The 2009 Kansas City Chiefs will sport an all-new look from ’08 and those changes start at the top. Gone are Carl Peterson and Herman Edwards and in their place come former patriot Scott Pioli and former Cardinal offensive coordinator turned head coach Todd Haley, respectively. Plus, the Chiefs have a new starting quarterback in former Patriot Matt Cassel and the three rookies will try to bring some excitement back to a franchise that has been a mat for years. What impact will Cassel have on the rest of the Chiefs in terms of fantasy? Will Cassel have another successful season or will it be a failure? I examine these questions and more when I look at Kansas City’s fantasy potential heading into 2009.

Cassel was one of the biggest upsets of the 2008 NFL season, replacing the injured Tom Brady and throwing for 3,693 yards with 21 TDs and just 11 INTs. The numbers are much more impressive when you consider that Cassel hadn’t started a game since high school when he was pushed into the limelight. Cassel’s performance down the stretch helped countless fantasy owners win titles as he went through consecutive 400-yard games during the fantasy playoffs. Also, Cassel came close to defeating me and I barely escaped him in the championship round when he had 4 TD passes against the Raiders. Fortunately, I had a complete enough squad to top him, but needless to say, I was a little concerned watching his game against my Raiders. Cassel played his heart out for Josh McDipshit last year, but now he’s coming to a team seeking an identity on offense. In terms of weapons, Cassel has something, but not overabundance. WR Dwayne Bowe is entering his third year and should be a star. Bowe will unequivocally be Cassel’s number one target, especially after TE Tony Gonzalez’s departure to Atlanta. Gonzalez’s departure is a huge loss for the Chiefs and especially for Cassel, as the young QB would certainly have looked like the veterans often. Cassel has Haley grooming him, but overall, I wouldn’t bet his fantasy teams’ chances on him this year. He’s a decent choice for a No. 2 quarterback, but too many questions surround him to be considered a solid No. 1 fantasy quarterback from week to week.

The Chiefs’ running game has historically been the strength of the team, as Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson have had monster seasons for the club. Holmes is long gone, Johnson appears to be back in ’09 but will be turning 30 and seems to be past his prime. I know this because I actually used my second pick on LJ thinking it was still good value at the time. Things never went well for him in ’09 due to several variables including playing terrible offense and suffering numerous off-the-field problems culminating in suspension. Johnson finished the year with 874 yards and 5 TDs. Johnson sometimes showed glimpses of his old self, namely Week 4’s game against Denver when he galloped for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns, but it was mostly a disappointment to the former Penn St. product and the owners who selected him. Johnson declared all year and most of the offseason that he wanted out of KC, but seemed to change his mind once Piloi and Haley came on board. I honestly don’t know what to make of LJ heading into 2009. I don’t think it’s over yet as he sat behind the aforementioned Holmes for several years before finally getting his chance. Plus, the Chiefs don’t really have a lot of backs behind LJ with Jamal Charles and Kolby Smith and they’re not going to embed fear in defenses either. Right now I see LJ as a good # 3 RB or Flex option with the potential to scale to a # 2 option. I think LJ has some head start this year, especially if you can place him in the round 5- range. 6, which is where he’s been predominantly going in the draft drills I’ve been participating in. I think the off-field problems and the resulting poor season humiliated Johnson and I’m looking for him to recover a bit. Some people are comparing him to LT, but there is no comparison, since LT has had far more carries in his career than Johnson and so could be closer to the end. Just watch out for LJ. Don’t reach it too high and if you do make sure to handcuff it to Charles with a late round pick for sure. Smith has no draft value at time of publication.

WR Bowe looks poised for stardom in his third year and could benefit greatly from Cassel’s presence at QB. Bowe caught 86 passes for 1,022 yards and 7 TDs, a slight improvement over his rookie season. There are some receptors that seem to have it and Bowe seems to be one of those receptors. The LSU third-year pro is a great road runner, has excellent hands, and appears to be a good-natured and capable trainer. Plus, he’s big at 6’2 “221, giving him the ability to win jumps with defenders. I hope Bowe has another solid season, as most NFL receivers seem to be blowing up in their third year. But don’t be surprised if he performs better than that with Cassel and Haley now in Kansas City. There’s not much else in the way of KC receivers regarding fantasy potential. As mentioned, the legendary Chief Gonzalez is now an Atlanta Falcon. That leaves KC virtually no one in TE’s position and Mark Bradley and Bobby Engram represent nothing more than emergency options for your fantasy team.

The Chiefs have been lousy in recent years defensively, but I think that should start to change this year, especially if Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson play the way they are capable of playing. Picking Jackson over Aaron Curry is over the top if you ask me and the Chiefs made that selection based solely on the defensive scheme they play. Expect the Chiefs to improve defensively this year, but there are much better options available in terms of consistent DST production. Rookie Ryan Succop and Connor Barth will battle for the job of kicking during training camp. That wraps up my examination of the Chiefs’ fantasy prospects heading into 2009. Next up: The San Diego Chargers.

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