July 16, 2008
The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings rely on hard, incontrovertible math. There are algorithms at work. This stuff is peer-reviewed. Seasons are simulated. You can't argue with science, so don't even try...
If there's anything that we in the fantasy community can do to facilitate the immediate Chiefification of Brett Favre, we'll do it. Cheerfully. Today. With verve.
That's not to say it would be the right move for the team, necessarily. Kansas City is rebuilding, and they're not simply one player away from Super Bowl contention...even if the player is an elite quarterback. This is not quite the Joe Montana scenario.
Still, we'd all feel better about the Chiefs' skill position players if Favre were under center, behind that sketchy offensive line. Kansas City is home to our No. 8 running back (Larry Johnson), our No. 22 wide receiver (Dwayne Bowe), and our No. 4 tight end (Tony Gonzalez). The Yahoo! experts composite rankings are not without Chiefs, but the team's fantasy potential is compromised in part by the quarterback situation.
(And yeah, it's ridiculous that you can't get 20 words into a fantasy preview about an AFC team without reading, again, about Brett Favre. But that's the world you inhabit, American. Please adjust).
Brodie Croyle is a strong-armed, winless 25-year-old. He managed to top 200 passing yards in just one of his six starts last season, and he needed 43 attempts to get there. Croyle averaged only 5.48 yards per pass attempt for the year. Just to give you a few points of reference, Vince Young averaged 6.66, Favre averaged 7.77, and Tom Brady averaged 8.31. You're not drafting Croyle, except in two-quarterback leagues.
It should of course be noted that he received very little help from his O-line. They allowed a league-worst 55 sacks, and they were poor run-blockers. They did, however, become very skilled at assisting quarterbacks to their feet. The Chiefs added an exceptional lineman in the NFL Draft, Virginia guard Branden Albert, and he's expected to move to tackle as a rookie. Here's Rivals' assessment:
He has all the tools to dominate as both a run and pass blocker at the next level. He also projects to left tackle because of his impressive physical talent. He is the best guard prospect since Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson from the 2001 NFL Draft class.
The Chiefs had an excellent draft, adding not only Albert, but also DT Glenn Dorsey and CB Brandon Flowers. Those three should contribute in Week 1, though not directly in fantasy leagues.
But let's return to the Chiefs' offensive line, which is like a big, scary experiment. Here are a few details from the Yahoo! Chiefs Team Report:
Only (LG Brian) Waters, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, has extended time at his position. All four others have little or no NFL time at their spots ... (Damion) McIntosh was a capable left tackle for nine seasons before being shifted to the right side for the first time in his career. (Adrian) Jones was primarily a tackle for coach Herm Edwards’ Jets, but has seen spot play up and down the line and will be tried at right guard.
So there are a few deck chairs being rearranged.
It dims enthusiasm for Larry Johnson, though LJ has declared that he's recovered from the foot injury suffered in a two-touchdown performance against the Packers in Week 9: "Body-wise, I’m 100 percent."
Draft-wise, I'm not letting him fall past the 10th overall pick.
Johnson's current ADP at Mock Draft Central is 10.39. There was never any question about whether LJ's performance was going to decline in 2007, considering the changes on the line. You still have to like him for fantasy purposes, however, because his share of the workload is so great. (Hello, Chan Gailey). In last year's disappointing eight-game season, Johnson still had three 100-yard rushing efforts and four TDs.
You'll definitely need to care about the handcuff situation if you invest in LJ. Kolby Smith was serviceable in Johnson's absence, though he had his only truly useful game against the Raiders' abysmal rush defense. We've actually ranked small-ish rookie Jamaal Charles slightly higher than Smith. Charles' official 40 time at the scouting combine was 4.38, so the home-run potential is there. Still, the Chiefs running back hierarchy isn't perfectly clear just yet. If you draft LJ, you may need to handcuff the handcuff.
Bowe and Gonzalez are the Chiefs' draft-worthy receiving threats. In an average league they're taken within a few picks of one another, near the end of Round 6. Gonzalez's ADP is 59.68, while Bowe's is 61.78. There are no credible threats among the WR2 candidates. Devard Darling, Jeff Webb and rookie Will Franklin are in the mix, though none are likely to achieve fantasy relevance in '08. With Croyle at the controls, you can expect the passing yardage to be modest, and Bowe, Gonzlez and LJ to own most of it.
Last season's numbers for the 4-12 Chiefs were particularly ugly. They were last in average rushing yards, next-to-last in points per game and rushing TDs, and they had very few red zone possessions. They could improve significantly in those categories and still not be league-average. Thus, it's tough to rank them higher than 22, despite the marquee names.
But again, if you were to add another familiar name, perhaps an un-retiring 38-year-old quarterback, well...
2007 Kansas City team stats
Rushing: 78.0 Y/G
Passing: 220.3 Y/G
Points per game: 14.1
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 35, 17
'08 Schedule strength: .453
The rest of the Index...