Kansas City Chiefs June Scouting Report
The Chiefs turned up the drama this month with a couple of eye-opening personnel decisions.
Jeremy Maclin was let go.
GM John Dorsey was let go.
Maclin getting his walking papers may not be such a shock to many. There is evidence that Maclin wasn’t "right" all last season, part on the field and some off it. Maclin has finally come clean and admitted he played through past of last season with a groin tear. That would easily explain my observations of Maclin appearing to have lost a step. You just cannot drive, cut and explode off the line and out of breaks with a torn groin muscle. But it would seem there were other factors that played a role in Maclin’s release. What are they? Don’t know. I won’t give in to speculation and news "creation".
Mr. Dorsey’s canning, and that exactly what this is, comes as a complete surprise. Quite honestly, from this vantage point Mr. Dorsey got the job done. As Ladner Morse of ArrowheadOne.com (http://arrowheadone.com/ points out, "Dorsey was a big reason for the team’s ascension to the top of the league in roster depth and wins over the past few seasons at 43-21, a .671 winning percentage." While Mr. Dorsey is partly responsible for the outstanding regular season results, Coach Reid has also had a huge hand in turning this program back to winnings ways. Coach Andy and GM John have had a long NFL history, dating back to the glory days in Green Bay. This was as natural GM/HC tandem as any in the NFL. Once again, I reference Laddie Morse at ArrowheadOne.com, "Letting Jeremy Maclin go was not a reason for Dorsey’s ouster but perhaps "the way" he was let go did have something to do with it. I’m sure that one thing Andy Reid and Clark Hunt were together on was that there is a right way you treat people." Maclin was informed of his release via text. That is and never was the Coach Reid way, and that may have rubbed both the KC field boss and owner Clark Hunt.
Let’s also not lose sight that this off-season we’ve witnessed the cutting of long-time KC star RB Jamaal Charles, several other notable veteran releases and a few contracts that might be deemed excessive, all taking place with the salary cap essentially topped off. Maybe I missed a verbal signal a few months back while listening to a John Dorsey interview. When questioned about a salary cap bursting at the seams and where he would be able to free-up cash to ink needed free agents, re-sign key veterans (Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, etc) and the 2017 draft class about to come onboard, Dorsey responded in a nonchalant, flippant and almost dismissive tone that he wasn’t concerned about cap space and he could make room at any time if needed. Was "making room" Dorsey-speak for cutting veteran players HE deemed on the downside of their careers? If that was Mr. Dorsey’s plan of financial attack, was Coach Reid aware of it? And, again, the method of informing these highly respected veterans of their respective fates in KC doesn’t fall in line with the way the head coach and team owner handle their personnel decisions. So, while my conclusion is just a guess, to me it seems John Dorsey has been somewhat marching to his own beat for a while and the unexpected release of Maclin triggered Mr. Hunt to action. Mr. Hunt took a few days to get all the Maclin/Dorsey facts together from behind the scenes, and what the owner discovered may not have been to his liking. Just a guess.
Mr. Hunt says he will have a GM in place by training camp. I am sure it will not be Coach Reid. Big Red is a fine football organizer at the field level, but was less-than-stellar in his GM work with the Eagles.
RB Charcandrick West has chimed in on rookie QB Pat Mahomes’ ability to spin the rock. Seems the big rook has an arm that receivers must gear up and be ready early and quickly. After the Alex Smith dink-n-dunk ways of the past few years, Coach Reid may be dusting of his old Eagles playbook that sported lots of throws, with more frequent downfield launches.
Rookie RB Kareem Hunt continues to shine and make his coaches take notice. RB Coach Eric Bieniemy has been tossing out accolades in Hunt’s direction. Coach Bieniemy notes that the praise is well-deserved and earned. Reading into the coach-speak, noting the phrase, "we’ve been throwing everything at him", one would speculate that the Chiefs’ staff is speeding up Hunt’s pro education to have him ready to take on a significant role in this offense sooner than later.
OK, so with the shake-up at wide receiver thanks to the jettison of Jeremy Maclin, what can Chiefs’ fans, and fantasy GMs, anticipate the target pecking order will be for 2017? The projected starters now, sans Maclin, are Chris Conley and Tyreek Hill. Albert Wilson is the default WRs and most likely to grow as a slot receiver for QB Alex Smith. The depth is kind-of mish-moshy, with unproven types such as Demarcus Robinson, Seantavius Jones, rookies Jehu Chesson, Gehrig Dieter and lost-in-limbo De’Anthony Thomas. Tyreek Hill is garnering all the "next man up" talk and projections as the beneficiary of Maclin’s departure, but folks are missing the boat that is carrying the potential fantasy WR booty for the Chiefs in 2017; Chris Conley. Conley enters year 3 of his NFL journey, a key for many fanballers. He is a natural leader, and has already stepped up into the leader of the WR room since Maclin’s heave-ho. There is never a question of Conley’s character and work ethic, nor of his physical tools to thrive as a pro wideout. The quandary regarding the former Georgia Bulldog has been can he put it all together on the field and would he ever get the opportunity in a Kansas City uniform. Conley’s 2016 production provides evidence of things coming together, probably right on schedule if you ask Coach Reid. Last season Conley more than doubled his rookie stats of 2015. Side-by-side with Maclin in 2016, we see:
Maclin, 12 games played (all starts), 76 targets, 44 receptions, 536 yards at 12.2 a catch and 2 TDs. Conley’s 16 games (11 starts) brought 44 catches on 69 targets, 530 yards at 12.0 per reception and 0 scores. Conley’s 2015 work produced 17-199-11.7-1 TD in 5 starts out of 16 played.
Kansas City fans might be feeling a tad salty with axed GM John Dorsey for his perceived poor handling of Maclin and Jamaal Charles, but fanballers just may be singing his praises for (awkwardly?) opening the doors for Conley to blossom to full potential this season and the manufactured need for RB depth with the non-effort/non-signing of Jamaal Charles, which indirectly led to the drafting of Kareem Hunt.
We all like to project how players will fare in the up-coming season, so here’s my dart throw at Chris Conley’s 2017 stat line (based on 16 games played): 85-1200-14.1-8 TDs. What does that mean for the expected leap by Tyreek Hill into elite WR levels for fantasy football? It means I feel we’ll get more of the same in 2017 from Hill. In fantasy drafts, I would not get overanxious selecting Tyreek Hill. Don’t get me wrong, I like everything about Hill’s game and how Coach Reid has utilized the offensive dynamo. I just don’t see Hill being the deep router that many anticipate he will become in his 2nd pro campaign. It’s not Hill’s toolbox. He surely has the wheels to get any CB on his heels and hips turned, but the route savvy and deep ball tracking is not "natural" for the flashy wideout. And there’s the quarterback; Alex Smith. Smith isn’t about to suddenly morph into a long-baller in one off-season.
The cuts of Maclin and Charles hurt, but they may have come at just the right time. If we look at the overall way player changes have occurred, 2017 is a prep season for the big push coming in 2018, when the Pat Mahomes era begins. The Chiefs of ’18 may be one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL, with young and explosive playmakers and a power-throwing, gun-slinging, improving and unpredictable QB at the helm.
John Cooney is a Senior Staff Writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind
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