We’ve made it Chiefs Kingdom. Its game week and Arrowhead will be rocking this weekend. Here are some of the secondary storylines I’ll be watching this season.
Travis Kelce Hall of Fame progression
Travis Kelce is entering year 9 of his career and has really begun to cement his Hall of Fame resume. According to Pro Football Reference’s Hall of Fame Monitor, Kelce is 12th among all TE based on accrued statistics and awards. Kelce is currently 8th among all tight ends in receptions, 10th in yards, and 15th in touchdowns. Using ESPN’s Mike Clay’s projections for Kelce – 108 catches, 1328 yards and 11 touchdowns – that would move Kelce 6th in receptions, 5th in yards, and 10th in touchdowns. This would require another All-Pro year like last year. Being the de-facto X-receiver in a high power offense coupled with the kind of chemistry that he and Patrick Mahomes have give Kelce a great chance at these statistics. On the other side, it’s a longer season and wear and tear will pile up. Chiefs may lean on their stable of tight ends – Bell, Gray, and Fortson – to take some of the burden off Kelce so that he is ready to turn it up in the postseason. His snap count has gone down in each of the past three years, so its a usage rate that will be interesting to monitor. Either way, I’m excited to how Travis Kelce builds on his record breaking 2020.
2018 Draft Class in a contract year
The Chiefs 2018 draft class was Brett Veach’s first as General Manager and arguably his most scrutinized. Only three of the players from that draft class remain on the team – Derrick Nnadi, Dorian O’Daniel, and Armani Watts – and all three will be looking for contracts going into next season. This is where Terez Paylor would remind us all that "the contract year is undefeated". Playing roughly 50% of the defensive snaps, Nnadi has been the biggest contributor out of the draft class playing in 47 career games at defensive end. Nnadi plays that middle of the defense anchor that allows everyone around him to make plays on running downs. He has a definitive role in this defense and has played himself into a larger contract next year, but with an uncertain cap situation and big free agents like Orlando Brown and Tyrann Matheiu, it may be difficult to bring him back at the price he’s earned. O’Daniel and Watts are primary special teams players over their first three seasons with both playing less than 10% of the defensive snaps. They will both need standout years this year to earn second contracts with the Chiefs. It will also need to be understood by them what their role is moving forward. If O’Daniel and Watts believe they could be defensive starters in the NFL, then the open market will be available to them. If they believe they are both special team aces, then the Chiefs could entertain bringing them back at a reduced cost.
Inactives each week
Lastly, the inactives each week will be very interesting to watch. There are a few easy candidates to pick from early in the season with Noah Gray and Joshua Kaindoh being options, but after that, it becomes more difficult. The Chiefs need to select seven players each week to not dress and it will be interesting to see who sits. Khalen Saunders was a frequent inactive last year, but with Chris Jones moving to the edge, does Saunders fit in more with the rotation. The Offense has ten linemen, but all are expected to practice this week in some capacity and could they sit one or two of them. Does preseason fan favorite Daurice Fountain see the inactive list? It will be very interesting to evaluate the inactives list each week to see what the team thinks they need going into each week.