The Kansas City Chiefs have traded WR Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for five draft picks: a 2022 first-round pick (No. 29), a second-round pick (No. 50), and a fourth-round pick, plus fourth- and sixth-round picks in the 2023 draft, per Adam Schefter.
The Dolphins have agreed to sign Hill to a four-year, $120-million extension, which includes $72.2 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid WR in NFL history.
On one hand: Bruh, this freaking league, bruh. Amirite? On the other: Can the NFL just chill for like a minute? Tom Brady – the G.O.A.T. – has retired from football. No wait, he’s back! And Russell Wilson is now in Denver. And Deshaun Watson is now in Cleveland with Amari Cooper. Arguably the best WR in the game, Davante Adams, is now in Las Vegas. And if Adams isn’t the best WR in the game, it’s probably Hill, who is now in Miami.
Who is Tyreek Hill?
Hill is the most dangerous receiver in the NFL, and arguably the most valuable non-QB in football. Or, at least, that’s what PFF’s Mike Renner argued here, and I’m inclined to agree.
- “If you only watch the TV copy of games, you won’t quite get what makes Hill so special. It’s not solely that he gets separation on deep passes; it’s the amount of separation he gets. No one, and I mean no one, clowns defensive backs quite like Hill.”
- “With no safety over the top, you’ve basically ceded a big play within a second of the snap with releases like the ones above… [N]o one demands to be game planned for more than the Chiefs wideout. If you’re an opposing defensive coordinator and think your scheme will hold up on its own, it’s not going to be a matter of if, but when.”
Hill is one of the fastest WRs in the history of football, having run a 4.29 40-yard-dash at his 2016 Pro Day. Uncoincidentally, he’s also the best deep threat in the game — probably the best deep threat the NFL has seen since peak DeSean Jackson. Over the past five seasons, Hill leads all receivers in yardage gained (by +28%) and touchdowns scored (by +42%) on deep targets (balls traveling 20-plus yards through the air)… But, by the way, it’s not just Hill’s speed that makes him such an effective deep threat. In spite of his size, he also has the 5th-most contested catches on deep targets over this span.
But that’s just one facet of his game, as he also ranks 4th in yards after the catch (YAC) since entering the league (or 6th in YAC on non-deep targets), and 1st in depth-adjusted YPT over expectation.
Hill leads all receivers in yards from scrimmage over the past five seasons (6,490). And he’s just two total touchdowns and 158 receiving yards shy of Davante Adams for league-best marks over this span, despite having a 106-target handicap on Adams.
In addition to all this, Hill totals 93 carries, 719 yards, and 6 touchdowns throughout his career as a runner, plus a league-high 4 touchdowns as a punt returner.
In short, Hill is arguably the league’s best WR just by the numbers. And less arguably when considering what he brings to the table as a unique schematic nightmare, forcing the opposition to bring safety help over the top for the entirety of a game or risk conceding a 40-plus-yard score. (Despite extra defensive attention, Hill has 33 career receptions gaining 40 or more yards, which is more than both the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars over the same time frame.)
Why would the Chiefs trade Hill?
The first rumors of a potential Hill trade came yesterday morning shortly before noon, when Ian Rapoport reported extension talks had stalled between Hill and the Chiefs.
Another blockbuster coming? Despite an offer from the #Chiefs that would make superstar Tyreek Hill one of the highest-paid receivers, extension talks have stalled and Kansas City has now given Hill’s agent permission to seek a trade, sources tell me and @TomPelissero.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 23, 2022
And I can’t help but wonder if the Chiefs were unwilling to make Hill the highest-paid WR in the league given his character- and (history of) off-the-field concerns. After seeing the details of Davante Adams’ deal with the Raiders, and more pertinently what Deshaun Watson got with the Browns, Hill probably felt he didn’t need to give the team a hometown discount for giving him a chance to play in the first place, and could earn a historically massive contract on a more open market.
On one hand, this trade sort of makes sense from the perspective of GM Brett Veach and the Chiefs. This was a massive haul – about as good as it gets – for a non-QB, especially a 28-year-old non-QB. And speed demons like Hill tend to age less gracefully than bigger pure route runners or possession receivers.
Further, the Chiefs could have envisioned themselves in salary cap-hell over the next few years, if forced to extend Hill after the megalithic contract they gave to Patrick Mahomes. So, I suppose, it makes sense swapping out Hill now at peak-value for some younger WR (to be named later) on a cheaper Round 1 rookie contract, while also addressing areas of need with the additional pieces.
Patrick Mahomes cap hit by year:— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) March 23, 2022
2022: $35.79M ⬆️⬆️
2023: $46.79M ⬆️⬆️⬆️
Price for Tyreek Hill went up big after the Davante Adams deal... if KC trades Tyreek Hill, they free up over $20M in cap space.
Still, this no doubt hurts the Chiefs in the short term. Their Super Bowl odds rose from +850 to +900 and their odds to win the AFC went up from +400 to +500. And, I think, those odds are still too optimistic, especially after the recent influx of talent to the now ludicrously stacked AFC.
On the other hand…
Mahomes is the definition of arm talent — he’s one of the best pure throwers in the history of the game, with nearly unrivaled arm strength and deep ball accuracy. Hill demands safety-help on every snap, as one of the most dangerous deep threats of all-time, while also being a YAC superstar in the short-to-intermediate level of the field, ever capable of housing a dump-off or short throw, or really any time he touches the ball. Travis Kelce is one of the greatest pass-catching TEs of all-time, and an even greater YAC superstar, leading all players in yards after the catch since 2016 and ranking 4th among all wide receivers in yards after the catch per reception.
Essentially, there is no more difficult task in the NFL than asking defensive coordinators to scheme against and attempt to neutralize both Hill and Kelce at the same time. Kelce (8.7 aDOT since 2016) and Hill (12.3) have different but complementary skill sets, and are used in different areas of the field to stretch defenses both horizontally and vertically. And it’s long seemed impossible – though abandoning the blitz and increasing your rate of Cover-2 appears to have been the most capable remedy – to stop both at the team time. If you bring extra help to stop Hill, you leave Kelce open to gash you in the short-to-intermediate middle of the field, racking up first downs with ease. If you gameplan to stop Kelce, you’ll get burned by Hill deep.
So, yes, the loss of Hill to this offense is massive – beyond just the obvious, in that they’re losing one of the best players in the game, but also in that it’s making their offense far more one-dimensional in nature.
Random Aside: I think a quiet big winner of this trade was Tom Brady. Mahomes has brought the AFC Championship to Arrowhead Stadium in four-of-four seasons as a starter, made two Super Bowl appearances (winning one), and the Chiefs ranked top-3 in Super Bowl odds prior to this trade. Through the first 63 starts of any QB’s career, Mahomes leads in passer rating (105.8) and is the only player to average more than 300.0 YPG. This trade seriously hurts Mahomes – probably the greatest living threat to Brady’s legacy – and the Chiefs in the short term, and only helps to further cement Brady’s status as the unrivaled G.O.A.T. in the history of the sport.
Why would the Dolphins trade for Hill?
Because the Dolphins aren’t messing around. They think they’ve found their next genius head coach and offensive play-caller. And if that’s correct, if HC Mike McDaniel really is the next Kyle Shanahan — or is at least on the Shanahan, Andy Reid, Bill Belichick spectrum — that might be the only thing in football as close to as valuable as an elite QB.
And they are saying publicly they believe in Tua Tagovailoa as the QB of their future, and want to set him up for long-term success, adding a true alpha WR1 to their newly minted LT Terron Armstead. Or maybe they don’t want to be where the Giants are with Daniel Jones, uncertain of whether or not they’ve found the QB of their future. They want to set their QB up for success, and if he fails the excuses are all on him, and they’ll know for sure it’s time to move on.
And though the price was high, it’s something the Dolphins could uniquely and readily afford — they still have two Round 1 (both in 2023, which could help them replace Tua if he fails), Round 2, and Round 3 draft picks over the next two seasons.
And, well, the competition in the AFC just got a lot tougher. So in order to stay competitive, Miami may feel compelled to pull off the sort of blockbuster trade you’ve been watching so many of your competitors make over the past few weeks.
While Kansas City’s odds fell across the board, Miami’s rose significantly. Their Super Bowl odds jumped from 70-1 to 40-1, and their odds of winning the AFC improved from 35-1 to 20-1. I thought Kansas City’s odds were still too high, and I think those odds for Miami are even more foolishly optimistic.
While a Mahomes-Hill-Kelce triumvirate reshaped an entire league as one of the most perfect and deadly combinations of all time, I – get ready for the coldest take of all time – don’t think a Tua-Hill-Jaylen Waddle combination will be as effective.
The Dolphins now have Tyreek Hill and the closest thing that exists to Tyreek Hill (Jaylen Waddle)— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) March 23, 2022
Best of luck opposing DCs trying to build a game plan for that
Whereas Kelce appeared to be the perfect stylistic complement to Hill, Waddle might be somewhat redundant to Hill. Actually, Waddle is probably the closest thing in the game to Hill. Waddle – another freak speedster, maybe just as fast as Henry Ruggs (4.26) – is an elite deep threat, as evidenced by the fact he had 57% more deep receiving yards than Ruggs at Alabama, and on 36% fewer routes run. Like Hill, he excels after the catch, having averaged 11.2 YAC per reception across his final two college seasons, which led all of 331 qualifying Power 5 WRs. And, better yet, while Hill leads the league by depth-adjusted YPT over expectation since entering the league, Waddle’s college numbers appear even more ridiculous by the same stat.
One of my favorite stats I've ever developed is also a key variable in my WR model -- depth-adjusted YPT over expectation— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) March 11, 2021
Here's the top-15 Power-5 WRs since 2015 pic.twitter.com/x8yGjC7nGM
But, at the same time, they’re both predominantly slot WRs — perhaps a necessary function of their size (both 5’10” and roughly 185 pounds). Waddle ran 62% of his routes from the slot last season, compared to Hill’s 54% (55% over the last three seasons). Last season they finished 3rd- (62) and 4th- (60) in total receptions from the slot (respectively). So the question here is this: will Hill or Waddle be forced to run a much higher percentage of his routes out wide, potentially to the detriment of their typical effectiveness? And is it even possible for both of them to be on the field and running routes from the slot at the same time? (That’s something of a rarity within the NFL, with the 2019 Rams being the most recent exception. That year Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, respectively, recorded 73% and 44% of their catches from the slot.)
But even if that’s what we see from the Dolphins in 2022, then at least definitely TE Mike Gesicki will be forced to play out of position or sit on the bench. Because Gesicki is much closer to an oversized slot WR than a TE – he recorded 44 receptions from the slot last year, which ranked 15th-most among all receivers and accounted for 60% of his total receptions.
On one hand, this is still super cool — this team has two (!) Tyreek Hills? Every other team doesn’t have any Tyreek Hills. On the other, this may make things easier for a defensive coordinator to gameplan against and then neutralize. And then, most importantly, Hill’s greatest trump card – as the league’s best deep threat – is also Tua’s greatest liability as a passer.
This was the primary concern with Tagovailoa coming out of college. Greg Cosell, via the 2020 FantasyPoints Draft Guide, listed “limited velocity,” “his ability to drive the ball,” and “a deep ball which lost energy on the back end” as his chief weaknesses. In his summary, he wrote, “For Tagovailoa to reach his ceiling, he would stylistically need to play like a Drew Brees: an efficient, precise pocket passer playing with high-level timing, rhythm, and accuracy. He is not a Russell Wilson kind of player. Tagovailoa's traits and skill set best profile as a pocket QB playing in a well-schemed system.”
And nothing since then has changed. Over the past two seasons, Tagovailoa has attempted a deep pass on only 8.6% of his throws, which ranks 4th-lowest of 32-qualifying QBs, ahead of only Jared Goff (8.4%), Daniel Jones (8.3%), and (interestingly) Jimmy Garoppolo (7.4%). The efficiency was strong (14th-best by YPA), but the lack of volume is the more important point – is more significant, sticky, and predictive than the efficiency which tends to fluctuate wildly year-over-year, and is also probably at least partly a function of the lack of volume (with Tagovailoa only very carefully picking his spots to maximize success).
But, yeah, Garoppolo has similar liabilities as a passer. And, still, he’s had the most postseason success of any non-elite QB the past few years playing inside the Shanahan/McDaniel system.
Last season, of 33 qualifying QBs, Garoppolo ranked 2nd-best in YPA (8.6) despite having the 9th-lowest aDOT (7.8). That’s because a whopping 51% of his passing yards came after the catch, which ranked 6th-most.
Basically, his receivers and the scheme were doing the heavy lifting. It was almost impossible for Garoppolo to fail, surrounded by YAC gods in Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. Since entering the league in 2019, Samuel leads all receivers in YAC per reception (10.0). Since entering the league in 2017, Kittle leads all receivers in YAC per reception (7.5). And Aiyuk averaged 9.9 yards after the catch per reception during his career at Arizona State. That ranks best by any Power-5 WR since at least 2014. (Waddle ranks 2nd-best.)
And, so, that’s probably what McDaniel is hoping to do here. Tagovailoa is far from an elite- or power law-caliber QB, capable of taking the Dolphins deep into the playoffs without everything else being perfect. But what if everything else is just about perfect? After all, an at-best perfectly average QB in Garoppolo took the 49ers to the Super Bowl three seasons ago. And just last year finished four points shy of the Super Bowl, all with a torn ligament and chipped bone in the thumb of his throwing hand no less.
But maybe McDaniel wasn’t just thinking about Garoppolo — maybe he was also thinking of Alex Smith. Save for an all-time outlier-year in 2017, which saw him lead the league in adjusted yards per attempt (8.6) and passer rating (104.7), and finish 4th in FPG (19.7), Smith’s name was synonymous with “game-manager QB.” And indeed, Smith is less a man, more an archetype of a QB defined by risk-aversion and a lack of turnovers, a quick release with high-end short-area accuracy, and, most importantly, limited arm strength and a sub-mediocre deep ball. Undoubtedly, Tagovailoa critics and realists put him on the Alex Smith spectrum. But in that 2017 season, Hill’s sophomore season, Smith was (or at least his numbers were) truly elite. Hill led the league in deep receiving yards (628), Smith threw for 540 more yards than he ever had before, and (wildly) Smith led the league in deep passing yards (1,344), with over twice as many as he'd ever had before.
Alex Smith leads the league and set career highs in passer rating and adjusted yards per attempt. What changed? Improved volume and efficiency on deep passes.— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) January 2, 2018
His passer rating of 131.4 on deep passes this season ranks second-best of any QB this past decade. pic.twitter.com/O8hoCCHCIc
Could Hill do the same with Tagovailoa? In a league (and, typically, postseason) defined by little else but elite QB-play – with the position being “seeker in quidditch levels of broken” in terms of impact and importance – it’s scary to think maybe he could.
The QB position is the most valuable position in football by a landslide. Bordering on seeker in quidditch levels of broken.— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) January 31, 2021
Ignoring cap, Rams basically just spent 2 R1s and a R3 to upgrade from the ~24th best QB to the ~11th best QB. And it was prob worth it. https://t.co/JLXqS4WHRi
Fantasy Fallout (Chiefs)
Obviously, this seriously dings Patrick Mahomes, who loses a WR who accounted for 25% of his total career FPG (6.6). He falls farther down my board relative to Josh Allen, but should still probably be the unanimous QB2. You can make an argument in favor of one of the Konami Code QBs (Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray), as Mahomes was far more reliant on his passing for fantasy production, and now loses his top receiver.
Or, maybe Justin Herbert as an ascending talent, with the superior supporting cast, and some underrated Konami Code-upside. But I wouldn’t be inclined to make those arguments, and would instead just trust Mahomes’ pedigree and consistency – having finished 5th (21.3), 1st (25.0), 5th (20.5) or injury-adjusted 3rd (21.3), and 1st in FPG (26.1) since entering the league – unless of course Kansas City fails to seriously address the position via free agency or the draft. To reiterate, he should still be the QB2 in fantasy drafts, but much closer in ADP to the QB4 than QB1.
You can make an argument that the removal of Hill opens up even more volume for Travis Kelce, and he could actually stand to benefit from Hill’s departure. But that hasn’t been the case in games Hill has missed historically, and instead, I worry any potential increase in target-volume would be more than offset by a reduction in efficiency. Ultimately, Kelce remains unchanged as my overall-TE1, and the No. 15-overall player in my best ball rankings (six spots ahead of Mark Andrews).
The Chiefs signed JuJu Smith-Schuster to a contract this offseason and he has, I think, easy 100-plus target upside if Kansas City doesn’t add another big-name WR. And well, 100-plus targets from Mahomes goes a lot farther than 100-plus targets from just about anyone else. So maybe he could be a reliable every-week starter, or even a superstar, for fantasy teams in 2022.
But, alas, I do think Kansas City remains active in free agency (Will Fuller or Marquez Valdes-Scantling seem like perfect fits) and the draft. And I do think Smith-Schuster appears (at least currently) to be something akin to fantasy fool’s good. Since his breakout rookie season, he’s long been overvalued by the fantasy community, and especially in contrast to how NFL teams have viewed him. There was little demand for his services last offseason, and even less this year, forcing him to sign a one-year deal worth $3.3 million ($2.5 million guaranteed), making him just the 60th-highest-paid WR for the 2022 season.
For perspective, this was significantly less than what former Chiefs WR Byron Pringle received from the Bears – a one-year deal worth $6 million, with $4 million guaranteed. But, granted, Smith-Schuster’s deal was littered with incentives, and if all are reached who could make upwards of $9 million. And just having the potential of being Mahomes’ WR1, or even WR2, is drool-inducing from a fantasy-perspective. As such, he currently ranks as my WR38, though I expect his ADP to rise a couple rounds higher than that.
What about the other receivers? Is this finally Mecole Hardman’s breakout year? Afterall, wasn’t he drafted as a direct Hill-replacement while Hill was facing a potential year-long suspension? Or, better yet, is this the Josh Gordon revenge tour we’ve been waiting eight years for? Definitely not on that last question. The first is a little more complicated.
Hardman and his 4.33-speed have flashed at times throughout his career, and crucially, almost always and only whenever Hill has been hurt. In Week 18 of last season, Hill played on a season-low 14 of 78 snaps due to injury, and Hardman gained a career-high 103 receiving yards on 11 targets. When Hill was suspended in 2019, Hardman eclipsed 60 receiving yards in three of four games while also adding two touchdowns as a receiver. And keep in mind, this was just the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th games of Hardman’s career. So, within this only somewhat cherry-picked sample, Hardman has cleared 60 receiving yards in the four of five games Hill has been hurt or sat out. In his other 44 career games, he’s cleared the 60-yard threshold only six times (14%).
But otherwise, Hardman looks like the textbook definition of a bust. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Hardman earned a 69% route share. From Week 10-on that fell to 42%, seemingly demoted behind Pringle (72%) and Demarcus Robinson (59%). But, again, interestingly, he earned a season-high route share of 87% in that Week 18 game when Hill was hurt.
So, I think Smith-Schuster and all other Chiefs WRs are going to be overvalued by ADP over the next few weeks. But once Kansas City adds another big name or two in free agency or the draft, I could see myself gambling on Hardman if he’s cheap. Again, he’s probably a bust, both in real-life and for fantasy, but there’s some interesting upside there just on the off chance he assumes the Hill role, one he may have been groomed for or playing understudy to.
Fantasy Fallout (Dolphins)
Obviously, this is big for Tua, who has been one of the most solid but unsexy picks you can make in best ball leagues all offseason (ADP: QB20). He’s still a bit unsexy, but, also, I think underrated. Very quietly, Tagovailoa averaged 16.2 FPG in games started and finished last year, which ranked 15th-best, sandwiched in between Ryan Tannehill and Jimmy Garoppolo.
And now he’s a year farther removed from hip surgery. He’s paired up with a supposed genius (but albeit probably also an exceedingly run-heavy) offensive play caller. And the team has lost almost nothing via free agency, while adding LT Terron Armstead, G Connor Williams, WR Cedrick Wilson, and RB Chase Edmonds, in addition to Hill. Still, given his limitations and lack of rushing upside it’s hard to justify ranking him much higher than as a dependable but low-upside mid-range QB2. So, I’m definitely betting against Hill single-handedly turning Tagovailoa into 2017 Alex Smith, but, hey, it’d be cool if it happened!
And, well, this isn’t great for Hill. Tagovailoa is a glaring downgrade from Mahomes. And then, factor in how Hill’s greatest strength as a receiver is probably Tagovailoa’s greatest liability as a passer. And the possibility that Hill could be pushed outside by Waddle. And, further, in addition to Miami’s offense likely to be be far less potent and efficient Kansas City’s, it’s also probably going to be far more run-heavy – the Chiefs have ranked top-3 in pass rate over expectation in each of the last three seasons, while McDaniel’s 49ers have ranked bottom-3 in each of the last three seasons. Ultimately, Hill – who has finished 8th-, 2nd-, 10th-, and 1st (2018) in FPG over the last four seasons – falls in my rankings, but not very far, from WR4 to WR7, losing a full round of value overall. The landing spot obviously isn’t ideal, but this is still (probably) the best WR in football we’re talking about.
Waddle was poised for a monster season, a potential league-winning season as a true PPR cheat code. He was already one of my most-drafted players in best ball leagues, and I felt great about it… but now I only feel sad.
Last season, Tagovailoa targeted Waddle on 26.9% of his throws. That ranked well ahead of the next-closest Miami receiver (Gesicki, 17.8%), and would have ranked 4th-best among all receivers. From Week -on, Waddle ranked 8th in both targets per game (9.5) and FPG (17.4). And in Tagovailoa’s 10 starts over this span, Waddle averaged 9.8 targets and 18.3 FPG, numbers which would have ranked 7th- and 5th-best over the full season. Clearly, their rapport had carried over from the Alabama days, and the rookie WR was on a historic trajectory.
Again, Waddle was shaping up to be one of my favorite picks in drafts. I was viewing him as a truly transcendent and “special” talent, and a perfect schematic fit for both his QB and newly anointed head coach, with realistic odds to lead the league in receptions – his 104 in 2021 was the most by a rookie WR all time. Obviously, that seems far less likely now with Hill likely to command 130 targets at an absolute minimum. Mournfully, he falls from WR10 to WR15 in my rankings.
Due to the increase in target competition, and the potential he’s outright left on the bench should McDaniel try to fit both Waddle and Hill in the slot at the same time, Gesicki falls from TE12 to TE16 in my rankings.