Kansas City Chiefs: TE Travis Kelce
It wouldn’t have been crazy to vote for Kelce as MVP over Patrick Mahomes in 2022. He’s as reliable as they come, forever finding green grass over the middle. And with Mahomes’ WR room shuffling yet again, he’ll remain the de facto No. 1 pass target.
1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
My top tight end shouldn’t be a surprise — Travis Kelce. He averaged 2.24 yards per route run, which was first among tight ends. Patrick Mahomes had a 122 passer rating when he targeted Kelce, which he did a lot. Kelce had 110 receptions for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns, four of which came against blitzes.
He is a smart player. I’ve never seen a tight end who could line up outside like him. If he were a receiver, he’d still make the Pro Bowl. He’s not a smashing blocker, but he cuts guys off and gets in the way. He does enough to help the Kansas City Chiefs‘ running game.
Kelce can do it all. He catches touchdowns, short passes and long passes, and he can run after the catch. He’s already played 10 seasons and won two Super Bowls. He can keep building on that and getting better. I hope he plays for several more years because there’s no player I like watching more in the NFL than him.
Kansas City Chiefs
What we learned: The Chiefs aren’t worried about the receivers room.
On paper, the Chiefs might have one of the worst wide receiver units in the league, but they aren’t concerned about it. That’s the luxury of having Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and coach Andy Reid. Just like last year after trading Tyreek Hill to Miami, the Chiefs will probably find a way to make it work with Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore.
Tier 1: A league of their own
2. Kansas City Chiefs (Avg: 1.6, High: 1, Low: 3)
Last year: 4th
QB: Patrick Mahomes RB: Isiah Pacheco TE: Travis Kelce
1. Cincinnati Bengals (Avg: 1.5, High: 1, Low: 2)
Last year: 2nd
QB: Joe Burrow RB: Joe Mixon WR: Ja’Marr Chase
Kansas City received one stray third-place vote, and that ultimately proved the difference between first and second in this exercise. Patrick Mahomes is the best player on the planet, able to reach heights no other quarterback can achieve due to his unique combination of accuracy, timing, out-of-structure playmaking and arm strength. He and Kelce are the most unstoppable duo in the league, and it almost doesn’t matter what running back you slot alongside them.
That said, I have a feeling the perceived difference between Mixon and Pacheco is what ultimately landed the Bengals in first — even if Mixon was seemingly on the verge of being cut for a portion of this offseason. Burrow and Chase are basically a big play waiting to happen, and the work the entire offense did last year to counteract top-down defenses taking away the deep ball will help them deep into the future.
WR Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs
No. 20 Overall in 2021 Draft
Kadarius Toney went from Daniel Jones to Patrick Mahomes in the middle of the 2022 season. That’s roughly the equivalent of going from a Toyota Camry to a Lamborghini.
The former first-round pick never really panned out for the Giants. There was the 10-catch, 189-yard outing against the Dallas Cowboys in primetime but that ended up being a one-time flash of his abilities.
The Chiefs traded picks No. 100 and 209 for Toney ahead of last year’s trade deadline. He hasn’t immediately paid off. He had just 14 catches for 171 yards in the regular season but he did snag a touchdown reception in the Super Bowl.
That could be a harbinger of things to come for him. He’ll have every opportunity to finally blow up in 2023. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s departure in free agency leaves 101 targets up for grabs and Mecole Hardman’s absence will vacate another 34.
Any offense run by Andy Reid with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback is going to generate a lot of yardage and explosive plays. Toney’s athleticism and electric ability with the ball in his hands is why he was a first-round pick in the first place.
Outside of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Chiefs don’t have many receivers who are proven producers. There’s a lot of potential for Toney to have a breakout season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Rashee Rice, Justin Watson, Richie James, Justyn Ross, John Ross
For a second straight season, we’re guessing how Patrick Mahomes’ receiving corps will shape up. All the hand-wringing about this topic from a year ago looked retroactively silly when Mahomes carried the Chiefs to another Super Bowl title. Still, there are roles to iron out here again.
There’s ample hope that Kadarius Toney can develop into a WR1 type, though tight end Travis Kelce remains the big dog until proven otherwise. One way or another, Toney’s game-changing ability as a runner, receiver and returner should give him a far expanded role from what he was asked to do after Kansas City traded for him in 2022, especially after a few huge plays in the Super Bowl.
Skyy Moore also flashed late last season after some trying rookie moments and figures to receive more opportunities. He seems to be earning Mahomes’ trust as time goes on and could benefit most in the slot following JuJu Smith-Schuster’s departure. Marquez Valdes-Scantling likely has done enough to earn a role as a deep threat outside, and second-rounder Rashee Rice will be in the mix in some regard — the question is just how much, how fast. There are enough other intriguing in-house options to call this a good group, whether or not the Chiefs add a veteran between now and Week 1.
Around the NFL
Colorado coach Deion Sanders will not need his left foot amputated at this time, although he’s set for a procedure Friday to relieve clots in both of his legs.
Sanders said in a video Thursday that there’s “no talk of amputation” for his left foot despite significant blood flow issues. The 55-year-old, set to begin his first season at Colorado, recently had a meeting with his medical team where amputating the foot was presented as a potential outcome. Sanders’ meeting with doctors aired as part of “Thee Pregame Show” on YouTube. During the meeting, he said he had no feeling on the bottom of his foot.
“The doctors were just telling me, worst comes to worst, this was going to happen,” Sanders said in Thursday’s video. “But I believe in staying right so we never have to take that left.”
Clark injured his knee during the final week of practice during voluntary organized team activities. Rapoport added that Clark sought a second opinion on the matter, and the injury explains why the Jets signed veteran Adrian Amos that same week.
The Jets acquired Clark in a trade with the Ravens in March, sending a 2024 seventh-round pick to Baltimore. New York made waves the following month in trading for four-time most valuable player quarterback Aaron Rodgers, which effectively turned the Jets into one of the league’s top contenders in 2023.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
The Chiefs have the ultimate football weapon in quarterback Patrick Mahomes — and everyone in the NFL knows it. It’s why so many defenses began using soft, deep coverage schemes against Mahomes to limit big plays through the air.
To counter, the Chiefs had to force defenses to respect the other aspect of football: the run game. They did that by adding individual players like center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith, and running back Isiah Pacheco, but it’s even more important that the play calling matches the initiative. Play action is key, but doing it from shotgun doesn’t grab the attention of off-ball defenders like it does coming downhill from under center.
In general, starting from under center in formations that feature two, three tight ends will force defenses to play closer to the line of scrimmage, and with heavier personnel. The Chiefs cranked that up in their play calling last year, and I’d expect that to continue this year. Tight end Noah Gray could be an even bigger piece of the offense than he was last year.
A tweet to make you think
Patrick Mahomes “5-year peak” is just the first five seasons of his career https://t.co/e54HkigQV9— Bird Law Expert (@RealBirdLawyer) June 22, 2023