The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
The Chiefs with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes have been a safe bet to dominate the AFC West and make a playoff run over the past few years. The 2021 season was a little different, in that the Chiefs struggled at times, but it all ended the same. The Chiefs won the AFC West, won a huge Divisional Round battle with the Buffalo Bills and made it to the AFC Championship Game. There, the Chiefs fell short to the Cincinnati Bengals, narrowly missing out on their third straight Super Bowl berth. The question for 2022 is whether they can do it again.
The biggest change for the Chiefs is at receiver, where Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Hill was one of the top receivers in the league in 2021, seeing 159 targets and catching 111 passes for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns. That was good enough to be WR6. It leaves big shoes to fill, which the Chiefs will likely approach by committee, using a mix of newly signed veterans and drafted players.
The Chiefs signed a pair of veterans at receiver—Juju Smith-Schuster from the Steelers and Marquez Valdes-Scantling from the Packers. Smith-Schuster battled injuries last season but is only a year removed from finishing as WR16 in 2020. MVS has historically been a big-play receiver for Aaron Rodgers and could do some of the same for Mahomes. He caught 123 passes for 2,153 yards and 13 touchdowns in four years in Green Bay.
Not content, the Chiefs attacked receiver in the NFL Draft as well, snagging Skyy Moore out of Western Kentucky. Moore caught 95 passes for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2021. He gives the Chiefs yet another weapon as they re-load for Mahomes.
The team also re-loaded in the backfield, signing Ronald Jones, who played previously for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Chiefs still roster Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a First-Round pick in the 2020 Draft, but Jones gives them depth and another backfield weapon. During the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl season of 2020, Jones rushed for 978 yards and seven touchdowns, finishing as RB20.
On defense, the Chiefs lost Charvarius Ward to the 49ers and Tyrann Mathieu to the Saints but re-loaded with Justin Reid at safety and defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
It all starts with Mahomes, one of the top quarterbacks in the game. He finished as QB4 in a “down” year in 2021. He’s a lock to finish Top 5 again and is one of the best assets in re-draft and dynasty. So, too, is tight end Travis Kelce. He finished as TE2 in 2021 and figures to be in line for another healthy workload in 2022. Those two are locks and players for whom you have to pay a premium at their positions.
The bigger questions come at running back and wide receiver. To the RBs first, it’s about CEH and Jones. CEH entered the league with lofty expectations but it has yet to materialize. After a decent rookie campaign, CEH managed 517 yards and four touchdowns on 119 carries in 2021. He finished as RB42. I’m starting to suspect that he’ll never be the bell cow some expected after the draft. He’s going as RB26 while Jones is going as RB41. Neither ADP is terrible, but Jones feels like the better value to me. I suspect both end up in the low-end RB3 range with CEH catching more passes and Jones ending up getting more goal line work.
The receiver situation is equally murky. Smith-Schuster, MVS and Moore will all compete for targets with Mecole Hardman, now entering his fourth season. I suspect Smith-Schuster will be the best finisher, likely in the high-end WR3 range. He’s going as WR34, which feels right. MVS finished as WR76 in 2021, and while he’ll likely have a bigger role in Kansas City, he feels like a WR5/6 to me. Moore is another interesting target. In dynasty leagues, I loved him as a top rookie pick but his stock rose to a point where it won’t return value in 2022. His 2022 ADP is WR55 overall, which feels right. I think he cracks the Top 50, but he won’t be THE guy in 2022. To me, that leaves Hardman on the outside looking in again. He saw 83 targets in 2021 but I’m not sold he sees even that much volume in 2022.
Losing Hill is a blow, but it might also be a reflection of a strategy. In 2021, the Chiefs struggled at times because defenses adjusted to focusing on Hill and Kelce. With more weapons, while the Chiefs don’t have a single receiver with Hill’s skill, as a group it might lead to a better approach. But offense was never the Chiefs’ only problem. The defense is more of a question and the AFC West has gotten much tougher. I think the Chiefs are still a playoff team, but I suspect it will be a Wild Card berth.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.