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OK, so I was watching Kansas City Chiefs tape from 2016…doing work on Spencer Ware (a rewind report recently posted) and work on Tyreek Hill (major article underway), and Chris Conley just jumped out at me in the midst of all this.
It was like a divine vision from God.
The Jeremy Maclin release had its basis in economics, but the move still seemed odd to me. Could they have tried to restructure the contract? Why make this Maclin release, knowing the issue looming for months in advance, without drafting or signing a major wide receiver ahead? People instantly did the math that Tyreek Hill must be the new #1 WR in town. Andy Reid stoked those flames as well. The problem is that Tyreek Hill is not a #1 wide receiver…not in the traditional sense. Hill may lead the team in targets and stats, but he’s not a traditional #1 WR…it’s silly to think otherwise.
However, the guy that has #1 wide receiver qualities…the guy that has been training with Jeremy Maclin since day one – that’s Chris Conley. Forgotten Chris Conley. The 6′2″/215, 4.35 40-time running, 45.0″ vertical-leaping, huge 33.8″ arm/wingspan-having Chris Conley. He is an incredibly smart player with high character and is a dogged worker…and is the profile of an emerging #1 wide receiver. One of our highest-rated WR prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft.
Because the NFL is excellent at scouting…Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Jaelen Strong, Phillip Dorsett, Dorial Green-Beckham, Devin Smith, and Nelson Agholor were taken ahead of Conley. Because Conley didn’t get a push from the media, he was undervalued for the NFL Draft…and is still undervalued now…which is why people are looking right past him as the simple answer to “Who is taking over for Maclin?”
I was watching tape of the Chiefs 2016 offense (for Hill and Ware) and I’m watching Conley make tough catch after tough catch and wondering why he didn’t see more targets/action. Well, you have a low-volume passing game with the attention going to Maclin, Tyreek, and Travis Kelce…how’s Conley likely to breakout, statistically, there?
What I noticed watching the tape: We all get Conley has great measurables but he was buried/unimportant, per se, in this offense in 2016. No reason for fantasy GMs to pay attention to him. However, when you really watch his 2016 work you see the makings of the professional wide receiver he’s turned into. He runs nice routes. Most importantly he is not afraid to run inside routes. He’s tough, he’s a bulldog…a bulldog with the straight-line speed of a cheetah. He has good hands and a great reach/target radius with leaping ability. He’s a real weapon. At minimum, he can probably do what Jeremy Maclin was doing in 2016….for $13 million less dollars a year for KC.
Conley is the perfect fit in this offense…and salary cap. As I was re-watching his work from 2016, I saw all the building blocks… He’s reliable – runs the right routes and has secure hands. He can stretch the field. He can make tough catches over the middle…a huge plus. He’s a helluva blocker. He’ll command enough attention to allow Tyreek and Kelce to operate. You can’t just ignore Conley, if you’re the opposing defense…because he can burn you – he’s got athletic gifts yet to be fully exposed. Conley doesn’t have to take over the KC passing game and be the next Antonio Brown in 2017…he just has to do what he does and be a part of this eclectic ensemble of Kansas City offensive weapons.
Being the top ‘true’ wide receiver on the team, with Maclin gone, should force Conley to see 6-7-8 targets per game (up from 4.3 per game last year). He is a real red zone threat with his leaping ability and reach…so, I’m guessing he’ll top the zero TDs he had last season. Watching his 2016 tape – he missed out on 2–3 TDs via P.I. or misthrown balls his way. It wasn’t like he was allergic to the end zone. Alex Smith threw for 15 TDs (and Nick Foles for 3 TDs) in 2016 — and Tyreek Hill (6) and Travis Kelce (4) combined for 10 TD catches…56% of the TD opportunities. Non-Tyreek WRs on KC had 4 TDs last year. So, I’d estimate around 4 TDs for Conley in 2017…possibly more if teams throw the kitchen sink at Tyreek.
I wanted to do this quick ‘Rewind’ report on Conley because it smacked me in the face as I watched all the other KC stuff. It was hidden as a ‘Maclin answer’ because Conley wasn’t featured in this offense at all in 2016. If I’m right…Conley is a threat to be a useful WR3 in 2017 with upside…available for near nothing right now – he’s not among the top 50–70 preseason fantasy wide receivers for most reporting outlets.
I know the Chiefs’ WR weapons do not feel exciting for fantasy working with Alex Smith, but being the non-Tyreek in 2017 may have certain perks. It should have at least WR3 possibilities. Conley is the kind of athlete that might take WR3 targets levels and push to back-end WR2 production with his work after the catch. I can’t project Conley as much more than a WR3 in this offense, but I point it out because it’s a helluva bargain right now…and it also answers the concerns that people have thinking Tyreek is going into the Maclin role.
…just think of what could happen if the Chiefs do throw Alex Smith overboard and turn to the gunslinger Patrick Mahomes — he’ll have 4.2+ runner Tyreek Hill and 4.3+ runner Chris Conley breaking off routes and making improvised magic together, potentially.