CHIEFS vs. STEELERS: Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman
Drafted: Round 2, No. 56 overall
It is hard to crack the Chiefs’ star-studded rotation in the passing game, with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins playing lead roles, but Andy Reid will need to find a spot for Hardman after watching the rookie burner score his second touchdown of the preseason on a courageous grab between three Steelers defenders. No. 17’s speed, explosiveness and burst will make him a dangerous WR3/WR4 in Kansas City’s spread packages, particularly with all eyes on Hill and Kelce. Naturally, you would like to see Hardman convert more of his targets into productive plays, but he’s an intriguing playmaker whom Reid can incorporate into game plans.
Kansas City Chiefs
Byron Pringle (WR/ST) - A 2018 UDFA from Kansas State, Pringle was out all last season with a hamstring injury. He’s been a special teams difference maker on the Chiefs though this pre-season, and with depth at WR, may not make their roster.
Deon Yelder (TE) - Signed as a UDFA by the Saints in 2017 out of Western Kentucky, he’s currently 3rd or 4th on the depth chart for the Chiefs. Route running is apparently his strength, and he could also be a special teams contributor.
John Lovett (TE/QB/Trickster) - Mentioned in the same vein as Taysom Hill, this Princeton-educated UDFA appears to be a jack of all trades, and has already been highly praised for his special teams work. If he happens to slip off the roster, the Redskins should give him serious consideration.
The Chiefs-Jaguars game will be called by Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts with sideline reporter Evan Washburn.
Nantz and Romo will be in Oakland the following week for the Chiefs-Raiders game. Tracy Wolfson will work as sideline reporter.
Patrick Mahomes is the engine of the league’s snazziest car. Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins are a trio beyond reproach. The offensive line features a Pro Bowl left tackle in Eric Fisher and Mitch Schwartz, an All-Pro right tackle. The rookie class boasts receiver Mecole Hardman and running back Darwin Thompson. The former already has two touchdowns in the preseason. The latter has dynamic talent with blocking skill to match.
Unless the NFL allows teams to use 12 defenders against Kansas City, the only way to stop this group is four-man pressure. Last year, the Chiefs lost five games. Each time, the opposition got home without blitzing, and had either a Pro Bowl or All-Pro quarterback of its own. Four times, the game still came down to the final possession. Three times, it came to the final play.
In most years, contenders lose proven parts and attempt to rebuild either from within or using the draft. Kansas City lost little off its roster and simply loaded up further.
Chiefs (-4) at Jaguars
Don’t be frightened by the fact Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s first-team offense were held scoreless against the Steelers in the preseason. OK, you weren’t anyway, were you? Look, Jacksonville should be better than a year ago, if only because the team’s locker room has cooled off and the excitement of an offense no longer weighed down by Blake Bortles is real. Nick Foles could defy the odds and play like he did down the stretch in 2017, however, and I’m still not sure he’s got enough help to take the Jags to the playoffs, let alone go blow for blow with Andy Reid’s trio of Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. I could see Jalen Ramsey and Co. coming out with a chip on their shoulder, but that defense is also in transition. K.C. is just too dangerous not to open this one up, so the Chiefs are worth a bet against the spread.
Those five -- the Patriots, Chiefs, Saints, Bears and Browns -- are the only teams that have already attracted more than $1 million in Super Bowl bets at MGM sportsbooks in Nevada.
In addition to the Super Bowl bets, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield are the most popular bets to win NFL MVP. At the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, Trubisky’s odds to win the MVP have moved from 200-1 to 50-1. Only Mayfield has attracted more bets than Trubisky at the SuperBook.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs– If you have watched the pre-season after two weeks this kid looks legit. He is stupid fast, has great hands and is hard to cover. The Chiefs already have one of the most exciting offense’s in the NFL now add in one of the fastest players in the draft and teams are going to struggle to cover them. You have to worry about so much in KC. You have Kelce, Watkins, Tyreek Hill and now Hardman. This guy has to be on the list for OROY.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Signal-callers get it all: contracts that pay in excess of $30 million per season, shiny MVP awards and plenty of attention.
However, in fantasy football there’s much more depth under center than at the other positions. Assuming your league starts just one QB each week, your odds of finding a viable starter in the middle or late rounds is much better than at running back, wide receiver or tight end.
This isn’t to say that elite fantasy quarterbacks don’t have value. Or that they won’t put up big-time fantasy points. But unless said QB goes berserk, ala Patrick Mahomes in 2018, the edge you gain under center won’t be worth the hole you dig in the backfield or at wideout.
Kansas City Chiefs
Over 10.5 wins EVEN...Under 10.5 wins -120
Verdict: Kansas City gets three of the first four on the road, but then has a stretch of four home games over five weeks. The Chiefs will host the Packers and Vikings and gets road trips to New England and Chicago. The Week 12 bye comes in late November so the team better hope it can stay healthy early. Small lean to the over at EVEN money.
Around the league
NFL players and owners have expressed an openness to expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams -- a change that would help offset revenue lost by cutting the preseason to three games, which is considered likely as the sides begin another bargaining session Monday in Chicago, according to numerous sources familiar with the talks.
An expanded playoff format has not yet been formally proposed in bargaining, nor has expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 games, which players continue to oppose. It’s possible the preseason could be shortened even without adding regular season or postseason games. But sources say that adding two playoff games remains squarely in the conversation amidst unexpectedly positive dialogue that continued to yield progress in staff meetings last week on secondary issues such as current and retired player benefits, player health, and safety.
James’ loss could be mirrored on offense by left tackle Russell Okung’s absence. The 10th-year veteran suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism in June. He is with the team, but he hasn’t practiced yet. It’s uncertain when -- or if -- he’ll return, but the Chargers are preparing to roll with second-year undrafted free agent Trent Scott at left tackle and Sam Tevi, who struggled badly last year, at right tackle. The Chargers drafted tackle Trey Pipkins from Sioux Falls in the third round, but he has looked like a project thus far. As Philip Rivers knows well, entire seasons have been sunk by less.
Will Nick Chubb Be a Top-10 Running Back?
The question around Chubb is whether he’ll retain the type of workload he saw at the second half of last season for the stretch run in 2019. In the final 10 games of 2018, the Browns gave Chubb the ball 176 times with their second-leading rusher being quarterback Baker Mayfield (29 rushes for 92 yards) followed by Johnson (21 carries for 90 yards). Johnson was traded to Houston in August, but the Browns signed former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt earlier this offseason. Hunt is suspended for the first eight games of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy in a February 2018 incident in which he kicked and shoved a woman. Hunt is expected to return to the lineup in Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills.
Chubb was already facing some potential touchdown regression in 2019, and Hunt’s return in the second half of the season is likely to impact his production. Chubb’s season average may belie his actual performance, which might be as a top-five player for the first half of the year and then a top-25 player for the second half.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Allen replaced left guard Cam Erving when he hurt his knee in the Chiefs’ Week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens, then started three straight games at left guard to end the season. It’s worth noting that the Chiefs kept Allen as the starter despite Erving being ready to go prior to their final game in 2018. Erving replaced Allen at left guard in the playoffs.
In addition to guard, Allen can play tackle and center, and he is a locker-room favorite among his Chiefs teammates. I doubt the Chiefs would bring back Allen simply to cut him just a few weeks later, so the move impacts the offensive line depth chart.
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