The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. This is not an NFL power ranking. We're not predicting wins and losses here. Instead, we're reviewing each team's projected fantasy contributions — that's it.
NFL teams should be allowed to use the term "rebuilding" only for a short period. After a season or two, the word becomes a punch line, not a strategy.
The Kansas City Chiefs are entering dangerous territory, as their multi-year rebuilding period has morphed into a culture of losing. They've won just 10 games over the past three seasons, they haven't averaged 20 points per game since 2006, and they haven't won a playoff game since 1993. These are lean times. During the offseason, the Chiefs hired new coordinators on both offense and defense, which should tell you — in the clearest possible terms — that everything is broken.
Well, OK, almost everything. There's clearly nothing wrong with Jamaal Charles(notes). (According to the fantasy expert's style guide, I'm supposed to insert a "Charles In Charge" joke here. Instead, let's just link to a picture of Willie Aames in aerobics attire and call it a day). Last year, during the final four weeks of the regular season, Charles was fantasy's second highest-scoring running back. He averaged 164.5 rushing yards from Weeks 14 through 17, and he reached the end zone four times. He plays at a speed that few can match. Over Kansas City's final eight games, Charles had five scoring plays of 40-plus yards. If you owned him in the second half, there's a decent chance you won your league.
Unfortunately, Charles' 2010 workload is a tricky thing to forecast. The Chiefs signed veteran Thomas Jones(notes) to a two-year deal back in March, and he's had at least 290 carries in each of the past five seasons. Jones is a high-mileage back who turns 32 in August, so you can't reasonably expect him to receive as many touches as Charles. But he's a threat to steal goal-line carries, thus limiting Jamaal's scoring potential.
Still, Charles managed to rush for 1,120 yards on just 190 carries last year (5.9 YPC), and he was barely a rumor in K.C. before the Larry Johnson(notes) suspension. He's a home-run threat who's not dependent on red-zone work for his scoring. Over a full season, if Charles receives even a modest increase in touches — let's say 230 carries and 45 receptions — you'll love the results. He'll easily justify his current Mock Draft Central ADP (23.7). Draft him with confidence. Jones will be off the board earlier than most of the non-starting rotational backs (ADP 89.8), primarily because he's a solid brand name coming off a very good season in New York. The Chiefs' offensive line has been miserable in recent years, but the left side isn't so bad (Branden Albert(notes), Brian Waters(notes)), and the team added vets Ryan Lilja(notes) and Casey Wiegmann(notes) via free agency. There's hope for the ground game.
Matt Cassel(notes) returns as Kansas City's starting quarterback, coming off a thoroughly unimpressive season. He started 15 games for the Chiefs in 2009 and managed to reach 300 yards only once (vs. Cleveland in Week 15). He finished with fewer than 3,000 passing yards, his completion percentage was just 55.0, and he tossed as many picks as TD passes (16). If you're a Chiefs fan who's worried that your team may have invested $63 million in the 2008 version of Billy Volek(notes), then … um … well, yeah, that's a valid concern.* Cassel should certainly benefit from the O-line enhancements and the tutelage of coordinator Charlie Weis, so it's too soon to write him off. In standard-format fantasy leagues, however, he's not a starter.
*If you were involved in fantasy in 2004, then of course you know the Volek story. He put up back-to-back 400-yard games in Weeks 14 and 15, then fell off the map. Like Volek, Cassel delivered a pair of 400-yard performances for the '08 Pats (Weeks 11 and 12), but he also closed the season with three solid performances. It's not a perfect comparison.
As a group, Kansas City receivers led the league in dropped passes last year by a wide margin (48), and Dwayne Bowe(notes) tied for the individual lead despite appearing in only 11 games. So this is not exactly a sure-handed corps. Bowe is nonetheless a gifted player who's just one year removed from an 86-catch, 1,022-yard campaign. It sounds like he's taken the offseason work a bit more seriously this time, too. Entering his age-26 season, there's still time for him to make a leap into the upper tiers at his position. He figures to be one of the NFL's leaders in targets in 2010.
Chris Chambers(notes) somehow resurrected his career in Kansas City last year, after the Chargers cut him loose midseason. He finished with 608 receiving yards and four TDs for the Chiefs, a performance that earned him a three-year deal worth up to $15 million ($5.9M guaranteed). Anyone who owned Chambers in 2006 will never, ever go back. The rest of you are free to draft him, but understand that he's on the wrong side of 30, he's tied to an uninteresting quarterback, and he just got paid. Buyer beware.
Behind Bowe and Chambers on the depth chart, you'll find one interesting name (Dexter McCluster(notes), a rookie) and one interesting spelling (Jerheme Urban(notes), a veteran). McCluster was officially a running back at Ole Miss, though he lined up all over the field. At 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, he's clearly undersized for the NFL and he lacks elite speed (4.58 at the combine, 4.44 at pro day). The Chiefs will likely try him in the Wildcat, but he'll get most of his work as a receiver — and since this offense probably can't support three ownable fantasy wideouts, limit your expectations. He and Urban will fight for scraps in a low-yield attack. Neither player needs to be drafted in standard fantasy leagues. In dynasty formats, give rookie tight end Tony Moeaki(notes) a look. He's a terrific blocker and an NFL-ready receiver. Injuries have been the only significant issue for the third-round pick; if healthy, he'll force his way into a starting role.
The K.C. defense has of course been atrocious in recent seasons, finishing 30th in yards-allowed in 2009 and 31st in 2008. Coordinator Romeo Crennel may actually face a greater challenge than Weis. You won't draft this team DEF in any fantasy setup. The IDPs to own are rookie DB Eric Berry(notes), LB Demorrio Williams(notes) (117 tackles in '09) and LB Tamba Hali(notes) (8.5 sacks). Berry is really the only name in that group that belongs on a roster in a smallish IDP format.
If you'd like to make a case for any other Chiefs — or you're that hooded, zombified fan pictured above — please join us in comments. The floor is now yours…
Photo via Getty Images
Sign up today for Yahoo! Fantasy Football '10. Auction drafts, live scoring, and iPhone app — all for free!