Season in Review – Kansas City Chiefs

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

As we get to the end of our Season in Review series, we finally get to the story with the fairy tale ending. Here’s the lowdown on the 2019 campaign that saw the Kansas City Chiefs lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in 50 years.


ENTERING THE SEASON


2018 had been a successful year for the Chiefs, winning the AFC West and getting within a coin toss of reaching the Super Bowl. An overtime loss in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots may have ended differently if Patrick Mahomes had started with the ball instead of Tom Brady…

In the offseason, KC released two of their most established players in linebacker Justin Houston (now with the Colts) and safety Eric Berry (still a free agent). They also shipped out newly acquired receiver Sammie Coates, now starring in the XFL for the Houston Roughnecks.

DE Dee Ford was franchise tagged before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, while Frank ‘The Shark’ Clark came in from Seattle. He was joined by running back Carlos Hyde, corner Bashaud Breeland and the Honey Badger himself, safety Tyrann Mathieu.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

All this trade action left KC with no first-round option in the 2019 NFL Draft. Nonetheless, with their first selection (#56 overall), the Chiefs acquired WR/return specialist Mecole Hardman from Georgia, who went on to the Pro Bowl in his first season. Their other Round 2 choice, safety Juan Thornhill, formed a solid partnership with Mathieu.

During pre-season, Chiefs fans wouldn’t have had a sense of what was to come. Of course, they beat the Bengals but lost the other three warm-up games to the Steelers, 49ers and Packers.


DURING THE SEASON


In 2019 – the Chiefs’ 50th NFL campaign, 60th in total and seventh under Andy Reid as Head Coach – they shot out of the gate with four straight wins. As well as going to Jacksonville (three receiving TDs for Sammy Watkins), Oakland (four TD passes by Patrick Mahomes in the second quarter) and Detroit (three rushing touchdowns), they dished out a rare L to the much-fancied Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. One of Hardman’s two receiving plays that day was an 83-yard score during which he was clocked at 21.7 mph.


Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10


But given how the season started and finished, it’s hard to believe that KC then went on a run of just two wins in six. Their 19-13 loss to the Colts ended a 25-game streak of scoring at least 25 points, and they also fell at home to the Texans (having only 20 minutes of possession didn’t help). Matt Moore stepped in at QB after Mahomes injured his knee in a TNF win over Denver, and started two home games: a loss to the Packers and a win against Minnesota, decided by a Harrison Butker FG with three seconds left.

Mahomes returned with a bang to face the Titans, attempting 50 passes, racking up 446 passing yards and nailing three TD throws, including a 63-yarder to Hardman, but it still ended in defeat. Luckily, it was their last one of the campaign.

James Kenney/Associated Press

Through their sticky patch, KC had stumbled from a confident 4-0 to an unsteady 6-4. But from Week 11 onwards – when the Chiefs dispatched the LA Chargers in Mexico City – they became the model of perfection, recording nine wins in a row, including The Big One in Miami on 2 February. 

After their bye week, the Kansas City defence really stepped it up, keeping Oakland to just nine points and running a blocked kick back to the house with the final play. After a 23-16 win over the Patriots, which sealed the AFC West crown for the fourth time on the bounce, the Chiefs held both the Broncos and Bears to a single field goal in easy wins. 

In Week 17, Hardman returned a kick-off for a 104-yard TD in another victory against the Chargers, earning them the No.2 seed in the AFC and a free pass through to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Chiefs battled back from 24-0 down after 15 minutes to see off the Houston Texans 51-31, with Mahomes throwing three of his five TDs passes to TE Travis Kelce, and Damien Williams running in two more. Their points tally was a KC postseason record, it sealed back-to-back playoff wins for the first time in franchise history and it was first time any team has scored TDs on seven consecutive drives since 1970, when Kansas last won the Super Bowl. (Oooh, spooky…)

Jeff Curry

The Chiefs hosted the AFC Championship, where they got their revenge over the Tennessee Titans in front of the Arrowhead faithful. Again, they trailed at the end of the first quarter but five TDs (including two for Tyreek Hill) saw them advance to Super Bowl LIV with a 35-24 win.

As we all know by now, Mahomes rallied his team once last time in the season finale, leading a late charge to beat the 49ers 31-20 and take their first championship title since Super Bowl IV exactly 50 years ago. Read my take on the game here.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


Heading into the offseason, it’s obvious that KC really need a new quarterback… ha ha, as if.

While they may need a new backup, with Matt Moore entering free agency, their top priority should be re-signing Chris Jones, the team’s sack leader for the last two years. The defensive lineman’s contract could set them back around $20m a year – akin to what they pay Frank Clark – and when the time comes, they’ll have to pay Mahomes mega-bucks too. This won’t leave GM Brett Veach much of his $13.9 million cap space (the sixth lowest in the league) to be as aggressive as he has in previous offseasons unless something else gives.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Of the Chiefs’ 24 players whose contracts are expiring, LeSean McCoy, Terrell Suggs and Spencer Ware are three that will probably depart or even retire. And when it comes to April’s NFL Draft, the Chiefs only have five picks, having traded away their sixth and seventh rounders. As champions, they’ll pick last, starting at #32 overall.

Given the free-agent status of Jones, as well as Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, the Chiefs may target a defensive lineman (Jordan Elliott from Missouri?), cornerback (Clemson’s AJ Terrell seems a possibility) or linebacker (I’m seeing Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma and LSU’s Patrick Queen mocked to the Chiefs). Another edge rusher could complement Clark well, so Curtis Weaver (Boise State) or Zack Baun (Wisconsin) may also be in the mix.

On the other side of the ball, WR Sammy Watkins has another year left but he didn’t score after Week 1. The Chiefs could release him, save a shed-load of money and pluck a young pup from a loaded 2020 class. They could also upgrade at running back, either with a draft pick like Johnathan Taylor from Wisconsin or maybe a free agent, with the names Austin Ekeler and Matt Breida being bandied about.

But as you’d expect with a Super Bowl-winning side with a much-respected HC, there’s a lot of silver lining and not very much cloud in the long-range forecast. So if you fancy a flutter on the year ahead, the Chiefs (in or around 6/1) are the current favourites to defend their title next year in Tampa.

Supply Lines – Clemson Wide Receivers By Lee Wakefield

Welcome back for another episode of Supply Lines, this week I am looking at Clemson wide receivers and this is just about one of the most prolific supply lines that there has been in recent years for a certain position! Not only have Clemson supplied the NFL with 10 receivers in 10 years via the draft but the quality of those receivers has been very high indeed… and that’s not even counting undrafted receivers that have made it to the NFL.

To this tune the Clemson athletics website proudly boasts,

“10 former Clemson wide receivers are on NFL rosters, the most players from one position in school history in the NFL at the same time.”

What’s more, the trend doesn’t show any hints of slowing down with the likes of Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross currently on the Tigers depth chart. Higgins, a Junior enters this coming college football season as one of the best receivers in the country and is draft eligible, should he choose to enter the 2020 NFL draft. Ross is a Sophomore and will have to wait until 2021 at the earliest to get drafted. Both of these guys are on course to get drafted high whenever they come out – which will prolong the Supply line even further. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that they both have Trevor Lawrence throwing them the ball.

Anyway, more of those two guys later on, right now, I want to talk about the guys who are currently plying their trade in the NFL.

So, I’m going to come right out and say it and I don’t think it’s a hot take at all. The current, best wide receiver in football right now is DeAndre Hopkins, a former Tiger.

In 6 years in the league, Hopkins has amassed, 7,437 yards and an eye-popping 47 touchdowns. Nuk has missed and grand total of one game in all that time and maybe most impressively, did not drop one, single ball in the 2018 season.

Hopkins has vice-like mits, he displays mind-bending body control and concentration on catches and is his QB throws it up as a 50/50 ball, well… it’s not a 50/50 ball. Hopkins is just too strong for almost anyone who guards him… I’d say, at worst Hopkins instantly makes it a 70/30 ball in his favour.

Yeah, he’s pretty special. He was also pretty damn good when he was representing the Tigers too. 39 games in 3 years, yielded 3,020 yards and 27 TD’s, 18 of which came in his Junior season, before he was drafted 27th overall in the 2013 draft by the Texans and was the second wide receiver taken in the first round.

Just imagine being a St. Louis Rams and having the 8th overall pick, needing a receiver and drafting Tavon Austin instead of Hopkins…

Talk about things you hate to see.

It’s almost like after Hopkins, the NFL then realised that Clemson really produces top talent at the position, because since Hopkins, Clemson has had two top 10 receivers drafted; Sammy Watkins, 4th overall in 2014 and Mike Williamsm 7th overall a couple of years ago.

Let’s talk about those two guys.

Both Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams have had their ups and downs in the NFL. Watkins has looked excellent at times but injuries have taken their toll, both on his body and also on his reputation in the minds of fans –  despite only just having turned 26 years old this summer, not many see him as a premier wide receiver and some even see him as over the hill. Watkins has played in high powered offenses the past couple of seasons for the Rams and the Chiefs but hasn’t topped 600 yards either year, so perhaps those detractors are correct. A far cry from the guy who was drafted 4th overall and racked up just under 1,500 yards in his final year for Clemson and possessed elite, track-star speed which caused no end of problems to cornerbacks.

Mike Williams is another former Tiger who has had his injury issues and serious injuries at that. Williams suffered a vertebra fracture in his neck in college, which was then followed by a herniated disc in his back, during his rookie training camp. These injuries had a huge bearing on his rookie year and he was facing an uphill battle in year two but my, oh my… Wiliams answered those questions by looking every bit the dominant wide receiver he was when he played in South Carolina. A jump-ball, red-zone monster for the Chargers last year as he accumulated 10 receiving touchdowns and also ran one in, against Kansas City in the big victory at Arrowhead Stadium late in the season.

Whilst Williams did his damage by way of scoring TD’s last year and not so much by gobbling up yardage (664 yards last year) like he did at Clemson, where he topped 1,000 yards twice, we can kind of excuse this when there are so many mouths to feed over in L.A. I mean, not many offenses could draft a wideout 7th overall and be ok with him not being the WR1 on the roster.

Two receivers who are in different moulds who have enjoyed fantastic collegiate success before reaching the NFL and were drafted in the top 10 of their respective drafts. However, neither holds the record for career catches at Clemson… And nor does DeAndre Hopkins.

Who am I talking about?

You can stop searching the past few NFL drafts for the answer because this guy wasn’t even drafted.

The guy you’re looking for is Artavis Scott. 245 career receptions, 5 more than the aforementioned Watkins and before you look, no, Scott didn’t achieve this because he simply played for longer – both players played for three years in college.

Of course, Scott is a pure chain mover, a possession receiver with sure hands and not nearly as athletically gifted as those mentioned before him but to have that many receptions for a top class programme like Clemson is no mean feat and exactly why he has a chance to claim the Chargers WR3 job behind his friend and former college running mate, Mike Williams.

It’s not only high end draft talent that Clemson produce at the wide receiver position; the supply line ticks over with guys who can do a job, fill a role and have some success too. Aside from Scott, this would apply to Martavis Bryant, who was decent a few years back for the Steelers, until his off-field habits caught up with him. Then after that we have roster fillers such as Jordan Leggette, Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud all of whom could come good should the opportunity arise. As I’ve said all through this series, schools can’t kill it every year but this is clear evidence of a supply line.

Fast forward to present day and we have rookie, Hunter Renfrow in his first training camp for the Oakland Raiders. An undersized, 5th rounder who walked on at Clemson after only being offered scholarships to play FCS football. A few years later and Renfrow is about as sure-handed and gritty of a receiver as you can find; he’s very much in the Julian Edelman mould.

Really looking forward (as much as a Chargers fan can) to seeing what Renfrow does in the NFL. I think he could quickly become a trusty friend to Derek Carr what a shaky offense in 2019. Knowing that Carr struggles down the field, their new man (and ex-Charger) Tyrell Williams could turn into an expensive decoy and clear space for Renfrow to work in underneath. 

Watch this space!

SO! The big question, one that I hinted at earlier in the piece, is, who is next off the conveyor belt?

Well, I gave you guys the answer earlier on, it’s Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.

Higgins is entering his first draft eligible season hoping to continue his upward trajectory and cement his place at the top table of wide receivers this coming season. Nice footwork and route running ability, married to good long speed at 6’4, 205lbs and then sprinkle in the ability to make contested catches down the field and you have something special. Trevor Lawrence or not… Watch out for the young man.

Not to be upstaged is Sophomore, Ross… When you get 1,000 yards as a freshman, you turn some heads and Justyn Ross does just that, especially when the yards come at over 20 yards a pop. Look for the second year man to reel in more than 46 catches for Clemson this year and probably go beyond the 1,000 yard mark again. If he does that, Ross will have fans coming down with Leonard Fournette syndrome*. 

That said, if Ross does increase his numbers in catches and yardage, and maybe even touchdowns… Maybe I will be struck down too.

I can feel it coming on now actually and all because this is one hyper-productive supply line.

*An illness where a fan becomes so hyped up by a prospect that they make numerous social media posts chastising the NCAA/NFL for not allowing supremely talented student athletes to declare prior to completing their Junior year of college.


Thanks for reading this weeks’ edition of Supply Lines. Be sure to be back next week when we talk Ohio State edge defenders.

Follow Full 10 Yards College Football @Full10YardsCFB on Twitter

Follow Lee on Twitter @Wakefield90

Pick It Apart; Jonah Williams

Pick it Apart!

The Draft is in the books and the dust has settled. But how well did your team do in the first round?

We are taking a look back at every selection in the first round and giving you the lowdown on the pick; Was it a reach? Was it a steal? We’ll tell you and give you the impact for fantasy football….

Pick: 11

Player: Jonah Williams

Drafted by: Cincinatti Bengals

Grade: A

Analysis:

Love this pick for the Bengals; Area of need, top 3 at the position and a day 1 starter who will make an immediate impact and improvement.

The guard from Alabama stands at 6”4 and 302lbs and was a 5 star recruit at Folsom in Cal.

Williams left school early to get a head start on his journey to the NFL and it actually paid off.

Plenty of starts in all 3 years led to plenty of awards and accolades which was the result of his technique but also versatility along the front line. He is a steal, if you can get those at pick 11 in the first round and has a variety of techniques to succeed against all the defensive lineman trying to nudge their way past.

It would have been interesting to see if pick 10 resulted in Devin Bush still being on the board at 11, because that was another need for the Bengals and would have been intriguing to find out what Zac Taylor and the Bengals front office thought would have been a more worthy pick.

I would guess that Bush would have been the selection so in some ways, the Bengals perhaps were lucky that they didn’t have to make a tough call if both were sitting there.

Regardless, Jonah Williams will have a long and successful career in the NFL and his primary job will be to keep Dalton upright and provide big gaping holes for Joe Mixon.

One aspect to love about Williams is that he is a self-confessed “Film Junkie” and we aren’t talking about Star Wars or The Shawshank Redemption, we are talking game film. He views the position as a full time job, even at College, which can only mean that he is going to come on leaps and bounds, even in year one and you can tell that he’ll search for perfection for years to come. It’s a great attribute to have and I look forward to seeing his skills in a tough, nasty division (the Browns are in there, too). To epitomise how much of a perfectionist Williams is, check out Jordan Raanan of ESPN’s article about how Williams created Excel Spreadsheets detailing the number of moves defensive lineman used against him and their pass/fail rates (Article can be found here: http://www.espn.co.uk/nfl/draft2019/story/_/id/26560208/jonah-williams-unique-preparation-make-nfl-draft-top-tackle).

Fantasy Football Impact:

This move will indirectly help the offence so Joe Mixon ticket holders will be very happy with this selection. If you don’t have time in the pocket at QB or you don’t have the lanes open for the RB, you aren’t scoring fantasy points. Williams will be an unsung hero of the Bengals offensive line.

Pick It Apart; Quinnen Williams

The Draft is in the books and the dust has settled. But how well did your team do in the first round?

We are taking a look back at every selection in the first round and giving you the lowdown on the pick; Was it a reach? Was it a steal? We’ll tell you and give you the impact for fantasy football….

Pick: #3

Player:  Quinnen Williams

Drafted by: New York Jets

Grade: A

Analysis: Picking at 3 again this year after trading up last year to get their guy at quarterback. This one a bit easier to select, especially when Kyler and Nick went 1 and 2 overall. Yes the Jets need edge rushers because it has been over a decade since they’ve had one, but in my opinion this is the best player in this draft and the Jets had Williams fall into their laps at number 3. It would have been interesting to see who they would have selected if Quinnen was not there or if they would have even made the pick at all (lots of news around them wanting to trade back to reconcile lost picks from last year).

However, the Alabama defensive end will be a star in the league and will come in from day one and make the defensive line a whole lot bigger, nastier and better. The guy is over 300lbs and still ran a quicker 40 yard dash time than most RBs in this year’s draft class and was the 4th fastest time at the drill for guys over 300lbs. Whilst his other measurables do not jump off the page, his tape does. Learning from previous teammates such as previous first round picks Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen, Williams has 18.5 tackles for a loss in 2018 which includes 7 sacks and a safety. His style of quick feet, great hands and consistency in dominating by getting low and driving through will serve him well in the NFL and will be a cause of nightmares for Tom Brady when they first meet.

To give an even analysis, he may struggle against double teams and as previously stated, his measurables don’t jump off the page so will need to learn a trick or two to be able to withstand NFL calibre lineman. He only has 1 year of production to shout about too, but there is a lot to like about what Williams could be. Hopefully Williams will be able to follow in the footsteps of his previous Alabama teammates on that defensive line. There’s no doubt his over-arm technique, which he has mastered will be the key to getting through and creating pass rush and can play in a zero nose to a 3 tech so if there are Any lines out there with a chink in the armour, Williams is likely gonna find it.

Fantasy Football Impact:

Can’t really attribute fantasy impact to defensive lineman and the Jets have not exactly been a goldmine of fantasy points. That said, IDP leagues, he’ll have some decent weeks and will make some plays and can be a force even in his rookie season. His quickness at reacting and understanding what the paly is will help him get to QBs quicker than the rest of the DT class and that should transfer over in to the NFL both for real life and for fantasy.

Draft Week – Take or Trade part 1

On the first of 2 episodes this week, we break down picks 1-16 looking at every team’s needs and players they could target or if they may perhaps trade back or even trade up!
1st down covers a few interesting snippets from the schedule release including a team playing alternate home and away games for all 16 games this year!
On 2nd down, Charlie from IceTheKickerPodcast joins us and tries to beat Adam Walford’s score of 7 in the Full10Questions.
3rd down is the 1st part of Take or Trade.
Slight delay from intro to my voice. Apologies for that!

Where Do They Go From Here; LA Chargers

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the LA Chargers. Don’t forget to check out our AFC West podcast where we talked with a fan from every team in the division!

How Did Last Season Go?

If you offered the Chargers a divisional round game loss to the Patriots, they’d probably accept that this is kind of where they should be. That said, I (Tim) was particularly high on them going in to the season that I had some of my hard earned on them. The Chargers were one of the more balanced and complete teams in the AFC if not the NFL last season and just succumbed to a typical Patriots January performance in a game that just got away from them early.

Hunter Henry going down before the season started was never going to be ideal and continued their flirting with Antonio Gates. Hopefully, that will not be repeated in 2019 (sorry Antonio, we love you, but you’re like 50 years old and slower than Jason Witten was taking to commentary).

The Chargers’s loss to KC in week 1 turned out to be pivotal in the end, but actually uncharacteristically started quite hot going 7-2 in the first 9 weeks with their only losses coming in Los Angeles (@Rams).

The Chargers ended up 12-4, tied with KC but lost the tiebreaker which may or may not have been crucial. We’ll never know.

They ended having both a top 12 offence and defence in terms of yardage and points allowed which confirms their status as one of the more well rounded teams.

In terms of personnel, on offence Mike Williams finally repaid the Chargers with being healthy and producing on the field after being a 1st round pick. Williams was able to chip in with 11 touchdowns (1 rushing) on 43 targets, a ratio that is probably unsustainable to repeat in 2019. Keenan Allen pretty much had a replica season from 2017; over 1000 yards on around 100 receptions and 6 TDs. More importantly, his previous injury issues seem to be well and truly behind him. Finally Tyrell Williams had a nice complimentary role in the offence, but seemingly not enough to warrant a bigger contract and will not be returning.

In the backfield, Melvin Gordon was the teams top TD scorer (no surprises there) but did miss 4 games due to injury. Austin Ekeler had himself a nice season, stepping in when required but also forcing his way to earn more snaps in this offence.

Overall, I think the Chargers 2018 can be seen as a success but 2019 will be the year where they will be expected to make an even deeper push in January and play a February game.

Quick word on the defence – Derwin James had a fantastic rookie season and was in the conversation for DRO. 3.5 sacks, 75 solo tackles and 3 interceptions confirming his status as one of the steals of the 2018 1st round. Joey Bosa came back for the 2nd half of the season and picked up where he left off. One of the top defences in the league and have age on their side so look for this to continue in 2019.

Housekeeping

LA Chargers own the 28th pick in the first round along with pick 60 (2nd round), 91 (3rd), 130 (4th), 166 (5th), 200 (6th) and 242 (7th)

Chargers have about $10m in cap space at this moment.

Outgoings

Tyrell Williams was expendable for the money that was available on the open market. Right place right time for him. Jason Verrett’s injury history came back to bite him and was let go. Defensive Tackles Philon and Liuget along with safety Addae were the other names looking for a new home.

Incomings

Not many glaring needs for the Chargers but Tyrod Taylor is the new backup to Rivers and Thomas Davis was a surprising addition to the defence though he will bring masses of linebacker experience.

Outlook for Next Year

Going to be looking at going 1 or 2 better than 2018 with this squad and anything less could perhaps see Anthony Lynn under fire.

It will be a case of hoping one or 2 things fall their way luck wise to be able to get there. Both sides of the ball are young enough but experienced and talented enough to say that this team should be contending for the next few years and anything less is a failure.

Prediction

I think the Chargers have to be considered as one of the top 3 teams in the AFC and I fancy them to make the AFC Championship game this year. Whether they win or not is not for me to say as I have a soft spot for them so will be slightly biased. They have the talent, they have the pieces on both sides of the ball, it’s just about going out there and doing it.

I had my money on them last year, they will again in 2019.

Fantasy Football

Rivers – perennially underdrafted – double digit rounds – QB 1

Melvin Gordon – mid 1st round pick – RB1

Austin Ekeler – double digits rounds -RB3/4 – PPR sleeper

Keenan Allen – late 2nd/3rd round pick – low WR1/high WR2

Mike Williams – 6th round area – WR2 ceiling

Hunter Henry – 5th/6th Round – TE1

 

Free Agency Bonanza

A bonanza episode needs a bonanza cast and that’s what we have with Charlie from Ice the Kicker along with Murf and Stocks from 5yardrush.
We chat about the news including Gronk’s retirement before we get into the meat on the bone of Free Agency.
Differing opinions on Nick Foles but Murf and Tim share their opinion on breakfast cereals in Put The Mockers On It.
We go through all the big Free Agency Deals and ask the big questions before Ste from Cover2TV tackles the quiz!
We round off by letting you know the exciting things coming your way in the next week!

Podcast 19 – 1st Round Busts and Late Round Sleepers

Lee Wakefield (@Wakefield90) returns to the podcast to chat possible 1st round busts (or players to avoid) as well as some late round targets that have caught our eye.

Agree? Disagree? Tell us! Download the VoiceByte app and tell us who your 1st round busts or Late Round Sleepers are!