Now that it’s officially the offseason, we’ll start a series of pieces looking at each position group on the Chiefs, to try to get a sense for where they stand going into 2018. We start with the most important position in all of sports, and the biggest reason for optimism in Kansas City, the quarterback.
Veteran backup and mid-round draft pick to develop.
Returning: Patrick Mahomes
The torch has been passed to the QBoTF. He posted respectable numbers over 4 preseason games (63% completions, 4 TD, 0 INT), and week 17 against the Broncos (284 yds, 8.11 YPA) But, he can’t be evaluated on stats alone. Watching how he grew in the offense, commanded the playbook, and led the team on a game winning 2 minute drill were as impressive as the highlight-reel plays that make Chiefs fans excited for the future.
Subtractions: Alex Smith (traded)
Smith had a monster year, with career bests in yards (4,042), YPA (8.0), TDs (26), INTs (5), QBR (104.7) and 40+yd passes (13). He and the Chiefs were both rewarded with the trade to the Redskins, as the Chiefs received a nice haul (Fuller + a 3rd), and Smith received a huge new contract commitment and a starting job.
Unknown: Tyler Bray
Going into his 6th NFL season, Bray has an incompletion and a lost fumble on his resume. Bray will be a free agent this offseason, and will probably not have a big market. The Chiefs have a lot invested in him, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him come back on a modest contract to continue as the Chiefs backup.
Compared to 2017
It’s going to be hard to top the quarterback situation the Chiefs enjoyed in 2017. They had an established veteran starter who turned in the best season of his career. They moved up in the draft to take the QB of the future with a year to develop him. Mahomes played well during the preseason and in his lone start against the Broncos. Had Smith missed more games, Mahomes would have brought excitement and gained experience. Then, when the season was over, they were able to flip Alex Smith for a draft pick and a starting defender. The Chiefs clearly made the most out of this position group this season.
In 2018, however, the Chiefs will have the singular best situation in the NFL: a supremely talented quarterback on a cheap rookie contract. Having Mahomes under center allows the team to invest more resources in free agency and improve the team around him. We expect that Mahomes will (at worst) be spectacularly entertaining, as he makes highlight reel plays week in and week out. He’s shown everything expected of him and more thus far.
The questions with the depth behind him. Whether they retain Tyler Bray or not, expect the Chiefs to be in the market for a veteran backup, and potentially another young guy to develop. Quarterback depth in Kansas City could very well be worse than 2017 (especially if Bray is the No. 2) but the upside with Mahomes is so great, we can’t call this position worse off. The team believes that they finally have a (potentially) elite franchise quarterback that they drafted. That changes everything.