This Chiefs-Broncos Week 17 affair was a meaningless game in terms of standings/playoffs. Denver just playing out the string, and KC resting starters in preparation for their first playoff game. However, the game did have some pretty big ‘meaning’ as it pertains to where these two franchises are headed in the future at quarterback. Rookie Patrick Mahomes got his first NFL start/action and 2nd-year developing ‘bust’ QB Paxton Lynch was returning for a chance to show Denver a spark, a flicker of hope…before they spent the offseason trying to find another QB.
It was all about the QBs in this game, so I spent extra time analyzing the game from both QB’s perspectives. So, let’s start there…
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- My opening salvo on Patrick Mahomes’ (22-35 for 284 yards, 0 TD/1 INT, 7-10-0) debut… This was the best rookie QB debut I’ve ever seen in my decade or so of doing this.
You probably just paused at that statement on a number of levels…
1: You looked back at his game stat line and nothing jumps out.
2: You didn’t watch the game + the stat line didn’t jump out…so you assumed it was an ‘OK’ debut/you moved right past this one. Most notes I’ve seen on this game/Mahomes in the media were typical -- ”He did some good things, he did some bad things.” The media shoulder shrug further lowered your radar on how he played.
3: It’s Week 17, so…’who cares?’
4: I thought you (me) loved Garoppolo-Trubisky-Goff-Dak and Mahomes was a bit behind in that arm’s race? Now, must I love another? I have no room for more QB love in my heart/on my roster?
You had a lot of thoughts in a split second, I assumed!
“Why was this the best debut I’ve ever seen?”…is your next question…because you know I don’t play around with these types of things. This type of statement from me is tornado siren.
It should be.
Patrick Mahomes makes playing quarterback look like child’s play. At his best…he might be the best quarterback I have ever seen. The problem is – the darkside. Mahomes, at his worst, is going to run into headwinds in his NFL journey. Mahomes has a darkside that Trubisky-Garoppolo (the two best QBs I’ve ever scouted) just don’t have. I saw the good and bad Mahomes in this game…mostly the good Mahomes, rarely the bad.
What’s so striking about Mahomes playing QB in this game was how unafraid…how brazen…how totally in control he was. Typically, rookie QBs are on a short leash looking over at the sidelines for daddy’s (the head coach) approval. Not Mahomes. He’s like a five-year old child you can’t take your eye off of for two seconds or he’ll figure out how to hop a bus to Canada or stow away in an airplane’s luggage bin and fly to China ‘just because’ the thought hit him…and don’t leave your car keys out because that youngster is going to try to take the car to drive to see his best friend at his kindergarten. Seriously…Mahomes is going to be a quarterback the likes you’ve never seen. In this game, he played like he’d been starting in the NFL for 10 years. He has great arm talent…quick release, beautiful placement – he showed it all here, right away.
Mahomes is the NFL QB-equivilent of ‘Magic’ Johnson…NBA all-time point guard. He’s ‘Showtime’. He’s the kind of QB that several times a game will (example) stare to the right, which draws all the defenders that way…but he really sees a guy open to the left and he throws it left while still staring to the right – like a sweet NBA no-look pass. Mahomes has a radar/sonar system that allows him to see things on the field no other QBs do…or if they do, the others will quickly try to turn their heads/bodies towards the throw and tip the defenders off as well. Mahomes is a master at no-look passes…and all kinds of passes. He had a no-look throw in this game and almost broke the ankles of the defender when the DB realized (too late) what had happened.
Mahomes’s touch, quick release, decision-making…90% of the time it is glorious, a spectacle…a sight to behold. In this game, it was on full display…more impressive that it was all there in his NFL debut, from throw #1, and in the blistering cold. I watched a lot of shivering QBs the past two weeks in late December…they looked uncomfortable, at best. Mahomes looked like nothing mattered. At Denver, in the cold, in his debut, working with 2nd and 3rd-team receivers…Mahomes was in total control and was aggressive.
There’s a problem with being ‘Magic’ Johnson at QB in the NFL…NFL head coaches don’t like it. Not even close. They want plays run ‘their way’ and you ‘act’ a certain way on the field. Russell Wilson constantly starts a season a slave to the run game. Mike McCarthy pushed an Eddie Lacy run game years ago ahead of an all-Aaron Rodgers’ offense…until all the Green Bay RBs went on IR last season. Randall Cunningham was constantly asked to ‘reel it in’…ditto Michael Vick. Mahomes needs someone to just hand him the ball/team and let him do the rest…make it up he goes along. There’s no need for an offensive coordinator, seriously. He’s the new Brett Favre…only more trained, schooled in the arts.
However, the NFL NEVER/rarely turns things over to a gunslinger QB…they don’t trust QBs, in general, especially not young QBs. Andy Reid…coveter of the Alex Smith system, now has to embrace his 180 degrees opposite at QB. Will he?
At one point, the talking head in this game boasted something like…”And that’s what’s so great for Mahomes…getting to sit and watch and learn from Alex Smith!” Patrick Mahomes wouldn’t learn jack shit from Alex Smith…as far as on-field quarterbacking goes. Mahomes is a better QB right now than Alex Smith will ever have been in his entire life. Alex Smith’s influence can only hurt Mahomes…and I’m an Alex Smith defender.
Patrick Mahomes is literally EVERTYHING opposite of Alex Smith. Mahomes isn’t running the West Coast offense. You can pack up that swing pass to the RB crap and take it somewhere else. Mahomes is going down the field primarily. And Mahomes is going to throw picks…lots of them. He’s trying to make plays.
The talking head also boasted that he asked Mahomes what his favorite ‘route or throw’ was. Mahomes said, “For a touchdown…and deep.” In this game…Mahomes wasn’t looking short as his primary. He was looking downfield and settling short on occasion. Mahomes had 13 incompletions, but I’d say at least 3-4 of them were on the money passes that the WRs couldn’t handle. With the 1st-team offense, in better weather…Mahomes completes 70%+ of his passes in his debut with multiple TDs. He knows how to work the entire field and is accurate at every stage.
The giant question is – Will Andy Reid allow ‘it’ to happen? Andy Reid has a system. It is ‘good’-not-great one for the NFL…and it’s aging/antiquated more every minute. It is predictable…it has been predictable. Good NFL teams love playing Andy Reid late in a season (and not after his BYE so he has time to add a a wrinkle). NFL teams have Andy Reid all figured out after 3-5 games in a season. Good teams stop him, bad teams struggle with him or any other team/system. Reid doesn’t change much at all…his nice, solid, conservative pass game system works more time than not. It’s why Bill Belichick constantly spanks him in the post season. So, I have to now believe Andy Reid is going to do a 180 on his career and let Mahomes play street ball?
If you think – Surely, Reid can see what you see and for sure ‘go with it’…then you haven’t seen him stare down having Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, and using Hill as a decoy and running Hunt into the ground with the defense knowing the same and stuffing it/Hunt (see: midseason tail off for Hunt). Tyreek Hill should be putting up historic numbers. He should be the NFL’s greatest weapon and a top MVP candidate. Instead, he’s that guy that catches one deep ball for a TD every two games. He’s a guy that Reid stopped from being the greatest ground-air threat the league had ever seen in 2016, and just boxed him into being a normal WR in 2017. Reid has handcuffed Hill to fit ‘the system’. He didn’t build around Tyreek…after seeing Tyreek’s magical 2016. Reid saw/experienced Hill-2016 and said…let’s constrict that for 2017.
So, what do you think he’s going to do with Patrick Mahomes NOT running the West Coast offense the way Reid wants it? I’ve not seen Andy Reid take the ‘talent’ option over ‘the system’ option yet. Why would it start now?
I will close with this – if Reid does give in to Mahomes, or if Mahomes just does what he wants (and I think Mahomes will do that…where Alex Smith wouldn’t)…Mahomes will be a top 3 fantasy QB, and he will set all kinds of records for yardage and TD totals. He might also set them for interceptions as well. Reid and the fans may be delighted with ‘good’ Mahomes, but they will turn on him when he throws bad picks trying to make plays and they lose. You have to let Mahomes be Mahomes, and he will carry you…I don’t think Andy Reid can do it. However, the possibility he might…might make Mahomes the best young QB in fantasy – better than Garoppolo, Trubisky, Dak, Goff. Not better for the NFL…but better for fantasy.
Additionally, Patrick Mahomes will make Tyreek Hill the #1 fantasy WR in 2018…you could almost bank on it. I know you already have. Hell, if Tyreek can be top 3-6 with Alex Smith in 2017…the sky is the limit in 2018.
Did Andy Reid move mountains to get Mahomes because he wants to ride the dragon…or because he thought – I can fix/harness Mahomes and make him a great NFL QB? The answer to that question is the difference between a 2018 Super Bowl for KC or not…and Mahomes as the ‘it’ fantasy QB for 2018-2028 or not.
-- And then there’s Paxton Lynch (21-31 for 254 yards, 2 TDs/2 INTs)…the 180 degrees opposite of Patrick Mahomes. Stiff, unsure, dumps a lot of safe passes because he is terrible reading defenses for medium-deep throws…making no-read, blind throws deep often.
Watching Mahomes against Lynch was a comedy. John Elway had to be sitting there watching this game in agony. Lynch isn’t anything close to Mahomes…and Lynch was a coveted draft pick, like Mahomes, and has a year under his belt in the NFL.
Paxton Lynch should have watched Mahomes in this game, and then at his post-game press conference just retired because he knows he’ll never be that good at his profession as Mahomes is at quarterbacking.
Lynch is not the future. The Broncos will sweep away Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler and bring in a veteran – Kirk Cousins, etc., and try to hope people forget about the mistake the Lynch pick was, but they’ll sit on Lynch for another year or two hoping.
-- It was nice that Vance Joseph saw fit to get DeAngelo Henderson (5-15-0, 1-29-0/1) a few touches, finally. Why start getting a future starter ready when you can make sure C.J. Anderson gets over 1,000 yards in the season?
Henderson is good, but not great…but he’s more talented than any of the other Denver RBs and cheaper in payroll. I’d like to say he’s a 2018 sleeper but the Broncos seem to have some kind of love affair with C.J. Anderson that I don’t understand.
-- KC rookie Tanoh Kpassagnon (6 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 TFLs)…the 6’7”/289 pound DE freak got extra playing time in this game and made the most of it. He’s just so long and big…he makes plays simply by being close-by. I didn’t see any ‘wow’ moments from Kpassagnon…but he was giving a nice effort.
I like rookie Ukeme Eligwe (3 tackles, 1.0 sack) for KC a little better for IDP/fantasy purposes. He’s a quick OLB/ILB who I thought might be playing more by now…he might help plug up the KC run defense issues, but it might be a little too early to trust him as an ILB yet. He has the tools for the future.
-- We got to see a little more TE Demetrius Harris (3-73-0/4) in this game, and he made some nice catches on some sweet Mahomes passes. He isn’t a free agent until 2019, so he’s not going to be a fantasy factor until he goes elsewhere…and he may be doomed to the life of a backup anyway.
Harris might actually be a better fit for Mahomes than Travis Kelce, but that will never happen.
Looking ahead to 2018 schedule with these teams, first glance pre-Draft and free agency – the Chiefs are probably looking at a 9-10+ win season and another AFC West title…depending on how free range they let Mahomes go. Denver…we don’t know who their QB is, but this team feels like it’s in mid-collapse and a new/old QB won’t be able to fix it. This is a 3-4 win Denver team next year, maybe 5-6 if everything goes right in free agency.
Where I was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with these two teams in 2017…
Right: Pushing Tyreek as a top fantasy WR was the right call, even though I feel letdown…there was so much more he could have done. But in the end, I’m pleased with how much he blossomed as a true WR. No letdown on his end…just underutilized.
Wrong: Tyreek Hill… I thought what Hill did in 2016 would usher in a new era of football…the rise of the RB turned WR, dual-threat WRs who ate up a lot of short targets like handoffs but then also saw 2-5 handoff per game. Andy Reid actually reduced Hill’s carries, after spending an offseason crowing about all the touches he was going to give Hill. And instead of Hill seeing a lot of bubble screen work, he ran pretty much like Jeremy Maclin 2.0…just a blazing fast version.
Carolina didn’t push Curtis Samuel as a WR/RB threat like he was in college. Chicago saw Tarik Cohen catch 8 passes in each of his first two games and then totally reeled him in after that…it must have looked ‘too good’, I guess.
I was wrong…the NFL is the least progressive industry in America. There is no WR as RB wave coming because NFL offensive coordinators are from a different time and have zero imagination.
Right: My instincts on Vance Joseph were right…not ready for primetime. Not a great NFL head coach at all. A veteran team hanging onto glory by a fragile thread, and Joseph broke the string and the team imploded. He was so bad there was rumor he might be dumped after this one season, but the NFL is unimaginative and also into not admitting mistakes…so, John Elway will go another year before pulling the trigger. By then, the Broncos will have fallen into a deep, dark hole it will take some years to dig out of.
Wrong: I thought Jamaal Charles would breakout of this RB mess and become a real fantasy factor in 2017. I thought he might do so by Week 1…and then I thought he might seize it a few times in-season. No matter how good Jamaal looked, Vance Joseph kept him under lock and key. If there was a worse coach of the year than Joseph, I’m not sure who it was.
What’s that…Hue Jackson is still an NFL coach drawing a paycheck? My apologies to Mr. Joseph.