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What’s at stake with Tyreek Hill’s development

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NFL: Pro Bowl Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreek Hill could, if not already, be the best fifth round pick in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs. The controversial selection has already been to a Pro Bowl and made the AP All-Pro team as a returner. Throughout the 2016 season, Hill was an absolute spectacle scoring nine TDs on 85 offensive touches. He averaged over 11 yards a carry, and had three special teams touchdowns. His future and the future of the organization however have a large stake in his ability to grow as a receiver.

Hill’s growth and development is one of the most talked about subjects of the Chiefs preseason. He has a chance to be one of the best receivers in football in the future. He could have an Antonio Brown level impact on this organization.

This whole article could be boiled down to “Good players, make your team better.” Obviously, yes. I want to talk about how that manifests though. Here is what at stake with the development of Tyreek Hill as a receiver.

Career Longevity

The further removed Hill can be from being used as a running back, the better in my opinion. Andy Reid was very selective about Hill’s usage carrying the football, giving him only 24 (incredibly productive) carries. The more Hill is able to be used as a traditional receiver, the better. If he continues to progress as a receiver the need to manufacture touches for him from the backfield will lessen. Shelf life on running backs is significantly shorter due to the beating they take between the tackles. That’s not to say he can’t be used in the backfield. Just that if they can continue to get the lion’s share of his touches away from the 300 pound lineman the better odds he stays healthy.

Travis Kelce’s Number

Kelce’s ceiling rises if Hill continues to grow. Having to worry about where those two are at all times is going to keep defensive coordinators up all night. Hill and Kelce benefit from each other. Good luck trying to get grips on both of them on the field.

Pass Catcher No. 3

Reid stresses defenses out by aligning Hill and Travis Kelce all over the field. The better a receiver Hill becomes, the more stress he will put on teams to have to worry about him and Kelce. Most teams play off coverage to account for Hill as a vertical threat. That soon could be their only option.

Teams are either going to have to continue to give him space or press him at the line of scrimmage. You better get your hands on him or keep him in front of you. Hill is improving against press coverage. He impressed in this aspect when I saw him at training camp. The less solutions teams have to defend Hill and Kelce, the more committed they’ll have to be stop them. That’s where pass weapon No. 3 comes in. It could be Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, who knows?

Weapon No. 3 could have a ton of space to work with, especially with a young quarterback of the future with the ability to make downfield throws. Having two significant weapons to worry about is going to pay dividends for whoever is the third pass catching option. That also means pass catcher No. 3 could always be a cheaper option if needed. Pass catcher No. 3 is well positioned to succeed. In a way, Hill (and Kelce) make him better. The same can be said for...

The Run Game

Hill’s development could mean lighter boxes for Spencer Ware and Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs used fewer defenders in the box to defend Antonio Brown and the Steelers in their Divisional Round loss in January. I don’t think I need to mention what Le’Veon Bell did as a result of that. The Chiefs were content to give up field goals by playing lighter boxes between the 30’s and tightening up the closer they got to the red zone. And overall they did good to give up 18 points. Should Hill become a bigger problem as a pass catcher, teams aren’t going to be able to devote as much to the run game. The offensive floor and ceiling both rise and the Chiefs could very well get more red zone opportunities. Putting the ball on the ground helps that. It also helps the...

Quarterback (of the future)

I mentioned when I wrote about what a Mahomes start might look like, that the objective should be for defenses to have to worry about as much square yardage as possible. Hill does that almost exclusively. We know the vertical threat he is and what he can do in the screen game. There’s a lot of easy throws and stress inducing vertical shot potential with Hill.

Teams will have to figure out if they can even blitz much without exposing themselves too much to the weaponry the Chiefs could have. Ben Roethlisberger was the second least pressured quarterback in football last year per Football Outsiders. That’s due to the lack of blitzing but also the soft coverages teams played to account for Brown and the other weapons around him.

There are easier throws, more defined coverages and less blitzes in the future if Hill continues his growth. He could be Mahomes’ best friend.

Two dynamic receiving threats who force your hand with the coverages you can utilize, a lighter box for the run game, more space for your third pass catcher, easier throws, more defined and soft coverages and fewer blitzes if Hill continues his growth. The Chiefs would be well positioned to bring their young quarterback along easy.

The Chiefs got lucky

That we’re even discussing a fifth round pick as a potentially elite receiver is remarkable. The Chiefs were heavily scrutinized for the decision to take Hill, and rightfully so. On the field, they have given themselves a rare opportunity to have a game changing weapon come from a late round pick.

The Chiefs could still be good without Hill. Mahomes could still develop nicely if he wasn’t here, Kelce could still be dominant and the run game could improve. However, the trajectory of the franchise falls on Hill and his development more than people realize. He can make everything that much easier. He can change the organizational outlook in so many different ways.