Chiefs Set Record for Talent Turnover

Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill
Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - The Kansas City Chiefs are going to look very different in 2022. Wide receiver Byron Pringle is in Chicago now. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson is in Las Vegas. Backup running back Darrel Williams is a free agent and won't sign back with the Chiefs. Most important is the departure of Tyreek Hill, one of the top receivers in the NFL, who was traded to Miami after the Chiefs decided they couldn't agree to his contract extension demands.

As players go out, so too do other players come in. The Chiefs signed JuJu Smith-Schuster away from Pittsburgh to play in the slot. They added speedster Marquez Valdes-Scantling from Green Bay. Ronald Jones comes over from Tampa Bay to fill Williams' role behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

So how much net talent have the Chiefs really lost here? Based on Football Outsiders numbers, the answer is "an awful lot." According to our DYAR metric, the 2022 Chiefs suffer from a bigger net loss of offensive weapons than any other team in the last 20 years.

By offensive weapons here, I'm including wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. Obviously, the Chiefs are stable at the most important position with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes' skills (and Andy Reid's scheme) play strongly into why the Chiefs have lost so much net DYAR. Byron Pringle would probably not look as valuable with some other quarterback throwing to him. Nonetheless, it's a fact that offenses that have lost a similar amount of DYAR in years past have almost all declined in the following season.

This is related to one of the variables we use in our team offense projections, which measures the net DYAR coming in and out of a roster in a given offseason. This is similar to a variable we've discussed in the past that changes our defensive projections based on net AV over replacement change on the roster. Only DYAR numbers above zero count for this variable. The Chiefs, as of now, will have the strongest net DYAR loss variable for any team since 2001.

Here's a look at the biggest net DYAR losses since 2001. You'll notice that almost all of these teams declined on offense in the year listed. Some of them only declined slightly, like the 2015 Saints. Some of them collapsed, like the 2004 49ers. One of these teams did improve on offense, the 2006 Colts. In fact, two of these teams won the Super Bowl, both the 2006 Colts and the 2018 Patriots. Still, the comparison isn't a positive indicator for the Chiefs. There are a lot of top offenses here that were still good the next year, but not quite as good.

Net DYAR losses are based on DYAR in the year immediately before. Players with offseason and preseason injuries are included. Players returning from injury (six or fewer games played) count with estimated DYAR based on their last healthy year.

Biggest Net DYAR Loss, 2001-2022
Year Team DYAR
Change
DVOA
Y-1
Rk DVOA Rk Players Out Players In
2022 KC -734 18.1% 3 -- -- T.Hill (359), D.Williams (273), B.Pringle (202), D.Robinson (13) R.Jones (85), J.Smith-Schuster (est. 28)
2014 DEN -713 34.2% 1 20.3% 3 E.Decker (381), K.Moreno (363) E.Sanders (37)
2013 NE -686 31.1% 1 16.5% 4 W.Welker (272), D.Woodhead (250), B.Lloyd (156), A.Hernandez (55) D.Amendola (46)
2015 NO -677 10.1% 8 9.8% 8 K.Stills (285), P.Thomas (185), J.Graham (124), T.Cadet (57), N.Toon (53) C.J.Spiller (28)
2018 NE -666 27.9% 1 14.7% 5 D.Lewis (363), B.Cooks (264), D.Amendola (138), M.Gillislee (47) C.Patterson (77), J.Edelman (est. 68)
2006 IND -577 25.1% 3 29.4% 1 E.James (527), T.Walters (51) NONE
2004 SF -536 7.8% 11 -22.0% 29 T.Owens (162), G.Hearst (157), T.Streets (147), J.Weaver (70) NONE
2009 NYG -522 19.3% 1 8.8% 12 D.Ward (359), P.Burress (91), A.Toomer (72) NONE
2017 WAS -520 15.5% 5 -3.8% 20 P.Garcon (262), D.Jackson (241), M.Jones (128) T.Pryor (112)
2015 GB -482 25.2% 1 2.7% 11 J.Nelson (482) NONE
2013 STL -479 -4.1% 19 -9.7% 22 B.Gibson (232), S.Jackson (219), D.Amendola (46) J.Cook (17)
2017 BUF -477 10.5% 10 -11.1% 26 M.Gillislee (256), R.Woods (117), S.Watkins (48), J.Hunter (46) NONE
AVG     18.4% 5.5 5.1% 12.8    

Originally, this list also had the 2022 Arizona Cardinals on it, but the Cardinals re-signed A.J. Green on Thursday which takes them off the bottom of the list.

I'm sure you've noticed that Marquez Valdes-Scantling is not listed for the 2022 Chiefs in the table above. MVS actually had negative receiving DYAR last season, despite having the NFL MVP throwing him the ball. He was better in 2020, with 112 receiving DYAR, but that was the only year of his career where MVS had more than 8 receiving DYAR.

Obviously, we can argue here about whether "DYAR in the previous season" is properly valuing these players. There's a good argument that Patrick Mahomes made Byron Pringle and losing Pringle really isn't losing "202 DYAR" worth of offensive weaponry. You might want to argue that MVS is worth more than zero. But then you also have to consider that Demarcus Robinson had higher DYAR in 2018, 2019, and 2020 than he did in 2021. If we were doing this variable based on "career DYAR" rather than "last year's DYAR, " Pringle would be worth less but Robinson more. And even if we didn't count Pringle at all, the Chiefs would still rank in this top 10.

I also think there's a good argument that rushing DYAR is more easily replaceable than receiving DYAR. Right now, the projection system uses total net DYAR change but I'm going to be testing it out using just receiving value. If you restrict the analysis to receiving DYAR, the Chiefs still have the biggest net loss of any team since 2001. This next list has no teams whose offense improved and includes collapses such as the 2005 Vikings and 2021 Texans. (Yes, of course those teams also had quarterback changes/injuries on top of the receiving losses.)

Biggest Net Receiving DYAR Loss, 2001-2022
Year Team DYAR
Change
DVOA
Y-1
Rk DVOA Rk Players Out Players In
2022 KC -679 18.1% 3 -- -- T.Hill (313), B.Pringle (202), D.Williams (179), D.Robinson (13) J.Smith-Schuster (est. 28), R.Jones (6)
2015 NO -602 10.1% 8 9.8% 8 K.Stills (285), J.Graham (124), P.Thomas (111), T.Cadet (57), N.Toon (52) C.J.Spiller (28)
2013 NE -567 31.1% 1 16.5% 4 W.Welker (254), B.Lloyd (156), D.Woodhead (149), A.Hernandez (50) D.Amendola (41)
2014 DEN -551 34.2% 1 20.3% 3 E.Decker (381), K.Moreno (192) E.Sanders (22)
2015 GB -482 25.2% 1 2.7% 11 J.Nelson (482) NONE
2005 MIN -451 17.0% 6 -13.9% 26 R.Moss (315), O.Smith (174), K.Campbell (104) J.Kleinsasser (est. 122), K.Robinson (19)
2002 GB -440 8.5% 6 3.1% 14 B.Schroeder (282), A.Freeman (100), C.Bradford (86), D.Levens (12) T.Glenn (40)
2017 WAS -437 15.5% 5 -3.8% 20 P.Garcon (262), D.Jackson (241), M.Jones (45) T.Pryor (112)
2018 NE -434 27.9% 1 14.7% 5 B.Cooks (258), D.Amendola (138), D.Lewis (90) J.Edelman (est. 43), C.Patterson (17)
2011 BAL -431 5.7% 12 3.1% 13 D.Mason (221), T.Heap (118), T.J.Houshmandzadeh (93), L.McClain (2) R.Williams (2)
2021 HOU -430 2.7% 13 -22.0% 30 W.Fuller (326), R.Cobb (107), D.Fells (90), D.Johnson (30) D.Amendola (62), R.Burkhead (42), C.Conley (18), M.Ingram (1)
2006 NE -425 18.0% 7 14.7% 4 D.Branch (266), D.Givens (102), T.Dwight (86), A.Davis (16) R.Caldwell (44)
AVG     17.8% 5.5 4.1% 12.5    

Anyway, none of this means that the Kansas City Chiefs will be worse on offense in 2022, but it is a strong negative indicator that the Chiefs will need to overcome next year.

Comments

9 comments, Last at 19 Apr 2022, 5:05pm

3 We do!

We do it on the defensive side with "AV over replacement." No team this year comes close to the all-time leaders.

2 It strikes me that you're…

It strikes me that you're using net DYAR loss as a sort of proxy for skill-position talent drain, which actually poses for me a few questions. For me, this line of analysis might be useful to determine how much of a skill-position player's DYAR owes to his own skill, and which portion owes to his context.

To that end, I'm curious about each player's actual DYAR in year 0 (not just y-1), as well as the total y0 and y-1 non-qb dyar for each team that appears in the list. Was the set of the incoming players' prior year DYAR a good predictor of their DYAR in their new context? Was the set of outgoing players' prior year DYAR a good predictor of their DYAR in a different context? Did the potential dyar loss as indicated by roster turnover materialize into an actual reduction in DYAR, or did the team successfully compensate by giving opportunities to other players who were already on the roster?

I'm also fascinated that the 5 teams in positions 2-6 saw a mean DVOA ranking drop 1.4 spots, while the mean DVOA rank drop of teams 7-11 was 12.1. I don't think it's a coincidence that the first set of teams were quarterbacked by P. Manning, T. Brady, and D. Brees. My suspicion is that The Mahomes-led chiefs more closely resemble the teams with all-time great qbs than the ones without them: They're a good bet to be a bit worse offensively, but not to drop out of the top 5 offenses league-wide.

 

4 Maybe I'm giving the Chiefs…

Maybe I'm giving the Chiefs too much credit and this is an overreaction to the super bowl, but it feels like they effectively traded Tyreek Hill for help along the offensive line, which now sports at least 3 really good players.

That means the Chiefs have still a lot of talent on offense even sans Hill and should be expected to be really freaken good on offense. It's just that they won't be an all-time great offense with Hill gone probably

5 They did have 5 new starters…

They did have 5 new starters on their OL for 2021, and as a result their OL was better in 2021 than in 2020. But 3 of those 5 new starters were rookies, and only one of those 5 got a new contract for 2022.  Their total cap charge for OL starters in 2022 is still well under $30m, and they still have $18m in cap space.So I'm not sure that it was a case of either retaining OL or retaining Hill, et. al., nor do I think that we should expect an OL improvement from 2021 to 2022 to offset skill-position talent loss from 2021 to 2022.

But yes, I agree that the Chiefs are very likely to be a top offense in 2022. They've still got Mahomes and Kelce, a very solid OL, several other very good role players, and a coach with a long history of maximizing the available offensive talent.

6 Well they traded for Orlando…

Well they traded for Orlando Brown and paid for Joe Thuney, the top guard prospect. Unless you're prepared to field a bunch of low round draft picks and Street free agents on defense, those signings are going to come at the expense of something on the offense

 

9 Also, I don't think this can…

Also, I don't think this can be viewed as a one-year experiment. The pivot came after Davante Adams signed a record-breaking long-term contract, and KC agreed with Hill that he deserved the same treatment. No one wants to lose a star player in their prime, but tying too much money up in the Mahomes-Hill connection would make it harder to be competitive in the future.

It would be nice to see more of these win-win contract situations in pro sports.

7 DYAR rates 2021 Pringle…

DYAR rates 2021 Pringle above Hopkins, Cooper, Diggs, Cooks, Waddle, Theilen, McLaurin.  I'm not sure that really measures Pringle's independent value as a receiver.  It says that with Mahomes throwing him the ball in Reid's offense AND defenses covering Kelce and Hill, he was really good.  The context is more than just Mahomes and Reid.

Pringle was not going to be as valuable in 2022 w/o Hill.

Similarly, JJSS was worth a lot more DYAR when his QB was a healthy Ben and defenses were covering AB.  I don't think we know if the DYAR for 2018's JJSS or one of the following years is a better measure of his true ability because the context of those seasons is so different.

At the macro level, if a large net loss in DYAR correlates with a decrease in offensive DVOA, then it tells us something at the team level.  But it's less useful in telling us what the value is of the players themselves.

8 Yes, this much should be…

Yes, this much should be obvious. Equally, the list above contains several QB MVP seasons which were great even by the standards of those QBs (Manning 2013, Brady 2012/2017, Rodgers 2014). Those offences should have been expected to naturally regress somewhat the following year regardless of any skill-position turnover.  

The most interesting comparison on that list for the Chiefs may be the 2015 Saints, who also followed up a mediocre season (by their standards) by losing several key contributors. They appeared to flat-line the following season. (IIRC those were the Saints teams that ranked amongst the worst defenses in league history, which provides more context).

Subjectively I'm concerned about the Chiefs, because they already appeared to me to lack receiver depth last season. Although, as has been pointed out, they have simultaneously invested in their offensive line, so perhaps Reid will be able to screen teams to death instead.