Mike Fanelli | July 19th, 2019
Earlier today the NFL announced that the Kansas City Chiefs star wide receiver Tyreek Hill would not be suspended after being investigated for domestic violence this offseason. Whether you agree or disagree with this decision, whether you are a fan of the NFL’s personal conduct policy or not, the reality is Hill is allowed to take part in training camp next week and play in all 16 games this season. I’m not here to sway your opinion on the NFL’s decision or Hill as a person. I am here to explain how the news impacts the entire Chiefs’ offense from a fantasy perspective.
NFL will not discipline Chiefs’ WR Tyreek Hill, who was accused of assaulting his son. League could not find evidence he did; it will leave open case if further evidence emerges, but Hill is free to report to camp, practice and play this season.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 19, 2019
If anyone is interested in my entire PPR redraft fantasy rankings, you can find them here.
Before today’s news I had Mahomes as my QB3, only being Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, but still in the top tier. Like many, I had concerns with Mahomes being able to put up the same production he did last year without Hill. People believed Sammy Watkins could step into the top half WR1 range but I don’t trust Watkins to stay healthy and on the field for an entire game. However, with a poor defense and Travis Kelce, Mahomes was still worth a top 50ish pick in a non superflex league.
Now that Hill won’t face a suspension, Mahomes is back up to the QB1 spot for me. While I still believe he will regress some this season, I can still see him throwing for 38-42 touchdowns and close to 5,000 yards. In redraft leagues, Mahomes is now worth a top 30 pick (especially in six-point per passing touchdown scoring leagues), while in dynasty he is either the QB1 or QB2 depending on how you feel about Luck’s age and shoulder history. At the end of the day, today’s new is excellent news for Mahomes and his fantasy owners.
I didn’t adjust Williams in my rankings at all because of today’s news. Whether you were a fan or not of Williams before today’s new, that shouldn’t change now. Last season when Williams took over as the starter, he averaged 16 touches for 82.7 scrimmage yard and 1.7 touchdowns per game (not including week 17). The Chiefs’ lead running back is usually very fantasy productive but Williams has never been the lead back before in his career. Head coach Andy Reid has said Williams is the starter but they signed Carlos Hyde in the offseason and spent a sixth-round pick on Darwin Thompson so things could change.
For redraft leagues, Williams is my RB17 and leads the tier with Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack, and others. My concern is seeing if Williams can hold up for a whole season as the starter while producing consistently good fantasy production. However, for dynasty owners, I would look to sell Williams early in the season because I believe the odds are high that the Chiefs draft a running back early in the 2020 NFL draft as the class is expected to be great. To reiterate this, Williams’ value in redraft and dynasty was not impacted by the Hill news today.
Let’s get to Tyreek himself now. Obviously, if you bought him cheap in dynasty or keeper leagues you are very happy with today’s new (at least from a fantasy perspective). However, if you didn’t buy low on him, now is NOT the time to trade for him. The Chiefs reportedly will hold off contract talks with Hill for a while and could ultimately decide not to invest $20 million dollars a year in a player with so much baggage. We could see Hill in a bad situation a year from now so I would be much inclined to trade Hill away today in dynasty than I would trade for him today.
My understanding is it is will most likely be several weeks if not months before contract talks between Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs start back up. He’s in the final year of his rookie contact and this new contract will mostly have some very specific language within it.
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) July 19, 2019
Obviously, now that Hill won’t be suspended, his fantasy value for 2019 skyrockets back to where it was this investigation began. I moved Tyreek back to the WR5 spot in my rankings; middle of tier two. Last season he finished as the WR3 and averaged 20.5 fantasy points per game. However, again, I believe Mahomes will regress some when it comes to touchdowns, meaning Hill will finish closer to eight or nine touchdowns this season than the 12 he got last year. Thanks to his speed, Hill’s ability to take any play to the house offers great upside not only weekly but on each snap. Unless Tyreek does something stupid and gets suspended, he should finish as a top half WR1 in 12 team leagues.
With today’s news, Watkins’ fantasy value took the biggest hit. He went from a WR1 (in some people’s minds) back to a risky flex play. I, however, am even further down on Watkins. I moved him down from the WR31 to the WR43 in my rankings. I’m sure Chief fans and Watkins’ fantasy owners will be outraged with that ranking but I don’t trust his health and now that he won’t be forced into a WR1 role this year, I have no interest in drafting him outside of best-ball leagues. Watkins has missed 28.1% of his career games since his rookie year, playing more than 13 games just once in that span. Furthermore, Watkins has a history of playing games hurt and struggling to produce for fantasy owners.
Over the last three seasons, Watkins has finished as the WR64, WR41, and WR77. He has also played for three times during that span. Because of his injury history, inconsistent play, and multiple teams in multiple years, I have zero interest in Watkins in dynasty. Furthermore, with Hill back (and hopeful to get a contract extension) combined with the Chiefs spending a second-round pick on Mecole Hardman, Watkins’ future in Kansas City is muddy at best. According to Spotrac.com, the Chiefs can save $14 million dollars next offseason by releasing Watkins. With big extensions coming for Mahomes and possibly Hill, Watkins could end up on his fourth team in five years in 2020.
Speaking of the second-round pick and his future, many people thought Hardman could be a late-round sleeper this year. However, with Hill back, Hardman won’t be forced into a starting role this year. For me, he is currently the WR65 and probably not draftable in standard size leagues. However, now is the time to grab Hardman in dynasty. Let me back up a second, DON’T overpay thinking Hill and Watkins both could be gone next year and Hardman will be a lock to be Mahomes’ number one wide receiver; that’s very unlikely. Rather instead, take advantage of the buy-low window that just opened on Hardman.
Earlier this offseason, Hardman was going as high as 1.05 in some rookie drafts as it appeared Hill would be suspended and potentially banned from the league. However, his value cooled off (as it should have) and he settled in as a back end round one/early round two rookie pick. If anyone is still doing rookie draft (which you shouldn’t be) at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hardman slide into the middle or even back end of round two; at that price, he is a steal. For leagues where the rookie draft is over, buying low on Hardman now (especially with the hype of the 2020 rookie class) is the kind of move that can help you win championships in years to come.
While the odds that both Tyreek and Watkins are playing elsewhere in 2020 are very slim, the odds are very good that one won’t be back, especially if Mahomes signs the first $200 million dollar contract in NFL history. My belief is the Chiefs will wisely cut Watkins, using the $14 million dollars they saved as a big chunk of cap space to place the franchise tag on Hill. This way they rid themselves of the injury-prone Watkins and have another year to evaluate Tyreek before giving long term money to him. If that is the case, Hardman will be stepping into a WR2 role on arguably the best offense in the league, and only another bad decision from Hill away from being the WR1. Buy low while you can!
Many, including myself, considered Kelce is borderline late first-round pick with the belief that Hill would be suspended. Now that is no longer the case for me. Kelce is still my TE1 and in a tier all by himself but he is now a mid-second-round pick verse a late first. The argument that Kelce won’t be force fed targets now that Hill is back is true. However, it also means he won’t be double-teamed as often or as easily. In 2019 I would bet on Kelce to finish as the TE1 (unless he misses time) over the field; he’s due to have an excellent year.
With that being said, dynasty owners of Kelce should start listening to offers. This has nothing to do with the Tyreek news but rather that Kelce will turn 31 years old during next season. While Kelce probably has a few good years left in him, he is coming off offseason ankle surgery and his value has never been higher. Fantasy owners shouldn’t sell Kelce cheap now or even next offseason, but with some many younger up and coming tight ends and his name value, Kelce could return an interesting package to better fill out your team.
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