Why Patrick Mahomes Will Be a Top 5 QB…

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By Sam Lane (@FFStompy)

“With the tenth pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech.”

The Chiefs traded the 2017 first rounder (27th overall), 2017 third rounder (91st overall), and their 2018 first round pick to the Buffalo Bills to be able to pick Mahomes. That is a lot of draft capital to spend on a quarterback when the Chiefs already had a successful quarterback in Alex Smith.

Smith was coming off of a Pro Bowl season in 2016, had made the Pro Bowl in two of the four years he was with the Chiefs and had led the Chiefs to their first playoff victory in 12 years. This should tell you exactly how they felt about Mahomes as a prospect.

In 2017, Smith had the best year of his career, posting career highs in yards, touchdowns, passer rating, yards per attempt, touchdown to interception ratio, etc. Smith also made his second straight Pro Bowl and third as a Chief. He was named PFF’s most accurate deep ball passer for 2017. You read that right. A quarterback known as “Captain Checkdown” for a large portion of his career was given a deep ball accuracy award.

On the fantasy front, Smith finished as the QB4. So naturally, the Chiefs proceeded to trade Smith to the Washington Redskins for a  3rd round pick and a cornerback. This is even further evidence of what the Chiefs feel they have in Mahomes.



The Chiefs’ Offensive Additions

Along with trading Smith, the Chiefs also signed free agent wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins has the build of a “prototypical” X receiver at 6’1”, 211 lbs. The Chiefs haven’t had an X receiver since Dwayne Bowe’s departure in 2015. Watkins will replace Albert Wilson, who signed with the Miami Dolphins, and his 544 reception yards and 3 touchdowns.

Watkins also has productive seasons under his belt, producing over 2000 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first two seasons in the NFL in 2014 and 2015 before a foot injury derailed his 2016 season and he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in the middle of  2017 training camp.

The addition of Watkins also brings more speed. Watkins ran a 4.43 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, achieving a speed score in the 90th percentile. He will be lining up across from Tyreek Hill, who ran a 4.34 40 yard dash in his combine.

On top of the Watkins addition, the Chiefs will have running back Spencer Ware back this season after he tore his MCL and PCL in the 2017 preseason. Ware posted 921 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns along with 33 receptions for 447 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2016 in only 14 games.

Ware will form a two-headed monster with Kareem Hunt. Hunt finished second to Alvin Kamara in rookie of the year voting despite leading the league in rushing with 1327 yards along with 53 receptions for 455 yards and 11 total touchdowns. Even after finishing as the sixth highest scoring offense and fifth highest total yards gained in 2017, the Chiefs seemed to have upgraded their offensive weapons going into 2018.

Defensive Subtractions

On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs were a mediocre defense in 2017, finishing 18th in defensive scoring. Their biggest weakness was pass defense, finishing fourth to last in pass yards allowed per game. In the 2018 offseason, the Chiefs traded arguably their best cornerback in Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams. However, they also gained an underrated slot corner in Kendall Fuller from the Washington Redskins in the Alex Smith trade.

One can argue that the Chiefs, at the most, moved laterally in terms of pass defense not taking their draft into account. What this means is that Mahomes and the Chiefs could be playing from behind more often or involved in more shootouts, allowing for more passing opportunities.

Patrick Mahomes and His Talents

Now to Mahomes. Mahomes played in the Texas Tech air raid offense, where he threw for over 11,000 yards and 93 touchdowns in ~2.5 years. Arm strength is one of the main things Mahomes is known for. You will see “arm strength” and “arm talent” and “deep ball” and “velocity” all over his draft profile entering the 2017 draft, and for good reason. Conversely, Smith was known for his intelligence, efficiency, and not making mistakes, not for his arm strength. Mahomes is also very accurate both in the pocket and on the move. These traits were on display against the Titans in the 2017 preseason.

Deep ball accuracy in the pocket.

Deep ball accuracy on the move. Look at the arm angle.

Different angle of the above throw.

He also knows how and when to throw with touch.

Granted, the above throws were in the fourth game of the preseason when the starters sitting.  However, an argument can be made that he was also throwing to less talented skill players and was being protected by a less talented offensive line, but that is a fight for another day. The fact remains that he made and completed extremely difficult throws with pinpoint accuracy.

We were able to get a glimpse of what Mahomes can do against NFL starters when he was given the start in week 17 against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos had one of the best secondaries and arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL. Mahomes showed poise in the pocket, good reads, and the arm strength and accuracy he is known for, despite his stat line being unimpressive (22 of 35, 284 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception), 

Poise under pressure.

Ability to throw with velocity and accuracy without his feet being set after being hit.

Accuracy on the run and falling away.

Matt Waldman, a well-known film guru who writes the Rookie Scouting Portfolio every year, has Mahomes ranked as his top quarterback of the past several draft classes. This includes the likes of Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, Carson Wentz, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and many more. Waldman even uses phrases like “moments of genius” to describe Mahomes. He has also compared Mahomes to Brett Favre and Matt Stafford.

Mahomes’ Deficiencies

Waldman and many other film and draft analysts do note that Mahomes has a couple deficiencies that he can correct. The flipside of being compared to Brett Favre is that he can be a gunslinger. Hence he can make poor decisions and force throws. This can lead to turnovers and losses of possession. As a result, Mahomes will lose passing attempts, leading to lost fantasy production. He needs to learn when to take what a defense gives him or throw the ball away.

Mahomes also has bad footwork at times. However, he has the arm strength, accuracy, and ability to change arm angles and velocities. This allows him to overcome sloppy footwork.

One thing that could help Mahomes overcome his deficiencies is to sit and learn. And that is what Mahomes did. Learning Andy Reid’s hybrid offense under the tutelage of an intelligent quarterback like Smith (40 on the Wonderlic) should allow Mahomes to hit the ground running next season. As a result, Mahomes was allowed him to work on his footwork, though that has yet to be determined.

A major knock on Mahomes is that he played in the Air-Raid offense at Texas Tech. But many quarterbacks coming out of college played in offenses that don’t translate to the NFL. Some NFL coaches have shown the progressiveness to build their offense around the quarterback’s strengths.

The Eagles incorporated spread-offense concepts into a West Coast offense, playing to the strengths of Carson Wentz. The Texans are also using spread-offense, allowing Deshaun Watson to impress in his rookie season before tearing his ACL. Andy Reid, Mahomes’ coach, has been merging the spread and West Coast offenses for almost a decade.

The Chiefs 2017 Efficiency

There are a few things working against Mahomes. The first is that Smith and the Chiefs had an extremely efficient season in 2017. Smith finished second in’s deep ball completion percentage, which is the completion percentage of balls that travel 20 yards or farther in the air, and first in  PFF’s adjusted deep ball completion percentage, which adjusts for drops on catchable balls.

Smith also finished second in supporting cast production premium. This is the sum of the production premiums for Smith’s supporting cast. Production premium compares all outcomes of offensive plays to league average also taking into account game situation, positive values meaning a player is more efficient than average. All of these numbers point to the Chiefs skill players being extremely efficient, which could regress in 2018. However, Mahomes’ deep ball accuracy and the additions the Chiefs have made should help mitigate this potential regression.

Smith is also a good running quarterback. In 2017, Smith ran for 355 yards and one touchdown. However, Mahomes is no slouch when it comes to running. In 2016 Mahomes ran for 456 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2017 he ran for 285 yards and 12 touchdowns. So maybe Smith doesn’t have as much of an advantage in the rushing category as was initially thought.


So why will Patrick Mahomes be a top-five quarterback in 2018 and beyond?

1. Despite being known as a game manager, Alex Smith was named by PFF’s most accurate deep passer in 2017. Mahomes is known for his arm strength and his accurate deep ball, unlike Smith.

2. Sammy Watkins and return of Spencer Ware to Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt gives the Chiefs a more potent offense. Probably better than Smith had in 2017 when he finished as the QB4. Watkins adds another fast, deep threat for Mahomes to throw to.

3. Andy Reid’s incorporates concepts seen in a college spread-offense into the West Coast offense. Mahomes will be able to learn the offense easier and able to capitalize on his strengths.

4. Mahomes was allowed to sit for a year and learn the offense under Smith and Reid. As a result, Mahomes will likely improve his decision making and footwork.

5. Mahomes has already shown the ability to beat top-end NFL players and lead game-winning drives.

6. The Chiefs defense is not good. This could lead to falling behind early and playing catch-up and shootouts. As a result, Mahomes could throw more passes.

Finally, this article is coming from a Broncos fan. I harbor a lot of disdain for the Chiefs. As much as it pains me to write, I truly believe that Mahomes has an extremely high ceiling. He is going to be a dominant quarterback in this league for years to come.


For more tips and analysis, follow Sam on twitter @FFStompy.  Read other awesome articles that will help you win your leagues here. Listen to the guys talk about news, analysis, and strategy on the podcast, and follow the show on twitter @F3pod.

Started playing fantasy football with my dad 15 years ago. Still have no idea what I am doing. Just trying to pass on any analysis I can to help you win.