ESPN has just released its rankings of which NFL teams have the best under-25 talent, and the Kansas City Chiefs came in at number two, behind only the Los Angeles Rams.
Let’s make it clear: these rankings — which were published in an article available only to ESPN In$iders — aren’t saying the Chiefs have the second-youngest team. Instead, ESPN is evaluating the talent of the 25-and-under players on every NFL roster.
So we’re talking about ESPN’s opinion of the talent among young Chiefs.
The article lists a number of young Chiefs that most of us would agree are already standout players — wide receiver Tyreek Hill, running back Kareem Hunt, defensive end Chris Jones, newly acquired cornerback Kendall Fuller, linebacker Reggie Ragland and placekicker Harrison Butker.
Nothing wrong with that list — except that it doesn’t include you-know-who.
But he is definitely mentioned in the article:
The Chiefs could be No. 1 on this list if quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a legitimate franchise quarterback. There are some reasons to believe he can perform right away, starting with coach Andy Reid, who has gotten the best out of every quarterback he’s had.
Questioning whether Patrick Mahomes is a legitimate franchise quarterback?
Blasphemy, I tell you!
To its credit, ESPN does make an effort to defend this heresy:
The reasons the Chiefs are No. 2 and not No. 1 is the uncertainty over Mahomes (will he be too careless with the ball?) and a 2018 draft class that may not have an immediate impact. Second-round pick Breeland Speaks expects to be a minimal part of the rotation this year. Third-round pick Derrick Nnadi will have a shot to win the nose tackle job.
And I’ll be honest: they have a legitimate point there.
As I pointed out in one of the first articles I wrote after becoming your trusted, beloved (and handsome) deputy editor, uncertainty about Mahomes is real:
There is ample reason to be optimistic that Patrick Mahomes will be a breakout quarterback in the NFL this season. There is every reason to believe that even if he doesn’t become a star this season, it is only a matter of time before he does. But uncertainty is inarguably a part of NFL football, and there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Chiefs new quarterback.
Your trusted, beloved (and handsome) editor in chief was worried:
Idk about the new guy https://t.co/P7DdI0nKR1— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) July 19, 2018
And the enthusiasm of some Chiefs fans was... muted.
The new guy sucks seriously did arrowheadpride hire someone who really knows nothing about football & doesn't do his research.. please don't go down this road AP your a great site for a reason.. just remove this new guy already as i have a bad feeling about him...— ChiefsKingdom4 (@ChiefsKingdom4) July 19, 2018
But I stand by what I said.
Let me be clear about how I feel about Patrick Mahomes: during the quarter-century that I have covered and written about the Chiefs, he is — without a shadow of a doubt — the most talented rookie they have ever had on the roster.
There is nothing — I mean, literally nothing — about Mahomes that leads me to think he will be anything but the greatest quarterback in Chiefs history.
He’s got it all: a Saturn V booster strapped to his right shoulder, athleticism to beat the band, intelligence, processor speed... everything.
Even a cool ‘do.
There’s just one thing he doesn’t have: an NFL career. Yet.
Until he does — that is, until we have seen him lead his team through a full season... play in the postseason... win a Super Bowl... our final judgment on this young man must remain unwritten. Uncertainty is a fact of life for a young NFL player — no matter how talented you are.
So I’ll have to agree with ESPN about this one thing. If its standard for determining that an NFL player has talent includes actual proof that their talent translates into NFL ability, then the Chiefs should be ranked number two.
However... if that’s so, they should really change the name of the rankings, because ESPN is not really talking about talent. It’s talking about proven ability. That’s something else entirely.
If the rankings are really about talent under the age of 25, there’s only one team that deserves to be number one. You know its name.
On Thursday night, that team will put on the clean uniforms and turn on the lights.
Whatever happens, it’s going to be a helluva ride.