I’m not a Kansas City Chiefs fan.
I tell you that so you know what I’m about to say comes from a place of no bias: The Chiefs are going to be really good the next three years. Barring injury to a critical player, I’m predicting at least one trip to the Super Bowl in that time frame.
The addition of Sammy Watkins at receiver gives the Chiefs the potential to have one of the best offenses in the league. Pair that with solid special teams and just an average defense, the recipe is there for a deep playoff run.
You can’t have a great offense without having a great quarterback and the Chiefs are about to unleash greatness this fall.
Alex Smith was terrific in 2017 and I’ve always been a fan of his play. But what he can do on a field and what Patrick Mahomes can do are very different. Smith led a really good Chiefs offense last season that still had a few stinkers that contributed to inexplicable losses.
Mahomes, starting his second year in the NFL, has only played in one regular season game and a handful of preseason games. However, his arm strength and accuracy are insanely good and add something to the offense the Chiefs have never had in franchise history. The people who see Mahomes in practice and in the film room rave about him and he was able to use Year 1 as a learning experience behind a smart veteran in Smith.
With Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce to throw the ball to, Mahomes has three fantastic weapons to use. What will opposing defenses try to stop? If they keep a safety over the top of Hill, that opens the field for either Watkins or Kelce. Don’t keep a safety over the top of the Hill and the strongest arm in the NFL gets to throw it deep to the fastest player in the NFL.
Throw in Kareem Hunt and the running game and it’s a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. The Chiefs have an embarrassment of riches on the offensive side of the ball.
Mahomes will probably have some learning moments next year — he’ll get fooled by a disguised coverage and throw an interception or he’ll trust his arm a little too much and get burned — but he’s in perfect position to succeed right away. Head Coach Andy Reid has shown the ability to get creative with offenses and this will be the best offense he’s ever had.
The Chiefs came upon a young star last year in placekicker Harrison Butker. He converted 38-of-42 field goals including a long of 53 yards.
At punter, Dustin Colquitt is still an above average kicker. He and Butker are one of the better kicking duos in the league.
The Chiefs resigned De’Anthony Thomas, so they bring back a solid kick returner. The return game is even stronger when Hill is involved, but the Chiefs will probably save his legs more for offense.
Here’s the biggest concern and the one thing that could keep the Chiefs from making the jump from playoff team to Super Bowl contender.
Kansas City’s defense is to blame for the playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans last year. In the second half of that game, Marcus Mariota looked like a great quarterback during a season he was routinely below average. The Titans converted 8-13 third down attempts, which is unacceptable.
The Chiefs couldn’t get a pass rush, they couldn’t cover receivers long enough and they couldn’t stop the run. My No. 1 complaint was with the scheme put forth by defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and was convinced he’d coached his last game in KC. That isn’t the case as he’s back this season.
A major change did happen, though – Marcus Peters was traded. The Chiefs defensive backfield wasn’t good, so trading away its best player doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. The Chiefs return from the Rams for Peters was moving up in this year’s draft and a second round pick next year. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s possible that’s the best Kansas City could get for a fantastic young corner back. We’ll never know, but Peters might have sat out until he got a contract extension. Maybe he told the Chiefs he wouldn’t resign when his contract was up and they just wanted to get something in value.
In the trade of Smith to Washington, the Chiefs did receive CB Kendal Fuller in return and they expect him to become a very good player. Eric Berry will return from injury that kept him out almost all of 2017. Berry likely won’t be quite as good as before, but he’ll still be a great safety and defensive team leader.
The Chiefs also added Anthony Hitchens in free agency to go with Reggie Ragland at the linebacker position. They freed up money in the Smith trade and by releasing Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali. They still have some wiggle room to add a starting defensive lineman.
While the Chiefs don’t have a first round draft pick this year, they do have eight total picks to work with. These should be used to address holes on the defensive side of the ball, particularly on pass rushers and defensive backs. They could go the quantity route and use most of the picks on those positions or they could package those picks in a trade to move up in the draft to go after guys they see as great fits.
Whatever they do, the bar isn’t set too high for the 2018 defense. With the offense and special teams the Chiefs have, the defense doesn’t have to be great, just average or better.
This column was written on March 15, so any signings or trades that occurred after March 15 were not accounted for by the author.