The Kansas City Chiefs surprised many when they traded star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday.
It was a trade that has the potential to at least somewhat shift the balance of power in the AFC.
Without Hill, Patrick Mahomes and company may not be totally doomed, but they certainly won’t be the powerhouse they’ve been the last few years.
In each of the last three years, Kansas City has been picked by plenty of pundits to reach the Super Bowl.
It did just that in 2019 and 2020, winning the world championship by overcoming a deficit against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
The Chiefs could very well find a way to stay in the playoffs.
But what looked to be a potential dynasty is over, at least for now.
Hill Will Be Hard To Replace
The Chiefs won’t be able to replace Hill by committee.
After all, he is a man who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his six NFL seasons, while being selected to the All-Pro team three times.
His downfield speed is something to behold, and perhaps no wideout in the NFL is as fast, let alone faster than Hill while running routes or adding yards after a catch.
Yes, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a capable wideout in his own right.
Yes, Travis Kelce is still arguably the best receiving tight end in the game.
Yes, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, whom the team signed on Thursday, is a speedy wideout himself who can stretch the field.
Yes, head coach Andy Reid feels that losing Hill isn’t “a big deal.”
Andy Reid doesn’t view the loss of Hill as a big deal because the offense and scheme has always worked regardless of the perimeter players. With the @chiefs and @Eagles , the QB trumps everything in a system that “creates” stars. Like it or not, he’s off to find the next “star” https://t.co/HcuwYe6y1B
— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) March 23, 2022
But who will convert key catches in key situations, especially on third and long?
Who can forget Hill’s crucial third-down conversion in the Super Bowl with the Chiefs down 10 that was the turning point of the game for them?
Down 10 in the 4th, the @Chiefs were running out of time… Then @PatrickMahomes and @cheetah gave KC new life 🔥
📺:Rewatch Super Bowl LIV, TOMORROW at 8:00PM ET on FOX pic.twitter.com/BCZBguoGiG
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) May 1, 2020
Last year, the Chiefs ranked number one in the NFL in both third and fourth-down conversion percentage.
It’s hard to see that continuing without Hill.
Now teams will be able to clamp down on Kelce, knowing that by focusing their coverage on him they are less likely to get beat on a deep pass with Hill now in South Florida.
With Hill, Kansas City counted on instilling “fear in the opposing defense,” as ESPN’s Matt Bowen explained:
“When you move Tyreek Hill from that offense, you lose the ability to instill fear into the opposing defense,” said Bowen. “When Tyreek Hill is on the field, the defense is consistently threatened at all three levels because he can catch a shallow [pass] and go for six, he can catch a deep in and go for six and he can run right past you deep whenever he wants. He could beat you vertically or horizontally. Such a unique talent.”
How The Chiefs May Eventually Replace Hill
In return for Hill, the Chiefs got five draft picks from Miami, giving them a whopping 12 picks in next month’s draft.
This year’s draft class is considered to have a number of viable wide receiver prospects.
Kansas City could draft one or more of them, and perhaps one of them will become enough of a speed threat to justify the salary cap and total draft capital advantages that trading Hill created.
The Chiefs could also, at least conceivably, package some of those picks and trade for a wideout who is currently in the league and at least somewhat proven.
Either one of those options could resurrect their dominance while Mahomes is still young and in his prime.