Life after Cheetah… Can the Kansas City Chiefs replicate Tyreek Hill in terms of production?
The short answer is “No.” Now if we’re referencing counting stats than certainly, an amalgamation of players can replicate Tyreek Hill’s receiving totals. However, this is a far more nuanced question. Perhaps the single most dangerous player in the NFL with the ball in his hands, Hill’s impact on the game when he is NOT targeted is unlike any other wide receiver in the league.
Just consider the weekly foreboding opposing defensive coordinators are subject to in preparation for the speedy receiver. Imagine perfectly defending the Kansas City Chiefs on third and long only for Hill to outrun the angle of your pursuit for first down yardage or worse a touchdown.
Recall the litany of sprint right options in which Hill creates immediate separation to ice the game in its final moments. Envision flipping the field position with a booming punt only to have the “Cheetah” eviscerate the coverage and generate a short field. The conflict he generates with motion, the light boxes as a result of his game-breaking speed.
Perhaps the more appropriate question is… Can the Kansas City Chiefs replicate their current style of play in the absence of Tyreek Hill?
I maintain that the answer is “No.” However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be a potent offense. While I imagine there will be an adjustment period I have a great deal of faith in head coach Andy Reid, Reid has the utmost confidence in Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs quick strike, fast break offense may no longer be quite as viable in the absence of Tyreek Hill. But there have been stretches in which Hill was unavailable and Kansas City has been able to maintain a consistent offensive attack.
When teams refused to come out of their split safety, two high look last season Reid and Mahomes struggled to exercise patience early on but eventually found the formula forcing defenses out of their two high shell or metriculating the ball downfield on lengthy, morale breaking, clock chewing drives. Schematically, I’ve no doubt in my mind that Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy will develop appropriate countermeasures.
But do the Chiefs have the personnel to execute?
This remains to be seen. Make no mistake, Tyreek Hill will be missed. The notion that he was “just a guy” prior to Patrick Mahomes taking the reigns is laughable. Hill’s breakout campaign in 2017 (1st as a full-time starter) with Alex Smith resulted in an impressive 75/1183/7 line. Perhaps what’s most impressive about that feat is that Hill was still quite raw as a wide receiver.
During his tumultuous college career he split his time fairly evenly between playing running back and receiver. He has since developed into the premiere deep threat in the NFL and a well-rounded wideout that makes plays at every level of the field. The RPO was a layup with Hill in the lineup. In crunch time, when Mahomes had to have it, he opted for Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce. That inherent trust can’t be quantified but I believe there is a correlation to the many crooked numbers in the win column over the last several seasons.
Speaking of Travis Kelce, he will remain the focal point of the Kansas City Chiefs passing attack. Last offseason the Chiefs organization did a remarkable job of re-tooling its offensive line. They almost certianly will be leaned upon more heavily in 2022. I anticipate the running backs taking on a larger role in the passing game a la Andy Reid pre-Patrick Mahomes. Unfortunately, the additions of Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (post Hill trade) stood to be far more impactful with Tyreek in the fold.
Reid’s redzone creativity will be challenged but we may see more two tight end sets featuring the aforementioned Kelce and 2nd-year player Noah Gray. The good news is the Chiefs now have the cap flexibility and draft capital to continue to acquire the personnel necessary to mitigate the loss of Hill and transform offensively. With 12 total draft picks in the upcoming 2022 NFL draft, two in each of the first four rounds, Kansas City will be able to inject plenty of young and cost effective talent into its roster. Furthermore, the Chiefs have the assets to improve on defense which should alleviate some of the pressure on Mahomes and the offense.
Reports suggest that the Chiefs have inquired as to the availability of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. The Seahawks appear to be open to the idea of moving their top two wideouts but nothing is imminent.
Kansas City is also thought be particularly high on Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore. I mentioned the addition of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a decent free agent acquisition. But simply adding linear speed on the perimeter isn’t enough to replicate Hill’s production, nor is Juju Smith-Schuster‘s play sans Antonio Brown it would seem. Could Alabama’s Jameson Williams or Penn State’s Jahan Dotson toward the end of the first round be the panacea? They definitely can help.
The likes of Christian Watson (North Dakota State) and George Pickens (Georgia) could be in play on Day 2 of the NFL Draft and arguably offer as much upside as Williams and Dotson. I’m certain that Kansas City will successfully bolster its receiving core during the draft. Incoming wideouts are more prepared to make an immediate impact than ever before. But mitigating the loss of Tyreek Hill’s production is an all hands on deck task. It’s going to require the effort of front office personnel, the coaching staff and the players on both sides of the ball.
With Tyreek Hill in South Beach is the mystique gone in Kansas City?
I wonder if Kansas City has lost its pyschological edge? Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid remain and will continue to pose a significant challenge to the opposition on Sundays. However, Tyreek Hill is now a member of the Miami Dolphins. That era in K.C. is now in the rearview. Have the days of teams beating themselves, falling apart in the face of Kansas City’s speed, their juggernaut of an offense come to an end? Perhaps, but the Chiefs unlike a lot of talent laden teams have learned how to win in multiple ways, how to finish games. The problem is they may have very well lost their closer.