A fantasy month without Patrick Mahomes

I don’t care who’s on your team and what NFL things you root for; it’s depressing when the league’s best player gets hurt. I glumly watched the second half of the Chiefs and Broncos Thursday night, wondering if Christmas was canceled.

That’s how soul-crushing a Patrick Mahomes knee injury is.

It's going to be several weeks before we see Patrick Mahomes on a football field again. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
It's going to be several weeks before we see Patrick Mahomes on a football field again. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
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Midday Friday, we welcomed some Mahomes optimism. Maybe we’ll get our toys after all, just with a delay in the delivery.

Adam Schefter is the go-to for NFL news, and this is what he released on Mahomes Friday afternoon:

The Mahomes injury is a fantasy spiderweb, affecting fantasy gamers in several ways. Let’s touch on the three keys prongs now: Mahomes himself, the collateral damage for the Chiefs, and possible QB replacements if you’re in the market for one.

I roster Patrick Mahomes — what do I do?

It’s not convenient, but most gamers with Mahomes will have to tuck him away and play the waiting game. The Chiefs are still in a good spot at 5-2 and likely won’t want to rush him back. Maybe he only needs to rest three games, but it might be prudent to sit him four weeks (Packers, Vikings, at Titans, at Chargers), then toss in the Week 12 bye week. That would set a rested and rehabbed Mahomes for this finishing kick: Oakland, at New England, Denver, at Chicago, and then the Chargers in Week 17. It’s not an easy schedule, but elite offensive talent can overcome most matchups.

Of course, if your playoff spot is in jeopardy, you flip the switch into “now” mode. Mahomes’s future upside is what you sell to your leaguemates as you look to maximize your immediate winning chances. All fantasy advice, now and forever, is contextual.

Coming off a significant injury, Mahomes probably won’t be my QB1, but that’s not a big thing. If he’s on the field, he’s an automatic starter, well inside the start line.

What about the rest of the Kansas City offense?

Ah, what happened to our carnival? Let’s take a good look around the Kansas City locker room:

Travis Kelce’s season has been a mild disappointment, but we can’t call it a total disaster. He’s been TE13 or higher in every week, and he’s been inside the Top 9 on four occasions. This isn’t what you expected when you drafted Kelce, to be fair — there’s only been one smash week and he’s never been the top-scoring tight end in any week. He’s scored just once, after all. But Kelce’s usage has been consistent, even if the Chiefs haven’t unlocked him in the red zone. There’s not much you can do here but hold; even if you take a loss on Kelce this year, it’s unlikely to be anything prohibitive.

Tyreek Hill already has three touchdowns since returning, and it was encouraging to see a long touchdown pass from Matt Moore in the second half Thursday. Hill’s upside with Mahomes is the overall WR1, a goal that probably isn’t realistic without the star quarterback. But I can’t imagine anyone has the type of wideout depth that would allow Hill to be on a fantasy bench. He’ll be in the back half of my Top 10 most weeks, and probably inside the WR15 line even when the matchups look difficult. Hill isn’t really coverable or stoppable, not when he’s healthy.

I have never been your source for Sammy Watkins optimism. You must have me confused with 700 other pundits. Go off to Twitter, seek them out. With Watkins, I do not want what I haven’t got.

Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson were wideouts you wanted because of their neighborhood — the exposure to Mahomes. That’s out the window now. They’re easy drops.

With or without Mahomes, I’ll sign off on anyone’s Damien Williams cut. He’s stuck in a 41-70-1 rut on the ground, averaging 1.7 YPC. His longest run of the year is six piddly yards. Anyone tied to a Reid-Mahomes offense needs to be more explosive than this. As we meander through October, Williams is the Great Pumpkin.

LeSean McCoy is plenty spry for a 31 year old back, punching out 5.4 yards a carry. He’s been ordinary in the passing game, same as Williams. McCoy had a brief second in the doghouse two weeks ago after some random mistakes (a lost fumble, a blocking whiff), but he’s the best back these guys have right now, by default. He’s an unexciting but playable RB2.

I keep holding Darrel Williams in some deeper pools, perhaps a fool’s errand. At least he’s occasionally shown a splash play — a 41-yard run here, a 52-yard catch there. But like the secondary receivers here, the pro-Darrel angle was always tied to the proximity to Mahomes. That’s iced for now.

I’ve run to the waiver wire the second we’ve heard any positive news on Darwin Thompson. But the Chiefs haven’t been proactive with him, so I can’t be, either. Maybe it’s simply a redshirt year for Thompson; study, watch, learn.

What if I need to add a quarterback?

Plenty of options to unpack, so settle in, settlers:

Sam Darnold was terrific in his Week 6 return, and the Jets schedule gets friendly after the Monday showdown with New England. The Jets are already past the bye, and Monday will mark their final Patriots game. It’s getting sunny in New Jersey.

Josh Allen also has the bye in his rear-view mirror, and the immediate schedule is a daisy: Dolphins, Eagles, Redskins, Browns, Dolphins. Heck, Jim Boeheim would blush over a schedule like that. Allen’s passing upside is generally modest, but his athleticism and rushing chops make up ground.

Gardner Minshew was consistent as they come in his first four turns, then had a misstep last week against New Orleans. Anything can happen once; two bad outings would be cause for concern. I see no reason not to plug him in at Cincinnati, and then we’ll reevaluate. The rapport with D.J. Chark moves the needle forward.

Jacoby Brissett had multiple touchdown passes in four straight starts before a game-manager bagel at Kansas City. He likely has the highest floor of everyone in this section. I still think the Colts are the most complete team in the AFC South.

Daniel Jones looked like a star in the debut win at Tampa Bay, then it’s been three wayward weeks (though the Vikings and Patriots deserve some credit for that). The next month is a mixed bag of matchups: Arizona (yummy), Detroit (tricky), Dallas (gettable), New York Jets (stealthy dangerous). To be fair to Jones, he hasn’t had a full complement of help in recent games, but it seems like Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram are good to go for Week 7. There’s plausible upside here.

The best thing I can say about Ryan Tannehill is that he isn’t Marcus Mariota. Alas, his sack avoidance is a problem, just like it is for Mariota. I nonetheless see possible Superflex appeal to Tannehill, noting his fine play in the preseason and his willingness to press the ball downfield (Mariota simply wouldn’t do that). I’m also somewhat sympathetic to Tannehill’s mediocre run in Miami, wondering who could have thrived in that mess of an organization. The support pieces were lacking, too. If Tannehill can solidify the job, Tampa Bay looks juicy in Week 8.

Matt Moore, journeyman makes good? You never say never with an Andy Reid offense, and at least he’ll get extra prep time for Week 8. Hill and Kelce are capable of dragging lesser quarterbacks. Moore’s resume doesn’t make him a proactive pick for me, but as a fallback — a reactive pick — I can sign off. But it’s more of a placeholder pick, not an upside play. You’re hoping for a par but more likely accepting a bogey.

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