If you’re a fan of the National Football League, you know the name, Bill Barnwell. Barnwell started his writing career at Football Outsiders before moving to Grantland and eventually ESPN when Grantland dissolved.
Barnwell’s opinions on the game are well respected, similar in a sense to Peter King or John Clayton.
Why am I bringing this up? Because in Barnwell’s ESPN piece published Wednesday morning, NFL’s best and worst offensive arsenals: 32-1 weapons ranking, he called the Kansas City Chiefs the league’s top offensive arsenal.
This has been building one year at a time for the Chiefs, who were relying on players such as Charcandrick West and Jason Avant as meaningful weapons during their playoff run in 2015. It starts with Travis Kelce, who is the consensus second-best tight end in the league behind Gronkowski. In 2016, the Chiefs added Tyreek Hill, who graduated from his gadget return man role as a rookie into a real-deal wideout last season by posting a 75-1,183-7 line. Andy Reid & Co. drafted Kareem Hunt last season, and the running back produced 1,782 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, which was the 10th-best mark for a debuting runner in league history. The Chiefs likely will give him snaps off more frequently with the return of Spencer Ware, but Hunt already is one of the league’s best backs.
It’s hard to find a team that can say it’s paying its fourth-best weapon $16 million per year, and, in part, that’s because the Chiefs probably overpaid Sammy Watkins. If we ignore the money and the hype surrounding Watkins coming out of Clemson, it’s accurate enough to say that Patrick Mahomes’ fourth-best weapon is a 25-year-old guy who averaged just over 80 receiving yards per game in 2015 and turned nine red zone targets into seven touchdowns last season. The upside for Watkins is still as a legitimate No. 1 receiver in an offense that already has two of them.
While we can never truly know whether a young quarterback would develop into a star in any situation, it’s hard to imagine what else Patrick Mahomes could ask for than Reid as a coach and this bevy of talent as targets. Every team is susceptible to injuries, and Mahomes will have growing pains, but no offense has as much upside across the board at the skill-position spots as these Chiefs.
Barnwell bringing up the days of 2015 makes me feel bad when I think about John Dorsey, who really built this year’s offense through the NFL Drafts from 2013-2017 but was fired before he could see it come to fruition. Dorsey acquired nearly all the weapons on the starting offense, including Mahomes, Kelce, Hill, Conley, Hunt, West, Ware and most of the offensive line (and probably all of it if Mitch Morse can start the year at center).
Fired by the Chiefs in June 2017, Dorsey is now starting over with Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns.
Barnwell was brutally honest about Brett Veach’s only true addition to the 2018 starting offense, and it is a player who comes with many questions in wide receiver Sammy Watkins. But I like Barnwell ignoring the money here.
Once training camp starts, it doesn’t matter if you’re making $16 million or you’re on a rookie deal. Watkins’ contract is done for better or for worse. Now it’s about production. I am a believer that the Chiefs have something in Watkins, but it remains to be seen.
As we wonder and evaluate what the 2018 Chiefs will be, it should be comforting for fans to hear that Barnwell is so high on the team’s offense.
Barnwell ranked the rest of the AFC West as follows: Los Angeles Chargers, 10. Oakland Raiders, 19. Denver Broncos, 22. Read his evaluations of those offenses and the entire league here.