On Saturday, Matt Lane took his turn in our Ranking the Chiefs series, ranking current Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce fourth on his list of five all-time Chiefs players.
Travis Kelce is the probably the most controversial pick on this list, but I think that’s due to a bad set of circumstances. Tony Gonzalez paved the way for the new age tight ends, so the Chiefs weren’t too far removed from elite tight end play before Kelce arrived. Just five years passed between them — and during that time, the Chiefs had adequate tight-end play; there was never a reset to what normal NFL tight-end play looks like. On top of that, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham overshadowed Kelce for a while. Chiefs fans don’t under-appreciate what he’s done the way the national media does — but he also doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves for how dominant, consistent and important he has been to the team since his first year as a starter in 2014. As much as any player on this list (who is not named Patrick Mahomes) his performance has been the most tied to the team’s success.
Also on Saturday, we got to see the speech Patrick Mahomes gave at Texas Tech’s virtual commencement ceremony — all 90 seconds of it.
The NFL and EA Sports are simulating the entire NFL season using the Madden 20 video game. On Sunday, we got a peek at a a possible future: a Chiefs victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As the NFL mulled over a proposed rule change that would give a teams an option to try and fourth-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line instead of an onside kick, John dug into the numbers.
Some have suggested that the Eagles’ proposed rule will make it too easy for a trailing team to retain possession. The evidence, however, says otherwise. Over the last 10 seasons, third and fourth-down plays with 15 to go have been successful just 16% of the time — which is even less often than trailing teams were previously able to recover onside kicks. And if the conversion fails, the opponent will get the ball no further than 39 yards from the opposing goal line — which makes a field-goal attempt pretty likely. To be sure, those are still pretty long odds — but they’re good enough for teams with nothing to lose to give them a shot.
Tuesday’s Arrowhead Pride Editor’s Show podcast included a discussion of which Chiefs players Pete Sweeney and John Dixon were most excited to see in 2020.
Pete: Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire
The Chiefs just wrapped up two straight seasons of having a top-five offense, and what do they do in the 2020 NFL Draft? Go offense in the first round. Leading up to the draft, many fans and analysts were hoping that they would choose another position to improve, but I think — by now — they have come around to the idea of Clyde Edwards-Helaire with Patrick Mahomes in 2020. The Chiefs’ comparison for Edwards-Helaire was Brian Westbrook, who from 2004-08 under Andy Reid, compiled at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage per year. Christian McCaffrey called Edwards-Helaire more than a running back. Give me Clyde.
Then ESPN released its first simulation of the NFL’s coming season using its Football Power Index, which giving the Chiefs a 21% chance to win Super Bowl LV.
The Chiefs are projected to have 11.2 wins — and a 94% chance to make the playoffs. FPI simulations predict the Los Angeles Chargers will have 7.7 wins (a 35% chance for the playoffs), the Denver Broncos to notch 7.4 wins (32%) and the Las Vegas Raiders to have 6.9 (24%). So while the AFC West crown isn’t awarded by a computer, a fifth consecutive division championship looks doable.
Interestingly, the Chiefs will play five of the FPI top 10 teams — the Ravens and Saints, along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills — and are still projected to win it all.
On Wednesday, the football analytics site named Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz as the team’s most underrated player.
The PFF nod comes just a week after Schwartz was named the 41st-best player in the league by CBS Sports, so perhaps the tide is turning for the right tackle when it comes to the league-wide notoriety it takes to be voted to the Pro Bowl. His recent Instagram cooking takeover on NFL’s The Checkdown probably did not hurt, either.
As PFF notes, Schwartz did not allow a sack in Kansas City’s postseason run that led to a Super Bowl title.
“We have a ton of respect for him here and all that he does,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Schwartz in early February. “That’s what’s made him so good with his stop here in Kansas City. He’s a big part of this thing and why we’ve had success. It doesn’t surprise me at all. That’s just how he’s wired. He’s a brilliant guy and loves to play the game.”
In recent seasons, our Kent Swanson has strongly advocated for getting defensive players in the draft. But on Wednesday, he explained why he’s now changed his mind.
Mahomes is going to get the most out of everyone in the huddle with him — the Chiefs should keep filling that huddle with premium picks. He will help them reach their potential, and Kansas City will be primed to reap the reward of compensatory picks for any players they have to move on for budgetary reasons. If the Chiefs keep loading up offensively, they’ll have a group that score on anyone and will be in contention for a Super Bowl every year. They made it within six inches of the final game with one of the worst defenses in the league.
With a good staff and some development from lesser draft picks, they can still maintain a good enough defense for championships (plural).
Everybody’s been talking about Patrick Mahomes’ new contract. On Thursday, John argued that the leverage Mahomes now posesses — and the circumstances of the season — might give him the opportunity to get a contract that is historic on multiple levels.
Fans may be able to come to stadiums if they so choose, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will. Polling has suggested that most fans won’t want to attend large public gatherings until a coronavirus vaccine is available — and even in the unlikely event one is available before the season begins, pocketbooks will be stretched. Unemployment is at its highest level since the Great Depression; many fans may simply be unable to afford the luxury of attending NFL games.
And all of that is in the best-case scenario. The league’s revenue losses from games in empty stadiums — or the worst possible outcome: cancellation of some games that result in the loss of TV revenue — could be huge.
In short, no one can predict what will happen to league revenue in 2020 — and with it, the 2021 salary cap. So if the Chiefs and Mahomes want to come to a fair deal before the next offseason — or maybe even after — a contract that provides at least some of the young quarterback’s compensation in the form of a percentage of the salary cap could be the only answer.
Over the last three seasons, the Chiefs offense has been the terror — and the envy — of the league. On Thursday, Ethan Douglas took a look at the data to see if they could be even better.
Now we see a clear peak for the 2007 Patriots, who were three standard deviations above average that season, compared to a Z-score slightly above two for the 2018 Chiefs. Even that is still impressive — but the chart shows us that over the years, many other teams have done as well or better.
While this may seem like a negative, this is actually a good thing. It means that it’s likely the Chiefs still haven’t reached their peak; just in the past 20 years, many teams have outperformed their peers by more than the Chiefs have. If the 2020 Chiefs turn out to be as dominant as the 2007 Patriots — and assuming overall offensive efficiency continues to increase — we’d expect an EPA per play of around 0.24. This may not seem like a big improvement from the 2019 team, but it would be. On a per-play basis, the offense would actually be almost twice as efficient.
On Friday, we examined what Chiefs defensive backs coach Sam Madison had to say during his virtual press briefing on Thursday afternoon.
Madison sounded downright giddy about the additions to the Chiefs defensive back room this offseason. General manager Brett Veach added Antonio Hamilton in free agency and drafted L’Jarius Sneed in the fourth round before trading back into the seventh for BoPete Keyes. When asked about the adjustment both were making, Madison was quick to praise their ability to pick up things in the meeting room quickly.
“They’re very good with the questions we ask on a consistent basis. The things that coach Spags (Steve Spagnuolo) asks of them, they’re doing their best right now. If they’re going to do this and continue to do it throughout the course of their career, that means [the scouting department] did a great job with their backgrounds. Me and Coach Merritt are enjoying them every day.”