Current record: 5,477 (Peyton Manning, 2013)
While Manning holds this record by 1 lone yard over Drew Brees’ 2011 campaign, no other season from any other quarterback is within 200 yards of the top two.
We’ve seen three quarterbacks with three different styles top 5,000 yards over the last three seasons in Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger and Jameis Winston, and there are several quarterbacks who could threaten Manning’s record with an extra game this season.
The favorite: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
It has to start with Mahomes, right? When the league announced the move to a 17-game campaign, I built a Monte Carlo simulation and found that his chances of topping 5,477 yards in a given year jumped from 2.3% in a 16-game campaign to 10.4% under the 17-game slate. He made it to 5,097 yards in his first full season as a starter and then added 278 in the subsequent victory over the Colts, which would have brought him to 5,375 yards over 17 games in 2018. Is it difficult to imagine Mahomes coaxing another 103 passing yards out of a full campaign, especially with an improved offensive line?
Passing yards: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. Sometimes, you have to go with the obvious one. I’m going with the obvious one here. My dark horse is Jameis Winston, who actually has been the leader in this category before (yup, the 30-pick season). But I’ll play this safe.
2. Tyreek Hill
Hill is simply the most explosive player in the NFL. In the four seasons he’s been a full-time starter, he has averaged a 16-game receiving line of 85 catches for 1,324 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has turned 21.2 percent of his targets into explosive gains, per Tru Media, and 9.1 percent of them into touchdowns. And he’s not just a big-play guy. He’s really efficient, catching 68.4 percent of passes thrown his way and averaging 2.36 yards per route run. He and Patrick Mahomes have magical chemistry, and there is no reason not to expect them to continue tearing up the league.
Kansas City Chiefs: Letting Mitchell Schwartz Go
The Kansas City Chiefs revamped their offensive line this offseason, parting with tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz while adding Joe Thuney, Orlando Brown Jr., Kyle Long and Austin Blythe.
While these moves could make Kansas City a better team in 2021, letting Schwartz go may have been a mistake.
Presumably, Brown will take over for Fisher at left tackle. This leaves Mike Remmers as the projected starter on the right side. But he was one of the tackles who got dominated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
Schwartz, meanwhile, had been incredibly dependable before suffering a back injury in Week 6 last season. He never previously missed a start and had played at least 99 percent of the team’s offensive snaps every year from 2012 to 2019. Even if Kansas City no longer views him as a high-end starter, he would provide valuable depth.
As the Chiefs found out last year, offensive line depth is important in the postseason. It’ll be even more so in 2021 with a 17-game schedule looming. The good news is that Kansas City still has a chance to bring back Schwartz, who remains a free agent.
6 - Chiefs
Orlando Brown, 2021 2nd (Nick Bolton)
2022 6th, Ravens 2021 1st (Odafe Oweh), 2021 3rd (Ben Cleveland), 2021 4th, 2022 5th
The Chiefs’ trade for Brown would have ranked higher on this list had they not already spent so much money and other resources while remaking the offensive line. Brown moves the needle, but all of the other work Kansas City did (signing Joe Thuney, Kyle Long, and Austin Blythe, drafting Creed Humphrey, getting Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back from his opt-out year) has a chance to be just as impactful. We’re only grading the trade itself, not the overall effort to improve Patrick Mahomes’ protection unit.
AFC West – Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City
You can’t teach speed, but you can work on your hands and consistency. And I am betting that the 2019 second-round pick is ready to seize the opportunity provided by the exodus of Sammy Watkins. Can be become the Robin to Tyreek Hill’s Batman? He came into the league raw, but Year Three can be when many a WR takes a turn for the better and starts to figure out what it takes to succeed in the NFL. It’s a great staff and the best quarterback on the planet and a master play-caller, which all work with him. I suspect it brings out more of Hardman than we have seen before the find his way into a greater timeshare of the snaps and targets in this voluminous offense. He can take a step up from one-trick-pony “speed guy” to a more reliable receiver.
Around the NFL
“Everything happens for a reason and it’ll handle itself,” said Mayfield, who became eligible for an extension this offseason. “So, just worried about winning.”
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick is coming off a breakout season in which he quarterbacked the Browns to their first playoff victory in 26 years. In Cleveland’s first postseason appearance since 2002, Mayfield threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns as the Browns snapped their 17-game losing streak in Pittsburgh.
6 - Jaire Alexander
Green Bay Packers · CB
Drafted: Round 1 (No. 18) in 2018. Under contract through: 2022. Age: 24.
There is only one cornerback in the NFL currently averaging $20 million-plus per season: Rams star Jalen Ramsey. But Alexander should top that figure in 2022, when, with the salary cap rising again, the Packers are likely to sign him to an extension. According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander surrendered a completion rate of just 50 percent and 9.4 yards per catch on 68 targets last season, allowing a passer rating of 67.0. Offenses had much greater success against players like Kevin King (68.6 percent completion rating, 14.0 yards per catch, 105.8 passer rating), which explains Green Bay’s selection of cornerback Eric Stokes in Round 1 of this year’s draft. Whatever happens with Aaron Rodgers, at least the Packers can be secure in the knowledge they have a stud in the secondary.
On Wednesday, the retired star took in a Chargers practice as part of his new analyst role with NBC. Brees noted afterward that it was just the third time he’s encountered Justin Herbert. That was enough for him to draw at least one striking conclusion about the 23-year-old QB.
“I think his physical tools are as good as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Brees told Fernando Ramirez of Sports Illustrated’s Charger Report. “By all accounts, he’s a great worker. He’s got great leadership qualities, he’s got a lot of intangibles. So I think the sky’s the limit for a guy like him.”
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“Man, I feel like we’re going to have a lot of fun out there,” said Clark. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that are willing to step up. Some guys you don’t even need to name, you’ve got Khalen Saunders, and it’s a lot of young talent. I feel like over the first few years we had, we were new, we didn’t really know each other. It was one of those types of things where we were playing, but I feel like at this point going into Year 3, basically with our foundation kind of being set now with us knowing the layout of our defense, knowing where each person is going to be, knowing how each person plays, I feel like that all plays into our favor, honestly.”
Part of winning football games is having fun. As a whole, the sporting community tends to forget that we are watching grown men and women play children’s games for a living. So when a player comes out and mentions the word “fun” as part of their aspirations for the season, we shouldn’t take that as a form of unprofessionalism. Winning is fun — supporting a team that wins is fun. The aim of any team should be to have as much fun as possible.
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