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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Bummed out Chiefs head into offseason full of optimism

Mon Jan 21 3:43pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Chris Conley, Tyreek Hill, Patrick Mahomes

New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Eric Berry (29) and inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens (53) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a touchdown pass to running back Damien Williams against New England Patriots middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53) during the second half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)


Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid watches a play during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs came within a heartbeat of returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in 49 years, taking the greatest dynasty in NFL history to overtime in the AFC title game.

Instead, they are stuck with more heartache for an entire offseason.

Yet with All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes under center for the foreseeable future, and a bevy of young talent around him, the Chiefs believe the foundation is set for a run of continued success not unlike what the New England Patriots have accomplished under Tom Brady.

Perhaps their loss to the Pats on Sunday night was merely the start of something special.

''Every team's going to be different year-to-year,'' said Mahomes, who capped his phenomenal first year as the starter with 295 yards passing and three touchdowns against the Patriots.

''We've got a lot of young guys on this team. It hurts. It hurts everybody,'' he said. ''We knew we had opportunities in that game and throughout this season. We put in the work. We know this can be a building block. It could be something that carries us into the future.''

The Chiefs will have some big decisions to make this offseason. Topping the list is whether to extend the rookie contracts of wide receiver Tyreek Hill and defensive tackle Chris Jones, and whether to sign pass rusher Dee Ford to a long-term deal or place the franchise tag on him.

They also need to upgrade a defense that struggled all season, then failed to stop the Patriots in the second half and overtime with a shot at the Super Bowl hanging in the balance.

The Patriots won the coin toss for the extra session and marched right downfield, scoring the winning touchdown and never letting Mahomes and the NFL's best offense get on the field.

Along with that comes the future of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, who was masterful early in his tenure in Kansas City but has struggled to piece together a serviceable unit the past couple of years.

And while Chiefs coach Andy Reid has a track record of being loyal to a fault with his staff, it may be time for a new voice to take over that side of the ball.

''I never talk about that here,'' Reid said Monday. ''I go back and look at everything.''

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach will finally have a first-round pick in the draft after the club traded away last year's pick to move up in 2017 and select Mahomes - a move nobody regrets these days. He also has a pair of second-round choices from their trade of cornerback Marcus Peters.

That combined with free agency should provide ample opportunity to upgrade the roster.

All of that lies in the future, though. The feeling of disappointment was still raw Monday for a team that won its third consecutive AFC West championship, its first home playoff game in 25 years and came within a frigid breath of beating New England to win the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

''Right now it's the end,'' Mahomes said, ''but hopefully it's the beginning of a long time.''

CONTRACT PRIORITIES

The Chiefs are projected to have about $32 million in salary cap space, but some of that could be used to ensure Hill, Jones and Ford stay in the fold. The Chiefs are also likely to consider extending Kendall Fuller, their only reliable cornerback this season.

OTHER FREE AGENTS

Defensive end Allen Bailey, wide receiver Chris Conley and center Mitch Morse - who played well when he was healthy - are also due to hit free agency, and there is an argument to be made to keep all of them. Free safety Jordan Lucas was also a bright spot late in the season, but as a restricted free agent the Chiefs should be able to hang onto him.

BERRY'S FUTURE

Chiefs safety Eric Berry only played in three games this season because of a heel issue, including the AFC title game, and could be headed for offseason surgery. He also played just one game last season before tearing his Achilles tendon. He is set to consume $16.5 million of the salary cap next season, but the Chiefs could save more than $9 million by making him a post-June 1 cut.

OTHER AGING STARS

Justin Houston played well when he was healthy, but his salary hit of $21.1 million next season represents more than 10 percent of the Chiefs' cap space. They could get out of the deal with $7.1 million in dead money, but then again, edge rushers are hard to find.

BIGGEST HOLES

Look for the Chiefs to target help in the secondary, whether at cornerback or safety. Or both. They could also use an upgrade at middle linebacker and another run-stuffing body on the defensive line, and depth at running back and wide receiver would be helpful.

Player Notes
Marcus Mariota Jun 24 9:13am ET

Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been encouraged to take fewer hits by general manager Jon Robinson. 'The thing I've stressed to him, and I know our coaches have stressed to him is, Let's live to play another play,' Robinson said. 'Don't take that hit. If you feel the pocket coming down on you and you take off running, and the 'backer is coming off of coverage and he's coming screaming at you, throw the ball away. It's OK to punt, we'll get another crack at it. That's the main thing, it's stressing to him - to try as best as possible, like all quarterbacks do, to avoid getting hit.'

Fantasy Spin: Mariota's durability has been a problem with nagging injuries throughout his career. It has suppressed him to a low-end QB1 in fantasy.

Devin Funchess Jun 24 2:13am ET

Indianapolis Colts WR Devin Funchess produced mixed results during organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, according to beat writer Kevin Bowen, although head coach Frank Reich said he was 'very encouraged' by what he saw during spring practices. 'We knew right away, you could tell day one that he was smart. (He was) not going to have a problem grasping the system,' Reich said. 'Then it's just a question of getting used to the way we do things, the way we teach things and then our schemes. I just thought he showed a very high aptitude for that.'

Fantasy Spin: To be fair, Funchess is learning a new system and getting acclimated to a new team, and he didn't have the luxury of working with Andrew Luck, who was held out of the offseason program. Funchess struggled with Jacoby Brissett, but he won't be working with him unless disaster strikes. Based on his struggles in 2018, Funch is only worth a late-round roster spot, but he could very well emerge as the No. 2 in Indy, and a decent WR4 or flex fantasy option sooner rather than later.

Matt Breida Jun 24 2:03am ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Matt Breida will be in a crowded backfield heading into 2019 as long as everyone is healthy.

Fantasy Spin: Breida will be in a fierce battle in training camp and the preseason with Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Raheem Mostert and Jeffery Wilson. Coleman is considered the frontrunner at this point, so Breida might be battling McKinnon to be up during the regular season if everyone is healthy, as Mostert is considered a lock due to his prowess on special teams.

Raheem Mostert Jun 24 2:03am ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is expected to be one of three running backs active during the regular season since he is the team's best special-teams player.

Fantasy Spin: Mostert has shown in the past that he can be effective running the ball, but that's unlikely to be his role in 2019 with the likes of Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida creating a logjam in the backfield. He has minimal fantasy appeal as long as everyone is healthy and ready to play.

Jerick McKinnon Jun 24 1:43am ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Jerick McKinnon (knee) is expected to receive clearance near the start of training camp, as he makes his way back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Fantasy Spin: The Niners have depth at the position with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, so McKinnon won't be rushed back until he is 100 percent. It also wouldn't be surprising to see him as a healthy inactive early in the season as a precaution, as long as Coleman and Breida are healthy themselves. As such, McKinnon is a risky fantasy proposition heading into 2019.

Tevin Coleman Jun 24 1:43am ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman is considered the odds-on favorite to be the closest thing to a lead back, beat writer Matt Maiocco suggests, especially since he has a history in head coach Kyle Shanahan's system.

Fantasy Spin: Coleman was the only player among Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert to practice during the offseason, so he likely has a leg up, too. He is likely your best bet when diving into the San Francisco running back pool on draft day.

Ronald Jones II Jun 23 11:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones said he is focused on putting last year behind him and earning his opportunities going forward. Jones also said that he has spent more time watching the veteran backs to learn how to be a pro and has simplified how he catches passes.

Fantasy Spin: Jones has received positive marks from the coaching staff this offseason, and it sounds like he is trying to put his disastrous rookie season behind him. Of course, it remains to be seen if he will ever produce on the field, but if he puts it all together, he could take over the Tampa Bay backfield and emerge as a RB2. He's a great lottery ticket to grab later in drafts.

Chase Edmonds Jun 23 11:33pm ET

Arizona Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds will have a 'really nice role in the offense' this season, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Fantasy Spin: Kingsbury has also said he plans to use David Johnson as the feature back, so Edmonds isn't likely to have a big enough role to be more than a handcuff for fantasy owners in redraft leagues. That being said, he is an intriguing stash candidate in dynasty formats.

Jeff Driskel Jun 23 9:43pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals QB Jeff Driskel will likely be cut if QB Ryan Finley plays well enough in the preseason to be used as the backup quarterback, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.

Taysom Hill Jun 23 9:43pm ET

New Orleans Saints QB Taysom Hill said he feels more comfortable with the responsibilities of being a wide receiver this season. 'I think it will be even easier because there was definitely a learning curve from a fundamental standpoint of getting out of breaks and routes and blocking all that I feel more comfortable doing that.'

Hunter Henry Jun 23 9:23pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry has been making impressive catches during spring practices, according to head coach Anthony Lynn. 'Hunter is just doing what Hunter Henry does,' Lynn said. 'He makes plays.'

Fantasy Spin: Henry's ability has never been questioned, but an injury derailed what was supposed to be a breakout 2018 campaign. A year later, his upside hasn't changed, and Henry should be viewed as a low-end TE1 candidate.

Hayden Hurst Jun 23 9:23pm ET

Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst (hamstring) was able to participate in minicamp after dealing with a hamstring injury during OTAs.

A'Shawn Robinson Jun 23 9:03pm ET

Detroit Lions DT A'Shawn Robinson (knee) was able to participate in minicamp, but he didn't seem as 'well conditioned' as the other defensive linemen, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Jarran Reed Jun 23 8:53pm ET

Seattle Seahawks DT Jarran Reed (hernia) was able to fully participate in minicamp.

Jaquiski Tartt Jun 23 8:43pm ET

San Francisco 49ers SS Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) was able to participate in minicamp.

Darqueze Dennard Jun 23 8:43pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (knee) was limited to rehab work during minicamp as he recovers from knee surgery.

Austin Ekeler Jun 23 8:23pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler said he has focused on improving his route running during the offseason.

Fantasy Spin: Ekeler has shown some explosiveness as a change-of-pace back to Melvin Gordon, finishing with 959 total yards ad 39 catches last year. He he is too inconsistent to start as a long as Gordon is healthy, but Gordon owners will want to have Ekeler as a handcuff.

Sony Michel Jun 23 6:53pm ET

New England Patriots RB Sony Michel (knee) has been working out at QB Tom Brady's TB12 training facility this offseason while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery in hopes of becoming a more explosive runner.

Fantasy Spin: Michel, a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, will be competing for work with James White, Rex Burkhead, and 2019 third-rounder Damien Harris in 2019. Michel projects to lead the backfield after racking up 981 yards from scrimmage and six total touchdowns last season, but he'll be a risky pick in New England's constantly shuffling rotation.

Peyton Barber Jun 23 5:33pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber is still held in high regard by the team, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic. Auman adds the 25-year-old was the first rusher in the last five years to rack up 250-plus touches but fail to compile 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2018.

Fantasy Spin: Barber scored six total touchdowns last year on 963 yards from scrimmage. An undrafted free-agent signing in 2016, he outperformed rookie second-rounder Ronald Jones II in 2018, but Jones' draft pedigree is likely to ensure he gets another look at a full workload as a sophomore. Barber has a decent floor as a mid-round selection, but he doesn't have a very high ceiling.

Jermaine Kelly Jun 23 4:33pm ET

Houston Texans CB Jermaine Kelly, a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, has been impressing coaches and teammates this offseason after losing his rookie campaign to a torn hamstring. 'Jermaine's basically a rookie,' Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. 'He didn't play last year at all. He was hurt in training camp, so this is really his rookie year. So, just like any rookie, he's still got a long way to go but he works hard. He's got a good attitude, he shows up every day and he tries to get better every day.'