In an interesting way, that answer illustrates why no one here seems to see Mahomes’s sudden burst toward celebrity as much to worry about at all. The 23-year-old is, or at least appears to be, the same guy as that 22-year-old last summer, whose potential had become urban legend in league circles (via a lot cell phone video of circus-type throws in practice), but who remained relatively anonymous to the casual fan.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid characterized the star turn since, “like running a world-class 100. All of the sudden, he’s Usain Bolt.”
And yet, even after a 50-touchdown season, it’s like he didn’t break a sweat.
He’s had some help with that, too. Mahomes told me he has tried to pick some stuff up on handling fame—he talked with both Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers about it. And he had some pretty good help from his own inner circle
“The best way that I’ve managed it is having great people around me that I can lean on, as far as making sure my schedule is right, and time management,” he said. “I’ve leaned on my godfather, [ex-major league outfielder LaTroy Hawkins], and my dad [ex-major leaguer Pat Mahomes]. “I’ve learned from them, not putting too much on my plate, to where I can’t focus on football. And I make sure football is first with every brand that I align myself with.”
The Chiefs’ first depth chart includes eight players who did not start the AFC Championship Game in January. One, offensive lineman Cameron Erving, has been running with the second team in training camp.
The seven others have replaced some former mainstays, and this season’s results will determine if the collective changes are seen as an upgrade.
Gone are defensive lineman Allen Bailey, linebackers Justin Houston and Dee Ford, cornerback Steven Nelson and safety Eric Berry.
Their approximate replacements include defensive linemen Frank Clark and Alex Okafor, linebacker Damien Wilson, corner Bashard Breeland and safety Tyrann Mathieu. All of these players were brought in, along with a new defensive staff headed by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, as part of a major makeover.
PATRICK MAHOMES (+600) TO WIN MVP
Mahomes is also the favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year at 650. Last season, he won both the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year Awards and there is reason to think he could be even better this season. Last year was his first full season as a starter and the Chiefs defense projects to be awful this season. To stay in games, Kansas City is going to rely on scoring tons of points on offense. With the defense giving up a lot of points, the Chiefs offense is going to spend more time on the field and we could be looking at another 50 touchdown season from Mahomes. For his counting stats, Mahomes caught a break when WR Tyreek Hill avoided a suspension. He’s going to have the same top receiving threats in Hill and TE Travis Kelce and their chemistry should be improved with more time together.
Between the two awards Mahomes is favored to win, the OPOY makes more sense. Not only are the odds a bit better, but he has less competition to win the award. The MVP also includes defensive players, while he’s only competing with skill players for OPOY. His odds for these awards should probably be flipped.
Hill set a Pro Football Focus record in the 2018 season with 754 receiving yards on deep passes, and he is quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ favorite target on downfield throws.
However, NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo listed Hill at No. 2 on his list of the league’s top-five deep threats in 2019.
“He’s probably everybody else’s No. 1,” Garafolo acknowledged while unveiling the list on “Good Morning Football.” “But I don’t care, I’m putting him at No. 2. What’s his speed again, 4.24? And the ability to make a move down the field and not slow down and keep it going. You saw a play last year against the Patriots, from one side of the field, crossing the safety all the way on the way on the other side.”
Mahomes was on 35.5 percent of teams that won their fantasy championship on ESPN.com last year. But Mahomes was drafted on average at no. 118 overall last year, meaning the teams he played for not only got his performance at a discount, but used that excess draft capital on other players instead. By taking Mahomes in the second round, not only does he have to play at a historic rate to be worth the pick, he’s also coming at the expense of a running back, receiver, or tight end who could be a difference-maker. Numbers show year after year that drafting a running back or wide receiver (or in George Kittle’s case, a tight end) in the top 25 combined with a quarterback selected in the 70s or 80s is more valuable than a quarterback in the top 25 and a skill player later. Perhaps Mahomes can buck history and stay at an all-time level for a second season in a row. If he can’t, it might cost you a championship.
Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
While Williams did show promise last year, he has yet to prove he can be a reliable starting back over the course of a full season. Further complicating matters is the fact that Kansas City has other capable options at tailback, including Darrel Williams, Carlos Hyde and rookie sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson.
Williams has been sidelined in camp with a hamstring injury, which has allowed Hyde to impress the coaching staff.
”Carlos has done a nice job,” head coach Andy Reid said, per Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com. “He’s getting a lot of reps, and he’s taking advantage of them.”
There is no guarantee Williams will be an every-down back for the Chiefs. In all likelihood, he’ll be part of a committee. And even if Williams is the lead back in that committee going into Week 1, there’s no telling if he’ll be able to hold that role for 17 weeks.
Can Patrick Mahomes repeat what he did in 2018?
The simple answer is no. Perhaps the better question is, does he need to? Mahomes was unbelievable in his first full season as a starter after essentially a redshirt rookie year behind Alex Smith. He threw 50 touchdown passes and averaged an astounding 32.3 fantasy points per game, 5.9 points higher than the second-place Matt Ryan. Those numbers are historically good and will be incredibly difficult to repeat, even if Mahomes continues to be that good. The sheer numbers he put up hint at probable regression of some kind, but even if his production drops a reasonable 20%, he’ll still score 25.8 fantasy points per game, or 0.1 less than 2017 league-leader Russell Wilson. That’s how amazing Mahomes was in 2018.
Last season saw Ben Roethlisberger lead the league in passing with 5,129 yards. However, there was nearly a story of romance for the NFL betting community as Patrick Mahomes came from a +3000 selection to finish agonizingly short of winning the award. Entering the 2019 season, Mahomes has rightly taken over as the odds on…
As for those whose odds have gotten worse, we can start with all of the tight ends. TJ Hockenson, Noah Fant and Irv Smith have all fallen down the board by quite a bit — perhaps people realized that the only tight end to win this award was Mike Ditka in 1961.
Oakland’s Josh Jacobs is the only name near the top of the list whose odds haven’t increased since opening. However, running backs have won this award in three of the past four seasons and nine times this century, the most of any position.
Kansas City’s WR Mecole Hardman has also taken a hit, likely due to Tyreek Hill’s non-suspension.
Shanahan was asked whether the team knew about potential knee problems before trading a 2020 second-round pick for Ford. The response didn’t include a denial.
“I mean, you hear about wear and tear on guys,” Shanahan said. “I mean, you get every medical report that they’ve ever had from their trainers and stuff and that’s been on lists and everything, so you hear about all of that. But we have a number of guys with stuff like that. I mean, [Joe] Staley’s gone through stuff like that and usually you’ve got to do something like what we did once in the year and we thought it would be better to do it sooner than later.”
“It’s definitely a different role for me, different capacity, but I’m loving being down here,” Smith told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael during Day 10 of training camp on Monday. “It’s been nice being around the guys. Selfishly for me, it’s been nice to help me pass some time here and I’ve been getting good work in. But at the same time obviously it’s a different role, almost kind of like a coach a little bit with the guys, especially the quarterbacks.”
Around the league
Derek Carr is going to be really good this year
The Raiders’ offense struggled last year as they were both in the bottom third in scoring and total offense. But adding a player like Antonio Brown, who is easily the second-best receiver to ever play this game, will help. Brown has had at least 100 receptions, 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns in every season since 2013. Nobody has ever done that in the history of the NFL. NOBODY. Hell, the Raiders haven’t had a receiver with at least 1,200 receiving yards since Jerry Rice in 2002.
And that’s the thing. I liken Brown’s arrival to what Rice’s was back in the day. The biggest difference is Brown is about a decade younger than Rice when he joined the Raiders. Rice helped take journeyman Rich Gannon to the NFL MVP award in 2002.
Let’s be honest. We’re not far removed from Carr and his magical 2016 performance, when he threw for nearly 4K with 28 touchdowns and six picks. Last season, he set career highs in completion percentage (68.9 percent) and passing yards (4,049). He did have a career-low 19 touchdown passes, but Brown and Tyrell Williams immediately change that.
Andrew Luck’s availability: Perhaps Andrew Luck’s calf injury will be long forgotten by mid-September, yet another early-August storyline that vaporizes before the sport matters. The Colts say Luck could play if necessary this week and they are being as careful as possible. But the facts remain Luck suffered the injury more than three months ago and he admitted that he was “going backwards” last week after trying to practice. Luck will sit out practice at least through the team’s first preseason game. It’s all about getting Luck ready for the regular season, but he’s the one who noted “bodies don’t care about a date on a calendar.”
For a brief moment in the weird Antonio Brown-Steelers divorce saga, the football world thought the receiver was being traded to Buffalo. There was a lot of pointing and laughing at Brown, who — according to Ian Rapoport — was about to be jettisoned to NFL Siberia in Upstate New York. He was set to play for an offense that was dead last in passing touchdowns. Alas, it didn’t come to be, although one could definitely argue getting traded to the Raiders isn’t much better.
All that to say, Gordon getting traded to Buffalo would probably be received the same way. After requesting a trade from the Chargers, it’d look like a giant middle finger to the running back if he were sent from a contender to the Bills — no matter how bullish you are on the young roster’s upside.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Wide receivers (6): Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, Byron Pringle
When I made my initial 53-man roster projection, I incorrectly assumed Tyreek Hill would be suspended to start the season. We now know he should be good to go, bumping Cody Thompson to the practice squad on cutdown day. Sammy Watkins, who says he’s healthier than he has ever been, is the obvious No. 2—and based on camp looks, I am beginning to think rookie Mecole Hardman has a legitimate chance to challenge Demarcus Robinson for the No. 3 job. Hardman is faster than Robinson, and his chemistry with Patrick Mahomes has come along much sooner than I figured it would.
Marcus Kemp is a key special-teamer, and he has showed out in camp as a developing receiver. Byron Pringle, a kick-returner candidate, rounds out the wide receiver group after losing his rookie season to core muscle surgery. If Gehrig Dieter is going to push to make the 53-man roster, he needs to get on the football field. Dieter has been out the past week with back spasms.
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