ESPN’s Bill Barnwell released his take on the NFL’s 50 most fascinating people Wednesday morning, and two Kansas City Chiefs made the list.
Barnwell noted that the list is made up of individuals who are “not necessarily the most skilled or important players, coaches or executives,” but rather those who he believes will drive the NFL conversation throughout the 2018 season.
Barnwell broke up the list into seven groups (Now-or-Nevers, Rookies (or Almost Rookies), Familiar Faces in New Places, Rehabilitation Stories, Breakout Stars, One More Ride, Wild Cards and Ghosts).
Let’s get to the Chiefs:
No. 16 - QB Patrick Mahomes (from the Rookies or Almost Rookies group)
When you clicked on this post, you had to know that Patrick Mahomes would be one of the two Chiefs on the list. The Chiefs ushered in the Mahomes Era when they traded Alex Smith this offseason, and the hype continued with Brett Favre comparisons, and, much more recently, The Throw this offseason and preseason.
Barnwell: When the Chiefs traded up to grab the top guy on their draft board in 2017, they sealed Alex Smith’s fate. What happened next could not — and did not — alter the plan. Smith produced the best season of his career and led the league in passer rating. The Chiefs fired the general manager who drafted Mahomes and lost much of their offensive brainpower when Matt Nagy left for the Bears. No matter. The Chiefs drafted Mahomes in 2017 to start in Week 1 of 2018. We’re about to get there.
Organizations don’t do this very often, in part because it’s difficult to be spoiled for choice with quarterbacks. Teams peck and claw and stay up at night dreaming about getting someone like Smith, who virtually never throws his team out of a game and gets them back into it more often than the public thinks. Imagine a team like the Browns or the Jets being frustrated by a quarterback whose purported ceiling is 10 wins and a playoff loss. It’s football privilege to shoot for a better quarterback than Smith, even given Smith’s age (34) and cap number.
I think Barnwell’s points about Smith hold some weight and sometimes get a bit lost in the hype surrounding Mahomes in Kansas City.
Average quarterbacks are hard to find, and Smith wasn’t just average in 2017—he was tremendous. But when you trade up 18 spots to go get somebody, it is pretty clear what that means for the future.
It’s Mahomes’ turn in 2018, and he has huge shoes to fill. And thanks to The Throw, he’s already caught national attention.
No. 46 - WR Sammy Watkins (from the Wild Cards Who Could Decide the Season group)
Ah, the second Chief.
Barnwell went with Sammy Watkins, who has turned out to be a bit polarizing among the fan base this preseason. Watkins was a surprise signing by the Chiefs this offseason, and he certainly did not have the preseason Chiefs fans would have liked to see.
Watkins finished the preseason with just one catch for 14 yards on seven targets.
Barnwell: You might argue that the Chiefs made an even more shocking bet on Anthony Hitchens than they did on their new wide receiver, but the signing of Watkins makes more of a statement. The Chiefs didn’t really need another weapon given the presence of Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. They desperately needed help at cornerback and could have signed someone like Trumaine Johnson with the money they spent on Watkins, although it would have required a longer commitment on paper.
The Chiefs opted to sign Watkins on a three-year deal worth $48 million with $30 million in guaranteed money. The problem wasn’t so much in bringing Watkins aboard; it was doing so with such a small amount of cap room.
If (and yes, still very much, if) the Chiefs offense is fantastic with Mahomes this season, but the secondary prevents them from making the postseason, it will be this move that may prove the most costly, especially given that a few of the Chiefs’ cuts at the wide receiver position should end up on other clubs.