I can sum up the 2011 Chiefs season with one word…..INJURY. Before Halftime of their week 2 game, the Chiefs had lost CB Eric Berry, TE Tony Moeaki and RB Jamaal Charles. To a team that is so dependent on the run, the loss of Charles was the nail in the coffin. Myself, like many other Fantasy Owners, had picked Charles early in the first round expecting another 6 yard per carry average season were scrambling to find a hidden gem to replace him. Matt Cassel wasn’t anything special before he went down with a broken hand but when the Chiefs lost their starting QB all hope for the playoffs seemed over. However, the Chiefs picked up journeyman QB Kyle Orton who almost got them a playoff berth. Orton led the Chiefs to a 4-2 record in spot duty including the upset of the year over the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers. Can the 2012 version of the Offensive Line keep the playmakers healthy?? It remains to be seen. Members of the 2012 projected Offensive Line starters are LT Branden Albert, LG Ryan Lilja, C Rodney Hudson, RG Jon Asamoah and RT Eric Winston.
Left Tackle Branden Albert was a 1st round Draft Choice of Kansas City back in 2008. Decent as a pass protector, he struggled in the run blocking aspect. Albert allowed 5 sacks last year protecting the blindside of Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton and Tyler Palko. He is athletic for such a big man and needs to continue to improve his push.
Left Guard Ryan Lilja was selected as an undrafted Free Agent by the Chiefs in 2004. He was waived later in 2004 and was subsequently picked up by the Indianapolis Colts where he remained until 2010. He won a Super Bowl with Indy in 2006 and was brought back to K.C in 2010 to provide veteran leadership. He is a better run blocker than pass protector and needs to play well to keep his starting spot.
Center Rodney Hudson was taken by the Chiefs in the 2nd round of the 2011 Draft. Coming out of College he was known as a solid technician. He will be the line caller in 2012 and will be expected to play well. He is a tad undersized but he plays bigger than he is especially while in pass protection. The Chiefs are extremely high on Hudson and he can be a very important piece of the O-Line.
Right Guard Jon Asamoah was a 3rd round pick of the Chiefs in 2010. He is also undersized but makes up for that by being tough as nails. He was able to get to the second level at times last year on a regular basis. He also was penalized very rarely and only allowed 3 sacks in 2011. He will continue to be a mainstay on this line for years to come.
Right Tackle Eric Winston was taken in the 3rd round of the 2006 NFL Draft by Houston. Winston is a size and speed phenom who was a prize Free Agent acquisition by Kansas City in 2012. He has dropped his number of sacks allowed each year for the last three. He has extremely long arms which allow him the ability to fend off swim moves and chucks.
Now to Analyze the Numbers…..
Kansas City ranked 29th in Total Run Blocking in 2011 allowing their RB’s to only average 3.89 yards per carry which was well below the NFL average of 4.31. Jackie Battle, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster were stopped at/or behind the line of scrimmage 20% of their attempts which again was just below the NFL average of 19%. They were able to achieve 1st downs on 3rd/4th down runs 62% of the time which was level with the NFL average. Kansas City ran the ball 444 times in 2011 which was 2nd most in the NFL. They experienced their least success running outside of their departed RT Barry Richardson as they only gained 2.94 yards per carry. They had much more success running behind massive LT Branden Albert as they gained 5.67 yards per carry which was tops in the league. Imagine what a healthy Jamaal Charles would have done to help this line. In 2010 the Chiefs averaged 164 yards per game on the ground, last year only 118. This year they added much maligned RB Peyton Hillis who I believe will be the Goal Line specialist as well as a complement to Charles. From a Fantasy perspective, I would expect around the same number of carries for the RB’s and definitely more production so if you want to draft Jamaal Charles and are unsure about his knee, I would absolutely target Hillis in the later rounds as a handcuff. Both guys can also catch the ball well so if you are in PPR leagues, they will both still be worth picking up. This Offensive Line will get back into the Top 10 this year in Run Blocking.
The Chiefs ranked 19th in Pass Protection in 2011 allowing Cassel, Orton and Palko to suffer sacks on 7.2% of their dropbacks which was above the NFL average of 6.7%. Cassel will have Brady Quinn or Ricky Stanzi backing him up this year so the O-Line could be in for a rough year from the pass protection standpoint if Cassel was to get hurt. Dwayne Bowe was the #1 receiver for the Chiefs for the last two years but is currently involved in a hold-out. His value could take a hit anyway with the emergence of Jonathan Baldwin who when I watched him in College was an absolute monster. Baldwin is tearing up the Chiefs camp and is making the hold-out of Bowe less of a crisis. Steve Breaston also figures to receive lots of attention from defenses. Watch for Dexter McCluster to be involved in both rushing and receiving in 2012 in gadget packages. Tight End Tony Moeaki is back this year as well and look for him to be a solid target for Cassel. The Chiefs also picked up Kevin Boss who can factor into two TE sets but probably won’t be the number 1 option. So to summarize, watch the Bowe situation closely and if he signs his Franchise Tender, select him as a late round 3 or early round 4 guy. Target Breaston in the very late rounds, like round 14 or so. I had Baldwin at a 16th round grade early but he is climbing the charts, so I would not let him get past round 13. McCluster will most likely be available on your waiver wires. Moaeaki should be a waiver wire replacement as well as Boss, and Cassel is only worth a 14th round pick up and most likely will be waiver wire fodder.
Thanks again to www.footballoutsiders.com for the stats
Next team will be the Miami Dolphins