The writing was on the wall for ultra-conservative QB Alex Smith. After years of Smith playing conservative football, the Kansas City Chiefs had seen enough. The Chiefs traded up to no. 10 in the 2017 NFL Draft and swooped up gunslinging QB Patrick Mahomes II.
Alex Smith’s time was seemingly coming to an end. After the Chiefs spent a high pick on the highly touted QB out of Texas Tech, Mahomes looked to be on his way to the starting role in 2017. But Smith had other ideas.
Maybe it was the pressure of Mahomes running up behind him, but Smith had a career year. Smith went above 4000 yards for the first time in his career, he set career highs with 8.0 Y/A and 26 passing TDs. This was a marvelous season where Smith threw only 5 INTs, an elite mark of efficiency.
This kept Mahomes on the bench the entire season with the exception of week 17 where coach Andy Reid decided to bench the majority of the starting offense. Still, Pat Mahomes dazzled when he got his opportunities, flashing serious promise with his ridiculous arm.
So in the 2018 offseason, the KC Chiefs elected to trade starting QB Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins, solidifying their confidence in Mahomes as the starter. The question remains, however, is Pat Mahomes the real deal?
Who Is Pat Mahomes?
If you’re an NFL fantasy owner, you’ve more than likely seen this play. It was the start of the Pat Mahomes hype train. It was a ridiculous throw. Mahomes makes an impossible throw launching the ball 50 yards down the field while on the run, a difficult throw that only the best of the best can make.
If there’s one thing you know about Mahomes, it’s his arm. A Jay Cutler type of arm. An Aaron Rodgers type of arm. But that’s just the question. Will Mahomes turn out like Rodgers or Cutler?
Mahomes is a gunslinger, everyone knows that, but there’s much more to his game. Let’s take a look at some plays from Mahomes’ one start in 2018 against the Denver Broncos, one of the best secondaries in the league.
The first thing you want from your QB is someone who can throw from the pocket. What you love in this play is Mahomes ability to sit in the pocket and find the open man. Albert Wilson runs a beautiful route where he fakes the slant then runs a strong out route and gets wide open. Mahomes goes through his progressions and hits Wilson in stride and Wilson uses his YAC ability to get the 1st down.
These are the plays that put you on the edge of your seat. Mahomes backpedals a whole 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage when the defense finally catches up to him. While most QBs would throw the ball away in this situation, Mahomes throws a perfect strike to Demarcus Robinson off his back foot, while being hit. An absolutely ridiculous throw which is almost impossible to throw at the accuracy that Mahomes does.
It’s an incomplete pass, I know. But there’s something else to take away from the play. Back shoulder passes are a staple play for elite passers. While they’re one of the toughest plays in the NFL, they’re also the most undefendable. Mahomes shows off his ability by perfectly placing this back shoulder throw for Demarcus Robinson. Robinson did not turn his head in time, but if he did the Broncos defender would have 0 chance to defend this ball, a play that would have turned into an easy 6.
Mahomes is big & strong at 6’3” 230 lbs and you see exactly that in this place. Denver has a free runner ready to take down Mahomes, but Mahomes does not panic. Mahomes stands in the pocket and makes a fantastic throw to Albert Wilson while being dragged down. Pure arm strength. What makes this play even more impressive is despite the blanket coverage by shutdown corner Chris Harris, Mahomes still hits a perfectly placed pass to Wilson.
Mahomes has no fear in the pocket. Despite the Denver pass rush raining down on him he stands in the pocket and hits a tough pass in a tight window to Albert Wilson. Between 2 Denver defenders, Mahomes effortlessly hits Wilson with the dime. Mahomes is more than just a deep ball thrower, he can hit receivers in stride with perfectly placed balls.
Mahomes runs a 4.80 40 time. It’s solid, if unspectacular. But turn on the game tape and you see Mahomes ability as a runner. While Mahomes rarely gets designed runs, he is an excellent scrambler. In this play, Mahomes runs out of the pocket and uses his underrated speed to get to the pylon for a (would be) TD (he stepped out 1 yard out).
And now fast forward to the 2018 preseason and you see the deep ball ability that gives defenses nightmares. Mahomes hits an absolute bomb to Tyreek Hill. Mahomes launches the ball 70 air yards, ridiculous caliber on this throw. If there’s one strength that shows out above all else, it’s Mahomes’ deep ball ability.
Translation To The NFL
Patrick Mahomes is one talented guy, but is he going to sustain success as a starting QB in the NFL?
Mahomes is a most definitely a gunslinger but there is much more to his game than just that. He has already proven he is able to hit precise windows, lead his receivers to success, and go through his progressions well.
Pat Mahomes looks like he has all the tools to succeed. The physical profile, Mahomes has elite size at 6’3” 230 lbs. Mahomes has a laser for an arm, he is elusive, he can evade tacklers at will.
Mahomes is not an elite runner, the Chiefs rarely call designed runs for him. He is however fantastic at understanding when to escape the pocket and gains yards when the opportunity presents itself. And as everyone knows, Mahomes makes ridiculous of passes while on the run.
The reality is Mahomes has bad mechanics and footwork on many of his passes, but it simply doesn’t matter. Mahomes makes the most masterful of passes with extreme precision.
If there’s one thing that will hold Mahomes back in 2018 and beyond is his “questionable decision making.” There has been a lot made about the many turnovers he has committed in training camp.
After a tumultuous camp where Mahomes bled out interceptions, he had a very promising preseason where he committed only one interception and made many tremendous passes. When you break down the tape from 2017 you see Mahomes made very few mental mistakes.
His turnover problem has been overblown to the extreme. Mahomes makes tight and precise throws and rarely forces the ball into bad spots where the receiver has no chance. In that Denver game in 2017, out of 35 throws, Mahomes overthrew/underthrew only one or two passes. This too against a Denver secondary which ranked as one of the best in the league.
Pat Mahomes is well on his way to a fantastic season. His upside is through the ceiling. He has all the smarts and physical tools to succeed in this league.
He is in a perfect system with Andy Reid and the Chiefs offense. The Chiefs employ a solid offensive line and one of the best run games in the NFL. Reid has tailored an offense around his running backs. Whether it’s handing the ball off, screen passes, or play action passes, the Chiefs excel at it all.
Reid will make it easy for Mahomes to see the field and dominate as a QB. Mahomes’ ability to take the top off a defense will aid the run game and the Chiefs elite run game will allow Mahomes to allow him to take his shots deep.
Mahomes is not perfect, he will struggle with turnovers a bit, but make no mistake, he will find success in this league. Pat Mahomes is a much more polished QB than people give him credit for. He will burn defenses and haunt DCs year in and out. If you doubt Mahomes now, you’ll be proven wrong soon enough.