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Jeremy Maclin a reliable WR2 in Chiefs’ methodical offense

Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire

Because of where Jeremy Maclin chose to spend the prime of his career, he’s drifted off the radar to some degree.

Once a high-ceiling first-round pick, the former Mizzou wideout has settled into a spot and locale that suddenly make him an unsexy choice come draft time.

The counter: Maclin is one of the safest WR2s you’re going to find and should inspire owners — the guys in leagues whose outlooks on life range closer to Ron Swanson than Tom Haverford — when this position needs to be filled on draft day.

Thanks to Maclin choosing Alex Smith’s measured attack with the Chiefs, he’s arguably the least flashy WR2 there is. There isn’t a ton of upside, and with the Chiefs returning nearly their entire pass-catching corps, not much figures to change in their offense.

But the 28-year-old weapon could well slip on the upcoming draft weekends because of owners chasing upside when a proven player — and the aerial centerpiece of one of the best-coached offenses in football — sits there.

What Maclin showed in one of the most limited passing attacks not involving a backup quarterback in recent playoff history was quite amazing, considering where the Chiefs were before he arrived.

The ex-Eagle joined an offense coming off a maddeningly unflashy season despite employing Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs went from having no receivers catch a touchdown pass during an entire season in 2014–with modern rules designed to basically ensure TD passes are thrown to wide receivers–to seeing their No. 1 target post an efficient eight-touchdown campaign in the same system in ’15.

It cannot be overstated how much the Dwayne Bowe-to-Maclin upgrade enhanced the Chiefs’ offense. (Think Matt Damon signing on to play Superman instead of the stiff that currently wears that cape.) And while it didn’t necessarily show in Smith’s numbers, Kansas City’s passing game completely funnels through its No. 1 wideout now.

August 13, 2016: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the pre-season NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)

August 13, 2016: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the pre-season NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)

Yes, Smith has never thrown for 3,500 yards in a season and isn’t suddenly going to break out at age 32. If you’re not a Chiefs fan, you’re probably not going to want to watch a lot of their games if you roll with Maclin as your WR2.

It’s kind of like those years where Mike Tolbert was bizarrely a vulture icon with deceptively decent yards-from-scrimmage skills; you loved that unorthodox character if you owned him. But that infatuation probably was tested when you actually watched early-2010s Chargers games and saw him lumber around in Norv Turner’s offense.

Smith’s careful approach will leave big plays on the table in favor of shorter routes. And you definitely don’t, under any circumstances, want to draft another Chiefs wide receiver. The offense does not support more than two pass-catchers for fantasy purposes. But Maclin and Travis Kelce got theirs last season. Just about every week.

Reid endures rough critiques for his clock management-related gaffes, but he remains one of the best schemers in football. He immediately recognized how to utilize Maclin and managed to elevate him to his second 1,000-yard season despite the NFL’s ultimate game manager running the show. Maclin saw double-digit targets in six of the 15 games he played last season and at least seven in 10 of those contests.

Since Smith doesn’t take a lot of chances down the field, when he zeroes in on Maclin, it’s not going to be one a low-percentage play. Maclin caught at least five passes in nine games, and in one of the league’s most methodical offenses, his touchdown numbers are sustainable.

Although younger players in Maclin’s ADP vicinity like Allen Hurns, Kelvin Benjamin or DeVante Parker boast tantalizing games, they’re much less likely to outproduce Maclin in 2016. Maclin represents a good investment, even if he’s kind of a boring one.

You don’t want boom-or-bust guys and sleepers in all of your receiver slots; there needs to be room for a player who will move the chains and take advantage of consistent opportunities.

Maclin will be one of the best in the league at filling this high-floor slot. Again, he surpassed 1,000 yards and 85 receptions on an Alex Smith-quarterbacked team. That’s damn dependable.

Ignore the fact he’s playing in one of the most conservative offenses in the game and embrace that he’s the center of it with a proven ability to thrive there.

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