Fantasy Court: The Case for Isiah Pacheco in 2023 (Fantasy Football)

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This article is part of the annual Fantasy Court Series. Don’t forget to check out The Case Against Isiah Pacheco by Javier Manzanera for his opposing view.

Opening Statement

Your Honor, esteemed members of this court, I’d like to start with one question as I make my case for Isiah Pacheco this season.

Don’t you want to roster the starting running back on the highest-scoring offense in the league on your fantasy football team?

The Kansas City Chiefs have been the number one scoring team two out of the last three years, and while that doesn’t always equate to fantasy points to the running back position, there are plenty of points to be had. When you factor in Pacheco’s ADP and the way he capped off last season, the reward outweighs the risk when it comes to this second-year RB. I want to minimize risk when I gamble, so placing a wager on the starting RB for the defending Super Bowl champions is a bet I think we should all feel comfortable making.

High-Value Touches

The Chiefs ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in rushing attempts over the last three years. That’s not typically a stat you like to see associated with a running back on your fantasy roster. But despite ranking 24th in rushing attempts in 2022, the Chiefs tied for eighth in rushing touchdowns with 18 total. This means that while the attempts are low, the touches are extremely valuable.

Pacheco carried the ball 20 times inside the opposing team’s 10-yard line last season, scoring on five of those opportunities. His 20 attempts ranked 14th in the league, ahead of Derrick Henry, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Kenneth Walker.

Not to mention, Pacheco only had 44 carries heading into the midway point of last season. A Clyde Edwards-Helaire injury thrust Pacheco onto the scene and he came out of the gates like a bolt of lightning to the tune of 16 carries for 82 years in Week 10. He followed that up with 107 yards on 15 carries in Week 11, a whopping 7.1 yards per attempt average.

The 24-year-old back rushed for 830 yards and five touchdowns on just 170 carries last year. As the presumptive starter going into this season, Pacheco should see plenty of more opportunities in total, but more importantly in the red zone, where the Chiefs visit often.

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Draft Cost

Because the Chiefs are a pass-first team, the team’s running backs don’t get much love when it comes to fantasy draft season. Even when they invested first-round draft capital in CEH, he was being selected in the third or fourth round in fantasy. Pacheco’s ADP is falling way below where CEH was being drafted the last couple of years and that discount makes him a worthwhile selection in the seventh, sometimes eighth round.

It’s all about minimizing risk, and selecting Pacheco in the middle of the seventh round as the RB28 according to Sleeper, is a low-risk gamble I will happily take. If he doesn’t pan out, it won’t end up costing much. But there is also the potential to strike gold, similar to Miles Sanders and Stevenson who were drafted in the same round last year. He’s also a strong target for zero RB drafters. I firmly believe you can find solace with Pacheco as your RB2.

Strong Finish and Strong Belief

The last time we saw Pacheco on the field, he was helping his team win a Super Bowl trophy, rushing for 76 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. His one-yard TD run in the third quarter helped bring the Chiefs within three points after they entered halftime trailing 24-14. It couldn’t end on a higher note for the young RB.

Too often fantasy football players dwell on the beginning of a season and not how a season ended. Keenan Allen is a perfect example of this. He missed the first half of last year due to injury but finished as the WR4 between Week 11 and Week 18 when he returned to action. Yet Allen is being drafted as the WR19 in the middle of the fourth round this year.

The same can be said for Pacheco, who finished as the RB17 between Week 10 and Week 18 when he was given the starting nod. But because he didn’t see much action before then, he’s falling in drafts.

For those concerned that Pacheco was a seventh-round pick and therefore wouldn’t be invested in by the Chiefs, they clearly showed belief in him by keeping him as the starter even when Edwards-Helaire returned from injury. They added just one RB to the roster this offseason in undrafted free agent Deneric Prince, further cementing Pacheco’s role on the team.

There are also concerns that Pacheco underwent offseason hand and shoulder surgery, but Chiefs GM Brett Veach said he’ll be ready to go for the season opener. The fact that Pacheco played through injuries last year only means he’ll be an even bigger threat on the ground at 100 percent this season.

Closing Argument

Rostering a high-scoring player on the Chiefs is every fantasy drafter’s dream. Aside from Travis Kelce, it’s been hard to pinpoint the skill position player that you can rely on week in and week out. Sure, you could take a glance at the myriad wide receiver options and hope you get lucky on a certain week. But why not take the guaranteed touches with the team’s starting running back?

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Sure, Pacheco might not get 25+ carries a game, but he certainly will get a handful of rushing attempts near the goal line. He’s bound to see more than 170 carries this year as the starter heading into the opener. And who knows, he might even get in on the receiving work…

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