Rate the Chiefs wide receiver, tight ends
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Most NFL front offices keep player trajectories from the start to the end of the season.
This assessment includes week-to-week notes or scouting reports on their improvement.
Over the next week, “4th & 1” podcast analyst Nick Jacobs will break down every position on the Chiefs’ roster and where every 2021 player is at in their NFL career.
Here is an overview of wide receivers and tight ends:
Speedy Tyreek Hill is entering another contract season as one of the league’s top five receivers. His presence forces teams to alter their coverage to respect his game-changing ability.
Hill is preparing to enter the final three years of his career. The key for him will be to take care of his body and limit muscle tension that could cause pull-ups and keep him away for long periods of time.
Former second-round pick Mecole Hardman Jr. had some strong showings later in the season. The Chiefs were able to design plays for him that limited contact, showcased his speed on the perimeter and allowed him to work in space.
Hardman doesn’t necessarily command respect from opposing defenses and still struggles to beat media coverage at times. He also doesn’t always seem to be on the same page with Patrick Mahomes on some readings.
The key for him will be to keep working through all those issues and spending as much time as possible with his quarterback to be on the same page.
Former Kansas State star Byron Pringle has taken a step forward in his development this season. He was able to make plays in key situations and help put some games out of reach.
Pringle is also a quality returner on special teams and has seemed to earn Mahomes’ trust at times on certain key throws.
The biggest question this year will be whether it’s Pringle’s cap four years into the league or if there’s more to exploit before he turns 29 in November.
Right now, he looks like a solid fourth or fifth receiver in the league.
Veteran Demarcus Robinson has been in the league for six years now and has probably hit his league ceiling.
He is an excellent receiver blocker and a good gunner in special teams.
Robinson is also one of their best road runners, but he lacks the explosiveness to be a routine factor. He also has abysmal open court ball safety and struggled with some course adjustments in the AFC Championship game.
At this point in his career, he’s a solid special teams player and fifth receiver.
Veteran Marcus Kemp has given this franchise his all as a receiver. It’s just not enough to knock down the receivers in front of him.
He’s a great gunner on special teams and a good starter on special teams, but that’s where his roster value seems to start and end.
Daurice Fountain deserves the chance to get another offseason on the program and see if he can find a little more connection with Mahomes during training camp and preseason.
He wasn’t able to pass Robinson, Pringle and Hardman last season, but will more time change that?
Outlook: The Chiefs will need to invest heavily in the wide receiver position this offseason. Kansas City likely needs to find two veteran receivers and a development draft pick to keep them from relying on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Significant additions here would also put fear back into opposing defenses.
Travis Kelce is arguably the best tight end in the league right now.
Defenses have to chip and double him on most plays and he has yet to show a decline in his athletic ability despite turning 33 this year.
Kelce would benefit from improved production from the receiver position. The Chiefs will also likely have to start limiting his snaps each season to keep him fresh and healthy.
He needed more breaks this season, and it’s not his fault. That just comes from playing nine seasons in the NFL and being the primary target for most opposing defenses.
The bosses need to start finding a middle ground to increase Kelce’s longevity.
Wichita native Blake Bell can be a solid contributor to the passing offense to convert some short-range situations.
He is also arguably one of the best tight tacklers in the league.
Bell deserves a spot on the roster on his block alone. It opens up a lot for the offense with his ability to shoot.
Noah Gray was also going to be a project in its development.
He didn’t show top speed coming out of Duke, but Gray showed a knack for being able to fight through tackles for tough yards and help convert some situations from close range.
Training camp sweetheart Jody Fortson’s Achilles injury robbed the Chiefs of a chance to gauge what kind of weapon he might be in their passing offense.
Still, Fortson had started showing a promising athletic winger who could be a key possession receiver for them. He has the ability to win the mid ball and enough athleticism to be a threat in the scheme.
How long will it take him to regain his old form after the Achilles injury? This will be the biggest question for him in 2022.
Outlook: The Chiefs have added several athletic tight ends to the practice squad that could potentially create the impact needed to help Kelce reduce his snap count. In the long run, the Chiefs will need to find Kelce’s heir apparent before Father Time catches up with him.
The next evaluation of the series will be the offensive line on Saturday.
Additional Leader List Ratings
February 10 | Nick Jacobs: Assessing Chiefs quarterbacks, running backs
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