Chiefs Fccus @ChiefsFocus Jake White @jakewhite58
Last year we saw the rise of several prominent members of Chiefs Kingdom careers. We also saw a few that were either declining or straight plummeting off a cliff. Looking to next year with free agency and the draft on the horizon, who is poised to make the leap next year or make move past their prime?
Mecole Hardman: I know a lot of Chiefs Kingdom feel one way or another about Hardman, but he is coming off his best year as a professional. He started all 17 games, had almost 700 yards receiving, but only 2 touchdowns. It would be easy to peg him as the slumping player, but it’s obvious that Mahomes want to get him the ball, and every year Hardman has made steps forward. Every offseason it stated how difficult and complex Andy Reid’s offense is and it can’t be understated that Hardman’s experience can make an impact. We saw how Josh Gordon struggled to make an impact this year, and I feel that part was his unfamiliarity with the Chiefs playbook. Therefore, as of right now I view Hardman as a Chief on the rise.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Another player that a majority of Chiefs fans have opinions on. Although this one is not as clear. Helaire in his two seasons has yet to play more than 13 games. Last year he only played in 10 games, and his yards-per-attempt was relatively the same (4.4 in 2020 vs. 4.3 in 2021) even with the revamped offensive line. In the passing game, while his targets and receptions were down, he was able to catch 82% of his targets. Early in the season, his fumbling troubles were costly, but the Chiefs, in general, had a turnover problem. Overall, Helaire hasn’t reached his potential and I think he will make big improvements this year justifying his 1st round draft pick status.
Travis Kelce: Will this be the year or won’t it? I think the last couple of seasons we view as the year Travis Kelce starts the downside of his Hall of Fame career. Once again, last year, Kelce put up elite numbers. Extending his already impressive streak of 1,000-yard seasons to 6, hauling in 9 touchdowns, rushing for 2 more, and once again being voted as an All-Pro. However, Kelce is having a Tom Brady-Esq moment. Where his athleticism is no longer what makes him special, it is his maturity and football IQ. On the 13-second drive in the Divisional game verse the Buffalo Bills, we saw first-hand how his mind works. He orchestrated the Tyreek 19 yard reception, ensuring Tyreek was behind him so he could block traffic. And we all remember Patrick yelling “Do it Kels”, allowing Kelce to fool the defense on a 25-yard catch that set up the tying field goal. That is just twice we can recall, and we know he has Mahomes ear and Andy’s trust. I refuse to bet against Kelce.
Charvarius Ward: Ward continued to show doubters that he is not a liability. Ward had a mini-resurgence year, after allowing a 103.1 QB rating when targeted in 2020, he allowed a 79.4 rating in 2021. He received flack this year for the first Cincinnati Bengals game, where he lined up against Ja’Marr Chase and was inevitably torched, along with several others. Chase went on to set a rookie record for receiving in that game and won AFC Rookie of the Year. Ward came back though, held Chase to only 54 yards in the AFC Championship Game. With the attention Sneed receives, deservedly, Ward was a reliable cornerstone in the defensive backfield. His IQ in Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme is needed and hard to replace. Being 25 years old and holding himself as a top corner in this game, I think he’ll continue to improve.
Frank Clark: By the time this article comes out Frank Clark might not be a Kansas City Chief. We’ve heard the rumors about Clark and his eventual release, or possibly a contract restructure. He’s coming off his worst season since he was a rookie. For a member of Sack Nation, it’s hard to justify with only 4.5 sacks in 2021, although he did record a respectable 17 QB hits. In the end, he just wasn’t in the backfield enough. At age 28, he has declined in his three years as a Chief. 2019; 5 sacks in the playoffs, 2020; 3 sacks in the playoffs, 2021; 0 sacks and playing a historically bad offensive line in the AFC Championship Game. Clark could be a decent rotational piece for the Chiefs, but for the money and capital, we are giving him we expect more.
Daniel Sorenson: Remember earlier in the article when I said: “straight plummeting off a cliff” about a career, we all know who I was talking about. Let’s face it, Dirty Dan was never the end-all-be-all defender for the Chiefs, but he was clutch for many years. Need a game-ending interception, it was probably Dirty Dan. Need a late-game saving tackle that was borderline helmet-to-helmet, Dirty Dan is the man for the job. He came up so clutch in previous years, that we allowed the mediocre safety play. This year was different, he went from mediocre to downright bad. In 2020 he allowed a 100.7 QBR, and in 2021 it skyrocketed to 132.9. Tyrann Mathieu with his hands over his head will forever be tied to the memory of Dirty Dan.
Patrick Mahomes: Well, there comes a time in every QB’s career where he just knows his tier level, his limit, and we all saw Patrick Mahomes… IS STILL THE BEST ON THE PLANET. I know he lost to Joe Burrow twice, I know he didn’t make the Super Bowl for his third consecutive trip, and I know he had a career-high in interceptions, tied a career-high in fumbles. Nevertheless, when you look around the league, do you trust anyone else? He had a career-high in passing attempts and his second-highest passing yards. Defenses took a whole new approach to attack (or not attacking) the Chiefs offense. Throw 8 in coverage and make Mahomes make a play. This resulted in more turnovers and fewer big plays, but Mahomes showed maturity and why he is great. He took what the defense gave him and returned to the AFC Championship game. The scary part is, he may not have hit his prime.
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