Just how the Kansas City Chiefs offense will look and fare sans Tyreek Hill has been and will continue to be a prevailing question for the reigning AFC West champions until the 2022 regular season commences.
Following Hill's departure via trade to the Miami Dolphins, the Chiefs addressed the vacancy left by the Pro Bowler in free agency and the draft, but it's not going to be just one player looked on to replace Hill, according to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. No, the QB believes it will be a village of playmakers who will offer the Chiefs a more unpredictable look in the upcoming campaign.
"That's what you're going to see in this offense this year, it's going to be everybody," Mahomes said Thursday after spending organized team activities spreading the ball around to a cavalcade of pass catchers new and familiar. "It's not going to be one guy. Obviously Travis [Kelce] is still going to get a lot of completions, a lot of yards, but the whole receiving room is going to have big days and that can be something we use to our advantage.
"It's a very deep receiving room. It's hard to tell which guys are going to make it because we've got so many good receivers. That's what you want. You want that competition. You want guys competing every single day to make the roster because they're going to help us in the end."
Kelce might be a tight end, but he is unequivocally the team's No. 1 receiver. The seven-time Pro Bowler has surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for six seasons in a row, a feat no other tight end in NFL history has accomplished. He's likewise rattled off a half-dozen consecutive campaigns with more than 80 receptions and in the last four straight he's surpassed 90.
What comes after Kelce is the major quandary. Free-agent signees Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster project to be Chiefs starters, possibly along with second-round rookie Skyy Moore or Mecole Hardman, who's currently dealing with a hamstring issue.
Valdes-Scantling is a burner who rivals Hill in the speed category, but he was never a go-to guy and never produced more than 38 receptions in four years with the Green Bay Packers. Smith-Schuster is a former Pro Bowler, but that was in 2018. His numbers with the Pittsburgh Steelers had fallen off since then after he was thrust, at least for a time, into a No. 1 role, and he's also coming off an injury. Hardman has come up a bit short of expectations as a wideout, though he's on the heels of a 2021 season in which he had career highs of 59 catches and 693 yards.
Mahomes' message seems to be that there doesn't need to be a Hill replacement, though, but better yet a host of options who will make it more difficult for opposing defenses, who will no longer be game-planning to stop Kelce and Hill.
"I think this year we'll be different where you're not going to know where you're gonna get the deep ball from," Mahomes said. "You're not gonna know where you're gonna get the short pass from, cause we have a lot of different guys who can do it all."
Beyond Valdes-Scantling, Smith-Schuster, Moore and Hardman there is myriad intrigue as well. Josh Gordon is back with the team, former first-rounder Corey Coleman is on the roster and undrafted free agent Justyn Ross has already turned heads at OTAs.
Mahomes and many of the receivers previously got together for offseason workouts in Texas. It was an important trip in terms of building camaraderie and tendency.
"You kind of build that chemistry," Mahomes said. "And I think a big part of, especially our offense, is having that chemistry on the field. Being able to know what the guy is doing without having to talk about it. I think it's translated. So far, in the practice that we've had, we feel like we're on the same page in having that chemistry and we're gonna keep building on that."
The Chiefs' receiving corps isn't lacking in speed or depth, but as of now it's brimming with uncertainty in the aftermath of Hill's exit. Thus, Mahomes and all his many options will keep building chemistry, keep working and keep answering questions on life after Tyreek until they kick off 2022 against the Arizona Cardinals.