From the fan posts. - PS
The NFL season is brutal. It's an American Gladiators-style Gauntlet, except without the NERF toys and protective barriers. If anything from that show, it's the Eliminator (old school, with a gladiator behind a hidden wall... 34:30 in the link).
The point is that practically zero NFL teams make it through the year unscathed. The imagined Week 1 starters will not be identical to the Week 16 starters for any number of reasons. Since training camp is beginning and players will start being at risk for injuries to body parts with a -CL in them, I have been thinking about which players would be most costly to the Chiefs if they became injured. Maybe, to phrase it in another way, who's the most irreplaceable Chief?
This does not correlate with who makes the most money. In fact, I'd argue that the two people we're paying the most to this season (Hello, Eric Fisher and Sammy Watkins!) aren't in the top five and barely in the top 10. It's also not necessarily a "who is better" ranking, as some positions have more depth behind them. Replacing an individual player would be less difficult. If Alex Okafor goes down, for example Emmanuel Ogbah is right there.
Here are my top 10 most indispensable Chiefs this season:
1) QB Patrick Mahomes
Duh. If you can imagine Chad Henne running the offense like the reigning MVP, then hello Chad's Mom.
2) TE Travis Kelce
The dropoff from TE1 to TE2 is significant. Kelce is, at worst, one of the top three tight ends in the game. It's already going to be a severe drop-off, but the TE2 options have not proven themselves. Only Blake Bell has recorded stats on Pro Football Reference, and he has 30 catches for 357 yards and no touchdowns. Kelce had 28 catches for 407 yards and three touchdowns last year... through five games.
3) DL Frank Clark
This is where it starts getting hard. I went back and forth with the next two names on the list. But with the Justin Houston-Dee Ford duo gone, the Chiefs are reliant on one of their high-profile defensive end additions more than others. Clark is a run stopper and pass rusher. The Chiefs have bet on him in a way that reflects his abilities.
4) WR Tyreek Hill
Sammy Watkins is good. But the Chiefs without Watkins can still produce. And I understand that they drafted Mecole Hardman as Tyreek Hill insurance, but wide receivers, especially speedy wide receivers, tend to take a year to develop into All-Pros. And while his offseason has been... let's just call it "difficult," he was in a tie for second in Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value rankings last year (Also tied for second? The guy at No. 6 on this list). He had one fumble all of last year. What sold me on Hill was the fact he's not just another fast wide receiver; his tracking ability and his chemistry with Mahomes are unmatched. Just remember the touchdowns against New England during the regular season. Or the 4-and-9. Or LEFTY, which needs to be in all-caps like top-level Japanese pro wrestlers.
5) DL Chris Jones
Men this big and strong should not be this fast. The only reason he didn't have more sacks is because sometimes Dee Ford or someone else met him at the quarterback. Watch the highlight video of his sacks last year and count how many times more than one lineman had a hand on him and still couldn't stop him. I'll save you the trouble: roughly half. He's a monster, and I don't think there's a great replacement on the roster.
6) OL Mitchell Schwartz
He's the best right tackle in football, so why isn't he higher? I just feel like the drop-off from Hill to Pringle/Hardman/D.Rob or even Jones to Hamilton/Saunders/X.Williams is more significant than let's say, Schwartz to Cam Erving. Could the Hill backups provide 50 percent of what Tyreek does? Erving, I feel, could match 75-80 percent of what Schwartz does. This is absolutely no knock on Schwartz but rather a compliment to Cam to fill the spot competently.
7) RB Damien Williams
I think Carlos Hyde is bad. I am high on Darwin Thompson, and I'm not convinced Damien Williams is as good as Kareem Hunt was, either. But I still think he's a solid enough cog in the machine and the offense loses its ability to grind on the ground or out of the backfield without him. I felt better when Hunt was backed up by Williams than I do with Williams backed up by Hyde.
8) S Tyrann Mathieu
I like the fire and playmaking ability the "Honey Badger" brings to the table. I am fired up to see the attitude he brings to the secondary. However, the Chiefs nearly made the Super Bowl without a stellar safety. It's not that the replacement would be as good — it's that a team can probably tread water without him instead of sinking like a stone. Also, I like Jordan Lucas and Juan Thornhill in case of injury. I like their chances as backups better than Hyde's. Sorry, Carlos! You seem nice!
9) OL Eric Fisher
He's better than people think, though he still has moments where he gets beat. Some matchups are better than others for him. I think he's been overrated so long that now people underrate him. He's important to the Chiefs' success, and particularly Mahomes's success. But I'd rather replace him than Schwartz. And I'd rather replace him than play Carlos Hyde.
10) K Harrison Butker
Tough last spot. I like the depth the Chiefs have at cornerback even if I'm not in love with their top-level talent. I think the interior offensive line is solid but (as shown by Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's injury last year) can be replaced. I think the linebackers aren't particularly great, so they aren't hard to replace. The other defensive linemen spots are deep even if they're only solid contributors. Reid himself would be a good choice here. Watkins is probably the right pick here, but I've had a lot of offensive players already. Imagine this: Harrison Butker slips on a penalty flag and pulls a groin. He's out for the last half of the season. Are you comfortable with Cody Parkey replacing him? If you'd rather pick Butker and Watkins to be injured for a playoff game against New England, you'd rather Butker play, right?
Got any arguments? I'm sure you do! This is practically jinx bait, so be careful what you (don't) wish for as far as injuries are concerned.