Every offseason the fantasy experts make a series of “bold predictions,” but they often turn out to be pretty ordinary assumptions. That won’t be the case with this recurring column, as I’m going to take chances that I haven’t seen any other fantasy pundits take. I know there is a solid chance that I’ll swing and miss with these predictions, but in the end I have a good feeling they’ll come true. Here is a bold call for the Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs D/ST will finish outside of the Top 20 at the position.
D/ST is one of the more overlooked positions on a fantasy football roster, but history tells us that the elite ones can actually rank amongst some of the top players at RB, WR, and TE. The Chiefs burst out of the gate last season, starting 9-0 mostly because of their defense and special teams. In fact, the Chiefs D/ST was averaging just under 16 points per game over the first 9 weeks of the season. SIXTEEN! They cooled off in the second half of the season after both Justin Houston and Tamba Hali were injured, but they recovered to put up weeks of 27 and 14 points just in time for the fantasy postseason. By the end of the year, the Chiefs D/ST was good enough to be the 10th best RB, 11th best WR, and 2nd best TE. So then, why am I telling you not to start or even draft the Chiefs D/ST for your fantasy team in 2014?
First, D/ST performances fluctuate from year to year more so than any other position. Yes, units like the Seahawks D/ST are a pretty safe bet to finish near the top of the rankings, but they might be the only one who can make that claim. Remember before last season when the Texans D/ST was projected to be among the best in the league like they were in 2012? Well, they finished the season as the 29th ranked D/ST. I’m not sure if the Chiefs D/ST will fall that far in 2014, but I do think their stock will plummet.
The Chiefs D/ST was undoubtedly great over the first half of the season in 2013, but here is the list of quarterbacks they went up against: Blaine Gabbert, Tony Romo, Mike Vick, Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrelle Pryor, Case Keenum, and Jeff Tuel. Yikes. This year they have to face Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Colin Kaepernick within the first five weeks of the season, so we’ll figure out sooner than later if they can handle top quarterbacks.
But more importantly, the personnel of the D/ST just aren’t as good or healthy as they were in 2013. Yes, they do have studs in Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson, and Eric Berry. And when at their best, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston can be included in that group as well. But they both sustained injuries late in 2013 and saw their production dip. Hali also reported to camp overweight, while Houston is in a contract dispute with the team. Still, pass rush is not the key concern for the Chiefs defense; the secondary is in for a potentially nightmarish season. Berry is one of the best safeties in the league, but a great safety cannot singlehandedly keep a secondary afloat. The downfall of this secondary began late in the 2013 season and it was on display for the nation to watch during their collapse in the postseason, when they gave up 45 points to the Colts and blew a 28 point lead in the process. To make matters worse, the secondary is even worse now than it was then. Brandon Flowers, their best cornerback in 2013, was released to create cap space. The other starting cornerback, Sean Smith, was arrested for a DUI in the offseason and has been mediocre in training camp. Now, they are stuck with the completely unproven duo of Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker as their starters.
The Chiefs pass defense could be due for a historically bad year in 2014, which is the best path towards fantasy football mediocrity for a D/ST. Their 11 touchdowns scored last season was also an extreme outlier in the history of the D/ST position. If the unit had scored only 7 touchdowns, which was the second highest total by a D/ST last season, then they would have been ranked 6th at their position as opposed to 3rd. 7 touchdowns is also probably a farfetched expectation for the Chiefs D/ST in 2014, because Tamba Hali and Justin Houston would need to both produce at a Pro Bowl level again for that to happen. Return ace Dexter McCluster also scored 2 of the 11 touchdowns through punt returns, but he left for Tennessee in free agency. To sum this all up, you’ll be better off just leaving the Chiefs D/ST entirely off of your draft board.