Patrick Mahomes is 2018’s Jared Goff, not Mitch Trubisky
After Jared Goff’s performance in 2017, following a rookie season in an insipid Los Angeles Rams offense under Jeff Fisher, many are speculating as to who this year’s second-year breakout quarterback may be. A popular candidate is Chicago Bears signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky. The eminent Eliot Crist, for one, believes that Trubisky could be a top-10 fantasy QB in 2018, now that he has been freed from “QB killer John Fox”, in a similar vein to that of Goff.
While there are certainly reasons to be confident in Trubisky this upcoming season, it occurred to me that another second-year quarterback may actually be a better bet for a 2018 breakout. That player is Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. Certainly, the folks drafting over at My Fantasy League seem to agree. Mahomes is currently going around the early seventh round, the QB12 in Average Draft Position (ADP). Trubisky, for his part, is going towards the end of the 10th round as the QB19.
There are a host of reasons why Mahomes is, for me, the more likely star of the two.
After Trubisky earned the starting quarterback job early in the 2017 season while Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith, some people may have forgotten that Mahomes had the more successful college career of the two. Trubisky was a one-year starter at North Carolina, finishing the 2016 season with 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also tossed six interceptions. His yards per attempt (YPA) mark of 8.4 was in the 57th percentile, according to PlayerProfiler.
Patrick Mahomes started his last two seasons with Texas Tech in 2015 and 2016. In that time, he averaged 4,852 yards and 38.5 touchdowns per season. Admittedly, he took a few risks when throwing the ball, throwing 25 interceptions. Mahomes’ YPA was 8.5, good for a spot in the 66th percentile.
Mahomes also has the edge over Trubisky in rushing production. In his final season, Trubisky carried the ball 93 times for 308 yards with five touchdowns. Mahomes had 131 carries in each of his two seasons as a starter. While his rushing yards per attempt was fairly low, he did score at least 10 touchdowns on the ground in both seasons.
The pair had two different rookie campaigns. Trubisky started 12 games, compiling a 4-8 record with the Bears. Mahomes didn’t see the field until the season finale, when the Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos.
It would be hard to say Trubisky’s rookie season was impressive. His 12 games brought only seven touchdown passes, and he never managed more than one in a game. He was held below 200 yards passing in nine of his 12 games. Trubisky attempted an average of just 2.5 deep ball attempts per game. This was a shame, considering he completed the 11th-most such attempts among quarterbacks.
The Broncos endured a miserable season, but it is worth pointing out that they were not an absolute disaster on defense. According to numberFire’s Net Expected Points metric, the Broncos had the 11th-best pass defense on a per-play basis in 2017. In Mahomes’ sole appearance against Denver, he amassed 284 passing yards at 8.1 yards per attempt. Oh, and if you’re still not impressed, he did it without the Chiefs’ main playmakers, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Trubisky’s Supporting Cast
The Bears have gone out of their way to provide Trubisky with something he was sadly short of last season, reliable pass-catchers. Trubisky spent his time praying that Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, and Dontrelle Inman would make plays. Now he has Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and rookie Anthony Miller at wide receiver. The Bears also paid big money to tight end Trey Burton. Not forgetting the ground game, Trubisky will have Jordan Howard to help keep defenses honest on early downs and the electric Tarik Cohen, who offers significantly more as a pass-catcher than Howard.
While the new additions are certainly an upgrade, they all come with some degree of risk. Robinson is coming off an ACL injury and he was far from a world beater in 2016 (some of the fault here must, of course, fall on Blake Bortles). Gabriel has an impressive 13.8 yards per reception mark in his career, but he has never caught more 36 passes in a season. Burton was a role player for the Eagles, with only 63 receptions in four seasons.
The Chigaco defense may also restrict Trubisky this season. The Bears defense was eighth-best according to numberFire, and if the offense can go some way towards meeting them halfway, the Bears may not find themselves in too many shootouts this season. This will allow them to ride Howard, and make Trubisky of secondary importance.
How ‘Bout Them Chiefs
The Broncos can already attest to what Patrick Mahomes is capable of with the Chiefs’ second-string unit. Now he’ll have Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins to throw to, as well as Kareem Hunt for much more than a single touch (which is all he had against Denver). Hill has averaged 9.5 yards per target and 13.5 yards per reception in his two NFL seasons. Kelce is one of only three tight ends with at least 800 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons. While many may view Watkins, already on his third NFL team, as something of a disappointment, he has averaged 15.3 yards per reception in the last two seasons. Of his 67 receptions in that time, 10 have found the end zone.
The Chiefs defense ranked 23rd according to numberFire and 28th in yards allowed last season. They haven’t exactly gone out of their way to improve this unit. Stud cornerback Marcus Peters was traded to the Rams. This should mean plenty of high-scoring games, increasing the opportunities for Mahomes to make plays.
The youth movement in the NFL coaching circles is growing in strength, thanks in large part to coaches like Sean McVay. This is one of the reasons why new coach Matt Nagy is so enthusiastically welcomed by the Bears, as well as fans of Trubisky hopeful of an offensive explosion. But in terms of play-calling, Nagy has only limited experience. He may take some time to find his feet and put his playmakers in the best positions to make plays. This limitation may put something of an early-season cap on Trubisky.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about Mitch Trubisky’s fit in Matt Nagy’s offense, read this breakdown of the new Bears duo by Derrik Klassen.
Patrick Mahomes has no such worries with his head coach. Andy Reid, Nagy’s mentor and boss last season, is one of the best in the business when it comes to offensive production. As head coach of the Eagles and Chiefs, he has led seven top-10 offenses. Eight of his teams have been top-10 in pass attempts, while nine times he has overseen top-10 teams in passing yards.
It will not take an offensive genius to make the Bears a better in 2018. But there are enough factors in play making me doubt Mitch Trubisky will be the main reason for improvement. As such, it makes his fantasy appeal somewhat nebulous. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have many of the same pieces in place from a darn good offense in 2017. The introduction of Patrick Mahomes can help Hill and Kelce reach new heights. They can make inroads further down the field than Alex Smith would let them (2017 aside).
Given the weakness of Kansas City’s defense and the offensive strength of at least two of their divisional rivals, the Chiefs will need to take to the sky a lot in 2018. If there is one thing that fantasy owners love, it’s volume. Mahomes should provide plenty this season.
Neil resides near Liverpool in England. He lives with his fiancé and their two daughters, as well as a guinea pig named Piggle.
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