Rashee Rice’s Best Ball Fantasy Outlook: Is the Kansas City Chiefs Young Star a Perennial WR1?

After closing his rookie season with WR1 numbers down the stretch, how excited should fantasy managers be to take Chiefs WR Rashee Rice in Best Ball drafts?

Kansas City Chiefs WR Rashee Rice earned his team’s WR1 role over the course of his rookie season. Rice’s hot finish has resulted in a rather expensive 2024 price tag. Should fantasy football managers be willing to pay the price to select Rice in 2024 Best Ball drafts?

Rashee Rice’s 2024 Fantasy Outlook

One of my favorite aspects of redraft fantasy football is being able to change my opinion. I was not a fan of Rice coming out of college. Over the course of his rookie season, he won me over.

Those skeptical of Rice may compare the hype surrounding him to that attached to WR Skyy Moore just one year before. Both were second-round picks. Both walked into shallow wide receiver depth charts. Both got the privilege of playing with QB Patrick Mahomes. That’s about where the comparisons end.

Rice was able to do what Moore fans expected him to do in his rookie year — earn more targets as his debut season progressed.

The rookie WR opened the season as a role player. He played just 31% of the snaps in his first game. However, Rice was able to noticeably improve and progress throughout the season. By Week 7, he was playing over 60% of the snaps. By Week 12, he was as close to an every-down player as you can get on the Chiefs.

It’s impossible to know why exactly Rice was used so sparingly early in the season. The most likely answer is he was a rookie, didn’t have a firm grasp of the full playbook, and just wasn’t ready for a larger role.

As the season wore on, though, Rice kept making the most of his limited opportunities. While this was happening, every other receiver on the Chiefs was struggling. Their approach of constantly rotating receivers just wasn’t working. Over the second half of the season, Rice’s rapid improvement forced their hand.

Beginning around Week 12, Rice officially became the Chiefs’ WR1. After averaging 10.2 fantasy points per game over the first 11 weeks, Rice closed the season on an absolute tear. From Weeks 12-17, Rice averaged an impressive 18.5 fantasy points per game.

As a quick reminder, 16 points per game is roughly the threshold for WR1 production. Rice was bordering on elite. He was the overall WR8 over that span.

Should You Draft Rice in 2024 Best Ball Leagues?

I want to say it was obvious the Chiefs would sign an impact wide receiver. But I thought it was obvious last year and they never did.

Nevertheless, the Chiefs added former Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens WR Hollywood Brown. For the first time in his career, Mahomes actually has two quality wide receivers.

There will definitely be fantasy managers out there who view Brown as the potential WR1. There will be others who still favor Rice but are scared of Brown to the point where they fade Rice in fantasy drafts. I am not worried at all.

Fantasy managers should not necessarily project Rice to average 18 points per game this season. But Rice’s rookie year production paints a very optimistic picture of what he can do in Year 2.

Rice caught 79 passes for 938 receiving yards last year. Since 2011, there have been 26 rookie receivers to record 900+ yards. Three members of the 2023 class did it. That gives us 23 receivers on which we have next season’s data.

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Of those 23 players, I would classify three of them as busts. That means 87% of them panned out. And of those 20, more than half were or are viewed as clear WR1s in fantasy. Rice has some really good players to be compared to moving forward.

Here is what I wrote about Rice before NFL free agency: “If the Chiefs bring in someone like Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans or Indianapolis Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr., we can definitively conclude that will push Rice’s ADP down. As great as Rice was, he’s not going to command targets ahead of guys of that caliber.

If the Chiefs bring in someone like Tennessee Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins or Arizona Cardinals WR Marquise Brown, though, Rice could very well maintain his status as the WR1.”

Last season, Rice was primarily targeted near the line of scrimmage. His 4.8 aDOT (average depth of target) was 99th in the league. Nearly 70% of his 938 receiving yards came after the catch.

Brown serves as the perfect complement. Although he’s been more than a deep threat (his highest aDOT was 13.0 in 2020, 25th in the league), Brown has 4.32 speed. Rice is not burning anyone deep. But Brown certainly can.

Given that these two can operate in completely different areas of the field, this is a rare situation where I don’t think Brown’s presence negatively impacts Rice’s fantasy value all that much.

Rice is still going to need volume to produce. Fortunately, he should get it. The Chiefs have openly stated they want to be careful not to overload Travis Kelce during the season. He could easily take another step back in terms of target share, paving the way for both Rice and Brown to eclipse the 25% mark.

Rice averaged 13.3 fantasy points per game on a 17.9% target share last season. Even if that merely ticks up to 22-23%, he can be a high WR2.

I’m comfortable with fantasy managers drafting Rice at cost. The fact that he’s going behind Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs is shocking to me. I prefer Rice by a very sizable margin.

Of course, we need to monitor Rice’s ADP throughout the spring and summer. There is certainly a point at which he will no longer be worth it. Hopefully, there’s enough hype surrounding Brown that it keeps Rice’s cost reasonable, making him a worthwhile pick in Best Ball drafts throughout the year.

As we look ahead to the 2024 fantasy football season, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.

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