In a year that’s Super Bowl or bust for the Kansas City Chiefs, Tyreek Hill’s situation creates plenty of questions about the receiving corps.
Tyreek Hill is one of the most explosive athletes to enter the NFL in recent memory. From purely a football standpoint, the resolution involving Hill’s ugly situation has a significant impact on his current team. Kansas City is built around an explosive passing attack, one that features Patrick Mahomes consistently finding Hill for deep balls and yards after the catch. In 2018, Hill posted 87 receptions for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns.
However, if Hill is gone from the club or even lost for a long stretch, how impacted would the Chiefs be by his loss? Here’s a look at what the depth chart looks like without him:
- Sammy Watkins
- Mecole Hardman
- Demarcus Robinson
- Gehrig Dieter
- Sammie Coates
- UDFA/free agent/practice squad player
Watkins, 25, offers both the highest floor and highest ceiling of any receiver on the Chiefs roster not named Tyreek Hill. Recording a meager 40 receptions for 519 yards and three touchdowns a year ago, it remains to be seen if he can recapture the form he had his sophomore campaign with the Buffalo Bills. Then 22, Watkins set career highs in yards (1,047), yards per reception (17.5) and touchdowns (nine).
Missing a combined 17 starts in the last three seasons, health is by far the biggest concern to bring up when assessing Watkins. He’ll be 26 in June, yet is it too early to write the sixth-year receiver off as a No. 1 target? Could Watkins step up in a big way in the absence of Hill? A littered bill of health and lack of elite production may argue otherwise.
Hardman is the wild card in this offense. The former Georgia Bulldogs standout possesses some of the best pure speed in the NFL before even playing in a single game. Averaging 16 yards per reception in college, Hardman’s explosive profile could come in handy (4.33 40-yard dash quickness is hard to find).
Per Yahoo! Sports, the Chiefs have been throwing a lot at the rookie already. Should Hill miss time, that practice turns into immediate snaps for Hardman, who is similar to Hill in size and speed (5-foot-10, 187). Coach Andy Reid could still use Hardman in the “Z” receiver role for the most part. What he’d do in that spot is unknown.
Running a somewhat limited route tree in college, Hardman has a lot of work to do before he’s a legitimate contributor as an NFL wide receiver. Still, his fluidity, quickness and elite speed should allow Reid to use his offensive brilliance to draw up some plays for him. Think along the lines of how Hill was used his first year in Kansas City: Lots of screen passes, gadget plays and pre-snap movement.
The biggest question mark in the entire offense may be Robinson. Possessing solid size (6-1, 203) and speed, his athletic profile has never been a red flag. If given more playing time, could he prove to be ready for a significant role in an NFL offense?
Robinson was targeted 10 times in four games last preseason. Starting just one of those contests, Robinson compiled five receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown. The rapport between him and Mahomes is something to keep an eye on as the preseason and regular season unfold.
Robinson caught the first four touchdowns of his career last season, a promising sign that he and Mahomes may have chemistry despite Robinson being buried in the depth chart. It remains to be seen what the 24-year-old can do in an increased role, but he’ll get that chance if Hill isn’t playing.
Much like the aforementioned Robinson, Dieter had a productive 2018 preseason. Targeted 10 times, the former Bowling Green State and Alabama receiver hauled in five receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown. His lone catch of the regular season was a 22-yard one down the right sideline. He also caught a pass against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional Round.
Coates is a newly-signed Chief. Previously a member of the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, the 25-year-old has bounced around the league. His most successful season came in 2016 when he caught 21 passes for 435 yards and two touchdowns.
The more proven and experienced of these two players is Coates. He’s also a tad bit younger than Dieter. On the other hand, Dieter has been with Kansas City his whole career and is close friends with Mahomes off the field. Whoever wins this hypothetical position battle won’t receive a ton of playing time, but certainly has a chance to make a small impact on the offense.
Hill’s importance to the Chiefs’ offense cannot be overstated. One of the most dynamic playmakers the NFL has seen in years, his game-breaking speed can alter the outcome of a game.
If Hill misses time, the Chiefs are going to need more from their revamped defense and the other offensive playmakers. The schedule is easy in the early going, with only one 2018 playoff team on the docket in the first four weeks. In short, Mahomes and Co. should have time to adjust while playing inferior competition.
Still, players previously slated for minor supporting roles will be thrust into the spotlight. When that happens, there’s always a real risk that things go south.