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Chiefs rise six rankings in Pro Football Focus roster breakdown entering ‘19

PFF posted its yearly rankings on Wednesday. The Chiefs rose from 13th to seventh.

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs-Minicamp Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to each season, Pro Football Focus ranks the rosters of every NFL team from 1 to 32. Entering the 2018 season one year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were ranked 13th.

This year, the Chiefs have risen six positions to seventh place.

Here’s what PFF had to say about the Chiefs this year, via ESPN In$ider:

Biggest strength: While Chris Jones anchors the defensive line, the Chiefs’ clear strength will be quarterback Patrick Mahomes. No quarterback came close to the kind of success Mahomes had on the deep ball in 2018, racking up 1,514 deep passing yards, over 350 more than the next-closest QB. His 51.1% adjusted completion percentage also ranked as a top-five figure, but he was just as efficient across all levels of the field. He had the NFL’s second-highest passing grade on throws to the short area (1-9 yards), fourth-highest on intermediate throws (10-19) and second-highest on deep throws (20-plus yards).

Biggest weakness: The Chiefs’ pass rush took a hit when they lost Dee Ford and Justin Houston, who combined for 137 QB pressures and 28 sacks last season, but the addition of Frank Clark should help fix part of that. While Kansas City needs one of its other edge players to emerge, it is no surprise to anyone who watched the Chiefs last season that their coverage was their biggest weakness. While the addition of Tyrann Mathieu helps ease their losses at safety, cornerback Kendall Fuller gave up more yards in his coverage than all but two other corners in 2018.

X factor for 2019: Damien Williams. Cast in a likely feature role in 2019, Williams will look to bring more of what he flashed a season ago, as he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 2.62 yards after contact per attempt. He made his presence felt in the receiving game as well, hauling in 86.8% of the passes thrown his way and averaging 1.49 yards per route run, the 14th-highest figure in the league. More touches will only mean good things for him and the Chiefs’ offense.

The Chiefs are now a team with an undebatable top-five franchise quarterback.

It is still difficult for fans in Kansas City fans to accept this fact (and given the franchise’s history, how could you blame them?), but if Patrick Mahomes plays as well as he did in 2018, the Chiefs should win most football games regardless of how the rest of the team plays. It sounds a little crazy, but it’s true.

The ESPN/PFF look cites coverage as the team’s biggest weakness last season, which I’d agree with, but as I’ve noted before, the Chiefs didn’t have a single offseason “loss at safety.” Eric Berry barely played last season, and besides one half against the Chargers, he never looked like himself. The Chiefs haven’t had the old Berry for two seasons and they added Tyrann Mathieu, whom they believe in on and off the field, and Juan Thornhill with their second pick in the NFL Draft.

The Chiefs already think (and have seen) that Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins will play at a high level, so if Damien Williams can continue what he started late last season, then I agree—he is the X-factor. But this X-factor might much more so be the difference between above-average team and unbeatable than it would be non-playoff team and playoff team. The Chiefs like Hyde and rookie Darwin Thompson behind Williams.

The PFF key

  • Elite (90-plus grade)
  • Good/high quality (80-89.9)
  • Average (70-79.9)
  • Below average (0-69.9)


Elite: QB Patrick Mahomes

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

Average: RB Damien Williams, WR Sammy Watkins, LT Eric Fisher, C Austin Reiter

Below Average (or rookies and players not active/barely active in 2018): RB Carlos Hyde, LG Cam Erving, RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (WR Mecole Hardman)

  • PFF considers “elite” players those with grades of 90 or better. QB Patrick Mahomes was rated 93.2 in 2018 by PFF.
  • WR Tyreek Hill came the closest joining Mahomes with a 89.6 rating, followed by TE Travis Kelce with an 88.6.
  • ESPN/PFF has the wrong starter at left guard. It’s not Cam Erving, who was rated a 44.6 at the position. The starter to at least begin training camp next month is Andrew Wylie, who Andy Reid has called one of the better athletes the team has along the offensive line. C Austin Reiter (71.4) breaking the “average” mark is part of the reason the Chiefs felt comfortable letting Mitch Morse walk to become the highest-paid center in football in Buffalo.
  • Chiefs fans will no doubt take offense to WR Sammy Watkins’ average rating of 73.5. Offseason rumblings indicate he’s poised to improve on that grade.


Elite: DT Chris Jones

Good/High Quality: None

Average: DE/OLB Alex Okafor, OLB Frank Clark, CB Kendall Fuller, SS Tyrann Mathieu

Below Average (or rookies and players not active/barely active in 2018): DE Breeland Speaks, DT/DE Derrick Nnadi, OLB/ILB Reggie Ragland, ILB Anthony Hitchens, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Charvarius Ward, FS Jordan Lucas

  • The only elite player the Chiefs have on defense, according to PFF, is the one that hasn’t attended an offseason workout in DT Chris Jones (90.6). A likely reason (from Jones’ point of view) is that the Chiefs opted to pay OLB Frank Clark (76.7) before they came to a new agreement with him. The Jones situation remains something to monitor.
  • CB Kendall Fuller (71.7) fell from grace, as last year, he was the only Chiefs’ elite defensive player in the ESPN/PFF look and is now listed as average.
  • PFF offers another point of view, as we in Kansas City (including the Chiefs, given the payouts) seem to believe Clark and SS Tyrann Mathieu (77.9) are elite. Watching Clark up close during OTAs and mandatory minicamp, I think he’s a much better player than his 2018 PFF rating indicates.
  • OLB/ILB Reggie Ragland (56.2) and ILB Anthony Hitchens (40.6) are two candidates to see much more success in Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense, while the Chiefs feel good about CB Bashaud Breeland (58.5), who didn’t have an offseason last year.
  • I think rookie Juan Thornhill will be the day-one starter at free safety, not FS Jordan Lucas (55.8). No sign of SLB Damien Wilson or WLB Darron Lee on these rankings. Wilson will start in the base 4-3.



I find the ESPN/PFF rankings are incomplete, and they also underrated the Chiefs for the second year in a row. There is a case to be made that Watkins, Clark and Mathieu all should have at least made the “good/high quality” level.

It’s also just another preseason look that ranks the Chargers higher than the Chiefs based upon roster talent, which will rightfully annoy Kansas City fans.


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