It’s that time again: projecting 53-Man roster spots for the Kansas City Chiefs. We turn our attention to the Chiefs wide receivers in an attempt to determine who will make the team. There were several tough decisions to make as I put myself in Brett Veach’s shoes, as the preseason games should show how close some of these final cuts could be. Now, let’s get to it.
Wide Receivers on the current roster: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, De’Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, Marcus Kemp, Byron Pringle, Jordan Smallwood, Gehrig Dieter, Daniel Braverman, Josh Crockett
The Cheetah and Sam I Am
Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins enter 2018 as the top two Chiefs wide receivers. By now, everyone is well aware of Hill being commonly known as the Cheetah. His blazing speed has been portrayed plenty of times on punt returns, vertical routes and even handoffs. Hill has grown greatly as a receiver and now he has a chance to begin an even larger role with Patrick Mahomes stepping in. As a starting receiver in 2017, Hill finished with 75 receptions, 1183 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns.
The Chiefs made a major free agent signing by giving Watkins a 3 year/ $48 million deal back in March. General manager Brett Veach mentioned that he tried calling Buffalo before the 2017 season began to attempt to acquire Watkins, but Veach knew that the price was too steep as the Chiefs did not have a first round pick in 2018. The Rams landed Watkins instead.
Watkins stated in his introductory press conference, that he wanted the opportunity to choose where he would go in free agency and Mahomes and the potentially explosive offense was what attracted him to Kansas City. “Just the Chiefs Kingdom. I played here two years ago and I feel like I fed off these fans, the atmosphere,” Watkins said. “And of course you have the Hall of Fame coach Andy Reid, you have Patrick Mahomes. I just want to be somewhere where I can be comfortable, where my family could be comfortable, really where I can just raise my family and be happy and that’s what made me choose here.”
Also, Watkins is coming off one of the healthiest seasons of his career. In his lone season with the Rams, Watkins played in 15 games. In his three seasons with Buffalo, Watkins had only one full season in which he played in all 16 games due to nagging injuries. Injuries are uncontrollable, but Watkins looked arguably the best he has since coming into the league.
Finally, the hunger in Chiefs Kingdom is rich. Watkins is as excited as the fans and coaches are about the potential that this offense has. Surprisingly, Watkins cut his trademark dreads by the time he showed up at training camp. Take it for what it’s worth, but this is yet another element that proves Watkins is all in for Kansas City.
Time to Breakout?
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Conley has continued to grow since coming into the NFL, but there have been few opportunities for him in the past. He is coming into 2018 off of a torn achilles injury. The injury happened when Conley recovered an onside kick against the Texans and was untouched. Like the aforementioned Watkins, Conley’s hunger seems to be at an all-time high, especially due to the injury. Conley has previously spent most of his time on the outside and is set to start at LWR.
Demarcus Robinson received more opportunities on offense in 2017, mostly in the second half of the season. All of Robinson’s career receptions came last year, as he was strictly a special teamer in his rookie season of 2016. Robinson also caught his only career touchdown in last year’s Wild Card loss to the Titans. Robinson has worked extensively since Mahomes came in last season, and he received plenty of targets in Mahomes debut against Denver. If the targets and catches go up again, Robinson has the ability to be the top breakdown player for the Chiefs.
Like Conley, Thomas is also coming into this season off of a major injury. On a punt return in last year’s regular-season finale, Thomas suffered a broken leg. After successful surgery, he is getting a chance to stake his claim in the Chiefs offense. Thomas has an opportunity to add so much to the underneath routes for Mahomes, as Hill and Watkins run deep.
The Final Cuts
I project that Jehu Chesson and Byron Pringle will be the final two players to make the active roster as Chiefs wide receivers.
Chesson enters his second season with Kansas City. He spent most of last season as a special teamer but did have a couple of receptions in the Denver finale game. Chesson will likely still have a major impact on special teams, but his consistency to make catches so far in camp could lead to possible opportunities when needed on offense.
Personally, I see Pringle edging out Marcus Kemp and Jordan Smallwood for the final receiver spot. Pringle is getting a shot with the Chiefs, after going undrafted back in April. Like Chesson, Pringle’s consistency to make catches, any types of catches, is what allows him to make the roster. Pringle can excel in deep routes and coaches can place him anywhere in the offense. Pringle may not get a ton of offensive chances, but I think he brings enough as an all-around player to make the team.
Kemp, Smallwood, Gehrig Dieter, Daniel Braverman, and Josh Crockett all just miss the cut. There are definitely going to be tough decisions to make for Veach and the front office. Kemp came so close last season but was placed on the practice squad. Like Pringle, Smallwood was a UDFA that is getting a chance to try out as one of the Chiefs wide receivers. Dieter, Braverman, and Crockett will all likely have to surprise in order to make the team.
Final Depth Chart:
LWR: 1) Tyreek Hill 2) Byron Pringle
RWR: 1) Chris Conley 2) Demarcus Robinson 3) Jehu Chesson
SLOT: 1) Sammy Watkins 2) De’Anthony Thomas
Those are my projections for the Chiefs wide receivers. Next time, we will take a look at the Chiefs tight ends. As always, be sure to check out all the great sports content at Full Press Coverage.