4. Kansas City Chiefs
Ironically enough, the Chiefs probably have the best offense in the division, but so much of that is based off their passing attack.
It looked as if Kansas City had its running back of the future in Kareem Hunt, but his off-the-field issues forced the Chiefs’ hand. They waived Hunt after Week 11, and eventually handed the reins over to Damian Williams, who started the final three games of the regular season and both of the Chiefs’ playoff games. Williams caught at least five passes and accounted for at least 96 total yards in four of those five contests, and enters training camp atop Kansas City’s depth chart.
However, Williams has never had more than 50 rush attempts in any season throughout his five-year career, so he won’t be a bell cow. The Chiefs were very smart to sign Carlos Hyde -- who is better suited to handle the rushes in between the tackles -- with that in mind.
Behind Travis Kelce, which Chiefs player would be the most fun in a wedding party?
I’m going with Chris Jones. Patrick Mahomes would be cool, but he’s too high profile. True story, our wedding DJ asked me about Mahomes during our reception. Sometimes you just can’t escape work. Jones isn’t quite a household name (yet), and he’s pretty funny. I think he’d be the life of the party without overshadowing you on your big day. I don’t think his dance skills come close to matching Travis Kelce’s, but maybe he could throw in a few Stone Cold beer chugs to get things going. He can leave the Bane mask at home though. Not trying to turn a wedding into the Dark Knight Rises.
Hardman’s first season with the Chiefs may look very similar to his first season with the Georgia Bulldogs. As a top-50 prospect, the wide receiver primarily played on special teams during his first season. He recorded 11 total touchdowns for Georgia, two of which were rushing touchdowns. He also tallied 950 total receiving yards and 97 rushing yards during his time in his home state.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
Mahomes is a curious case because while I firmly believe that he can repeat as fantasy’s QB1 in 2019, he still comes with some risk. It comes down to price and regression. By paying up for a quarterback that might go as early as the second or third round, you are banking on a repeat of last season while also passing up on position players that offer far more value over replacement level than most quarterbacks ever will. Mahomes outscored 2018’s QB2 by 73.7 fantasy points, the largest gap between the top two fantasy quarterbacks this decade—over the previous 10 seasons, the average point differential between the top two passers was 26.7 points.
Kansas City’s Projected 10.5 Season Win Total may initially seem like a bargain given that Reid’s eclipsed that number in three of his last four seasons coaching (and 4-of-6 since landing with the Chiefs), but the team’s brutal aforementioned schedule (as well as Hill’s looming suspension) remain daunting for any positive outlook. The loss of Mitch Morse — Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 overall center last year — in free agency can’t be overlooked. I confidently have Kansas City eking out a Wild Card berth in the 8-10 win range and finishing Under (+100) their Projected Vegas Win Total.
Flutie Magic was a real phenomenon. Contemporary accounts describe his exploits at BC with the sort of wonder that now applies to Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP. “Two-handed push passes, lefty tosses, completions that materialized out of nowhere—the fans couldn’t get enough of him,” Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman wrote of Flutie in 1988.
The Chiefs drafted Hardman as insurance for their offense with Tyreek Hill facing a possible suspension, and while Hardman will have a tough time equaling Hill’s value on the field, he’s the type of explosive player who could thrive in an Andy Reid offense. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes has other talented players around him, including Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins. But Hardman averaged 16 yards per catch over his career at Georgia and there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll be playing significant snaps when the Chiefs visit Ford Field on Sept. 29.
After the week off the Patriots are set to encounter a more accomplished and experienced collection of signal callers — but even that group is still young, and has made its mark with athleticism and mobility. First is Carson Wentz of the Eagles, followed by Dak Prescott of the Cowboys, Deshaun Watson of the Texans, and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs. Before the bye, Jackson will give the Pats a taste of the threat a QB can be with his legs, but each part of that subsequent quartet can all throw the ball, too. It’ll be interesting to see what that stretch says about the athleticism of the Patriots’ defense — and what the slate of QBs, on the whole, says about the historic ability of Belichick and his staff to schematically overwhelm or confuse young quarterbacks.
Going back two decades, no non-QB first overall pick has gotten to the Super Bowl with the team that selected him. They’ve combined for nine playoff games: six by Fisher, three by Clowney, making it three playoff wins. And looking at all players to go first since 1998, that makes just Peyton and Eli Manning to win a Super Bowl with the team that selected them, plus Cam Newton, Alex Smith (as backup half the time), and Jared Goff to reach the Super Bowl.
When did you start to dream about playing in the NFL?
The reason I started to play was because of Emmanuel Ogbah, we all grew up together. I saw he could make it and I thought that is something I could do.
The hope is that this year, with a new-look linebacking corps — perennial Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley is in, and former first-round pick Darron Lee is out — the Jets will cut down on some of the costly mistakes that doomed them last year.
Looking ahead to 2019: What Petitbon will do given the opportunity to start is the question given he was a four-star recruit out of high school and ranked as high as No. 51 overall in the 2015 class. Because he will be given an opportunity to start for the Illini — with significantly large shoes to fill. Petitbon slotted in immediately at guard this spring, replacing seventh round NFL draft pick Nick Allegretti.
Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins
Reed was one of three tight ends from the 2013 draft class who signed a contract near the top of the tight end market in 2016. The other two tight ends, Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, have put themselves in the discussion to be considered the NFL’s best tight end with Rob Gronkowski retiring. Reed has missed 17 games since he signed a five-year, $46.75 million contract extension.
But Lamar Hunt didn’t see enough of a market in the heart of Texas to support two pro teams, so he started looking for a new home for his AFL club. When Kansas City mayor H. Roe Bartle — a man with quite possibly the most “1960s politician” name ever to exist — guaranteed to triple Hunt’s number of season ticket holders, the Texans became the Chiefs.
Around the league
Five players have received eligibility for the 2019 NFL supplemental draft, which will be conducted electronically on Wednesday.
Unlike the regular college draft each April, the supplemental draft is a different operation — one that’s not on TV — that is open to college prospects whose statuses (often academic- or eligibility-related) have changed in the late spring and early summer following the completion of the college draft.
This year’s supplemental class is headlined by two players who could be drafted — Washington State safety Jalen Thompson and West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms.
When Julio Jones had his contract adjusted on the eve of training camp last summer, it was described as a holdover until the Falcons began negotiations for a contract extension in 2019. The veteran receiver sounds confident that the extension will indeed get done this year, telling TMZ that he will not hold out and adding, “Mr. Blank gave us his word. That’s golden.” Jones, 30, has two more years left on the five-year extension he signed in 2015 and is due to make $9.6 million this season and $11.4 million in 2020.
Our panel of ESPN NFL experts is looking ahead over the next two weeks, identifying teams and players poised to dominate in the future, as we lead up to the unveiling of our new Future Power Rankings, which launches on July 16. Our panel will answer a question every day.
First up: Let’s pick the NFL’s best under-25 player ... leaving out the reigning MVP, who would have gotten every vote.
Before I began this exercise, I went mining for historical trends that could help piece together this year’s OROY puzzle. These are interesting tidbits I found helpful:
» Four of the last six winners have been running backs.
» Only one quarterback has won the award over the last six seasons (Dak Prescott, 2016).
» No tight end or offensive lineman has ever won the award.
» Just three wide receivers have won the award over the last 20 seasons.
» From 2003 through 2012, a running back won the OROY award just twice.
» The OROY award has been won by NFC rookies for 12 straight seasons.
The ex-linebacker posted on social media accounts early Monday morning about his second stroke and did a little educating on the topic while updating his status.
”Around 10:30 a.m. on July 4th I lost use of my left arm,” Bruschi wrote. “I then tried to speak and realized I was slurring my speech. As I turned to my wife she noticed the left side of my face was drooping. We immediately knew what was happening. These are stroke warning signs. We called 911 and an ambulance got me to the hospital. Thank you for all your kind thoughts and prayers. I’m doing much better.”
Edge-Defender: Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos
Bradley Chubb came into the league as a complete package, tallied 12 sacks in a solid rookie season and is almost certain to make his first Pro Bowl if he continues on that pace in 2019.
Chubb’s sack totals don’t tell the whole story of his rookie season. According to PFF, no rookie edge-rusher since 1996 has recorded more pressures (57) than the NC State product accumulated for the Denver Broncos in 2018.
The defensive outlook isn’t much better. Jadeveon Clowney still needs a long-term contract, and the unit lost Tyrann Mathieu.
Between talent leakage, so-so addressing of needs and the outlook beyond this year, the Texans have a lot to get right before the season starts.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
With the best quarterback in the league, the best offensive mind at head coach, the best tight end and the most dangerous playmaker in the league, there’s no doubt this team will be fun to watch. What will be interesting is how they mix and match all of these guys with the additional young players in 2019.
In his introductory piece for Arrowhead Pride, Ron Kopp explains how his Chiefs fandom grew to its peak and culminated in an all-time era.
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