Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (15) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

How Much Production Do The Kansas City Chiefs Need At Wide Receiver?


The Kansas City Chiefs are still over a month away from starting training camp and are about two months away from playing their first preseason game. There is a slow trickle of observations coming out of their non-contact OTA practices, but that’s about all that diehard fans have to feed their football fix during these long summer months. That leaves a lot of time for speculation about the current roster and how well players will perform. Obviously, the main topic of late has revolved around quarterback Alex Smith and his contract situation. There have been numerous quality discussions on that topic here at AA, so I didn’t feel like it was necessary to go there again today. Instead, I thought I’d take a closer look at one of the biggest question mark position groups on the roster. I’m talking about the guys that are supposed to catch most of the passes from Alex Smith……

The Wide Receivers

Going into the draft most fans and draft pundits all had WR at the top of KC’s “needs” list. The perception is that the Chiefs did not get much production from the position last season and did little to address the position in the draft and free agency. Their “#1″ receiver, Dwayne Bowe, only had 57 receptions last season. Their number two WR (at least in terms of receptions) was slot man/kick returner Dexter McCluster who is now in Tennessee. The rest of their WR core currently consists of the chronically injured Donnie Avery, a 5’7″ rookie that played running back in college, a former first round pick that has 8 career receptions in two seasons, a seventh round pick that has 13 career receptions in two seasons, and a 5’8″ Canadian football star with no NFL experience.

We can preach the upside of some of these guys until we’re blue in the face, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, I think it’s fair to say that this group (at minimum) has a lot to prove. I have hope that some of the players listed above will improve their production this season and John Dorsey has also proven that he can scavenge players cut by other teams to find guys that will contribute for KC. However, what I’d like to do this week is ask the question….

Just how much production do the Chiefs actually need from that group?

I think most KC fans entered the draft last month dreaming of the Chiefs adding a WR that could perhaps become a 100 reception/1,000 yard producer for the offense. While that certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing, is it really necessary? I decided to look at some of the numbers produced by Andy Reid offenses in the past, some of the tendencies of QB Alex Smith, and how the numbers stacked up with last season. Then I tried to use that to come up with some realistic numbers for next season.

Here’s what I found……

Over his career as a head coach, Andy Reid’s offenses have averaged about 561 pass attempts per season. Last season KC had 546, so they were close to that norm. Let’s assume that next season the Chiefs are right around that 561 number, that Alex Smith plays the entire season, and that Smith completes about his average amount of passes. Smith’s completion percentage last season was 60%, which is right at his career average. So if we take 60% of 561 pass attempts that gives us 336.6 completions. Let’s give Alex the benefit of the doubt and round that up to a nice even 340 completions on the season (last season KC was at 333, so again we’re in the neighborhood).

So the Chiefs have 340 receptions that they need to account for next season.

Let’s break that down into the following areas:

RB receptions
TE receptions
Dwayne Bowe receptions
All Other WR receptions

RB Receptions:

Last season the Chiefs team leader in receptions was Jamaal Charles. His 70 receptions was a career high. The rest of the RBs (Anthony Sherman, Knile Davis, and Cyrus Gray) kicked in another 36 receptions. That gave KC’s backs a total of 106 receptions. It is my belief (you can certainly argue otherwise) that KC would like to see more passes go to the TEs and WRs next season. I’m not saying that they won’t utilize Jamaal Charles as a receiver, just that I think with it being the first year in the offense and working together both as coaches and players that they probably dumped the ball off to the backs a little more than what they would prefer once everyone is comfortable in the system.

Looking at a couple of Reid’s starting RBs from his Philly days gives us a good idea of what to expect. In six seasons as the feature back in Philly, Brian Westbrook averaged 65 receptions/season. In four seasons as the featured back under Reid, LeSean McCoy averaged 55 receptions/season. So if we split the difference between those two and plan on a few more passes to the TEs and WRs this season I think a prediction of 60 receptions for Jamaal Charles sounds about right. Then if the other backs had 36 receptions last season and we scale back a few to account for more passes to TEs and WRs, an estimate of 30 receptions for other backs seems reasonable.

That gives us a prediction of 90 total receptions for RBs.

TE Receptions:

The Tight End position is one of the hardest to predict going into next season. Last year the Chiefs TEs combined for a total of 50 receptions. That was significantly lower than the average TE receptions of Reid’s Philadelphia teams. In his 14 seasons in Philly Reid’s TEs averaged about 64 receptions per season. Reid actually had three different TEs lead the team in receptions during his time in there (Chad Lewis, LJ Smith, Brent Celek) so the TE is clearly an important part of his offense.

The reason for the low TE production last season isn’t hard to figure out. Starting TE Anthony Fasano was banged up most of the year and only played in nine games. Travis Kelce, who the team drafted in the 3rd round last year, was supposed to be a key contributor but ended up missing the entire season after having micro-fracture surgery on his knee. This often left the weight of the position on lone man standing Sean “the beard” McGrath, a former undrafted Seattle Seahawk who the team signed right before the start of the season. The team cut the oft-injured Tony Moeaki before the season and felt that rookie/converted basketball player Demetrius Harris needed time to learn the position before being given a shot on the NFL roster.

Without adding a single new player to this position group the Chiefs have a chance for the TE production to be significantly improved. Early reports out of camp point to a fully healthy Fasano, Kelce being on track to be back and ready to contribute by training camp, and Demetrius Harris having bulked up and flashing some dynamic play making abilities. If all three of those things continue on through training camp and preseason games there is reason to believe that production at the position could be greatly increased.

Also worth noting, starting quarterback Alex Smith frequently utilized the tight end position in San Francisco. Granted, he had Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker to work with, but he still averaged over 5 completions to TEs per game over his final four seasons there. Over 16 games that would equal over 80 receptions. I actually think the following estimate may be too low, but given the fact that Kelce’s health and Harris’s development are still question marks an estimate right around the average for Reid’s offenses (64) seems appropriate.

So I’m making my official prediction a conservative 65 total receptions for the TEs.

Dwayne Bowe:

As I mentioned earlier, Dwayne Bowe had a bit of a down year by his standards with only 57 receptions. During the course of his career Bowe has averaged 67 receptions per season. If you factor in the few games he’s missed and actually figure his receptions per game, Bowe’s average is actually about 73 receptions per 16 games played. Also, Bowe’s production (along with that of the passing game in general) picked up in the second half of the season. Bowe played in 16 games including the playoff game. In the first eight he had 26 receptions, but in the second half he had 39 (including eight in the playoff game). If Bowe were to average what he did in those final eight games over the entire season next year it would give him 78 receptions.

Given his increased production over the second half, his career averages, and reports from OTA’s that he seems to be in great shape and focused, it seems reasonable to predict that Bowe will have a statistical rebound back towards his norm. Much like the TE production, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his numbers jump significantly higher. However, a season that would be right around those career averages above seems like a nice safe prediction.

Let’s go with a prediction of 70 receptions for Dwayne Bowe.

The Rest Of KC’s WRs:

If you haven’t been keeping a running total as we go, the RBs, TEs, and Dwayne Bowe now have a predicted total of 225 receptions. Given the prediction of 340 completions based of Reid’s offenses and Alex Smith’s completion percentage, that leaves a combined total of 115 receptions for the rest of the WRs. While 115 receptions sounds like a lot (its almost exactly one third of the team’s receptions) when you divide it amongst the remaining players likely to make the team it becomes very achievable. For the sake of argument, let’s go with Donnie Avery, AJ Jenkins, Junior Hemmingway, De’Anthony Thomas, and Weston Dressler as the remaining WRs that will receive regular playing time. Obviously, there is no way to know for sure at this point, but looking at the roster I feel like these players are the favorites at this point.

If you take those 115 receptions that are left and divide them by those five players it only gives you 23 receptions per player. Is there a single one of those five that you don’t believe could get 23 receptions over the course of a season? The only one that seems at all a risk to count on would be Dressler (who averaged 81 receptions/season his last four seasons in Canada). The other four seem like safe bets to be able to hit that 23 mark, if not more. When you look at it that way it seems very reasonable to believe that the current group of KC WRs can give them the 115 receptions that they need.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a number for you. If you add up the receptions by McCluster, Avery, Hemmingway, Jenkins, and Chad Hall from last season you get 116 receptions, almost exactly what KC would need given these estimates. So ask yourself this, do you think it’s reasonable that Avery, Jenkins, Hemmingway, Thomas, and Dressler can match the production of that group from last season? Basically, Thomas and Dressler are replacing McCluster and Hall and the other three returning players are now all entering their second year in the system and should be more comfortable. Once again, it almost seems like the 115 receptions for this group might be on the conservative side.

So despite what many fans and “NFL experts” have perceived as a lack of options for Alex Smith in the passing game, it took mostly conservative predictions in order to make the numbers for a typical Andy Reid offense add up.

So what do you think? Are there any of these numbers that you feel are unreasonable? I tried to be as fair as possible and stick to what history for both the coach and players has shown to be the norm. Do seeing these numbers make you feel any better about the WR situation in KC? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!

Follow me on Twitter: @LyleGraversen (with 6 more followers I can hit the not very impressive total of 300!)

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • tm1946

    Well researched but to say Andy or any coach would have a ceiling on how many catches he would allow his receivers seem a bit of a reach. If you got the QB, the OL, and the WRs, why not use them. There are a lot of elements that go into each season but if we had a Great #2 WR or could move Bowe to the #2 spot, why the devil do folks think Reid would say ……No, not my style. After 591 attempts we run the ball the rest of the year.

    If the Chiefs had the talent, betting they would use them. We don’t, recognize it, and move on.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Look if you have another star WR who can outproduce all the other options combined, great! However, my point was that Reid came to KC known as a pass first coach and he wasn’t completing more passes there than he is on track to do here. Other than DeSean Jackson and the one season of TO, he has usually done it with average WR talent and spreading the ball around (especially to RBs and TEs). My point is that KC has the players in place to run Reid’s system as he has always run it.

  • Tony Parker

    Great analysis Lyle, my thinking is we will have 400+ receptions this year. My bold prediction is that dressler has 40+ Receptions. I also think Hemmingway gets 40+

    • Lyle Graversen

      While anything is possible, I would just point out that no Andy Reid coached team has ever had that many completions in a season. As far as I can tell about 360 is the max he’s had and he’s seen as a throw first coach that has even been criticized for not running enough. So 400 completions would take a massive uptick from what we’ve seen before. Peyton Manning has only hit the 400 completion mark 3 times in his entire career.

  • freshmeat62

    You put some work into this. Good breakdown!
    I think you’re going to see the TE’s used more this year and the RB’s less, just because there are now 3 options at TE this year. I think you might be able to flip those 90 for RB’s and 65 for TE’s. As for the number the WR’s get, there doesn’t seem to be a big improvement in the ability there, but they do have another years experience, so that might mean a few more receptions. Also going deeper to WR’s means the o-line is doing a good job of giving the QB time to throw, so that’s an issue also.

    • Lyle Graversen

      We’ll see, I can see the RB and TE numbers being pretty equal, but I don’t know that I’m ready to predict a complete swap. JC is still the best weapon on this team and Kelce and Harris are still basically unknowns. Camp will tell us a lot.

  • area

    “Smith’s completion percentage last season was 60%, which is right at his career average”, is this an indictment as to Smith’s abilities or his receivers throughout his career? I believe this number goes up this next season. I’m not saying all-pro percentages or anything but the 2nd year into an offensive system with largely the same supporting cast, the trending numbers are pointing up.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I agree that he’s capable of throwing for a higher %, he was over 70% his last year in SF when Kaep replaced him. However, the reason I didn’t predict higher was that if Smith isn’t dropping it off as much and throwing down field to the WRs more that could keep the % from getting too high. I still think 65% is more than reasonable if everyone is on the same page. That would push the completions up to about 365.

  • berttheclock

    Excellent analysis as usual. However, last season was really an anomaly. First year for the system. First year for the new QB in that system. Injuries to Fasano and Kelce which limited throwing to TEs. An offensive line which was a work in progress to the point the remaining TEs had to stay in far too often to block. Plus, it was the first year of playing for McGrath as he had only been on the practice squad of the Seahawks. Only one legitimate wide out. Avery was new to the system and the team. A J Jenkins did not become a Chiefs player until August 19, so, he missed most of training camp. Plus, he came to the Chiefs with a huge lack of self confidence and had to work himself into the system. BTW, Alex Smith deserves a great deal of credit for working with Jenkins and turning him into a productive player by the end of the year. With all of these problems, Reid and Pederson had little choice but to use Charles far more as a receiver. The first half of the Colts play off game demonstrated how far the Chiefs offense had come and Pederson was just opening his play book. With a second year of training for all, injuries healed and the addition of DAT, prospects for a far different offensive scenario appear to be rosy. However, the biggest question will be how quickly the new offensive line comes together.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I agree that the offensive line is a HUGE factor and that things should be better with most of the players being familiar with the system. I think the numbers I gave represent a safe baseline if everyone is healthy. More is definitely possible.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Good work, Graversen! Hopefully Avery has right around 60 catches and the final 55 can be split between Avery, Hemingway, and Thomas.

    • Reggie Flenory

      Dont forget the tight ends imthink we are gonna get some good production outta them they are gonna fly under the radar for most of the season

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Graversen’s equation already had tight end production factored in.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I think the WR snaps opposite Bowe and in the slot are completely up for grabs at this point. I wouldn’t be shocked if any of the guys I mentioned stepped up and became “the one” out of the group. I also wouldn’t fall out of my chair if any of those guys got cut (other than DAT). I think it’s WIDE OPEN.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Avery’s the second-best receiver on this team until further notice. The rest are a bunch of questionmarks. I’d love it if Jenkins went all gangbusters on the league, but he’s still very much an unknown commodity. Man, I really wish we could pry Denarius Moore away from Oakland for a late-rounder.

        • Lyle Graversen

          I agree on Avery, but he’s not so good that he can’t get beat out by someone. Also, I just have ZERO faith that he’ll be healthy all season.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            He’d definitely not above being beaten out by another wide receiver. I’m just not sure there’s any good reason to think Hemingway, Jenkins, or Dressler will be the receivers to do it. Now, if Moore was here…

          • Lyle Graversen

            I think if someone does it would be Jenkins since his game resembles Avery’s. I think Dressler and Hemmingway will be used more in the slot and possession routes.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            And I hope the kid blows the doors off of the NFL, but I’m not holding my breath. For now, the only receivers I expect to produce are Bowe and Avery. We already know who they are (for better or for worse).

  • Reggie Flenory

    Im worried about how much production we are gonna get out of the offensive line we (fans and pundents) have spent to much time beatig a dead horse our skill players will be fine but we are replacing our interior wih three new starters thats scary to me especially with this schedule

    • mnelson52

      I think the O-line is the biggest concern for most of us. Last year it took all mini camps, OTAs, training camp, 4 preseason games, and half the regular season games to get the O-line gelling together in Reid’s system. We don’t have a schedule this year that will allow us wins while learning. Hudson and Allen are the only two starting at the same position, and I wasn’t impressed with Allen. Maybe he will step it up this year since he now knows the system. What I do know is this team will have to be in mid-season form from the start this year with their brutal schedule. Of coarse this is all just my opinion.

      • Reggie Flenory

        I totally agree fam

    • Lyle Graversen

      100% agree, I’ve got a few different OL related posts that I’ve been toying around with but haven’t quite got ironed out yet.

      • Reggie Flenory

        Fa sho fam love ya articles keep em comming hopefully espn will hire you and fire adam teicher

  • mnelson52

    I think there has to be more production from the receivers this year to take some pressure off of Charles. (even though I was yelling the whole time, go defense in the draft). I think if Dressler can learn the system fast, he may be a major factor. Even though he has never played in the NFL, his tape shows he’s already a good route runner with good hands. That is something we were lacking last year. I think a healthy Avery, along with Hemingway and Jenkins having a year behind them in the system, we will be better. I also thought the TE position hurt us a lot last year, but turned out not as bad as I once thought. The TEs had 14 less receptions than the average, which is actually .875 less catches per game per game. So with less than 1 catch per game difference, production was not as far off as it appeared to me.

    • berttheclock

      I don’t believe enough credit has been given to McGrath. He only played TE in two small college systems and spent one year on the taxi squad in the pros. To come to the Chiefs the first week of September, with no Chiefs’ training camp behind him and to step up as he did in playing a pro position for the first time was remarkable when you realize how much he helped the team. Even after that, he has been virtually dismissed by the pundits. He should only be more productive this coming year.

      One other point about McGrath. Was he not the one who threw a great down field block for one of Bowe’s TDs? BTW, in high school, his claim to fame was being a pancaking line backer.

      • mnelson52

        I agree. I thought with virtually know NFL experience and a complicated system to learn, especially on the fly he was amazing. Although he more than likely had some drops, I don’t remember any.

        • mnelson52

          Another good point you mentioned was McGrath’s blocking. I don’t remember that play you mentioned in particular, but I do remember some good blocks by him. Talking about Bowe, even though his production was down in receptions, some of Charles long runs and/or TDs, were do to Bowe’s down field blocking. I think a lot of that goes unnoticed.

          • area

            it would seem that all of it goes unnoticed except for by the few. KC as a whole did a phenomenal job of blocking down field. Fasano, Sherman, Bowe, da’ Beard, hell, even AS11 was in on the blocking down field last season. I’m sure I missed more than I named right there who participated, but you get the gist I’m sure.

          • htmn74

            Hudson sure looked good getting downfield blocks

      • Lyle Graversen

        I think McGrath vs Harris could end up being THE best battle of training camp and I wouldn’t fall out of my chair if KC ended up rostering all 4 TEs if they all look good. Some of the AA staff were actually discussing this. I can see a situation where KC keeps 2 HBs, 5 WRs, DAT (who can play either), Sherman, and 4 TEs.

        • Stacy D. Smith

          If Harris’ is a functional route-runner these days, I think he’ll beat McGrath to the job. He’s someone fans came to love and all, but he’s just a guy. I’d venture to guess they’ll take a really athletic guy over the scrappy, serviceable, career TE3.

        • area

          all depends on how healthy the Chiefs come out of camp imo. I believe we only have 5 TE’s on roster at the moment. Harris may be able to supplant Beard for number 3, but I remember Jon Baldwin having great ota’s and then the team put on pads. Kelce may/may not be healthy enough to play number 2. Fasano at number 1 bothers me not. Which leaves Gordon- who is depth only. So here’s to hoping the glass TE curse has left the Chief’s training facilities.

    • Lyle Graversen

      While your observation about the TE production is absolutely correct, Reid’s system also at times had the TE as THE primary target. As I mentioned, three different TEs lead the Eagles in receptions during Reid’s time there. Those years were usually when his WR core wasn’t all that impressive (similar to our WRs now). That’s why I think he wants to use more TE here in KC. So while they were only 14 behind his average year, I think our current offense more resembles the seasons where the TE was featured more.

  • Stan Colbert

    One factor you did not address was the opposing secondaries we face this year. I would be casually optimistic about Bowe’s performance because I believe he will still be double covered until another threat is presented. Avery should, at least match last year’s performance and should either increase or his replacement should. The slot produced 60 receptions and these should be made up by the talent available. I also believe Andy will introduce more 4-5 receiver sets with the receivers available if the o-line solidifies.

    • Lyle Graversen

      The opponents secondary issue is a valid point. However, while I think that could make life harder on the WRs, it seems to me that it might be easiest to attack them with TEs and RBs which Reid’s system is often features. Also keep in mind that Indy’s secondary actually did a very good job of jamming up Denver’s WRs when they played in the regular season and we picked them apart in the playoffs. I trust Reid’s system and despite some of his limitations I think Reid loves having Smith as his QB because he trusts him 100% to make the right call. I’m not sure he had that in Philly since McNabb left (and maybe not even then?).

  • ladner morse

    In the first 7 games of the 2013 season Alex Smith QB Rating was 79.0. In his last 9 games, including the playoffs game against Indy, he had a QB Rating of 100.7. This testifies to the improvement that everyone involved in the passing game achieved as the season progressed.

    When you look over the WRs, TEs and OL… they need more time together to improve timing, familiarity, knowledge of a shared system which then increases camaraderie (team spirit)…… than the defense does. Although defensive players must rely upon each other to fulfill their “role” they don’t depend upon “timing” that comes from position stability like QB and WRs do.

    Consequently… based upon 1) Lyle’s numbers, 2) the last half of 2013, and 3) the successful (stable) offseason the WRs and QBs have had…….. I expect the 2014 Chiefs passing attack to be even better than Lyle’s projection and AT LEAST as good as what Lyle has shown here.

    Excellent Lyle! Love it!

    • Lyle Graversen

      I’m really hoping the 2nd year in the system leads to a clear upgrade. The team seemed to be gelling down the stretch, but we’ll see what happens when they face the tough defenses they have on the schedule.

  • Calchiefsfan

    Solid Lyle! This is a good benchmark to determine what will be working for the Chiefs this year. It will be interesting to see who steps up. From reading the comments I think we’re all on the same page about the O line. If they are able to gel then Smith’s percentages go up and we’ll see more WR production and less dump offs.

    I don’t know about anyone else but I’m starting to get a little excited over the progress, (and attitude), of Harris. He might be the surprise player this year. Conversely, I’m concerned about Kelce. Is he going to get on the field or what?

    It would be huge if Dressler were able to step up in the slot and play well. We’ll see a little DAT there but I expect most of his contributions to come on special teams this year while he learns the system.

    I see Avery and Jenkins in the battle for #2 with Avery having the obvious edge. You never know though, Jenkins just might be able to make that jump to the next level of performance. The thing about Avery is he supposedly didn’t have the drops until after he was injured. Could he come out of that this year?

    Keep it up Lyle, love your articles.

  • Jason Williams

    “The perception is that the Chiefs did not get much production from the position last season”

    Welp, if that’s the overall perception, then perhaps the guy throwing the ball might want to make an effort to connect on something other than wide open spaces. Neither do I count Murray as anything special, but I will acknowledge that he does at least understand the concept of “tight windows”. Unleash the 6-6″ Gun-Slinging Dragon, please. Throw an INT. or two on your way to glory son; you WON’T hurt my feelings.

  • micah stephenson

    Why with ASS11 @ QB, I feel like we need Calvin Johnson as the 1, Dez Bryant at the 2, & Jimmy Grahm at TE?