(With attentions turning forward across fantasy football, this week is 2018 Storylines Week on PFF Fantasy, with an article a day highlighting what our writers think are the biggest fantasy storylines we’ll see in the 2018 season.)
Sipping my chamomile tea, one would not mistake me for being “bold.” So when I do stretch my legs and make a giant leap, I do so after much consideration. In this case, Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes’ arms, or at least the throwing one, is where I’m leaping. With Alex Smith on the way to Washington and the remaining offense largely intact, Mahomes is being put into an enviable position for a sophomore quarterback. That’s why, if I may be so bold, Mahomes will finish as a top-six fantasy quarterback in 2018.
Who is Patrick Mahomes?
Trailing only Baker Mayfield in 2016 among college quarterback PFF grades, Mahomes came out of Texas Tech as a playmaker and the polish expected of a player who started most of his college career. In 2016, Mahomes finished top-15 in both passer rating and adjusted completion percentage while having the second-highest accuracy rate (82.9 percent) when given a clean pocket to throw from. During the draft process, his big arm was cited, which is a positive asset given his 20th ranking in downfield accuracy on 91 attempts (second-most). He can also run the ball, with over 500 rushing yards in each of his full seasons as a starter along with double-digit touchdown runs in both.
Fast forward a first-round draft selection and season (mostly) behind Smith and it appears the team is Mahomes’ for the taking. In a largely meaningless Week 17 contest against Denver, Mahomes threw for nearly 300 yards (284) and completed 64 percent of his passes, 74 percent on dropbacks where he was given a clean pocket. This was also without Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and with just one rushing attempt from Kareem Hunt.
Why should we be excited?
Mahomes has plenty of weapons at his disposal. In Hill, Mahomes gets the second-best receiver in WR rating (passer rating when targeted, 130.5) and second-highest catch rate on deep targets (54.2 percent) from last season. Add Kelce, who finished first in routes run (512), third in yards per route run (2.03), and first in deep-ball receptions (nine) among tight ends. Ancillary receiving options Kareem Hunt (ninth in routes run at RB with 304) and athletic wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Chris Conley provide more big-play options for the young signal-caller.
Perhaps most importantly when considering Mahomes’ potential in this offense is what Smith was able to accomplish last year in the offense. Typically a poor deep passer, Smith tied or led the NFL in deep-ball completions (33), yards (1,344), touchdowns (12), and accuracy rate (56.5 percent). His 62 deep-target attempts were also 16 more than he had ever attempted with the Chiefs. Smith also led the league in passer rating and was second in adjusted completion percentage for the season.
Top-six fantasy quarterback
Smith ultimately finished as the QB4 overall and was one of five quarterbacks to surpass 300 fantasy points. Mahomes should equal or surpass Smith’s 355 rushing yards and certainly is capable of 4-6 touchdown runs to supplement his passing. As for that arm, Mahomes will be taking plenty of fruitful downfield chances to Hill and Kelce. That also means a good chance he exceeds Smith’s five interceptions last year, but that’s really only a concern in leagues that penalize those mistakes heavily (negative four or more).
Mahomes could also inherit the responsibilities close to the goal line. Smith accounted for nine of the 15 touchdowns (60 percent) inside the 10-yard line and the team threw as much as they ran in those situations (24 vs. 23). The Chiefs will rely on Mahomes to score points and with the playmakers surrounding him on offense, he should deliver.
In the PFF fantasy mock draft, Mahomes was the 18th quarterback selected (159th overall pick) by me. If this holds close to true, Mahomes is likely the biggest steal at the position in the draft with more upside than many of the options selected ahead of him. Owners can easily select another upside quarterback like Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston to pair with Mahomes to either hedge their bet or potentially trade off the player who starts strong to fill a team need several weeks into the season. Either way, roster Mahomes and profit.