FRANKFURT, Germany — When Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill lines up Sunday (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network) to face the Chiefs for the first time since Kansas City traded him on March 23, 2022, it will raise an interesting question: Is the Dolphins’ version of Hill better than the Chiefs’ version?
As far as individual milestones, no stat speaks louder than Hill’s current pace of reception yards per game, which is a league-best 126.8. If he continues at that pace, he would finish with 2,154, which would break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record (1,964) set in 2012 when the regular season was 16 games.
Hill was a key member of two Super Bowl teams in Kansas City, including Super Bowl LIV in Miami where he had nine catches for 105 yards in a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Hill benefited from elite quarterback play with both teams, catching passes from two-time MVP Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and from current MVP favorite Tua Tagovailoa in Miami. And the Chiefs’ Andy Reid and Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel are considered two of the top playcallers in the NFL.
Hill’s nickname is Cheetah, but Reid isn’t sure that’s entirely accurate.
“He’s really not a cheetah, because a cheetah goes with a burst and then rests for eight hours,” Reid said. “That’s not [Hill]. He can keep going over and over again.
“It’s pretty amazing.”
So which version is better? Here, with help from ESPN Stats & Info, is a comparison of Hill circa 2016-21 in Kansas City and Hill from the beginning of the 2022 season in Miami. Hill weighs in with his thoughts and ESPN fantasy football/NFL analyst Mike Clay picks a winner.
Chiefs: Hill improved in receptions in each of his six seasons with the Chiefs, with the exception of 2019, when he missed four games because of an injury. He went from mostly a gadget-type of player as a rookie in 2016 to their unquestioned No.1 wideout with his first 1,000-yard season in 2017. He hit his high in yards (1,479) in 2018, when Mahomes took over as the starter. In 2021, his final season with the Chiefs, Hill complained about running shorter routes and had his lowest average yards per catch (11.2), other than his rookie season. — Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher
Dolphins: In 25 games with the Dolphins, Hill has accumulated more yards than he did during any 25-game span with the Chiefs. He leads the NFL with eight TDs of at least 40 yards over that span, and he’s fourth in yards after the catch. On Sunday, Hill became the first player since 1961 to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards through eight games. — Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques
Chiefs: It’s no coincidence the Chiefs began their current streak of seven straight AFC West championships the year they drafted Hill (he was first-team All Pro as a rookie). The Chiefs had never won back-to-back division championships until this streak started, and starting Mahomes in 2018 solidified the Chiefs’ standing among the league’s best. The Chiefs reached the AFC Championship Game in each of Hill’s final four seasons and won two of them, losing the other two in overtime. –Teicher
Dolphins: The Dolphins are averaging 453.3 yards of offense, which puts them on pace to break the 2011 New Orleans Saints’ single-season record of 7,474 yards (although the Saints did it in 16 games).
The Chiefs went one-and-done in the playoffs in Hill’s first year, just as the Dolphins did last season. But Hill helped get Miami to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, while the Chiefs were no strangers to the postseason. — Louis-Jacques
As a teammate
Chiefs: Hill has at times been critical of the Chiefs since being traded to the Dolphins, saying the Chiefs didn’t always take full advantage of his talent. But other than some grumbling in his final season in Kansas City about running shorter routes, he mostly kept any frustration to himself so as to not disrupt the locker room. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce indicated after the trade he appreciated that about Hill.
Reid and Mahomes, meanwhile, said they loved Hill and understood any frustration. “When he’s a competitor like that, you want to have a chance to impact the games,” Mahomes said after the trade. “I know he wanted to get the ball as much as possible to help us win. It wasn’t a selfish thing. We were winning football games, especially at the end of the season, so I don’t think he really brought that to our attention.”
Mahomes also said on his weekly radio hit that Hill’s work ethic rubbed off on him. “I don’t think everybody sees how hard that man works,” he said. “He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around.” –Teicher
Dolphins: Hill’s on-field credentials, including his status as maybe the fastest player in the NFL, preceded him in Miami, but Tagovailoa said he didn’t know what to expect from Hill as a teammate.
“What really surprised me was who he was as a leader, his work ethic, and then how he takes ownership of what is asked of him to do,” Tagovailoa said. “And then it’s almost like a trickle-down effect for a lot of the guys in his room. They respect him as a player, as a person to take advice from him and follow his lead.”
Hill has been named a captain by his teammates in each of his two seasons in Miami.
McDaniel once tongue-in-cheek called out Hill last training camp for not having the fastest registered speed at the team’s practice that day.
The next day, Hill was clocked at 23 mph — which would be the fastest ball-carrier speed recorded by NextGen Stats since 2020 if it happened during a game.
“He did some really remarkable stuff last year, but he’s taken everything to another level this year with regard to the details and the fundamentals to the daily approach to being a captain and to leading,” McDaniel said. “So it’s an exciting time, and I think nothing’s better than going out to a practice field when Tyreek’s out there, because what people miss is yeah, he’s fast — I want to see somebody move faster in practice during the week than him.” — Louis-Jacques
“I just know a whole lot more now,” he said. “Obviously, when you come into the league you’re trying to find where you fit and understand how the game is played, but now I’ve been able to learn from other veterans in the past locker room that I was in and apply it here.”
“I’m kind of glad that [the trade] happened,” Hill added. “Obviously the situation that I’m in is great. I’ve got great teammates. My family is from Miami, and also, I accomplished one of my goals of being one of the highest-paid in the league. So, everything’s great.”
And the winner is …
In six seasons with the Chiefs, Hill maxed out with a 25% target share (9.4 per game), 111 receptions and 1,479 receiving yards. He proceeded to clear all of those marks – 30% target share (10.0 per game), 119 receptions and 1,710 yards – in his first season in Miami. And that was despite Tagovailoa missing essentially five full games, which can’t be overstated considering all 15 of Hill’s touchdowns since joining Miami have come from Tagovailoa.
Speaking of touchdowns, Hill did have his best TD season in Kansas City (17 in 2020), but he very well could match or clear that mark in 2023 (eight in eight games).
Perhaps the best evidence Hill has been better and more valuable in Miami is how each offense has changed. Whereas the Chiefs proceeded to easily lead the NFL in passing yards and win the Super Bowl without Hill last season, Miami’s offense leapt to sixth in the league in yardage — it’s first top-10 showing in the category since some fella named Dan Marino led them to an eighth-place finish in 1995. Miami is first in offensive points and yardage in 2023 and hasn’t led both of those categories since the Don Shula/Marino duo pulled it off in 1984.
Hill was an absolute superstar and a huge part of the Chiefs’ success during his time in Kansas City. However, he wasn’t fully maximized until arriving in Miami and has taken his game to another level over the past year and a half.
The winner: Miami’s Tyreek Hill