Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (82) celebrate after Smith

The Kansas City Chiefs Receiving Corps: How Bad Are They?

A lot of hooplah and to-do has been made about how bad the Kansas City Chiefs receiving corps is. Many have said time and time again that the single biggest position of need for the Chiefs in either free agency or the draft is a wide receiver. In fact, Adam Teicher at ESPN did a whole piece on how the Chiefs main concern this off season is their offense — and more specifically — the receiving corps.

On offense, they have one elite player [running back Jamaal Charles], one listed as high quality (and that’s a fullback, Anthony Sherman), one listed as solid, four listed as adequate, three as below average and two as unknown. Only three players listed in the top categories.

So the Chiefs have a significant talent imbalance here. It’s possible the defensive problems they had late last season had more to do with coaching or other issues than a lack of talent.

But are the receivers really as bad as everyone says they are?

Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs starting quarterback Alex Smith threw for 3,313 yards last season and backup Chase Daniel added another 248 in his limited action during the season. That’s 3,561 yards of passing offense for the Chiefs last year. The rest of the team fell in line behind him. I broke down the team’s top-five receivers based on total receiving yards.


Chiefs Receivers Break Down

Jamaal CharlesRB706939.9717
Dwayne BoweWR5767311.8345
Dexter McClusterWR535119.6432
Donnie AveryWR4059614.9512
Sean McGrathTE2630211.6252

As you can see, the team was led in both receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns by star running back Jamaal Charles. Granted, that had a lot to do with the way head coach Andy Reid’s offense is designed and Alex Smith’s comfort level at the beginning of the season, but it’s still a little out of whack.

One of the key stats here is that there wasn’t a receiver on the team with over

Dec 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (82) escapes the grasp of Indianapolis Colts strong safety Antoine Bethea (41) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Indianapolis won the game 23-7. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

800 yards in receiving. Actually, there wasn’t a receiver with over 700 yards of receiving. Does that mean they were bad? Let’s look at a more pass heavy team to compare.

The New Orleans Saints were the second best team through the air this past season. Led by high flying quarterback Drew Brees, the black and gold from the Big Easy put up 5,162 yards in passing production during the 2013 campaign. Here’s how the top five receivers from the Saints fell in terms of total receiving yardage.

New Orleans Saints Receivers

Jimmy GrahamTE86121514.15616
Marques ColstonWR7594312.6355
Kenny StillsWR3264120.0765
Darren SprolesRB716048.5482
Pierre ThomasRB775136.7293

Looking at these numbers, you can really see the disparity in having a prolific high-flying offense, versus more of a short pass, west coast offense like the Chiefs employ. But that doesn’t answer the real questions which is are the Chiefs receivers to blame for the lack of production.

Many have said that part of the reason all of the Chiefs looked mediocre this season is because Reid’s style of offense doesn’t key on receiver but instead spreads the ball around. It would seem that quarterback Alex Smith buys into that philosophy as well. Reid seemed to cement that line of thinking during his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine this week.

I thought they did a good job. You know Dwayne (Bowe) had his best game the last game. So what we take a lot of pride in doing is spreading the ball around to all of the different people that we have, and we don’t really focus in on, necessarily, one person in the throwing game. As a result, that makes defenses have to cover everybody, right? I’m OK with both of those spots, so that’s where I’m at with that.”

So let’s a play a little game of make believe and see if the philosophy of “moving the ball around” is really the cause for the lower-than-desired receiver production from the Chiefs this year. The following table shows what the Chiefs receivers would look like if they were playing in much more pass heavy offense, like the Saints, this past season.

Chiefs Receivers Adjusted Offense Numbers

2013 Yards
Percent of Total Rec Yards
Adjusted Yds if Playing on Saints
Jamaal Charles69319.4%996
Dwayne Bowe67318.8%967
Donnie Avery59616.7%857
Dexter McCluster51114.3%735
Sean McGrath3028.4%433

November 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Donnie Avery (17) lines up during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

That makes quite the difference. Even if the Chiefs were a more pass heavy team, instead of relying on the west coast offense, they still wouldn’t have had a 1000-yard receiver, though they would have had a couple who came close. But that doesn’t quite close the loop. What if the reverse were true of the Saints receivers and they played on a team that was more conservative in their offensive approach?


2013 Yards
Percent of Total Rec Yards
Adjusted Yds if Playing on Chiefs
Jimmy Graham121523.5%836
Marques Colston94318.2%648
Kenny Stills64112.9%459
Darren Sproles60411.7%416
Pierre Thomas5139.9%352

Those number are a lot more humbling than what they previously were and I guarantee you Jimmy Graham would have no luck getting wide receiver money if that was his production.

So, what am I saying and what can the Chiefs expect next year?

What I’m not saying is that I’m satisfied with the Chiefs offensive production this year. What I’m not saying is that the receiving corps should begin the 2014 season without something of a shakeup. What I’m not saying is that Alex Smith and Drew Brees are the same. I’m not even saying that these players would play the same, given the scenario we laid out. What I’m saying is to say that the receiving corps is horrible because nobody had a 1000-yard season is silly without taking in the whole picture.

Dec 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster (22) warms up before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

What if the Chiefs offense including Alex Smith and this receiving corps play the 2014 season like they did the last half of the 2013 year, including the playoff loss against the Indianapolis Colts? What if they put out that kind of production for an entire season? I did the math for you.

Take a look:


Potential 2014 Chiefs Receiving Numbers

2013 Yds
2013 TDs
Potential 2014 Yds
Potential 2014 TDs
Jamaal Charles693780515
Dwayne Bowe673578011
Donnie Avery59626934
Dexter McCluster51125944
Sean McGrath30223484

As you can see under this projection, no receiver would go over 1000-yards, but the production would increase dramatically.

At the end of the day, the receivers are only as good as the offense they’re playing in. While the Chiefs would definitely benefit from picking a play-making stud rookie or a speedy free agent, I think the most benefit will come from the fact that this year will be the second consecutive year in the same offensive system under the same coaching staff with the same quarterback. Consistency, more than anything else, will bring victory in Kansas City.

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Tags: Alex Smith Dexter McCluster Donnie Avery Dwayne Bowe Jamaal Charles Kansas City Chiefs

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Might surprise some to know this, but Reid’s only had a 1,000-yard receiver four times his entire NFL coaching career. I’m not daunted by that as much as I am this group’s lack of ability to separate and catch the ball reliably. Better receivers help us capitalize in key situations. A better receiver in Avery’s spot would’ve had more yardage by virtue of being more sure-handed. That’s what I think the team needs.

    • kcndaock

      Year they had crazy amounts of drops but I think Avery will have that problem his whole career. Bowes always had butterfingers but if u get 1 pass thrown to you a game, your a pro catch the ball.. I think Avery would complement bows nicly and had good hands from what I remeber

  • kcndaock

    get a big shutdown corner that plays man coverage, then get a starting caliber fs, beef up the online a little more. Sign Schwartz to a 3 yr deal or maybe a 5 yr deal he’s young and wants security since he’s about to become a father.. I don’t blame him… Bring in a pass rushing de!! Were not in bad shape even if half of this doesn’t happen. I believe bowe and Jenkins are going to have fun in this offense next year. Yes I said Jenkins he came on at the end if the year.changed his sceanoria coach Culley is a players coach he’s gonna take the bust label off of him thanks San Fran..lol Sutton needs to learn to play zone and to check his ego at the door if something isn’t working change your plan

    • berttheclock

      Very good point about Culley developing the talent of Jenkins. I was very happy to see Culley involved at the Combine with the receivers. I’m positive he has brought back plenty of feed back to Dorsey.

      • KcNdaRock

        The other day there was a article about Philly rec corp missing Culley! That should show every1 how important coaches are to the players and locker room. He’s always made rec into top notch NFL players.

  • micah stephenson

    I’ve said this more than once. Its always gone seem like we need wrs with Alex at Qb. Now yall see even if they played the 1st half of the season like the 2nd half, the offense still sucks.

    • berttheclock

      Alex Smith WAS NOT The Freakin’ problem, micah. That one note of yours has really gone flat.

      • micah stephenson

        Mmm ok, if you say so. He never has a lot of yards passing, so why would we expect anything different or for the wrs to have a ton of yards? My predictions for next yr is about 3250 yards 17 tds (unless charles takes 6 or 7 passes thrown behind the los and takes them for tds again)

        • berttheclock

          Would you accept a QB who threw for 1,516 plus to wide outs, 990 yards to TEs and 402 to running backs with some yardage to other players? If so, then, you would accept Alex Smith of 2011 with the Niners.

      • Troy Utt

        LOL…Bert That one note is not only flat, off pitch, & wrong note entirely! I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen Micah reference Wilson, Kaep, & Luck while trying to belittle Alex Smith. All the while ignoring the fact that Smith put up equal to or greater than in every measurable category this last season! Wilson did finish w/ 3 more td’s… Not to mention over the last 2-21/2 seasons Smith has also been one of the top rated QB’s in the red-zone.
        Stat’s, facts, & the plain simple truth just don’t seem to matter with some… It’s obviously not going to make a difference, some folks just don’t get it!

        • micah stephenson

          You forgot to mention all 3 of those QBs got playoff wins this yr and all are very young, paid way less than Alex, and just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential. While Alex will b 30, over paid, and is not gon get much better.

          • Troy Utt

            And once again I’ll add Smith expected to catch the ball as well? You continue to paint yourself in a corner… What more would you expect of Alex Smith than the record setting performance from the Wild-Card game? There wasn’t much more he could have done!!!
            To even further dispell your last statement last season is really all that was affected monetarily as even Kaep’s contract is being re-done this off-season. About the only thing you got right was Smiths age. To say he’s not going to get much better is assnine! Just look at his body of work over the last 2yr’s, now look over the last year. It would be my contention he put an exclamation point on the season in the WC game, & did so w/very little help!
            You know darn well what we are talking about, as this has been going on since last pre-season. The simple truth is you continued refusal to acknowledge the fact that Alex Smith is performing as well or better than all these others you would otherwise have KC hitch their future to!
            Whether out of pride, or something else it makes no sense, as the only explanation you can ever give is in hind-sight! Hell if that worked I imagine there would be a crap-load more lottery winners!
            Yet you continue your beat-down of Alex Smith which has only come out sounding foolish as it has become petty & even further from the truth. As each week passed during the season he became more comfortable in the offense, by the second half Reid, Childress, someone decided to open the play-book and down-field he went. Hell it was obvious something had been held back! I guarantee if you had paid attention during camp that offense would have looked much more familiar than that of the first half.
            As I’ve said we have stated the facts, presented stats, & yet you still continue to verbally assualt him!
            See Micah it’s a character flaw wanting to argue to a resolution when you know you’re right, were both guilty of that…
            Then-again I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong!

          • jacati

            Nice… Git ur done Troy

          • Troy Utt

            jacati, Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is! LOL

  • Calchiefsfan

    I don’t care what Teicher says, he seems to be buying into all the talking heads opinions of the Chiefs, (which is a shallow view, imho). From what I have read on this site most of us at AA agree, while it would be nice to upgrade at WR, it’s not imperative. Fixing the D is what is crucial. We lost 5 of the last 7 games because our D fell apart. Meanwhile Smith was on his way to a career best year thanks to an improved offense the second half of the season. We all watched as the Chiefs offense and offensive line got better and better as the year progressed. If the Chiefs should be concerned about anything on the offense it’s the O line. Albert, Schwartz and Asamoah are all set for free agency. If the O line takes a step backwards that WOULD be disastrous.

    Smith was just starting to get familiar with the receivers and Reid was opening up the playbook. Bowe’s 150 yards in the playoff game was encouraging. Smith looks to be figuring out how to get the ball to Bowe. I’m cautiously optimistic about Jenkins as well. Yes we could use an upgrade at WR and TE but we should be a strong offense even if that doesn’t happen. And Charles should be the most productive guy on our offense. The guy is a superstar for cryin’ out loud. We have enough weapons.

  • berttheclock

    Jason, if you compare the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles stats with those of the 2013 Chiefs, you will notice one glaring difference. The 2012 Eagles under Reid had their running back a distant 5th in receiving. Maclin and Jackson had by far the most catches and yardage, followed by their TE, Celek, with Avant next and McCoy 5th. Look at the 2013 Seahawks, where they had injury problems to wideouts, yet, their top RB, Lynch, was far down the list of receptions. However, that said, I believe the KC offense should be broken down by two halves of play. The offense did not really click until the 2nd half of the season was well underway. Line problems, confidence problems by Pederson and Reid in the early going caused this Ultra Conservative play calling where Charles began to be the first read or at least the very next read after Smith saw Bowe double covered. One of the major needs of the Chiefs has been to have a speedy wide out who can get open and have hands to play opposite Bowe. Otherwise, the offense becomes a dump off to Charles, who really does not need the extra wear and tear on his legs. Yes, indeed, when any team has their star RB being the leading pass receiver, one does not have to the shrewdest analyzer to realize something is woefully amiss and not everything is exactly up to date in Kansas City.

  • berttheclock

    As much as I realize the Chiefs need an upgrade in the defensive backfield and an additional pass rusher, selecting Brandin Cooks would solve much of the passing problems for the Chiefs.

    • Calchiefsfan

      Getting Cooks would be awesome for the Chiefs. I still think FS is the biggest need but both Clinton-Dix and Pryor will probably be gone by 23. Maybe Cooks ends up being the bpa on Dorsey’s board, very possible.

    • Jim Harper

      I am with you on Cooks. Great hands and blinding speed will get you a ton of YAC’s. On top of that he may be the best option at #23. Personally I hope that is the case.

  • Michael Wallace

    um, i think we have an awful group of recievers… jamaal and bowe are exceptions but bowe is payed too much and charles not enough to stay lol

  • mnelson52

    Although I want to improve at receiver positions, I think the top priority right now is trying to keep our O-line together. Last year it took all of OTAs, 4 preseason games and half of the regular season for the O-line to start gelling in Reids system. If we lose Albert, Schwarts and/or Asomoa, it might take till the middle of the season to get the new line gelling again, and that’s if we can get equal or better replacements. This year we will not have the luxury of a weak schedule while we are learning again. Either they start the season knowing the system or our first half may be disappointing.

  • Hawthorne

    I think Jenkins will develop into a nice player for us. Frankie Hammond Jr. could also develop into solid depth. Avery is what he is, and as soon as we have a better option he will be gone. As I see it, the real challenge is drafting a long term replacement for Bowe. For that reason, I would consider drafting Jeff Janis or L’Damian Washington. If we really want to improve the passing game with a first round pick, I would suggest Oline. Alex has great mobility, but he shouldn’t have to use it quite so often.

  • hipnetic

    Bowe got 150 yards in that playoff game. If he could get 1/2 of that number every game of the regular season, he’d have 1,200 yards for the year. Think about that.

  • David Fritch

    I’m honestly more concerned about our Corners than Wide Receivers. We most definitely need a WR-2 but I would draft 2 Corners before a WR unless we somehow got Mike Evans to fall to us. His HUGE size would play perfect to A-Smiths quick pass style and essentially give us another receiving TE with speed. Not likely to be there though. Maybe we can go all out and try for Byrd or Talib?

  • Stan Colbert

    I would love to see a higher pass completion percentage. Maybe, if KD plays more & they only use him to run the ball maybe that would open things up. I don’t expect Andy to actually run the ball, but, notice teams follow JC and double DB a lot.

  • Stan Colbert

    The big question to me about this corp is their comp. %! The west coast offense is a timing offense relying on short routes that should result in high completions! This could be the o-line, the new QB, or WR that cannot get open. We have plenty of receivers capable of catching the ball and an all world running back who avg. 5 yds a carry! With all this talent we should be able to move the ball 10 yds in 3 downs! The fact we can’t means someone needs find the problem and fix it!
    Go Chiefs!!!