The Kansas City Chiefs will have to rebound from their first loss of the season without their top wide receiver.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Chiefs have ruled out Sammy Watkins — who was listed as doubtful — with a hamstring injury for Sunday’s noon C.T. kickoff against the Houston Texans. Watkins tweaked his hamstring in last Sunday’s first series for the Chiefs against the Indianapolis Colts after originally being questionable to play with a shoulder injury.
Watkins has stepped up as the Chiefs’ leading receiver in the absence of Tyreek Hill, averaging 15.9 yards per reception on 23 catches with 365 yards and three touchdowns as one of Patrick Mahomes’ best weapons in pacing Kansas City to a 4-1 start.
On the other hand, Hill reportedly has a “serious chance” to play his first game since injuring his sternum and right collarbone Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Schefter reported his questionable status depends on how it feels when the Chiefs test it in the pregame.
The Chiefs were held to their fewest points of the season at home last Sunday in a 19-13 loss to the Colts without Watkins or Hill at their disposal. Mahomes still managed to pass for 288 yards and linked up with Byron Pringle for six catches, 103 yards and a touchdown. Yes, that’s correct. A guy who shares his name with a chip was the receiving leader last week in Kansas City.
Fantasy Impact With Watkins Out
What plays well this week in Kansas depends entirely on the final ruling for Hill, but let’s assume the worst and that the Chiefs will face Sunday afternoon’s game at Arrowhead Stadium without both of their receiving stars. What then?
Well, Travis Kelce is always the obvious option in Kansas City, even when Hill and Watkins are active participants in the passing game. The tight end remains one of the top tight ends in the NFL, leading the position with 439 receiving yards and seven catches of at least 20 yards. Not to mention he remains among the top three options at TE1 in fantasy football.
But should you be so lucky as to have Kelce on your roster, it doesn’t solve your fantasy problem if you’re looking for a receiving to substitute in a pinch. Hype from his big performance last week might make Pringle seem like a good pickup for Week 6, but the trust isn’t quite there considering his 103 receiving yards brought his career total to 123.
If you’re looking to add a Chiefs receiver on the fly and betting on fill-in upside, consider rookie Mercole Hardman and his delightful 20.5 yards per reception. Hardman has no fewer than 60 yards in three of his last four games, discounting his Week 4 dud of just two catches for nine yards. He also has a touchdown catch in two of those three.
Hardman received six targets and finished with four catches for 79 receiving yards last week and should be the receiver with most to gain without Watkins available. But remain cautious, as he still has yet to haul in more than four catches in a single game.