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Making a case for Albert Wilson and the Kansas City Chiefs receivers

Somehow I let multiple days slip by without a mailbag. Seeing as it's July, and what amounts for news at this time of year is a "future power ranking" (wow. I mean, that's next level, guys), I am ashamed and must apologize for the complete failure on my part to provide something to distract you from work and/or lives on a daily basis.

With that in mind, let's see if we can crank out a few in a few days. They're starting to stack up anyway thanks to the continued fantastic participation by you fine people. Let's mailbag.

Might as well start with something that requires me to put on my most optimistic hat.

First of all, as I've noted before, we need to remember that the group lining up for the Chiefs at the END of last season (with Albert Wilson and Jason Avant getting most of the No. 2 and No. 3 WR snaps) was very different from the group that played most of the year (Hammond, Hemingway, and Jenkins). So we need to move away from the horror show that was the majority of last season. Upgrades came DURING the year. It was just too little, too late.

But making a case for it as a STRENGTH? Well ... all right, let's do this.

No one is arguing with the fact that Jeremy Maclin was a wonderful acquisition for the Chiefs. I reviewed almost 400 of his snaps from 2014 in order to explain why he's a good overall receiver and not just a deep threat. He's a better fit for Reid's offense and with Alex Smith than Dwayne Bowe was. There's absolutely no legitimate doubt about that.

The problem for most people is that the aforementioned Bowe, the Chiefs best receiver for the last zillion years or so, was cut during the offseason. So many view it as a "three steps forward, two steps back" situation in which the team improved ... but not drastically.

Any argument against that line of thinking needs to start with Albert Wilson. CAN an argument be made that Albert Wilson can contribute enough that he WILL replace Bowe's production, with Maclin being an addition all on his own?

Before starting, it HAS to be noted that Wilson's stats are based on three games in which he played major snaps with Alex Smith as his quarterback. Three games is not a big enough sample size to draw serious conclusions ... BUT it's nearly a quarter of a season, so it's a long shot better than nothing. If you're interested, I've reviewed Wilson's film from his games with Smith and found him intriguing (here and here)

Something interesting happens when you compare Albert Wilson's numbers with Smith to Bowe's 2014 numbers with Smith (all deep stats via PFF).

Dwayne Bowe's Numbers

Targets/Game Catches/Game YAC/Catch Broken Tackles Per Catch Drops Per Catch Yards Per Game Yards Per Target
6 4 4 1 every 10 catches 1 every 8.57 catches 50.3 8.39

Albert Wilson's Numbers

Targets/Game Catches/Game YAC/Catch Broken Tackles Per Catch Drops Per Catch Yards Per Game Yards Per Target
6.33 4 7.5 1 every 3 catches 1 every 12 catches 69.6 11

First of all, let's explain why I used a couple of the numbers I did.

I'm not a big fan of "total yards" because it doesn't reflect how efficient a player is. EFFICIENCY matters, not volume. We all know that, having watched Jamaal Charles become literally the most efficient running back (yards per carry) in the history of the NFL (just had to fit that in here).

With a wide receiver, the most relevant numbers involve what they do on a per-catch and per-target basis. That's the best way to see how one player stacks up against another (barring film review, the very best way), especially if other things are controlled. In this case, both WRs had the same quarterback throwing them the ball, so they were in a similar situation.

With all that said, notice anything interesting there?

You mean other than the fact that Albert Wilson actually produced at a higher level than Dwayne Bowe last season?

Nothing much besides that.

Yes, I know, sample size. But before you go hollering that it's a fluke, turn on the all-22 tape. Or, if you don't have that, go read the film review pieces on Wilson. Yes, it was a small sample size. But things like quickness in and out of breaks, good deep speed, and physical running aren't things that just vanish with increased playing time.

What if I told you the Chiefs DIDN'T take a step backward by having Bowe get cut? That it would even out with another player and that the addition of Maclin can be considered on its own merits? Instead of "three steps forward, two steps back," it's simply "three steps forward?"

That's a fantastic first step, no? And by the numbers, Wilson was more productive with Alex Smith than Dwayne Bowe was. And keep in mind this was Wilson's rookie season. A rookie season in an offense notorious for being difficult for wide receivers to grasp. A rookie season in which he was thrown into the action late in the season.

Is it a hopeful take that Wilson will offset the loss of Bowe? Yes. Is it plausible? Absolutely. The fact is he's already proven he can produce with Smith, and there's no reason to assume he'd take a step BACKWARD in his second season. Without even arguing for improvements from him, you've already upgraded (on a per-target basis) what Bowe did for the offense last year.

So now we're looking at an offense with a very, very good "go to" wide receiver in Maclin, and a solid secondary option in Wilson. What about that third guy?

Andy Reid is an exceptional offensive football mind. He finds ways to use players' strengths. And right now, with this group, the strength is speed.

Well, the chatter has been that De'Anthony Thomas is going to be used more at wide receiver this season. I cannot tell you what a fantastic move that would be. Thomas is the type of player that is absolutely impossible to stick with due to his ridiculous combination of quickness and long speed. If his route running is even marginal with the full tree he'll be dangerous from the slot and a big improvement over the JAGs who often lined up there last season.

Then it comes down to Chris Conley and Jason Avant. All early reports about Conley are good, and we already know that his college tape was encouraging. The great thing about having Avant on your roster is that he's a dependable "not terrible" receiver who knows how to contribute to the offense. If he's out there, it's not a glaring weak spot at receiver.

That's fantastic to have with a player like Conley, because it means he won't see the field just because. He'll have to beat out a reliable veteran in order to get snaps and targets. And it can't be ruled out that Conley is able to simply surpass the veteran. All the tools are there for him to do so.

In a world where just a couple things break the Chiefs way, you've got a very good receiver, an above average receiver, a dangerous and unique slot receiver, an explosive deep threat, and a decent, reliable option. That's going five deep without hitting a guy you're terrified to have on the field. Last season (before Wilson and Avant came on) the terror hit as soon as any receiver named Bowe was out there.

The great thing about this group is it is BLAZING fast. Jeremy Maclin can burn. Albert Wilson can burn. DAT is one of the fastest players in pads I've seen. Chris Conley ran something like a 3.86 forty (all numbers approximate). There's absolutely no way any secondary the Chiefs face have four corners who can run with those guys. No way.

And before you say, "yeah, but Alex Smith never throws deep" let me just go ahead and stop you. No Alex Smith is never going to chuck it down the field on a quarter of his passes. However, he DID take some shots with Wilson once he got on the field. And he'd shown a willingness to throw deep more with Avery and Jenkins (before Jenkins proved to be totally untrustworthy, at least) in the past. So it's not like it's totally off the table.

And beyond that, it's foolish to believe that kind of speed ONLY matters on deep passes. Short and intermediate routes rely a great deal on speed as well, and a group of receivers that can burn like those four are going to be tough to stick with on crossing routes that go across the field.

Andy Reid is an exceptional offensive football mind. He finds ways to use players' strengths. And right now, with this group, the strength is speed.

And that is how I'd make a case for the wide receivers being a strength this season. No idea if it'll come to pass, but it's fun to think about. Oh and...

"But MN, who will replace Bowe's blocking??????????"

I'm just gonna leave this here.

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