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Five Chiefs make PFF’s top 50 players for 2020

The football analytics site has published its annual list of the NFL’s top 50 players — and Patrick Mahomes isn’t number one.

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Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

On Wednesday, football analytics site Pro Football Focus released their annual list of the NFL’s top 50 players for 2020. Based on their career performances under PFF’s system — and adjustments for “situation, relevant injuries and new circumstances that could change a player’s future outlook” — PFF’s Sam Monson put five Kansas City Chiefs on his list.

2. QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

If there’s a player who has a hope of rivaling [Aaron] Donald as the best in the league regardless of position, it’s likely Mahomes. What we’re seeing from the young quarterback has never been done before — not necessarily statistically, but stylistically. His feel for the game and ability to make special plays as a passer is absurd. Since Mahomes entered the league, his PFF passing grade on third-and-long alone is 91.4, and his passer rating is 125.3 — comfortably the best in the league. Nobody can do what Mahomes can right now, and 2020 should bring about an even better version than last year if he stays healthy.

No disrespect to Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald — whom Monson ranked first ahead of Mahomes — but even if he’s the best at his position by a wide margin (which he is) he doesn’t play as impactful a position as Mahomes. (Monson even acknowledges this in its writeup of Donald). When PFF began, they made a point of saying that their ratings were not intended to compare players across positions. But since then, they’ve created a system they say can do that. I recognize that these rankings aren’t solely based on PFF scores — but if this is where it leads, I’m not buying it.

16. DI Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs

Chris Jones is another player looking to be the most destructive non-Aaron Donald interior pass-rusher in football. Over the past two seasons, only Donald and [Fletcher] Cox have more total pressures among interior players than Jones, who has racked up 132 pressures and has the second-best PFF pass-rushing grade in the league, trailing only Donald among players at any position. Jones has shown, when healthy, he has the ability to take over and dominate games, as he was a big part of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory with multiple key plays.

Reading a paragraph like this one makes it clear that strictly on the basis of his play, Jones deserves to be compensated like one of the league’s best players at his position; it’s very hard to argue otherwise. But whether the Chiefs can afford to pay him that much — especially with the uncertainly of the NFL salary cap in 2021 — is another question. Just like a very good player who has the misfortune to be drafted by a team with better players in front of him on the depth chart, it’s an unfortunate — maybe even unfair — set of circumstances. So the question becomes whether Jones can make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. For Jones, there is some good news: it could be a lot worse. His rights could be held by a team that won’t be contending for a championship.

19. TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Travis Kelce has become the prototype for modern-day receiving tight ends. While his blocking isn’t on the level of Rob Gronkowski or George Kittle, it’s still not bad, and he offsets this difference by being one of the best players the league has ever seen at his position after the catch. He can run like a wideout with the ball in his hands and has broken at least 10 tackles every season of his career, with a total of 91 over six seasons including the playoffs. Kelce has four-straight seasons with a PFF receiving grade of at least 87.0.

I can’t argue that Kittle isn’t a better blocker than Kelce. But I can argue that that if Kittle is ranked fifth on this list, Kelce should be higher than 19th — or that if Kelce is 19th, then Kittle should be lower than fifth.

22. WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

There are receivers who have higher grades than Tyreek Hill on a down-to-down basis, but I’m not sure there’s anyone I would take over him if I were starting a team tomorrow. His combination of devastating speed and ball skills at the catch point is unrivaled in the NFL — he’s just a nightmare for opposing defenses. Only Julio Jones and Michael Thomas have gained more yards per route run than Hill over the past three seasons, and Hill has gained at least 1.4 yards per reception more than either player after the catch. Hill is one of the most game-breaking players in football and one of the best players in the league.

What a difference a year makes. Last June, Chiefs fans were wondering whether Hill would even play in 2019 — and if he did, how many games he would miss due to a suspension following accusations of child abuse. Ironically, after being injured in the Week 1 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Hill ended up missing almost five games at the beginning of the 2019 season anyway. You have to wonder that if he had played in those games, he would have a had a better opportunity to showcase how much he had improved as a receiver; a year ago, he wasn’t even on this list. So being listed as the league’s fourth-best wide receiver is a step up — but it might not be an accurate representation of where he now stands among his peers.

23. T Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs

You could make an argument — as it seems I am with this list — that Mitchell Schwartz isn’t just the best right tackle in the league but the best overall tackle and possibly best offensive lineman in the league. His run to the Super Bowl was one of the greatest postseason performances of any player at any position in NFL history, but because he’s a right tackle, few people noticed. Schwartz pass-blocked for 142 snaps — with his team in obvious passing, hurry-up situations for much of it — and allowed just one hurry. He is an elite lineman.

Monson listed four tackles on his list — and Schwartz led the pack. I’m good with that. It is also an indicator that analysts are now facing the reality that right tackles should be considered just as important as left tackles. The days when teams would consistently put their best pass rusher on a right-handed quarterback’s blind side are over.

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