On Saturday, we went over the final contributor rankings in our Ranking The Chiefs series, revealed the results of reader voting on each list and then offered readers to chance to make lists of their own.
In all, 14 Kansas City Chiefs players were named to these lists. Using a simple reverse scoring system — where a player ranked first gets five points and a player ranked fifth gets one — here’s our cumulative top five list:
Derrick Thomas (34 points)
Patrick Mahomes (29)
Len Dawson (17)
Derrick Johnson (10)
Jamaal Charles (8)
Note: Tony Gonzalez also had eight points, but was on two lists. Charles was listed on three.
On Sunday, Kent Swanson said that while his heart still aches because Arrion Springs never made the Chiefs roster, he still hopes an undrafted free agent cornerback could make the team.
You would think I’d be too hurt to be intrigued by another undersized (but smart) defensive back. But now that the Chiefs have able to snatch up Michigan’s Lavert Hill as an undrafted free agent, I am ready to be hurt again.
If Hill is to make the Chiefs’ 53 man roster, he’ll do so as a 21-year-old. While he is still young, that doesn’t mean his projection is as picturesque as it is for others. His upside is probably limited by his underwhelming athletic profile; at 5 feet 10 inches, he won’t be the biggest (or even the fastest) player on the field.
But this isn’t a death sentence, because there’s a lot to like about his game — including intangibles you see in undrafted free agents who do make it in the league.
Following Monday’s discussion during the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast, Kent covered his choices for the good and bad surprises the Chiefs could have this season.
Surprise in a good way: Sammy Watkins
The contract year is undefeated — and Watkins’ confidence seems as high as it’s ever been. He believes he is primed for a great season — and if that’s the case, we could be seeing Playoff Sammy during the regular season more frequently than usual. We all know about the up-and-down nature of Watkins’ production over the last couple of seasons. He started last season with a brilliant 198-yard, three-touchdown game that showed rare explosion, along with the long speed to run away from the Jacksonville defense. Watkins was much quieter through the rest of the regular season — but that changed once the postseason rolled around. The January and February version of Watkins in the regular season would be a scary proposition for the rest of the NFL — and would be a welcome surprise.
Most seasons, the Chiefs have al of their draft picks signed by now — but this season, they (and most other teams) are running behind. Is there cause for worry?
As with just about everything else surrounding the NFL offseason since early March, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is having an effect. Without the ability to bring players into their facilities, each team’s ability to give their physicals to their drafted rookies — a key part of the signing process — is significantly curtailed.
On the other hand, players are under a bit less pressure to be paid. To this point, they’ve been able to begin their transition to becoming NFL players by participating in virtual meetings from wherever they are; many have not yet moved to the cities where they will play, so they haven’t had to move their belongings, find homes, sign leases or pay deposits.
All of that will change — but probably not until after June 26, which marks the end of the virtual offseason program negotiated between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
On Tuesday, NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal published a list of each team’s key homegrown player. While most Chiefs fans would instantly pick Patrick Mahomes, Rosenthal was actually identifying young players who could help their teams by stepping up. He chose Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman.
Honestly... Rosenthal’s pick makes a lot of sense — particularly if you see the Chiefs as a team entirely dependent on its offense. While that was certainly true in 2018, it was significantly less true in 2019 under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. While the team’s ardent fans understand this pretty well, it seems to be less-commonly understood at the national level.
So it’s fair to wonder if a better candidate for a key homegrown player might be on the defensive side of the ball — perhaps someone like Tanoh Kpassagnon, Breeland Speaks or Rashad Fenton.
For a while, we’ve considered Mahomes to be the face of the NFL. But during Tuesday’s Arrowhead Pride Editors Show podcast, Pete Sweeney and John Dixon discussed if he’s transcended even that.
Mahomes was one of the many stars who participated in an effort to push awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement, which resulted in a video response from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Here is the excerpt of the article that led to our deep-dive discussion on this week’s show:
“The stunning shift in the league’s public stance on the peaceful protest movement occurred because some of its black stars — and especially black quarterbacks — drew a line in the sand. Several black and white league officials told The Undefeated that the importance of Mahomes’ involvement in the video can’t be overstated. He’s not only the game’s top black star. He’s the face of the entire NFL.”
On Wednesday, news broke that a number of Chiefs were among current and former athletes, coaches and front office executives from basketball, baseball and football who signed a letter supporting the elimination of qualified immunity for police officers.
Many current and former members of the Chiefs — including Shawn Barber, Dwayne Bowe, Ron Parker, Tony Gonzalez, Alex Smith, Jan Stenerud, Eric Bieniemy, Mike Kafka, Sam Madison, Derrick Nnadi, Antonio Hamilton, Alex Okafor, Mike Pennel, Armani Watts and Damien Wilson — signed the letter.
ESPN’s Diana Russini added that the Players Coalition plans to host a private video meeting on Wednesday in order to discuss social justice and racial equality.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman was in Thursday’s news after speaking about the big reception he gave up to Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins in Super Bowl LIV. In case you missed it back in February, Watkins said he made the play because he had seen something on film.
It might be good to take another look at the play — which Watkins talked about during a postgame interview with Deion Sanders.
“I just knew it was 1-on-1 from watching film,” Watkins told Sanders. “I just thank Davante Adams, because I saw him kill [Sherman] on the inside release.’’
In that moment, the interview may have escaped your notice — there was a certain amount of... uhhh... celebrating going on among Chiefs fans — but what Watkins said was exactly right. Two weeks before, the Green Bay Packers wide receiver had beaten Sherman just as badly with a similar move. In fact, viewed one after another, the plays look very much alike.
Our Summer of Spags series continued on Thursday, as Craig Stout described a defensive wrinkle we might see the Chiefs use in 2020.
In a Mint front, the Chiefs would have options that could form a strong defensive line, keep Willie Gay Jr. free from blockers and limit the ground that Anthony Hitchens would have to cover as a MIKE linebacker. Spagnuolo likely prefers a stronger pass rush than the front usually offers, so it wouldn’t be a significant component to the defense — like it is in Kirby Smart’s Georgia defense. But the pieces the Chiefs have could allow them to use this variant well on early downs against RPO-heavy teams. The Mint front could be a wrinkle that Spagnuolo throws out to keep teams guessing — particularly later in the year.
Ever since their Super Bowl victory, the Chiefs have concentrated on keeping the band together — something that we’ve frequently said will help them hit the ground running in a season significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. And on Friday, we noted how it looks like the rest of the league is figuring that out.
The Chiefs have said that this was their plan from the very beginning — that their decision to take this approach was made before anyone knew the coronavirus pandemic was going to upend the NFL offseason. But it’s hard to deny that given the circumstances presently existing, the Chiefs’ decision to take another run at the championship with something very close to the team they fielded in 2019 will give them an additional advantage — particularly early in the season.
For weeks now, it’s appeared that league observers are starting to realize that because of this one-of-a-kind offseason, this kind of continuity could be one of the significant keys to victory in 2020. The latest sign is an ESPN article published on Friday, ranking the league’s teams on the basis of their continuity from 2019.