ESPN continues its series of articles revealing the top 10 NFL players at each position group — as chosen by a panel of 50 league executives, coaches and players. In Tuesday’s offering, Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn’t make the top 10, but did receive an honorable mention. Then in Wednesday’s article — once again written by Jeremy Fowler — a Chiefs wide receiver made the list.
4. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Highest ranking: 1
Lowest ranking: 10
Last year’s ranking: 5
Hill embodies where the NFL is going, a motion-and-movement player with elite lateral change of direction and sneaky physicality.
He not only managed to be the fastest wide receiver on any single catch in 2020 — 21.91 mph on a 44-yard touchdown in Week 14 — he also covered more distance per game than any other offensive player.
“Not a great route runner and Andy [Reid]’s scheme helps him, but he might be the hardest guy to prepare for,” an NFC exec said.
He’s developed into a more refined route runner the past few years, with the Chiefs (smartly) taking it slow with him, expanding his workload every year. His six drops were problematic last year, and some voters wonder whether he’s scheme-dependent.
But many acknowledge Hill scares you more than just about anyone.
“His ability to get from 0 to 60 makes heads turn on the [opposing] sideline. You can feel it,” an AFC coordinator said. “You are just hoping that when he gets it that there are a bunch of defenders around him.”
Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers, DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals and Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills were the top three wideouts on the list. Julio Jones — now of the Tennessee Titans — was ranked fifth.
Both inside and outside the league, observers can’t seem to make up their minds about the Kansas City wide receiver. Some are beginning to see Hill as the league’s best — but others aren’t so sure. He is often described as the league’s “most dangerous” wideout — but will then be ranked behind a few others. But thankfully, we’ve finally moved well past the point where Hill is considered a “gadget player.”
I’m not sure I agree with these characterizations of Hill’s route-running ability — but again, it was an early knock against him. Sometimes those narratives die hard — but at least the NFL insiders say he is taking steps forward. I’d also disagree that head coach Andy Reid’s scheme is the primary thing that propels his success. While Reid’s scheme obviously helps, I have come to believe that when Patrick Mahomes is forced to operate out of structure — which has happened all too often — it is Hill’s ability to track the football that has made him invaluable to both his quarterback and the offense as a whole.
It will be interesting to see what Hill can do when Mahomes — as we hope will be the case — is operating from inside the pocket more often.