It was only five seasons ago that the Kansas City Chiefs went an entire 16-game season without a wide receiver catching a touchdown pass. The streak without a wide receiver touchdown was actually longer than a full season. It ran from December 9, 2013 until September 28, 2015. That’s 659 days — including 21 regular-season games.
It became a running joke among the league — and was also the longest NFL streak like it since at least 1964. Some claim that it’s been even longer than that.
Fast forward to 2019.
The Chiefs have dramatically improved their wide receiver group. All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, former first-round pick Sammy Watkins, fourth-year wideout Demarcus Robinson and rookie speedster Mecole Hardman now make up the contributors at the position. Along with all-pro tight end Travis Kelce, the Chiefs’ receivers are among the best in the league.
In 2019, Chiefs pass catchers have the potential for an all-time season. They have the positional talent, the MVP quarterback, the genius offensive play caller and the advantage of playing in a pass-happy era.
If they can stay healthy, they could surpass the statistics of some of the greatest receiving corps in modern NFL history.
1998 Minnesota Vikings
Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham could not have gotten more lucky with the receivers he had in 1998. Minnesota already had Jake Reed — who entered the year with four straight 1,000 yard seasons — and eventual Hall of Famer Cris Carter. Then they drafted Randy Moss, who ended his career as one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. This trio combined for 181 catches, 2,798 yards and 33 touchdowns — and could have had more if not for an injury that forced Reed to miss five games.
2000 St. Louis Rams
The Greatest Show on Turf took the league by storm with a dynamic passing attack. Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner was throwing to All-Pro receiver Torry Holt, Pro Bowler Isaac Bruce and playmaking receiver Az-Zahir Hakim. The trio won a Super Bowl in 1999, but had an even better statistical season in 2000 — combining for 222 receptions, 3,840 yards and 19 touchdowns. Bruce and Holt had the fourth-most receiving yards by two teammates in league history.
2004 Indianapolis Colts
All-time quarterback Peyton Manning’s 2004 season earned him MVP honors — but he had some pretty good help, too. His targets included Hall of Fame wideout Marvin Harrison, All-Pro Reggie Wayne and breakout receiver Brandon Stokley. The three racked up 231 catches, 3,400 yards and 37 touchdowns. They were one of only five receiving trios who each gained 1,000 receiving yards in one season.
2013 Denver Broncos
Manning put together another MVP campaign with the Broncos in 2013. This time, he threw to All-Pro Wes Welker, Pro Bowler Demariyus Thomas and the reliable hands of Eric Decker. This trio accumulated 252 catches, 3,496 yards and 35 of the 55 touchdowns Manning threw that season. Tight end Julius Thomas also contributed heavily, with 65 catches, 788 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In 2018, the Chiefs trio of Hill, Kelce, and Watkins combined to catch 230 balls, gain 3,334 yards and score 25 touchdowns — and that was with Watkins not playing in six games.
Hill, Kelce, and Watkins got close to these historic seasons last year — but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to surpass them. Health will be an important factor. While Kelce and Hill have shown impressive durability, Watkins has not. He has dealt with injuries in every season since his rookie year.
Another factor will be head coach Andy Reid’s tendency to spread the ball around. The passing game will involve third and fourth-string receivers, running backs and backup tight ends. This may prevent the three main guys from seeing the volume it would take to surpass all of these historic receiving groups.
Even given Watkins’ injury history, he did look very impressive during training camp practices. He has talked about a change in his offseason methods — and his belief that it will pay off.
We know that a player is always going to say they feel great during the preseason, but I’m buying in. That means I’m also buying that Hill, Watkins and Kelce can put up the best statistics an NFL receiving trio has registered in the last 20 years.
Here’s how I think it will shake out:
- Tyreek Hill: 88 catches, 1,600 yards, 15 touchdowns
- Travis Kelce: 95 catches, 1,300 yards, 13 touchdowns
- Sammy Watkins: 75 catches, 1,050 yards, 12 touchdowns
That’s 258 catches for 3,950 yards and 40 touchdowns — in each statistic, more than any of the four receiving groups I’ve shown here.
And if you think Watkins’ touchdown total is too high, listen to the man himself: