Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Isiah Pacheco has received heaps of praise and hype ahead of the 2022 NFL season. From a fantasy aspect, he still has a long way to go.
If you needed to pick the Kansas City Chiefs‘ biggest riser this preseason, it has to be rookie running back Isiah Pacheco. One of Kansas City’s three seventh-round selections in the 2022 NFL Draft, Pacheco has rocketed into the national football news cycle. MMQB senior NFL reporter Albert Breer went as far as to compare Pacheco to the best Chiefs running back since Jamaal Charles.
The Pacheco hype train is in full gear ahead of the 2022 regular season.
That hype, which should be taken with a grain of salt, has brought Pacheco into the fantasy football conversation. FantasyPros named him a “steal” after a lackluster preseason game against the Washington Commanders but cited more promising moves to protect him.
"He got in the game with the first team at one point, and he got pulled out after the team’s second drive. The team clearly views him as a real part of their starting offense, and he could end up being an outstanding value for fantasy purposes."
Fantasy players saw the signs and ran with it. Pacheco’s average draft position, or ADP, has risen from 330th on Aug. 1, to 209th on Aug. 25. That is a meteoric rise, considering how large the fantasy football pool of players is. In some drafts, he has nearly cracked the top-100, a feat for any rookie seventh-rounder. But, in the preseason and in training camp, what fuel is there for Pacheco’s fantasy rise?
Truthfully, a lot of what-ifs and reps as the team’s third option.
Sure, Pacheco has played with the first-team offense since the first preseason game, albeit with limited production. Sure, he has a training camp highlight reel already as long as tight end Jordy Fortson’s. There are some signs pointing to Pacheco having a respectable rookie season in Kansas City.
But, once the regular season begins, Pacheco is still the Chiefs’ third option at running back. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has the team’s investment and scheme knowledge and remains the team’s de facto starter. Veteran Jerick McKinnon is back and remains the team’s best receiving back. Both Edwards-Helaire and McKinnon have seen plenty of action with the first-team offense and are known assets in Kansas City.
That is not even considering if Ronald Jones gets to stay in Kansas City.
Pacheco has the physical tools and deserves the hype. In 2023, Pacheco could make a real push for the starting job. But, barring an injury or surprising personnel move, Pacheco is not the top option in Kansas City. Despite his preseason appearances, Pacheco’s stat projections still put him well below the bar of a productive fantasy running back.
Circumstances change, though. What happens if Edwards-Helaire goes down with an injury? What about if McKinnon’s age curses him? There are a lot of possibilities over the span of the NFL regular season. Pacheco’s fantasy stock hinges upon someone else’s downfall. If that happens, then that makes Pacheco more of a viable fantasy target. If that does not happen, then Pacheco is no better than a lottery ticket.
If you are a lottery ticket drafter in fantasy, go for it, and see what happens. Once the league gets bigger than 16 teams, those lottery tickets become more important. But, if you are in a standard, 12-team league, then you are only drafting the top 192 players. As of right now, Pacheco is not in that echelon.
Now dynasty? That is a whole different ballgame.