The Kansas City Chiefs, with Patrick Mahomes at the helm, have been a powerhouse in the AFC. The team made the AFC Championship Game following the 2018 season, losing out to Tom Brady and the Patriots. They returned in 2019, going all the way to the Super Bowl and winning. In 2020, they made it back and won the AFC Championship Game again before falling to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.
In 2021, with Mahomes at the helm and Andy Reid on the sidelines again, the Chiefs figure to be a competitor for the Super Bowl once again. The team has also been gold in fantasy—at least at the top. But can the team produce more fantasy gold from more players in 2021? Let’s look at the candidates.
The Chiefs’ offense has long been paced by two of the best pass-catchers in the game, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce finished as the leagues’ top tight end in 2020, catching 105 passes for 1,416 yards and 11 TDs. Hill finished as WR2 with 87 receptions for 1,276 yards and 15 TDs. The next best finisher? Mecole Hardman, who finished as WR61.
The Chiefs have one of the best offenses in the NFL, but it’s been hard to pinpoint fantasy value beyond Hill and Kelce. The team added Sammy Watkins in 2018, and many figured he’d be a key contributor, but it never materialized. Watkins moved on to the Ravens this off-season, and while the Chiefs dabbled with adding a high-profile receiver, it never happened. So, the question is what to expect from the rest of the receivers back in 2021.
Hardman finished as the second-best receiver for fantasy on the Chiefs in 2020. The Chiefs currently have 17 receivers on the roster—including Hill and Hardman—but only a handful seem like possible candidates to have a meaningful role. The best bet is Hardman, who was taken No. 56 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he caught 26 passes for 538 yards and six TDs. In 2020, he caught 41 passes for 560 yards and four TDs. He was third on the team with 62 targets. Now, in year three, he seems poised for a larger role, especially with Watkins no longer on the team.
Another potential candidate is veteran DeMarcus Robinson, who the Chiefs keep bringing back. He finished as WR70 and will be in his sixth season with the Chiefs. Each of the past two seasons, he’s seen 55-plus targets, getting 59 in 2020. He turned that into 45 receptions for 466 yards and three TDs. He is a prime candidate, along with Hardman, to see an increase in targets in the absence of Watkins.
Additionally, the three other receivers on the Chiefs’ roster with potential in Byron Pringle, Tajae Sharpe, and rookie Cornell Powell. The first up is Pringle, who joined the Chiefs in 2019 as well. He has seen limited work but made the most of opportunities. He saw 16 targets as a rookie, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. In 2020, he saw 17 targets, catching 13 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. He’d need to see a lot more regular targets to take a step forward but being on the field for the Chiefs gives someone a chance.
Sharpe was the lone free agent receiver of consequence added this off-season. He’s no lock for production—or even to make the team—but he’s had flashes in the past. Sharpe was taken in the 2016 draft by the Titans, catching 92 passes for 1,167 yards and eight TDs in three seasons. In 2020 he was with the Vikings but didn’t do much. Sharpe’s most prodigious season was his rookie year, so it’s more of a long shot that he can get back to that level.
Finally, there’s the rookie Powell. Any time the Chiefs take a receiver in the draft raises an eyebrow, but Powell was a late fifth-round selection out of Clemson without an incredible resume. He played five seasons in Clemson, catching 93 passes for 1,211 yards and 10 touchdowns. His best year was 2020, where he caught 53 passes for 882 yards and seven TDs. If he impresses in camp, Powell could make it on the field and find a role in this offense.
The Chiefs figure to remain a high-octane offense in the NFL and for fantasy in 2021. I expect Kelce to finish as the top tight end and Hill to be a Top 3 receiver again. But what about the rest? Watkins played only 10 games but saw 55 targets. How those get re-distributed will tell a lot about the fantasy value in this pass offense beyond Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce.
Hardman is currently sitting at an ADP of WR58. That’s slightly over his finish in 2020, but not incredibly high if you think he’s in line to take a big step forward in 2021. He saw 62 targets a year ago, and if he goes into the 80-90 target range as a true third option in the passing game, he could be in the WR3/4 discussion, returning the value. He’s the receiver I would bet on if I’m picking one of the candidates beyond Hill to be a value for fantasy, and I think he could be a decent week-to-week flex-start.
As for the rest, I’m interested in Powell late in drafts, especially if I have a Taxi Squad. I think he could have a role in the future. The rest feel like true dart throws, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Robinson has another WR60-75 season in 2021, giving a few games where he returns flex value. The problem is guessing which games those will be.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.