On Tuesday, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell picked 16 examples of NFL teams that could be lacking depth at a significant position. He didn’t rank the list, but he might have put them near the top given what Barnwell said about the Kansas City Chiefs.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Next up: Chad Henne
OK, obviously, any team is going to drop off when they lose the most talented quarterback in the league. The more interesting discussion might be to consider whether other Chiefs would have a similar case. Travis Kelce just finished arguably the best season for a tight end in league history, and his backups are Nick Keizer and rookie fifth-rounder Noah Gray.
Likewise, if Tyreek Hill pulled a hamstring, the Chiefs would suddenly be looking at a wide receiver depth chart of Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Cornell Powell and Byron Pringle. It’s impossible to keep Mahomes off this list, and I’m trying to keep it to one player per team, but the Chiefs might have three of the most irreplaceable players in the league on one side of the ball.
Just for starters, Barnwell appears to have forgotten that Blake Bell has returned to the Chiefs. Should Kelce be injured, Bell is far more likely to step in than Keizer — who might not make the final roster in September. And even that presumes that the Chiefs won’t believe Gray is ready to fill in. From their statements, they seem to think he will contribute in 2021 — but since Gray a rookie, it’s fair to be cautious about taking their confidence at face value. Barnwell’s point still holds, though: if Kelce is unavailable, there could be a significant drop-off. A year from now, it will be interesting to see how pundits like Barnwell see the situation.
Concerning Hill, Barnwell appears not to have noticed that with Sammy Watkins as the second wideout, the Chiefs have essentially been in that same situation for much of the last three seasons. Thankfully, Hill has missed only four games during that time. Should he miss significant time in 2021, the players available to replace him may not be household names outside of Kansas City — but they will still have Mahomes throwing them the ball. That should count for something.
So as is often the case with the Chiefs, it all comes back to Mahomes — which is exactly where Barnwell started.