This week, football analytics site Pro Football Focus is releasing chunks of its Top 101 players of the 2010s. On Monday, they published numbers 75 through 101. On Tuesday, numbers 50 through 74 were added — including three current and former Kansas City Chiefs.
50. TE Travis Kelce
There is little doubt that Rob Gronkowski was the best tight end of the past decade — and one of the best of all time — but Travis Kelce has been the second-best for much of that time. Kelce earned a second-team nod on our All-Decade team; he has long been one of the best receiving weapons in the league and averages more than six yards after the catch per reception for his career, having broken 91 tackles across his six seasons. Kelce can run routes like a receiver and run away from defenders after the catch like few players the game has ever seen at that position. He has already displayed significantly more staying power than players like Jimmy Graham, whose time at the top is already looking substantially more like a flash in the pan.
Through seven seasons, Kelce has earned five Pro Bowl selections and a pair of first-team All-Pro nods. He’s gained over 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last four seasons and has been a key component of head coach Andy Reid’s offense ever since he became the team’s starting tight end in 2014. And he’s a lot of fun at parades.
60. LB Derrick Johnson
A player who made our All-Decade team as a second-team linebacker, Johnson was one of the most versatile and consistently impressive defenders of the decade. He played in multiple different defensive schemes within the Kansas City Chiefs defense and was equally effective regardless of what he was asked to do. While his run defense began to suffer late in his career, his coverage remained a plus right up until he retired. He excelled at the area of the game most linebackers struggle with, and for his career allowed a passer rating of just 84.5 when targeted, around 20 points lower than the average among linebackers. Johnson was a difference-maker in the most important facet of the game.
After finishing his 13-year Chiefs career with 1,154 tackles — far and away the team’s franchise record — most fans didn’t even mind that Johnson then spent a season playing for the AFC West rival Oakland Raiders. For younger fans who never had the opportunity to watch Chiefs greats like Derrick Thomas, Bobby Bell or Willie Lanier, Johnson remains the standard by which all others are judged.
66. CB/S Tyrann Mathieu
In a league of versatile offensive players, Mathieu stands out as a hybrid answer to the many problems presented by opposing offenses. He is half safety and half slot cornerback, bringing a skill set that gives great flexibility to his defensive coordinators. Mathieu has been a playmaker since his days at LSU, and that has continued at the NFL level, where he has broken up 34 passes and picked off 17. At his peak, Mathieu is the perfect slot defender for today’s NFL, where he’s not only sound in coverage, but he also has three years with 80.0-plus grades as a run defender, allowing his defense to stop the run while maintaining coverage flexibility on the back end. His best season came in 2015, where his 90.7 PFF grade, seven pass breakups and five interceptions had Mathieu in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
Everything PFF said about Mathieu is true — especially in Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. But left unmentioned were Mathieu’s leadership skills, which were a major factor in turning the stagnant Kansas City defense into one that could substantially contribute to the team’s first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.
Previously named to PFF’s Top 101 NFL players of the 2010s:
- EDGE Tamba Hali (78)
- RB Jamaal Charles (86)
- T Mitchell Schwartz (100)
- S Eric Berry (101)