3 players who could shine for the Chiefs in Week 1 if Travis Kelce is out

If Travis Kelce is forced to miss the Kansas City Cheifs' season opener against the Detroit Lions, these players could benefit the most.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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Chiefs player who could step up without Travis Kelce: Jerick McKinnon

Second-year RB Isiah Pacheco has planted his flag as the No. 1 option in Kansas City's backfield. If Kelce misses Week 1, there's a chance Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy pivot to the run game and embrace Pacheco's aggressive downhill style.

That said, it's more likely that Mahomes simply distributes his passes to different outlets. Jerick McKinnon has been with the Chiefs for two years, emerging as a quality change-of-pace back with an especially strong connection to Mahomes as a third down and red zone pass-catcher.

Kelce is the Chiefs' biggest weapon on third down — a catch-anything threat who can fight through contact for short gains or make acrobatic downfield snatches to move the chains under even the most improbable of circumstances. With Kelce removed from the equation, don't be surprised if McKinnon gets even more burn working out of the backfield and operating as a pressure relief valve for Mahomes near the line of scrimmage.

McKinnon caught 56 passes for 512 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He was right behind Kelce as Kansas City's most frequent end zone visitor. Pacheco has rightfully earned the spotlight as an explosive early-down workhorse, but McKinnon finishes drives. Mahomes can't lob every pass 50 yards downfield. If Kelce is out, expect McKinnon to receive a lot of the dirty work and potentially find paydirt in the process.

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