The Kansas City Chiefs made one of the biggest surprise moves of the offseason, signing wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a three-year deal worth reportedly $16 million per year. The Chiefs have already traded Alex Smith with 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes ready to take the reigns. With Tyreek Hill already a terrific deep threat for the Chiefs, Watkins gives them another burner.
Watkins’s speed is one of the first things that jumps out when watching him. He can take the top off the defense and force safeties to cheat his way, opening up space for others underneath.
Here, Watkins is isolated to the left against press coverage. He releases inside before fading his route toward the sideline as he works down the field.
As he releases, Watkins squares up the corner with a stutter step before quickly bursting inside, running past the corner. With the corner beaten, Watkins then fades his route outside away from the deep safety. The safety does a great job making up ground, but the throw drops over Watkins’s outside shoulder. Watkins secures the catch as he is tackled to the ground, completing a huge gain.
However, Watkins is more than just a deep threat. He can work over the middle and pick up extra yards after the catch, turning simple routes into bigger gains.
On this play, Watkins runs a dig, also known as a basic cross or basic.
Watkins is allowed to run freely into the middle of the field against zone defense. He makes a nice hands catch without breaking stride and immediately bends his path up the field. He runs away from the trailing safety, but a zone defender on the back side manages to drop back and dive to trip him up, but not before Watkins could gain 22 yards on the play.
Adding Watkins to a receiving corps that already includes Hill and tight end Travis Kelce is a huge addition for the Chiefs and their young quarterback. Mahomes was known as a gunslinger in college, not afraid to take his shots down the field. With those three weapons at his disposal, the Chiefs are now set up to be one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
Single-deep safety coverages may become two-deep safety coverages out of necessity because of the speed of Watkins and Hill on the outside. If that does become the case, then that will leave a lighter box for second-year running back Kareem Hunt to work with.
But as we saw, Watkins isn’t just a vertical threat. He can run shorter and intermediate routes and pick up plenty of yards after the catch. That should give Mahomes another security blanket to work with in situations like third downs where defenses might focus more on Kelce.
While Watkins might be an expensive acquisition for the Chiefs, he ultimately adds another big threat on the outside opposite Hill, giving defensive coordinators nightmares on how to deal with not one but two burners outside and Kelce’s threat over the middle. Add in Hunt and Reid’s creativity on offense, and the Chiefs have built a very strong supporting cast for Mahomes.
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