2022 AFC West Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Adam Sloate breaks down the AFC West from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review


Points per Game 28.2 4th
Offensive Snaps 1134 5th
2021 Record 12-5 4th
2022 Vegas Win Projection 10.5 T-3rd



“The Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West last season and look to repeat this year” is a sentence that we have been writing every year since 2017 and will be writing as long as Patrick Mahomes is under center. They fell short of the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl after losing to Joe ” Joey Brr” Burrow. They went 12-5 in the regular season and should come close to that this year, although they will face fierce competition from the rest of their division. They boast a powerful offense and an intriguing (though maybe not solid?) defense.

Kansas City comes into the season with several new offensive playmakers, from Juju Smith-Schuster to Skyy Moore to Marquez Valdes-ScantlingTyreek Hill is gone, sent to the Dolphins in a shocking offseason trade. It will be interesting to see who rises to the top of the depth chart behind Travis Kelce due to the difference in play styles between Smith-Schuster and Hill; Smith-Schuster cannot be a total replacement for Hill because Hill’s game speed simply cannot be matched.

There was a significant turnover for KC’s defense as well. Gone are S Tyrann Mathieu and CB Charvarius Ward, two mainstays on the KC defense for the last few seasons. The Chiefs replaced Mathieu with former Texan S Justin Reid, but they didn’t directly replace Ward with a plug-and-play veteran. They brought in some young talent to try to fill those gaps by drafting CB Trent McDuffie and DE George Karlaftis early in the draft and then went right back to the defense in the second and third rounds, grabbing S Bryan Cook and LB Leo Chenal. The Chiefs were no slouches on defense last season, ranking 13th in weighted DVOA, but they aren’t likely to reach that height again after losing some significant talent.


Passing Game


Passing Yards per Game 281.8 4th
Passing Touchdowns per Game 2.5 1st
Pass Attempts per Game 39.9 2nd


For the first time in years, the Chiefs have some question marks on offense — not big ones, but question marks nonetheless. How will they replace Tyreek Hill? How will the Chiefs utilize Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and Juju Smith-Schuster? It’s difficult to forecast how the targets will play out, given how much Patrick Mahomes’ receiving options have changed this offseason. I would guess that Juju will be the lead option but I doubt that KC will concentrate targets on Juju and Travis Kelce as they did with Hill and Kelce in years past. Kelce will still get his targets, but the allocation behind him will be different given Mahomes’ unfamiliarity with the three new receiving options.

The passing offense as a whole will be just fine. Mahomes is Mahomes, Andy Reid loves to draw up creative offensive plays that utilize all the Chiefs’ weapons, and they still have Kelce and CEH. Just be careful chasing after those targets left by Tyreek Hill.


Running Game


Rushing Yard per Game 119.1 13th
Rushing Touchdowns per Game 0.9 15th
Rushing Plays per Game 25.2 20th


This was a highly efficient rushing attack in 2021. Despite fewer rushing attempts, the Chiefs were able to post the 13th-most rushing yards per game and the 10th-best rushing attack by DVOA. A rising passing attack (and Andy Reid) really does lift all boats. And the Chiefs return lead rusher Clyde-Edwards Helaire, along with a fresh face in Ronald Jones II and returning friends in Jerick McKinnon and Derrick Gore. The Chiefs will certainly not be lacking for depth in the run game this season, and CEH’s grip on the lead rusher spot is lighter than ever. But you know what they say about tight grips: “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” I think that’s applicable here.

The bottom line: be cautious with CEH. The passing game has helped open up nice running lanes for CEH and the rest of the RBs in years past; if the passing game slips or if Jones or McKinnon start grabbing more of those carries, CEH is going to be in a bit of fantasy trouble. It’s maybe worth holding onto Jones as a handcuff if you’ve also got CEH.




Skyy Moore, WR

The Chiefs have finally recognized the value of holding onto young talent to supplement veteran stars; it’s the way to keep the team competitive year in and year out with a franchise QB under center. Moore is Kansas City’s young talent at wideout, and it’s likely the Chiefs will try to implement him in their game plan as the season goes on to prepare him for a bigger role in the next few years, so he will certainly get his chances this season.

The Chiefs also have a ton of question marks regarding the pecking order of wideouts early this season. Beyond Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman, the Chiefs’ wideouts are completely new to the team and have to prove themselves to the coaching staff. When Moore gets his chances, if he can impress Mahomes and the coaching staff, the Chiefs will toss the “bringing him along slowly” plan to the wind and just feed Moore as many targets as they feel he can handle. He’ll be the next weapon behind Travis Kelce in the offense; a handful of targets from Mahomes = fantasy success. Simple formula.


Deep Sleeper


Ronald Jones II, RB

Jones is the “backup” to CEH on the depth chart right now. However, CEH was among the least efficient lead rushers in the game, ranking 25th in DVOA and 30th in Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement. Guess who was higher? If you selected Jonathan Taylor, you are correct. However, if you selected Ronald Jones, you are also correct. Jones was more efficient by both DVOA and DYAR in 2022, although he wasn’t a lead rusher for Tampa Bay. If the Chiefs feel like they should be getting more out of their running game, they may switch to the slightly more efficient Jones to pick up some extra yardage here and there.

If Jones could figure out how to catch passes, this would be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, Jones was even worse as a receiver than CEH (DVOA, DYAR, take your pick) in 2021, so it dampens his fantasy output and chances at overtaking CEH on the depth chart. Maybe don’t go grabbing all the Jones shares you can find.



Bust Candidate


Juju Smith-Schuster, WR

Be careful with Juju. Even though he gets the first crack at those targets left by Tyreek Hill, Smith-Schuster isn’t the same type of wideout Hill is, and the Chiefs may look to allocate their targets a little differently among all their new receivers, including Smith-Schuster, Valdes-Scantling, and Moore. Don’t forget, the Chiefs also have the mercurial Josh Gordon deeper down the depth chart. The KC game plan in years past has been all about speed, with Hill, Mecole HardmanByron Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson all seeing solid game action, but Smith-Schuster doesn’t fit that mold, which may reduce his chances in the Chiefs’ overall game plan. I am sure the Chiefs have a plan for how to utilize Juju within the offense, I’m just not sure it’s going to yield the same result as Juju has picked up in years past or that Tyreek Hill produced last year.




Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Dustin Bradford, Cliff Welch, Robin Alam + Jeffrey Brown
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