As much as Patrick Mahomes has been under the microscope this season from Chiefs fans and the NFL community as a whole — and that was certainly warranted at points, at least a little — he's not the only one to blame when the Chiefs offense isn't firing off 30 or more points like we've become accustomed to.
One somewhat troubling stat, though not one we should panic over, places Mahomes' two most trusty weapons atop a list that receivers probably don't want to be seen on.
As sports analytics writer Anthony Reinhard shows in a somewhat complex chart, measuring players by how much their drops have negatively impacted their teams' expected points added (EPA), Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill rank at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, across the entire league. Though others have dropped more passes than the nine and six that Kelce and Hill have, there's were the most impactful based on a formula that takes yards after the catch and more into account.
Why shouldn't we panic? For one, players who are targeted more frequently — and both Hill and Kelce qualify for that label, as they both rank in the top 12 in targets — will also drop the ball more often. That's just how it works, so long as your hands aren't completely sticky. There's also the fact that they might be running more complex routes, and thus ones which would net more expected points, than players like a running back who primarily catches swing passes and runs underneath routes. And then there's the fact that, if you look at the rest of the list, you see a bunch of other names that are pretty darn good. No one's questioning Cooper Kupp's abilities this year, though he's No. 7 on this list with eight costly drops.
This graph is also a testament to players like Davante Adams (two drops), Stefon Diggs (one drop) and Diontae Johnson (zero drops), all of whom have massive roles and have produced at a very impressive level.
It makes sense that, in turn, Mahomes ranked atop the list of quarterbacks whose dropped passes have cost them the most EPA, followed by Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady.
A fan pointed out, and Reinhard confirmed, that Mahomes' number was so high because of what happened to his dropped passes: a handful of them were then intercepted, which obviously causes a significant swing in EPA. When returned for a pick-six, you can't get any higher.
Again, there's no reason to panic. But you'd probably like to see a little bit of a better performance from Hill and Kelce in the hands department, and that could be the formula to continuing the Chiefs' winning ways. They've won four in a row and are fresh off of a bye week, with momentum to gain as the playoffs come into a view and a first-place finish in the AFC West seems like a realistic goal.