From the FanPosts -Joel
After 34 years without drafting a quarterback in the first round, the streak is over. Long live the streak. The Chiefs have finally made a substantial investment in the future of their franchise. The best case scenario for the Chiefs is for them to be comfortable moving to the young signal caller for the 2018 season.
From here on out, the Chiefs organization and Patrick Mahomes are in a race to have him ready for 2018. What's at stake? The salary cap, draft assets and the sanity of the fan base. There are a lot of moving pieces and parts involved in his development over the next year. Here are the phases of the Chiefs season and the opportunities to grow and learn in each of those phases. This is written as if the Chiefs do what has been reported they will and give Mahomes a true redshirt year as the third quarterback. His ability to respond and excel in his redshirt season will help determine whether the organization is comfortable with him moving forward.
A week after the draft, the Chiefs held their rookie mini-camp. Knowing that time and reps are of the essence in his development, the Chiefs made an effort to maximize his opportunities leading up to the regular season. The rookie mini-camp was well stocked at every position. The team hosted 70 total players during that mini camp, where some teams have significantly less. Sometimes in these mini-camps, certain positions aren't as deep and can limit the reps for certain positions and drills. Even though it is just in helmets, the Chiefs were able to get the most out of the time they had that first weekend.
After daily installs of the playbook in the classroom, Mahomes could get in a huddle, spit out new and more complex verbiage, line up against a full defensive look and execute plays. Reid also said that they threw more in that mini-camp at Mahomes than they normally would. The work started right away the first chance they had. It is apparent that the Chiefs are doing everything they can to quickly acclimate Mahomes.
The first chance Mahomes got to be around the veterans quarterbacks was OTA's. For Mahomes, this was a chance to see firsthand the nuances of being a quarterback by getting exposure to the men who have done it before. This was a significant time for him to begin to observe and digest what is required of an NFL quarterback. While he still was able to get reps (although likely more limited than rookie camp) that initial exposure to veteran players was just as critical.
Mahomes was complimentary of Alex Smith, his attitude and his understanding of the Chiefs' system in interviews over the last month. This was his first chance to see first hand what a polished NFL quarterback looks like. For Smith's flaws and limited upside, he knows what it takes to be successful in this league.
Being in install meetings, watching film and watching reps of the other quarterbacks is important to his development. This was Mahomes first real chance to see someone who has had success in this league from that perspective.
There are some bright, talented players in the quarterback meeting room. Getting to hear the how's and why's for each play had to have been invaluable to the young signal caller. Seeing the way that they are able to break down film, speak on what they see with defensive looks are all little things he will have to do to be great.
The "Month Off"
This is the first opportunity since the end of Mahomes' final college season at Texas Tech to rest. The pre-draft process is grueling and intense. Once the draft is over, it's straight to rookie mini-camp. But in this month off, he won't rest too much.
OTA's are mostly three days of practice followed by a four day break. On the off days, Mahomes is responsible for his own work. He'll go home and continue to work on the technical adjustments he needs to make in his transition to the NFL, and digest the previous week's playbook installation.
The month off is an extension of that. The improvement he makes over the month off falls on his shoulders without the accountability of the organization. He has to to have the drive and motivation to keep working on his own in this window. He will continue to work on his strength training, footwork and the playbook so he can be as prepared as he can heading into training camp.
This is likely the most mentally and physically demanding thing Mahomes will have had to do to this point. Six weeks of all football, all the time. His days are planned by the organization from sun up to sun down. His preparation will be tested constantly. If he has been diligent in learning of the playbook, things will come a little easier and it will be a chance for the game to slow down quicker for him. A good amount of the playbook has been installed during OTA's. The better understanding of what he has been taught already, the easier everything will come during training camp.
As the regular season looms, this time is a huge part of his development.This is the best time for Reid and his staff to work more closely with Mahomes. The coaches aren't worrying about game planning, they're worried about getting better and prepared for the 16 game grind. The Chiefs can pay more attention to Mahomes then they will be able to once meaningful games start. Once the regular season hits, the focus and attention falls on the week's opponent. Mahomes and the Chiefs will take advantage of this time to develop.
If things are going to plan, there will be a noticeable difference in Mahomes' and his growth during this time. Some of the things they are practicing will have been installed three times (rookie mini-camp, OTA's and training camp), so portions of the playbook should have slowed down for him at this point to where he's understanding the why more than just trying to grasp the how.
Mahomes is not going to get a ton of chances to get exposure to game scenarios in 2017. His reps in practice running the offense during the season will be limited.
The preseason games will be critical to Mahomes development. If the Chiefs are able to truly treat 2017 as a redshirt year, the only live bullets Mahomes will see in the next year will be the preseason. I anticipate Mahomes will get a lot of reps in training camp as the Chiefs can afford to give and more reps in preseason games than a third quarterback might expect. I could see most of the fourth preseason game snaps going to Mahomes.
Most likely, this will be the Chiefs and their fans' last chance to evaluate Mahomes and his development in game situations until 2018. The development, growth and future of Mahomes will be on display in August, and we likely won't know much after that window of time.
This will also be one of the only chances for Mahomes to gain some confidence in a game setting. You can expect that the Chiefs will call for pass concepts that he has been successful with in camp. Let him have success and find out what they can expect in the future. The Chiefs need to learn everything they can about Mahomes in a short amount of time. If this were Kevin Hogan the approach would be a little different, but I would bet that the focal point of reps involving Mahomes are focused around him and not what the potential practice squad guard is good at. Time is of the essence and you can expect his reps to be geared around him and his progress.
Mahomes has roles to play during the regular season, and while there's no way to replace the value of trial by fire, the job he has will help him develop his skill sets.
Mahomes will likely be the scout team quarterback next season for the defense. It is his best chance at getting reps throughout the week. The problem with scout team is that you have to do your best to replicate what the defense will see on Sundays. It doesn't always translate to what they Chiefs try to do. Some weeks will be better than others as far as the correlation.
If the play is similar in concept to what the Chiefs do, the team will likely translate it into to their terminology. This will be the closest thing to a rep in the offense Mahomes will have during the regular season. But if they are playing a team that is fundamentally different to what the Chiefs do, the likelihood of the reps translating isn't high. So some weeks will be better in what he can take away. Regardless, these are his best chances to get looks against an NFL defense.
The number one mantra for a reserve quarterback is to always be ready. Mahomes and supposed No. 2 quarterback Tyler Bray will have to prepare as if they are the starter while getting significantly less to no reps in practice with the game plan. This is where the mental reps Reid and OC Matt Nagy have talked about frequently this year come into play. It's important for both development and preparation that Mahomes is taking the reps as he sees the play unfold. Knowing what the defensive alignment and coverage is and how to attack it. If I'm Mahomes, I'm in the building with Smith every place and time he is. It is important for him to prepare like he is getting all the reps.
Both Mahomes and Bray have game day responsibilities as well. They serve as part of a system to make sure the play calls are properly relayed. When a play is called they have to know the game plan and calls so if something isn't relayed correctly, they are responsible to quickly notify the staff. They'll also tell Smith what they saw in between drives to help him understand what they see the defense doing as well. His and Bray's contribution have value, and they need to treat that role as such.
There will be benchmarks in season the team will be able to see during the year. Most of it is mental. Is he correcting alignment mistakes on plays? Is he asking the right questions in meetings? Is he suggesting concepts that could work versus certain looks? Can he spot an alternative in pass protection that might work? How easy can he relay the terminology? These are all things that show a level of comfort in what he is doing. When he gets to a point where those things are more regular, the staff will be confident that he doesn't have to think as much when he's on the field. The level of trust is there more between player and staff. Combine that with improvement in mechanics and good process and execution on the field, and the Chiefs may be tempted to pull the redshirt.
It Falls on Mahomes
The Chiefs will do everything they can to carve out time to develop Mahomes. Whatever feasible thing they can do, they will. He might even get some special attention here and there that backup quarterbacks don't typically get. But it's hard enough to win in this league with the time coaching staffs have. The easiest and one of the best things they can provide is accountability. They'll put him on the spot in meetings and practice on concepts, coverages and whatever else they can. He'll have opportunity in the QB rooms and on the field to ask questions and get answers. If he wants extra work, someone will be there to help.
However, as is with any player trying to be great, a lot of this year and the rest of his career will fall on Mahomes and his commitment to the process. The infrastructure is there for him to develop, he has to take advantage of it. His focus and energy will be on maximizing the time he has to learn and adapt. The organization and fan base hopes the time for his journey to begin is 2018. The trajectory of the franchise falls on his shoulders. The race to get there is just the start, but what the Chiefs and Mahomes are able to accomplish this year regarding his development is critical to the route his career and the franchise will take.