Matt Waldman’s RSP: Patrick Mahomes First NFL Start (2017 Season Finale)

Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio examines Patrick Mahomes’ start in the preseason finale as a setup to his Week 17 regular season start.

This week’s focus has been a dive into the Chiefs offense and new addition, Sammy Watkins. Second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be the player who will have to tie all the pieces together into a productive unit. After studying at Mahomes’ preseason performance, I checked out the season finale against the Broncos.

Here are the highlights of the progress report after a season behind Alex Smith:

  • Good job looking off defenders in a variety of ways to set up his targets.
  • Exceptional confidence in his ball placement and he does not hesitate when the visual cues are favorite — even if down-and-distance, field position, and tight windows might dissuade his peers in a similar situation.
  • There’s a range of throws larger than the average starter where Mahomes can deliver accurate passes without a precise stance with the mid-line of the back foot pointed to the target, but that range isn’t so large that Mahomes can rely on it without spraying the ball.
  • His confidence, poise, and creativity under pressure are impressive positives, but there are bouts of immaturity where he must displace greater discretion.
  • Although many of the hits Mahomes took in this game were unavoidable, there were instances where he could have avoided punishment.
  • As was the case at Texas Tech, the “gunslinger” characterization drifts into inaccurate caricature. There is often a logic and maturity underscoring Mahomes’ play that belies the label.
  • Of course, the above statement isn’t always the case. While displaying several moments of strong game management, Mahomes made one decision that could have flipped the momentum of the game because he didn’t account for down-and-distance, score, and field position.

I expect Mahomes to offer more highlight-reel plays than Alex Smith, but less efficiency. Mahomes’ yardage production and touchdown totals could approach Smith’s 2017 totals but expect more interceptions and at least 1-3 games where Mahomes tests his limits and costs his team a victory.

That’s the safer range of expectation. If Mahomes matures enough this summer to have a feel for his limits and his communication with his receivers is consistent, his upside is greater than Smith because we’ll see more success in the red zone and a higher volume of big plays.

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