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The Chiefs could have three 1,000-yard receivers in 2019

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It’s happened before. Could it happen again? Let’s see what it would take.

Divisional Round - Indianapolis Colts v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Over the weekend, I wrote an article about how a Pro Football Focus writer thinks Sammy Watkins could have a career year in 2019. One of the comments to that article caught my eye. It went something like this:

If Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce each have 1,000 yards and Sammy Watkins gets north of 500, that would equal half of Patrick Mahomes’ passing yards from last year. If you get the ball to the other receivers and tight ends and the “Sausage,” we could easily see 5,000 yards again. I am in the zero-games suspension camp on Hill AND the Watkins and Kelce 1,000-yards club this year. Would that be a league first? Trying to remember any others — maybe the 1999 Rams, the 1972 Dolphins or the 49ers with Young, Rice, Owens and a tight end?

Logan’s comment posed a question I have heard people ask before: has there ever been an NFL team with three 1,000-yard receivers in a single season?

It’s actually happened five times.

Triple 1,000-Yard Seasons

Team/Yr/QB Receivers
San Diego Chargers
1980
QB: Dan Fouts (4715)
WR John Jefferson (1340)
WR Charlie Joiner (1132)
TE Kellen Winslow (1290)
Washington Redskins
1989
QB: Mark Rypien (3768)*
WR Gary Clark (1229)
WR Art Monk (1186)
WR Ricky Sanders (1138)
Atlanta Falcons
1995
QB: Jeff George (4143)
WR Bert Emanuel (1039)
WR Terance Mathis (1039)
PR/WR Eric Metcalf (1189)
Indianapolis Colts
2004
QB: Peyton Manning (4557)
WR Marvin Harrison (1113)
WR Brandon Stokley (1077)
WR Reggie Wayne (1210)
Arizona Cardinals
2008
QB: Kurt Warner (4583)
WR Anquan Boldin (1038)
WR Steve Breaston (1006)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (1431)

*Doug Williams started two games for Rypien in 1989. Williams passed for 585 yards, bringing the total passing yards on the season to 4,353.

A few things about this list surprised me:

  • I had no idea that this has happened so often — although it’s notable that it didn’t happen for the first time until NFL teams were playing 16-game seasons.
  • I was surprised to see Jeff George and Mark Rypien on this list of quarterbacks. Dan Fouts... Peyton Manning... Kurt Warner? Sure. But not George and Rypien.
  • There was only one team that did it with a tight end as one of its receivers.
  • Just one of these five teams won (or even appeared in) the Super Bowl; the 2008 Cardinals lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.

Could the Kansas City Chiefs have three 1,000-yard receivers in 2019 — or in the years to come?

Even with George and Rypien on the list, it’s easy to see you need a top-flight quarterback to pull off the receiving yards hat trick.

Check.

Obviously, you need at least three quality receivers. Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce certainly fit that bill.

Check.

And you need a head coach (or offensive coordinator) who is willing to air it out.

Check.

But it isn’t guaranteed the Chiefs can do it. It’s not hard to come up with some reasons it might not happen.

What if Hill serves a lengthy suspension? What if Watkins is once again injured for much of the season? What if Patrick Mahomes regresses from his 2018 performance? All of these things could easily happen in 2019.

In addition, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid likes to spread the ball around a lot. In 2018, Mahomes’ top three targets — Hill, Kelce and Watkins — combined for just 65% of the team’s passing yardage. Every one of the five teams that have previously had three 1,000-yard receivers had at least 75% of their passing yards distributed among those three receivers.

Still... it could happen.

Kelce is virtually a lock to get 1,000 receiving yards this season. He’s been over 1,000 in each of the last three seasons and should come into the season newly energized after his offseason ankle surgery.

That’s one.

It is unknown how long a suspension Hill will serve — that is, if he even serves one. There are plenty of fans who are convinced he will be out for at least six games — possibly more. There are just as many who are convinced he won’t be suspended at all. Neither group has a monopoly on the truth; nobody really knows what the NFL will do.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say both sides have some idea of the truth, and Hill is out for four games to begin the season. With his per-game average of 92 yards last season, Hill would land around 1,128 yards for the year. Even if he’s out for six games, last year’s pace would put him at 920 yards, which would be within striking distance of 1,000. But if his production is more like 2017’s — when he averaged just 79 yards a game — he’d probably fall well short with a six-game sit-down and come tantalizingly close if he’s out for four.

So even with a suspension — as long as it’s not for more than four games — Hill will still have a good chance to gain 1,000 receiving yards in 2019.

That’s two.

Watkins’ prospects to reach 1,000 yards in 2019 are less rosy.

He hasn’t played anything close to a full season since his first two seasons with the Buffalo Bills; if you believe he’s no longer capable of playing a full season, I won’t tell you that you’re wrong. But when he did play (nearly) full seasons in 2014 and 2015, he gained 2,029 receiving yards. So the question isn’t whether Watkins can do it. Instead, the question is whether he will.

That’s... maybe three.

And that assumes Mahomes doesn’t regress from his 5,126-yard performance in 2018.

But what if he does regress? If Mahomes’ passing yardage drops by 10% in 2019 — a reasonable regression — he’ll throw for about 4,600 yards. Assuming Reid holds to his 2018 pattern — where about two-thirds of the passing yards are distributed among Mahomes’ top three targets — that’s just 3,075 yards available to them. It would be tough to fit three 1,000-yard receiving seasons into 3,075 yards.

If, on the other hand, Mahomes doesn’t regress in 2019, there would probably be something around 3,400 yards available to his top targets. That’s a number into which it would be a bit easier to fit three 1,000-yard seasons.

So far I’ve made no mention of two players that fans like to bring into any conversation about Chiefs receivers who could have 1,000-yard seasons: fourth-year wideout Demarcus Robinson and rookie Mecole Hardman.

For Robinson to have a shot at a 1,000-yard performance, two things will have to happen: things will have to fall in such a way for him to be one of the starting wide receivers for virtually every game in 2019 — and he’ll have to take a step forward.

Even in the last seven games of 2018 — in which Robinson started five times — he averaged just 34 yards a game. He’ll have to do a lot better than that — and hope that opportunity knocks on his door just about every week — to come close to a 1,000-yard season.

For Hardman, it would also require being on the field a lot more than we could reasonably expect. It isn’t that Hardman doesn’t appear to have the talent to be a 1,000-yard receiver. But we currently believe Hardman — like Hill before him — will make the team as a kick returner in 2019.

Hardman’s time will come... but probably not in 2019.


So could the Chiefs have three 1,000-yard receivers in 2019? Yes... they could. But the key factors in achieving that feat will probably be Watkins’ ability to stay on the field (and play up to his potential), along with Mahomes continuing to play at the level he did in 2018.

If it happens, the hope in Kansas City is the Chiefs can do what no team has ever done: have three 1,000-yard receivers, and win a Super Bowl.

Poll

Will the Chiefs have three 1,000-yard receivers in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Count on it
    (326 votes)
  • 54%
    Maybe
    (616 votes)
  • 16%
    Sorry... but no
    (180 votes)
1122 votes total Vote Now