State of the Franchise
For the third time in as many years, the Chiefs will begin their season with a new head coach, namely Andy Reid, who was fired by the Eagles following the least successful of his 14 years with the Philadelphia organization. His 4-12 record, however, was still better than the Chiefs' cellar-dwelling 2-14 mark. That final grade earned Romeo Crennel his walking papers after one horribly disappointing season and landed Reid a fresh start with the NFL Draft's top pick and a deceptively talented roster.
Prior to making Eric Fisher the team's future left tackle with the No. 1 selection, Reid made a deal that could determine his and the Chiefs' fate within the next few seasons. A draft class fraught with questionable signal callers forced Reid's hand some, but giving up a high second-round pick this year and conditional third in 2014 could be a reasonable price to pay for a proven starting quarterback, especially with the team looking to contend immediately. Alex Smith has the accurate arm and the seasoning to deftly run Reid's West Coast attack. His 104.1 passer rating in 2012 was the third-highest mark among all quarterbacks to start at least 10 games, while his 70.2 percent completion percentage was tops. With the crucial re-signing of talented receiver Dwayne Bowe and the addition of solid targets in WR Donnie Avery and TE Anthony Fasano, the Chiefs and Smith should greatly improve on the NFL's worst passing offense. With 30 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions the past two years, it's a strong likelihood that Smith will reverse the 8/20 touchdown-to-interception ratio the 2012 Chiefs posted rolling with the dismal duo of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. Of course, having an elite run game headlined by the blazing speed of Jamaal Charles will also take tremendous pressure off Smith's arm. Charles’ return from an ACL tear to his explosive form was truly the lone bright spot for last year's offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs should be poised for a strong bounce-back after giving up 356.5 yards and 26.6 points per game in 2012. Those numbers were awful to be sure, but an offense that turned it over 37 times (tied for a league-worst) constantly put them in bad spots and kept the defense on the field and exhausted. Despite poor play overall, the Chiefs defense boasted individual talent last year, with linebackers Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston all going to the Pro Bowl, along with S Eric Berry. If nose tackle Dontari Poe, 2012's first-round draft pick, can shore up the defensive line, this unit can easily be a playoff-caliber group, particularly with the depth added to the secondary in free agent corners Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith. The division may belong to Denver, but a balanced and deeply talented Chiefs team is due for a big rebound under Reid.
Alex Smith - QB, 49ers
Has the accuracy, experience and underrated athleticism to thrive in Andy Reid's West Coast system.
Eric Fisher - OT, Central Michigan
(Round 1, 1st overall)
The first overall pick will play right tackle for a year, but make no mistake he's a future stud on the left side.
Donnie Avery - WR, Colts
Hauled in 60 balls a year ago and his deep speed will be a welcome addition to the worst passing team from 2012.
Anthony Fasano - TE, Dolphins
Unless Jonathan Baldwin makes a huge step, the Chiefs lacked a red-zone threat after Dwayne Bowe. Fasano may provide that.
Knile Davis - RB, Arkansas
(Round 3, 96th overall)
A nice blend of size and speed, even more so than Bryce Brown, who excelled as Reid's No. 2 rusher in Philly last year.
Sean Smith - CB, Dolphins
If he does nothing more all season than use his 6-3 frame to effectively cover Demaryius Thomas twice, he'll have been worth it.
Peyton Hillis - RB, FA
Never became the “thunder”complement to Jamaal Charles that he was brought in to be, so he's job-hunting this summer.
Matt Cassel - QB, Vikings
Lands with the Vikings as a backup after wearing out his welcome in Kansas City.
A NEW ERA IN ARROWHEAD
Andy Reid and Alex Smith are tied together in the short term. Reid has enough clout as one of the most experienced coaches in the league to stick around if the Smith trade becomes a failure, but for Smith this is likely his last chance to be a starting NFL quarterback. He's by far a more skilled and savvy player than either Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn, so it won't take much from Smith to provide more production than the woefully bad 2012 Chiefs' passing attack, but it's worth noting that Smith's career-highs in yards and passing scores for a single season are 3,144 yards and 18 touchdowns. Fortunately, he'll enter the most pass-happy scheme he's yet to play in, and with WR Dwayne Bowe leading the way, Smith should have enough weapons to reinvent his career as an accurate pocket passer with underrated scrambling ability. With arguably the league's easiest schedule on tap for 2013, Smith and Reid may even dink and dunk the Chiefs back into the playoffs.
After signing a five-year, $56 million extension this offseason, Bowe has been vocal about his expectations for himself in his first year under Reid and catching passes from Smith. While many will laugh off his prediction that he'll lead the league in receptions and touchdowns, it shouldn't be forgotten that Bowe did actually lead the league with 15 scoring grabs as recently as 2010 in a season when the Chiefs were first in rushing attempts and yards. The Reid and Smith combo should greatly improve the Kansas City passing game as a whole, and Bowe, easily the best target in the offense, may well back up his money and mouth with elite production.
CHARLES IS THE REAL MCCOY
Last year Jamaal Charles displayed every bit of the long speed and cat quickness that made him such an electric runner prior to the torn ACL that stole his 2011 campaign. Though he was inconsistent, Charles' play in 2012 is more remarkable when considering that he tallied over 1,500 yards rushing at 5.3 YPC without any threat of a passing game. His 5.8 YPC career average on 784 attempts is astounding and with Reid coming to town, Charles may be due for his best season yet. LeSean McCoy never received more than 273 carries in a single season, but he averaged 55 catches a year in Reid's system. With Charles' playmaking ability in space, a boost from the 35 grabs he had last year will increase his total yards and improve his week-to-week consistency. Moreover, if he garners the sort of opportunities near the goal line that McCoy saw in a 20-touchdown season in 2011, Charles could be in line to break double-digit scores for the first time.
Rising: Dwayne Bowe floundered in 2012 in the league's worst passing offense, but he's primed for a big resurgence with the Andy Reid/Alex Smith duo in town.
Declining: Donnie Avery turned in a career-best 781 yards in the Colts' downfield passing game, but that suited his deep speed better than Reid's West Cost attack.
Sleeper: Tony Moeaki should be 100 percent removed from a 2011 ACL tear and he has the hands and athletic ability to emerge as Kansas City's No. 2 receiving threat.
Supersleeper: Knile Davis is little more than a handcuff behind Jamaal Charles, but if the door opened, he could employ his size-speed combo with great success.
Derrick Johnson - LB
Three consecutive years of 120-plus tackles says it all for this dependable veteran.
Eric Berry - S
Fully over his ACL tear from 2011, he should bounce back to form as a rangy, hard-hitting playmaker in the secondary.
Justin Houston - LB
Having Tamba Hali opposite him allows the supremely athletic outside linebacker to wreak havoc in backfields.
RotoWire Rank: 21