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Chiefs drop four rankings in Pro Football Focus roster breakdown entering ‘18

PFF posted its yearly rankings this week

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to each season, Pro Football Focus ranks the rosters of every NFL team from 1 to 32. Entering the 2017 season one year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were ranked ninth.

This year, the Chiefs have dropped four positions to 13th.

Here’s what PFF had to say about the Chiefs this year, via ESPN Insider.

Biggest strength: One of the few NFL tight ends to even be in the same conversation as New England’s Rob Gronkowski, four-year veteran Travis Kelce has solidified himself as one of the league’s best at the position. In addition to earning 87.0-plus grades in each of the past two seasons, Kelce has averaged 2.13 yards per route run across the two-year span, ranking second only to, you guessed it, Gronk.

Biggest weakness: After playing a reserve role for most of his four-year career, Daniel Sorensen took on a significant workload as the team’s starting strong safety in 2017, playing in 90.2 percent of the team’s defensive snaps (including the wild-card-game loss to Tennessee). Unfortunately for Kansas City, Sorensen earned a 40.7 grade across his 1,054 defensive snaps, ranking 82nd among the 87 safeties with at least 300 defensive snaps. He also missed a whopping 17 tackles.

By the numbers: Phenom Kareem Hunt had a year for the record books, as he forced the most missed tackles (61) by a rookie running back in a season in the PFF era. He also earned the third-highest grade (88.9) among all NFL running backs and ranked No. 4 in our elusive rating (73.1) among backs with at least 81 rushing attempts.

One of the more popular questions I hear is this: Who is the most important offensive player on the Chiefs?

Aside from Patrick Mahomes, which is obvious, it is without a doubt Travis Kelce, and part of the reason is that no other team (aside the aforementioned Patriots) has a weapon quite like him. We saw no greater evidence of this than in the divisional-round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

In early June, our own Kent Swanson took a closer look at that game to explain in detail why Kelce is the mismatch that makes the Chiefs’ offense tick.

When it comes to Daniel Sorensen, you could argue the Chiefs have gotten the most out of a player who was an undrafted free agent back in 2014 (kudos to John Dorsey). Sorensen serves a particular role as a hybrid safety-linebacker and a good special teamer, but he is probably not an NFL starter. Eric Berry’s return will help ease some pressure off Sorensen, who our own Matt Lane evaluated as a good backup in his deep dive.

I like Sorensen, but there is a reason the Chiefs drafted Dorian O’Daniel in this year’s third round.

Kareem Hunt is one of five Chiefs offensive players that I consider to have special traits (more on that here), and Hunt’s trait is elusiveness.

Hunt made more tacklers miss than any player in the league last season, and hopefully that trend continues for the Chiefs in 2018.

CHIEFS OFFENSE

Elite: None

Good/High Quality: HB Kareem Hunt, TE Travis Kelce, WR Tyreek Hill, RT Mitchell Schwartz

Average: QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Sammy Watkins, LT Eric Fisher, RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Below Average: WR Chris Conley

Poor: TE Demetrius Harris, LG Bryan Witzmann, C Mitch Morse

  • PFF considers “elite” players those with grades of 90 or better. Hunt came the closest with an 88.9 grade, followed by Kelce with 87.8.
  • Mahomes missed the “good/high quality” tier by a tenth of a grade (79.9)
  • The Chiefs seem to agree with PFF’s notion that Bryan Witzmann was below average at left guard as they tried both Parker Ehinger and undrafted free agent Ryan Hunter at the position during OTAs.
  • Offensive line continues to be a concern for me with Cam Erving as the current center-to-be.
  • I think Sammy Watkins “average” ranking had more to do with his situation than his ability. I think the way people think of Watkins will be very different after this season—for better or for worse.

CHIEFS DEFENSE

Elite: CB Kendall Fuller

Good/High Quality: DL Chris Jones, ILB Anthony Hitchens, OLB Justin Houston

Average: DE Allen Bailey, ILB Reggie Ragland, CB Steven Nelson, FS Eric Berry

Below Average: None

Poor: OLB Dee Ford, CB David Amerson, SS Daniel Sorensen

Rookie: Derrick Nnadi

  • The only elite player on the Chiefs, according to Pro Football Focus, is the 23-year-old cornerback the team acquired in the Alex Smith trade. Agree or not (much of that still remains to be seen), Fuller was the equivalent of a first-round pick based upon the evaluations of many.
  • I found it weird to see Berry rated average, but I think that is because so much stock is put into what he does for a defense’s mentality, which can’t be ignored.
  • It’s put up-or-shut up time for Ford, who PFF rated as poor. His potential replacements are here in Tanoh Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks. 2018 or bust.
  • I think the Chiefs are hoping to get more out of Amerson playing on his one-year prove-it deal. Whether or not they do will be critical to the team’s success.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

  • The top five teams: Eagles, Falcons, Saints, Patriots, Vikings
  • The bottom five teams: Browns, Texans, Colts, Jets, Giants
  • The AFC West rankings: 6) Chargers 13) Chiefs, 24) Raiders, 25) Broncos
  • The Chiefs’ 2018 non-division opponents: 4) Patriots, 7) Steelers, 9) Rams, 12) Seahawks, 18) Bengals, 20) Ravens, 23) Cardinals, 32) Browns

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS RANKING?

I find that the rankings underrated the Chiefs in many cases, especially when it came to Kelce, Hill, Mahomes, Watkins, Duvernay-Tardif, Houston and Ragland. I also found 13/32 to be too low for the talent currently on the roster.

But hey, that’s why they play the games.