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A recent NFL ranking and more on the Chiefs’ receiver position in 2021

Could a surprise cut be brewing in Kansas City?

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund recently ranked the league’s top 10 offenses entering the 2021 season. As far as AFC teams go, the Tennessee Titans came in at No. 10, the Cleveland Browns came in at No. 7, the Buffalo Bills came in at No. 5 and the Kansas City Chiefs game in at...

No. 2 - Kansas City Chiefs

Here’s Frelund:

The Chiefs’ rebuilt O-line and uncertainty at wide receiver in terms of depth (it appears they have 14 WRs on the depth chart as of right now) are the two factors that contribute to them finishing just shy of the Bucs in this exercise. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce do combine for the highest QB-WR-TE win-share trifecta in the league, though. I was kind of joking about WR depth, but also kind of serious. With Sammy Watkins now a Raven, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson will be tasked with playing a bigger role. They both had slightly lower off-ball impact numbers in 2020 than they did in 2019, which means they weren’t drawing coverage that created more space for their teammates as often. However, with time comes space, and the new O-line forecasts to give Mahomes more time to operate.

Frelund’s comments regarding the Chiefs’ wide receiver position is one of the things Ron Kopp and I discussed in our “Locker Room” chat on Wednesday afternoon. An interesting development at the position is the amount of depth the Chiefs have right now.

Let’s take Tyreek Hill out of it; we know the three-time All-Pro is on the team. The next level of receivers who are assuredly making the roster include Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson and rookie fifth-rounder Cornell Powell.

After those five players — in no meaningful order — we have Marcus Kemp, Antonio Callaway, Gehrig Dieter, Joe Fortson, Maurice Ffrench, Dalton Schoen, Chad Williams, Chris Finke and Daurice Fountain.

That is a lot of competition for a position in which Andy Reid and the Chiefs usually keep six players. In Ron Kopp’s way-too-early 53-man roster projection, he suggested the Chiefs may keep seven receivers, but that would be a stark change from Reid’s typical approach — and what makes it more difficult to fathom is the team’s newfound depth at offensive line.

A surprise cut could be brewing, and it’s worth noting Frelund’s point about lower “off-ball impact numbers” for Hardman and Robinson. It likely won’t be Hardman — a second-rounder still in his rookie deal. If two members of the Brett Veach pool shine, Robinson might be the odd man out — especially considering he hasn’t exactly been a priority free agent these last two seasons (2020, 2021).

I think Frelund’s point about replacing Sammy Watkins (in the regular season) is a bit overblown, as the Chiefs managed bye weeks and a championship while he missed chunks of games during his tenure. Replacing him against playoff competition is a greater challenge, but the Chiefs will have 17 games to come up with an answer for that problem.

By the way — as you might have guessed — Frelund only had the defending-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked ahead of the Chiefs.

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