders, who started building chemistry with Manning at informal Duke University workouts, "looks ready for the big stage," the website said.

"Peyton puts it on the money," Sanders said. "He takes pride in throwing the perfect football. He takes pride in being perfect all around, in general. He makes my job easy."

Manning is going to help Sanders reach a level he has not hit before, starting Sunday night.

Redskins complete practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Redskins filled out their 10-man practice squad by signing safety Akeem Davis and linebacker Chaz Sutton, reports the Washington Post.

 
 
 
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