by Jonathan Scott
Over the next few days we will be taking a look at the eight teams in the NFL that made coaching changes in the off-season and how that might affect the dynasty fantasy outlook of the offensive players on those teams. Numerous factors go into the success/failure of a team and coach but we’ll be primarily looking at just a few for each team. Murdering other people in the off season will not be one of those factors considered. The first coach we’ll look at is the most experienced – long time Eagles coach and new Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
PERSONNEL / X’s and O’s
Many things can be and have been said about Andy Reid but what can’t be argued is his offenses can produce. Reid has been a mastermind at putting his star players in a position to succeed. The best part is he’s position agnostic – quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs have all been the stars of his offensive attack. This year should be no different.
The star of this offense, for at least 2-3 years, should be Jamaal Charles. Reid should love the type of speed and versatility he brings. For years the Eagles were known as a screen heavy team in comparison to the rest of the league and there is every reason to think this team will be no different. Versatile running backs with good hands, vision, and speed as well as light, quick offensive lineman are necessary for the screen game to succeed in Kansas City and the good news is, well, we’re half-way there. Charles is the type of multi-dimensional back that can run between the tackles, bounce it off tackle for a home run, or be a heavy proponent in the passing game. Currently, Charles sits at #7 in dynasty rankings.
The offensive line, however, is a work in progress. Truth be told the only lineman even considered large is Geoff Schwartz weighing in at about 340. The rest of the line is light, athletic, and fits the mold Reid is looking for but are extremely young and lacking experience. With three linemen under the age of 24 and the oldest being former first round pick Brandon Albert at the age of 28, they are going to have to gel, and fast. If Andy Reid is as good at coaching lineman as his reputation states then this could be a top 15 offense for a few years. If they have trouble getting on the same page with Alex Smith (a notorious perfectionist who needs to trust what he sees) then this offense could have stagnant periods. With Rodney Hudson already being pushed for his starting spot at center after starting OTA’s and Training Camp as the starter, things aren’t off to a flying start.
Expect a pretty big year out of Dwayne Bowe as well. Reid has a penchant for using big, physical receivers in the way big, physical receivers should be used. Drags across the line of scrimmage, nine routes off tight coverage, and crossing routes letting them use their bodies to box out smaller DB’s. Not only does Bowe excel at these types of routes but Smith is excellent at the 15-18 yard dig/in cut and fade routes/deep balls. Smith will need a clean pocket and plenty of time to see the dragging receiver come across the line of scrimmage to make that throw accurately and on time. With this offensive line that may not be something that is afforded to him. Still, two out of three ain’t bad right? Bowe currently projects as the 15th top dynasty receiver.
As for the other receivers, Jonathan Baldwin has yet to prove he’s a viable wide receiver in the NFL despite having the physical traits scouts kill for. If he doesn’t do it this year I’m afraid he’ll never do it. Dexter McCluster could be fun for a gadget play here or there and a good third down option against safeties out of the slot but his lack of strength really limits his ceiling in this offense. I don’t expect any wide receiver to take a HUGE leap in this offense but if one does I would place my money on Donnie Avery. Injury history aside, with a competent coaching staff and a clean bill of health he has shown in the past he can at least be a contributor. He offers the one thing no one else on this roster can which is straight line, take the top off the offense speed if played tight on the line of scrimmage. He’ll play a role one way or another on this team. If anything take a flyer on him and, if he stays healthy for four or five weeks and puts up numbers, immediately flip him for an asset or pick. Let’s face, Avery will get hurt at some point. Currently, there are no other Chief receivers in the top 70.
At tight end there isn’t a lot to get excited about. Fasano is the obvious in line guy with blocking duties and occasional bootleg action on the goal line but expecting anything more. The real “battle” here is between Travis Kelce and Tony Moeaki. With the trade rumors floating around Moeaki you have to think his days are numbered. Between his sketchy health (had another knee surgery this off season) and a ready-made, younger, cheaper replacement already in house, I’d be willing to bet he gets traded. If you’re going to take a chance on someone here make it Kelce but really, if you’re taking chances on a Kansas City tight end you get what you deserve. Kelce is currently the 18th ranked tight end in dynasty ranks due to this age and the clear path to starting.
THE WILD CARD
Alex Smith, although not an uber-talented quarterback, has a skill set that Andy Reid values and can use to make the offense function. And the key word here is function. Without being disrespectful to the other quarterbacks that have played under Reid, I believe it’s safe to say Smith is going to be the smartest one he’s had and have the fullest grasp of the playbook that any of them has had. People will line up in the correct places, check with me’s will be a big part of the offense and, 99 percent of the time, Smith will make the right audible and get them in the right play. Despite that I want to stress there is a HUGE difference between grasping the entire playbook and being able to execute the entire playbook. Smith will not be able to throw from far hashes to the far sideline and he won’t be able to hit deep plays longer than 60 yards. His arm shrinks the field for the defense without them having to try to do it themselves. Luckily the one way to stop a defense from squatting on a quarterback with a below average arm is get them on the move with bootlegs and counters. Smith is an extremely athletic quarterback and insanely accurate outside the pocket who can keep a defense honest by utilizing these skills. When the Chiefs offense has the ball between the 20’s I would expect a lot of screen action and bootleg action to generate wide open receivers down field that Smith can hit with ease. The flip side is Smith is notorious for holding onto the ball too long in the pocket and taking unnecessary sacks instead of getting rid of the ball. He is a tough guy who can take a hit but he also refuses to take a risk when pressured. Smith currently stands at 27th quarterback dynasty ranks. He’s only under contact for two more years with rookie Tyler Bray quietly climbing the depth chart.
This doesn’t sound like a lot to be excited about but we are taking a non-functional quarterback and coaching staff in Kansas City in 2011 and replacing them with above average representations for both. This should equal a big boost in numbers and opportunities for Charles, Bowe, and the other starved Chiefs skill position players. A jump from the 32nd offense in the league to the 18th offense in the league is still the same relative jump from the 18th offense to a top 5 offense.
I think of all of the coaches hired this year Andy Reid will have the biggest positive impact fantasy-wise. He has big play options at running back and receiver with that fit his style and offense. I expect a big season out of Charles and would target him as a RB1 option if he just happens to be available for trade in your dynasty league. Bowe finally got paid and looks to be happy. By all accounts he’s also a hard worker who takes pride in his craft. He continues to be a low tier WR1 or high tier WR2 in my eyes. The offensive line, although not perfect, is athletic enough to execute the type of blocking scheme and second level attacking that Reid loves in his offense and should get better as the year goes on with the youth they have. He’s also getting a substantial upgrade at quarterback in Alex Smith, a relatively weak division with the AFC West (Hello Chargers and Raiders!), and a team that already has six Pro Bowlers on the roster, albeit mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Add it all up and it’s easy to see the Chiefs going from an absolute train wreck of an offense last year to a middle of the pack, respectable offense in 2013.