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Chiefs roster analysis: Future of the offensive line looks bright

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs roster analysis continues with part four of our seven part series. Since we’ve gone through each of the Chiefs defensive position groupings it’s time to move on to the offensive side of the ball.

You can check out the defensive articles below.

  1. Linebackers
  2. Secondary
  3. Defensive Line

We’re looking at how cost efficient the Chiefs current roster is using 2016 statistical production and 2017 cap hits. We’re also using the information from these articles to make informed decisions on potential positions of need.

General Information

We’ll start by comparing the number of contracts the Chiefs currently have committed to their offensive line with the rest of the teams in the NFL.

The Chiefs currently have 12 offensive lineman under contract for 2017. This number is a little high compared to the rest of the NFL.

Below are the offensive linemen currently under contract for the Chiefs and their 2017 cap hit.

Chiefs Offensive Line 2017 Cap Hits

Name Age Cap Hit
Name Age Cap Hit
Isaiah Battle 24 $570,000
Joseph Cheek 24 $465,000
Jordan Devey 29 $690,000
LDT 26 $2,723,575
Parker Ehinger 24 $699,728
Eric Fisher 26 $9,457,977
Zach Fulton 25 $1,864,055
Josh James 23 $465,000
Mitch Morse 24 $1,274,477
Jah Reid 28 $3,468,750
Mitchell Schwartz 27 $6,900,000
Bryan Witzmann 26 $540,000

I was surprised to see Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz’s cap numbers as low as they were for 2017. The Chiefs are getting pretty good value out of their bookend tackles.

Now let’s take a look at how much the Chiefs spend on their offensive line compared to other teams in the NFL. (Please note this data is from the end of February. Also, note I compiled this data before LDT’s cap number was adjusted. The difference is about one million dollars.)

It may be difficult to see, but the Chiefs currently spend the 13th most money on their offensive line in the NFL. The Chiefs have roughly $28 million invested in their offensive line for the 2017 season.

Finally let’s look and see what percentage of the Chiefs money is spent on their offensive line.

The Chiefs are in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the NFL in terms of the percentage of their cap dollars spent on the offensive line. The Chiefs spend about 18 percent of their total cap dollars on offensive linemen.

The Cowboys and the Raiders two of the best lines in the league - took the final two spots. It’s pretty clear both franchises have placed a high level of importance on their offensive lines, and you can see the results of that in both their budget and their play on the field.

Offensive Line - Age

I went ahead and compared the Chiefs offensive lineman’s average age to the rest of the teams in the NFL.

The Chiefs offensive line’s average age is 25.5 years of age. This put their offensive line as the 13th youngest in the NFL.

Offensive Line - Cost Effectiveness

There were three key stats I decided to use to gauge how effective an offensive line is. The first stat is sack percentage. The second stat is yards per rushing attempt.

The third stat looks at the success rate for teams to convert on any down while running the ball and having one yard or less to go for a first down. Essentially we want to see how successful an offensive line is at running the ball in short yardage situations when they need it.

Let’s start by looking at sack percentage.

The Chiefs had a 5.5 percentage sack rate in 2016. This was good for a 14th place tie with the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys spend a significant amount more on their offensive line than the Chiefs do.

The red line represents the idea that teams who spend more money on their offensive line should allow fewer sacks. Teams near the red line are par for the course, teams below the red line exceed expectations, and teams above the red line are below expectations.

The Chiefs are near the red line, which is a good thing. The Chiefs offensive line has done a pretty good job protecting Alex Smith and their contracts are also a fair value for their output in regards to sack percentage.

Now let’s apply the same concept to yards per carry.

This graph is slightly different from the one above. The teams above the line exceed expectations and the teams below the line are below expectations. The Chiefs are once again near the line which means they are getting average value from their offensive line in terms of their running game.

Lastly lets look at the short yardage situations.

Teams above the line are exceeding expectations, and teams below the line are below expectations. In terms of getting a first down with a yard to go, the Chiefs get average value from their offensive line.

I also think it’s important to note the Chiefs were 16th in the NFL in yard to go situations. I know a lot of Chiefs fans were upset about how poorly the Chiefs ran the ball in short yardage situations, but the data suggest the Chiefs were average in that particular situation in 2016.

Going Forward

The Chiefs offensive line is set going forward. Barring injury the group should continue to improve. The Chiefs may be looking to add some offensive line depth, or to add some competition for Zach Fulton and Parker Ehinger.

If the Chiefs were to add players along the offensive line they would likely be late round draft picks or under the radar free agents.

Given the Chiefs fair value along the offensive line if the group continues to grow Dorsey may look like a genius in a year or two. The Chiefs could eventually have a fair priced, but highly performing offensive line.

The Chiefs offensive line is in fantastic shape going forward.

Conclusion

So we covered quite a few things.

  1. The Chiefs offensive line is getting fair value in terms of their sack percentage, yards per carry, and yard to go situations.
  2. The Chiefs offensive line is in a great position to grow. If the position group continues to grow the Chiefs will have a good offensive line for a fair price.
  3. Contrary to popular belief, the Chiefs offensive line did a good job protecting Alex Smith in 2016.
  4. The Chiefs offensive line also did a good job in yard to go situations.
  5. The Chiefs offensive line did a decent job blocking for Spencer Ware in 2016. The team’s yards per carry may get even better if another talented running back is added.

I can’t remember the last time the Chiefs offensive line had such stability. If the players pan out things are looking bright in the future.

The next article will cover the Chiefs running back position. I’ll see you there!