Kansas City Chiefs: Four predictions for 2015

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Dec 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) runs the ball as San Diego Chargers defensive back Jahleel Addae (37) attempts the tackle during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 19-7. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Kelce will be the Chiefs’ top receiver, not Jeremy Maclin

Most Chiefs fans are excited about the arrival of Jeremy Maclin, myself included. However, where I differ from most KC fans is in predicting Maclin’s production in the Chiefs offense. It seems like many are expecting him to bring the stat line he had last year in Philadelphia with him to Kansas City. While I would LOVE it if Maclin could put up another 85 reception, 1,300 yard, 10 TD performance while in a KC uniform I just don’t see it happening. Before last season Maclin’s career high in catches was 70 and he had never topped 1,000 yards. With Maclin going from Chip Kelly’s high flying offense to playing with a conservative Alex Smith which is more likely, that he matches his career highs or sees his numbers go back towards his previous averages?

Including last season’s record numbers, Maclin is averaging 68.6 receptions, 954.2 yards, and 7.2 TDs per season over his five year career. I think a stat line around those career averages sounds about right for Maclin in Kansas City next season. Put me down for:

70 receptions
950 yards
7 TDs

Those numbers would be a big improvement over what Dwayne Bowe did last year (60, 754, 0) but I get the feeling most Chiefs fans would be disappointed if that is all they get out of Maclin after giving him big dollars in free agency. However, that production is all Kansas City really needs from Maclin because he won’t be their leading receiver. That will be Travis Kelce.

Last season Travis Kelce burst onto the scene and established himself as one of the best tight ends in the NFL and Kansas City’s number two offensive weapon behind Jamaal Charles. While it was technically his second NFL season, it was really his first year playing after losing his entire rookie season to micro fracture surgery in his knee. So in his first year playing in regular season NFL games and coming off a surgery that some players have said took a year or two to get back to full strength from, Kelce was still one of the premier tight ends in the game.

He finished sixth in the NFL in receptions for tight ends. However, Kelce played just 688 snaps last season. To put that in comparison, the five tight ends that finished ahead of him in receptions played an average of 899 snaps. So Kelce played over 200 less snaps than the other tight ends that caught more passes than he did. That won’t likely happen again in 2015 with the departure of veteran Anthony Fasano who played almost as many snaps last season as Kelce did at 678. With Fasano gone and DeMetrius Harris having offseason foot surgery its entirely likely that Kelce could see upwards of 1000 snaps this season. If he were to produce at the same rate per snap as he did last year an increase of 312 snaps would put his line at:

97 receptions
1,253 yards
7 TDs

If you’re still not sold, here are a couple other numbers for you. He caught 82.7% of the passes that were thrown to him last season and averaged 7.5 YAC (yards after catch). Both of those numbers were the best in the entire NFL for tight ends with more than 25 receptions. That’s right, better than Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. There’s your number one receiver ladies and gentlemen. Travis Kelce is a beast. He’ll be one of the best players at his position over the next several years and with a quarterback in Alex Smith that favors tight ends and safe passes he will be the Kansas City Chiefs number one receiver in 2015.

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