The Kansas City Chiefs are the team to beat in the AFC. I know, how bold of me. Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and Co. are considered the favorites to reach the Super Bowl for the third year in a row. They have the best quarterback in football, the best tight end, and one of the best receivers in the game.
But as other teams in the AFC attempt to nip at their heels by strengthening their own offenses, it’s fair to ask the question: Did Kansas City make a mistake by not upgrading the weapons behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, specifically the No. 2 receiver? The answer is a hard no until proven otherwise.
We know Kelce and Hill will continue to dominate opposing defenses as Mahomes’ go-to targets. Both players are extremely likely to cross the 1,000-receiving-yard mark once again this season. Those are the safest of bets, so does it really matter who plays third (or fourth) fiddle in this offense?
Look, I understand there is no obvious conclusion when asking who emerges as Kansas City’s WR2 in 2021. Sammy Watkins opened the season in that role a year ago, but was healthy for just 10 games and started nine of them. He was the recipient of 55 targets in those 10 contests. Bear with me as I do some simple math here. *Carry the 1…* Ah yes, that’s 5.5 targets per game. Stretch that out over the course of a new-look 17-game season, and that’s 93.5 targets. That’s a lot of opportunity to go around, especially when it’s Mahomes throwing you the ball. Something tells me Mighty Mahomes will figure it out.
Watkins is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens and the Chiefs put forth little effort in replacing him. Mecole Hardman seems like the lead candidate to take over for Watkins, but shouldn’t be guaranteed anything after recording just 41 receptions a year ago. Demarcus Robinson, who made a career-high 45 catches in 2020, and Byron Pringle are also in the picture. The Chiefs drafted former Clemson receiver Cornell Powell on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft but surprisingly released him earlier this week.
I know I just laid out some concerns, but there really isn’t much reason to panic here. After all, this is the Chiefs we’re talking about. Excluding Hill and Kelce, Kansas City’s leading receiver last year was Hardman, who finished the year with a modest 560 yards. Robinson trailed him by totaling 466 yards in the receiving game. With Watkins and his 421 yards now out of the picture, plus an extra game on the schedule, there’s plenty of reason to believe that both Hardman and Robinson will get in the 600-800-yard range.
One forgotten man is Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the second-year running back who has proven plenty capable of catching passes. I expect him to be a bigger part of Kansas City’s passing game in 2021 after catching just 36 balls a year ago for 297 yards.
When analyzing the numbers and health situation, Kansas City didn’t exactly have a bonafide WR2 in 2020 either. That didn’t stop them from leading the league with 415.8 yards per game, scoring a healthy 29.6 points per contest, and reaching the Super Bowl for the second straight year. Exactly what are we fretting about again?
There are some good teams behind the Chiefs in the AFC. The Buffalo Bills have an explosive offense that can hang with the best of them, the Tennessee Titans added Julio Jones to an already excellent offense, and the Cleveland Browns and Ravens should be considered legitimate playoff contenders as well. But until one of these teams proves capable of overthrowing the Chiefs, we’re not going to sit here and worry about which receiver will be high-fiving Kelce and Hill in the end zone in 2021.