Just How Bad Is the Chiefs’ Situation at Wide Receiver?

The Chiefs made it to the playoffs with little depth at wide receiver last season, but can they do the same this year?

Last year, the Chiefs surprised everyone when they started 9-0 after finishing 2-14 the previous season. The team relied heavily on strong defense and a great running game during that span, never allowing more than 17 points in a game and becoming only the fifth team in NFL history to start 9-0 without a 300-yard passing in any game.

After a 9-0 start, Kansas City finished the season poorly at 2-5, earning a wild-card spot in the AFC. Part of the reason for such a poor ending was stiffer competition figuring out the offense and capitalizing on the Chiefs’ biggest weakness: wide receiver.

Last season, the player who led the team in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns wasn’t even a wide receiver. It was running back Jamaal Charles. Not one receiver on the roster surpassed 60 receptions or even 700 yards.

Wide Receivers

NameReceptionsRec. YardsTouchdownsReception NEPTarget NEP
A.J. Jenkins813009.421.55
Dexter McCluster53511238.3012.76
Donnie Avery40596247.1827.24
Dwayne Bowe57673562.2623.20
Junior Hemingway13125210.856.60

Running Backs and Tight Ends

NameReceptionsRec. YardsTouchdownsReception NEPTarget NEP
Jamaal Charles70693754.6623.79
Knile Davis117505.591.46
Anthony Sherman18155110.095.74
Anthony Fasano23200319.951.51
Sean McGrath26302223.5311.70
Cyrus Gray74600.78-2.91

As you can see, the Chiefs receivers last year were nothing close to where they need to be to help make the offense successful. In terms of Net Expected Points (NEP), the highest rated receiver was Dwayne Bowe, who ranked 50th in the NFL. The next best was Donnie Avery, ranked 77th.

The 53-man rosters for every NFL team were released this past weekend, and the only wide receivers making the team for Kansas City are Bowe, Avery, A.J. Jenkins, Junior Hemingway, and first-year players Frankie Hammond and Albert Wilson. On top of the thin corps for the Chiefs, Bowe will be suspended for the teams’ first game on Sunday.

Dwayne Bowe's Decline

Over the course of the last few seasons, Bowe has gone from absolute stud and top-10 wide receiver in fantasy football to a player only owned in 78% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.

ReceptionsRec. YardsTouchdownsReception NEP

Our rankings have Bowe as the 36th-best fantasy wideout and the 88th overall best player in fantasy, making him a potential flex starter at the very best. It’s clear that Bowe is no longer in his prime, but he will surely see his fair share of targets due to the lack of talent at the position. Defenses will be able to either load the box to stop Jamaal Charles or double-cover Bowe, forcing quarterback Alex Smith to get the ball to one of the other non-threatening targets.

Donnie Avery's Potential

Sixth-year player Donnie Avery is going into his second year as a Chief, and this is his last chance to step it up to the next level in his career. Aside from his one-year stint in Tennessee, Avery has averaged just under 700 receiving yards per season playing for the Rams, Colts and Chiefs, which are solid but unspectacular statistics. This could be considered the first time in his career, though, that he will undoubtedly be one of the top two receiving options for the team.

YearReceptionsRec YardsTouchdownsReception NEP

Avery has been a solid number-two receiver throughout his career, but is more of a yards and middle-of-the-field threat than one in the red zone. His NEP numbers have been solid in the four years where he has been in a contributing role - an average wide receiver - but this is the year where he really needs to step it up if the Chiefs want to make it back to the playoffs.

Is It Time to Call A.J. Jenkins a Bust?

A.J. Jenkins was drafted 30th overall to the San Francisco 49ers in 2012. In his rookie year, he only played on 37 snaps and had just one lone target. In August of last year, he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for receiver Jon Baldwin. In 2013, he only caught eight passes for 130 yards.

In Thursday’s final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Jenkins suffered a concussion and exited the game early. This could potentially leave the Chiefs with even more limited options in its regular season opener.

With the lack of depth at his position, this is a make or break year for the third year receiver out of Illinois. He can prove that he was worth a first-round pick, and trading for or he can fall into the abyss of wide receiver duds.

What About the New Guys?

With Bowe suspended for the first game, receiver Frankie Hammond was slated in his spot on the first released depth chart of the season. Hammond was an undrafted free agent out of Florida who spent last season on the team’s practice squad. Alex Smith recently dubbed Hammond as ‘Mr. Reliable,’ saying that “he’s playing aggressive and cutting it loose.” While Hammond isn’t someone that should be drafted at any point in a fantasy draft, he’s someone to keep an eye on in the waiver wire if he’s able to make big plays.

Another undrafted receiver to make the roster is rookie Albert Wilson out of Georgia State. Wilson is listed behind Hammond on the depth chart, and we shouldn’t expect much out of him in his first season. As the Kansas City Star reported, it’s more likely Wilson will be used in the return game than in the offense.

One player that has the potential to be exciting to watch as the season progresses is rookie De’Anthony Thomas out of Oregon. Although he's listed at the bottom of the depth chart at both running back and wide receiver, he's an explosive player who can truly do it all. Kansas City lost wide receiver-running back combination Dexter McCluster over the offseason, and there’s a good chance Thomas could eventually morph into that role. It’s unlikely that he will be able to come right in and produce much this year, but he is definitely a name to watch over the next several months.

2014 Outlook

There’s no doubt that the Chiefs wide receiving core is one of the worst in the league. The only receivers worth looking at for fantasy football would be Bowe as a late-round option or perhaps Avery in 16-plus team leagues. By all accounts, this should be a Jamaal Charles-heavy offense, and that should leave fans optimistic.

In 2013, Kansas City ranked 18th in the league in Passing NEP, but made no upgrades in the passing game at all during the offseason while also losing the versatile McCluster. Unless one of the young guys makes some huge leaps and bounds, there is no reason to believe the passing game will get any better in 2014.