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In March, when Kansas City traded Tyreek Hill, skeptics asked, “OMG, who will Patrick Mahomes throw to?”
When the Chiefs entered Sunday night’s game against the Chargers without two of their leading receivers, and lost another to injury in the second quarter, again we heard: “Who will Mahomes throw to?”
Answer: Their 5th and 6th receivers, Skyy Moore and Justin Watson. They combined for eight catches and 130 yards.
How did the Chiefs assemble such WR depth, and what can other clubs learn from it?
Kansas City Drafted A Receiver
One of the NFL’s greatest player values is a drafted receiver who starts all four years through his rookie contract….and there are plenty of them.
An amazing 13 of the first 54 players in this year’s draft were receivers. Ten of the 13 have already broken out, foretelling careers that will range from very good to sensational. The other three need only better health or opportunity.
Kansas City’s WR room includes two draftees — Moore (2nd round, 2022) and Mecole Hardman (2nd round, 2019).
But more than one-third of the NFL’s current top 33 receivers were found beyond the second round — four 3rd round choices, two 4ths, three 5ths, one 6th and two undrafted free agents.
Kansas City Made Smart Receiver Signings In Free Agency
Kansas City crushed this year’s free agency with three signings – Watson (one year, $1.035 million), JuJu Smith-Schuster (one year, $3.76 million) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (one year, $9 million).
This market is perennially booby-trapped with injury-prone players who can’t run anymore. Last year, they were Kenny Golladay, Nelson Agholor, T.Y. Hilton and Will Fuller. This year, they are Allen Robinson, Russell Gage, D.J. Chark and Byron Pringle.
Whiffs are costly. Golladay’s contract is $72 million, Robinson’s $46.5 million. And doesn’t Green Bay wish it had kept Valdes-Scantling and signed Smith-Schuster in preference to Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb?
The Chiefs last month traded for Kadarius Toney, a prodigious talent and volatile personality who presents risk/reward to Andy Reid and Mahomes. The price, a 3rd and 6th, is acceptable for a Super Bowl contender.
Similarly, all-in Philadelphia is winning its trade of a 1st and 3rd for A.J. Brown. And against historical precedent, all-in Miami is justifying its swap of a 1st, 2nd, two 4ths and a 6th for Tyreek.
What’s mystifying are going-nowhere clubs overreaching for players who will be aged-out or free before a turnaround is achieved.
For instance, why would Cleveland, aflame in Deshaun Watson turmoil, trade for 28-year-old Amari Cooper and pay him $20 million this season? Why would Chicago yield a 2nd for Chase Claypool when he’s a year-and-a-half from free agency?
Why would floundering New Orleans give a 1st, 2nd, two 3rds and a 4th in moving up twice for Chris Olave? They could have stayed in place at No. 18 and had their choice of Treylon Burks, Christian Watson or George Pickens, all of whom will be outstanding pros.
And why would dead-end Las Vegas surrender a 1st, 2nd and $140 million contract for soon-to-be-30 Davante Adams?
Six WRs from the classes of 2018 and 2019 – A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf, D.J. Moore and Christian Kirk — negotiated second contracts in the offseason. The average age of these players at expiration of their deals will be 28.7 years.
The six Kansas City receivers detailed above average 25.35 years of age.
Among the top 30 NFL receivers last season, not one had reached his 30th birthday. Among the current top 30 receivers, only one, Tyler Lockett, has reached his 30th birthday.
Of all the factors to be considered in assembling a deep WR room, one is paramount: This is a very young man’s position.