Patrick Mahomes Reloaded

What will the 2024 Kansas City Chiefs' offense look like in a post–Travis Kelce world?

Patrick Mahomes Reloaded

Kansas City will play San Francisco in the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons. Patrick Mahomes has made the AFC Championship game in each of his six seasons as Chiefs starting quarterback. This will be their fourth Super Bowl and his second chance at going back-to-back.

He's Tom Brady and LeBron James rolled into one. As a Bills fan, watching him dice up the league while Josh Allen careens down the Philip Rivers trajectory isn't exactly what I would describe as a fun time.

But that's real life and I'm here to talk about fantasy football. Specifically, how Kansas City will look in 2024 in their post–Travis Kelce era.

The Chiefs project to have a $245 million salary cap in 2024. How they allocate those real dollars will impact the way we play our fake football game.

I tried to figure out how Kansas City general manager Brett Veach will spend those millions by first looking back at what he's done over seven years on the job.

Brett Veach as Chiefs Boss

Brett Veach with his T-shirt tucked into his gym shorts.

When Andy Reid was hired as Chiefs head coach on January 4, 2013, Brett Veach, then a Philadelphia scout, followed along and was promoted to the front office.

From 2013-2017, Chiefs GM John Dorsey called the shots, but as far as I can tell the new guys had a say in the decision-making. The Chiefs brought in former Eagles wide receivers Jason Avant (at 31 years old in 2014) and Jeremy Maclin (at 27 in 2015). Other than those two, Dorsey stuck to the collegiate ranks to add pass-catchers on Day 2 or Day 3 and as undrafted free agents (UDFAs).

  • 2014: De'Anthony Thomas (4th Round), Albert Wilson and Frankie Hammond (UDFAs)
  • 2015: Chris Conley (3rd Round)
  • 2016: Demarcus Robinson (4th Round) and Tyreek Hill (5th Round)
  • 2017: Jehu Chesson (4th Round) and Marcus Kemp (UDFA)

During the same three-year stretch, the Chiefs picked up tight ends Brian Parker (a Rochester, NY native!) and former basketball-players-turned-TEs Demetrius Harris and Ross Travis as UDFAs.

And with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Patrick Mahomes.

A few months later, Brett Veach began his tenure as general manager. The Chiefs entered the 2017 season with nine pass-catchers on their roster: seven wideouts and two tight ends.

Albert Wilson was the highest paid wide receiver ($1,797,000) and Travis Kelce (a 3rd Rounder in 2013) was their highest paid tight end ($5,418,400). Tyreek Hill was 23 years old and making $586,260. All in all, the nine guys accounted for 7.2% of the Chiefs' 2017 cap.

📊
This article relies on contract details made available by Spotrac.com

The next year, Veach's first offseason calling the shots, the Chiefs signed presumptive No. 1 WR Sammy Watkins to help develop their second-year QB. He led a receiving corps that ballooned to nine wideouts and five tight ends, accounting for 14.74% of the 2018 cap—more than double what they spent under Dorsey's watch.

Chiefs Pass Catchers (WRs + TEs) — Cap %

  • 2017 — 7.2%
  • 2018 — 14.74%
  • 2019 — 19.46%
  • 2020 — 21.83%
  • 2021 — 16.18%
  • 2022 — 12.26%
  • 2023 — 15.87%

Tyreek's departure and Mahomes' contract extension—which will seemingly be restructured until the end of time—led to a decrease in pass-catcher spend in 2022 and 2023.

Spotrac's Michael Ginnitti suggests the Chiefs will convert Mahomes' 2024 roster bonus into a signing bonus to free up $27.9 million of cap space. The Chiefs have done this twice previously, in March 2021 and March 2023, in addition to restructuring Mahomes' deal this past September.

At some point, the tax man will come for the Chiefs. But in the meantime, they'll pray Mahomes can play at an elite level into his late thirties or early forties or maybe into his fifties for goodness sake.

For now, I would expect the Chiefs to spend even less on their pass-catchers in 2024, possibly dipping under 10% for the first time since Veach took over and Mahomes was named starting quarterback.

That's how other teams among the league leaders in quarterback spending have operated since at least 2020.

Top 5 QB Spenders Since 2020 — Cap %

  • Quarterbacks: 15.85%
  • WRs + TEs: 10.38%
  • Total Offense: 42.4%
  • Total Defense: 29.78%
  • I.R. + Dead Cap: 19.95%
  • Special Teams: The rest (didn't calculate, sorry)

Based on their projected $245 million cap, that would leave a little more than $25 million for the Chiefs' 2024 pass-catchers.

For comparison's sake, take the Green Bay Packers' 2022 offseason when they gave Aaron Rodgers a 3-year contract with $150 million guaranteed and franchise-tagged Davante Adams before trading the star receiver to the Raiders.

Green Bay spent 15.5% of their salary cap on pass-catchers in 2021, but they were below 10% in 2022 and the combined 97-year-old trio of Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, and Marcedes Lewis accounted for more than half of it.

The Packers drafted Amari Rodgers in the 3rd Round in 2021, picked Christian Watson in the 2nd and Romeo Doubs in the 4th in 2022, and went back to the pass-catching well with Luke Musgrave, Jayden Reed, Tucker Kraft, and Dontayvion Wicks on Day 2 and Day 3 last April.

The Cheeseheads benefited from having a surplus of picks in each of the past three drafts, making 13 selections in 2023, 11 in 2022, and 9 in 2021.

As of this writing, the Chiefs have just six picks in 2024 and it's a near-lock they'll add at least one new TE at some point during the offseason.

Travis Kelce Heads to TV

Travis Kelce on Saturday Night Live (March 4, 2023).

Travis Kelce is going to retire. He would be foolish not to.

The New Heights podcast hosted by Travis and Jason Kelce debuted in September 2022. Fast-forward to this past week when the show racked up more than 100,000 live viewers on YouTube and had more than 2 million total views while ranking as the No. 2 trending video a day later.

The Manning brothers, Pat McAfee, and Rob Gronkowski laid the blueprint for Travis to walk away, at least temporarily. It's easy to imagine network executives pitching a "Manningcast"-type show hosted by the Kelce brothers that may or may not feature the occasional guest spot from the most famous pop star on the planet.

Gronk retired in 2019 but returned a year later, and Travis could do the same—perhaps even sooner. If Travis retires this offseason, the Chiefs would be on the hook for a little more than $5 million in dead cap. But what if he decides to return for their playoff run? The Chiefs would retain Travis's playing rights and, I mean, it's hard to imagine any network wouldn't allow him the "time off" to go play for the Chiefs.

This type of insane popularity surrounding the Kelce brothers is fleeting and they should look to cash in while they can. As for the Chiefs, replacing Travis will likely be done by committee.

Non-Kelce Tight Ends Under Contract

  • Noah Gray (through 2024) — $1,133,444 cap hit

That's it! If Travis Kelce retires, Brett Veach has a few weeks to decide if Noah Gray is the heir apparent.

That's not fair, and Gray shouldn't be viewed as such (even if he almost certainly will be). I don't think Kansas City will approach their offseason with Noah Gray as a focal point of their offense. Rather, I would expect them to try to replace Kelce's production "in the aggregate" as they did in the post-Tyreek seasons.

But still, the Chiefs have typically rostered three tight ends during the Andy Reid era, so they've got some shopping to do.

Break the Bank for Dalton Schultz?

He sort of looks like Kelce, if you squint?

Dalton Schultz is the big name tight end on the market this offseason, coming off another successful campaign IRL and in fantasy football.

Schultz projects to "secure the bag" at 3 years, $34 million or roughly $11.3 million per season. With Kelce currently on the books for $15.5 million—with $5.1 million in dead cap if he were to retire—signing Schultz at his projected contract valuation seems unlikely as it would increase Kansas City's spend at the position.

There's an argument to be made Schultz could provide similar production, though, if he were plugged directly into the Kelce role. Here's how he and other free agents stacked up against the Chiefs TEs in 2023:

Targets per game, Routes per game, Target% per route run, Average depth of target

Alas, it appears the Chiefs won't be able to sign Schultz away from the Texans. When he signed a 1-year deal for $6 million with Houston last March, the Texans prorated his signing bonus over four years, which means they'd be on the hook for $3.4 million in dead cap if they let Schultz walk in free agency but could avoid the hit if they were able to sign him to an extension.

Given that the Texans top two wide receivers are on rookie deals, handing Schultz an extension seems like a lock unless another team outbids them.

Plan B: What if Kansas City scales up Noah Gray's usage? Could he approximate Hunter Henry's numbers from the 2023 season if, say, he saw 4+ targets a game and ran more than 25 routes per?

Yards per route run, Long reception, Yards after catch/reception, YAC/target

Gray nearly tripled Henry's yards after catch (YAC) per target in 2023 and more than doubled his YAC per reception at a fraction of his salary. A free agent this offseason, Henry projects for a 2 year, $14.3 million deal.

Making the decision more clear is how Kansas City prefers to use their pass-catching tight ends. They lined up Kelce and Gray out wide, inline, and out of the slot but barely asked them to pass block.

Maybe Gray is the heir apparent after all?

Tight end alignment before the snap

Prediction: Travis Kelce retires and hypes 25-year-old Noah Gray's potential while also stumping for 33-year-old Blake Bell. The loyal Chiefs, as they have done throughout the Andy Reid era, bring back their guys and consider a Noah Gray extension. They also add a rookie TE in the draft or as a UDFA and a veteran on a minimum contract later in the offseason (maybe an ex-hooper like Mo Alie-Cox), carrying four TEs on their active roster. The foursome isn't all that fantasy relevant early on but that's OK. They pave the way for the Rashee Rice takeover.

Rashee Rice Is Drafted at His Ceiling

Can we get much higher? So high.

Welcome to the 1-2 turn, young legend.

Rashee Rice was more effective in 2023 than Deebo Samuel.

The rookie earned more targets per game, had a higher catch percentage, picked up more first downs, gained more yards, and had more yards after the catch.

I'm just talking about receiving and not factoring in Deebo's rushing, but still: Since Week 11, Rashee Rice has been an absolute menace.

Then again, 60 wide receivers averaged at least 5 targets per game during the 2023 season and Rice had the shallowest average depth of target (aDoT) by a country mile.

Not really, but the next closest WRs were Wan'Dale Robinson (5.5 aDoT), Jaxon Smith-Njigba (6.4 aDoT), and Curtis Samuel (7.1 aDoT) and each gained far fewer yards than Rice, on average, when they were out there running routes.

Wan'Dale, JSN, and Curtis Samuel also ran 70% of their routes from the slot whereas Rice split his time 50/50 between the slot and out wide.

So, I wanted to focus on the wide receivers who were used across the formation and not primarily in the slot. More specifically, I was looking for wide receivers who racked up receiving yardage at a higher clip when dividing by the number of routes they ran over the course of the season (YPRR).

💡
Yards per route run (YPRR) is a useful stat for fantasy projections if we're able to gauge how often a player will be on the field for passing plays and actually running a route.

To get to the guys who truly compare to Rice, we have to aim our targets a bit further downfield.

  • Rashee Rice — 5.2 aDoT | 2.48 YPRR | 49.1% slot
  • Deebo Samuel — 7.2 aDoT | 2.34 YPRR | 31.9% slot
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown — 7.4 aDoT | 2.62 YPRR | 55.6% slot
  • Puka Nacua — 9.4 aDoT | 2.75 YPRR | 30.3% slot
  • CeeDee Lamb — 10.4 aDoT | 2.69 YPRR | 58.6% slot

Damn good company. Now, here's where things get scary.

Yards Per Game — % Yards Gained After Catch

  • Rashee Rice — 69.51%
  • Deebo Samuel — 59.61%
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown — 45.06%
  • Puka Nacua — 43.85%
  • CeeDee Lamb — 38.14%

That, my fellow bandits, suggests Rice was running hot. Scalding, even.

To see just how hot, I'm going to turn to Next Gen Stats and something they call "Incredible YAC." Rather than summarize it, though, I'm simply going to paste a bit from their website. (Please don't sue me.)

👟
Receiver X catches the ball with no defenders near him and gets 10 yards after the catch. Receiver Y catches the ball in tight coverage, breaks a tackle and gains 5 yards after the catch. What's more incredible? Expected Yards After Catch (xYAC) predicts the expected yards after catch an average receiver should gain on each reception by surveying tracking data the moment the ball reaches the receiver. The machine learning model takes into account numerous metrics such as receiver speed, separation, and defender location.

Rashee Rice was 2nd in the NFL in Expected Yards After Catch with 6.5 (xYAC). That tells me the Chiefs did a good job getting the ball to Rice in space and letting him menace after the catch

In reality, Rice bested Next Gen's xYAC by nearly two yards to average 8.4 YAC, according to Amazon (or 8.5 YAC according to Pro Football Focus, because we can never agree on anything).

Thirteen different receivers ran hotter than Rice in xYAC, or rather: 13 gained more yards than Amazon's math deemed attainable, including:

  • Deebo (3.9 yards over expected, 1st in the NFL)
  • Puka (2 yards over expected compared to Rice's paltry 1.9).
  • Amon-Ra checked in at 1 yard over expected
  • CeeDee was at 0.8

My reading of all that? It's advantageous to be better than the math.

Can We Get Some Deeper Targets?

Do we need them? Maybe stick to what's working? I don't know.

Rice's average depth of target remains a concern and requires a little more digging, as I'm worried defenses will take away the manufactured or "schemed" looks after a full offseason studying Chiefs tape.

Here's how Rashee's aDoT breaks down according to PFF stats:

  • Behind the Line of Scrimmage (LOS): 26.3% of targets
  • Short Area (0-9 yards beyond LOS): 50.9%
  • Intermediate (10-19 yards beyond LOS): 17.5%
  • Deep (20+ yards beyond LOS): 5.3%

PFF also tracks receiving concepts and targets against defensive schemes:

  • Slot Concepts: 47.4% of targets
  • Screen Passes: 22.8%
  • Man Coverage: 33.3%
  • Zone Coverage: 52.6%

What kind of coverage was Rashee Rice up against for the other 14.1% of targets? Beats me! And what good is all this intel if we can't compare it against some of the other guys to see how they performed in 2023?

  • Slot Concepts: Amon-Ra (55.9%), Keenan Allen (47.6%)
  • Screen Passes: Jayden Reed (21.6%), Deebo Samuel (20.2%)
  • Man vs. Zone Coverage: CeeDee Lamb (34% vs. 54.3%), Davante Adams (32.7% vs. 52%)

And then there's the average depth of target comps:

  • Behind the Line of Scrimmage: Demario "Pop" Douglas (25%), Ja'Marr Chase (24.8%)
  • Short Area (0-9 yards beyond LOS): A.J. Brown (50.7%), Garrett Wilson (49.7%)
  • Intermediate (10-19 yards beyond LOS): DJ Moore (18.9%), Zay Flowers (16.5%)
  • Deep (20+ yards beyond LOS): Deebo Samuel (9%), Adam Thielen (5.1%)

Enough cherrypicking stats and more to the point: we could use about a dozen more deep shots to Rice in 2024, or fewer than one per game. That evolution seems doable based on Rice's increased usage across the formation and the likelihood the Chiefs move on from Marquez Valdes-Scantling this offseason.

Before the BYE week, after the BYE, first playoff game

I'll get to MVS in a second. But I mean, c'mon. The Rashee Rice hype train has left the station. It is choo-chooing so hard and it's about to choo even harder. If Kelce retires, Rashee Rice could be a Top 12 pick in fantasy.

But fine: let's say he takes a step back from this nine-game heater and, after a nice relaxing summer at Mahomesland running routes for hours on end with his winning-obsessed quarterback, let's say he operates at about 85% of the level he's maintained since this past Thanksgiving.

According to my math, he'd end up with something like 90 receptions for 1,100 yards during the 17 week fantasy season. That would have been good for 14th best in receptions and 16th best in yards among WRs in 2023 and would add up to 200 fantasy points in PPR formats.

Those numbers alone would have made him the WR29 in 2023 in PPR scoring, but there's just one problem with that: He finished the fantasy season as the WR21.

I didn't include touchdowns in my projection, my mistake. He scored seven in 2023, so let's say he's able to do that again. That would make him WR14 if positional scoring stayed on par with this past season.

What if we can get a deeper aDoT for Rice in 2024? Would that be enough to bump him up to 1,300 yards? He'd be up to 270 PPR points in this scenario, which would've been the WR9 in 2023. Puka was the WR5 with 284.4 PPR points.

I'm trying to remain calm. I'm trying to tell myself defenses have been drawn away by the magnetic pull of Kelce and it's affording Rice these monster YACko-tunities. I'm trying to remind myself Matt Nagy is the offensive coordinator, and yet.

I can hear it now: "We have Rashee Rice ranked at the 1-2 turn and honestly? We might be a little low."

The MVS Replacement

Here we go again.

Oh, bother. Let's rip off the Band-Aid real quick: Mike Evans is not going to sign with the Chiefs.

But OK, fine: t0 avoid being a total buzzkill, let's say the Chiefs are able to get a deal done with Mr. One Thousand because he's the perfect MVS replacement.

Evans had 41 deep targets over 19 games in 2023, good for tops in the NFL. The next closest WR who also made it to the Divisional Round was not MVS but his Chiefs' teammate Justin Watson with 22 such targets.

😵‍💫
I wrote this before the Conference Championship and MVS's game-sealing reception, his second deep catch in as many weeks.

Evans brought in 17 of his 41 deep targets for 552 yards and 8 touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus.

In 2022, he was Top 5 in deep targets (20+ yards downfield) with 32 in 16 games. He was tied for 8th among wideouts in 2021 and stood alone as 3rd in 2020, when Tyreek Hill led the league with 38 deep shots.

The 2020 season leaderboard, in particular, features plenty of guys who will be unrestricted free agents this March:

Dumb stands for "Deep, unreliable maybe balls"

PFF includes stats for deep contested catches and deep catch percentage, as well as tracking the drops on these on-target throws 20+ yards downfield. To try and simplify these deep stats into one metric, I came up with formula for a stat I'm calling Dumb Targets.

Dumb Targets, or "deep, unreliable maybe ball" targets, subtract the harder-to-catch contested targets as well as the player's drop rate to try and get a more accurate percentage of how worthwhile these deep shots tend to be.

Truly Dumb Targets takes this a step further by illustrating how often these deep shots tend to end up as incomplete wind sprints.

In 2020, more than half of the deep targets for Tee Higgins, Allen Robinson, Chase Claypool, and MVS were Truly Dumb, but lumping them together sort of undersells just how Dumb those Aaron Rodgers throws were to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

More than 40% of MVS's targets in 2020 were deep shots, meaning the frequency with which Aaron Rodgers was launching Truly Dumb targets toward MVS far outpaced those Cincy threw to Higgins (26.7%), Chicago threw to Robinson (14%), or Pittsburgh threw to Claypool (29.1%).

And yet the Chiefs still signed MVS to a contract after that. They can get out of it for a $2 million dead-cap penalty this March. Since MVS currently has a 2024 cap hit of $13.98 million, I would expect him to be released before free agency begins.

That would free up nearly $12 million for the Chiefs to spend however they see fit. As far as the Dumb Target merchants set to be unrestricted free agents in the table above, here's where Spotrac values their next contracts:

  • Mike Evans — 4 years, $95.3 million ($23.8 avg.)
  • Tee Higgins — 4 years, $74.4 million ($18.6 avg.)
  • Calvin Ridley — 4 years, $68.2 million ($17.1 avg.)
  • Marquise Brown — 4 years, $59.5 million ($14.9 avg.)
  • Gabe Davis — 4 years, $54.5 million ($13.6 avg.)
  • Darnell Mooney — 4 years, $42 million ($10.5 avg.)
  • DJ Chark — 1 year, $11 million
  • Nelson Agholor — 1 year, $1.6 million
  • Chase Claypool — Vet minimum

For everyone's sanity and especially DJ Chark's, let's hope the Chiefs go in a different direction. Before moving on to the guy I think they might like to add, I'll just say that if Kansas City truly wants to make a splash and land Mike Evans they could structure his contract in a way that makes sense for cap purposes.

I don't expect them to do this, as they need to pay Chris Jones and L'Jarius Sneed, among others, and have key contracts coming up next offseason, but just in case they do, I gotta ask: Did you watch Mike Evans this season?

He had to come off the field after basically every deep route. He was absolutely gassed and it's not going to get any easier as the First Ballot Hall of Famer turns 31 in August.

Oh, and one more thing: Tee Higgins is a name that jumps out in the table above, not because I think he'd join the Chiefs and go Judas Mode against the Bengals (nor do I think Gabe Davis would do that to the Bills), but because the Carolina Panthers hired Dave Canales as their head coach and I've been kicking around the idea for awhile now that they could sign Higgins to accelerate Bryce Young's development. Seeing as Canales just coached Mike Evans to a massive season and used to coach DK Metcalf, I feel like the idea will gain even more steam in the coming weeks. I'd revisit the Dumb Targets table, though, if the Panthers expect Higgins to convert deep shots at a rate that's on par with Mike Evans.

Remembering Some Guys

Could the Chiefs sign Darnell Mooney—a former Matt Nagy draft pick?

Anthony Miller signed a reserve/future contract with the Chiefs last Tuesday, January 23, 2024. He was drafted in the 2nd Round in 2018 by the Bears during Matt Nagy's first season as head coach. That year, he was part of a receiving corps that featured Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, both of whom are unrestricted free agents this March.

It's safe to say Mooney won't be back with Chicago. The team fired their offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, among others, on January 10.

Over his four seasons in Chicago, roughly a quarter of Mooney's targets were deep shots 20+ yards downfield. He pulled in 19 of them and took 4 of them to the house over the course of 60 games. He also has something the Chiefs covet: speed.

NFL Combine 40 Times

  • Mecole Hardman — 4.33 (2019)
  • Chris Conley — 4.35 (2015)
  • MVS — 4.37 (2018)
  • Isiah Pacheco — 4.37 (2022)
  • Darnell Mooney — 4.38 (2020)
  • Kadarius Toney — 4.38 (2021)
  • Jerick McKinnon — 4.41 (2014)
  • Skyy Moore — 4.41 (2022)
  • Sammy Watkins — 4.43 (2014)
  • Albert Wilson — 4.43 (2014)
  • Byron Pringle — 4.46 (2018)
  • Jehu Chesson — 4.47 (2017)
  • Richie James — 4.48 (2018)

Then there's Mooney's drive and toughness illustrated in this Dan Pompei profile from 2022. Here's a bit from the opening (please don't sue me):

It's a little past midnight at the Bears' indoor practice facility.

One man, without company, practices releases and runs routes. He does his drills over and over, breathing hard, sweating, contemplating what he calls the "geometry of routes" — the degrees of his cuts, the angles of defenders, the alignments of coverages."

What is Darnell Mooney doing here? Why isn't he sleeping or gaming or hanging with the fellas?

Well, he isn't interested in much other than playing wide receiver. His idea of a diversion is stepping around a cornerback on a pass route.

Mooney didn't take a vacation between January and July. In his two years with the Bears, he has gone out at night in Chicago just once. He went to a club only because his quarterback, Justin Fields, set it up.

Has anyone told Mooney that Mahomes has a football field in his backyard?

Mahomesland

The bugaboo with Mooney has been the injuries. His Rotoworld blurb page is lengthy with assorted lower-body ailments, most significantly a season-ending ankle injury that limited him to 12 games in 2022. There was also the concussion this past season that caused him to miss the final two contests. Going back to his toughness, though, he has played through much of the aches and pains over the years, but still: He's 5'11" and 173 lbs.

Slight receivers have proven they can produce and are becoming more of the norm in the NFL as playcallers work to get the ball to their dynamic athletes in space by any means necessary, as the Chiefs have done this season with Rashee Rice.

Mooney would complement Rice's short-area skill set with an ability to take the top off and work the intermediate part of the field, as well as contribute in the short area opposite Rice. He's also primarily worked as a WR2 in the NFL, opposite Allen Robinson in 2020-21 and DJ Moore in 2023.

That's a big part of all this, I think, as the Chiefs should look to elevate Rice as the true focal point of their offense while he's still on a rookie deal, and anyone they bring in should be there as a complement to Rice and not an outright threat for the WR1 spot, like a Mike Evans, Calvin Ridley, or Hollywood Brown signing would be.

Anyway, this is probably giving Matt Nagy too much credit as far as having some say in personnel decisions. Big Red already threw him a bone, it seems, with the futures contract for Anthony Miller.

I wonder if Andy Reid has been keeping tabs on his old O.C. over in Washington?

Go-Go Gadget

Curtis Samuel would fill a vital role in the Andy Reid offense: Trickeration

I keep going back to the Chiefs drafting De'Anthony Thomas in the 4th Round in Andy Reid's second year with the team. Reid was succeeded by Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, who had left behind a powerhouse Oregon Ducks offense propelled by De'Anthony Thomas.

As a freshman in 2011, Thomas eclipsed 400 yards in rushing, receiving, and returning. He had 2,235 yards across the categories and 18 total touchdowns. Just ridiculous stuff, and easy to see why Reid was attracted to the hybrid's skillset.

As of this writing, the Washington Commanders do not have a head coach. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was interviewed for the job but Lions OC Ben Johnson is considered the heavy favorite after Detroit's playoff exit. Would Ben Johnson retain Bieniemy if hired? Would Bieniemy be able to get another job elsewhere, quickly, or will they all have been filled?

There's a world where Andy Reid invites Bieniemy back with open arms as an associate head coach and advisor/consultant. It's hard to imagine he'd bring Bieniemy back and replace Nagy, but this is already getting too deep for a hypothetical and I'd rather just talk about Curtis Samuel.

Curtis Samuel is one of those players where you want to type out his whole name every time because he has two first names (always a crowdpleaser, shout out to Matthew Berry).

Anyway, Curtis ran a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2017. That ties him with Parris Campbell (2019) as the fastest available unrestricted free agent WR on the market this March.

Curtis, like De'Anthony, did damage on the ground and through the air in college while he was playing for Urban Meyer's Buckeyes. According to Wikipedia, he's the only Buckeye in school history to eclipse 1,000 career yards in both rushing and receiving.

If Andy Reid's looking for a receiver who fits in with his more creative play-calling and provides more meaningful, reliable snaps than Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney, then I'd expect the Chiefs to—at the very least—give Curtis Samuel's agent a call.

Shiny toys probably aren't as high on the Chiefs wishlist this offseason, though. I'd expect the order to look something like this:

  1. Speed
  2. Sure Hands
  3. Hybrid Playmakers

Sure Hands

Kendrick Bourne went 2 for 42 against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl four years ago.

Kendrick Bourne had 37 receptions on 55 targets and zero drops for the Patriots in eight games this season before going down with a torn ACL.

As you may have heard, the Chiefs struggled bigly with drops in 2023. (For what it's worth, Puka Nacua and Tyreek Hill led the league in drops.)

Kelce led the team with eight drops but had a respectable 7.1% drop rate, given that he saw 133 targets through the Divisional Round. Rashee Rice had three drops but that's fine, really, because he had a 3.2% drop rate. The rest of the pass-catchers were a liability.

The Chiefs led the league with 34 dropped passes on 597 targets. As NFL Network's Bucky Brooks points out, "That 5.7% drop rate explains the significant decline in the offense's overall efficiency and production, with the bobbles and gaffes prematurely ending drives."

He added: "The receiving corps' inconsistencies have affected Mahomes' willingness to pull the trigger on the kind of tight-window throws that routinely produced big plays in the past."

Chiefs WR Drops

  • Justin Watson — 55 targets, five drops, 14.7% drop rate
  • Kadarius Toney — 37 targets, four drops, 12.9% drop rate
  • MVS — 46 targets, three drops, 11.1% drop rate
  • Justyn Ross — 11 targets, two drops, 25% drop rate
  • Mecole Hardman — 26 targets, two drops, 10.5% drop rate

You think the Chiefs missed Demarcus Robinson this season? He had 29 receptions on 45 targets and zero drops for the Rams and was an integral part of their late-season surge and surprise playoff berth.

I don't know, maybe the drops have been overblown. And I know MVS just made two huge catches en route to another Super Bowl appearance.

If the season-long dropsies are part of the Chiefs' 2024 cap calculus, though, I feel obligated to mention the drop rates of some of the other UFAs I've mentioned throughout this long-ass article.

Unrestricted Free Agents — Drops

  • Darnell Mooney — 55 targets, five drops, 13.9% drop rate
  • Noah Brown — 55 targets, five drops, 13.2% drop rate
  • K.J. Osborn — 73 targets, seven drops, 12.7% drop rate
  • Tee Higgins — 74 targets, six drops, 12.5% drop rate
  • DJ Chark — 62 targets, five drops, 12.5% drop rate
  • Nick Westbrook-Ikhine — 42 targets, four drops, 12.5% drop rate
  • Brandon Powell — 43 targets, three drops, 9.4% drop rate
  • Calvin Ridley — 132 targets, seven drops, 8.4% drop rate
  • Mike Evans — 146 targets, eight drops, 8.2% drop rate
  • Gabe Davis — 78 targets, four drops, 8.2% drop rate

Curtis Samuel had 85 targets, four drops, and a 6.1% drop rate, so that seems fine! At a projected 3 year, $34.6 million contract he'd fit in with their budget, too.

Plus, Andy would ratchet up Curtis's run-game usage and put him into that circus bullshit they call when they're bored in like Week 6, right? He'd certainly add a little flavor to the running game.

Or, you know, they could get the King a ring.

No One Backfield Should Have All That Power

CHAOS REIGNS

Just kidding. It's the Isiah Pacheco show.

2024 Chiefs Roster Predictions

*new additions in bold or italicized text

  • QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
  • RBs: Isiah Pacheco, La'Mical Perine (or someone like Michael Carter), UDFA rookie, veteran special teamer (like DeeJay Dallas)
  • WRs: Rashee Rice, Curtis Samuel, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Day 2 or Day 3 rookie, UDFA rookie, vet minimum burner (like Nelson Agholor) or returner (like Brandon Powell)
  • TEs: Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Day 2 or Day 3 or UDFA rookie, vet minimum redzone threat or chain-mover (like Mo Alie-Cox or Tyler Conklin), and Travis Kelce un-retiring for the playoffs

  • So You're Saying There's a Chance: Kendrick Bourne, Darius Slayton
  • Chaos Reigns: DJ Chark, Antonio Gibson

  • Mid-Season Trade Target: Brandin Cooks. For the bit!