As we had learned during the previous two weeks, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been working out with many of the team’s offensive skill players in Texas. Then on Monday — as the team began Phase One of its offseason program (which consists only of meetings) — head coach Andy Reid said they’d decided to once again hold them virtually.
During Phase One, the Chiefs’ coaches cannot instruct players on the field, anyway, so Reid, famously a man who sticks to his 20-plus-year routine, uncharacteristically opted to pivot.
“We’re going to meet with them virtually,” said Reid. “There’s a number of guys that are here lifting, but again, these are all voluntary camps — all three phases. But they’ll be able to work out on their own and do that part. We’ve had some gatherings with some of the skill players offensively — Pat organized some guys that are down in Texas with him and they’re throwing to a couple new receivers that we have. [They’re] down there with him along with the rest of the skill players — new running backs, etc. It’s moving in a positive direction. Look forward to getting these meetings started as we go forward.”
Then while taking his (virtual) turn with Kansas City reporters, Mahomes heaped praise on the man who has unexpectedly become the team’s senior wide receiver.
“He’s a guy who has always worked hard,” Mahomes said of Hardman “He’s a guy who is always putting in the time, just kind of waiting for his opportunity. I mean, when you have two All-Pro Chiefs legends that are getting a lot of the catches, it’s hard to get everybody the targets that they want. But every time he’s in there and has his opportunity, he’s going 100 miles an hour — as hard as he can. So you respect guys like that. And you’re happy that he’ll have an even bigger chance — a bigger opportunity — this year.
“I expect big things from him.”
Both Reid and Mahomes also fielded questions about the team’s newest free-agent wide receivers: Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Both are bigger wideouts than the team has typically brought on board.
“I don’t know if we necessarily had to get bigger,” noted Reid. “These guys are bigger, so you’re going to utilize some of the things you can do with a little bit bigger guy. We’re fortunate that they have speed, athletic ability and size, so you try to take those redeeming qualities and exploit them the best you can, and that’s what we’ll do. It ends up being a little bit different flair than maybe what we had in the past.”
Mahomes sounded more willing than his head coach to lean into the size factor.
“I think the biggest thing you see — actually from throwing to all these guys — [is that] really, we have a lot of size in that receiving room that we haven’t necessarily had in the past,” said Mahomes. “We’ve done it different ways with speed and beating guys deep. But to have big, physical receivers that can still run and still catch the ball over the top, there have been balls that I’ve thrown out there during routes on air, I’ve thrown in high thinking it was an overthrow, and those guys are catching it easy. Having that size, I think will be different. I’m excited for it — and I think it will be something that will be useful for us during the season.”
On Tuesday, NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” co-host published a mock draft where Kansas City acquired EDGE George Karlaftis of Purdue and Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon.
When we last heard from Schrager on April 7, he was seeing the Chiefs hold at 29 — selecting Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones — and trade the 30th pick to the Seattle Seahawks, which they used to pick up Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral. That probably would have given the Chiefs either the 40th or 41st pick, along with the Seahawks’ third-round selection at 72nd overall.
Now, however, we see Schrager moving toward the idea that among the team’s most pressing positions of need (edge rusher, cornerback and wide receiver), it is the latter where Kansas City can best afford to wait until after the first round. Wide receiver seems to be where 2022’s draft class has the most depth.
Tuesday also brought an underwhelming mock draft published by ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.
Wednesday’s news sent shock waves across the league — especially among fans of teams that NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport had identified as landing spots for San Francisco’s versatile (and productive) star.
Among the teams to consider as the trade market for Deebo Samuel heats up: The #Jets, the #Packers, the #Chiefs, the #Lions… and, I assume, most other teams who like really good players. https://t.co/onrd55k3s3— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 20, 2022
Even without Rapoport connecting the Chiefs to potential interest in the 26-year-old wide receiver, the fit seems obvious. This offseason, Kansas City has begun signing bigger-bodied wideouts like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Samuel comes in at 6 feet and 215 pounds. In 2021, he had a breakout season, popping from 417 scrimmage yards in an injury-ridden 2020 season to third in the league with 1,770 scrimmage yards. He also ranked seventh with 14 total touchdowns.
The 49ers drafted Samuel with pick No. 36 in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft — the same one where the Chiefs selected wide receiver Mecole Hardman with the No. 56 overall pick.
This is where Samuel’s gripes become interesting. In the final stretch of 2021, the Chiefs were using Hardman... well... like the 49ers use Samuel. A move to the Chiefs may come with a promise to use him more as a traditional receiver as Hardman leans further in the Samuel-style wide back position.
But by the next day, we knew that Kansas City was out of the mix.
It does not seem as though the Chiefs are interested in moving for a receiver, at least right now. On Thursday, NFL Network’s Jeffri Chadiha came through with a report.
Some speculation that @Chiefs are interested in @49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel because of draft capital. A team source says a move for Samuel — or DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown or Terry McLaurin — isn’t likely. Told all those options “are probably all long shots at this point.”— Jeffri Chadiha (@jeffrichadiha) April 21, 2022
To this stage in the offseason, the Chiefs have been shrewd with their salary cap. General manager Brett Veach and his team like to maintain flexibility both now and in the future. This offseason, for example, they made tough decisions on Hill, linebacker Anthony Hitchens and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Veach is known for his aggression, but not necessarily at the cost of strapping the team now or in the future. While the Chiefs have 12 picks they could use to pay the “King’s ransom” the 49ers supposedly want for Samuel, it would require a similar contract to the one they weren’t willing to give Hill a month ago.
Thursday also brought the conclusion of John Dixon’s work to produce a new draft value chart based that is based entirely on what happens on the field — rather than on whatever it was that was going on inside Jimmy Johnson’s head during the early 1990s.
As noted in Friday’s introduction, the Jimmy Johnson draft chart is the gorilla in the room. As long as a significant number of NFL general managers continue to use it, it will influence draft pick trades. And while the Johnson chart remains prevalent, the Rich Hill chart (which tracks the historical value of draft picks) isn’t going to change much.
But the league’s general managers are intelligent people. I fully expect that, eventually, they’ll all come around to using this chart — or one like it. Why? Because it better represents the actual, real-world value of draft picks. Besides... eventually, an NFL GM will start using a chart like this one to take advantage of other GMs. When they realize they’re being bamboozled — and they will — they’ll have no choice but to follow suit.
But starting now, this model is an excellent tool to evaluate trades that have already been made, allowing us to better estimate the real-world consequences of trades that were based on the outmoded Johnson model.
On Friday, the Chiefs’ general manager conducted his annual pre-draft press conference, which (as usual) gave us lots of news to consider — starting with an update on right tackle Lucas Niang’s injury. But the team’s free-agent safety — still without an NFL home — also came up.
Mathieu sat down with a friend of the site, Kansas City Star columnist Sam McDowell earlier this month to discuss his exit from Kansas City. Mathieu told McDowell he was “heartbroken” that the team didn’t attempt to extend him. The safety even took it a step further in stating that if the Chiefs had offered him the same contract that they offered free-agent safety Justin Reid, who they signed to a three-year 31.5 million dollar contract, he would have accepted the offer.
Many have wondered if a Chiefs-Mathieu reunion is now out of the question.
“I think everything’s on the table and I think that goes for how we operate at all levels,” said Veach. “He’s a player that we know and we love and if there’s a situation that makes sense for him.... we wouldn’t close the door to that because of the way we feel about him.”
Then Veach updated us on the new contract the team wants with its left tackle, for which negotiations began last summer.
“We did have a dialogue with him — and then during the course of that dialogue, he [took] a step back,” said Veach. “He’s kind of re-doing the agent process. Where we are right now — in addition to the Tyreek Hill trade, with our cap and having flexibility now — it allows us to take a step back [and] get through this draft.”
The 2022 NFL Draft will begin this coming Thursday in Las Vegas.
“We certainly anticipate that once the draft’s over, I’m sure that there’ll be a point where there’s a finale to him going out there and finding an agent,” said Veach. “We’ll have a ton of time to talk.”
On Saturday morning, Ron Kopp updated us with the five biggest takeaways of the Veach presser.