The defending Super Bowl champs are more than Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, based on the number of blue-chip players in the trenches on each side of the ball. Mitchell Schwartz is arguably the best right tackle in football, and he’s joined by a stout blind-side protector in Eric Fisher. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is an underrated blocker with a tenacious demeanor and playing style. Chris Jones and Frank Clark are alpha dogs on the defensive line with disruptive games and high-revving motors. Each is capable of taking over as a destructive force at the point of attack. As the spark plugs of a defense that gradually improved over the 2019 campaign, the duo could set the standard for a unit that emerges as a top-10 defense this season.
No. 15 overall: Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas (2005)
Drafted team: Chiefs
Johnson was one of the most consistent, productive players throughout his career. He was named a first-team All-Pro once in his career and was also named to the Pro Bowl on four separate occasions. Johnson continued playing until finally announcing his retirement following the 2018 season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Drafted by Josh Hermsmeyer, writer and football analyst at fivethirtyeight.com
Round 1 (32): DI Aaron Donald
Round 2 (33): Edge Chase Young
“I love the idea of beefing up a secondary, but I’m at the turn here, and even two stud cornerbacks is leaving me at least one — and probably two — links short of having a dominant secondary. What I can do at this turn is make a devastating front line — an incredible D-line. And so what do you do? You take the best current defensive lineman in all the NFL in Aaron Donald, and then on the way back you take one of the best prospects that we’ve seen on the edge in whoever knows how long in youngster Chase Young.” – Josh Hermsmeyer
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Tyreek Hill might be the NFL’s most dangerous wide receiver, and he’s under contract through 2022. Travis Kelce is the AFC’s best tight end and is under contract for the next two seasons. Wideout Mecole Hardman likely would have made a bigger impact as a rookie if not for the players ahead of him. The Chiefs just added LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the No. 32 overall pick.
The Chiefs defense isn’t as good as the offense, but it isn’t the sieve it was even two years ago. Chris Jones’ contract situation may be Kansas City’s biggest hurdle at the moment (especially with a record-shattering extension for Mahomes looming), but the team will do all it can to hang on to one of the league’s best three-tech tackles. Defensive end Frank Clark had eight sacks in 14 games in his first year in Kansas City.
The Chiefs are one ill-timed offside penalty away from potentially being the two-time defending champions. Not only are they the best team in the NFL, but they might become the league’s next dynasty.
Harrison Butker, Kicker
There is currently one kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: former Chief Morten Andersen, who played an astonishing 25 years in the NFL, retiring in 2007 at the age of 47. Andersen was a seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, but it’s clear his election was something of a lifetime achievement award. He’ll likely be joined by current Colt and former Patriot Adam Vinatieri, and perhaps Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker, but it’s a long shot for any kicker to get into Canton.
Butker, after three seasons, stands as the second-most accurate kicker of all time, making 89.72% of his field goal attempts (Tucker is first at 90.75%). This is a little bit misleading, because the overall quality of field goal kicking in the NFL has dramatically improved over time — the top nine most accurate kickers in league history are currently active, and every single kicker in the top 30 has played the majority of his career after the turn of the millennium. (Andersen, who debuted in 1982, is 62nd, just ahead of another former Chief, Pete Stoyanovich.)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (Travis Kelce, Ricky Seals-Jones, Deon Yelder, John Lovett) Kelce, a Second-Team All-Pro in 2019, is just a matchup nightmare in the passing game. And the Chiefs adding Seals-Jones, who played 14 games in Cleveland last season, provides Kansas City with an above-average backup.
Around the NFL
2 Green Bay Packers
RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
The Packers haven’t used a first-round pick on a receiver or tight end since Aaron Rodgers entered the NFL in 2005, and the streak continued this year with the selection of Rodgers’ heir apparent, quarterback Jordan Love, at No. 26 overall. Green Bay didn’t draft a single player to augment a wide receiver group that struggled to produce in 2019, with only Davante Adams managing to catch more than 35 passes among receivers. Whether Rodgers will have quality targets to work with at the tight end spot is an even bigger concern, with Jimmy Graham heading to the Bears in free agency. Jace Sternberger, a 2019 third-round pick, is the front-runner to step up, but he didn’t catch a regular-season pass after spending much of the year on injured reserve. Third-round pick Josiah Deguara from Cincinnati will try to avoid a similarly unproductive fate in Year 1, but it’s tough to expect much from a rookie at a position that is notoriously difficult to master.
RUNNING BACK: There are some rosters where this exercise is relentlessly nitpicky. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have done a tremendous job seeking out positional value and should still have a formidable lineup with Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert and Jerrick McKinnon. Maybe safety is another place of some concern, but otherwise this roster is dangerously loaded.
Called Juneteenth, June 19 is celebrated as the effective end of slavery in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, after the April 1865 conclusion of the Civil War, when the last of the newly freed slaves were read President Abraham Lincoln’s decree in Texas.
“This year, as we work together as a family and in our communities to combat the racial injustices that remain deeply rooted into the fabric of our society, the NFL will observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 19th as a recognized holiday and our league offices will be closed,” Goodell said in a statement. “It is a day to reflect on our past, but more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future.”
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Saunders started the year without netting any snaps in the first four weeks but then a round of injuries to Chris Jones, Xavier Williams, and Alex Okafor hit, and Saunders was suddenly in the mix. During this midseason stretch, Saunders played over 40% of the Chiefs snaps in five straight weeks.
At first, Saunders looked like a rookie that was jumping up in competition from a small-school college to the NFL way too quickly. The game appeared to be moving a little too fast for Saunders at times during this initial stretch, but he was still able to provide valuable reps when the Chiefs needed them. As the Chiefs got healthier, Saunders saw his usage reduced to situations that better suited his strengths.
Saunders had some difficulty getting out of the blocks during his midseason stint, and with that came some difficulty stopping outside zone runs or threatening an offense as a pass rusher. He appeared to be thinking a little too much at the time of the snap, and that put him behind in the play too often. That is not unexpected for a player coming from a small school, but it’s something he will need to improve to stay heavily in the defensive line rotation.
A tweet to make you think
Ravens united.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 12, 2020
Black Lives Matter. pic.twitter.com/3KAl3dFSrQ
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