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Marco Polo
08-13-2006, 01:16 PM
http://fantasysports.yahoo.com/analysis/news?slug=kffl-kansascitychiefslife&prov=kffl&type=lgns&league=fantasy

Kansas City Chiefs: Life After Roaf
by Terry Blount, KFFL
Friday August 11, 2006

The huge sigh of despair that came from the Midwest July 28 was likely the collective reaction of Kansas City Chiefs fans upon learning that Chiefs All-Pro left tackle Willie Roaf had announced his retirement. One of the best left tackles to ever play the game, Roaf's body has succumbed to the wear and tear incurred from 13 seasons in the National Football League. Most football writers and fans have equated the news of Roaf's retirement as a death knell for the Chiefs' 2006 football fortunes.

Many in the fantasy football world have reacted to the news by downgrading the draft rankings of running back Larry Johnson, quarterback Trent Green, tight end Tony Gonzalez, the team's water boys and practically anyone else who wears a red helmet with a white arrowhead. While it is never good news that a team is losing a future Hall of Fame tackle, the results might not be quite as bleak has many are currently assuming. There are definitely reasons for concern in KC, yet there are also reasons to believe that the Kansas City offense will still be a viable force in the NFL and fantasy worlds.

THE DOWNSIDE

It's a natural conclusion that an offense should be downgraded upon the retirement of its left tackle, particularly a tackle of Roaf's status. One consequence of Roaf's absence could likely be a reduction in receptions for Gonzalez, and there is precedence for this. Roaf injured his hamstring in Week 1 of the 2005 season and didn't return to the lineup until Week 6. During Roaf's absence tackle Jordan Black filled in for Roaf, and the results were not positive, as Green was harassed a great deal by opposing defenses. As a result, Gonzalez was forced to help out with pass protection rather than his normal duties of running routes, and his statistical production suffered as a result. Gonzalez managed a mere 12 catches for 78 yards and no touchdowns while Roaf convalesced until Week 6.

To make matters worse, Roaf missed more games later in the season, resulting in even further pressure on Green. Normally Green had enjoyed solid, dependable pass protection with Roaf in the lineup guarding Green's blind side. The Week 10 loss to the Buffalo Bills was a perfect example of how the Chiefs' offensive line, normally considered one of the league's best was suffering without its mammoth left tackle. Green was sacked an unheard of six times by the Bills' defense during the 14-3 defeat - by far the most sacks the Chiefs' offensive line yielded in any single game in 2005. So, naturally, Green is likely concerned that Roaf will no longer be in the pocket protecting Green's back.

WHY ALL IS NOT LOST

While the collective fantasy stock of Green, Johnson and Gonzalez is falling quicker than the London Bridge, reaction to Roaf's retirement might actually be overreaction. Again, while losing a left tackle that will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in a few years, the Chiefs remaining offensive linemen are still among the who's-who in the game. Right guard Will Shields is a perennial Pro Bowl player and has seemingly spent as much time in Hawaii as Don Ho or Steve McGarrett. Ditto for left guard Brian Waters, a player widely considered one of the best guards in the NFL. Center Casey Wiegmann is perhaps the most underrated player at his position in the game.

While newly acquired veteran offensive tackle Kyle Turley was initially penciled in as the new starter at right tackle, he has been working at left tackle during training camp and looks to be the heir apparent at the position. While he has been out of the game for two years, Turley returns to the game in much better health than he possessed when a nagging back injury forced him out of the game in 2004. Ironically, Turley was Roaf's replacement when Roaf left the New Orleans Saints and signed with the Chiefs. Also, in 2005 the Chiefs were forced to replace Roaf on the fly during the season. This season the club will have all of training camp to find their new left tackle, which affords the Chiefs more time to address the issue.

Johnson, like Chiefs' running back Priest Holmes before him, seemed to have his biggest plays running to the left (Roaf's) side. However, Johnson played well even without Roaf in the lineup. Johnson played in a Week 11 contest in which Roaf was inactive, and he didn't miss a beat, rushing for 211 yards and scored two touchdowns during the Chiefs' 45-17 shellacking of the Houston Texans. To be fair, he was playing against the Texans, and Roaf himself may have been able to rush for 211 yards.

Furthermore the teams' near-addiction for running to the left in the red zone will now have to be reconsidered, and running plays to the right or up the middle might even create a bit more versatility to the Chiefs' running attack. Johnson should still be considered one of the game's young stars with or without Roaf in the lineup. Also, newly acquired running back Michael Bennett could even bring a change of pace to the KC running game, as he is expected to get anywhere from five to 10 touches per game while giving Johnson a much-needed rest.

A player that might actually benefit in the red zone from Roaf's absence could be Gonzalez. While it is still highly possible that Gonzalez will have fewer catches and yards due to a possible increase in blocking duties, Gonzalez could see more passes thrown his way near the goal line. With Roaf out of the lineup, blocking on running plays will be more difficult for the KC O-line, particularly in goal-to-go situations. Therefore, the team might have to revisit its strategy of constantly running the ball in the red zone with Johnson, which could make Gonzalez the viable red zone option he once was.

So, for all of those fantasy owners and Chiefs' fans out there, come off of the ledge and try to relax. While life without Roaf won't be easy for the Chiefs, the club still has very capable linemen, a stud running back and a quarterback that has throw for over 4,000 yards for three consecutive seasons. Sure, Roaf helped make Johnson, Green and Gonzalez into star NFL players. However, having a veteran such as Turley step in is a huge plus for the team, and the club still has perhaps the best guard tandem in the NFL in Shields and Waters. No, life won't be easy for the Chiefs without Roaf, but is life ever easy in the NFL?